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Heat, Electricity, or Transportation? The Optimal Use of Residual and Waste Biomass in Europe from an Environmental Perspective

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journal contribution
posted on 03.01.2012 by Bernhard Steubing, Rainer Zah, Christian Ludwig
The optimal use of forest energy wood, industrial wood residues, waste wood, agricultural residues, animal manure, biowaste, and sewage sludge in 2010 and 2030 was assessed for Europe. An energy system model was developed comprising 13 principal fossil technologies for the production of heat, electricity, and transport and 173 bioenergy conversion routes. The net environmental benefits of substituting fossil energy with bioenergy were calculated for all approximately 1500 combinations based on life cycle assessment (LCA) results. An optimization model determines the best use of biomass for different environmental indicators within the quantified EU-27 context of biomass availability and fossil energy utilization. Key factors determining the optimal use of biomass are the conversion efficiencies of bioenergy technologies and the kind and quantity of fossil energy technologies that can be substituted. Provided that heat can be used efficiently, optimizations for different environmental indicators almost always indicate that woody biomass is best used for combined heat and power generation, if coal, oil, or fuel oil based technologies can be substituted. The benefits of its conversion to SNG or ethanol are significantly lower. For non-woody biomass electricity generation, transportation, and heating yield almost comparable benefits as long as high conversion efficiencies and optimal substitutions are assured. The shares of fossil heat, electricity, and transportation that could be replaced with bioenergy are also provided.