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Biomass for transport, heat and electricity: scientific challenges

J.F. Dallemand (Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Institute for Energy, Ispra (Va), Italy)
and
G. De Santi (Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Institute for Energy, Ispra (Va), Italy)
A. Leip (Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (Va), Italy)
D. Baxter (Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Institute for Energy, Ispra (Va), Italy)
N. Rettenmaier (IFEU – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany)
H. Ossenbrink (Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Institute for Energy, Ispra (Va), Italy)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 15 June 2010

Abstract

Purpose

The objective of this paper is to discuss some scientific challenges related to the production and use of biomass for transport, heat and electricity.

Design/methodology/approach

Specific attention is paid to the environmental assessment of liquid bio‐fuels for transport and to the discussion of causes of uncertainties in the assessment. Three main topics are taken as examples, in order to illustrate the complexity of environmental assessment of bio‐fuels and the difficulty in reducing uncertainties: agro‐environmental impact of bio‐ethanol (from sugar cane) in Brazil and bio‐diesel (from palm oil) in Malaysia. These two tropical countries were selected because of their role as leaders at world level and their strong export potential to the European Union), N2O (Nitrous Oxide) emissions related to crop cultivation for bio‐fuels and land use change; and GHG emissions and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of bio‐diesel from palm oil in Malaysia. These three topics are discussed and complemented by considerations about biomass conversion issues.

Findings

The quantification of the degree of the sustainability of the production and use of bio‐fuels for transport is to a large extent related to the choice of farming practices during the feedstock production and their corresponding environmental impact.

Practical implications

Recommendations are formulated so as to reduce scientific uncertainty, for example through the development of internationally‐agreed sustainability certification systems with corresponding verification measures, or further research on emissions and indirect land‐use change.

Originality/value

The value of the paper on bio‐energy research challenges is related to the combined analysis of European and tropical constraints in the field of biomass.

Keywords

Citation

Dallemand, J.F., De Santi, G., Leip, A., Baxter, D., Rettenmaier, N. and Ossenbrink, H. (2010), "Biomass for transport, heat and electricity: scientific challenges", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 523-547. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777831011049142

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited