Publication Details

Title : Influence of corn oil recovery on life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol and corn oil biodiesel
Publication Date : November 04, 2015
Publication Journal :
Authors : Z. Wang, J. B. Dunn, J. Han, M. Q. Wang
Abstract :
Corn oil recovery and conversion to biodiesel has been widely adopted at corn ethanol plants recently. The US EPA has projected 2.6 billion liters of biodiesel will be produced from corn oil in 2022. Corn oil biodiesel may qualify for federal renewable identification number (RIN) credits under the Renewable Fuel Standard, as well as for low greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity credits under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Because multiple products [ethanol, biodiesel, and distiller’s grain with solubles (DGS)] are produced from one feedstock (corn), however, a careful co-product treatment approach is required to accurately estimate GHG intensities of both ethanol and corn oil biodiesel and to avoid double counting of benefits associated with corn oil biodiesel production.

This study develops four co-product treatment methods: (1) displacement, (2) marginal, (3) hybrid allocation, and (4) process-level energy allocation. Life-cycle GHG emissions for corn oil biodiesel were more sensitive to the choice of co-product allocation method because significantly less corn oil biodiesel is produced than corn ethanol at a dry mill. Corn ethanol life-cycle GHG emissions with the displacement, marginal, and hybrid allocation approaches are similar (61, 62, and 59 g CO2e/MJ, respectively). Although corn ethanol and DGS share upstream farming and conversion burdens in both the hybrid and process-level energy allocation methods, DGS bears a higher burden in the latter because it has lower energy content per selling price as compared to corn ethanol. As a result, with the process-level allocation approach, ethanol’s life-cycle GHG emissions are lower at 46 g CO2e/MJ. Corn oil biodiesel life-cycle GHG emissions from the marginal, hybrid allocation, and process-level energy allocation methods were 14, 59, and 45 g CO2e/MJ, respectively. Sensitivity analyses were conducted to investigate the influence corn oil yield, soy biodiesel, and defatted DGS displacement credits, and energy consumption for corn oil production and corn oil biodiesel production.

This study’s results demonstrate that co-product treatment methodology strongly influences corn oil biodiesel life-cycle GHG emissions and can affect how this fuel is treated under the Renewable Fuel and Low Carbon Fuel Standards.

Corn ethanol Corn oil recovery Biodiesel Life cycle analysis GHG emissions