Life Cycle Assessment, Economic Analysis and System Optimisation

The increased awareness of the importance of environmental impacts associated with products has led to the development of methods to better understand these impacts. One technique that has been developed for this purpose is life cycle assessment (LCA).

LCA is a systematic approach to identifying, measuring, documenting and interpreting the environmental consequences of a product. There are standards that define the principles and framework for LCA, and assist in the creation of a LCA which follows a blueprint that others can use to understand the findings. There are also standards which specify different methodologies for certain products such as fuels which have to follow a “well to wheel” approach.

LCA can look at the entire life cycle of a product from raw material extraction through to end of life disposal, and all of the stages in between including transportation. This type of LCA gives the most complete analysis, and considers the environmental implications of the whole supply-chain of products, both goods and services, their use, and waste management, from “cradle to grave”.

However it may not be desirable or possible to conduct an entire LCA, in which case a partial LCA will be done which focuses on a section or sections of the life cycle. Partial LCA can be extremely useful for industrial applications where the company may only have control over one section of the life cycle of the product, or where a company would like to focus on a particular part of the product life cycle to make improvements.

At BEACON we have experience in conducting both full and partial LCA, enabling the identification of hot spots either in the whole product life cycle or specific parts such as manufacturing or product assembly. We have expertise in LCA using the market leading software SimaPro which gives us access to datasets applicable to modelling products and processes worldwide.

Economic modelling is a key tool in the development of new products and processes. It is the in-depth collection and analysis of costing data on the product life cycle including supporting infrastructure and processing costs. It can enable the development of more efficient solutions by providing goal posts for the economic production of new products.  At Aberystwyth University we have experience of economic models and have prepared multi-scenario models for new biofuel products which show how such production can fit into an existing agricultural system and at which point that system becomes commercially viable.

Using the expertise with the BEACON team at Aberystwyth and its partner universities we can design targeted biotechnology solutions, utilising life cycle design, computer modelling, economic analysis, laboratory facilities and the custom built pilot facilities. This enables us to use an integrated approach which can add value to research projects by ensuring that the system used and products produced are not only technologically achievable but also environmentally and economically viable.