Cross-correlation between impact categories in LCAs of forest biomass-based products
Conference poster, 2017
The transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy requires the development of novel technologies that enable the replacement of the current fossil-based energy carriers, chemicals and materials with their bio-based counterparts. These novel technologies need to be economically feasible and guarantee a low environmental impact due to the production of these bio-based products. This requires careful assessment of these technologies and products, and life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to evaluate their environmental impacts.
There is however a plethora of different technologies currently available or in development to process biomass of different origins (e.g. forest, agriculture, organic waste), and the number of fossil-based products that can potentially be replaced is very large. There is thus a need to screen multiple biomass-to-product technology combinations at a relatively quick pace in order to identify promising alternatives. The screening can be expedited by streamlining LCA, and life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) is one step in the LCA methodology that can be simplified by considering a select number of relevant impact categories.
This paper will present results of a meta-study based on a selection of peer-reviewed LCAs of products made from forest biomass, including biofuels, bio-based chemicals and bio-based materials. The goals of this study are 1) to analyse which life cycle impact categories are used in assessments of forest biomass-based products; 2) to establish the degree of cross-correlation between the impact categories used in the selected studies; and 3) to make a recommendation regarding the streamlining of the life cycle impact assessment during LCAs of forest biomass-based products using the cross-correlation analysis. The results of the cross-correlation analysis serve as a basis for the selection of impact categories that should be included in LCAs of forest biomass-based products. The discussion focuses on the comparability of the LCAs included in the meta-study, on the robustness of the obtained results, and on the influence the streamlining of the LCIA may have on the other methodological steps in LCAs of forest biomass-based products.