UBC Undergraduate Research

Life cycle assessment of bioethanol derived from corn and corn stover Ip, Dora; Diba, Farbod Ahmadi; Pope, Derek


This paper follows the growing research of bioethanol fuels produced from farmed corn as well as corn stover in comparision to petroleum fuels. A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) using the GaBi database was done to effectively compare results in terms of their respective emissions to the air, water, and industrial soil. Various basis’ that were also involved in the comparison include 1) Mass [kg], 2) TRACI – Global Warming Air [kg CO2-Equiv.], 3) TRACI, Acidification Rain [kg mol H + Equiv.], and 4) TRACI, Smog Air [kg NOx-Equiv.]. Production and processes of corn and petroleum from crude oils are also observed and are replicated in the GaBi simulation. To normalize the three fuels, a functional unit of distance (km), and a conventional car (2001 Ford Taurus) was selected to describe the combustion of each fuel source based on a travel distance of 100km on average road conditions. The first section will illustrate the LCA conducted on gasoline and the results of the analysis. Following will show the LCA conducted for E85 produced from corn and corn stover, with overall results comparing each fuel source in the end. Based on LCA results, E85 was shown to have a 39% reduction in GHG emissions when compared to gasoline. The type of feedstock for ethanol production (corn versus corn stover) had little effect on the life cycle emissions of E85, however, the resource inputs varied dramatically. To travel 100km, 12.9kg of corn (food) and 190.4kg of water. In comparison, no food is required when corn stover is used as the feedstock, however, 274.5kg of water is consumed. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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