Evaluation framework to compare the sustainability of different applications of biomass waste

In recent years the demand for biomass as a renewable energy source has increased spectacularly. Biomass has started to play an important role in the production of heat, electricity and bio-fuels, contributing significantly to the achievement of the EU renewable energy objectives. Apart from energy applications, biomass is a versatile resource for food, feed, fibre, construction material or raw material for the chemical industry. As the amount of biomass that can be produced and mobilized in a sustainable way is limited, questions arise on the most optimal and sustainable way to use the available biomass streams.

Further Authors:
M. Uyttebroek - VITO NV, Flemish Institute for Technological Research
N. Devriendt - VITO NV, Flemish Institute for Technological Research
L. Pelkmans - VITO NV, Flemish Institute for Technological Research

It seems obvious to direct the available biomass towards those applications which contribute most towards societal sustainability objectives while avoiding the disturbance of traditional biomassdependent sectors or unwanted side-effects from dedicated support mechanisms. In a recent study VITO developed an evaluation framework which allows policy makers to compare the sustainability of different applications starting from a specific biomass stream, in terms of environmental, economic and social impacts. This means that the performance of different applications in very different sectors needs to be compared based on multiple criteria. For this purpose, a set of eleven indicators is constructed to assess the main sustainability aspects of each application, taking into account the variety of applications for a specific biomass stream. The methodology that is used to do the evaluation is based on the life-cycle thinking (LCT) approach. For each biomass application it is determined which traditional alternative is replaced by the use of biomass as a renewable resource. By measuring or calculating the indicators an evaluation is made of the environmental, economical and social impacts that are avoided or created by replacing the usual alternative with the biomass stream under consideration. Applications in different sectors are compared by evaluating the improvement that can be obtained by dedicating the biomass resource to one or the other application. In order to show its merits and its limitations, the developed methodology and indicator set is applied on the cases of post-consumer wood and rendered animal fat. The most challenging part of applying the methodology is the development of verifiers for every indicator. Some indicators are relatively easy to quantify, while others are not, due to lack of data or measuring methods. Especially the non-environmental indicators (economic and social) have proven to be difficult to quantify. The choice of the avoided alternative processes turned out to be a crucial element in the results. The differences in net impact between the studied applications of biomass waste are largely dominated by the choice of the alternative processes or primary materials that are avoided by the use of the biomass stream, stressing the importance of a sound market analysis to identify the marginal alternative process that will be replaced. In practice, the alternative process that is replaced depends on existing policies concerning renewable energy and the local market forces of demand and supply.

Copyright: © European Compost Network ECN e.V.
Quelle: Orbit 2012 (Juni 2012)
Seiten: 7
Preis inkl. MwSt.: € 7,00
Autor: K. Vanbroekhoven
Saskia Manshoven
Ive Vanderreydt

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