Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Emerging technologies, as described in the NETPEC project, have a wide range of impacts on different fields. Therefore, an analysis of the chances and risks resulting from the technology is needed from an early stage of R&D in order to enable a sustainable use of a given technology. The focus is on the so called three dimensions or pillars of sustainability and their analyses applying Life Cycle methods: ecological (Life Cycle Assessment LCA), economic (Life Cycle Costing LCC) and social (social LCA s-LCA) sustainability. For the analyses of these three areas the Life Cycle Concept is chosen to avoid the neglect of impacts of unavoidable pre- and subsequent processes out of the range of a certain R&D project or the processes of a manufacturer etc.  Examples:  material and energy supply, recycling, waste disposal.

Figure 1: Three pillars of Sustainability.

The KIT ITAS subproject will study the systems and technologies described in NETPEC with respect to the fields described above. For this purpose, reasonable system boundaries (considered processes), parameters (e.g. efficiencies, interest rates, life times), impacts (e.g. climate change, human toxicity) and indicators (e.g. CO2 equivalents) will be defined first. The fundamental part of all analyses is the development of energy, material, and cash flow models directly describing environmental and economic impacts and properties. Further, this information can be linked with statistics to generate knowledge on social impacts of technologies.

Figure 2: General workflow of a Life Cycle Analysis.

Aforementioned analyses are not only done for the technology in the focus of R&D but also their innovative and established competitors, in the case of NETPEC these are a wide range of Carbon capture and storage (CCS) processes as well as carbon capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies. With the resulting benchmark the minimum requirements for the focus technology are set. The benchmark process is based on the same impact categories and definitions as described above.  At the same time, ecological or social short comings can already be identified during the development process. It can be determined which processes make a greater contribute to these categories than others and solutions can be found.

In summary, the potential of the life cycle methods can be described in such a way that statements can be made about potential burdens of technologies on social and ecological systems, comparison can be made with other competing systems, and weak points in the process can be identified and overcome. It is not possible to make a statement about the specific effects of individual measured values or exact social developments.  But robust information on the ranking of different technologies with the same function and on the optimisation of individual technologies strongly supports responsible and sustainable technology development and application.