Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a compilation and evaluation of the inputs and outputs and the current or potential environmental impacts (e.g., use of resources and the environmental consequences of releases) throughout a product’s or project’s life cycle—from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling, and final disposal (i.e., “cradle to grave”).
In general, LCA can assist in:
- Identifying opportunities to improve the environmental performance at various points in a projects life cycle;
- Informing decision makers in industry, government, or nongovernmental organizations (e.g., for the purposes of strategic planning, priority setting, and process design or redesign);
- Selecting relevant indicators of environmental performance, including measurement techniques.
LCA then is a key tool for improving resource efficiency—it allows companies and other stakeholders to identify “hotspots” along the project life cycle, as well as potential risks and opportunities for improvements.
General limitations and concerns with the current footprint analysis and LCA approaches used by practitioners are listed below:
- Practitioners lack appropriate training for the correct use and interpretation of results provided by tools.
- Comparison of alternatives on the basis of a similar function is not typically addressed.
- Practitioners begin with a preferred tool and populate the required input fields without first establishing the scope and goals of the study. As a result, the tool indirectly defines the study goal and scope, which can result in a limited understanding of the impacts for the project being evaluated.
- The goal and scope of the study are not clearly defined, leading to confusion as to what the results represent.
- The boundaries of the study are not clearly defined. In some cases, the boundaries are defined by the tool and the associated data used to estimate impacts. Often, the practitioner using the tool is unaware of the boundaries the data represent. In other cases, practitioners are using data from different sources and unknowingly mixing data sets with different boundaries or data quality.
- The sensitivity to important parameters is not evaluated to determine their effect on results. For example, the results of a study can be driven by one project element, which itself may be represented by data of low confidence.
- The results of the study are simply referenced without interpretation of their meaning, relevance, and importance for decision making.
- Documentation of the study lacks transparency, which raises questions regarding the assumptions and data inputs used.
These limitations and concerns can be attributed to, in part, the lack of a commonly accepted and implemented approach to conducting footprint analyses.
LCA Tools and Process Simulation
Throughout the past several years, some practitioners have raised the prospect of using commercial LCA tools (e.g., SimaPro® and GaBi®), comprehensive databases (e.g., Ecoinvent®), and the recognized standards for LCA (ISO, 2006a, 2006b) to conduct assessments.
A process flow diagram (PFD) is a diagram commonly used in chemical and process engineering to indicate the general flow of plant processes and equipment. The PFD displays the relationship between major equipment of a plant facility and does not show minor details such as piping details and designations. Another commonly used term for a PFD is a flowsheet.
A process simulator is used to design and optimize a process using technical, economic and environmental criteria. A flowsheet contains all the substances (components) and the energy balance of the process.
CHEMCAD is used by approximately 1.000 companies and academic institutions world-wide for process simulation in the chemical, pharmaceutical and life science industries.
The CHEMCAD software enables the interactive creation of flowsheets, the simulation of all essential processes including control processes and the graphical representation of the results. It is characterized by an extensive property database, numerous thermodynamic models and open interfaces to MS-Excel, VBA, C++ and .NET.
CHEMCAD does not contain functionality to calculate or optimize the CO2 footprint of a process.
The Project Idea
Develop an approach to conducting footprint analyses based on CHEMCAD flowsheets.
Design and launch a CO2 footprint report based on ecoinvent – the world’s most consistent & transparent life cycle inventory database.
Start the activities with a master thesis.
Christian to fill in some requirements a) scientific (master thesis!) and b) practical/ output oriented about what actually IS the CO2 footprint report.
Based on the master thesis, develop a product for CHEMCAD users, enhancing the functionality of CHEMCAD.
Your Role and Tasks
- Conceptualize the CO2 footprint report
- Become the product owner and define the requirements (i.e. the functionality and the rough -and maybe the graphic?- design) of the report
- Lead the implementation
- Fill a WordPress landing page with convincing content, write blog posts, maybe contribute to a conference, etc.
- Student in XYZ at ETH Zurich.
- Good understanding of LCA
- Basic understanding of process simulation and willingness to learn more about it.
- Entrepreneurial spirit, interested to set up your own business – self-starter, highly motivated, results-driven
- Basic C# programming skills and motivation to learn C# would be a great plus, but are not a requirement
- Support in the implementation of the project
- Option to manage and develop the CO2 footprint report in the long-term
- Revenue share from sales of the report to CHEMCAD users
- Free CHEMCAD license and training
- Access to Chemstations, Chemstations’ customers and Ecoinvent
- Support by the ETH Entrepreneur Club
- Recognition in the CHEMCAD community
Write an email to Armin, tell us about your background and convince us that you are the best to develop this project.