EU's bioethanol potential from wheat straw and maize stover and the environmental footprint of residue-based bioethanol

10 December 2021
Crop residue
Environmental footprint
EU energy policy
Lignocellulosic bioethanol
Greenhouse gas emissions
Holmatov B et al.

Cite as: Holmatov, B., Hoekstra, A.Y. & Krol, M.S. (2022), 'EU’s bioethanol potential from wheat straw and maize stover and the environmental footprint of residue-based bioethanol', Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, vol. 27, article 6.

Green open access: The Authors' Accepted Manuscript will be available on Zenodo after 9 December 2022. This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review and is subject to Springer Nature's AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:

Supporting data set

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Abstract: To reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the European Union (EU) has targets for utilizing energy from renewable sources. By 2030, a minimum of 3.5% of energy in the EU’s transport sector should come from renewable biological sources, such as crop residues. This paper analyzed EU’s “advanced bioethanol” potential from wheat straw and maize stover and evaluated its environmental (land, water, and carbon) footprint. We differentiated between gross and net bioethanol output, the latter by subtracting the energy inputs in production. Results suggest that the annual amount of the sustainably harvestable wheat straw and maize stover is 81.9 Megatonnes (Mt) at field moisture weight (65.3 Mt as dry weight), yielding 470 PJ as gross (404 PJ as net) advanced bioethanol output. Calculated net advanced bioethanol can replace 2.95% of EU transport sector’s energy consumption. EU’s advanced bioethanol has a land footprint of 0.28 m2 MJ−1 for wheat straw and 0.18 m2 MJ−1 for maize stover. The average water footprint of advanced bioethanol is 173 L MJ−1 for wheat straw and 113 L MJ−1 for maize stover. The average carbon footprint per unit of advanced bioethanol is 19.4 and 19.6 g CO2eq MJ−1 for wheat straw and maize stover, respectively. Using advanced bioethanol can lead to emission savings, but EU’s advanced bioethanol production potential is insufficient to achieve EU’s target of a minimum share of 3.5% of advanced biofuels in the transport sector by 2030, and the associated water and land footprints are not smaller than footprints of conventional bioethanol.



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