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G2. Emergy (Embodied Energy) Analysis of Biofuels

Program for Engineering, Agricultural Sciences, Economics and other students

Biofuels have been presented as an important option for energy supply, notably as renewable substitutes for fossil fuels. By many they are considered a renewable and endless resource, since they are produced from biomass, reputed as renewable. Besides, it is a current believe that, by replacing oil products, their use could reduce greenhouse gases emissions. Yet, there are voices that point out that any biomass production and industrial transformation requires the use of fossil fuel energy, in the form of fertilizers, agrochemicals, machinery, and for inputs and raw material transportation. Besides that, monoculture might result in soil degradation, natural ecosystem destruction and a competition among energy and food crops for arable land.

Emergy analysis

Embodied Energy Analysis (Emergy) is being used to evaluate the energy requirements involved in the production of biofuels. Main objectives of the offered practical program is to assess the sustainability of ethanol produced from sugarcane and examine the environmental feasibility of a large-scale production through the use of embodied energy analysis and assessment.

List of main tasks:

  • Research existing biofuels (sugarcane) farming systems typical of south Florida and other production areas;
  • Evaluate biofuels production systems, considering all the inputs necessary to drive a process;
  • Quantify the needed inputs, such as nature’s contributions (water, soil, biodiversity, etc.) and the the human economy contributions (chemicals, machinery, fuel, etc.);
  • Calculate and convert the input/output values of the ethanol production in various functional units (e.g. 1 kg of sugarcane, 1 liter of ethanol, etc.);
  • Assess the sustainability of ethanol produced from sugarcane;
  • Examine the environmental and economical feasibility through the use of Emergy Assessment;
  • Create new and maintain existing related websites.

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