Environmental impact of the EPSPEX system. Part 2: Traditional twin pipes or EPSPEX for district heat distribution - what is best from an environmental point of view?
Rapport, 2005

In this study the life-cycle environmental impacts from an EPSPEX system for distribution of district heat (a four-pipe system with centrally generated hot tap water) are compared with the environmental impacts of a twin-pipe system with steel media pipes, if installed in the same area. A life cycle assessment of the EPSPEX system constructed in Vråen, Värnamo, Sweden, has been reported in Miljöbelastning från EPSPEX-systemet. Del 1: Livscykelanalys av polystyrenisolerat fjärrvärmesystem med PEX-mediarör [1]. In that study the question was raised of how the EPSPEX system compares with a conventional twin-pipe system with polyurethane-insulated steel media pipes. In the present study the EPSPEX system in Vråen is compared with a hypothetical construction of a conventional twin pipe system in the same area. Two different fuel mixes for district heat generation have been studied to increase the understanding of the environmental performance of district heat distribution systems; the fuel mix used in Vråen (heat delivered from Värnamo Energi) and Swedish average district heat. How media pipes from the two different materials (PEX and steel) compare is discussed in a separate part. There are technical differences that must be kept in mind when the systems are compared in this way. The EPSPEX system is designed for low-pressure district heat systems and could only be used in such context. It is unadvisable to install the EPSPEX system below the ground water table; this is not a restriction for the twin pipe system. Under the conditions of this study the environmental performance of the EPSPEX system is better than the twin pipe system. The heat loss from the EPSPEX system is approximately 60% of the heat loss for a comparable twin pipe system. This is caused by a combination of thick insulation for the EPSPEX system and the possibility to summertime shut down the district heating circuit for this system and only use the hot tap-water circuit. Note, however, that the heat loss from the EPSPEX system is more uncertain compared to the twin-pipe system. From the characterization methods used, the production of the EPSPEX system gives a higher environmental impact compared to the twin pipe system. This heavily depends on the large amount of insulating material used. However, the environmental impacts from production of the insulation are more then outweighed by the emissions avoided from heat generation due to lower heat loss. District heating sub centrals generates a notable part of the total environmental impact when using the weighing method EPS2000. Note that sub centrals are not technically necessary in low-pressure district heat systems, as the EPSPEX system. The comparison between different fuel mixes for heat generation indicates clearly that the heat generation is an important parameter for environmental performance for all district heating. It is further indicated that also biofuels must be used with sensible and environmentally friendly methods. The media pipes of PEX seem to give lower environmental impacts compared with media pipes of steel. However, the results differ between assessment methods used.

District heat distrubution

suburban area

life cycle assessment


Kristin Johansson

Chalmers, Kemi- och bioteknik, Skogsindustriell kemiteknik

Anna Maria Olsson

Chalmers, Kemi- och bioteknik, Skogsindustriell kemiteknik

Morgan Fröling

Chalmers, Kemi- och bioteknik, Skogsindustriell kemiteknik



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