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Environmental sustainability of biobased products : new assessment methods and case studies

(2013)
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Abstract
Certain environmental issues, as climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels, gave support to the renaissance of a biobased economy, where products are to be produced mainly from biomass (so-called biobased products). However, biobased products do not automatically mean environmentally sustainable products. In this sense, a proper evaluation of the environmental impacts of biobased products has to be done, through environmental assessment methodologies that consider the life-cycle perspective. In Chapter 1 several environmental assessment methodologies were discussed. Among them, life cycle assessment (LCA) appeared to be the most predominant, but it still has some scientific gaps, as lack of spatial-differentiation and proper evaluation of land use impacts. Other environmental assessment methodologies, so-called resource accounting methodologies (RAM), which are based on the life-cycle perspective and focused on accounting for the cumulative resource used/consumed, appeared to be promising. Nevertheless, they also have specific scientific gaps, as land resource accounting. In Chapter 2 we introduced a new method to account for land resources through exergy in life cycle assessment. It partitioned the resource accounting methodology in two approaches. For natural systems it was based on the chemical exergy content of the biomass extracted. For human-made systems, it was based on the exergy value of the potential natural net primary production deprived due to human land use. For the latter, spatial-differentiated characterization factors were created. In Chapter 3, the results from Chapter 2 were coupled with a traditional RAM (CEENE), and a new indicator for natural resource balance of terrestrial biomass was created (ΔEP). This indicator was compared to traditional resource balance indicators (e.g. net energy value) through agricultural case studies and presented better results regarding completeness in resources accounting. In Chapter 4 and 5 the environmental sustainability of bioethanol-based PVC was assessed, through attributional and consequential LCA, respectively. The results of Chapter 4 showed that bioethanol-based PVC has better results than its fossil reference for specific environmental impact categories (climate change and non-renewable resources) and as a single score result (through the LCIA methodology 'Recipe Endpoint H/A‘). In Chapter 5 we included the effects on indirect land use change (iLUC) in the environmental assessment. The results showed that bioethanol-based PVC can still have better results, as long as the iLUC is limited to a certain value, for instance less than 5.7% of the area of sugarcane cultivation. In Chapter 6 we analyzed the environmental sustainability of two possible uses for the Brazilian ethanol, i.e., as fuel for transportation or as feedstock for the chemical industry (ethylene). The latter appeared to cause more environmental gains for climate change and fossil energy consumption, as long as the ethanol-to-ethylene yield was 100%. The results of this PhD were able to give contributions to the scientific community in two issues. First, through the creation of new methods and indicators, it was able to fill some scientific gaps of environmental assessment methodologies, mainly regarding spatial-differentiation and land resource accounting. Second, it was able to give information of the environmental sustainability of specific biobased products through LCA. Nevertheless, these results left opportunities for future challenges, discussed in chapter 7.

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Chicago
Freitas de Alvarenga, Rodrigo. 2013. “Environmental Sustainability of Biobased Products : New Assessment Methods and Case Studies”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering.
APA
Freitas de Alvarenga, R. (2013). Environmental sustainability of biobased products : new assessment methods and case studies. Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Freitas de Alvarenga R. Environmental sustainability of biobased products : new assessment methods and case studies. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering; 2013.
MLA
Freitas de Alvarenga, Rodrigo. “Environmental Sustainability of Biobased Products : New Assessment Methods and Case Studies.” 2013 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{3238434,
  abstract     = {Certain environmental issues, as climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels, gave support to the renaissance of a biobased economy, where products are to be produced mainly from biomass (so-called biobased products). However, biobased products do not automatically mean environmentally sustainable products. In this sense, a proper evaluation of the environmental impacts of biobased products has to be done, through environmental assessment methodologies that consider the life-cycle perspective. In Chapter 1 several environmental assessment methodologies were discussed. Among them, life cycle assessment (LCA) appeared to be the most predominant, but it still has some scientific gaps, as lack of spatial-differentiation and proper evaluation of land use impacts. Other environmental assessment methodologies, so-called resource accounting methodologies (RAM), which are based on the life-cycle perspective and focused on accounting for the cumulative resource used/consumed, appeared to be promising. Nevertheless, they also have specific scientific gaps, as land resource accounting.
In Chapter 2 we introduced a new method to account for land resources through exergy in life cycle assessment. It partitioned the resource accounting methodology in two approaches. For natural systems it was based on the chemical exergy content of the biomass extracted. For human-made systems, it was based on the exergy value of the potential natural net primary production deprived due to human land use. For the latter, spatial-differentiated characterization factors were created. In Chapter 3, the results from Chapter 2 were coupled with a traditional RAM (CEENE), and a new indicator for natural resource balance of terrestrial biomass was created (\ensuremath{\Delta}EP). This indicator was compared to traditional resource balance indicators (e.g. net energy value) through agricultural case studies and presented better results regarding completeness in resources accounting.
In Chapter 4 and 5 the environmental sustainability of bioethanol-based PVC was assessed, through attributional and consequential LCA, respectively. The results of Chapter 4 showed that bioethanol-based PVC has better results than its fossil reference for specific environmental impact categories (climate change and non-renewable resources) and as a single score result (through the LCIA methodology 'Recipe Endpoint H/A{\textquoteleft}). In Chapter 5 we included the effects on indirect land use change (iLUC) in the environmental assessment. The results showed that bioethanol-based PVC can still have better results, as long as the iLUC is limited to a certain value, for instance less than 5.7\% of the area of sugarcane cultivation. In Chapter 6 we analyzed the environmental sustainability of two possible uses for the Brazilian ethanol, i.e., as fuel for transportation or as feedstock for the chemical industry (ethylene). The latter appeared to cause more environmental gains for climate change and fossil energy consumption, as long as the ethanol-to-ethylene yield was 100\%.
The results of this PhD were able to give contributions to the scientific community in two issues. First, through the creation of new methods and indicators, it was able to fill some scientific gaps of environmental assessment methodologies, mainly regarding spatial-differentiation and land resource accounting. Second, it was able to give information of the environmental sustainability of specific biobased products through LCA. Nevertheless, these results left opportunities for future challenges, discussed in chapter 7.},
  author       = {Freitas de Alvarenga, Rodrigo},
  isbn         = {9789059896222},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XVIII, 163},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Bioscience Engineering},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Environmental sustainability of biobased products : new assessment methods and case studies},
  year         = {2013},
}