Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 655–671 | Cite as

Sustainability considerations of biodiesel based on supply chain analysis

  • Teresa M. Mata
  • António A. Martins
  • Subhas K. Sikdar
  • Carlos A. V. Costa


Developing clean and renewable energy resources ranks as one of the greatest challenges facing mankind in the medium to long term. The issues associated with developing non-fossil energy are intimately connected with economic development and prosperity, quality of life and global stability, and require smart strategies for sustainable development. This study presents a relative sustainability assessment of biodiesel, taking into account its full life cycle with the main goal of comparing alternative feedstocks, either currently used or promising for future use such as microalgae. A set of sustainability metrics relevant for biodiesel is identified using only the data available in the literature and taking into account all the three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, societal, and economic. Although this study does not attempt to identify which feedstock or process is the best, its procedural suggestions may be valuable to practitioners and policy makers seeking to identify the best alternatives. The conclusions, however, are limited by the availability and the quality of the data used in the analyses.


Biodiesel life cycle Alternative feedstocks Sustainability metrics Indicators 


  1. Achten W, Muys B, Mathijs E, Singh VP, Verchot L (2007) Life-cycle assessment of bio-diesel from Jatropha curcas L. energy balance, impact on global warming, land use impact. In: 5th International conference on LCA in foods, 25–26 April 2007, Götheborg, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  2. AtKisson A (2008) The ISIS agreement: how sustainability can improve organizational performance and transform the world. Earthscan, Oregon, pp 150–152Google Scholar
  3. Barber A, Campbell A, Hennessy W (2007) Primary energy and net greenhouse gas emissions from biodiesel made from New Zealand. Tallow CRL Energy Report 06-11547bGoogle Scholar
  4. Beer T, Grant T, Campbell PK (2007) The greenhouse and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia. Report Number KS54C/1/F2.27 for Caltex Pty LtdGoogle Scholar
  5. Bossel H (1996) Deriving indicators of sustainable development. Environ Model Assess 1:193–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Callaway JC (2004) Hempseed as a nutritional resource: an overview. Euphytica 140:65–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canals LM (2003) Contributions to LCA methodology for agricultural systems: site-dependency and soil degradation impact assessment. PhD Thesis, University Autonoma, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  8. Delucchi MA (2003) A lifecycle emissions model (LEM): lifecycle emissions from transportation fuels, motor vehicles, transportation modes, electricity use, heating and cooking fuels. Main Report UCD-ITS-RR-03-17Google Scholar
  9. EC Directive (2008) Directive of the European parliament and of the council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, Brussels, 23.1.2008, COM(2008) 19 finalGoogle Scholar
  10. EUCAR/CONCAWE/JRC (2008) Description and detailed energy and GHG balance of individual pathways. Appendix 2 of Well-To-Tank Report, Well-to-Wheels analysis of future automotive fuels and powertrains in the European context, Version 3.0, NovemberGoogle Scholar
  11. FAO (2009) Oilseeds, oils and meals, food and agriculture organization of the United Nations.
  12. Fearnside PM (2000) Global warming and tropical land-use change: greenhouse gas emissions from biomass burning, decomposition and soils in forest conversion, shifting cultivation and secondary vegetation. Clim Change 46:115–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fermeglia M, Longo G, Toma L (2009) Computer aided design for sustainable industrial processes: specific tools and applications. AIChE J 55(4):1065–1078CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gnansounou E, Panichelli L, Dauriat A, Villegas JD (2008) Accounting for indirect land-use changes in GHG balances of biofuels. Ref. 437.101, École Polytech, Fédérale de LausanneGoogle Scholar
  15. Hansen S (2007) Feasibility study of performing an life cycle assessment on crude palm oil production in Malaysia. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(1):50–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. IES/JRC/EC (2007) Recommendations for life cycle based indicators for sustainable consumption and production in the European Union, 3rd International life cycle thinking workshop on “Sustainability and Decoupling Indicators: Life cycle based approaches.” Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Communities (EC), EUR 22879 EN-2007Google Scholar
  17. Janulis P (2004) Reduction of energy consumption in biodiesel fuel life cycle. Renew Energy 29:861–871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kadam KL (2001) Microalgae production from power plant flue gas: environmental implications on a life cycle basis. NREL/TP-510-29417, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  19. Kim H, Kim S, Dale BE (2009) Biofuels, land use change, and greenhouse gas emissions: some unexplored variables. Environ Sci Technol 43:961–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kimble JM, Lal R, Follett RF (2002) Agricultural practices and policies for carbon sequestration in soil. Lewis Pub., Boca Raton, FL.Google Scholar
  21. Lapola DM, Schaldach R, Alcamo J, Bondeau A, Koch J, Koelking C, Priess JA (2010) Indirect land-use changes can overcome carbon savings from biofuels in Brazil. PNAS 107:3388–3393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lardon L, Hélias A, Sialve B, Steyer JP, Bernard O (2009) Life-cycle assessment of biodiesel production from microalgae. Environ Sci Technol 43(17):6475–6481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Martins AA, Mata TM, Sikdar S, Costa C (2007) A framework for sustainability metrics. Ind Eng Chem Res 46(10):2962–2973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mata TM, Martins AA, Caetano NS (2010) Microalgae for biodiesel production and other applications: a review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 14:217–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pradhan A, Shrestha DS, Van Gerpen J, Duffield J (2008) The energy balance of soybean oil biodiesel production: a review of past studies. Trans Am Soc Agric Biol Eng 51(1):185–194Google Scholar
  26. Prueksakorn K, Gheewala SH (2006) Energy and greenhouse gas implications of biodiesel production from Jatropha curcas L. In: The 2nd joint international conference on sustainable energy and environmentGoogle Scholar
  27. Reinhardt GA, Jungk N (2008) Pros and cons of RME compared to conventional diesel fuel. IFEU-Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  28. RFA (2008) The Gallagher review of the indirect effects of biofuels production. Renewable Fuel Agency (RFA)Google Scholar
  29. Robertson GP, Dale VH, Doering OC, Hamburg SP, Melillo JM, Wander MM, Parton WJ, Adler PR, Barney JN, Cruse RM, Duke CS, Fearnside PM, Follett RF, Gibbs HK, Goldemberg J, Mladenoff DJ, Ojima D, Palmer MW, Sharpley A, Wallace L, Weathers KC, Wiens JA, Wilhelm WW (2008) Sustainable biofuels redux. Science 322(5898):49–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sander K, Murthy GS (2010) Life cycle analysis of algae biodiesel. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:704–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Scarlat N, Dallemand JF, Pinilla FG (2008) Impact on agricultural land resources of biofuels production and use in the european union, bioenergy: challenges and opportunities, In: International Conference and Exhibition on Bioenergy, Universidade do Minho, Guimarães, Portugal, April 6–9Google Scholar
  32. Sheehan J, Camobreco V, Duffield J, Graboski M, Shapouri H (1998) An overview of biodiesel and petroleum diesel life cycles. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-580-24772, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  33. Sikdar SK (2003) Sustainable development and sustainability metrics. AIChE J 49:1928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sikdar SK (2007) Sustainability perspective and chemistry-based technologies. Ind Eng Chem Res 46:4727–4733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sikdar SK (2009) On aggregating multiple indicators into a single metric for sustainability. Clean Technol Environ Policy 11(2):157–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stephenson AL, Kazamia E, Dennis JS, Howe CJ, Scott SA, Smith AG (2010) Life-cycle assessment of potential algal biodiesel production in the United Kingdom: a comparison of raceways and air-lift tubular bioreactors. Energy Fuels 24:4062–4077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Su CL, Lee YM (2009) Development status and life cycle inventory analysis of biofuels in Taiwan. Energy Policy 37:754–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tan KT, Lee KT, Mohamed AR, Bhatia S (2009) Palm oil: addressing issues and towards sustainable development. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 13:420–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thamsiriroj T (2007) Optimal biomass and technology for production of biofuel as a transport fuel. Master Thesis in Sustainable Energy in Civil & Environmental Engineering, University College Cork, National University of IrelandGoogle Scholar
  40. Thamsiriroj T, Murphy JD (2009) Is it better to import palm oil from Thailand to produce biodiesel in Ireland than to produce biodiesel from indigenous Irish rape seed? Appl Energy 86:595–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zappi M, Hernandez R, Sparks D, Horne J, Brough M, Swalm DC, Arora SM, Motsenbocker WD (2003) A review of the engineering aspects of the biodiesel industry. MSU E-TECH Laboratory Report ET-03-003Google Scholar
  42. Zhou Z, Jiang H, Qin L (2007) Life cycle sustainability assessment of fuels. Fuel 86:256–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa M. Mata
    • 1
  • António A. Martins
    • 2
  • Subhas K. Sikdar
    • 3
  • Carlos A. V. Costa
    • 1
  1. 1.LEPAE-Laboratory for Process, Environmental and Energy Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of Porto (FEUP)PortoPortugal
  2. 2.CEFT-Center for Transport Phenomena Studies, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of Porto (FEUP)PortoPortugal
  3. 3.National Risk Management Research LaboratoryOffice of Research and Development U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA

Personalised recommendations