L-C seminars



Capturing Uncertainty in Biofuels for Transportation. Resolving Environmental Performance and Enabling Improved Use

Reference: MIT/SET/0014/2009


Project Objectives

This project addresses the challenge of developing a methodology for the extended LCA of biofuels systems’ sustainability. The R&D work will provide:

 1) a quantitative assessment of the nature and magnitude of quality and environmental impact uncertainty of feedstock’s for transportation biofuels;

 2) an analytical characterization of the potential for uncertainty-aware planning models to appropriately manage uncertainty;

 3) a framework to combine and make trade-offs between these tools in the context of industry-specific case studies. The explicit incorporation of quality uncertainty in bio-derived feedstock will enhance the ability to quantify the environmental performance of these fuels.

The project will provide critical information for the biofuel industry in sourcing particular feedstock’s both domestically and internationally, optimizing fuel outputs by managing the quality uncertainty of feedstock’s, and assessing their environmental impact. A “well-to-tank” modeling of the biofuels will be adopted. The project focuses on systems producing a major crop traded on the global market, and explores the use of next generation biofuels and feedstock’s that could be sourced domestically, which could provide a business opportunity for Portuguese fuel companies. The project will:

       Characterize the uncertainty in selected bio-derived fuel feedstock sources, including their quality and environmental performance. Uncertainty in quality deals with determining statistical quality distributions for incoming feedstock’s. Towards environmental impact uncertainty, this work will look at several uncertainties including indirect land use changes.

       Assess the environmental value of biofuel alternatives based on the complementary use of MCDA and LCA.

       Develop decision-support tools considering uncertainty of the quality performance function (that maps feedstock characteristics to final fuel properties) into blending decisions using stochastic optimization, including as inputs residual sources and conventional feedstock’s.

       Combine LCA and blending algorithms using MCDA towards novel engineering systems methodologies through case studies that compare fuels for transportation on metrics of environmental performance.           


Research Team


Principal Investigator

                 - Fausto Miguel Seixas Cereja Freire

            Members of the research team

     - Ariovaldo Lopes de Carvalho

     - Carla Margarida Saraiva de Oliveira Henriques

     - Carlos Alberto Henggeler de Carvalho Antunes

     - Érica Geraldes Castanheira

     - Jeremy E. Gregory

     - João Manuel Nogueira Malça de Matos Ferreira

     - Jorge Campos da Silva André

     - Luís Manuel Ventura Serrano

     - Luís Miguel Cândido Dias

     - Randolph R. Kirchain           


Selected Publications


Chapters in books


Caldeira, C., Gülsen, E., Olivetti, E. A., Kirchain, R., Dias, L., Freire, F. (2014). “A Multiobjective model for biodiesel blends minimizing cost and Greenhouse Gas emissions”. Computational Science and Its Applications. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Vol. 8581, pp 653-666. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09150-1_48

Malça, J.; Freire F. (2011). “Uncertainty Analysis of the Life-cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Renewability of Biofuels". In: Environmental Impact of Biofuels, Marco Aurélio dos Santos Bernardes ed., chapter 10, 26 pp., InTech Publishers, Vienna. ISBN: 978-953-307-178-7.

Malça J, Freire F (2011). “Ethanol from wheat”. Encyclopedia of Energy, New York: Salem Press.

Malça J, Freire F (2011). “Ethanol from sugar beet”. Encyclopedia of Energy, New York: Salem Press.

Malça J, Freire F (2011). “Vegetable oil fuel”. Encyclopedia of Energy, New York: Salem Press.



Papers in international periodic with scientific refereeing


Castanheira, É.G., Acevedo, H., Freire, F. (2014). Greenhouse gas intensity of palm oil produced in Colombia addressing alternative land use change and fertilization scenarios. Applied energy 114, 958-967. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.09.010

Castanheira, É.G., Grisoli, R., Freire, F., Coelho S. (2014). Environmental sustainability of biodiesel in Brazil. Energy Policy 65, 680–691. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2013.09.062

Castanheira, É.G., Freire, F. (2013). Greenhouse gas assessment of soybean: implications of land use change and different cultivation systems. Journal of Cleaner Production 54, 49-60. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.05.026

Dias, L.C., Domingues, A.R. (2014). On multi-criteria sustainability assessment: spider-gram surface and dependence biases. Applied Energy 113, 159–163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.07.024

Dias, L.C., C.H. Antunes, D. Rios Insua (2012). Dealing with uncertainty in Decision Support Systems: Recent trends (2000-2011). International Journal of Intelligent Decision Technologies 6 (4), 245-264. http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/IDT-2012-0141

Dias, L.C., Sarabando, P. (2012). A note on a group preference axiomatization with cardinal utility. Decision Analysis, 9 (3), 231-237. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/deca.1120.0244 

Garcia, R., Marques, P., Freire, F. (2014). Life-cycle assessment of electricity in Portugal. Journal of Applied Energy, 134, pp. 563-572. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2014.08.067

Gouveia, M.C., Dias, L.C., Antunes, C.H. (2013). Super-efficiency and stability intervals in additive DEA. Journal of the Operational Research Society 64(1), 86–96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/jors.2012.19

Gulşen, E., Olivetti, E., Freire, F., Dias, L., Kirchain, R. (2014). Impact of feedstock diversification on the cost-effectiveness of biodiesel. Applied Energy 126, 281-296. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2014.03.063

Gülşen, E., Olivetti, E., Malça, J., Castanheira, É.G., Freire, F., Dias, L., Kirchain, R. (2014). Impact of Policy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economics of Biodiesel Production. Environmental Science & Technology 48 (13), 7642–7650. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es405410u

Malça, J., Coelho, A., Freire, F. (2014). Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment of rapeseed-based biodiesel: alternative cultivation systems and locations. Applied Energy 114, 837-844. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.06.048

Malça, J., Freire, F. (2012). Addressing land use change and uncertainty in the life-cycle assessment of wheat-based bioethanol. Energy, the International Journal 45 (1), 519-527. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2012.02.070

Malça, J.; Freire, F. (2011). Life-cycle studies of biodiesel in Europe: A review addressing the variability of results and modeling issues. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 15 (1), 338–351. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2010.09.013

Serrano, L., Carreira, V., Câmara, R., Gameiro da Silva, M. (2012). On-road performance comparison of two identical cars consuming petrodiesel and biodiesel. Fuel Processing Technology 103, 125–133. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fuproc.2011.12.012

Serrano, L.M.V., Câmara, R.M.O., Carreira, V.J.R., Gameiro da Silva, M.C. (2012). Performance study about biodiesel impact on buses engines using dynamometer tests and fleet consumption data. Energy Conversion and Management 60, 2–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enconman.2011.11.029