Measuring energy through the entire life cycle is the most important and interesting part of calculating the carbon intensity.
Biodico’s home state of California lowers carbon emissions through the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a mixture of command and control carbon regulation and emission trading. The LCFS is the most scientifically sound cap and trade methodology that has been put into place by a major government to date. Under the LCFS, energy sources are given a carbon intensity by the GREET+ model. New energy pathways can be submitted to the California Air Resources Board for inclusion in the LCFS and there are currently thousands of pathways. Carbon emissions by organizations are measured by the carbon intensity and the allowable emitted carbon is incrementally dropped every year. This means that the lower the carbon intensity is for a fuel, the higher the value is.
The LCFS is the most scientifically sound cap and trade methodology that has been put into place by a major government to date.
There are a lot of ways in which Biodico produces low carbon intensity biofuel before the first drop of oil enters the plant. Using land to grow biofuel crops that can be used or is being used to grown food crops carries a substantial penalty called the Indirect Land Use Cost (ILUC). Biodico works with many drought tolerant and saline tolerance crops in order to grow feedstock on land that is unsuitable for commodity agriculture. Biodico’s work with algae is enabling the growth of oil bearing feedstock on arid or semi-arid land. High fertilizer requirements or irrigation requirements also carry a carbon cost. Carbon is also emitted in the transportation of fuels. By using smaller, decentralized facilities, Biodico is able to lower its carbon intensity. Separating the oil from the solid seed meal is usually done by chemical extraction. Extraction is a chemical intensive process that requires large volumes of solvent, usually hexane, which carries an environmental cost. By working with farmers directly and mechanically extruding the oil from the seeds, Biodico is able to cut the carbon intensity again.
Aside from regulations, the economic savings from self-produced heat and power and the environmental stewardship still make these carbon cutting measures worthwhile.
Once production starts, Biodico continues to lower the carbon intensity of its fuel. Depending on the location, there are several techniques that Biodico has used to decrease their dependence on external energy sources and to decrease the carbon emissions associated with their low carbon biofuel. Solar thermal cogeneration is used to provide heat and power to the plant. Standalone solar heating arrays are used for feedstock pretreatment. The otherwise unusable seed meal from inedible crops is gasified to create combined heat and power. The crude glycerin byproduct of biodiesel production is refined to Biodico’s GBX formulation and anaerobically digested to create combined heat and power. In 2005, Biodico won an EPA Project of the Year Award for running its biodiesel production facility off of landfill gas from the neighboring landfill. This was well before there was an incentive for low carbon intensity, but aside from regulations, the economic savings from self-produced heat and power and the environmental stewardship still make these carbon cutting measures worthwhile.