A new approach for measuring the environmental sustainability of renewable energy production systems: Focused on the modelling of green gas production pathways

F. Pierie*, J. Bekkering, R. M. J. Benders, W. J. Th van Gemert, H. C. Moll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


A transparent and comparable understanding of the energy efficiency, carbon footprint, and environmental impacts of renewable resources are required in the decision making and planning process towards a more sustainable energy system. Therefore, a new approach is proposed for measuring the environmental sustainability of anaerobic digestion green gas production pathways. The approach is based on the industrial metabolism concept, and is expanded with three known methods. First, the Material Flow Analysis method is used to simulate the decentralized energy system. Second, the Material and Energy Flow Analysis method is used to determine the direct energy and material requirements. Finally, Life Cycle Analysis is used to calculate the indirect material and energy requirements, including the embodied energy of the components and required maintenance. Complexity will be handled through a modular approach, which allows for the simplification of the green gas production pathway while also allowing for easy modification in order to determine the environmental impacts for specific conditions and scenarios. Temporal dynamics will be introduced in the approach through the use of hourly intervals and yearly scenarios. The environmental sustainability of green gas production is expressed in (Process) Energy Returned on Energy Invested, Carbon Footprint, and EcoPoints. The proposed approach within this article can be used for generating and identifying sustainable solutions. By demanding a clear and structured Material and Energy Flow Analysis of the production pathway and clear expression for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability the analysis or model can become more transparent and therefore easier to interpret and compare. Hence, a clear ruler and measuring technique can aid in the decision making and planning process towards a more sustainable energy system. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 15-Jan-2016


  • Biogas
  • Green gas
  • Bio-methane
  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
  • Environmental impact

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