Assessing the aggregated environmental benefits from by-product and utility synergies in the Swedish biofuel industry

The production of biofuels in Sweden has increased significantly in the past years in order to reduce fossil dependence and mitigate climate impacts. Nonetheless, current methodological guidelines for assessing the GHG savings from the use of biofuels do not fully account for benefits from by-products and other utilities (e.g. waste heat and electricity) from biofuel production.

This study therefore reviews the aggregated environmental performance of these multi-functional biofuel systems by assessing impacts and benefits from relevant production processes in Sweden in order to improve the decision-base for biofuel producers and policy makers in the transition to a bio-based and circular economy. This was done by conducting (1) a mapping of the Swedish biofuel production portfolio, (2) developing future production scenarios, and (3) application of life cycle assessment methodology to assess the environmental performance of the production processes.

Special focus was provided to review the potential benefits from replacing conventional products and services with by-products and utilities. The results provide evidence that failure to account for non-fuel related benefits from biofuel production leads to an underestimation of the contribution of biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts when replacing fossil fuels, showing the importance of the multi-functionality.

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