Environmental trade-offs of renewable jet fuels in Brazil: Beyond the carbon footprint

Rafael S. Capaz*, Elisa M. de Medeiros, Daniela G. Falco, Joaquim E.A. Seabra, Patricia Osseweijer, John A. Posada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
268 Downloads (Pure)


The use of renewable jet fuels (RJFs) is an option for meeting the greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction targets of the aviation sector. Therefore, most of the studies have focused on climate change indicators, but other environmental impacts have been disregarded. In this paper, an attributional life cycle assessment is performed for ten RJF pathways in Brazil, considering the environmental trade-offs between climate change and seven other categories, i.e., fossil depletion, terrestrial acidification, eutrophication, human and environmental toxicity, and air quality-related categories, such as particulate matter and photochemical oxidant formation. The scope includes sugarcane and soybean for first-generation (1G) pathways and residual materials (wood and sugarcane residues, beef tallow, and used cooking oil-UCO) for second-generation (2G) pathways. Three certified technologies to produce RJF are considered: hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), alcohol-to-jet (ATJ), and Fischer-Tropsch (FT). Assuming the residual feedstocks as wastes or by-products, the 2G pathways are evaluated by two different approaches, in which the biomass sourcing processes are either accounted for or not. Results show that 1G pathways lead to significant GHG reductions compared to fossil kerosene from 55% (soybean/HEFA) to 65% (sugarcane/ATJ). However, the sugarcane-based pathway generated three-fold higher values than fossil kerosene for terrestrial acidification and air quality impacts, and seven-fold for eutrophication. In turn, soybean/HEFA caused five-fold higher levels of human toxicity. For 2G pathways, when the residual feedstock is assumed to be waste, the potential GHG emission reduction is over 74% with no relevant trade-offs. On the other hand, if the residual feedstocks are assumed as valuable by-products, tallow/HEFA becomes the worst option and pathways from sugarcane residues, even providing a GHG reduction of 67% to 94%, are related to higher impacts than soybean/HEFA for terrestrial acidification and air quality. FT pathways represent the lowest impacts for all categories within both approaches, followed by UCO/HEFA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136696
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Aviation biofuels
  • Environmental trade-offs
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Residual feedstocks
  • Soybean
  • Sugarcane


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