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Integrating Spatial Implications into Solving Life-Cycle Challenges of Biofuels and Industrial Symbiosis

Niblick, Briana (2013) Integrating Spatial Implications into Solving Life-Cycle Challenges of Biofuels and Industrial Symbiosis. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Biofuels have demonstrated great promise for global energy production. In the United States, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) calls for the production of 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year by 2013, 1.28 billion gallons of which need to be biomass-based diesel. Increased biofuel production can help meet rising energy demands, however most biofuel production processes are land- and nutrient-intensive, and must be managed throughout the life cycle to ensure sustainability.

The goal of this dissertation was to evaluate industrial symbiosis as a sustainable approach to U.S. biofuel and energy production by creating a framework using GIS that integrates the spatial implications of land and nutrient supply. Defined by the synergistic collaboration of industries enabled by geographic proximity, industrial symbiosis is a key element in resource conservation, as it uses traditionally defined waste outputs as resource inputs.

Four systems were examined in this dissertation: a coupled wastewater-power plant system, a sunflower biodiesel production system using urban marginal land, a national biodiesel production system using contaminated waste sites, and an algal biodiesel production system using wastewater and waste CO2. Results from the wastewater-power plant system indicated that secondary-treated wastewater can provide cooling water to power plants, however traditional metrics and tools used to evaluate sustainability are inadequate for such complexity. Spatial assessment is needed to efficiently design transportation and conveyance within the system.

Two land-identification frameworks were created using GIS to identify regional and national “waste” lands, or marginal lands, and to evaluate these lands for sunflower, soybean, and algal biodiesel production. A nutrient-availability framework was also created to identify synergistic opportunities for algal biodiesel production. While regional production of sunflower biodiesel generated trivial contributions to the RFS2, marginal sites at the national level could meet 7 to 19% of the RFS2, depending on the distribution of feedstocks. Algal biodiesel produced using waste CO2 and wastewater could meet 0.3% to 17% of the RFS2, depending on the nutrient concentration of the wastewater. These ranges highlight spatial variability of results and emphasize the benefit of GIS in life-cycle sustainability studies.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Niblick, Brianabrn14@pitt.eduBRN14
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLandis,
Committee MemberBilec, Melissambilec@pitt.eduMBILEC
Committee MemberVidic, Radisavvidic@pitt.eduVIDIC
Committee MemberHarbert, Williamharbert@pitt.eduHARBERT
Date: 31 January 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 November 2012
Approval Date: 31 January 2013
Submission Date: 28 November 2012
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 154
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: industrial symbiosis; geographic information systems (GIS); life cycle assessment; biofuels
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2013 21:15
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2018 06:15


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