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Stefan Gößling-Reisemann (2008)

Combining LCA with thermodynamics

Information Technologies in Environmental Engineering, 1:19-22.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the most promising methodology to assess environmental impacts of products, services and processes. Its scope of application is constantly evolving, including e.g. application to regional scales and assessing societal consumption patterns. Apart from considering environmental impacts, extensions to the methodology including social and economic impacts are currently being discussed. One of those impacts is resource consumption. It has been argued that the methods for assessing resource consumption in LCA must come from thermodynamics, and must take account of the second law of thermodynamics (entropy law). The challenge arising from this, especially in respect to its application and software implementation, is the increase in data requirements. While already being a data intensive methodology, including a thermodynamic measure for resource consumption in LCA will increase the data that needs to be handled significantly. This can only be managed by employing thermodynamic data bases and combining these with dedicated LCA software. I will present an approach that makes use of the scriptability of a commercial LCA software (Umberto®) and combines LCA data with thermodynamic data where values are stored in a parameterised form. The script then calculates the thermodynamically defined resource consumption and makes it available to the visualisation and analysis tools in the LCA software. Processes from the metallurgical sector serve as an illustrative case study.

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