Argonne National Laboratory

The influence of catalysts on biofuel life cycle analysis (LCA)

TitleThe influence of catalysts on biofuel life cycle analysis (LCA)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBenavides, PT, Cronauer, DC, Adom, FK, Wang, Z, Dunn, JB
JournalSustainable Materials and Technologies
Start Page53
Date Published04/2017
Keywordsbiofuels, catalyst production, fast pyrolysis, life cycle analysis, spent catalyst treatment
AbstractCatalysts play an important role in biofuel production but are rarely included in biofuel life cycle analysis (LCA). In this work, we estimate the cradle-to-gate energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Pt/γ-Al2O3, CoMo/γ-Al2O3, and ZSM-5, catalysts that could be used in processes to convert biomass to biofuels. We also consider the potential impacts of catalyst recovery and recycling. Integrating the energy and environmental impacts of CoMo/γ-Al2O3 and ZSM-5 into an LCA of renewable gasoline produced via in-situ and ex-situ fast pyrolysis of a blended woody feedstock revealed that the ZSM-5, with cradle-to-gate GHG emissions of 7.7 kg CO2e/kg, could influence net life-cycle GHG emissions of the renewable gasoline (1.7 gCO2e/MJ for the in-situ process, 1.2 gCO2e/MJ for the ex-situ process) by up to 14% depending on the loading rate. CoMo/γ-Al2O3 had a greater GHG intensity (9.6 kg CO2e/kg) than ZSM-5, however, it contributed approximately only 1% to the life-cycle GHG emissions of the renewable gasoline because of the small amount of this catalyst needed per kg of biofuel produced. Given that catalysts can contribute significantly to biofuel life-cycle GHG emissions depending on the GHG intensity of their production and their consumption rates, biofuel LCAs should consider the potential influence of catalysts on LCA results.