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Students showcasing research posters at the 2015 GCEP Symposium

CANCELED - ERE Seminar: Corinne Scown (LBL) - Weighing life-cycle climate and public health tradeoffs in...

April 6, 2020 - 12:30pm to 1:20pm
Room 104, Green Earth Sciences Building, 367 Panama Street, Stanford
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Energy Resources Engineering
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Corinne Scown, PhD | Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

TITLEWeighing life-cycle climate and public health tradeoffs in organic waste management


Waste-to-energy systems can play an important role in diverting organic waste from landfills. However, real-world waste management can differ from idealized practices, and emissions driven by microbial communities and complex chemical processes are poorly understood. Over three years, we gathered detailed data from organic waste management facilities around Northern California and collected empirical data from anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting operations. Using this data, we modeled competing management alternatives for organic municipal solid waste including landfilling, composting, dry AD for the production of renewable natural gas (RNG), and dry AD with electricity generation. Landfilling is the most greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensive option, emitting nearly 800 kg CO2e per tonne of organic waste. Composting raw organics resulted in the lowest GHG emissions, at -76 kg CO2e per tonne of waste, while upgrading biogas to RNG after dry AD resulted in -56 to -22 kg CO2e per tonne. Monetizing the results based on social costs of carbon and other air pollutant emissions paints a very different picture, and highlights the importance of ground-level NH3 emissions from composting nitrogen-rich organic waste or post-AD solids.

BIOCorinne Scown is the Vice President and founder of the Life-cycle, Economics, and Agronomy Division (LEAD) at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), Deputy Director for Research of the Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts (EAEI) Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Head of Sustainability at the Energy and Biosciences Institute (EBI). Scown’s expertise includes life-cycle assessment, technoeconomic analysis, biofuels and bioproducts and co-management of energy and water. She has led projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, California Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, and Energy Biosciences Institute. She also frequently collaborates with companies ranging from small startups to large multinational corporations in the bioenergy and bioproducts domain. Scown earned a B.S. in civil engineering with a double-major in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and she received her Ph.D. and M.S. in civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley.