Regionalized life cycle assessment: computational methodology and application to inventory databases.

Environmental science & technology

PubMedID: 19731679

Mutel CL, Hellweg S. Regionalized life cycle assessment: computational methodology and application to inventory databases. Environ Sci Technol. 2009;43(15):5797-803.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have shown that site-dependent impact assessment for categories like acidification and eutrophication give more accurate and realistic results than site-generic assessments. To date, existing geography-specific, or regionalized, impact assessment factors have not been applied to LCA databases and software tools. We describe a simple, generic methodology to couple existing regionalized characterization factors with large life cycle inventory databases. This approach allows for detailed geographic life cycle impact assessment results. Case-study results for European country-specific electricity mixes are calculated using the Ecoinvent 2.01 database and the EDIP 2003 and Accumulated Exceedance impact assessment methods and CASES project external energy cost characterization factors. In most cases, regionalization shows different total scores, different processes of high importance, and varying geographic distributions of environmental impacts. As the methodology requires no additional input other than the geographic information already in existing LCA databases, it can be used routinely. Better and more consistent geographic information in life cycle inventory databases and impact assessment methods, tailored to the specific spatial range of all environmental effects considered, would be beneficial.