Systems analysis of biofuel pathways for the transport sector – interactions with the evolving grid

D.S. Mallapragada
MIT Energy Initiative,
United States

Keywords: biofuels, integrated process design, life cycle analysis


To date, global efforts to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have focused on the electricity sector, which is witnessing continued expansion of low-carbon generation from variable renewable energy (VRE) (wind, solar) and natural gas (NG). These trends have spurred interest in pursuing electrification of end use sectors as a proxy for decarbonization. Yet, 100% direct electrification may be challenging in sectors like transportation, where the need for high energy density fuels, in particular for heavy-duty and aviation fleets, creates a compelling case for developing biofuel pathways that are also compatible with the existing refueling infrastructure. This presentation discusses the potential implications of recent trends in the electricity sector on the development of sustainable biofuel pathways, with a focus on: 1) the prospects for improving biofuel process carbon efficiency (yield) through integrated use of biomass and supplemental low-carbon energy sourced from the grid or natural gas in the interim and 2) the impact of grid decarbonization on the carbon footprint of existing biofuel processes with significant grid electricity exports. Existing biofuel processes, irrespective of the conversion scheme, are limited to recovering