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Dynamic life-cycle carbon analysis for fast pyrolysis biofuel produced from pine residues: implications of carbon temporal effects


Lan, Kai; Ou, Longwen; Park, Sunkyu; Kelley, Stephen; Nepal, Prakash; Kwon, Hoyoung; Cai, Hao; Yao, Yuan


Background Woody biomass has been considered as a promising feedstock for biofuel production via thermochemical conversion technologies such as fast pyrolysis. Extensive Life Cycle Assessment studies have been completed to evaluate the carbon intensity of woody biomass-derived biofuels via fast pyrolysis. However, most studies assumed that woody biomass such as forest residues is a carbon-neutral feedstock like annual crops, despite a distinctive timeframe it takes to grow woody biomass. Besides, few studies have investigated the impacts of forest dynamics and the temporal effects of carbon on the overall carbon intensity of woody-derived biofuels. This study addressed such gaps by developing a life-cycle carbon analysis framework integrating dynamic modeling for forest and biorefinery systems with a time-based discounted Global Warming Potential (GWP) method developed in this work. The framework analyzed dynamic carbon and energy flows of a supply chain for biofuel production from pine residues via fast pyrolysis. Results The mean carbon intensity of biofuel given by Monte Carlo simulation across three pine growth cases ranges from 40.8-41.2 g CO(2)e MJ(-1) (static method) to 51.0-65.2 g CO(2)e MJ(-1) (using the time-based discounted GWP method) when combusting biochar for energy recovery. If biochar is utilized as soil amendment, the carbon intensity reduces to 19.0-19.7 g CO(2)e MJ(-1) (static method) and 29.6-43.4 g CO(2)e MJ(-1) in the time-based method. Forest growth and yields (controlled by forest management strategies) show more significant impacts on biofuel carbon intensity when the temporal effect of carbon is taken into consideration. Variation in forest operations and management (e.g., energy consumption of thinning and harvesting), on the other hand, has little impact on the biofuel carbon intensity. Conclusions The carbon temporal effect, particularly the time lag of carbon sequestration during pine growth, has direct impacts on the carbon intensity of biofuels produced from pine residues from a stand-level pine growth and management point of view. The carbon implications are also significantly impacted by the assumptions of biochar end-of-life cases and forest management strategies.