News Source: 
UW Today
Fuels have the potential to exceed current Environmental Protection Agency requirements
May 30, 2013

Two processes that turn woody biomass into transportation fuels have the potential to exceed current Environmental Protection Agency requirements for renewable fuels, according to research published in the Forest Products Journal and currently featured on its publications page.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for emissions from wood-based transportation fuels requires a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to using fossil fuels. The standards don’t just concern greenhouse gases generated when biofuel is burned to run vehicles or provide energy: What’s required is life-cycle analysis, a tally of emissions all along the growing, collecting, producing and shipping chain.

The special Forest Products Journal issue does just that for energy produced in various ways from woody biomass. For instance, two processes for making ethanol reviewed in the issue – one a gasification process using trees thinned from forests and the other a fermentation process using plantation-grown willows – reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent or better compared with gasoline.  In contrast, producing and using corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions 24 percent compared to gasoline, according Argonne National Laboratory research published in 2011.

For the publication, researchers from the 17 research institutions that make up the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials determined the life-cycle emissions of 15 processes where woody biomass was turned into liquid fuel, burned directly to create heat, steam or electricity, or processed into pellets for burning