BioEnergy Research

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 590–604 | Cite as

Biomass Storage Options Influence Net Energy and Emissions of Cellulosic Ethanol

  • Isaac Emery
  • Jennifer B. DunnEmail author
  • Jeongwoo Han
  • Michael Wang


Incremental biomass losses during the harvest and storage of energy crops decrease the effective crop yield at the biorefinery gate. These losses can affect the environmental performance of biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks by indirectly increasing agricultural inputs per unit of fuel and increasing direct emissions of pollutants during biomass decomposition in storage. In this study, we expand the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREETTM) model to include parameters for harvest and storage of dry bales, bale silage, and bulk silage and examine the potential impact of the biomass supply chain on energy use and air pollutants from cellulosic ethanol from corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus feedstocks. A review of storage methods shows substantial differences in expected losses (4.2 to 16.0 %) and variability. Model results indicate that inclusion of feedstock harvest and storage pathways increases net fossil energy consumption (0.03–0.14 MJ/MJ) and greenhouse gas emissions (2.3–10 g CO2e/MJ) from cellulosic ethanol compared to analyses that exclude feedstock losses, depending on the storage scenario selected. Greenhouse gas emissions were highest from bulk ensiled silage and bale silage pathways, driven by direct emissions of greenhouse gasses during storage and material use, respectively. Storage of dry bales indoors or under cover minimizes emissions. This report emphasizes the need to increase the detail of biofuel production models and address areas of great uncertainty in the biomass supply chain, such as biomass decomposition emissions and dry matter losses.


Biomass supply chain Greenhouse gas emissions Life cycle analysis Biomass storage Dry matter loss 



Dry matter loss


Greenhouse gas


Greenhouse Gases and Regulated Emissions in Transportation


High-density polyethylene


Life cycle analysis


Low-density polyethylene


Large round bale


Large square bale


Particulate matter


Volatile organic compounds



This study was supported by the Bioenergy Technologies Office of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. The authors thank the support and guidance of Kristen Johnson, Alicia Lindauer, and Zia Haq of the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technology Office. We also extend thanks to Professor Nathan Mosier of Purdue University for his contributions to the design and coordination of the study.

Authors’ Contributions

IE developed biomass storage and supply chain scenarios, including the distribution functions, and helped draft the manuscript. JD conducted the analyses and helped draft the manuscript. JH coded the GREET model revisions and helped draft the manuscript. MW provided input to the study design, review, and authorship of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isaac Emery
    • 1
  • Jennifer B. Dunn
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jeongwoo Han
    • 2
  • Michael Wang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Biological EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Systems Assessment Group, Energy Systems DivisionArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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