AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on global potential of bio-energy

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on December 2, 2010

This is a list of papers on the global potential of bio-energy. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

The global technical potential of bio-energy in 2050 considering sustainability constraints – Haberl et al. (2010) “Bio-energy, that is, energy produced from organic non-fossil material of biological origin, is promoted as a substitute for non-renewable (e.g., fossil) energy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and dependency on energy imports. At present, global bio-energy use amounts to approximately 50 EJ/yr, about 10% of humanity’s primary energy supply. We here review recent literature on the amount of bio-energy that could be supplied globally in 2050, given current expectations on technology, food demand and environmental targets (‘technical potential’). Recent studies span a large range of global bio-energy potentials from ≈30 to over 1000 EJ/yr. In our opinion, the high end of the range is implausible because of (1) overestimation of the area available for bio-energy crops due to insufficient consideration of constraints (e.g., area for food, feed or nature conservation) and (2) too high yield expectations resulting from extrapolation of plot-based studies to large, less productive areas. According to this review, the global technical primary bio-energy potential in 2050 is in the range of 160–270 EJ/yr if sustainability criteria are considered. The potential of bio-energy crops is at the lower end of previously published ranges, while residues from food production and forestry could provide significant amounts of energy based on an integrated optimization (‘cascade utilization’) of biomass flows.” Helmut Haberl, Tim Beringer, Sribas C Bhattacharya, Karl-Heinz Erb and Monique Hoogwijk, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2010, doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2010.10.007.

Bioenergy potentials from forestry in 2050 An assessment of the drivers that determine the potentials – Smeets & Faaij (2007) “The purpose of this study was to evaluate the global energy production potential of woody biomass from forestry for the year 2050 using a bottom-up analysis of key factors. Woody biomass from forestry was defined as all of the aboveground woody biomass of trees, including all products made from woody biomass. This includes the harvesting, processing and use of woody biomass. The projection was performed by comparing the future demand with the future supply of wood, based on existing databases, scenarios, and outlook studies. Specific attention was paid to the impact of the underlying factors that determine this potential and to the gaps and uncertainties in our current knowledge. Key variables included the demand for industrial roundwood and woodfuel, the plantation establishment rates, and the various theoretical, technical, economical, and ecological limitations related to the supply of wood from forests. Forests, as defined in this study, exclude forest plantations. Key uncertainties were the supply of wood from trees outside forests, the future rates of deforestation, the consumption of woodfuel, and the theoretical, technical, economical, or ecological wood production potentials of the forests. Based on a medium demand and medium plantation scenario, the global theoretical potential of the surplus wood supply (i.e., after the demand for woodfuel and industrial roundwood is met) in 2050 was calculated to be 6.1 Gm3 (71 EJ) and the technical potential to be 5.5 Gm3 (64 EJ). In practice, economical considerations further reduced the surplus wood supply from forests to 1.3 Gm3 year-1 (15 EJ year−1). When ecological criteria were also included, the demand for woodfuel and industrial roundwood exceeded the supply by 0.7 Gm3 year-1 (8 EJ year-1). The bioenergy potential from logging and processing residues and waste was estimated to be equivalent to 2.4 Gm3 year-1 (28 EJ year-1) wood, based on a medium demand scenario. These results indicate that forests can, in theory, become a major source of bioenergy, and that the use of this bioenergy can, in theory, be realized without endangering the supply of industrial roundwood and woodfuel and without further deforestation. Regional shortages in the supply of industrial roundwood and woodfuel can, however, occur in some regions, e.g., South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.” Edward M. W. Smeets and André P. C. Faaij, Climatic Change, Volume 81, Numbers 3-4, 353-390, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-006-9163-x. [Full text]

A bottom-up assessment and review of global bio-energy potentials to 2050 – Smeets et al. (2007) “In this article, a model for estimating bioenergy production potentials in 2050, called the Quickscan model, is presented. In addition, a review of existing studies is carried out, using results from the Quickscan model as a starting point. The Quickscan model uses a bottom-up approach and its development is based on an evaluation of data and studies on relevant factors such as population growth, per capita food consumption and the efficiency of food production. Three types of biomass energy sources are included: dedicated bioenergy crops, agricultural and forestry residues and waste, and forest growth. The bioenergy potential in a region is limited by various factors, such as the demand for food, industrial roundwood, traditional woodfuel, and the need to maintain existing forests for the protection of biodiversity. Special attention is given to the technical potential to reduce the area of land needed for food production by increasing the efficiency of food production. Thus, only the surplus area of agricultural land is included as a source for bioenergy crop production. A reference scenario was composed to analyze the demand for food. Four levels of advancement of agricultural technology in the year 2050 were assumed that vary with respect to the efficiency of food production. Results indicated that the application of very efficient agricultural systems combined with the geographic optimization of land use patterns could reduce the area of land needed to cover the global food demand in 2050 by as much as 72% of the present area. A key factor was the area of land suitable for crop production, but that is presently used for permanent grazing. Another key factor is the efficiency of the production of animal products. The bioenergy potential on surplus agricultural land (i.e. land not needed for the production of food and feed) equaled 215–1272 EJ yr−1, depending on the level of advancement of agricultural technology. The bulk of this potential is found in South America and Caribbean (47–221 EJ yr−1), sub-Saharan Africa (31–317 EJ yr−1) and the C.I.S. and Baltic States (45–199 EJ yr−1). Also Oceania and North America had considerable potentials: 20–174 and 38–102 EJ yr−1, respectively. However, realization of these (technical) potentials requires significant increases in the efficiency of food production, whereby the most robust potential is found in the C.I.S. and Baltic States and East Europe. Existing scenario studies indicated that such increases in productivity may be unrealistically high, although these studies generally excluded the impact of large scale bioenergy crop production. The global potential of bioenergy production from agricultural and forestry residues and wastes was calculated to be 76–96 EJ yr−1 in the year 2050. The potential of bioenergy production from surplus forest growth (forest growth not required for the production of industrial roundwood and traditional woodfuel) was calculated to be 74 EJ yr−1 in the year 2050.” Edward M.W. Smeets, André P.C. Faaij, Iris M. Lewandowski and Wim C. Turkenburg, Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, Volume 33, Issue 1, February 2007, Pages 56-106, doi:10.1016/j.pecs.2006.08.001.

Global Biomass Energy Potential – Moreira (2006) “The intensive use of renewable energy is one of the options to stabilize CO2atmospheric concentration at levels of 350 to 550ppm. A recent evaluation of the global potential of primary renewable energy carried out by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sets a value of at least 2800EJ/yr, which is more than the most energy-intensive SRES scenario forecast for the world energy requirement up to the year 2100. Nevertheless, what is really important to quantify is the amount of final energy since the use of renewable sources may involve conversion efficiencies, from primary to final energy, different from the ones of conventional energy sources. In reality, IPCC does not provide a complete account of the final energy from renewables, but the text claims that using several available options to mitigate climate change, and renewables is only one of them, it is possible to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration at a low level. In this paper, we evaluate in detail biomass primary and final energy using sugarcane crop as a proxy, since it is one of the highest energy density forms of biomass, and through afforestation/reforestation using a model presented in IPCC Second Assessment Report (SAR). The conclusion is that the primary-energy potential for biomass has been under-evaluated by many authors and by IPCC, and this under-evaluation is even larger for final energy since sugarcane allows co-production of electricity and liquid fuel. Regarding forests we reproduce IPCC results for primary energy and calculate final energy. Sugarcane is a tropical crop and cannot be grown in all the land area forecasted for biomass energy plantation in the IPCC/TAR evaluation (i.e. 1280Mha). Nevertheless, there are large expanses of unexploited land, mainly in Latin America and Africa that are subject to warm weather and convenient rainfall. With the use of 143Mha of these lands it is possible to produce 164EJ/yr (1147GJ/hayr or 3.6W/m2on average) of primary energy and 90EJ/yr of final energy in the form of liquid fuel (alcohol) and electricity, using agricultural productivities near the best ones already achievable and biomass gasification technology. More remarkable is that these results can be obtained with the operation of 4,000 production units with unitary capacity similar to the largest currently in operation. These units should be spread over the tropical land area yielding a plantation density similar to the one presently observed in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, where alcohol and electricity have been commercialized in a cost-effective way for several years. Such an amount of final energy would be sufficiently large to fulfill all the expected global increase in oil demand, as well as in electricity consumption by 2030, assuming the energy demand of such sources continues to grow at the same pace observed over the last two decades. When sugarcane crops are combined with afforestation/reforestation it is possible to show that carbon emissions decline for some IPCC SRES scenarios by 2030, 2040 and 2050. Such energy alternatives significantly reduce CO2emissions by displacing fossil fuels and promote sustainable development through the creation of millions of direct and indirect jobs. Also, it opens an opportunity for negative CO2emissions when coupled with carbon dioxide capture and storage.” José Roberto Moreira, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Volume 11, Number 2, 313-333, DOI: 10.1007/s11027-005-9003-8.

Potential of biomass energy out to 2100, for four IPCC SRES land-use scenarios – Hoogwijk et al. (2005) “The availability of the resources is an important factor for high shares of biomass to penetrate the electricity, heat or liquid fuel markets. We have analysed the geographical and technical potential of energy crops for the years 2050–2100 for three land-use categories: abandoned agricultural land, low-productivity land and ‘rest land’, i.e. remaining no-productive land. We envisaged development paths using four scenarios resulting from different future land-use patterns that were developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Special Report on Emission Scenarios: A1, A2, B1 and B2. The geographical potential is defined as the product of the available area for energy crops and the corresponding productivity level for energy crops. The geographical potential of abandoned agricultural land is the largest contributor. For the year 2050 the geographical potential of abandoned land ranges from about 130 to 410 EJ yr−1. For the year 2100 it ranges from 240 to 850 EJ yr−1. The potential of low-productive land is negligible compared to the other categories. The rest land area is assumed to be partly available, resulting in ranges of the geographical potential from about 35 to 245 EJ yr−1 for the year 2050 and from about 35 to 265 EJ yr−1 in 2100. At a regional level, significant potentials are found in the Former USSR, East Asia and South America. The geographical potential can be converted to transportation fuels or electricity resulting in ranges of the technical potential for fuels in the year 2050 and 2100 equal to several times the present oil consumption.” Monique Hoogwijk, André Faaij, Bas Eickhout, Bert de Vries and Wim Turkenburg, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 29, Issue 4, October 2005, Pages 225-257, doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2005.05.002.

Exploration of the ranges of the global potential of biomass for energy – Hoogwijk et al. (2003) “This study explores the range of future world potential of biomass for energy. The focus has been put on the factors that influence the potential biomass availability for energy purposes rather than give exact numbers. Six biomass resource categories for energy are identified: energy crops on surplus cropland, energy crops on degraded land, agricultural residues, forest residues, animal manure and organic wastes. Furthermore, specific attention is paid to the competing biomass use for material. The analysis makes use of a wide variety of existing studies on all separate categories. The main conclusion of the study is that the range of the global potential of primary biomass (in about 50 years) is very broad quantified at 33−1135 EJy−1. Energy crops from surplus agricultural land have the largest potential contribution (0–988 EJy−1). Crucial factors determining biomass availability for energy are: (1) The future demand for food, determined by the population growth and the future diet; (2) The type of food production systems that can be adopted world-wide over the next 50 years; (3) Productivity of forest and energy crops; (4) The (increased) use of bio-materials; (5) Availability of degraded land; (6) Competing land use types, e.g. surplus agricultural land used for reforestation. It is therefore not “a given” that biomass for energy can become available at a large-scale. Furthermore, it is shown that policies aiming for the energy supply from biomass should take the factors like food production system developments into account in comprehensive development schemes.” Monique Hoogwijk, André Faaij, Richard van den Broek, Göran Berndes, Dolf Gielen, and Wim Turkenburg, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 25, Issue 2, August 2003, Pages 119-133, doi:10.1016/S0961-9534(02)00191-5.

The contribution of biomass in the future global energy supply: a review of 17 studies – Berndes et al. (2003) “This paper discusses the contribution of biomass in the future global energy supply. The discussion is based on a review of 17 earlier studies on the subject. These studies have arrived at widely different conclusions about the possible contribution of biomass in the future global energy supply (e.g., from below 100 EJ yr−1 to above 400 EJ yr−1 in 2050). The major reason for the differences is that the two most crucial parameters—land availability and yield levels in energy crop production—are very uncertain, and subject to widely different opinions (e.g., the assessed 2050 plantation supply ranges from below 50 EJ yr−1 to almost 240 EJ yr−1). However, also the expectations about future availability of forest wood and of residues from agriculture and forestry vary substantially among the studies. The question how an expanding bioenergy sector would interact with other land uses, such as food production, biodiversity, soil and nature conservation, and carbon sequestration has been insufficiently analyzed in the studies. It is therefore difficult to establish to what extent bioenergy is an attractive option for climate change mitigation in the energy sector. A refined modeling of interactions between different uses and bioenergy, food and materials production—i.e., of competition for resources, and of synergies between different uses—would facilitate an improved understanding of the prospects for large-scale bioenergy and of future land-use and biomass management in general” Göran Berndes, Monique Hoogwijk, and Richard van den Broek, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 25, Issue 1, July 2003, Pages 1-28, doi:10.1016/S0961-9534(02)00185-X. [Full text]

Global bioenergy potentials through 2050 – Fischer & Schrattenholzer (2001) “This study explores the range of future world potential of biomass for energy. The focus has been put on the factors that influence the potential biomass availability for energy purposes rather than give exact numbers. Six biomass resource categories for energy are identified: energy crops on surplus cropland, energy crops on degraded land, agricultural residues, forest residues, animal manure and organic wastes. Furthermore, specific attention is paid to the competing biomass use for material. The analysis makes use of a wide variety of existing studies on all separate categories. The main conclusion of the study is that the range of the global potential of primary biomass (in about 50 years) is very broad quantified at 33−1135 EJy−1. Energy crops from surplus agricultural land have the largest potential contribution (0–988 EJy−1). Crucial factors determining biomass availability for energy are: (1) The future demand for food, determined by the population growth and the future diet; (2) The type of food production systems that can be adopted world-wide over the next 50 years; (3) Productivity of forest and energy crops; (4) The (increased) use of bio-materials; (5) Availability of degraded land; (6) Competing land use types, e.g. surplus agricultural land used for reforestation. It is therefore not “a given” that biomass for energy can become available at a large-scale. Furthermore, it is shown that policies aiming for the energy supply from biomass should take the factors like food production system developments into account in comprehensive development schemes.” Günther Fischer and Leo Schrattenholzer, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 20, Issue 3, March 2001, Pages 151-159, doi:10.1016/S0961-9534(00)00074-X. [Full text]

Evaluation of bioenergy potential with a multi-regional global-land-use-and-energy model – Yamamoto et al. (2001) “The purpose of this study is to evaluate the global bioenergy potential in the future using a multi-regional global-land-use-and-energy model (GLUE-11). The model covers a wide range of biomass flow including food chains from feed to meat, paper recycling, and discharge of biomass residues.

Through a set of simulations, the following results are obtained. (1) Supply potential of energy crops produced from surplus arable land will be available in North America, Western Europe, Oceania, Latin America, former USSR and Eastern Europe. However, the potential of energy crops will be strongly affected by the variation of parameters of food supply and demand such as animal food demand. (2) Bioenergy supply potential of biomass residues will be stable against a change of a food demand parameter. The ultimate bioenergy supply potential of biomass residues will be 265 EJ/year in the world in 2100. The practical potential of biomass residues in the world will be 114 EJ/year, which is equivalent to one-third of the commercial energy consumption in the world in 1990. (3) Concerning land uses, the global mature forest area will decrease by 24% between 1990 and 2100, because of growth of both population and wood biomass demand per capita in the developing regions. The mature forest, especially, will disappear by 2100 in some developing regions, such as Centrally Planned Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.” Hiromi Yamamoto, Junichi Fujino and Kenji Yamaji, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 21, Issue 3, March 2001, Pages 185-203, doi:10.1016/S0961-9534(01)00025-3. [Full text]

The land cover and carbon cycle consequences of large-scale utilizations of biomass as an energy source – Leemans et al. (1996) “The use of modern biomass for energy generation has been considered in many studies as a possible measure for reducing or stabilizing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In this paper we assess the impacts of large-scale global utilization of biomass on regional and grid scale land cover, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon cycle. We have implemented in the global environmental change model IMAGE the LESS biomass intensive scenario, which was developed for the Second Assessment Report of IPCC. This scenario illustrates the potential for reducing energy related emission by different sets of fuel mixes and a higher energy efficiency. Our analysis especially covers different consequences involved with such modern biomass scenarios. We emphasize influences of CO2 concentrations and climate change on biomass crop yield, land use, competition between food and biomass crops, and the different interregional trade patterns for modern biomass based energy. Our simulations show that the original LESS scenario is rather optimistic on the land requirements for large-scale biomass plantations. Our simulations show that 797 Mha is required while the original LESS scenario is based on 550 Mha. Such expansion of agricultural land will influence deforestation patterns and have significant consequenses for environmental issues, such as biodiversity. Altering modern biomass requirements and the locations where they are grown in the scenario shows that the outcome is sensitive for regional emissions and feedbacks in the C cycle and that competition between food and modern biomass can be significant. We conclude that the cultivation of large quantities of modern biomass is feasible, but that its effectiveness to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases has to be evaluated in combination with many other environmental land use and socio-economic factors.” Rik Leemans, André van Amstel, Coos Battjes, Eric Kreileman and Sander Toet, Global Environmental Change, Volume 6, Issue 4, September 1996, Pages 335-357, doi:10.1016/S0959-3780(96)00028-3.

World potential of renewable energies. Actually accessible in the nineties and environmental impact analysis. – Dessus et al. (1992) “Large scale application of renewable energies is a major challenge for sustainable development and greenhouse gas emission control. Theoretical potential of those various energies may seem unlimited. In fact a reasonable evaluation taking into account economically available technologies and local considerations make it possible to define annual energy amounts relevant for each technology. Diversely distributed around the world but nowhere missing, renewable energies have an important annual potential since the nineties. They could indeed contribute to some 40% of the nowadays world energy consumption, mainly from wood, waste and hydro, but also from solar and wind energy.” Dessus, B, Devin, B, Pharabod, F, Houille blanche. Grenoble [HOUILLE BLANCHE.]. no. 1, pp. 21-70. 1992.

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