Comparing Life-Cycle Emissions of Biofuels for Marine Applications: Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Wet Wastes, Pyrolysis of Wood, Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis of Landfill Gas, and Solvolysis of Wood

Farhad Masum, George Zaimes, Eric Tan, Shuyun Li, Abhijit Dutta, Karthikeyan Ramasamy, Troy Hawkins

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1 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Recent restrictions on marine fuel sulfur content and a heightened regulatory focus on maritime decarbonization are driving the deployment of low-carbon and low-sulfur alternative fuels for maritime transport. In this study, we quantified the life-cycle greenhouse gas and sulfur oxide emissions of several novel marine biofuel candidates and benchmarked the results against the emissions reduction targets set by the International Maritime Organization. A total of 11 biofuel pathways via four conversion processes are considered, including (1) biocrudes derived from hydrothermal liquefaction of wastewater sludge and manure, (2) bio-oils from catalytic fast pyrolysis of woody biomass, (3) diesel via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of landfill gas, and (4) lignin ethanol oil from reductive catalytic fractionation of poplar. Our analysis reveals that marine biofuels' life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions range from -60 to 56 gCO2e MJ-1, representing a 41-163% reduction compared with conventional low-sulfur fuel oil, thus demonstrating a considerable potential for decarbonizing the maritime sector. Due to the net-negative carbon emissions from their life cycles, all waste-based pathways showed over 100% greenhouse gas reduction potential with respect to low-sulfur fuel oil. However, while most biofuel feedstocks have a naturally occurring low-sulfur content, the waste feedstocks considered here have higher sulfur content, requiring hydrotreating prior to use as a marine fuel. Combining the break-even price estimates from a published techno-economic analysis, which was performed concurrently with this study, the marginal greenhouse gas abatement cost was estimated to range from -$120 to $370 tCO2e-1 across the pathways considered. Lower marginal greenhouse gas abatement costs were associated with waste-based pathways, while higher marginal greenhouse gas abatement costs were associated with the other biomass-based pathways. Except for lignin ethanol oil, all candidates show the potential to be competitive with a carbon credit of $200 tCO2e-1 in 2016 dollars, which is within the range of prices recently received in connection with California's low-carbon fuel standard.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)12701-12712
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume57
Issue number34
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-85784

Keywords

  • catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • hydrothermal liquefaction
  • life-cycle assessment
  • marine bio-oils
  • marine shipping
  • maritime transport
  • waste-to-energy

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