The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (INT J LIFE CYCLE ASS )


The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (Int J LCA) is the first journal devoted entirely to LCA. LCA has become a recognized instrument to assess the ecological burdens and impacts connected with products and systems, or, more generally, with human activities. The LCA-Journal - which has been expanded by a section on Life Cycle Management (LCM) - is a forum for: Scientists developing LCA and LCM; LCA and LCM practitioners; Managers concerned with environmental aspects of products; Governmental environmental agencies responsible for product quality; Scientific and industrial societies involved in LCA development; Ecological institutions and bodies.

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    International journal of life cycle assessment (Online)
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Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Purpose Life cycle inventory (LCI) data are region-specific because energy fuel mixtures and methods of production often differ from region to region. LCI database examples include US LCI, Ecoinvent v.2, and NIST, each of which is country-specific. Thus, the main aim of this study is to show that Egypt is in need of an Egyptian National LCI (ENLCI) database and to focus on the means of developing a database specific to Egypt. Methods Arab countries have thus far engaged in virtually no life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, and a significant neglect of this matter is in evidence for the continent of Africa and, in particular, Egypt. Thus, this study suggests an organizational and managerial framework for the development of a national LCI database and sheds light on the required LCI database categories and data quality for practical solutions reflecting who is equipped to do what in order to keep pace with the world. Results The results from this review are useful to standardize the study of the life cycle assessment concept in Egypt; to form a foundation for development of an Egyptian database for facilitating a cleaner environment; to encourage stakeholders, such as the environmental agencies, Egyptian Housing and Building Research Center, and the Ministry of Industry; to propose an organizational framework in which they play a central role; and to provide investment to initiate development. Conclusions The analysis indicates that the development of a LCI database specific to Egypt is difficult because Egypt has various technical and organizational challenges, but a roadmap of actions to be taken to move ahead is provided. The success of this roadmap depends on the capacity for developing the necessary technical and financial support and on strong partnerships with industry, government, LCA professionals, and academia.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 08/2014; 19(8).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Environmental toxicity potential is the potential harm of a chemical substance or a compound that is released into the environment. Such harm is present in the generation of electricity using fossil fuels that release toxins that result in environmental pollution that would certainly have serious implications on human health and the ecosystem quality. This study assessed the environmental toxicity potential of the centralized grid-connected electricity generating systems for the years 2000, 2015, 2020, 2026 and 2030, according to the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company Limited, TANESCO’s power system master plan of the year 2009. Methods Life cycle assessment, which is a globally and widely used tool for assessing what impact product or services have during their life cycle, from production stage to disposal stage was used to assess the electricity generating systems based on process analysis. The life cycle impact assessment was calculated using CML 2001 version 2.05. Results and discussion The results show that environmental toxicity potentials increase significantly for the years 2000, 2015, 2020, 2026 and 2030. In addition, the contribution of electricity generation from fossil fuels viz. coal, natural gas, heavy fuel and industrial diesel oils to the environmental toxicity potentials are high as compared to that of hydroelectricity. Conclusions The result suggests that increasing the share of hydroelectricity would significantly help to reduce the environmental toxicity potentials and ultimately the environmental profile of the electricity generation could be improved.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 07/2014; 19(7).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The analysis of uncertainty in life cycle assessment (LCA) studies has been a topic for more than 10 years, and many commercial LCA programs now feature a sampling approach called Monte Carlo analysis. Yet, a full Monte Carlo analysis of a large LCA system, for instance containing the 4,000 unit processes of ecoinvent v2.2, is rarely carried out by LCA practitioners. One reason for this is computation time. An alternative faster than Monte Carlo method is analytical error propagation by means of a Taylor series expansion; however, this approach suffers from being explained in the literature in conflicting ways, hampering implementation in most software packages for LCA. The purpose of this paper is to compare the two different approaches from a theoretical and practical perspective. Methods In this paper, we compare the analytical and sampling approaches in terms of their theoretical background and their mathematical formulation. Using three case studies—one stylized, one real-sized, and one input–output (IO)-based—we approach these techniques from a practical perspective and compare them in terms of speed and results. Results Depending on the precise question, a sampling or an analytical approach provides more useful information. Whenever they provide the same indicators, an analytical approach is much faster but less reliable when the uncertainties are large. Conclusions For a good analysis, analytical and sampling approaches are equally important, and we recommend practitioners to use both whenever available, and we recommend software suppliers to implement both.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 07/2014; 19(7).
  • The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 06/2014;
  • The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The nature of end-of-life (EoL) processes is highly uncertain for constructions built today. This uncertainty is often neglected in life cycle assessments (LCAs) of construction materials. This paper tests how EoL assumptions influence LCA comparisons of two alternative roof construction elements: glue-laminated wooden beams and steel frames. The assumptions tested include the type of technology and the use of attributional or consequential modelling approaches. Methods The study covers impact categories often considered in the construction industry: total and non-renewable primary energy demand, water depletion, global warming, eutrophication and photo-chemical oxidant creation. The following elements of the EoL processes are tested: energy source used in demolition, fuel type used for transportation to the disposal site, means of disposal and method for handling allocation problems of the EoL modelling. Two assumptions regarding technology development are tested: no development from today’s technologies and that today’s low-impact technologies have become representative for the average future technologies. For allocating environmental impacts of the waste handling to by-products (heat or recycled material), an attributional cut-off approach is compared with a consequential substitution approach. A scenario excluding all EoL processes is also considered. Results and discussion In all comparable scenarios, glulam beams have clear environmental benefits compared to steel frames, except for in a scenario in which steel frames are recycled and today’s average steel production is substituted, in which impacts are similar. The choice of methodological approach (attributional, consequential or fully disregarding EoL processes) does not seem to influence the relative performance of the compared construction elements. In absolute terms, four factors are shown to be critical for the results: whether EoL phases are considered at all, whether recycling or incineration is assumed in the disposal of glulam beams, whether a consequential or attributional approach is used in modelling the disposal processes and whether today’s average technology or a low-impact technology is assumed for the substituted technology. Conclusions The results suggest that EoL assumptions can be highly important for LCA comparisons of construction materials, particularly in absolute terms. Therefore, we recommend that EoL uncertainties are taken into consideration in any LCA of long-lived products. For the studied product type, LCA practitioners should particularly consider EoL assumptions regarding the means of disposal, the expected technology development of disposal processes and any substituted technology and the choice between attributional and consequential approaches.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 04/2014; 19(4):723-731.
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    ABSTRACT: As the debate on how to effectively link life cycle analysis (LCA) and negative externalities of the products or processes is still unsolved, an improved methodology that involves the private and social (environment) profitability to petrochemical projects in Mexico is presented. We incorporate both environmental impacts, identified through the LCA, using the eco-costs model, within a project appraisal analysis. The eco-costs are a single LCA-based indicator of environmental burden, based on the concept of marginal prevention costs, i.e. costs required to bring back the environmental degradation to a sustainable level.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 03/2014; 19(3):517.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose This study aims to contribute to an improved understanding of the environmental implications of offshore power grid and wind power development pathways. To achieve this aim, we present two assessments. First, we investigate the impacts of a North Sea power grid enabling enhanced trade and integration of offshore wind power. Second, we assess the benefit of the North Sea grid and wind power through a comparison of scenarios for power generation in affected countries. Methods The grid scenario explored in the first assessment is the most ambitious scenario of the Windspeed project and is the result of cost minimization analysis using a transmission-expansion-planning model. We develop a hybrid life cycle inventory for array cables; high voltage, direct current (HVDC) links; and substations. The functional unit is 1 kWh of electricity transmitted. The second assessment compares two different energy scenarios of Windspeed for the North Sea and surrounding countries. Here, we utilize a life cycle inventory for offshore grid components together with an inventory for a catalog of power generation technologies from Ecoinvent and couple these inventories with grid configurations and electricity mixes determined by the optimization procedure in Windspeed. Results and discussion Developing, operating, and dismantling the grid cause emissions of 2.5 g CO2-Eq per kWh electricity transmission or 36 Mt CO2-Eq in total. HVDC cables are the major cause of environmental damage, causing, for example, half of total climate change effects. The next most important contributors are substations and array cabling used in offshore wind parks. Toxicity and eutrophication effects stem largely from leakages from disposed copper and iron mine tailings and overburden. Results from the comparison of two scenarios demonstrate a substantial environmental benefit from the North Sea grid extension and the associated wind power development compared with an alternative generation of electricity from fossil fuels. Offshore grid and wind power, however, entail an increased use of metals and, hence, a higher metal depletion indicator. Conclusions We present the first life cycle assessment of a large offshore power grid, using the results of an energy planning model as input. HVDC links are the major cause of environmental damage. There are differences across impact categories with respect to which components or types of activities that are responsible for damage. The North Sea grid and wind power are environmentally beneficial by an array of criteria if displacing fossil fuels, but cause substantial metal use.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose In Korea, natural gas is widely used as city gas, fuel for electricity generation, and fuel for transportation (e.g., city bus). However, the environmental impact associated with the use of natural gas in Korea has not been paid much attention to. In this study, well-to-wheel (WTW) analysis on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy uses associated with natural gas in Korea was performed by considering every step from feedstock recovery to final use in the vehicle operation. Methods The raw data used in the analysis were mainly provided by Korean natural gas industry and related associations. The additional information, especially for the processes in foreign countries, was also collected by literature survey. We adopted the GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation) model as a base WTW analysis tool, which was developed by the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory. However, the WTW analysis on natural gas in Korea is far different from that of the U.S, because ~99 % of natural gas used in Korea is imported from the oversea countries in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). For this reason, detailed parameters in GREET were changed for Korean situation, and especially, significant modifications were made on liquefaction, LNG transportation and storage, and re-gasification processes. Results and discussion As a result of the analysis, the well-to-pump GHG emissions of city gas and compressed natural gas are calculated as 25,717–30,178 and 28,903–33,422 g CO2 eq./GJFianl_fuel, respectively. The WTW GHG emission of compressed-natural-gas-fueled city bus is calculated as 1,348–1,417 g CO2 eq./km. These values are relatively larger than those of the U.S., because most of the natural gas used in the U.S. is transported by pipeline in a gaseous state, which typically takes less energy and associated GHG emissions, as compared to the import of LNG in Korea. Finally, sensitivity analysis is performed on the parameters, which have either range of values among various sources or uncertainties due to lack of accurate information. Conclusions The results show that further investigation on three parameters, i.e., CO2 venting during natural gas processing, CH4 leakage in Korea, and CH4 leakage during recovery process, would be helpful to further improve overall accuracy of the analysis.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Habitat loss is a significant cause of biodiversity loss, but while its importance is widely recognized, there is no generally accepted method on how to include impacts on biodiversity from land use and land use changes in cycle assessment (LCA), and existing methods are suffering from data gaps. This paper proposes a methodology for assessing the impact of land use on biodiversity using ecological structures as opposed to information on number of species. Methods Two forms of the model (global and local scales) were used to assess environmental quality, combining ecosystem scarcity, vulnerability, and conditions for maintaining biodiversity. A case study for New Zealand kiwifruit production is presented. As part of the sensitivity analysis, model parameters (area and vulnerability) were altered and New Zealand datasets were also used. Results and discussion When the biodiversity assessment was implemented using a global dataset, the importance of productivity values was shown to depend on the area the results were normalized against. While the area parameter played an important role in the results, the proposed alternative vulnerability scale had little influence on the final outcome. Conclusions Overall, the paper successfully implements a model to assess biodiversity impacts in LCA using easily accessible, free-of-charge data and software. Comparing the model using global vs. national datasets showed that there is a potential loss of regional significance when using the generalized model with the global dataset. However, as a guide to assessing biodiversity impact, the model allows for consistent comparison of product systems on an international basis.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014; 19(2).
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    ABSTRACT: It is not easy to define the fast-evolving social life cycle assessment (LCA) field. Four years after the publication of the social LCA guidelines by UNEP, the area of research is still defining itself. Perhaps, as Jørgensen (2012) puts it, social LCA is still striving to attain maturity. This might be caused by (1) confusion on the goal and scope of social LCA and (2) a lack of data and practical tools to experience the full breadth of what social LCA seeks to offer. This is changing though, as data and tools are becoming available and will shape again the technique in new ways.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014; 19:261-265.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Quantitative uncertainties are a direct consequence of averaging, a common procedure when building life cycle inventories (LCIs). This averaging can be amongst locations, times, products, scales or production technologies. To date, however, quantified uncertainties at the unit process level have largely been generated using a Numerical Unit Spread Assessment Pedigree (NUSAP) approach and often disregard inherent uncertainties (inaccurate measurements) and spread (variability around means). Methods A decision tree for primary and secondary data at the unit process level was initially created. Around this decision tree, a protocol was developed with the recognition that dispersions can be either results of inherent uncertainty, spread amongst data points or products of unrepresentative data. In order to estimate the characteristics of uncertainties for secondary data, a method for weighting means amongst studies is proposed. As for unrepresentativeness, the origin and adaptation of NUSAP to the field of life cycle assessment are discussed, and recommendations are given. Results and discussion By using the proposed protocol, cross-referencing of outdated data is avoided, and user influence on results is reduced. In the meantime, more accurate estimates can be made for horizontally averaged data with accompanying spread and inherent uncertainties, as these deviations often contribute substantially towards the overall dispersion. Conclusions In this article, we highlight the importance of including inherent uncertainties and spread alongside the NUSAP pedigree. As uncertainty data often are missing in LCI literature, we here describe a method for evaluating these by taking several reported values into account. While this protocol presents a practical way towards estimating overall dispersion, better reporting in literature is promoted in order to determine real uncertainty parameters.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014; 19(2).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Change of vegetation cover and increased land use intensity, particularly for agricultural use, can affect species richness. Within life cycle impact assessment, methods to assess impacts of land use on a global scale are still in need of development. In this work, we present a spatially explicit data-driven approach to characterize the effect of agricultural land occupation on different species groups. Methods We derived characterization factors for the direct impact of agricultural land occupation on relative species richness. Our method identifies potential differences in impacts for cultivation of different crop types, on different species groups, and in different world regions. Using empirical species richness data gathered via an extensive literature search, characterization factors were calculated for four crop groups (oil palm, low crops, Pooideae, and Panicoideae), four species groups (arthropods, birds, mammals, and vascular plants), and six biomes. Results and discussion Analysis of the collected data showed that vascular plant richness is more sensitive than the species richness of arthropods to agricultural land occupation. Regarding the differences between world regions, the impact of agricultural land use was lower in boreal forests/taiga than in temperate and tropical regions. The impact of oil palm plantations was found to be larger than that of Pooideae croplands, although we cannot rule out that this difference is influenced by the spatial difference between the oil palm- and Pooideae-growing regions as well. Analysis of a subset of data showed that the impact of conventional farming was larger than the impact of low-input farming. Conclusions The impact of land occupation on relative species richness depends on the taxonomic groups considered, the climatic region, and farm management. The influence of crop type, however, was found to be of less importance.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2014;

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