Review of methodological choices in LCA of biorefinery systems - key issues and recommendations
Review article, 2015

The current trend in biomass conversion technologies is toward more efficient utilization of biomass feedstock in multiproduct biorefineries. Many life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies of biorefinery systems have been performed but differ in how they use the LCA methodology. Based on a review of existing LCA standards and guidelines, this paper provides recommendations on how to handle key methodological issues when performing LCA studies of biorefinery systems. Six key issues were identified: (i) goal definition, (ii) functional unit, (iii) allocation of biorefinery outputs, (iv) allocation of biomass feedstock, (v) land use, and (vi) biogenic carbon and timing of emissions. Many of the standards and guidelines reviewed here provide only general methodological recommendations. Some make more specific methodological recommendations, but these often differ between standards. In this paper we present some clarifications (e.g. examples of research questions and suitable functional units) and methodological recommendations (e.g. on allocation).



life cycle assessment

land use

functional unit


biogenic carbon


Serina Ahlgren

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Anna Björklund

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Anna Ekman

Lund University

Hanna Karlsson

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Johanna Berlin

SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut AB

Pål Börjesson

Lund University

Tomas Ekvall

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Göran Finnveden

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Mathias Janssen

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Environmental Systems Analysis

Ingrid Strid

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining

1932-104X (ISSN)

Vol. 9 5 606-619

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering

Environmental Management


Energy Systems



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