The California Legislature recently re-passed its climate law ensuring that the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) will move forward. In this scenario, the fuels with the lowest carbon intensity scores are the highest rewarded and as such, the biofuel industry must continue to lower its carbon intensity. “Carbon Intensity: Field-to-Wheel How Low Can You Go?” was one of the break-out sessions during the 29th annual Ethanol Conference. During the discussion, panelists walked attendees through the nuts and bolts of low carbon fuel standards and how ethanol producers can improve carbon intensity through a better understanding of data from the field, energy inputs and optimizing plant operations. The discussion was moderated by Mike Hansman, business development manager for EcoEngineers and included Rob Alverson, director Dakota Ethanol along with Dr. Zhichao Wang, environmental engineer for EcoEngineers. I was able to sit down with “Dr. Z” after his presentation to learn more about how low the industry can go in terms of carbon intensity.
Carbon intensity is the measure of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation and consumption in the lifetime of a transportation fuel. One challenge has been how best to measure this and Dr. Z explained that measuring carbon intensity has been an evolving process but with better data and better models it’s getting more accurate.
He said that with the use of carbon intensity as a means to determine how “sustainable” a fuel is, it is a very important measurement for biofuel producers. Dr. Z continued that it will be even more important in the future because many states are looking to adopt similar LCFS programs to California.
So how does an ethanol producer lower the carbon intensity of its fuel? Dr. Z said there are several things you can do such as controlling your energy consumption, chemical and enzyme use. For example, if a plant were to convert to biogas, the carbon intensity of the resulting ethanol would be lower.
To learn more about how an biofuel producer can lower carbon intensity, listen to my interview with Dr. Zhichao here: Interview with Zhichao Wang, EcoEngineers