Life-cycle energy and GHG emissions of forest biomass harvest and transport for biofuel production in Michigan

Fengli Zhang, Michigan Technological University
Dana Johnson, Michigan Technological University
Jinjiang Wang, China University of Petroleum

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High dependence on imported oil has increased U.S. strategic vulnerability and prompted more research in the area of renewable energy production. Ethanol production from renewable woody biomass, which could be a substitute for gasoline, has seen increased interest. This study analysed energy use and greenhouse gas emission impacts on the forest biomass supply chain activities within the State of Michigan. A life-cycle assessment of harvesting and transportation stages was completed utilizing peer-reviewed literature. Results for forest-delivered ethanol were compared with those for petroleum gasoline using data specific to the U.S. The analysis from a woody biomass feedstock supply perspective uncovered that ethanol production is more environmentally friendly (about 62% less greenhouse gas emissions) compared with petroleum based fossil fuel production. Sensitivity analysis was conducted with key inputs associated with harvesting and transportation operations. The results showed that research focused on improving biomass recovery efficiency and truck fuel economy further reduced GHG emissions and energy consumption.