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Regionalized Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Forest Biomass Use for Electricity Generation in the United States

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journal contribution
posted on 15.10.2021, 14:04 by Hui Xu, Gregory Latta, Uisung Lee, Jan Lewandrowski, Michael Wang
This study presents a cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis (LCA) of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the electricity generated from forest biomass in different regions of the United States (U.S.), taking into consideration regional variations in biomass availabilities and logistics. The regional biomass supply for a 20 MW bioelectricity facility is estimated using the Land Use and Resource Allocation (LURA) model. Results from LURA and data on regional forest management, harvesting, and processing are incorporated into the GHGs, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model for LCA. The results suggest that GHG emissions of mill residues-based pathways can be 15–52% lower than those of pulpwood-based pathways, with logging residues falling in between. Nonetheless, our analysis suggests that screening bioenergy projects on specific feedstock types alone is not sufficient because GHG emissions of a pulpwood-based pathway in one state can be lower than those of a mill residue-based pathway in another state. Furthermore, the available biomass supply often consists of several woody feedstocks, and its composition is region-dependent. Forest biomass-derived electricity is associated with 86–93% lower life-cycle GHG emissions than the emissions of the average grid electricity in the U.S. Key factors driving bioelectricity GHG emissions include electricity generation efficiency, transportation distance, and energy use for biomass harvesting and processing.

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