Environmental, social, and economic assessment of energy utilization of crop residue in China

Yueling Zhang, Junjie Li, Huan Liu, Guangling Zhao, Yajun Tian*, Kechang Xie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper aims to discuss an environmental, social, and economic analysis of energy utilization of crop residues from life cycle perspectives in China. The methodologies employed to achieve this objective are environmental life cycle assessment (E-LCA), life cycle cost (LCC), and social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). Five scenarios are developed based on the conversion technologies and final bioenergy products. The system boundaries include crop residue collection, transportation, pre-treatment, and conversion process. The replaced amounts of energy are also taken into account in the E-LCA analysis. The functional unit is defined as 1 MJ of energy produced. Eight impact categories are considered besides climate change in E-LCA. The investment capital cost and salary cost are collected and compared in the life cycle of the scenarios. Three stakeholders and several subcategories are considered in the S-LCA analysis defined by UNEP/ SETAS guidelines. The results show that the energy utilization of crop residue has carbon emission factors of 0.09–0.18 kg (CO2 eq per 1 MJ), and presents a net carbon emissions reduction of 0.03–0.15 kg (CO2 eq per 1 MJ) compared with the convectional electricity or petrol, but the other impacts should be paid attention to in the biomass energy scenarios. The energy utilization of crop residues can bring economic benefit to local communities and the society, but the working conditions of local workers need to be improved in future biomass energy development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Energy Research
Pages (from-to)308-319
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Crop residue
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Life cycle cost
  • Social life cycle assessment
  • Energy production


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