LCA of second generation bioethanol: A review and some issues to be resolved for good LCA practice

E. I. Wiloso, R. Heijungs, G. R. de Snoo

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


This paper aims at reviewing the life cycle assessment (LCA) literature on second generation bioethanol based on lignocellulosic biomass and at identifying issues to be resolved for good LCA practice. Reviews are carried out on respective LCA studies published over the last six years. We use the classification of lignocellulosic biomass to define system boundaries, so that the comparison among LCA results can be thoroughly assessed based on identified system components. A basis for attributing environmental burden for different biomass feedstocks is also suggested. Despite the non-homogeneous systems, we conclude that second generation bioethanol performs better than fossil fuel at least for the two most studied impact categories, net energy output and global warming. For the latter category, carbon sequestration at the biomass generation stage can even consistently offset the GHG emissions from all parts of the life cycle chains at high ethanol percentage ( >= 85%). The aspect of biogenic carbon and agrochemical input for energy crops and biomass residues, and the effect of removal of the latter from soil have not been treated consistently. In contrast, the exclusion of upstream chain of biomass waste feedstocks is observed in practice. The bioethanol conversion process is mostly based on simultaneous saccharification and co-fermentation, characterized by high yield and low energy input. In this regard, the LCA results tend to under estimate the real impacts of the current technology. The choice of allocation methods strongly influences the final results, particularly when economic value is used as a reference. Substitution of avoided burden seems to be the most popular allocation method in practice, followed by partition based on mass, energy, and economic values. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5295-5308
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Agriculture Fermentation Life Cycle Assessment Lignocellulosic biomass Second generation bioethanol Transportation biofuel life-cycle assessment ethanol-production greenhouse-gas lignocellulosic biomass environmental benefits crop residues key issues biofuels energy sustainability Science & Technology - Other Topics Energy & Fuels


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