Agave: A promising feedstock for biofuels in the water-energy-food-environment (WEFE) nexus

Xiaoyu Yan, Kendall R. Corbin, Rachel A. Burton, Daniel K.Y. Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to conduct the first comprehensive life cycle assessment and economic analysis on ethanol produced from agave. Compositional and field data from a field experiment in Queensland, Australia was used. Our study shows that ethanol yields from agave (7414 L/ha/year) are comparable to Brazilian sugarcane (9900/L/ha/year) and higher than US corn ethanol (3800/L/ha/year). Furthermore, agave outperforms current first generation biofuel crops in water-related impacts, including Freshwater Eutrophication (96% lower than corn and 88% lower than sugarcane), Marine Ecotoxicity (59% lower than corn and 53% lower than sugarcane) and Water Consumption (46% lower than corn and 69% lower than sugarcane). The life cycle fossil energy use (Fossil Resource Scarcity) for agave is 58% lower than corn and 6% higher than sugarcane. The Global Warming impact for agave is also 62% and 30% lower than that of corn and sugarcane, respectively. Although its Land Use impact, measured by land occupied per unit ethanol output, is 98% higher than corn and 2% higher than sugarcane, agave can be grown on arid land that is not suitable for food crops. The economic analysis suggests that first generation ethanol production from agave is not commercially viable without government support. Overall, the results show that agave is promising for biofuel production in the water-energy-food-environment context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121283
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - Jul 10 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Agave
  • Biofuel
  • Environmental impact
  • Life cycle analysis (LCA)
  • Water-energy-food-environment (WEFE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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