A critical analysis of the carbon neutrality assumption in life cycle assessment of forest bioenergy systems

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© 2018 Published by NRC Research Press. This study presents a critical analysis regarding the assumption of carbon neutrality in life cycle assessment (LCA) models that assess climate change impacts of bioenergy usage. We identified a complex of problems in the carbon neutrality assumption, especially regarding bioenergy derived from forest residues. In this study, we summarized several issues related to carbon neutral assumptions, with particular emphasis on possible carbon accounting errors at the product level. We analyzed errors in estimating emissions in the supply chain, direct and indirect emissions due to forest residue extraction, biogenic CO2 emission from biomass combustion for energy, and other effects related to forest residue extraction. Various modeling approaches are discussed in detail. We concluded that there is a need to correct accounting errors when estimating climate change impacts and proposed possible remedies. To accurately assess climate change impacts of bioenergy use, greater efforts are required to improve forest carbon cycle modeling, especially to identify and correct pitfalls associated with LCA accounting, forest residue extraction effects on forest fire risk and biodiversity. Uncertainties in accounting carbon emissions in LCA are also highlighted, and associated risks are discussed.

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Environmental Reviews