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

Description

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.

Impact factor 3.09

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    Impact factor
  • 5-year impact
    3.55
  • Cited half-life
    5.50
  • Immediacy index
    0.32
  • Eigenfactor
    0.01
  • Article influence
    0.96
  • Website
    International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment website
  • Other titles
    International journal of life cycle assessment (Online)
  • ISSN
    0948-3349
  • OCLC
    60628611
  • Material type
    Document, Periodical, Internet resource
  • Document type
    Internet Resource, Computer File, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

Publications in this journal

  • Peter Fantke, Olivier Jolliet, John S. Evans, Joshua S. Apte, Aaron J. Cohen, Otto O. Hänninen, Fintan Hurley, Matti J. Jantunen, Michael Jerrett, Jonathan I. Levy, Miranda M. Loh, Julian D. Marshall, Brian G. Miller, Philipp Preiss, Joseph V. Spadaro, Marko Tainio, Jouni T. Tuomisto, Charles J. Weschler, Thomas E. McKone
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is considered to be one of the most important environmental factors contributing to the global human disease burden. However, due to the lack of broad consensus and harmonization in the life cycle assessment (LCA) community, there is no clear guidance on how to consistently include health effects from PM2.5 exposure in LCA practice. As a consequence, different models are currently used to assess life cycle impacts for PM2.5, sometimes leading to inconsistent results. In a global effort initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Life Cycle Initiative, respiratory inorganics’ impacts expressed as health effects from PM2.5 exposure were selected as one of the initial impact categories to undergo review with the goal of providing global guidance for implementation in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). The goal of this paper is to summarize the current knowledge and practice for assessing health effects from PM2.5 exposure and to provide recommendations for their consistent integration into LCIA. Methods A task force on human health impacts was convened to build the framework for consistently quantifying health effects from PM2.5 exposure and for recommending PM2.5 characterization factors. In an initial Guidance Workshop, existing literature was reviewed and input from a broad range of internationally recognized experts was obtained and discussed. Workshop objectives were to identify the main scientific questions and challenges for quantifying health effects from PM2.5 exposure and to provide initial guidance to the impact quantification process. Results and discussion A set of 10 recommendations was developed addressing (a) the general framework for assessing PM2.5-related health effects, (b) approaches and data to estimate human exposure to PM2.5 using intake fractions, and (c) approaches and data to characterize exposure-response functions (ERFs) for PM2.5 and to quantify severity of the diseases attributed to PM2.5 exposure. Despite these advances, a number of complex issues, such as those related to nonlinearity of the ERF and the possible need to provide different ERFs for use in different geographical regions, require further analysis. Conclusions and outlook Questions of how to refine and improve the overall framework were analyzed. Data and models were proposed for harmonizing various elements of the health impact pathways for PM2.5. Within the next two years, our goal is to build a global guidance framework and to determine characterization factors that are more reliable for incorporating the health effects from exposure to PM2.5 into LCIA. Ideally, this will allow quantification of the impacts of both indoor and outdoor exposures to PM2.5.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2015; 20(2).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Health damage from ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) shows large regional variations and can have an impact on a global scale due to its transboundary movement. However, existing damage factors (DFs) for human health in life cycle assessments (LCA) are calculated only for a few limited regions based on various regional chemical transport models (CTMs). The aim of this research is to estimate the human health DFs of PM2.5 originating from ten different regions of the world by using one global CTM. Methods The DFs express changes in worldwide disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to unit emission of black carbon and organic carbon (BCOC), nitrogen oxides (NOx ), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). DFs for ten regions were calculated as follows. Firstly, we divided the whole world into ten regions. With a global CTM (MIROC-ESM-CHEM), we estimated the concentration change of PM2.5 on the world caused by changes in the emission of a targeted precursor substance from a specific region. Secondly, we used population data and epidemiological concentration response functions (CRFs) of mortality and morbidity to estimate changes in the word’s DALYs occurring due to changes in the concentration of PM2.5. Finally, the above calculations were done for all ten regions. Results and discussion DFs of BCOC, NOx , and SO2 for ten regions were estimated. The range of DFs could be up to one order of magnitude among the ten regions in each of the target substances. While population density was an important parameter, variation in transport of PM2.5 on a continental level occurring due to different emission regions was found to have a significant influence on DFs. Especially for regions of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, the amount of damage which occurred outside of the emitted region was estimated at a quarter, a quarter, and a third of their DFs, respectively. It was disclosed that the DFs will be underestimated if the transboundary of PM2.5 is not taken into account in those regions. Conclusions The human health damage factors of PM2.5 produced by BCOC, NOx , and SO2 are estimated for ten regions by using one global chemical transport model. It became clear that the variation of transport for PM2.5 on a continental level greatly influences the regionality in DFs. For further research to quantify regional differences, it is important to consider the regional values of concentration response function (CRF) and DALY loss per case of disease or death.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Following water, tea is the second most consumed drink worldwide and has the peculiarity that not only its production but especially its preparation can be associated with considerable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The aims of this study were to calculate the cradle-to-gate and cradle-to-grave product carbon footprint (PCF) of Darjeeling tea and to identify potentials to reduce GHG emissions along its life cycle. Therefore, various options for action and their impact on the PCF were modeled by using a scenario analysis. Methods To assess the PCF of Darjeeling tea, the method based on ISO/TS 14067 was used with some limitations. Besides one base scenario, alternative cradle-to-gate scenarios and different use profiles were modeled. The results were split in a cradle-to-gate and a cradle-to-grave perspective. For the cradle-to-gate phase a functional unit of one kilogram loose black Darjeeling tea was chosen, whereas for the cradle-to-grave phase one liter black Darjeeling tea that is prepared and ready to drink in Germany was seen as appropriate functional unit. Primary data for the present study has been collected from local farmers, manufacturers, and agents in Darjeeling, Kolkata, and Rotterdam. For secondary data, the database ecoinvent 2.2 was mainly used. Results and discussion The cradle-to-gate PCF of 1 kg Darjeeling tea is between 7.1 and 25.3 kg CO2e depending on the cultivation method, energy sources used, or mode of transportation. The cradle-to-grave PCF for 1 l organic Darjeeling tea is about 0.15 kg CO2e. The largest share, 51 %, makes up the use phase, which is clearly dominated by the boiling of water. The variety of possible use profiles yields results of great breadth. It shows that the life cycle of organic Darjeeling tea transported by ship, depending on the preparation variants can cause emissions from 0.12 to 0.51 kg CO2e/l tea. Conclusions The main reduction potentials for GHG emissions were identified in the process of water boiling, the intercontinental transport mode, and the cultivation method. Since the climate impact of tea strongly depends on the way in which it is prepared, the consumer has a decisive influence on the PCF. Therefore, in order to make a reliable statement about the climate performance of consumer goods such as tea, the whole life cycle must be considered.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose An life cycle assessment (LCA) study of a field emission display (FED) television device was established. The first objective of this study was to get an up-to-date and comprehensive picture by applying the latest developments in the area of LCA, especially concerning the use of nanoparticles. In its second part, the study shows a comparison with today’s display technologies (i.e. CRT, LCD, plasma) and the timely development of the assessment of a FED television device. Methods This LCA study covers the complete life cycle of a FED television device in accordance with the ISO 14040 standard, from the extraction of raw materials until the final end-of-life treatment in a European WEEE recycling system. Two different functional units were applied in this study: For the in-depth analysis of the FED television device, an entire device along its complete life cycle was considered as functional unit—for the subsequent comparison with today’s display technologies, “one square-inch of display during 1 h of active use” was used as an appropriate functional unit. Main data source for the FED device was patent information; ecoinvent was used as default background database. Results and discussion The in-depth analysis of this FED television device shows a clear dominance of the production phase (independently of the impact category). Within the production of such a device, the electronics part (i.e. the printed wiring boards) shows the highest contribution—while, even when focussing on the glass and its various coating layers only, the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) production has a very minor influence. The releases of CNTs during the End-of-Life treatment do not contribute in a relevant manner to the overall impact neither—even when focussing on the “ecotoxicity potential” by using conservative CFs reported for this type of releases. Last but not least, the comparison with the existing television display technologies shows that an FED device has an environmental advantage over all three other technologies using the above stated functional unit of “one square-inch of display during 1 h of active use”. Conclusions Traditional impact categories as well as the ecotoxicity factor results in clear environmental advantages for an FED television device when comparing it to the three display technologies used today. Concerning the general issue of evaluating applications of manufactured nanomaterials in LCA studies, this case study shows the high relevance of an adequate integration of nanoparticle releases into LCA studies in order to achieve an actually comprehensive evaluation.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015; 20(1).
  • Loredana Napolano, Costantino Menna, Domenico Asprone, Andrea Prota, Gaetano Manfredi
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: Numerous strategies have been implemented to reduce the global environmental burden of construction activities in order to achieve sustainable development goals. However, with regard to renovating and retrofitting existing buildings, life cycle assessment (LCA)-based studies mostly focus on the improvement of a building’s energy performance rather than on the structural aspects of the retrofit itself. The present study assesses the life cycle environmental impacts of different replacement options for a typical old flat roof belonging to a masonry building. Three different structural options are considered: reinforced concrete joists and hollow clay blocks, steel joists and concrete slab, and reinforced concrete joists and polystyrene panels. Methods: The environmental analysis is based on a new approach wherein the structural and functional properties of a new flat roof are set as fixed requirements for the design of the different replacement options. A cradle-to-grave LCA-based study is then conducted for the environmental assessment of the entire retrofit process, including different waste scenarios. SimaPro software and IMPACT2002+ methodology are used for the LCA analysis, enabling quantification of the environmental impacts of the three flat roofing options by means of 4 endpoint and 15 midpoint indicators. Results and discussion:The environmental contribution of each life cycle phase related to the replacement of the old flat roof is assessed. The results demonstrate that within the life cycle of each option, the use phase and the construction phase have the highest environmental impact, ranging from 60 to 70 % and 50 to 80 % of the total burden in the Climate Change/Resources and Human Health/Ecosystem Quality damage categories, respectively. Having initially set structural and functional constraints for the analysis, the results show that any of the different options exhibits an overall lowest environmental performance. Consequently, specific environmental burdens/categories can be identified to optimize the sustainable retrofit design. Conclusions and recommendations: The work demonstrates that a comprehensive LCA-based approach can be used to effectively drive the design of structural and functional retrofit operations on existing buildings. This study also shows how a rigorous environmental analysis, conducted by implementing the proposed approach, can influence decision-making for the most sustainable design alternatives.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been identified as a major source of human health impact for many products in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). However, this result is highly dependent on the LCIA method. Based on the USEtox model, this study aims to improve health impact estimates of 16 PAHs, explore the importance of emission profiles of PAH mixture, and illustrate how these improvements affect an LCIA case study. Methods We model the influences of two factors neglected in previous LCIA methods—black carbon adsorption and photolysis degradation—providing refined intake fractions. We use epidemiological data to estimate the carcinogenic effect factor of benzo[a]pyrene, rather than extrapolating it from animal toxicity tests as in previous studies. Toxicity equivalence factors (TEFs) are employed to estimate the 16 PAHs USEtox characterization factors, expressed in cancer cases per kilogram of PAH emitted. These are applied to determine industry-specific characterization factors of PAH mixtures for the aluminum industry, for domestic combustion, and for the overall world PAH emissions. Results and discussion Black carbon adsorption extends the persistency of PAHs with four or more rings and increases their intake fractions by up to 350 % even when photolysis is considered. The epidemiologically derived carcinogenic effect factor of benzo[a]pyrene increases 61-fold compared to previous studies, with 1.2 cancer cases per kilogram of benzo[a]pyrene intake. Source-specific emission profiles of PAHs, especially the fraction of benzo[a]pyrene and dibenz[a,h]anthracene in the mixture, have high influences on the health impact of mixtures. A default characterization factor of 5.7 × 10−5 cancer cases per kilogram emitted is derived for the world PAH mixture. The proposed health impact estimates for PAH mixtures substantially affect overall health impacts for 1 kg aluminum produced and fall intermediary between the overestimated CML 2001 and the much lower ReCiPe results. Conclusions This study improves characterization factors of PAHs by incorporating considerations of black carbon adsorption, photolysis, and epidemiological data. It is important for future LCIA practices and epidemiological studies to include emissions of individual PAHs, specifically of dibenz[a,h]anthracene in addition to benzo[a]pyrene, when assessing human health impact of PAH mixtures.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015; 20(1).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Corncob as agricultural waste has dramatically increased in recent year. Some corncobs are recycled and reused as bioproducts, whereas a large amount remains unused and burned in the fields. Currently, furfural production technology being one of mostly commonly used technologies for corncob valorization because furfural is one of the most promising chemicals for sustainable chemical production. However, very few studies have analyzed the impact of furfural and furfuralcohol production on the environment and economy via LCA and LCC. This study aims to quantify the environmental and economic impacts of furfural and furfuralcohol production, identify the main pollution processes and substances, improve potentials, and build a database on the furfural industry. Materials and methods Life cycle assessment and life cycle costing were carried out to estimate the environmental and economic impact of corncob-based furfural and furfuralcohol production. Results and discussion The corncob production, transport, and electricity consumption stages had the greatest impact on the environment because of direct heavy metal, phosphate, and phosphorus emissions. The overall economic impact was mainly attributed to tax, corncob, transport, electricity, and infrastructure investment. Optimizing corncob transport, raw materials and consumption efficiency, and waste disposal are highly important in reducing both environmental and economic burden . Conclusions The key factors that contribute to reducing the overall environmental and economic impacts are increasing electricity consumption efficiency and furfural product yield, decreasing transport distance from corncob buyers to suppliers, choosing the appropriate corncob compression technology, and optimizing the wastewater reuse system.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 01/2015; accepted.
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    ABSTRACT: At the 20th Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Europe Life Cycle Assessment Case Study Symposium, 24–26 November 2014, Novi Sad (Serbia), Anne-Marie Boulay received the SETAC Europe Young Scientist Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Award 2014.Chemical engineer by formation, Anne-Marie finished her Ph.D. in 2013 at the CIRAIG and the Chemical Engineering Department at the Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal (Canada). Her research focused on the development of water footprinting and water-use impact assessment methods within the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. She started with the development of a novel approach for water-use inventory in LCA (Boulay et al. 2011a), a necessary step to develop an impact assessment method modeling the human health impact of loss of functionality of water for human users (Boulay et al. 2011b). Anne-Marie’s deep involvement and dedicated activity within the community on water footprinting methods is also shown through two papers comparing ...
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Current comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) studies claim to answer whether it is better or worse for the environment to change from old to new systems. Most commonly, the attributional LCA (ALCA) is practised despite its limitations to describe market effects. Hence, an attempt is done here to include market effects in the ALCA practice for comparisons in order to improve ALCA. The purpose is neither to investigate which LCA concept, ALCA, consequential LCA or decisional LCA, is the best for comparisons nor which is the best for decision-making. Methods Here, for the first time, a method based on marked changes which can be used for sensitivity checks of comparative ALCAs, advanced ALCA (AALCA) is presented. The new concept of global change mix factors (GCMF) is introduced. The method, based on accessible market data, is applied to previous comparative ALCAs of conductive adhesives, cooling modules used in radio base stations, office computing systems, as well as personal devices usage, here represented by multifunctional smartphones replacing other devices such as digital cameras. Results and discussion The results show that AALCA based on market data improves the understanding and can act as a sensitivity check of comparative ALCA results. For declining markets of products, with relatively high eco-environmental impacts, the difference between comparative AALCA and ALCA can be significant. As AALCA is founded in marginal electricity thinking and uses market data, there are similarities between AALCA and simplistic consequential LCA (CLCA). However, AALCA is not intended to replace CLCA or decisional LCA (DLCA). Conclusions By applying allocation factors, GCMF, based on real or future market changes, the interdependence of global markets and micro-level LCA shifts can be taken into account in comparative micro-level ALCA studies and make them more robust. Further, the sensitivity of using price units instead of physical units, as the basis for the GCMF, should be investigated. The degree to which AALCA and CLCA can complement each other should be examined. Also, the degree to which the GCMF used in AALCA-H address rebound effects should be further explored. The annual eco-environmental impacts of mobile devices towards 2020 are also of interest, and more LCA case studies are welcome.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Environmental impacts of the decommissioning of nuclear power plants are brought into focus by the nuclear phase-out in Germany and a worldwide growing number of decommissioning projects. So far, life cycle assessments of decommissioning nuclear power plants have been conducted very rarely or are based on rather uncertain assumptions. Against this background, environmental impacts of the ongoing decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in Lubmin (KGR), Germany are examined. Methodological aspects like transferability to other decommissioning projects as well as influence of assumptions about the lifespan of a power plant are discussed. Methods A life cycle assessment of the decommissioning according to ISO 14040/44 i s conducted. The decommissioning of one power plant (of the assessed KGR) is chosen as functional unit. The system boundaries include removal and demolition of plant components and buildings as well as decontamination, conditioning, interim storage, and final repository of low-level and interim-level nuclear waste together with disposal and recycling of conventional waste. Interim storage and final repository of high-level nuclear waste such as fuel rods are excluded from the system boundaries as they are assigned to the use phase of the plant. Primary data was obtained from the plant decommissioning firm (Energiewerke Nord GmbH, EWN) in Lubmin. The GaBi database was used to model background processes. Environmental impacts are estimated using the CML2001 methodology. Results and discussion Environmental impacts are mainly caused by on-site energetic demands of component removal and peripheral tasks. Further significant impacts are caused by the handling, storage, and final repository of low-level and intermediate-level nuclear waste. Recycling conventional, nonradioactive metallic waste has the potential to unburden the process in a significant scale, depending on recycling rates. Conclusions The dismantling of nuclear power plants shows a relevant environmental impact. Regarding the environmental impacts per kilowatt-hour assumptions concerning the plant’ lifespan are a crucial factor. Comparing the result from this study to recent datasets for nuclear power poses the question if LCA datasets represent environmental burdens of nuclear power accurately. The transferability of LCA results to other studies using one parameter for scaling is problematic and needs further research.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 12/2014; 19(12):1919–1932.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose This paper compares environmental impacts of two packaging options for contrast media offered by GE Healthcare: +PLUSPAK™ polymer bottle and traditional glass bottle. The study includes all relevant life cycle stages from manufacturing to use and final disposal of the bottles and includes evaluation of a variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios. The study was performed in accordance with the international standards ISO 14040/14044, and a third-party critical review was conducted. Methods The functional unit is defined as the packaging of contrast media required to deliver one dose of 96 mL to a patient for an X-ray procedure. Primary data are from GE Healthcare and its suppliers; secondary data are from the ecoinvent database and the literature. A variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios are explored using both cutoff and market-based allocation. Impact assessment includes human health (midpoint) and ecosystems and resources (end point) categories from ReCiPe (H) and cumulative energy demand. Sensitivity analyses include (1) bottle size, (2) secondary packaging, (3) manufacturing electricity, (4) glass recycled content, (5) scrap rate, (6) distribution transport, (7) contrast media, and (8) choice of impact assessment method. Uncertainty analysis is performed to determine how data quality affects the study conclusions. Results and discussion This study indicates that the polymer bottle outperforms the glass bottle in every environmental impact category considered. Bottle components are the most significant contributors, and the vial body has the highest impacts among bottle components for both polymer and glass bottles. The polymer bottle exhibits lower impact in all impact categories considered regardless of the following: end-of-life treatment (using either cutoff or market-based allocation), bottle size, manufacturing electricity grid mix, glass recycled content, scrap rate, contrast media, distribution transport (air vs. ocean), and choice of impact assessment method. Secondary packaging can be a major contributor to impact. The polymer bottle has considerably lower impact compared to the glass bottle for all multi-pack configurations, but the comparison is less clear for single-pack configurations due to significantly higher packaging material used per functional dose, resulting in proportionally higher impacts in all impact categories. Conclusions The lower impacts of the polymer bottle for this packaging application can be attributed to lower material and manufacturing impacts, lower distribution impacts, and lower end-of-life disposal impacts. The results of this study suggest that using polymer rather than glass bottles provides a means by which to lower environmental impact of contrast media packaging.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 12/2014; 19(12).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose This paper estimates the life cycle environmental impacts of the standard road tunnel in Norway. The results can then serve as input to the environmental impact assessment in the planning of future road projects and as a tool to identify hot spots for reducing the environmental impacts from future tunnel projects. Methods This life cycle assessment (LCA) study follows the ISO 14040/44 methodology. The construction, operation and maintenance stages are assessed. The functional unit of this study is defined as ‘1-m standard Norwegian road tunnel with 100-year lifetime’. This study estimate the life cycle inventory by the following: (1) road tunnel construction tenders completed during 2004–2011 in Norway and (2) the Norwegian excavation practice of rock tunnels over the past 20 years. The Ecoinvent database provides the background data to the analysis. Results and discussion The construction stage is found to contribute the most to the impact categories of climate change, photochemical oxidant formation, ozone depletion and terrestrial acidification. The consumption of concrete and explosives constitute the main elements causing these impacts. Equally, the construction stage is the main contributor to ozone depletion, caused by the consumption of bitumen and transport of materials. The maintenance stage contributes with 58 % of the particulate matter formation, due to the consumption of crushed aggregates and bitumen. The operation stage also plays a major role in human toxicity, ionising radiation and terrestrial ecotoxicity, contributing 57, 85 and 72 % of these impact categories, respectively, mainly due to the consumption of electricity. One Norwegian standard road tunnel emits at least 31 kt CO2 eq greenhouse gases during its 100-year lifetime. The total greenhouse gases embodied in current the Norwegian road tunnel stock amount to at least 8.3 million tonnes, equal to 83 % of the total national direct CO2 eq emissions due to road traffic in 2011. In recent years, around 150 kt CO2 eq has been emitted annually to the atmosphere due to the construction, maintenance and operation of Norwegian road tunnels. Conclusions The policy implication from this study is that greenhouse gas emissions caused by the transport infrastructure is significant, and it is strongly recommended to be taken into account from the early planning phase of infrastructure projects in order to identify the best project proposal and to minimise the negative environmental impacts.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The ISO 14044 standard for life cycle assessment (LCA) provides the reference decision hierarchy for dealing with multi-functional processes. We observe that, in practice, the consistent implementation of this hierarchy by LCA practitioners and LCA guidance document developers may be limited. In an attempt to explain this observation, and to offer suggestions as to how consistency in LCA practice might be improved, we identify and compare the rationales for (and limitations of) different common approaches to solving multi-functionality problems in LCA. Methods The different prevalent understandings of specific approaches for dealing with multi-functional processes were identified, and their respective rationales were analyzed. This takes into account identifying the implicit underlying assumptions regarding the nature and purpose of LCA that support each approach. Results and discussion We identified what we believe to be three internally consistent but mutually exclusive schools of thought amongst LCA practitioners, which differ in subtle but important ways in terms of their understanding of the nature and purpose of LCA, and the multi-functionality solutions necessary to support them. These three divisions follow two demarcations. The first is between consequential and attributional data modeling approaches. The second is between adherence to a natural science-based approach (privileging physical allocation solutions) and a socioeconomic approach (favoring economic allocation solutions) in attributional data modeling. Conclusions We conclude that the ISO 14044 multi-functionality hierarchy should explicitly differentiate between attributional and consequential data modeling applications. We question the feasibility and practical utility of system expansion (currently privileged in the ISO hierarchy) in attributional data modeling applications. We suggest that ISO 14044 should also make explicit its rationale for privileging natural science-based approaches to solving multi-functionality problems and to more clearly differentiate between natural science and social science-based approaches. We also call for the formulation of additional guidance for solving multi-functionality problems, in particular for justifying the use of lower-tier solutions from the ISO hierarchy when these are applied in LCA studies. We suggest that this additional guidance and clarity in ISO 14044 will contribute to increased consistency in LCA practice and also increase the potential for users of information from LCA studies to make informed decisions as to their relevance within the context of specific intended applications.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Because the potential impacts of emissions and extractions can be sensitive to timing, the temporal aggregation of life cycle inventory (LCI) data has often been cited as a limitation in life cycle assessment (LCA). Until now, examples of temporal emission and extraction distributions were restricted to the foreground processes of product systems. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the relevance of considering the temporal distribution of the background system inventory. Methods The paper focuses on the global warming impact category for which so-called dynamic characterization factors (CFs) were developed and uses the ecoinvent v2.2 database as both an example database to which temporal information can be added and a source of product systems to test the relevance of adding temporal information to the background system. Temporal information was added to the elementary and intermediate exchanges of 22 % of the unit processes in the database. Using the enhanced structure path analysis (ESPA) method to generate temporally differentiated LCIs in conjunction with time-dependent global warming characterization factors, potential impacts were calculated for all 4,034 product systems in the ecoinvent database. Results and discussion Each time, the results were calculated for (1) systems in which temporal information was only added to the first two tiers, representing studies in which only the foreground system is temporally differentiated, and (2) systems in which temporal information was also added to the background system. For 8.6 % of the database product systems, adding temporal differentiation to background unit processes affected the global warming impact scores by more than 10 %. For most of the affected product systems, considering temporal information in the background unit processes decreased the global warming impact scores. The sectors that show most sensitivity to the temporal differentiation of background unit processes are associated with wood and biofuel sectors. Conclusions Even though the addition of temporal information to unit processes in LCI databases would not benefit every LCA study, the enhancement can be relevant. It allows for a more accurate global warming impact assessment, especially for LCAs in which products of biomass are present in substantial amounts. Relevance for other impact categories could be discussed in further work.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014; 19(11).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: Odour is an important aspect of systems for human and agricultural waste management and many technologies are developed with the sole purpose of reducing odour. Compared with greenhouse gas assessment and the assessment of toxicity, odour assessment has received little attention in the life cycle assessment (LCA) community. This article aims to redress this. Methods: Firstly, a framework for the assessment of odour impacts in LCA was developed considering the classical LCA framework of emissions, midpoint and endpoint indicators. This suggested that an odour footprint midpoint indicator was worth striving for. An approach to calculating an areal indicator we call “odour footprint”, which considers the odour detection threshold, the diffusion rate and the kinetics of degradation of odourants, was implemented in MATLAB. We demonstrated the use of the characterisation factors we calculated in a case study based on odour removal technology applied to a pig barn. Results and discussion: We produced a list of 33 linear characterisation factors based on hydrogen sulphide equivalents, analogous to the linear carbon dioxide equivalency factors in use in carbon footprinting, or the dichlorobenzene equivalency factors developed for assessment of toxic impacts in LCA. Like the latter, this odour footprint method does not take local populations and exposure pathway analysis into account—its intent is not to assess regulatory compliance or detailed design. The case study showed that despite the need for materials and energy, large factor reductions in odour footprint and eutrophication potential were achieved at the cost of a smaller factor increase in greenhouse emissions. Conclusions: The odour footprint method is proposed as an improvement on the established midpoint method for odour assessment in LCA. Unlike it, the method presented here considers the persistence of odourants. Over time, we hope to increase the number of characterised odourants, enabling analysts to perform simple site-generic LCA on systems with odourant emissions.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014; 19:1891–1900.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The paper provides an empirical assessment of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system based on hydrogen technologies (HT-UPS) using renewable energy sources (RES) with regard to its environmental impacts and a comparison to a UPS system based on the internal combustion engine (ICE-UPS). Methods For the assessment and comparison of the environmental impacts, the life-cycle assessment (LCA) method was applied, while numerical models for individual components of the UPS systems (electrolyser, storage tank, fuel cell and ICE) were developed using GaBi software. The scope of analysis was cradle-to-end of utilisation with functional unit 1 kWh of uninterrupted electricity produced. For the life-cycle inventory analysis, quantitative data was collected with on-site measurements on an experimental system, project documentation, GaBi software generic databases and literature data. The CML 2001 method was applied to evaluate the system’s environmental impacts. Energy consumption of the manufacturing phase was estimated from gross value added (GVA) and the energy intensity of the industry sector in the manufacturer’s country. Results and discussion In terms of global warming (GW), acidification (A), abiotic depletion (AD) and eutrophication (E), manufacturing phase of HT-UPS accounts for more than 97 % of environmental impacts. Electrolyser in all its life-cycle phases contributes above 50 % of environmental impacts to the system’s GW, A and AD. Energy return on investment (EROI) for the HT-UPS has been calculated to be 0.143 with distinction between renewable (roughly 60 %) and non-renewable energy resources inputs. HT-UPS’s life-cycle GW emissions have been calculated to be 375 g of CO2 eq per 1 kWh of uninterruptible electric energy supplied. All these values have also been calculated for the ICE-UPS and show that in terms of GW, A and AD, the ICE-UPS has bigger environmental impacts and emits 1,190 g of CO2 eq per 1 kWh of uninterruptible electric energy supplied. Both systems have similar operation phase energy efficiency. The ICE-UPS has a higher EROI but uses almost none RES inputs. Conclusions The comparison of two different technologies for providing UPS has shown that in all environmental impact categories, except eutrophication, the HT-UPS is the sounder system. Most of HT-UPS’s environmental impacts result from the manufacturing phase. On the contrary, ICE-UPS system’s environmental impacts mainly result from operational phase. Efficiency of energy conversion from electricity to hydrogen to electricity again is rather low, as is EROI, but these will likely improve as the technology matures.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 11/2014; 19(11).