Comparative life cycle analysis of producing charcoal from bamboo, teak, and acacia species in Ghana
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Background, aim, and scope
The rise in wood fuel consumption, particularly of charcoal, has been associated with increased deforestation in Ghana. Plantation developments from teak (Tectona grandis), bamboo (Bambusa balcooa), and Acacia auriculiformis are now being promoted to produce sustainable biomass for charcoal production. While all species have comparable charcoal quality, there is limited available data to elucidate the environmental impacts associated with their plantation development and use as biomass sources for producing charcoal. Therefore, this study quantified and compared the cradle-to-gate environmental impacts of producing charcoal from T. grandis, A. auriculiformis, and B. balcooa.
The study was conducted in accordance with ISO 14040/14044, an international procedural framework for performing life cycle analysis (LCA). For this study, the functional unit of charcoal used was 1 MJ energy produced from three species: T. grandis, A. auriculiformis, and B. balcooa. Data on B. balcooa plantations was collected from a B. balcooa-based intercropping system set up by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan in Sekyere Central District, Ghana. Input data for A. auriculiformis and T. grandis came from the Forestry Commission of Ghana plantations established within the forest agroecological zone of Ghana. All input data came from primary local sources. Pollutant emissions were also calculated in order to analyze the contribution of all the flow processes to the emissions. The analysis used Simapro version 8, as well as life cycle inventory (LCI) databases of Ecoinvent V3 and Idemat 2015 (a database developed by Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands). The emissions were expressed as eco-costs and used as indicators in an impact assessment.
Results and discussion
The results showed that relative to B. balcooa, the total eco-cost (comprising of human health, ecosystem, resource depletion, and global warming eco-costs) of a cradle-to-gate production of 1 MJ of charcoal will be 140% higher with T. grandis and 113% higher with A. auriculiformis. The increased environmental impacts associated with T. grandis and A. auriculiformis occurred at their biomass production stage. As these species use comparatively large quantities of pesticides, weedicides, and fertilizers with high acidification, ozone depletion, and global warming potentials, their biomass production stage accounted for approximately 85% of their total eco-cost.
The study results suggest that B. balcooa plantations are the most environmentally viable option. In cases where T. grandis or A. auriculiformis plantations are widespread, improvement options at the biomass production stage are required in order to reduce their environmental costs.
KeywordsCharcoal Eco-cost Forest plantation Life cycle analysis Wood fuels
This research was carried out as an activity of BiomassWeb (grant no. 031A258A), a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the context of the initiative GlobE “Securing the Global Food Supply”. BiomassWeb is managed by the Center for Development Research, Universität of Bonn, Germany. The authors wish to also thank Prof. J. Vogtländer, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, for sharing the Idemat 2015 database.
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