Life Cycle Assessment Approach Combines Environmental with Economic Factors to Determine Greenhouse Gas Reductions for Varying Forms of Bioenergy

New study published in Biomass & Bioenergy wins Elsevier’s Atlas award for October 2015

Amsterdam, October 28, 2015

A study published in the journal Biomass & Bioenergy sets out to calculate the true costs and benefits associated with replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy in varying forms for numerous s applications. The life cycle assessment (LCA) approach takes into account entire bioenergy systems, including every step along the supply chain.

The study led by Patricia Thornley of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester has been selected for Elsevier’s Atlas Award.

“The cost of bioenergy systems per unit of greenhouse gas reduced is really important because we all want to do the sensible environmental thing, but we don’t want excessive cost attached to it,” Thornley explained. “In this paper we brought environmental and economic factors together to then showcase how different bioenergy systems contribute to future energy systems.”

Their assessment takes all of the hidden costs of bioenergy’s production into account, including greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and transport of bioenergy resources, to provide a solid foundation for making decisions about the future of energy.

The results confirm that bioenergy can deliver substantial and cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions, however the most sensible use of limited bioenergy resources is also heavily dependent on how one frames the goals. For instance, the assessment shows that large-scale electricity systems are best in terms of absolute greenhouse gas reductions per unit of energy generated.  Wood chips used in medium-scale district heating boilers on the other hand, deliver the highest greenhouse gas reductions per unit of harvested biomass.

The findings of the study are especially well timed as the European Union is currently reviewing its bioenergy policy.

Co-authors of the study are Paul Gilbert also from the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Simon Shackley and Jim Hammond both from the UK Biochar Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh. The research was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Consortium and SUPERGEN Bioenergy hub.

The full story and interview with the authors is available at:,-it-pays-to-look-upstream


Notes for editors
The article is Maximizing the greenhouse gas reductions from biomass: The role of life cycle assessment, Patricia Thornley, Paul Gilbert, Simon Shackley, Jim Hammond, doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.05.002

The article appeared in Biomass & Bioenergy, Volume 81, October 2015, Pages 35-43, published by Elsevier.

This article is published open access and available on ScienceDirect.

Journalists who would like more information or want to interview the authors are welcome to contact:

About Biomass & Bioenergy 
Biomass & Bioenergy is an international journal publishing original research papers and short communications, review articles and case studies on biological resources, chemical and biological processes, and biomass products for new renewable sources of energy and materials.
The scope of the journal extends to the environmental, management and economic aspects of biomass and bioenergy.

About Atlas, Research for a better world
Science impacts everyone's world. With over 1,800 journals publishing articles from across science, technology and health, our mission is to share some of the stories that matter. Each month Elsevier’s Atlas showcases research that can significantly impact people's lives around the world or has already done so. We hope that bringing wider attention to this research will go some way to ensuring its successful implementation.

With so many worthy articles published the tough job of selecting a single article to be awarded "The Atlas" each month comes down to an Advisory Board. The winning research is presented alongside interviews, expert opinions, multimedia and much more on the Atlas website:

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

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