Ex-ante And Ex-post Sustainability Evaluation Of A Biorefinery: Lessons Learned From Jatropha Biodiesel In Yucatan, Mexico | 93509
Journal of Bioremediation & Biodegradation
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The concept of sustainability is implicit in the definition of a biorefinery. Life cycle thinking as well as environmental, social,
and economic assessments are intrinsic to a sustainability evaluation. There is an abundance of methods and indicators
to perform sustainability evaluations; the more approaches are used, the better will be the understanding of the interlinkages
between the issues in this multidimensional problem. In this work, we present two approaches to the sustainability evaluation
of jatropha plantations for biofuels in Yucatan, Mexico. The ex-ante evaluation was performed during the early implementation
of the project, from a biorefinery-process design perspective. The ex-post evaluation was performed after the fourth and final
year of the project, heavily based on interviews and surveys with relevant stakeholders, and a life-cycle assessment. The ex-ante
evaluation predicted potentially positive results from the biorefinery system, with all indicators in the social and economic
categories within sustainable limits; the environmental performance of the system was sustainable only if the jatropha biomass
was refined into a range of valuable co-products in addition to biodiesel. The ex-post evaluation was performed after four
years of the project. At that time it was clear that the project had failed due to unrealistic, over-optimistic predictions of
seed yields from the plantations that were established with very little knowledge of the crop. This inevitably resulted in the
plantations being significantly downsized and the projects going back to the R&D stage. Interestingly, one of the companies
obtained a sustainability certification from the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials a few months before shutting down.
The economic benefits to jatropha workers were significant and positive for both household income and local economies. If the
issues with seed productivity and plant management had been well thought out from the beginning, the jatropha projects, they
would have been of great value to the local communities.
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viability of biodiesel production from Jatropha curcas L. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 92(5):971-980.
2. Sacramento Rivero JC, Eastmond-Spencer A, Becerril García J, Navarro-Pineda F (2016). A three dimensional sustainability
evaluation of jatropha plantations in Yucatan, Mexico. Sustainability 8:1316.
3. Sacramento-Rivero JC, Navarro-Pineda FS, Vilchiz-Bravo, LE (2016). Evaluating the sustainability of biorefineries at the
conceptual design stage. Chem Eng Res Des 107:167-180.
4. Navarro-Pineda FS, Baz-Rodríguez SA, Handler R, Sacramento-Rivero JC (2016). Advances
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Dr Julio Sacramento has a PhD on Chemical Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. His research interest is on how to apply sustainability thinking to process design in multidimensional systems. He has developed a couple of methods to assess the sustainability of biorefinery systems and is applying these to biorefinery concepts around the world. He is heavily involved in the promotion of biofules in Mexico, serving in many academic and professional networks, such as the Mexican centre for innovation in biofuels (CEMIEBio).