The aim of this working group is to perform a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of a valorisation chain for wood biomass, which comprises extraction of food/pharmaceutical products, energy production, biochar production and application to agricultural soils. This will be compared to the LCA of wood biomass gasification and disposal of residual char.

The objectives required to achieve these aims are:

  1. Developing a Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) of feedstock production and supply chain
  2. Developing a LCI of feedstock pre-treatment for extraction of high valuable compounds from the woody Biomass
  3. Developing a LCI of the biomass to biochar conversion processes (gasification/pyrolysis)
  4. Establishing a LCI of biochar application pathways (different agricultural uses: already established orchards vs new plantations)

In order to assess the net greenhouse gas emissions and C cycle benefits of a new chain of use for wood biomass in South Tyrol, attributional and consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies will be applied (Brander et al., 2008). These methodologies will require that each of the individual wood residuals valorisation chain developed through this project, be evaluated using a standardized attributional approach. This attributional approach will be based on detailed LCI of activities based on inputs and outputs from the wood residual valorisation chains and will require close collaboration and integration with all work packages partners within the project. The pre-gasification/-pyrolysis treatment of wood residues for food/pharmaceutical purposes alongside the production of energy and use of biochar at different scales and intensities will have knock-on impact at different levels of the economy. This will have a direct effect on agricultural yields, fertilizer use, water and pesticide inputs / requirements. This could also influence, in the longer term, the allocation of land between different uses.

In order to establish an overview of LCA of biochar, supply chain scenarios will be developed, system boundaries set and reference systems established in accordance with ISO 14040 and the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook as outlined by the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment. A clear functional unit will also be defined. A modular approach to supply chains for biochar production will be established, based on source of feedstock production modules and on conversion process systems modules for the production of biochar. Where data is available in literature, this will be reviewed, assessed and used as “best available data” to establish clear boundaries and reference systems.