Life cycle assessment of hydrotreated vegetable oil from rape, oil palm and Jatropha
Journal article, 2011

A life cycle assessment of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biofuel was performed. The study was commissioned by Volvo Technology Corporation and Volvo Penta Corporation as part of an effort to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of potential future biobased liquid fuels for cars and trucks. The life cycle includes production of vegetable oil from rape, oil palm or Jatropha, transport of the oil to the production site, production of the HVO from the oil, and combustion of the HVO. The functional unit of the study is 1 kWh energy out from the engine of a heavy-duty truck and the environmental impact categories that are considered are global warming potential (GWP), acidification potential (AP), eutrophication potential (EP) and embedded fossil production energy. System expansion was used to take into account byproducts from activities in the systems; this choice was made partly to make this study comparable to results reported by other studies. The results show that HVO produced from palm oil combined with energy production from biogas produced from the palm oil mill effluent has the lowest environmental impact of the feedstocks investigated in this report. HVO has a significantly lower life cycle GWP than conventional diesel oil for all feedstocks investigated, and a GWP that is comparable to results for e.g. rape methyl ester reported in the literature. The results show that emissions from soil caused by microbial activities and leakage are the largest contributors to most environmental impact categories, which is supported also by other studies. Nitrous oxide emissions from soil account for more than half of the GWP of HVO. Nitrogen oxides and ammonia emissions from soil cause almost all of the life cycle EP of HVO and contribute significantly to the AP as well. The embedded fossil production energy was shown to be similar to results for e.g. rape methyl ester from other studies. A sensitivity analysis shows that variations in crop yield and in nitrous oxide emissions from microbial activities in soil can cause significant changes to the results.


palm oil

rapeseed oil




Rickard Arvidsson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Environmental Systems Analysis

Sara Persson

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chemical Environmental Science

Morgan Fröling


Mid Sweden University

Magdalena Svanström

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chemical Environmental Science

Journal of Cleaner Production

0959-6526 (ISSN)

Vol. 19 2-3 128-137

Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering

Environmental Sciences



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