NC | Measured greenhouse gas budgets challenge emission savings from palm-oil biodiesel

The potential of palm-oil biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with fossil fuels is increasingly questioned. So far, no measurement-based GHG budgets were available, and plantation age was ignored in Life Cycle Analyses (LCA). Here, we conduct LCA based on measured CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes in young and mature Indonesian oil palm plantations. CO2 dominates the on-site GHG budgets. The young plantation is a carbon source (1012 ± 51 gC m−2 yr−1), the mature plantation a sink (−754 ± 38 gC m−2 yr−1). LCA considering the measured fluxes shows higher GHG emissions for palm-oil biodiesel than traditional LCA assuming carbon neutrality. Plantation rotation-cycle extension and earlieryielding varieties potentially decrease GHG emissions. Due to the high emissions associated with forest conversion to oil palm, our results indicate that only biodiesel from second rotation-cycle plantations or plantations established on degraded land has the potential for pronounced GHG emission savings.

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