You are on page 1of 19

Life Cycle Assessment

Mary Ann Curran


BSChE/MSc/PhD (June 2008)
LCA Research Program Manager
EPA Office of Research & Development
National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Cincinnati, OH 45268
curran.maryann@epa.gov
LCA is an environmental
management tool to:
Apply a system-wide examination
Use a multi-media approach (air, water,
solid waste)
Identify trade-offs among alternatives
Identify opportunities to improve systems
Support environmental decision making
Achieve sustainable development
Life cycle thinking is being
applied but often not called LCA
For example:
OECD Report Biofuels: Is the Cure
Worse than the Disease? Sept 2007

These studies reveal bigger picture issues of


making (more) bioethanol, such as land
availability, water use, soil and water quality,
and food-for-fuel issues.
Life Cycle Studies often focus
on a single issue, such as
Recycling/Resource Conservation
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Climate Change
Carbon Balance
Energy Balance

but miss the element of trade-offs.


So what is Life Cycle Assessment?
There is a standardized tool for
conducting a multi-media,
cradle-to-grave assessment
ISO 14040 Life Cycle Assessment
Principles and Framework 1997
ISO 14044 Life Cycle Assessment
Requirements and Guidelines 2006

* ISO International Standards Organisation


ISO 14040 Standards
Life cycle assessment framework

Goal and
Scope
Definition

Inventory
Interpretation
Analysis

Impact
Assessment
Defining system
boundaries for E85
Raw Material Production Use
Acquisition Stage Stage
Stage

Blendstock
Crude Oil Bulk Terminal
Gasoline
Extraction Storage
Refining

Vehicle
Refueling
Station

EtOH Bulk Terminal


Corn Growing
Production Storage
Vehicle
Operation
Inventory data availability is a barrier
to conducting LCAs
National LCI database still being developed
(www.nrel.gov/lci)
Data come from many different sources, such as:
Proprietary company data
Consultants, labs, universities
Public, e.g., Toxics Release Inventory (EPA)
Databases use different units or different
reference flows; report on different time periods
Often more than one source is needed to
calculate the necessary inventory data
Data for new products must be estimated
LCA Software/Consultants
EPS
AIST-LCA
GaBi
APME
GEMIS
Athena
GREET
ATHENA
IdeMAT
BEES
KCL-Eco 3.0
Boustead
LCAiT
CMLCA
LCAPix
Dubo-Calc
MIET
EcoInvent
REGIS
EcoQuantum
SimaPro 5.0
EDIP
SPINE
eiolca.net
TEAM
EMIS
Umberto
31 National Databases
(in varying stages of development)
Argentina Chile France Malaysia Spain

Australia China Germany Norway Sweden

Austria Chinese India The Switzerland


Tapei Netherlands

Belgium Denmark Italy Portugal Thailand

Brazil Estonia Japan Poland UK


Canada Finland Korea South Africa USA

Vietnam
Impact Assessment -
Common Impact Categories
Impact Category Indicator Measurement
Resources kg Scarce Resources
Water m3 Water
Global Warming kg CO2 equivalents
Ozone Depletion CFC-11 equivalents
Acidification kg SO2 equivalents
Eutrophication kg PO43- equivalents
Smog Formation kg Ethene equivalents
Human Toxicity HTx equivalents
Eco Toxicity ETx equivalents
Waste kg Waste
Land Use equivalent hectares
Noise equivalent decibels
Odor ??
LCIA usually models to midpoints
(unlike Risk Assessment)
Emissions (CFCs, Halons)

Chemical reaction releases Cl- and Br-

Cl-, Br- destroys ozone


MIDPOINT measures ozone depletion potential (ODP)

Less ozone allows increased UVB radiation


which leads to following ENDPOINTS

skin cancer
cataracts

crop damage marine life damage

immune system suppression damage to materials like plastics


Can we create a
Streamlined LCA?
Out of necessity, all LCAs are simplified in
some aspect, however,
Narrowing the scope by
Omitting stages
Limiting the inventory
Targeting impacts
can overlook potential trade-offs and report
misleading results.
Current LCA Practice
Public LCI data sources are few
Vendor data lack transparency
No guidance exists for data modeling
Impact modeling varies
No guidance exists for peer review
International UNEP/SETAC workgroup is slowly
making progress
US Database is underway but struggling to get
support/data
Worldwide growing interest
in the life cycle concept is
being ignited by

Concerns about Global Climate


Change (An Inconvenient Truth)
Walmart Scorecard development
Green/Sustainable buildings
General interest by companies to
be green
Sustainable Development requires
balancing environmental,
economic and social factors
Suggested Reading
ISO Standards 14040 & 14044 (2006)
U.S. EPA (2006) Life Cycle Assessment Principles &
Practice EPA/600/R-06/060
Curran, M.A. (ed.) (1996) Environmental Life Cycle
Assessment. McGraw-Hill, New York
Baumann & Tillman (2004) The Hitch Hiker's Guide to
LCA: An Orientation in Life Cycle Assessment
Methodology and Application
Heijungs R, et al (1992) Environmental Life Cycle
Assessment of Products. Vol. I: Guide, and Vol. II:
Backgrounds, Center for Envir. Studies, Leiden University
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Journal of Cleaner Production
Journal of Industrial Ecology