Life cycle assessment for the production of biodiesel: A case study in Malaysia for palm oil versus jatropha oil



One of the most promising forms of renewable energy is biodiesel produced from vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, soybean and palm oil. Malaysia, being the world's second-largest producer of palm oil, therefore begins to align herself as the potential world producer of palm biodiesel apart from exporting palm oil as feedstock for the food and oleochemical industries. However, due to the recent food versus fuel debate, Malaysian palm oil has received a lot of negative attention especially from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The sustainability of palm biodiesel production and environmental issues are constantly being questioned. Many quarters have even claimed that the use of non-edible oils, such as Jatropha curcas L., should be promoted rather than palm oil for biodiesel production. Therefore, this study aims to compare and validate the production of biodiesel from palm and jatropha using the life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. The assessment encompasses the cultivation of the crop, the oil extraction stage and finally, the biodiesel production stage. We found that to produce 1 tonne of jatropha biodiesel, the land area requirement is 118% higher than to produce 1 tonne of palm biodiesel. The energy output-to-input ratio for palm biodiesel is 2.27, slightly higher than jatropha biodiesel at 1.92. Furthermore, CO2 sequestration for the whole life cycle chain of palm biodiesel is 20 times higher than jatropha biodiesel. All these results show the superiority and sustainability of palm oil as a feedstock for biodiesel production. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd