Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2006Peer reviewed

Use of on-farm produced biofuels on organic farms - Evaluation of energy balances and environmental loads for three possible fuels

Fredriksson H, Baky A, Bernesson S, Nordberg A, Noren O, Hansson PA


The aim of this work was to evaluate systems making organic farms self-sufficient in farm-produced bio-based fuels. The energy balance and environmental load for systems based on rape methyl ester (RME), ethanol and biogas were evaluated using a life cycle perspective. Complete LCAs were not performed. Important constraints when implementing the systems in practice were also identified. The RME scenario showed favourable energy balance and produced valuable by-products but was less positive in some other aspects. The use of land was high and thereby also the emissions associated with cultivation. Emissions, with the exception of CO2, during utilisation of the fuel were high compared to those of the other fuels in the study. The technology for production and use of RME is well known and easy to implement at farm scale. The production of ethanol was energy consuming and the by-products were relatively low value. However, the area needed for cultivation of raw material was low compared to the RME scenario. The production and utilisation of ignition improver and denaturants were associated with considerable emissions. Suitable ethanol production technology is available but is more optimal for large scale systems. The biogas scenario had a low relative need for arable land, which also resulted in smaller soil emissions to air and water. Another advantage was the potential to recycle plant nutrients. On the other hand, the potential emissions of methane from storage of digestate, upgrading of biogas and methane losses during utilisation of fuel produced a negative impact, mainly on global warming. Small scale technology for biogas cleaning and storage is not fully developed and extensive tractor modifications are necessary. The global warming effects of all three systems studied were reduced by 58-72% in comparison to a similar farming system based on diesel fuel. However, the fuel costs were higher for all scenarios studied compared to current diesel prices. In particular, the large costs for seasonal storage of gas meant that the biogas scenario described is currently not financially viable. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved


Organic farming; RME; Ethanol; Biogas; Biofuel; Life cycle perspective

Published in

Agricultural Systems
2006, Volume: 89, number: 1, pages: 184-203