Sajeev EM Wins Poster Competition
On April 12th, 2013, Sajeev E.M. won the Graduate student poster competition during the Annual Snyder Lecture celebration. The Abstract of his poster follows:
Do Cellulosic Biofuels meet the RFS mandate and at what cost?
Sajeev E.M., Tianyun Ji, Benjamin M. Gramig and Wallace E. Tyner
Concerns over climate change and energy security have led to a push towards biofuels. Out of the many possibilities, cellulosic biofuels have resource conservation advantages over petroleum based fuels and grain derived ethanol. Currently the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates blending of 16 billion gallons of ethanol equivalent cellulosic biofuels by 2022. These biofuels must achieve a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to gasoline. Despite a clear policy mandate, the economic feasibility and environmental performance of biofuels remain uncertain. The objective of this research is to ascertain the relative greenhouse gas emissions and production budgets of alternative liquid biofuels from the cellulosic feedstocks corn stover, miscanthus and switchgrass. An attributional life cycle analysis approach is used to quantify the GHG emissions and costs on a field-to-wheels basis. Corn stover collection from prime farmland and growing the perennial grasses switchgrass and Miscanthus on pasture land in Indiana were evaluated. The results show that although corn stover has the lowest cost per gallon of gasoline equivalent fuel produced, the GHG emissions do not meet the mandate for the cropping systems considered. Switchgrass and Miscanthus achieve the mandate before accounting for any Indirect Land Use Change emissions (ILUC), but have a higher cost of production than biofuels from stover. Results also indicate that the thermochemical pathway (Fischer-Tropsch liquids) requires a larger minimum size biorefinery, but has a lower cost of production per gallon of energy equivalent biofuel than the biochemical pathway. Different management practices and the inclusion of ILUC emissions may lead to different findings. The results highlight that how cellulosic crops are grown affects both cost and environmental performance. Integrated economic and environmental analysis is necessary to inform decisions about the structure of renewable fuel policies.