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Allocation in LCAs of biorefinery products: implications for results and decision-making
RISE, SP – Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut, SP Hållbar Samhällsbyggnad. Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3536-7895
RISE, SP – Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut, SP Energi och Bioekonomi, Systemanalys. Umeå University, Sweden.
RISE, SP – Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut, SP Energi och Bioekonomi, Systemanalys.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8826-6254
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
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2015 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 93, p. 213-221Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of biorefinery products, a common challenge is the choice of method for allocating environmental burdens of multifunctional processes (feedstock cultivation and biorefinery processes), a choice which can substantially influence LCA results and hence decision-making. The aim of this paper is to explore how this choice influences results and in which decision contexts the choice is particularly important. To do this, we tested six allocation methods in a case study of a biorefinery using pulpwood as feedstock. Tested methods included: main product bears all burden, substitution, traditional partitioning methods (based on economic value and exergy), a hybrid method combining elements of substitution and partitioning, and an alternative hybrid method developed by us, which allocates less environmental burden to co-products with a high potential to mitigate environmental burdens. The methods were tested in relation to decision contexts and LCA questions of relevance for biorefineries.

The results indicate that the choice of allocation method deserves careful attention, particularly in consequential studies and in studies focussed on co-products representing relatively small flows. Furthermore, the alternative hybrid allocation method is based on a logical rationale – favouring products with higher substitution potential – and has some other potential benefits. However, in cases where the scales of co-product flows are of different orders of magnitude, the method yields extreme results that could be difficult to interpret. Results also show that it can be important with consistent allocation for both cultivation and biorefinery processes, particularly when substitution is applied.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 93, p. 213-221
Keywords [en]
Life cycle assessment, Multifunctional, Forest, Forestry, Bio-based, Hybrid allocation
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-6771DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.01.013Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84926228144Local ID: 19133OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ri-6771DiVA, id: diva2:964611
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2020-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Life cycle assessment in the development of forest products: Contributions to improved methods and practices
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life cycle assessment in the development of forest products: Contributions to improved methods and practices
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The prospect of reducing environmental impacts is a key driver for the research and development (R&D) of new forest products. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is often used for assessing the environmental impact of such products, e.g. for the purpose of guiding R&D. The aim of this thesis is to improve the methods and practices of LCA work carried out in the R&D of forest products. Six research questions were formulated from research needs identified in LCA work in five technical inter-organisational R&D projects. These projects also provided contexts for the case studies that were used to address the research questions. The main contributions of the research are as follows:

Regarding the planning of LCA work in inter-organisational R&D projects, the research identified four characteristics that appear to be important to consider when selecting the roles of LCAs in such projects: (i) the project’s potential influence on environmental impacts, (ii) the degrees of freedom available for the technical direction of the project, (iii) the project’s potential to provide required input to the LCA, and (iv) access to relevant audiences for the LCA results.

Regarding the modelling of future forest product systems, it was found that (i) it is important to capture uncertainties related to the technologies of end-of-life processes, the location of processes and the occurrence of land use change; and (ii) the choice of method for handling multi-functionality can strongly influence results in LCAs of forest products, particularly in consequential studies and in studies of relatively small co-product flows.

Regarding the assessment of environmental impacts of particular relevance for forest products, it was found that using established climate impact assessment practices can cause LCA practitioners to miss environmental hot-spots and make erroneous conclusions about the performance of forest products vis-à-vis non-forest alternatives, particularly in studies aimed at short-term impact mitigation. Also, a new approach for inventorying water cycle alterations was developed, which made it possible to capture catchment-scale effects of forestry never captured before.

To connect the LCA results to global challenges, a procedure was proposed for translating the planetary boundaries into absolute product-scale targets for impact reduction, e.g. to be used for evaluating interventions for product improvements or for managing trade-offs between impact categories.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Chalmers University of Technology, 2015. p. 91
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola, ISSN 0346-718X ; 3844
Keywords
R&D, LCA, Life cycle assessment, wood, forest product, forestry, impact assessment, scenario modelling, end-of-life modelling, allocation, multi-functional, planetary boundaries, life cycle inventory, life cycle impact assessment, environmental assessment
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-30234 (URN)978-91-7597-163-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-04-29, KB-salen, Kemigården 4, Gothenburg, 10:25 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2017-08-08 Created: 2017-08-08 Last updated: 2018-08-17Bibliographically approved

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