Integrated Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (ILCSA)

Motivation

When a new technology or product is coming up, decision makers often do not know whether or under which conditions they should support its implementation or production, respectively. This is a classical decision situation that benefits from ex-ante decision support based on sustainability assessment. Main addressees are often politicians as they are appointed to serve long-term public well-being. Additionally, sustainability assessment becomes increasingly important for companies. They have to decide about high investments and thus need long-term business perspectives, which are more and more influenced by sustainability-related legislation and public perception. Therefore, it is vital to know about impacts on sustainability and potential pitfalls.

 

Methodology

Life cycle based assessment methodologies such as the (environmental) life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC) and social life cycle assessment (sLCA) are valuable tools for decision support that analyse the impacts of whole product life cycles on individual aspects of sustainability. However, the more aspects are analysed the more difficult it becomes to derive coherent conclusions and concrete recommendations. Integrated life cycle sustainability assessment (ILCSA) builds on these methodologies and provides a practical approach to integrate them. It harmonises the parallel assessment of individual sustainability aspects by introducing common definitions, settings and system models. It is flexible and open to the assessment of any aspect that is relevant to sustainability by any suitable methodology including but not limited to LCA, LCC and sLCA. Furthermore, ILCSA analyses potential barriers that could lead to unintended side effects when attempting to implement scenarios that have been found to be sustainable in the first place (example: limited biomass availability may push operators of an otherwise sustainable conversion plant to using unsustainable sources). Finally, the results are integrated in a structured discussion that does not require debatable weighting factors. This way, synergies and conflicts regarding several sustainability goals are highlighted and can be managed instead of hiding the existent complexity of the systems under investigation.

 

Experience in practical application

ILCSA has been and is being successfully applied as accompanying research in many large technology development projects. The range of integrated assessment methodologies and impacts so far includes regional and global environmental impacts (by LCA), local environmental impacts (by LC-EIA), resource availability (by biomass potential analysis), economic impacts (by LCC), market potentials, technological risks and maturity (by technological assessment), social aspects (by sLCA and social impact assessment, SIA) and legal aspects. For examples please refer to the integrated sustainability assessment reports of the projects below

Publication on methodology

H. Keller, N. Rettenmaier, G.A. Reinhardt:

Integrated life cycle sustainability assessment – A practical approach applied to biorefineries. Appl Energy (2015). Accepted manuscript available.

Contact

Heiko Keller

PhD, Dipl. Biochemiker (graduate in biochemistry)
+49 (0)6221 4767 777
heiko.keller@ifeu.de

Guido Reinhardt

PhD Mathematician, Chemist, Biologist
Scientific Director
+49 (0)6221 4767 31
guido.reinhardt@ifeu.de

Projects

BioMates

Reliable Bio-based Refinery Intermediates

The four-year project aims at manufacturing intermediate products made from wood-like or stalk-like non-food biomass, e.g. from agricultural residues and perennial grasses, which are suitable for…

COSMOS

COSMOS aims at reducing the dependence on imported coconut and palm kernel oils and fatty acids and on castor oil as sources for medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, C10–C14) and medium-chain polymer…

SUPRABIO

The SUPRABIO project researched, developed and demonstrated a toolkit of novel generic processes that can be applied to a range of biorefinery concepts.

PUFAChain

The Value Chain from Microalgae to PUFAs: technological, environmental and integrated sustainability assessments

The research project "The Value Chain from Microalgae to PUFA" (PUFAChain) aims at creating a profound scientific and technological basis for the industrial production of high-value products from…

D-FACTORY: The Micro-Algae Biorefinery

The research project "The Micro-Algae Biorefinery (D-FACTORY)" aims at developing a concept for a microalgae biorefinery that is used for the sustainable production of Dunaliella algae and its…

BIOLYFE

The BIOLYFE project improved critical process steps and demonstrated the whole supply chain, from feedstock sourcing via fuel production to product utilisation.

OPTIMA

The project, coordinated by the University of Catania, focused on the Mediterranean region where marginal lands are usually characterised by poor water availability.

Wissenschaftliche Studie

BIOCORE

The project focused on the production of a wide range of products from non-food biomass feedstocks using an innovative Organosolv technology.