LCA in the ALCHIMIA project
Fabio Claps, SSSA
The awareness regarding environment protection and the possible impacts of goods production is continuously increasing, as the interest towards techniques and methods to evaluate and reduce these impacts.
ALCHIMIA project set ambitious goals in terms of reduced environmental impact. But how is it possible to measure the potential environmental benefits obtained thanks to ALCHIMIA implementation? Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology will allow the evaluation. In this blog post, we will delve into what LCA methodology is and where ALCHIMIA currently stands in the LCA analysis process.
LCA methodology and its phases
LCA is a structured methodology for assessing the environmental burdens of a product, process or activity along its life cycle, through the identification and quantification of the energy and materials used and waste released into the environment. This encompasses everything from raw material extraction to manufacturing, transportation, use, and eventual disposal or recycling.
LCA is covered by the international norms ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006. These ISO standards provide a solid foundation for conducting rigorous and standardized LCA studies, helping organizations and researchers to assess the environmental impacts of products, processes, and projects in a systematic and consistent manner.
ISO 14040-44:2006 standards describe four steps of an LCA:
- Goal and Scope Definition: This initial phase defines the objectives and boundaries of the assessment, outlining what aspects of the life cycle will be analyzed and what environmental indicators will be measured.
- Life Cycle Inventory: In this phase, data is collected on all inputs and outputs associated with the product, process, or project, including energy consumption, emissions, and resource use. It represents the core of the LCA and consists in creating an inventory of flows from and to nature for a product system.
- Impact Assessment: consists in understanding and quantifying the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impacts of a product. Input and output flows from the system are associated with specific impact categories referable to known environmental effects, among whom: Global warming potential, Ozone depletion, Eutrophication, Land use and Resource use.
- Interpretation: consists in identifying the data elements that contribute significantly to each impact category, evaluating the sensitivity of these elements, assessing the completeness and consistency of the study, and drawing conclusions and recommendations.
Application of LCA Analysis in ALCHIMIA Project
One goal of ALCHIMIA consists in the application of LCA to quantify the potential environmental impacts of the systems and the improvements achieved in the target industrial use-cases.
In the first part of the project, goal and scope definition took place: the functional unit (1 t of product), system boundaries (cradle to gate i.e. from raw materials extraction to the gate of the factory) and the impact assessment method (EF 3.1) were determined.
Since CELSA melt shops and Fonderia di Torbole foundry produce, respectively, a range of steel grades and a range of brake discs and drums, it was decided to cluster them in product families and assess the environmental impacts for each of these families. Therefore, a baseline will be built for each product family, allowing subsequent analyses.
The project is currently dealing with a challenging step: life cycle inventory. Concerning data collection, it is critical to collect as much data as possible, without excluding processes or flows that could significantly contribute to the overall impact.
Afterwards, product system modelling and life cycle impact assessment will take place. The results of the baselines impact assessments will be used for the construction of the LCA Framework and subsequently integrated into the optimizer objective function. By doing this, ALCHIMIA will pursue not only cost efficiency, but also environmental impact reduction.
In conclusion, although LCA is a well-established methodology, its application within ALCHIMIA presents innovative elements. These innovations encompass the dynamic approach that will define the LCA framework and the combination of cost efficiency with environmental impact reduction. The innovative application of LCA that will be developed during ALCHIMIA project could potentially find applications in various industries and prove useful for many production processes.