Environmental aspects of ethanol derived from no-tilled corn grain: Nonrenewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

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Abstract

Nonrenewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with ethanol (a liquid fuel) derived from corn grain produced in selected counties in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are presented. Corn is cultivated under no-tillage practice (without plowing). The system boundaries include corn production, ethanol production, and the end use of ethanol as a fuel in a midsize passenger car. The environmental burdens in multi-output biorefinery processes (e.g., corn dry milling and wet milling) are allocated to the ethanol product and its various coproducts by the system expansion allocation approach. The nonrenewable energy requirement for producing 1 kg of ethanol is approximately 13.4-21.5 MJ (based on lower heating value), depending on corn milling technologies employed. Thus, the net energy value of ethanol is positive; the energy consumed in ethanol production is less than the energy content of the ethanol (26.8 MJ kg-1). In the GHG emissions analysis, nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soil and soil organic carbon levels under corn cultivation in each county are estimated by the DAYCENT model. Carbon sequestration rates range from 377 to 681 kg C ha -1 year-1 and N2O emissions from soil are 0.5-2.8 kg N ha-1 year-1 under no-till conditions. The GHG emissions assigned to 1 kg of ethanol are 260-922 g CO2 eq. under no-tillage. Using ethanol (E85) fuel in a midsize passenger vehicle can reduce GHG emissions by 41-61% km-1 driven, compared to gasoline-fueled vehicles. Using ethanol as a vehicle fuel, therefore, has the potential to reduce nonrenewable energy consumption and GHG emissions.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages475-489
Number of pages15
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Volume28
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2005

Profile

energy use and consumption
greenhouse gas emissions
Gas emissions
Greenhouse gases
ethanol
greenhouse gas
Ethanol
Energy utilization
maize
corn
no-tillage
ethanol production
Soils
zero tillage
dry milling
system boundary
ethanol fuels
wet milling
biorefining
energy

Keywords

  • Allocation procedure
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Corn
  • Ethanol
  • LCA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment

Cite this

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title = "Environmental aspects of ethanol derived from no-tilled corn grain: Nonrenewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions",
abstract = "Nonrenewable energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with ethanol (a liquid fuel) derived from corn grain produced in selected counties in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are presented. Corn is cultivated under no-tillage practice (without plowing). The system boundaries include corn production, ethanol production, and the end use of ethanol as a fuel in a midsize passenger car. The environmental burdens in multi-output biorefinery processes (e.g., corn dry milling and wet milling) are allocated to the ethanol product and its various coproducts by the system expansion allocation approach. The nonrenewable energy requirement for producing 1 kg of ethanol is approximately 13.4-21.5 MJ (based on lower heating value), depending on corn milling technologies employed. Thus, the net energy value of ethanol is positive; the energy consumed in ethanol production is less than the energy content of the ethanol (26.8 MJ kg-1). In the GHG emissions analysis, nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soil and soil organic carbon levels under corn cultivation in each county are estimated by the DAYCENT model. Carbon sequestration rates range from 377 to 681 kg C ha -1 year-1 and N2O emissions from soil are 0.5-2.8 kg N ha-1 year-1 under no-till conditions. The GHG emissions assigned to 1 kg of ethanol are 260-922 g CO2 eq. under no-tillage. Using ethanol (E85) fuel in a midsize passenger vehicle can reduce GHG emissions by 41-61{\%} km-1 driven, compared to gasoline-fueled vehicles. Using ethanol as a vehicle fuel, therefore, has the potential to reduce nonrenewable energy consumption and GHG emissions.",
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