Papermaking produces co-products—pine chemicals—that are used to manufacture diverse end products, from inks to adhesives. Pine chemicals also have the potential to be used as renewable biomass for energy production, which raises the question: How would shifting pine chemicals from current uses to biofuel production change the environmental footprint of these co-products? The American Chemistry Council sought ERG’s help in designing a systems-based approach to answer this question.
ERG conducted the first industry-wide greenhouse gas and energy life cycle assessment for pine chemicals in the U.S. and Europe compared to their likely substitutes. ERG determined the cradle-to-gate carbon and energy footprint for pine chemicals, compared pine chemicals to their likely substitutes, and calculated the carbon and energy effects of shifting resources from current chemical production to biodiesel production. Our evaluation showed that diverting pine chemicals from chemical to biofuel production would have no real net carbon or energy benefit. Results of ERG’s study were published in the November 2015 Journal of Industrial Ecology.