Sustainability Opportunities and Challenges of the Biofuels Industry

Liquid biofuels are being produced to displace fossil fuels for transportation, with bioethanol and biodiesel being the primary biofuels produced for this purpose in the world today. While there is consensus on the need for a sustainable biofuels industry, there is little consensus on how to proceed to avoid environmental and social degradation with global biofuel production. A literature review of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) data, and the generic Strategic Life-Cycle Management (SLCM) and Template for Sustainable Product Development (TSPD) approaches, helped to inform the creation of a specific tool for sustainable industrial biofuels development, called the TSPD for biofuels. Other data collection involved expert and industry dialogue, as well as stakeholder feedback, on the content of the TSPD.Results showed a variety of sustainability challenges and opportunities, the most significant of which concerns agricultural production. Compelling measures for a sustainable biofuels industry include: cooperation among all stakeholders using a systems approach based on strategic sustainable development, sustainable biofuels certification; and government policies to stimulate research into new technologies and feedstocks, as well as to reduce consumption and increase efficiency.


1 Introduction
1.1 Aim and Scope
1.2 Target Audience
2 Methods
2.1 Backcasting from Sustainability Principles
The Natural Step Sustainability Principles
2.1.2 The ABCD Planning Method
2.2 Strategic Life Cycle Management (SLCM)
2.3 Template for Sustainable Product Development (TSPD)
2.3.1 Template for Sustainable Product Development applied to Biofuels
2.3.2 Expert Dialogue and Stakeholder Feedback
3 Results
3.1 Sustainability Analysis of Ethanol Production in Brazil
3.1.1 Sugarcane Agricultural Production
3.1.2 Ethanol Processing Industry
3.1.3 Ethanol Combustion
3.2 Sustainability Analysis of Biodiesel Production in Canada
3.2.1 Biodiesel Agricultural Feedstock Production
3.2.2 Biodiesel Processing Industry
3.2.3 Biodiesel Combustion
3.3 Opportunities Resulting from Emerging Technologies and Feedstocks
3.3.1 Cellulosic Ethanol
3.3.2 Restorative Agricultural Practices
3.3.3 Fishcher-Tropsch process
3.3.4 Biotechnology
3.3.5 Algae
3.3.6 Nano-Scale Biodeisel Production
3.3.7 Thermodepolymerization
3.4 Template for Sustainable Product Development for Biofuels
3.4.1 Expert Dialogue Comments Summary
3.4.2 Stakeholder Feedback Summary
3.4.3 Prioritizing Steps Toward a Sustainable Biofuels Industry
4 Discussion
4.1 Thesis Questions
4.2 Research Validity
4.2.1 Strengths and Weaknesses
5 Conclusion and Further Research
Further Research
Cited References
Additional References
Appendix I
The Natural Step Sustainability Principles
Appendix II
Instructions Provided to Template Users
Appendix III Template for Sustainable Product Development for Biofuels
Appendix IV

Author: Cesar L. Fran├ža, Kate Maddigan, Kyle White

Source: Blekinge Institute of Technology

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