One of the main drivers for the use of bioenergy is the reduction in GHG emissions. Bioenergy is a versatile energy source that is not only storable, but is also able to be used in many ways, for example as fuel for transport, electricity and/or heat. There are advantages (and disadvantages) of using bioenergy for each vector, and impacts vary due to region, technology, and pathways. However, there is not enough bioenergy to meet all of our energy demand and therefore it must be used alongside other energy sources. Determining how to optimise its use is critical for policy makers and industry.
In order to understand the optimal use for bioenergy, assessments have been undertaken on several pathways to determine their life cycle impacts. Nevertheless, bioenergy is a fast evolving area with new pathways and feedstock utilisation being developed and proposed at pace. At the other end of the scale, governments and policy makers are trying to determine the best use of existing resources and the impact of (semi) disruptive systems. Exploring the impact of varying emerging and existent bioenergy vectors, not just in terms of production, but in terms of their ability to disrupt current systems, is complex. This research explores the use of bioenergy in heating systems. Several anticipatory pathways are explored, for example the production and use of biogas in existing gas networks and the use of bioenergy on a more local scale for heating through CHP. Without CCS, bioenergy still emits GHGs during its use. However, as CO2 can be reabsorbed by replacement feedstocks over a relevant timescale, its impact is arguably less.
This is questioned by some; but what is clear is that timescale is critical. The recent IPCC report suggests we have 12 years to limit catastrophic climate change. So any mechanisms we have for optimising systems must consider the short-term impacts as well as the traditionally longer timescale reported within conventional LCA.
This work highlights the significance of the differing GHGs on a temporal scale as the time GHGs remain in the atmosphere varies substantially. For example, methane (CH4) has a higher GWP, but a shorter lifetime than CO2. This means that emissions of CH4 will have higher impacts for a shorter period of time, meaning it is a critical emission to manage in order to minimise our immediate impact on climate change.
The research demonstrates that GWP impacts should be reported against a range of timescales; or at a minimum, that different GHG emissions should be distinguished and supports the development of a mechanism to identify both longer and critically, shorter, term pathways to GHG reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventBuilding a sustainable European biofuel industry - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 4 Nov 20196 Nov 2019


ConferenceBuilding a sustainable European biofuel industry


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