skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Potential land competition between open-pond microalgae production and terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems in the U.S.

Abstract

Biofuels produced from both terrestrial and algal biomass feedstocks can contribute to energy security while providing economic, environmental, and social benefits. To assess the potential for land competition between these two feedstock types in the United States, we evaluate a scenario in which 41.5 x 109 L yr-1 of second-generation biofuels are produced on pastureland, the most likely land base where both feedstock types may be deployed. This total includes 12.0 x 109 L yr-1 of biofuels from open-pond microalgae production and 29.5 x 109 L yr-1 of biofuels from terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems. Under these scenarios, open-pond microalgae production is projected to use 1.2 million ha of private pastureland, while terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems would use 14.0 million ha of private pastureland. A spatial meta-analysis indicates that potential competition for land under these scenarios would be concentrated in 110 counties, containing 1.0 and 1.7 million hectares of algal and terrestrial dedicated feedstock production, respectively. A land competition index applied to these 110 counties suggests that 38 to 59 counties could experience competition for upwards of 40% of a county’s pastureland. However, this combined 2.7 million ha represents only 2%-5% of total pastureland in the U.S., with themore » remaining 12.5 million ha of algal or terrestrial dedicated feedstock production on pastureland in non-competing areas.« less

Authors:
; ORCiD logo; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1253849
Report Number(s):
PNNL-SA-91459
Journal ID: ISSN 0960-1481; BM0400000
DOE Contract Number:
AC05-76RL01830
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Renewable Energy; Journal Volume: 93
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
agricultural policy analysis; bioenergy; microalgae; land use

Citation Formats

Langholtz, Matthew H., Coleman, Andre M., Eaton, Laurence M., Wigmosta, Mark S., Hellwinckel, Chad M., and Brandt, Craig C. Potential land competition between open-pond microalgae production and terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems in the U.S.. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2016.02.052.
Langholtz, Matthew H., Coleman, Andre M., Eaton, Laurence M., Wigmosta, Mark S., Hellwinckel, Chad M., & Brandt, Craig C. Potential land competition between open-pond microalgae production and terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems in the U.S.. United States. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2016.02.052.
Langholtz, Matthew H., Coleman, Andre M., Eaton, Laurence M., Wigmosta, Mark S., Hellwinckel, Chad M., and Brandt, Craig C. 2016. "Potential land competition between open-pond microalgae production and terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems in the U.S.". United States. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2016.02.052.
@article{osti_1253849,
title = {Potential land competition between open-pond microalgae production and terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems in the U.S.},
author = {Langholtz, Matthew H. and Coleman, Andre M. and Eaton, Laurence M. and Wigmosta, Mark S. and Hellwinckel, Chad M. and Brandt, Craig C.},
abstractNote = {Biofuels produced from both terrestrial and algal biomass feedstocks can contribute to energy security while providing economic, environmental, and social benefits. To assess the potential for land competition between these two feedstock types in the United States, we evaluate a scenario in which 41.5 x 109 L yr-1 of second-generation biofuels are produced on pastureland, the most likely land base where both feedstock types may be deployed. This total includes 12.0 x 109 L yr-1 of biofuels from open-pond microalgae production and 29.5 x 109 L yr-1 of biofuels from terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems. Under these scenarios, open-pond microalgae production is projected to use 1.2 million ha of private pastureland, while terrestrial dedicated feedstock supply systems would use 14.0 million ha of private pastureland. A spatial meta-analysis indicates that potential competition for land under these scenarios would be concentrated in 110 counties, containing 1.0 and 1.7 million hectares of algal and terrestrial dedicated feedstock production, respectively. A land competition index applied to these 110 counties suggests that 38 to 59 counties could experience competition for upwards of 40% of a county’s pastureland. However, this combined 2.7 million ha represents only 2%-5% of total pastureland in the U.S., with the remaining 12.5 million ha of algal or terrestrial dedicated feedstock production on pastureland in non-competing areas.},
doi = {10.1016/j.renene.2016.02.052},
journal = {Renewable Energy},
number = ,
volume = 93,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 8
}
  • To date, feedstock resource assessments have evaluated cellulosic and algal feedstocks independently, without consideration of demands for, and resource allocation to, each other. We assess potential land competition between algal and terrestrial feedstocks in the United States, and evaluate a scenario in which 41.5 × 10 9 L yr –1 of second-generation biofuels are produced on pastureland, the most likely land base where both feedstock types may be deployed. Under this scenario, open-pond microalgae production is projected to use 1.2 × 10 6 ha of private pastureland, while terrestrial biomass feedstocks would use 14.0 × 10 6 ha of privatemore » pastureland. A spatial meta-analysis indicates that potential competition for land under this scenario would be concentrated in 110 counties, containing 1.0 and 1.7 × 10 6 ha of algal and terrestrial dedicated feedstock production, respectively. Furthermore, a land competition index applied to these 110 counties suggests that 38 to 59 counties could experience competition for upwards of 40% of a county's pastureland, representing 2%–5% of total pastureland in the U.S.; therefore suggesting little overall competition between algae production, terrestrial energy feedstocks and alternative uses for existing agricultural production such as livestock grazing.« less
  • Land availability for growing feedstocks at scale is a crucial concern for the bioenergy industry. Feedstock production on land not well-suited to growing conventional crops, or marginal land, is often promoted as ideal, although there is a poor understanding of the qualities, quantity, and distribution of marginal lands in the United States. In this paper, we examine the spatial distribution of land complying with several key marginal land definitions at the United States county, agro-ecological zone, and national scales, and compare the ability of both marginal land and land cover data sets to identify regions for feedstock production. We concludemore » that very few land parcels comply with multiple definitions of marginal land. Furthermore, to examine possible carbon-flow implications of feedstock production on land that could be considered marginal per multiple definitions, we model soil carbon changes upon transitions from marginal cropland, grassland, and cropland–pastureland to switchgrass production for three marginal land-rich counties. Finally, our findings suggest that total soil organic carbon changes per county are small, and generally positive, and can influence life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of switchgrass ethanol.« less
  • Producing biofuel feedstocks on current agricultural land raises questions of a ‘food-vs.-fuel’ trade-off. The use of current or former Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land offers an alternative; yet the volumes of ethanol that could be produced and the potential environmental impacts of such a policy are unclear. Here, we applied the Environmental Policy Integrated Climate model to a US Department of Agriculture database of over 200 000 CRP polygons in Iowa, USA, as a case study. We simulated yields and environmental impacts of growing three cellulosic biofuel feedstocks on CRP land: (i) an Alamo-variety switchgrass ( Panicum virgatum L.); (ii)more » a generalized mixture of C4 and C3 grasses; (iii) and no-till corn ( Zea mays L.) with residue removal. We simulated yields, soil erosion, and soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stocks and fluxes. We found that although no-till corn with residue removal produced approximately 2.6–4.4 times more ethanol per area compared to switchgrass and the grass mixture, it also led to 3.9–4.5 times more erosion, 4.4–5.2 times more cumulative N loss, and a 10% reduction in total soil carbon as opposed to a 6–11% increase. Switchgrass resulted in the best environmental outcomes even when expressed on a per liter ethanol basis. Our results suggest planting no-till corn with residue removal should only be done on low slope soils to minimize environmental concerns. Altogether, this analysis provides additional information to policy makers on the potential outcome and effects of producing biofuel feedstocks on current or former conservation lands.« less
    Cited by 4