Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool for achieving sustainability. Traditional LCAs analyze well defined and developed industrial systems, but recent developments of LCA focus on analyzing emerging technologies which are not yet optimized with respect to energy and materials. Therefore, LCA results of ex-ante applications can be very different from ex-post applications for the same system. The purpose of this study is to show the different effects of data scales on LCA results regarding global warming, fine particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification and freshwater eutrophication potentials. For this purpose torrefaction technology was selected as the case study and assessed based on bench scale data, lab scale data, data derived from process simulations, pilot scale data and commercial scale data. Considered environmental impacts were global warming, fine particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification and freshwater eutrophication. Results showed that process efficiencies improved significantly between the bench scale system and systems with higher technology readiness levels (TRLs), such as pilot, process simulations and commercial scale systems. Furthermore, process simulations result in scores closer to commercial scale regarding all considered environmental impacts. However, if LCA practitioners focus only on global warming impact, then pilot scale is also a good alternative. Finally, due to torrefaction technology being relatively simple in terms of raw materials input, we suggest more complex chemical systems to be assessed with LCA in various TRLs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is part of the activities carried out in the framework of the H2020 European project ?Zero Brine? ? project no. 730390. The authors thank the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments which resulted in improving the clarity and impact of the manuscript.
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- Ex post LCA
- Ex-ante LCA
- Global warming
- Technology readiness level