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Time and scale in Life Cycle Assessment: the case of fuel choice in the transport sector
Institutionen för energi och miljö, Miljösystemanalys.
Institutionen för energi och miljö, Miljösystemanalys.
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Alternative Propulsion, ISSN 1471-0234, E-ISSN 1741-8011, Vol. 2, no 1, 1-12 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA, including Well-to-Wheel studies) that are to support decisions that strive to change large technical systems need to consider time and scale related factors, which are given little attention in standard LCA procedures. Here, we address three issues and provide examples from the case of alternative fuels. First, shifting time frame gives room for technical development that should affect not only the choice of performance data, but perhaps also the functional unit and the selection of technologies under study. Secondly, background systems, such as heat and power production, change over time and increased production volumes of the alternative fuel change the transport system that is used to produce transport fuel. We show that such changes have consequences not only for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from each fuel-chain, but also for the ranking order of, e.g. Rapeseed Methyl Esther (RME) and ethanol in terms of GHG emissions. Finally, different types of feedstock are available in different quantities and different by-product markets vary in size. Key markets for RME by-products in EU correspond to an RME production that covers about 3% of transport fuel demand. Consequently, GHG emissions that are allocated to the fuel should change with the scale of adoption

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 2, no 1, 1-12 p.
Keyword [en]
biofuels, ethanol; Life Cycle Assessment; LCA; Rapeseed Methyl Esther; RME
National Category
Energy Engineering Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25663DOI: 10.1504/IJAP.2008.019689OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-25663DiVA: diva2:1161189
Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Environmental Assessment and Strategic Technology Choice: The Case of Renewable Transport Fuels
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental Assessment and Strategic Technology Choice: The Case of Renewable Transport Fuels
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The scale of the required changes is huge, and time is limited if we are to avoid the most severe effects of climate change. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport, several fuels and electricity originating from renewable energy sources have been proposed, all of them in different stages of development and with various and shifting environmental impacts. This thesis aims at increasing the usefulness of environmental assessments of emerging technologies as a basis for strategic technology choice. Recommendations for the design and interpretation of such assessments are presented, with a special focus on life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. A long time perspective, the possibility of system change, and the inclusion of socio–technical change processes allows for the revision of methodological assumptions normally made in LCA of current products. To guide the selection of technologies, there is need for assessment both of technology and of interventions. For the assessment of technology, an attributional approach is applied. Paper I discusses and tests the feasible futures and future performance to be considered in attributional LCAs. The results indicate that the environmental impact attributable to a number of selected fuels, as well as the ranking of them, largely depend on assumptions regarding background systems and by-product use. For the assessment of interventions, a consequential approach is applied. Extensive studies of socio–technical change processes contribute insight into relevant cause–effect chains that can be included in environmental assessments of emerging technologies. A comparison between the Swedish and the Dutch innovation systems for renewable fuels reveals the unfolding of dynamics influenced by shared background factors (Paper II). An investigation of the Swedish history of alternative fuels is used in developing a framework for analysing interaction between emerging technological systems (Paper III). Insights into socio–technical change processes are then used to elaborate scenarios for the future development of renewable fuels in Sweden resulting from current policy choices (Paper IV). In a final paper (Paper V), historical and future cause–effect chains are taken into account in a consequential LCA of ethanol of varying origins in Sweden for the 1990–2020 period. It is concluded that for emerging technologies in an early stage of development, the contribution of an intervention to system change may be more important than the direct change in environmental impact. Finally, it is suggested that all aspects of socio–technical change and the resulting environmental impact may not have to be included in quantitative environmental assessments, such as LCA. ‘Environmental assessment’ could very well include a group of parallel studies that illuminate different cause–effect chains resulting in changed environmental impact, and that are part of a society-wide learning process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Chalmers University of Technology, 2008. 88 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola, ISSN 0346-718X ; 2876
Keyword
environmental assessment, life cycle assessment (LCA), socio-technical change, strategic technology choice, renewable fuels
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-25660 (URN)978-91-7385-195-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-11-21, HC3, Gothenburg, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Paper III och V var i manuskript-form vid avhandlingens publicerande.

Available from: 2017-11-29 Created: 2017-11-29 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved

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