Sugar-based ethanol company projects 80 percent lower GHG emissions than gasoline

Posted September 3, 2009, at 2:18 p.m. CST

Highlands EnviroFuels LLC (HEF) has completed a life-cycle analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that demonstrates that the company's planned sugar–based ethanol process will result in 80 percent lower GHG emissions than the equivalent petroleum-based gasoline.

The detailed LCA study, completed by Life Cycle Associates LLC, in conjunction with Mont Vista Capital, was conducted using the most recent version (1.8c.0) of the Argonne National Laboratory's latest Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model. The GREET model is routinely used to calculate the GHG emissions impact of a variety of fossil fuels and biofuels, and is used in the development of California's low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) by the California Air Resources Board.

"This study validates what we have believed all along," said company principal and manager Bradley Krohn, "that ethanol produced from Florida sugarcane and sweet sorghum is the most energy efficient and environmentally sustainable form of ethanol, and will support our state's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and global warming."

HEF is developing a 20 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Highlands County, Florida, which will process sweet sorghum and sugar cane not linked to food use as its primary feedstocks. The study considered the full fuel cycle energy and GHG emission data, including direct and upstream, associated with ethanol production. The data included agricultural energy for planting, cultivation, production, harvest, agricultural chemical inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), transport of sweet sorghum and sugarcane from local farms, fuel and power production, heat and electricity requirements, and the transport of ethanol for blending with gasoline.

The analysis shows that HEF's sugar–based ethanol process would emit approximately 80 percent fewer GHG emissions than gasoline production. Brent Riffel of Life Cycle Associates says of the GHG analysis: "The analysis was thorough and robust because Highlands EnviroFuels provided current agricultural data from their farmers for the two feedstocks with a clear distinction between soil types for the different feedstocks."

The company's reduction in GHG emissions will allow its ethanol to qualify as "advanced biofuel" per the federally mandated renewable fuels standard. "Virtually all aspects of farming, transportation, and ethanol and power production process engineering were included in this study," Krohn said. "Also, the facility will produce 12 megawatts or more of excess renewable power for the local grid from waste bagasse, and will be a net producer of high quality water for irrigation."