Chemicals: LCM in the Chemical Sector
Time: Wednesday, 31/Aug/2011: 11:15am - 12:30pm
Session Chair: Erwin Ostermann
Session Chair: Carina Maria Alles
Location: Room 3
1st floor


Life cycle sustainability based innovation: Tools for an integrated approach

David Anthony Russell

The Dow Chemical Company, Switzerland

Embedding the concept of sustainability into a company’s culture is immensely challenging, but is likely to be critical to the long term viability of science and technology companies that rely on successful innovation to remain competitive. Moving to a more sustainable society can be expected to provide plenty of commercially viable business opportunities for forward thinking organisations and the combination of life cycle thinking with the enabling science of chemistry will be essential to successfully address world challenges such as the strain on resources caused by population growth and changing demographics.

Dow Chemical has been developing strategies and tools around holistic thinking for more than 20 years and since 2005 has used the concept of sustainable chemistry to deepen and broaden sustainability knowledge throughout the company with the intention of developing a culture that fosters sustainability based innovation.

This talk will describe the current integrated approach being taken to embed sustainability into the Dow company culture and will review tools that have proved useful. In particular, a methodology to broaden sustainability knowledge and encourage life cycle thinking among innovators new to this area while providing insight into the sustainability of new product development will be described.

Carbon Footprint estimation - A model for the evaluation of potential climate change impacts of new product ideas in early project stages

Guido Vornholt

Evonik Degussa GmbH, Germany

Products with less climate impact may offer good prospects of opening new markets, but the acceptability of innovations and research projects in respect to reduced global warming impacts is often questioned. For early decision-making in innovation management processes not only the evaluation of profitability and practicability is essential, but also the estimation of future global warming potentials (GWP) or CO2e savings. However, due to a lack of reliable information in early stages of R&D-projects, there are often no Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) given. For that reason Evonik has developed the Carbon Footprint Estimation (CFE) model as a method for evaluation of research ideas in terms of CO2e emissions. The CFE model is a standardized method for the quantification of potential CO2e impacts and savings in the use phase of product systems in early project stages.

Common reasons for incomplete or incorrect calculation of CO2e emissions in early project stages are data incompleteness, poor data quality and the choice of non-established calculation approaches for CO2e emissions or savings. These risks are minimized by a CFE application process, which is structured into 4 parts – from “CFE team instruction” to “CFE supervision”.

The methodology of the CFE model is similar to an existing LCA process, but focuses on greenhouse gases and the impact category GWP. Compared to a full LCA a CFE is less extensive and can therefore be conducted in less time. Although it cannot replace a full LCA, a CFE gives a review of different projects and their climate acceptability in early project stages. A CFE might have a larger margin of error than a full LCA, although it has been performed with high accuracy. These errors are tried to be estimated in three different error categories as well as in sensitivity analyses of assumptions. The model has been tested within the innovation process of Evoniks Science-to-Business Center Eco².

The CFE model supports decision-making processes regarding future extensive LCAs in the Chemical business area of Evonik and can be used as a reference method for the quantification of future CO2e impacts in R&D departments of Evonik. The standardized CFE model guarantees common proceedings, completeness and comparability of the CO2e impact estimations performed in Evonik.

Environmental impacts of ethanol from a Norwegian wood-based biorefinery

Ingunn Saur Modahl1, Bjørn Ivar Vold1, Tuva Barnholt2, Gudbrand Rødsrud2

1Ostfold Research, Norway; 2Borregaard, Norway

Borregaard owns and operates the world's most advanced biorefinery, and has a long history in producing biochemicals, biomaterials and bioethanol from renewable sources. The hemicellulose from Scandinavian spruce has been the raw material since the start in 1938.

To be able to improve the products environmentally and to document the environmental properties, LCA’s and EPD’s of Borregaard’s main products have been made. This paper describes the results and conclusions from the analysis of ethanol from Borregaard, which is used both in the production of pharmaceuticals, in chemical and technical applications (ethanol 99%), as well as bio fuel (ethanol 96%).

The study has been carried out using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology based on the ISO-standards 14044/48. The functional unit has been 1 m3 ethanol. A complex process model has been made to perform the analysis; internally at Borregaard’s premises there are many factories and process plants, and the raw materials are processed in several installations before they end up as finalised products. All products are based on the same raw materials (timber and wood chips) and are mutually dependent on each other due to use of internal co-products and energy in the internal loops. The processes are hence very closely linked. The environmental impact indicators global warming, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical oxidation, ozone layer depletion, cumulative energy demand and waste have been used in the analysis.

The results show that the global warming potential is 324 kg CO2-eqv./m3 for ethanol 96% and 666 kg CO2-eqv./m3 for ethanol 99%.

Which life cycle phase is most significant varies depending on what impact category is in focus. Energy (production and/or use) is important for most of the environmental impact categories, but the eutrophication potential stands out because other internal processes than combustion (mainly emissions of COD) contributes with as much as 80% - 86% of the total burden.

Borregaard’s infrastructure (buildings, tanks, containers and foundation) and transport to customer is not significant (contribute less than 2 %).

Reducing the energy use at Borregaard will to a large extent affect all the impact categories in a positive way, with the eutrophication potential being the only exception as an impact category less closely correlated to energy use. Generation and use of energy are the sources for most of the burdens along the value chain of ethanol from Borregaard.

Operational LCA guidance for hydrogen production: Methodological approach and first results

Aleksandar Lozanovski1, Michael Held1, Michael Faltenbacher2, Oliver Schuller2, Paolo Masoni3, Angelo Moreno3

1Universität Stuttgart, Germany; 2PE International AG, Germany; 3ENEA - Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Italy

The main critics addressed to LCA are the lack of robustness affecting the comparability among different studies on the same product, and the complexity of the method, which restrains its applicability in the industrial context. The subjectivity linked to some methodological choices (e.g. allocation, system boundary definition, modelling, etc.), together with a general inhomogeneity of LCI databases are the main critical aspects. It is claimed at many voices, not only in the LCA community that companies need tailor-made provisions, rules and data, which support a life cycle assessment in the sector of interest.

The Institute for Environment and Sustainability, through the European Platform on LCA, has recently published the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook to satisfy this need. The ILCD handbook offers a step-by-step guidance for LCA practitioner. However it is generally applicable to different decision-contexts and sectors and thus needs to be transferred to derive product-specific criteria and guidelines to facilitate LCA application in the different industry sectors.

Therefore a specific operational guidance document on hydrogen production is presented in this paper. The approach taken for “translating the general ILCD-Handbook into a tailor-made specific guidance document” is introduced and first results are shown. The guidance allows the individual technology developer to assess its own technology and to make the information available in the ILCD Data Network, as to increase the availability of data and to support future LCA studies in this field. This work, together with the development of similar rules for fuel cells, is carried out in the framework of the FC-HyGuide project with 11 partners. It is funded by the Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint undertaking of the European Commission.

First a literature review has been performed on LCAs of hydrogen production to identify the most crucial steps of the process, from the environmental point of view, and the key methodological aspects (cut-off rules, definition of functional unit, handling of multifunctional processes, etc.). The approach is developed for the complete category of hydrogen production, with focus on four main technologies: steam reforming, catalytic reforming (refining), partial oxidation and electrolysis.

Using this information the ILCD Handbook is translated into guidance to LCA of hydrogen production. These rules, similar to the product categories defined in the ISO 14025, will enable a high degree of reproducibility and sufficient comparability of the results for competing products, increasing the robustness of LCA applications.

LCM in chemical industry: Best available pathways of quantifiable steps towards sustainability

Martin Baitz1, Anna Braune1, Johannes Partl2, Niels Warburg1

1PE International, Germany; 2PE CEE Nachhaltigkeitsberatung & Software Vertriebs GmbH

The chemical industry is a key player towards sustainable production and products due to two reasons: It uses quite substantial amounts of energy and resources to produce its products and its resulting chemical products help to save energy in many suitable applications. Most humans assume that the chemical industry is consuming (even wasting) a lot of energy and is causing environmental problems. The existing energy and environmental benefit of chemical products, is often unknown in public and the chemical industry often hardly tries to quantify it in a reliable way. The chemical industry has different options with case specific varying relevance to improve and quantify the environmental and fossil energy performance of its products:

1. Reduction of energy demand due to energy efficiency measures like optimized catalysts, energy recovery measures, closed circuit technologies, by-product use and off-heat recovery measures

2. Implementation of alternative or renewable energy sources (new technologies, contracts with renewable electricity suppliers, own biomass power plants)

3. Switch to alternative or non-fossil resources as feedstock for the chemical products (like crop based ethanol as source to produce ethylene)

4. Improve the quality/property of the chemical products and resulting parts that those can save more secondary energy and CO2 in their respective (mobile or energy consuming) applications than initially consumed.

5. Improve the EOL of chemical products by adequate secondary uses

But which is the best ? From a life cycle view different improvement approaches can be chosen. We discuss and show different approaches to identify the most promising pathway according to the specific situation. If randomly a path is chosen, without indications about its relevance in the specific case, a lot of effort may end up in irrelevant measures. The environment would be irrelevantly improved, but economic and social implications maybe badly takled.

The society needs advanced chemicals on the pathway towards more sustainability. The pathways must be identified and followed individually. Chemical industry should not waste effort and money to bet on the wrong horse and must find its individual best way or the best compromise; based on reliable and quantifiable facts. The presentation aims to act as a roadmap towards best available pathways of individual companies.