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Life cycle assessment in green chemistry: overview of key parameters and methodological concerns

Tufvesson, Linda LU ; Tufvesson, Par; Woodley, John M. and Börjesson, Pål LU (2013) In International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 18(2). p.431-444
Abstract
Several articles within the area of green chemistry often promote new techniques or products as 'green' or 'more environmentally benign' than their conventional counterpart although these articles often do not quantitatively assess the environmental performance. In order to do this, life cycle assessment (LCA) is a valuable methodology. However, on the planning stage, a full-scale LCA is considered to be too time consuming and complicated. Two reasons for this have been recognised, the method is too comprehensive and it is hard to find inventory data. In this review, key parameters are presented with the purpose to reduce the time-consuming steps in LCA. In this review, several LCAs of so-called 'green chemicals' are analysed and key... (More)
Several articles within the area of green chemistry often promote new techniques or products as 'green' or 'more environmentally benign' than their conventional counterpart although these articles often do not quantitatively assess the environmental performance. In order to do this, life cycle assessment (LCA) is a valuable methodology. However, on the planning stage, a full-scale LCA is considered to be too time consuming and complicated. Two reasons for this have been recognised, the method is too comprehensive and it is hard to find inventory data. In this review, key parameters are presented with the purpose to reduce the time-consuming steps in LCA. In this review, several LCAs of so-called 'green chemicals' are analysed and key parameters and methodological concerns are identified. Further, some conclusions on the environmental performance of chemicals were drawn. For fossil-based platform chemicals several LCAs exists but for chemicals produced with industrial biotechnology or from renewable resources the number of LCAs is limited, with the exception of biofuels, for which a large number of studies are made. In the review, a significant difference in the environmental performance of bulk and fine chemicals was identified. The environmental performance of bulk chemicals are closely connected to the production of the raw material and thereby different land use aspects. Here, a lot can be learnt from biofuel LCAs. In many of the reviewed articles focusing on bulk chemicals a comparison regarding fossil and renewable raw material was done. In most of the comparisons the renewable alternative turned out to be more environmentally preferable, especially for the impact on GWP and energy use. However, some environmental concerns were identified as important to include to assess overall environmental concern, for example eutrophication and the use of land. To assess the environmental performance of green chemicals, quantitative methods are needed. For this purpose, both simple metrics and more comprehensive methods have been developed, one recognised method being LCA. However, this method is often too time consuming to be valuable in the process planning stage. This is partly due to a lack of available inventory data, but also because the method itself is too comprehensive. Here, key parameters for the environmental performance and methodological concerns were described to facilitate a faster and simpler use of LCA of green chemicals in the future. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Biocatalysis, Bulk chemicals, Fine chemicals, GHG, LCA, Renewable, resources, Simplified LCA, Sustainable chemistry, Yield
in
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
volume
18
issue
2
pages
431 - 444
publisher
Ecomed Publishers
external identifiers
  • wos:000314055300014
  • scopus:84876940880
ISSN
0948-3349
DOI
10.1007/s11367-012-0500-1
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
0723b77c-3416-4089-818e-7c8cf0143f00 (old id 3590230)
date added to LUP
2013-03-19 15:49:21
date last changed
2019-01-20 04:35:08
@article{0723b77c-3416-4089-818e-7c8cf0143f00,
  abstract     = {Several articles within the area of green chemistry often promote new techniques or products as 'green' or 'more environmentally benign' than their conventional counterpart although these articles often do not quantitatively assess the environmental performance. In order to do this, life cycle assessment (LCA) is a valuable methodology. However, on the planning stage, a full-scale LCA is considered to be too time consuming and complicated. Two reasons for this have been recognised, the method is too comprehensive and it is hard to find inventory data. In this review, key parameters are presented with the purpose to reduce the time-consuming steps in LCA. In this review, several LCAs of so-called 'green chemicals' are analysed and key parameters and methodological concerns are identified. Further, some conclusions on the environmental performance of chemicals were drawn. For fossil-based platform chemicals several LCAs exists but for chemicals produced with industrial biotechnology or from renewable resources the number of LCAs is limited, with the exception of biofuels, for which a large number of studies are made. In the review, a significant difference in the environmental performance of bulk and fine chemicals was identified. The environmental performance of bulk chemicals are closely connected to the production of the raw material and thereby different land use aspects. Here, a lot can be learnt from biofuel LCAs. In many of the reviewed articles focusing on bulk chemicals a comparison regarding fossil and renewable raw material was done. In most of the comparisons the renewable alternative turned out to be more environmentally preferable, especially for the impact on GWP and energy use. However, some environmental concerns were identified as important to include to assess overall environmental concern, for example eutrophication and the use of land. To assess the environmental performance of green chemicals, quantitative methods are needed. For this purpose, both simple metrics and more comprehensive methods have been developed, one recognised method being LCA. However, this method is often too time consuming to be valuable in the process planning stage. This is partly due to a lack of available inventory data, but also because the method itself is too comprehensive. Here, key parameters for the environmental performance and methodological concerns were described to facilitate a faster and simpler use of LCA of green chemicals in the future.},
  author       = {Tufvesson, Linda and Tufvesson, Par and Woodley, John M. and Börjesson, Pål},
  issn         = {0948-3349},
  keyword      = {Biocatalysis,Bulk chemicals,Fine chemicals,GHG,LCA,Renewable,resources,Simplified LCA,Sustainable chemistry,Yield},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {431--444},
  publisher    = {Ecomed Publishers},
  series       = {International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment},
  title        = {Life cycle assessment in green chemistry: overview of key parameters and methodological concerns},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0500-1},
  volume       = {18},
  year         = {2013},
}