Eco design LCA of an innovative lab scale plant for the production of oxygen-enriched air. Comparison between economic and environmental assessment

Posted by juleahlove
Full LCA available on the web
Publication year: 
oxygen-enriched air
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Was a critical review performed?: 
Sponsor name(s): 
Journal of Cleaner Production
Sponsor type: 
Federico Galli a, * , Carlo Pirola b , Daniele Previtali c , Flavio Manenti c , Claudia L. Bianchi b
Practitioner(s) type: 
Institut/Technical research center
Functional unit: 
amount of enriched air produced by the plant in 24 h in Milano (Italy).
Goal and scope of the summary: 
Here we developed an early-stage attributional LCA of an innovative production process of oxygenenriched air by water desorption. We compared LCA's results with a rigorous economic model, in an eco-design optimization perspective. We developed the life cycle analysis using primary data from the lab-scale plant. We used SimaPro for the LCA analysis and the ReCiPe Endpoint V 1.12 E/A method for the interpretation of the results. The functional unit was the amount of enriched air produced by the plant in 24 h in Milano (Italy). A steady state chemical plant simulation software (PRO/II 9.3) calculated the reference flow and we input it in SimaPro with a parametric function. We considered a “cradle-tograve” analysis. Temperature, pressure and water flowrate were varied to minimize environmental burdens and plant costs. Uncertainty analysis revealed that there is no difference between operating the degassing unit at 20 C or 30 C. SimaPro and PRO/II presented different optimum conditions. However, taken as a whole, we individuated the best process parameters from an eco-economic prospective. The results obtained are related to a lab-scale plant and thus no comparisons between industrial processes are possible, but the methodology we propose will improve the design of any process.

In this work, the environmental and economic evaluation of an innovative production process of oxygen-enriched air was performed using two different commercial software, SimaPro 8.1 and PRO/II 9.3. Even though the proposed technology is not industrial grade, significant results on the assessment methodology could be extrapolated. The results obtained using the two methods, independently, gave different optimal operative conditions. Compared to the economic impact only, the combined optimization leads to a single point impact reduction of 19 % (from 3.69 to 3.00 Pt). On the other hand, considering only the environmental burden, we design a process whose costs are 350 % greater with respect to the eco-economic one. Any other process can be improved with this new methodology and we recommend the application of this approach at the R&D stage to have a direct and immediate idea of the best process variables to user to avoid environmental and economic hot spots. Low pressures, temperatures and high water flow rates are the best design parameters for the production of EA.

Material impact(s): 
Toxicity / Eco-toxicity
Manufacturing impact(s): 
Ozone layer depletion
End of life impact(s): 
Global warming

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