Life cycle assessment of the sugarcane bagasse electricity generation in Brazil

Posted by eduardoblanco
Publication year: 
Sugarcane bagasse electricity
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Sponsor name(s): 
CAPES (Coordination for Graduate Personnel Improvement)
Sponsor name(s): 
CNPq (The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development)
Sponsor name(s): 
FAPESP (The São Paulo Research Foundation)
Sponsor type: 
Public administration
Sponsor type: 
Union, Federation
Diogo Aparecido Lopes Silva
Ivete Delai
Mary Laura Delgado Montes
Aldo Roberto Ometto
Practitioner(s) type: 
Functional unit: 
In this study it was considered two functional units, because since it was developed based on three studies that employed different functional units. This way the functional units and the reference flow for this LCA are 1) Electricity generation surplus of 1MWh (processes 1–7 of the scope) and 2) Electricity transmission and distribution of 1MWhkm (processes 8 and 9 of the scope).
Goal and scope of the summary: 
The goal of the is to identify and quantify the potential environmental impacts of the bagasse electricity generation system to then identify it's main improvement opportunities, regarding to support both ethanol industry and governmental decision making processes to minimize the environmental impact of this type of energy generation, that is growing in Brazil. The scope of the study are 9 processes linked to the production of this kind of electricity, that are listed below: 1.Soil preparation 2.Sugarcane plantation 3.Chemical aplication 4.Irrigation 5.Harvesting 6.Sugarcane recpetion, washing and milling 7.Energy cogeneration 8.Electricity transmission 9.Electricity distribution
The study identified two key sets of environmental impacts: the emissions and the resource consumption.
Regarding the first one the study concludes that the decision makers should focus in the photochemical ozone, human toxicity via soil and nutrient enrichment emissions from the sugarcane harvesting and chemical application processes. Those problems are mainly due to the straw burning prior harvesting and the use of diesel trucks for harvesting.
Changing the technique of harvesting, so not burning prior harvesting, is already becoming more usual in Brazil due some new laws in the State of São Paulo. This contributes also to minimize other environmental impacts of the processes like global warming gas emissions and water consumption and also the straw could be used to generate more energy or be used to improve soil conditions.
Also some process changes in the chemical applications are fundamental, regarding the reduction and the type of fertilizers, the vinasse uses and the implementation of pollution prevention activities.
The resource consumption, in the case of non-renewable resources, have a major potential consumption that lies on the transmission process, mainly regarding the sand, gravel, limestone, mineral coal and bauxite consumptions, but this structures to transmit energy are fundamental.
From the renewable resources and energy consumptions points of view, water and energy consumptions in the electricity transmission and sugarcane reception, washing and milling processes are the main points to be addressed.
Finally, the study shows it's limitations, and the major one is in the fact that around 19% of the product system in focus total emissions (related to wastewater from the alumina process) were disregarded because the EDIP method does not encompasses this kind of emission. Additionally, the restricted access to details of the electricity transmission and distribution processes limited in part the cause analysis of these processes impacts.
Material impact(s): 
Water consumption
Global warming
Abiotic ressources depletion
Raw material impact level: 
Manufacturing impact(s): 
Water consumption
Global warming
Manufacturing impact level: 
Shipping impact(s): 
Ozone layer depletion
Shipping impact level: 

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