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Preliminary LCA of Steelanol ethanol shows significant GHG savings potential

Preliminary Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Steelanol ethanol produced at the ArcelorMittal plant in Ghent, Belgium by the fermentation of blast- and basic oxygen furnace (BF/BOF) gases show that significant greenhouse gas (GHG) savings compared to gasoline can be achieved. GHG savings over fuel quality directive (FQD) fossil fuel standard can be as high as 87 percent according to the LCA results.

The preliminary Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Steelanol ethanol was conducted by E4tech, an international strategic consultancy focused on sustainable energy. The study aims to assess a range of environmental impacts from the production of Steelanol ethanol by the fermentation of blast- and basic oxygen furnace (BF/BOF) gases at the ArcelorMittal plant in Ghent compared to conventional transport fuel, with a focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The LCA uses data from the detailed engineering plans for the EU Horizon 2020 (H2020) co-funded pilot plant, which is currently under site preparation, and, an update with actual data is planned once the plant is operational.

According to a statement, the LCA not only demonstrates environmental impacts across a range of impact categories but also endeavours to investigate the impacts that Steelanol ethanol production might have on the wider energy system.

Currently, the BF/BOF gases are used for electricity generation at ArcelorMittal Gent, and diverting part of this gas to ethanol production reduces electricity output. Estimating the impact of replacing this shortfall of electricity from other sources is far from trivial.

However, a careful analysis revealed that even when including the impact of replacing the no-longer-generated electricity in the final LCA results, Steelanol ethanol still provides significant GHG savings compared to gasoline. GHG saving over Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) fossil fuel standard can be up to 87 percent taking into account electricity displacement using a GWP grid mix of 14.7 gCO2eq/MJ.

The study also discusses the implications of these results in the context of ongoing policy developments around ‘waste-based’ or ‘recycled carbon’ fuels.

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