Eco-Investments - Life Cycle Assessment of Different Scenarios of Biomass Combustion

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Abstract

The article presents the results of life cycle assessment of different scenarios of biomass use to produce energy in a selected company. The study is made on the case of Lesaffre Polska S.A. and its facility in Wolczyn which is one of the most modern biomass plants in Central Europe. The company is one of the leaders of using the environmental criteria in its strategic decision-making. Its goal is to avoid any waste and to form its own circular business system. One of its recent investments is a biomass fired steam boiler that uses agricultural and woody biomass to produce energy. Previously, biomass was sold to power plant and co-fired with coal. The scope of the paper is to assess the actual change in the environmental impact of biomass use in the Wolczyn facility. For that purpose, the life cycle assessment is used with the ReCiPe endpoint indicator. The assessment is based on the comparison of two scenarios: one assuming the biomass combustion in a new boiler, and the second one, assuming co-firing biomass with coal. The results of the study show that the investment is making a significant difference as far as the overall environmental impact is. Through avoiding the co-firing related emissions the company makes a big step ahead towards the decrease of their environmental impacts. The analysis shows that the significant impact in the co-firing scenario is posed in such categories as fossil depletion, climate change with impacts on human health and on ecosystems, particulate matter formation and agricultural land occupation. In the biomass combustion scenario, the above categories are complemented with metal depletion, natural land transformation, urban land occupation and human toxicity categories but with 4 times decrease of the overall impact. The study also shows that the change of the combustion system makes the most significant difference, while all the other factors, like biomass cultivation and processing, biomass transport have much lesser impact.

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