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Article in Journal of Cleaner Production: The GHG emissions and economic performance of the Colombian palm oil sector; current status and long-term perspectives | Nidia Ramirez Contreras

16 March 2020

Authors: Nidia Elizabeth Ramirez-Contreras, David Arturo Munar-Florez, Jesús Alberto Garcia-Nuñez, Mauricio Mosquera-Montoya, André P.C. Faaij.

Journal: Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 258, 10 June 2020, 120757.


Increasing oil palm plantations, both for obtaining crude palm oil (CPO) and for the production of biobased products, have generated growing concern about the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the environment. Colombia has the potential to produce sustainable biobased products from oil palm. Nevertheless, national GHG emissions have not yet been reported by this sector. Achieving the collection of the total primary data from the oil palm sector, in Colombia, entails a tremendous challenge. Notwithstanding, for this study, the data collection of 70% of the production of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) was achieved. Therefore, current situation of CPO production in Colombia is analyzed, including 1) GHG emissions calculation, 2) net energy ratio (NER), and 3) economic performance. Moreover, the analysis includes two future scenarios, where the CPO production chain is optimized to reduce GHG emissions. Future scenario A produces biodiesel (BD), biogas, cogeneration, and compost; while future scenario B produces BD, biogas, cogeneration, and pellets. The methodology, for all the scenarios, includes life-cycle assessment and economic analysis evaluation. The results show a significant potential for improving the current palm oil production, including a 55% reduction in GHG emissions. The impact of land-use change must be mitigated to reduce GHG emissions. Therefore, a sustainable oil palm expansion should be in areas with low carbon stock or areas suitable/available to the crop (e.g., cropland, pastureland). Avoiding the deforestation of natural forests is required. Besides, crop yield should be increased to minimize the land use, using biomass to produce biobased products, and capture biogas to reduce methane emissions. In the biodiesel production life-cycle, the NER analysis shows the fossil energy consumed is lower than the renewable energy produced. Regarding the economic performance, it shows that in an optimized production chain, the capital expenditure and operational expenditure will decrease by approximately 20%.

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Last modified:01 August 2022 2.51 p.m.

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