The overall goal of WP5 is to evaluate and compare the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of energy production from microalgal biogas with and without the early-warning technologies developed in PRODIGIO, and to identify the most sensitive aspects to be considered for future commercial application.
- Task 5.1 Environmental life cycle assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology will be used to quantify the potential environmental impacts of the production and conversion of algal biomass into energy through anaerobic digestion. Two base scenarios will be compared: the energy production route in the absence of system failure prediction technologies and the production when integrating PRODIGIO early-warning technologies. The assessment will follow ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:14044 standards and will include all the stages in the production chain, namely raw material extraction, transformation, and manufacturing stages, biofuel production, distribution, use, and end-of-life. LCA will allow the identification of stages and unit processes that constitute the major contributions (hot spots) to selected impact categories and thus with higher potential to improve environmental performance through process optimization. The effects of co-products and benefits of the technological route related to its value for waste stream treatment may be included in the analysis if applicable. In the first step, comprehensive information and high-quality data of the energy carrier production chain and its stages will be essential to identify and quantify mass and energy flows entering the systems, as well as emissions of substances to the air, water, and soil. Information will rely on experimental semi-pilot data from the project and additional estimates using process simulation software (e.g. Aspen). In the second step, these data will serve to model the life-cycle inventory for each stage of the system under study, with the support of existing LCA databases (mainly ecoinvent). In the third step, the quantified resources and emissions will be grouped into a set of impact categories according to a multicriteria approach and characterized in terms of a reference unit representative of each selected category. The selection of impact assessment methods will be based on recent recommendations of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, giving priority to EF3.0 impact categories. The results will allow us to identify the effect of productivity increase linked to early-warning systems, as well as the main impacts and hot spots, with remarkable contributions and potential actions to improve environmental performance.
- Task 5.2 Social life cycle assessment
The life cycle perspective will be extended to evaluate the social and socio-economic aspects related to the technology considering the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) of products as a basis. Relevant indicators for sensitive stages affecting each of the five groups of stakeholders defined by the guidelines (workers, end users, value chain actors, local communities, and society) will be identified and evaluated. These indicators can be quantitative, semi-quantitative, or qualitative and data sources can be either generic or specific. Company- and cause effect focused methodological approaches could be explored. Existing databases such as Product Social Impact Life Cycle Assessment (PSILCA) and Social Hotspot database (SHDB) will be used for the social analysis. This information for the selection and evaluation of social LCA indicators will be completed through questionnaires that may be addressed not only to PRODIGIO partners belonging to relevant stakeholder categories but also to external stakeholders potentially related to the sector.
- Task 5.3 Life cycle cost assessment
The economic viability of a hypothetical case study under industrial European conditions will be performed based on Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Net Present Value (NPV). The viability model will include all costs (CAPEX and OPEX) and revenues expected across the value chain. Cost information along the value-chain will be obtained from other WPs in collaboration with other research and industrial partners. The viability model will capture the inherent uncertainty in the value chain. A sensitivity analysis of the results (NPV/IRR) will be conducted to analyse the impact of critical parameters on economic viability.
- Task 5.4 Integrated Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment
The results of the environmental and social LCA will be combined with economic results from the LCC. The integrated framework of the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) will be used. A weighting approach will be proposed to ease the prioritization of sustainability criteria and to allow future comparisons between alternatives. The application of sensitivity analysis tools will ensure the validity and robustness of the developed models.