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Global and regional potential for bioenergy from agricultural and forestry residue biomass

Abstract

As co-products, agricultural and forestry residues represent a potential low cost, low carbon, source for bioenergy. A method is developed for estimating the maximum sustainable amount of energy potentially available from agricultural and forestry residues by converting crop production statistics into associated residue, while allocating some of this resource to remain on the field to mitigate erosion and maintain soil nutrients. Currently, we estimate that the world produces residue biomass that could be sustainably harvested and converted into nearly 50 EJ yr−1 of energy. The top three countries where this resource is estimated to be most abundant are currently net energy importers: China, the United States (US), and India. The global potential from residue biomass is estimated to increase to approximately 50–100 EJ yr−1 by mid- to late- century, depending on physical assumptions such as of future crop yields and the amount of residue sustainably harvestable. The future market for biomass residues was simulated using the Object-Oriented Energy, Climate, and Technology Systems Mini Climate Assessment Model (ObjECTS MiniCAM). Utilization of residue biomass as an energy source is projected for the next century under different climate policy scenarios. Total global use of residue biomass is estimated to be 20–100 EJ yr−1 by mid- to late- century, depending on the presence of a climate policy and the economics of harvesting, aggregating, and transporting residue. Much of this potential is in developing regions of the world, including China, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and India.

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Acknowledgements

A special note of gratitude goes to the ObjECTS MiniCAM development team for their support and troubleshooting efforts. Also, special thanks to R. César Izaurralde for his helpful comments and support. This work was funded in part with support from the US Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Electric Power Research Institute, Chevron, and ExxonMobil. Research was conducted at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), a collaboration between the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is managed by Battelle for the US Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to Jay S. Gregg.

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Gregg, J.S., Smith, S.J. Global and regional potential for bioenergy from agricultural and forestry residue biomass. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 15, 241–262 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-010-9215-4

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Keywords

  • Bioenergy
  • Biofuels
  • Alternative energy
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainable energy
  • Residue biomass
  • Climate policy
  • Integrated assessment