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Keywords:

  • biochemical;
  • biofuels;
  • cellulosic ethanol;
  • industrial ecology;
  • thermochemical;
  • wood

Summary

The boreal forests of Scandinavia offer a considerable resource base, and use of the resource for the production of less carbon-intensive alternative transport fuel is one strategy being considered in Norway. Here, we quantify the resource potential and investigate the environmental implications of wood-based transportation relative to a fossil reference system for a specific region in Norway. We apply a well-to-wheel life cycle assessment to evaluate four E85 production system designs based on two distinct wood-to-ethanol conversion technologies. We form best and worst case scenarios to assess the sensitivity of impact results through the adjustment of key parameters, such as biomass-to-ethanol conversion efficiency and upstream biomass transport distance. Depending on the system design, global warming emission reductions of 46% to 68% per-MJ-gasoline avoided can be realized in the region, along with reductions in most of the other environmental impact categories considered. We find that the region's surplus forest-bioenergy resources are vast; use for the production of bioethanol today would have resulted in the displacement of 55% to 68% of the region's gasoline-based global warming emission—or 6% to 8% of Norway's total global warming emissions associated with road transportation.