Environmental Implications of Jatropha Biofuel from a Silvi-Pastoral Production System in Central-West Brazil

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We present a life cycle assessment of synthetic paraffinic kerosene produced from Jatropha curcas. The feedstock is grown in an intercropping arrangement with pasture grasses so that Jatropha is coproduced with cattle. Additional innovations are introduced including hybrid seeds, detoxification of jatropha seedcake, and cogeneration. Two fuel pathways are examined including a newly developed catalytic decarboxylation process. Sensitivities are examined including higher planting density at the expense of cattle production as well as 50% lower yields. Intercropping with pasture and detoxifying seedcake yield coproducts that are expected to relieve pressure on Brazil's forests and indirectly reduce environmental impacts of biofuel production. Other innovations also reduce impacts. Results of the baseline assessment indicate that innovations would reduce impacts relative to the fossil fuel reference scenario in most categories including 62-75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 64-82% reduction in release of ozone depleting chemicals, 33-52% reduction in smog-forming pollutants, 6-25% reduction in acidification, and 60-72% reduction in use of nonrenewable energy. System expansion, which explicitly accounts for avoided deforestation, results in larger improvements. Results are robust across allocation methodologies, improve with higher planting density, and persist if yield is reduced by half.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number14
Pages (from-to)8042–8050
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 16.07.2013