Process Profiles

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climate change

estimates of greenhouse gas emissions

Alterations in land use practices along with increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to the combustion of fossil fuels are impacting our planet's climate. Efforts to reduce the human influence on global climate hinge on the ability to understand the impact of various human activities. Greenhouse gas emission inventories are particularly useful when contemplating a change in technology or the use of a different raw material.

Preparing greenhouse gas emission estimates over a product's life-cycle is complicated. These emissions cannot be directly measured and in some cases are influenced by subjective concerns (for example, estimates of emissions associated with land use for biofuel crops). When conducting such an inventory, it is necessary to be not only technically competent about process chemistry, but to also be familiar with the existing literature and to have an understanding of the context of results that are produced.

Emerging fuel procurement guidelines place limits on the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions for fuels purchased by the US federal government. Thus, the US military is interested in understanding the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional and alternative fuels that it procures. Currently, the US Air Force is assessing the use of Fischer-Tropsch (FT) fuels, blended with conventional jet fuel, as aircraft fuel. A potential barrier to the use of FT fuels is the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their manufacture.

Studies of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of FT fuels can be found in:

DT Allen, KS Rosselot, J Miller, JR Ingham, and W Corbett. Parametric Model of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Fischer-Tropsch Fuels. Prepared for University of Dayton Research Institute, Subrecipient Agreement No. FA8650-10-2-2934, Prime Cooperative Agreement No. FA8650-10-2-2934. October 2011.

DT Allen, C Allport, K Atkins, D Baniszewski, DG Choi, JS Cooper, A Curtright, RM Dilmore, A Elgowiny, W Gillette, WM Griffin, WE Harrison III, JI Hileman, S Kennedy, E Larson, A Levy, K Lewis, CF Murphy, M Pearlson, G Rhoads, G Schivley, TJ Skone, RW Stratton, T Tarka, PH Taylor, VM Thomas, MQ Wang, H Willis. Rapid Response R&D For The Propulsion Directorate, Delivery Order 0019: Advanced Alternative Energy Technologies Subtask: Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Analysis of Advanced Jet Propulsion Fuels: Fischer-Tropsch Based SPK-1 Case Study. AFRL-RZ-WP-TR-2011-2138. Prepared for Air Force Research Laboratory. September 2011.

DT Allen, C Murphy, KS Rosselot, S Watson, J Miller, J Ingham, and W Corbett. Characterizing the Greenhouse Gas Footprints of Aviation Fuels from Fischer-Tropsch Processing. Final Report to University of Dayton Research Institute from the University of Texas, Agreement No. RSC09006; Account No. 2919890002; Prime Agreement No. F33615-03-2-2347. February, 2010.

understanding the effects of climate change

While the ultimate effects of climate change at a local scale are difficult to predict with any precision, some of the known inevitable adverse consequences can be mitigated by proper planning. Flooding and larger storm surges due to rising sea levels will affect coastal communities, and many areas can expect a less consistent supply of fresh water. See:

M Dorfman, M Mehta, B Chou, S Fleischli, KS Rosselot. Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-Related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities. NRDC, August 2011.