Environmental assessment of electricity generation from an Italian anaerobic digestion plant

TitleEnvironmental assessment of electricity generation from an Italian anaerobic digestion plant
Publication TypeArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsFantin, V., Giuliano Antonio, Manfredi M., Ottaviano G., Stefanova Milena, and Masoni Paolo
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
KeywordsAgricultural wastes, Agriculture, Anaerobic digestion, anoxic conditions, Biogas, Cogeneration plants, Crops, Cultivation, Digestate, digestibility, Digital storage, Effluents, Electric power generation, electricity generation, energy crop, Energy crops, environmental assessment, Environmental impact, environmental impact assessment, environmental management, Environmental sustainability, Eutrophication, Global warming, heat production, Impact assessment methodologies, Italy, LCA, life cycle, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), literature review, methane, Monte Carlo analysis, Nitrogen, Nitrogen emissions, plant residue, power plant, reliability analysis, Sensitivity analysis, Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis, Sustainable development, Uncertainty analysis, waste management

A standard ISO Life Cycle Assessment study was carried out to evaluate the environmental sustainability of electricity production from an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant using a mixture of dedicated energy crops, agricultural residues and livestock effluents as input materials. The functional unit was 1 MJ of electricity. System boundaries were from cradle to grave and covered all the phases from energy crops cultivation to the production of biogas and its use in a Combined Heat and Power plant to produce electricity. Liquid and solid digestate storage and spreading on agricultural land were included. Primary data were collected from the AD plant for all the above phases. Since heat produced is used only internally, no allocation was applied in the study. As regards digestate management, CH4 emissions were calculated from literature, whereas four literature methods were applied for calculation of nitrogen emissions with the goal to perform a sensitivity analysis on LCA results. ILCD Handbook impact assessment methodologies were used. Results show that the main hotspots are energy crops cultivation and the management of digestate, mainly because of both nitrogen and methane emissions, affecting Global Warming, Acidification, Marine and Freshwater Eutrophication. Finally, a detailed Monte Carlo analysis, was carried out to evaluate the results uncertainty. The study represents the state of the art about the environmental performance of the AD plant with the use of sensitivity and uncertainty analysis, which both improve the reliability of results, and allows drawing general conclusions on how to mitigate the environmental impacts of AD process. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


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