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01.07.2009 | CASE STUDY • MAGNESIUM PRODUCTION | Ausgabe 5/2009

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 5/2009

Life cycle assessment of primary magnesium production using the Pidgeon process in China

Zeitschrift:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Ausgabe 5/2009
Autoren:
Feng Gao, Zuoren Nie, Zhihong Wang, Xianzheng Gong, Tieyong Zuo
Wichtige Hinweise
Responsible editor: Martin Baitz

Abstract

Background, aims, and scope

China has been the largest primary magnesium producer in the world since year 2000 and is an important part of the global magnesium supply chain. Almost all of the primary magnesium in China is produced using the Pidgeon process invented in the 1940s in Canada. The environmental problems of the primary magnesium production with the Pidgeon process have already attracted much attention of the local government and enterprises. The main purposes of this research are to investigate the environmental impacts of magnesium production and to determine the accumulative environmental performances of three different scenarios. System boundary included the cradle-to-gate life cycle of magnesium production, including dolomite ore extraction, ferrosilicon production, the Pidgeon process, transportation of materials, and emissions from thermal power plant. The life cycle assessment (LCA) case study was performed on three different fuel use scenarios from coal as the overall fuel to two kinds of gaseous fuels, the producer gas and coke oven gas. The burden use of gaseous fuels was also considered.

Methods

The procedures, details, and results obtained are based on the application of the existing international standards of LCA, i.e., the ISO 14040. Depletion of abiotic resources, global warming, acidification, and human toxicity were adopted as the midpoint impact categories developed by the problem-oriented approach of CML to estimate the characterized results of the case study. The local characterization and normalization factors of abiotic resources were used to calculate abiotic depletion potential (ADP). The analytic hierarchy process was used to determine the weight factors. Using the Umberto version 4.0, the emissions of dolomite ore extraction were estimated and the transportation models of the three scenarios were designed.

Results and conclusions

The emissions inventory showed that both the Pidgeon process of magnesium production and the Fe–Si production were mainly to blame for the total pollutant emissions in the life cycle of magnesium production. The characterized results indicated that ADP, acidification potential, and human toxicity potential decreased cumulatively from scenarios 1 to 3, with the exception of global warming potential. The final single scores indicated that the accumulative environmental performance of scenario 3 was the best compared with scenarios 1 and 2. The impact of abiotic resources depletion deserves more attention although the types and the amount of mineral resources for Mg production are abundant in China. This study suggested that producer gas was an alternative fuel for magnesium production rather than the coal burned directly in areas where the cost of oven gas-produced coke is high. The utilization of “clean” energy and the reduction of greenhouse gases and acidic gases emission were the main goals of the technological improvements and cleaner production of the magnesium industry in China.

Recommendation and perspective

This paper has demonstrated that the theory and method of LCA are actually helpful for the research on the accumulative environmental performance of primary magnesium production. Further studies with “cradle-to-cradle” scheme are recommended. Furthermore, other energy sources used in magnesium production and the cost of energy production could be treated in further research.

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