Progressive depletion of conventional fossil fuels with increasing energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have led to a move towards renewable and sustainable energy sources. Lignocellulosic biomass is available in massive quantities and provides enormous potential for bioethanol production. However, to ascertain optimal biofuel strategies, it is necessary to take into account environmental impacts from cradle to grave.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques allow detailed analysis of material and energy fluxes on regional and global scales. This includes indirect inputs to the production process and associated wastes and emissions, and the downstream fate of products in the future. At the same time if not used properly, LCA can lead to incorrect and inappropriate actions on the part of industry and/or policy makers.
This paper aims to list key issues for quantifying the use of resources and releases to the environment associated with the entire life cycle of lignocellulosic bioethanol production.