This paper reports outcomes of life cycle assessments (LCAs) of three different oleaginous bioenergy chains (oilseed rape, Ethiopian mustard and cardoon) under Southern Europe conditions. Accurate data on field practices previously collected during a three-year study at two sites were used. The vegetable oil produced by oleaginous seeds was used for power generation in medium-speed diesel engines while the crop residues were used in steam power plants. For each bioenergy chain, the environmental impact related to cultivation, transportation of agricultural products and industrial conversion for power generation was evaluated by calculating cumulative energy demand, acidification potential and global warming potential. For all three bioenergy chains, the results of the LCA study show a considerable saving of primary energy (from 70 to 86 GJ·ha−1
) and greenhouse gas emissions (from 4.1 to 5.2 t CO2
) in comparison to power generation from fossil fuels, although the acidification potential of these bioenergy chains may be twice that of conventional power generation. In addition, the study highlights that land use changes due to the cultivation of the abovementioned crops reduce soil organic content and therefore worsen and increase greenhouse gas emissions for all three bioenergy chains. The study also demonstrates that the exploitation of crop residues for energy production greatly contributes to managing environmental impact of the three bioenergy chains.
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