The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory has created a new, free-to-use online tool that allows users to analyze the environmental impact of various fuels before they are used to create power.
“The Excel-based Upstream Dashboard provides ‘upstream’ data for lifecycle analysis of coal, natural gas, crude oil, uranium, and biomass, as well as gasoline, ethanol, jet fuel, and diesel derived from either petroleum or coal-gasification. For solid fuels and natural gas, data is included from extraction of a raw fuel through its delivery to a power plant; for transportation fuels, data is provided from extraction through refining. The tool not only breaks down energy production into the lifecycle stages of extraction and transportation, it also supplies choices, such as individual operations and construction processes, for each stage.”
Using the tool, a user selects the energy source, generating a calculation of the expected amount of greenhouse gases, criteria air pollutants, solid waste, water use, energy input, water emissions, water withdrawal and consumption, land use changes, and energy return on investment.
Every part of the lifecycle is broken into sections so that each part’s contribution to the entire system can be understood. And the user can customize the analysis to their specific use, changing the mode of transportation, the distance the raw material travels, and the very specific type of fuel (as examples: Powder River Basin coal versus Illinois No. 6 coal, or conventional onshore natural gas versus natural gas from Marcellus shale).
The long-term environmental impacts can also be calculated, showing potential impacts 20-, 100-, or 500-years from now, based on the global warming potentials calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Source: Green Car Congress
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