This paper evaluates life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) balances in production and use of molasses-based ethanol (EtOH) in Nepal. The total life cycle emissions of EtOH is estimated at 432.5 kgCO2eq m−3 ethanol (i.e. 20.4 gCO2eq MJ−1). Avoided emissions are 76.6% when conventional gasoline is replaced by molasses derived ethanol.
A sensitivity analysis was performed to verify the impact of variations in material and energy flows, and allocation ratios in the GHG balances. Market prices of sugar and molasses, amount of nitrogen-fertilizers used in sugarcane production, and sugarcane yield per hectare turn out to be important parameters for the GHG balances estimation. Sales of the surplus electricity derived from bagasse could reduce emissions by replacing electricity produced in diesel power plants. Scenario analysis on two wastewater processes for treatment of effluents obtained from ethanol conversion has also been carried out. If wastewater generated from ethanol conversion unit is treated in pond stabilization (PS) treatment process, GHG emissions alarmingly increase to a level of 4032 kgCO2eq m−3ethanol.
Results also show that the anaerobic digestion process (ADP) and biogas recovery without leakages can significantly avoid GHG emissions, and improve the overall emissions balance of EtOH in Nepal. At a 10% biogas leakage, life cycle emissions is 1038 kgCO2eq m−3 ethanol which corresponds to 44% avoided emissions compared to gasoline. On the other hand, total emissions surpass the level of its counterpart (i.e. gasoline) when the leakage of biogas exceeds 23.4%.