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Responsible editor: Pomthong Malakul
An erratum to this article is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1200-z.
Due to various environmental pressures such as climate change and scarcity of natural resources, as well as nontariff barriers from trade partners, Thailand has established the Thai national life cycle inventory (LCI) database in 2006. In the 1st phase (2006–2007), three working groups were developed for natural gas, refinery, and petrochemical products. Another seven working groups were established in the 2nd phase (2007–2010) for ferrous and non-ferrous metals, utilities and transportation, construction materials, agricultural materials and products, basic chemicals, recycling and waste management, and others. In the 3rd phase (2010 to present), expansion of the number of data sets from the previous phases has been carried out. The purpose of this paper is to present the experiences on national database development in emerging countries with the example of Thailand on both strategic and technical levels using refinery products as the case study.
Data sets were developed according to ISO 14044:2006. The LCI data were managed and archived at the central facility known as the “central LCI database”. The Life Cycle Assessment lab (LCA lab) at MTEC, NSTDA, has been responsible for the central LCI database management. From 2008 to 2010, the “Thai national LCI database and its applications” project was granted a 3-year funding of over 50 million THB, and was operated under supervision of a steering committee set up by the Ministry of Industry (MoI). For this case study, to illustrate the development process, primary data of the refinery products were collected by Petroleum Institute of Thailand in the year 2005 from seven refineries covering more than 70 % of the production in the country. Attributional modelling has been used, with energy content as an allocation criterion.
During the initial phase of the “Thai National LCI Database Development Project”, two key barriers have been faced. One was the lack of awareness from stakeholders as LCI and LCA were quite new tools for most people in Thailand. This problem was tackled by collaborating with the right strategic partners to drive the LCI national project and educating stakeholders with the training supports from Japan. The other hindrance was the lack of expertise of local experts on LCA. It took several years to continually build the capacity through seminars and workshops in Thailand and Japan, including “on the job training” on some pilot projects. As of May 2016, there were more than 700 data sets in the Thai national LCI database, considering only the data that MTEC acted as the project commissioner. However, only 515 data were certified as the national database. The other 211 data were qualified merely as the data from pilot projects. More details of the database list and how to access the data can be viewed in Thai language at the URL: http://www.thailcidatabase.net. Because the Thai national LCI data were mostly primary data from a core set of products for the Thai economy with a very high representativeness (>60 %) of the actual Thai productions, the data have been treated carefully. Only C-to-G data and G-to-G data from literature were allowed to disclose to Thai delegates with some signing agreements. However, G-to-G data from the actual Thai productions were sometimes provided, only with the signing confidentiality contracts. For refinery products, seven average data sets were established as national LCI data sets, i.e. liquefied petroleum gas, sulfur, gasoline, kerosene/jet oil, naphtha, fuel oil and diesel, with the year 2005 as the reference year. The data representativeness was very high covering more than 70 % of the production in Thailand. Due to the positive feedback and engagement from industries, several LCI projects have been started after this initial phase. The national LCI data sets have been used in various national applications and policies such as sustainable biofuels, government green public procurement, green GDP, Thai carbon footprint, etc. However, some relevant limitations of the Thai LCI database were listed as follows. Similar to most surveyed national LCI database worldwide, the climate change impact category has been chosen as the main focus for these data sets. Nevertheless, there is a more growing demand to use the data for other applications. As a result, more data sets that cover other impact categories will be required in the near future. Regarding the nomenclature and format, the Thai data sets were technically unique and not fully compatible with any other database.
The Thai national LCI database could be considered as the pioneer case for other countries in the South East Asia region. Thailand has further progressed in its LCI database development. Since 2009, the Thai national LCI database has been used as one of the key infrastructures of Thailand to support public policies and applications related to green growth. Many Thai stakeholders are well aware on LCI, LCA, and EcoDesign. Expertise of local experts has been increasingly improved. However, there are still more challenges to be faced to harvest the value of the Thai database in its full potential for better decision making in industry and policy, and for better positioning of Thai products on the global markets. From our experience, the following issues could be identified as “lessons learned”. At the onset of the project, it was crucial to get in expert advices from LCA-experienced countries to establish local expertise. Also, industry experts from abroad could help in clarifying the concept and addressing confidentiality concerns, as well as building awareness on LCA to Thai industries. Searching for some supporting programmes for capacity building, such as the GPP from Japan in our case, could provide great benefits to any emerging economies for national LCI initiatives. However, sustaining the trained human resources was also vital. Continual funding supports for LCI development and its applications were necessary to keep the momentum of active people in the field. Multiplying effect of the LCI knowledge to related organizations in the three main groups, i.e. government, academia, and industries, could help sustain the knowhow. Also, effective knowledge management through media such as books, guidelines, training courses, etc. would relief the turnover problem of trained staffs. Although it took a lot of time to develop local expertise, it was an essential step to have sufficient number of local experts to sustain the national database project. Moreover, a strong network of experts and researchers locally and internationally also strengthened the technical capacity to deal with any challenges during the project implementation. Furthermore, collaboration with the right strategic partners to drive the project was also very important in order to elevate it to the national level. It should be noted for any emerging economies aiming to initiate national LCI, the work plan for LCI database development (including the database management system) and its applications should be well balanced. Also, a well-designed database management system would enhance the database usage in the long run, especially when dealing with various impact categories like those in PEF.
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The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
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