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2019 | Buch

Progress in Life Cycle Assessment


Über dieses Buch

The book contains the latest developments in the field of life cycle assessment (LCA) and its application. It contains numerous research articles from leading German research institutes working towards the further development of the methodology. The book provides important insights for professionals working in the field of sustainability assessment, for researchers interested in the current state of the research of the methodology and its application as well as for advanced university students in different science and engineering fields.




State of the Art and Future Developments in LCA
This essay serves as a preface to the contributions from young LCA researchers that participated in the 13th Ökobilanzwerkstatt (“LCA workshop”) at Braunschweig’s Technical University. It explains the basic idea of LCA and briefly explores some of the most important future developments and related research demands.
Tobias Viere

New Methodological Developments

Using Network Analysis for Use Phase Allocations in LCA Studies of Automation Technology Components
This article discusses the consideration of the use phase of automation technology components (ATCs) in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). It aims to contribute to the LCA methodology by exploring a relevance-based allocation method for assessing ATCs and pneumatic components respectively. Although the environmental impact of ATCs in the use phase is rather insignificant when analyzed as a single component, its interaction with other components within an application implies further leverages to the impact caused by the system in the use phase. The social network analysis is an interdisciplinary method that is used in empirical social research and well likely to close the gap between micro level and macro level. This article transfers the social method to automation technology components aiming at estimating the specific contribution of each component to the overall system impact in the use stage.
Mercedes Barkmeyer, Felipe Cerdas, Christoph Herrmann
Eco-indicators of Machining Processes
Products have a variety of environmental impacts throughout their life cycle. To conserve resources and to protect the environment these impacts should be reduced to a minimum. The easiest way to reduce the environmental impacts of a product is to do it at an early point of the product development process because at this time there are many opportunities to change something without increased costs. At this time, however, it is often too complex to carry out a complete life cycle assessment (LCA) of the product to identify the ecological weak points. Therefore, EcoDesign-methods are used during product development to assess the expected environmental impacts to minimize them over the whole product life cycle. In the research project EcoScreen manufacturing processes were investigated to generate a reliable database for their life cycle inventory (LCI). These LCI datasets were used to generate simple to use eco-indicators to estimate the environmental impacts without carrying out a complete LCA. For the first time, such eco-indicator values, considering all the relevant environmental effects that are generated during these processes, have been created for the machining of parts.
Sandra Eisenträger, Ekkehard Schiefer
Enhancing the Water Footprint Method to a Region Specific Management Tool
Water Footprint (WF) is broadly applied as a method to quantify impacts associated with the water use throughout the value chain of products, nevertheless the need for a more temporally and spatially explicit evaluation has recently been highlighted. In this paper a region specific WF inventory and midpoint impact assessment for the cotton-textile value chain in Pakistan is introduced. The locally relevant parameters are identified and included into the water consumption inventory and water availability database. The results are applied to a numerical model for the cotton cultivation. For the water consumption, the introduced region specific parameters are position on the irrigation channel, water source (distinguishing between surface and groundwater), use of the storage reservoirs and water trade between farmers for the inventory. Parameters groundwater level, and salinity and distinguishing between surface and groundwater are included into the water availability database. The calculated WF demonstrates that the separate assessment of the surface and groundwater in both inventory and impact assessment is essential on a regional level. Evaluating local conditions play the vital role for a robust quantification of the WF. Further development of the region specific impact assessment is needed in particular for the endpoint impact assessment for the areas of protection human health, ecosystems and freshwater resources.
Natalia Finogenova, Markus Berger, Matthias Finkbeiner
Product System Modularization in LCA Towards a Graph Theory Based Optimization for Product Design Alternatives
In light of current environmental challenges, industrial companies are increasingly required to reduce their individual environmental impact. As these companies face economic constraints, the reduction of the specific impacts needs to be achieved in the most cost-efficient manner. This is leading to trade-offs between the potential environmental improvements driven by particular measures and the costs of these measures. Due to the inherent complexity of product systems many different measures to alter the products properties exist, leading to a high number of possible combination alternatives in the foreground system and consequently to many different product system set-ups and LCA results. Modular LCAs are an approach to calculate these results by performing separated LCAs for all individual life cycle modules, which afterwards are reconnected again to form the LCA results for all possible module combinations. However, when the LCA result of one of these modules is influenced by interactions with other modules, the consideration of these influences leads to a fast rise in the data demand for a modular LCA. Modelling such an optimization problem via graph theory can be a possible way to address interdependencies between modules while still being able to provide the necessary data demand through a systematic graph design.
Chris Gabrisch, Felipe Cerdas, Christoph Herrmann
Integrating Life-Cycle Assessment into Automotive Manufacturing—A Review-Based Framework to Measure the Ecological Performance of Production Technologies
The transition of automotive manufacturing towards sustainability becomes more relevant when new product technologies as lightweight and electric powertrains shift environmental impacts from the use phase to the production phase. Therefore, a systemic assessment and an ecological optimization of novel production processes is necessary before implementation in factories. Furthermore, product design choices pre-determine the environmental performance of production processes. Based on a brief literature analysis of sustainable manufacturing, a framework is developed that integrates production processes with product development processes in an ecological context. The identification of ecologically-relevant core processes represents the basis for the framework development and explains, why the integration of life-cycle considerations in product development processes is decisive. Aim of the framework is to contribute to a holistic understanding of drivers that generate environmental impacts in automotive production. Furthermore, it establishes a life-cycle approach for production, which is crucial to evaluate the ecological relevance of individual resource flows to, within and from the system. The applicability of the framework is critically discussed concerning scope of the assessment, data requirements, functional unit and potential allocations problems.
Malte Gebler, Felipe Cerdas, Alexander Kaluza, Roman Meininghaus, Christoph Herrmann

Product System and Inventory Modelling

Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC) of Sewage Sludge: GHG Emissions of Various Hydrochar Applications
Sewage sludge contains valuable nutrients like phosphorus (P) as well as a whole series of harmful substances. Therefore, conditioning should be designed to remove those pollutants. In Germany sewage sludge is treated mainly at thermal facilities such as sewage sludge mono-incineration plants, cement plants or coal fired power plants. However, ecological impacts of new treatment methods like hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) remain unknown. In the study presented in this paper, the complete life cycles of the carbonization process of sewage sludge (5% dry matter) with associated auxiliary flows (e.g. electricity and naturals gas) and different applications of the produced char were modelled. In order to identify the environmentally most promising and sustainable application, four different scenarios of hydrochar utilization as fuel or fertilizer were analyzed. The resulting global warming potentials (GWP) after ReCiPe midpoint methodology were calculated. Results show that the best scenario in environmental terms has savings of 0.074 kg CO2 eq/kg. The highest emissions were observed for the agricultural use of hydrochar as a substitute for NPK-fertilizer with 0.025 kg CO2 eq/kg, which even outnumbers the emissions of the benchmark process chain of sewage sludge mono-incineration (0.013 kg CO2 eq/kg). Results underline the sustainability of hydrothermal carbonization of sewage sludge as compared to sewage sludge mono-incineration.
Fabian Gievers, Achim Loewen, Michael Nelles
Uncertainty Information in LCI-Databases and Its Propagation Through an LCA Model
This article deals with uncertainties in particular with the uncertainty of inventory data analysis. Uncertainties cannot be avoided in LCA studies. Therefore, they should be analysed and interpreted. One problem is that in many LCA studies uncertainties are not noted. In ecoinvent, which is an example for an inventory database, the lognormal distribution is choosen as the dataset’s standard distribution type. One reason is that many quantities found in nature can only take positive values. In most cases, however, the normal distribution can as well be taken as the default distribution type. In this article the uncertainty information of the ecoinvent datasets is explained and uncertainty analysing methods like the Monte Carlo simulation, der pedigree matrix or the sensitivity analysis are described. Furthermore, the convolution is mentioned as a method for analyzing the sucsessive uncertainty propagation through an LCA model. For using the convolution, the LCA data should be independent, continuous and normal distributed. In addition to that the LCA model should be a linear and not a complex system. Since the convolution is a new approach further research will be required.
Alexandra Opitz, Christof Menzel
LCA of Energy and Material Demands in Professional Data Centers: Case Study of a Server
Professional Data Centers (PDC) quantity and their related energy consumption is in a continuous growing trend, with corresponding increments in the material demand. While the amount of energy during operation phase is normally measured, the amount of embedded energy and the total Cumulated Energy Demand (CED) is often overlooked. To estimate the total amount of energy and material demand, LCA is used to evaluate the CED and CMD (Cumulated Material Demand) of devices used in PDC. A server Unit typical of these facilities is analyzed using data from disassembly and elementary analysis to construct a model for LCA to estimate the CED and CMD of the device. Results indicate that most of the energy is consumed during the operation phase, which is dependent on the operating lifetime of the device. Uncertainties are present due to the quality of the databases used for the model.
F. Peñaherrera, J. Hobohm, K. Szczepaniak
Identification of Potentials for Improvement in Paint Production Process Through Material Flow Cost Accounting—A Step Towards Sustainability
During the development of sustainable processes ecological as well as economic aspects play an increasingly important role alongside the social factors. These can be taken into account by using material flow cost accounting (MFCA) according to ISO 14051 which captures the environmental and economic impacts of material and energy inputs. In the BMWi collaborative research project µKontE the transfer of a batchwise to a continuous production of binder emulsion was investigated. A MFCA was set up as a case study for both manufacturing strategies. The influence and benefits of different levels of detail in the definition of the quantity centres were examined.
Esther Peschel, André Paschetag, Mandy Wesche, Helmut Nieder, Stephan Scholl

Case Studies

Development of a Functional Unit for a Product Service System: One Year of Varied Use of Clothing
Product-service systems (PSS) are considered to provide environmental benefits compared to conventional consumption. The textile industry causes many negative environmental and social impacts. In our research project, we conduct a life-cycle assessment of a use-oriented PSS: The renting of casual clothing. In this article, we present the approach to develop our functional unit “One year of varied use of clothing” and that of the baseline-scenario.
Felix M. Piontek, Max Rehberger, Martin Müller
LCA in Process Development: Case Study of the OxFA-Process
In the context of environmental problems and resource depletion, the chemical industry is challenged with the substitution of fossil feedstock by renewable resources. To reduce the probability of unexpected environmental impacts by new processes using various sources of biomass, LCA methods can provide support for process development. The investigated OxFA-process, which converts biomass into formic acid, is a typical representative for these next generation processes. However, at an early development stage, data gaps have to be handled. In this study, scientific literature, process simulation and generic data have been used to identify the catalyst, compressed air and energy consumptions as those process components are the ones that significantly influence the environmental footprint of the whole process. Hereby starting points for an effective process optimization are shown and different scenarios for process implementation are compared. Furthermore, a first estimation of the competitiveness with the state-of-the-art process was attempted. Despite some data inaccuracies and required estimations, it is fair to assume that the OxFA-process is an ecological reasonable alternative.
Simon Rauch, Frank Piepenbreier, Dorothea Voss, Jakob Albert, Martin Hartmann
Using Energy System Modelling Results for Assessing the Emission Effect of Vehicle-to-Grid for Peak Shaving
An understanding of the surrounding energy system is necessary when using the system expansion approach for an emission assessment of sharing and reuse concepts for electric vehicle batteries. In this context it is shown that existing energy system modelling results can be used for assessing the marginal effect of a load change on CO2 emissions for electricity using either the electricity mix or the marginal power plant method. From the company’s perspective a load management with vehicle-to-grid for peak shaving leads to a decrease of electricity costs due to a reduced demand charge, but percentage changes in direct CO2 emissions for electricity demand are small. The impact of vehicle-to-grid for peak shaving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the traction batteries’ production strongly depends on the reference technology and is significant in case a diesel generator is substituted.
Anika Regett, Constanze Kranner, Sebastian Fischhaber, Felix Böing
Assessment of Social Impacts Along the Value Chain of Automation Technology Components Using the LCWE Method
Purpose During the last years, the sustainability of products has gained importance. The established life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology focuses on the evaluation of environmental impacts of products. Academic research extends this approach to social impacts towards establishing a social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). The life cycle working environment (LCWE) method offers one option to include social impacts in LCA. This paper aims at creating a LCWE procedure for company purposes. Automation technology components serve as a case study. Methods LCWE helps to assess the social impact on humans along a products life cycle based on statistical data and the possibility to integrate primary data. The methods focus is on working conditions in upstream and manufacturing activities. LCWE is based on the energy and material flows used in LCA study’s. The results of the method are social profiles of single processes or products. The allocation to social profiles is performed through shares of value-added costs within the life cycle processes of a product. Results and discussion First, a procedure that enables the integration of the LCWE method into companies is presented. Within the procedure, it is possible to integrate corporate data as well as companies aims. The results of the process assessment are categorized by a traffic light function, so that decision makers within the company will be able to integrate the results into their department and improve the processes they are responsible for.
Friederike Schlegl, Mercedes Barkmeyer, Alexander Kaluza, Eva Knüpffer, Stefan Albrecht
Life Cycle Assessment of Industrial Cooling Towers
Sustainability and life cycle thinking is becoming part of companies’ “green identity”. For this reason, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a common tool to assess the environmental impacts of manufactured products in order to improve it—starting with raw material selection to efficiency improvements of manufacturing processes and optimization of operation. Focusing the manufacturing stage, usually only the machines and processes directly related to the manufacturing are taken into account for assessment. Peripheral processes e.g. pump and pipe systems and technical building services (TBS) e.g. air conditioning, process water supply, are often neglected due to poor data availability. Supplying cooling water for production machines, cooling towers (CTs) are a central part of the industrial TBS—and therefore part of almost every manufacturing system. Neglecting the environmental impact of CT would result in a major white spot when accomplish a LCA. In order to close this gap, this paper presents the first LCA of industrial CTs showing the hot spots of environmental impacts along the entire CT life cycle.
Christine Schulze, Sebastian Thiede, Christoph Herrmann
Bioplastics and Circular Economy—Performance Indicators to Identify Optimal Pathways
With a growing demand of resources and environmental issues like climate change, circular economy has become an inevitable fundamental principle in resource consumption. While conventional plastics have become an essential material group in the 20th century, bio-based and/or biodegradable alternatives are still evolving. Principles of the circular economy need to be implemented for all kinds of material flows and bioplastic is no exception, as biomass is a limited resource as well. To identifiy environmentally favourable pathways for bioplastic waste streams, it is helpful to develop suitable specific indicators. To review the current status quo, a literature review was conducted with focus on (bio-) plastics. While general circular economy approaches are available manifold, only few literature on specific circular economy indicators for (bio-) plastics is available. Especially the aspect of biodegradability is unique for bioplastics and therefore enables further waste treatment options. An already existing framework is therefore extended for these waste treatment options to enable the identification of optimal pathways also for biodegradable plastics.
Sebastian Spierling, Venkateshwaran Venkatachalam, Hannah Behnsen, Christoph Herrmann, Hans-Josef Endres
Spatially Differentiated Sustainability Assessment of Products
Due to the globalization of supply chains, the environmental and social impacts related to products are often dispersed over many locations. Life cycle-oriented sustainability assessment methods aim at compiling the total impacts without explicitly considering their spatial distribution. This paper illustrates how the incorporation of spatial differentiation in sustainability assessment can influence assessment results and lead to different conclusions about the design of supply chains to improve product sustainability. Comparing two alternative configurations of a simplified supply chain for beer production and concentrating only on environmental impacts, it is found that the consideration of environmental and technological heterogeneity has the potential to reverse the rank order of the alternatives.
Christian Thies, Karsten Kieckhäfer, Thomas S. Spengler, Manbir S. Sodhi
Life Cycle Assessment of German Energy Scenarios
The transition of the German energy system is in full swing. Although the targets for the so-called “Energiewende” are set by the German Federal Government, different development paths are drawn by studies on energy scenarios. One major goal of the “Energiewende” is providing an electricity mix with reduced environmental impacts. Consequently, the goal of this study is to environmentally analyze the different energy scenarios. In a first step, a systematic literature review was followed to come up with 14 studies and 26 energy scenarios. After reducing the number of scenarios to five due to selection criteria, the environmental impacts of these five scenarios were analyzed applying life cycle assessment. Assumptions were made to transfer the scenarios into a sound life cycle assessment model. The life cycle assessment was conducted using the GaBi software as well as the GaBi database to investigate the environmental impacts of future electricity mixes in the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050. The results show that the calculated impact on global warming of electricity generation in the different scenarios is higher compared to the greenhouse gas emissions presented in the respective studies. The differences can be explained, for example, by neglecting transmission losses in the calculation of the global warming impact in the studies.
Nils Thonemann, Daniel Maga
Progress in Life Cycle Assessment
herausgegeben von
Prof. Dr. Liselotte Schebek
Prof. Dr. Christoph Herrmann
Felipe Cerdas
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