LIFE Research Area

Climate-neutral Production and Life Cycle Analyses

Climate change, complying with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, and the European Commission's "Green Deal", all pose significant challenges for the Austrian economy.

    The steel industry is an important partner in the fight against GHG emissions. Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/Prettenthaler

    The energy and industrial sectors now face the challenge of reducing  the approximately 37 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, produced in 2017, to net-zero emissions by 2040. This goal, also referred to as "climate-neutral production", requires fundamental conversion of production processes and energy sources in all industrial sectors.

    The focus of our research activities is thus on:

    • the development and assessment of transformation pathways in companies and production processes, based on climate accounting with respect to current processes and sources of greenhouse gas emissions in product life cycles
    • the identification, analysis and evaluation of key technologies and measures, and
    • the ecological, social and economic evaluation of measures on the path towards climate neutrality.

    ISO-Compatible Life Cycle Analyses

    As part of life cycle analysis - also known as life cycle assessment (LCA) - we study the environmental aspects of a product's life cycle "from the cradle to the grave", i.e., from the extraction of raw materials, through manufacturing, distribution, use, and waste treatment, up to the product's final disposal - (Environmental Management Life Cycle Assessment EN ISO 14040:2006)

    Examples of environmental impacts may include:

    • greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint),
    • acidification potential,
    • ground-level ozone formation,
    • dust emissions,
    • energy demand (energy footprint),
    • water footprint,
    • material and land requirements (land footprint).

    Why are life cycle analyses useful for companies?

     

    The results of life cycle assessments

    • provide scientifically-based information on the carbon footprint and the further environmental impacts of a product or service,
    • identify the stages of a product's life cycle that have the greatest environmental impact,
    • support the determination of the most efficient improvement measures,
    • improve the image of a company, product, service or region,
    • are the baseline for measures designed to support climate neutrality, eco-labels, carbon footprints, sustainability reports, environmental declarations, and corresponding environmental certification.

    Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH

    Climate Footprints of Companies and Products

    The path towards climate-neutral companies and production starts with the GHG balance of today's supply, and the identification of today's main GHG emission sources and policy areas.

    The LIFE Institute has many years of scientifically-based experience and expertise in the development of climate assessments. Within the framework of national and international research projects, we continuously develop the requisite methods and data needed for applying suitable products and services at both the company and regional level. This value-added expertise is appreciated by our very diverse range of clients, e.g. biofuel producers, transport service providers, industrial companies, the food industry, logistics companies, commercial enterprises and even communities and regions.

    We offer the following tried and tested service modules to support step-by-step implementation and to enable a deeper level of analysis:

    • Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions or carbon footprint
    • Analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, together with evaluation based on key indicators
    • Development and evaluation of measures to reduce environmental impacts
    • Cost-benefit analysis of measures
    • Detailed life cycle assessment to determine air pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, energy demand, land and water use
    • Annual update and evaluation of measures implemented
    • Computational modelling allowing clients to assess environmental impacts independently (incl. employee training)

      Climate-neutral Production - Development of Measures and Evaluation

      From a physical point of view, the term climate-neutral production is used to describe a situation in which no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by production, or a situation in which unavoidable GHG emissions are "neutralised" by their absorption in so-called sinks. Sinks can be natural carbon reservoirs (e.g. forests), or technical reservoirs (carbon capture and storage, CCS).

      Climate-neutral production needs to be viewed more as an ultimate objective in a process of transformation, rather than as a state that can be achieved today.

      LIFE guides companies along this transformation path:

      • The path starts with the GHG balance of today's production and the identification and analysis of the substantial, current GHG emission sources and policy areas. This analysis includes all company activities from production, energy supply, material procurement, operational mobility and logistics, up to and including the company premises themselves.
      • The next step is the analysis, evaluation and planning of short-, medium- and long-term measures to avoid or reduce company GHG emissions. We assist clients in the identification of technological alternatives and in the evaluation and prioritisation of measures with respect to emission reduction, costs and complexity of implementation.
      • We also help clients assess possibilities of offsetting unavoidable emissions and provide  independent advice on certification standards, calculation methods and climate effectiveness.

      For an overview of the individual steps and possible measures companies may take on the path towards climate neutrality, see the 'Green Tech Radar'. This was developed by the LIFE Institute on behalf of the Green Tech Cluster

      Social Life Cycle Analysis

      As companies are being called on to exercise greater social responsibility, the analysis of the social impacts of raw material extraction, production, use and disposal of products and services is becoming increasingly important. This area is also the subject of increasing focus by consumers.

      Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) provides the possibility to assess various social aspects (negative as well as positive) along an entire product life cycle. This complements the economic (LCC) and ecological (LCA) assessment of products and services and results in an integrative approach in the form of a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), in which all dimensions of sustainability are considered.

      Life Cycle Analyses of Transport Systems and Mobility Services

      Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is becoming increasingly important in the transport sector. In this area, the focus is in particular on the drive technologies in the automotive sector. Besides the comparison of drive types with different fuels (petrol, diesel, eFuel), LCA analyses and evaluations of electromobility with the different chemistries and manufacturing processes have increasingly become the focus of research.

      Green Deal and Circular Economy

      The EU's goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is a fundamental element in the European Green Deal. The European Climate Change Act, agreed by EU member states and the European Parliament at the end of April 2021, commits the EU to achieving this target, as well as to achieving the interim target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% (compared to 1990) by 2030.

      One concept of central importance in the move towards greater environmental protection and conservation of resources, is that of the 'circular economy'. Consequently, the circular economy is a main element in the European "Green Deal".

      Successful pursuit of a circular economy requires continuous assessment of the resources and technologies used throughout the entire product life cycle. Here, LIFE supports companies in identifying appropriate measures and helps them assess in detail the ecological, social and economic impact of their activities in terms of the circular economy.

      Analysis of Global Value-added Chains

      Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/Kulmer, Source of data: WIOD 2012, JOANNEUM RESEARCH

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      Detailed information on emissions in the global value-added chain

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