Case studies


This page gives some examples of projects carried out by LCAworks for clients since its formation and also of some key, relevant projects carried out by the founder members of LCAworks.


1. Life cycle assessment projects for bioenergy

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Life Cycle Assessment of Hydrothermal Cracking technology for Bio-coal Technology Company (Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas, Prof. Richard Murphy, 2013)

Client: Antaco UK Limited.

The Challenge: Carry out preliminary assessment of the GHG balance of a novel Hydrothermal Cracking (HTC) process for converting organic waste into Bio-Coal.

Approach: LCAworks carried out a preliminary life cycle assessment of the process for a number of different feedstocks and applications.  Used proprietary LCA software “SIMApro” to model the Life Cycle Inventory and Impacts.

Results: The results suggest that the technology has significant potential to reduce GHG emissions when compared with other waste treatment technologies. Further modelling would be required to reach definitive conclusions and further collaboration to address this is in the discussion phase.


Assessing the Carbon Balance of a Novel Process for Harvesting, Drying, Briquetting and Use of Wetland Biomass for Bioenergy (Prof. Richard Murphy, Nicole Kalas, Mark Akhurst, 2013)

Client:  UK Process Engineering Company.

The Challenge: Carry out preliminary assessment of the GHG balance and full environmental LCA of a novel process for harvesting, drying, briquetting and use of wetland biomass for bioenergy.

LCAworks used the principles of recognised standards for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) such as the 14040 series and PAS 2050 to develop a cradle-to-grave life cycle model for the assessment.

: The results of the preliminary study demonstrated that the approach offers significant advantages in GWP100, Abiotic depletion (mainly fossil fuel consumption), Ozone layer depletion and human toxicity impact categories. In common with other biomass to energy systems the approach has higher impacts, relative to natural gas, in Acidification, Eutrophication, and Photochemical oxidation potentials. The principal causes of these higher impacts are NOx, SOx and CO released on briquette combustion. The significant advantage for the wetland biomass briquettes in the GWP100 and fossil fuel depletion categories (almost 1/10th of the emissions when compared to the reference energy source) indicate a substantial benefit for this low-carbon potential energy source. A further, more detailed study is needed to confirm the findings.


HGCA Greenhouse Gas Calculator (Dr Jeremy Woods, Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas 2006-2011):

Developed a web-based tool for the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) to allow detailed lifecycle assessment of UK produced biofuels.  The calculator is designed to allow farmers and ethanol suppliers to test how changes made in management practices or inputs could affect the overall GHG balance of the resulting ethanol production.  LCAworks is currently updating the calculator to take account of the results of a recent research project to assess the impacts of different end-uses of straw on the biofuel GHG balance, and for recent changes in the EU Renewable Energy Directive.  As part of the original GHG Calculator project, Dr Jeremy Woods co-authored the HGCA study: “Understanding and managing uncertainties to improve biofuel GHG emissions calculations”: The report reviews the nature and extent of uncertainties surrounding GHG emissions for biofuel feedstock production.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle analysis of commercial bio-ethanol production (Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas, Dr Jeremy Woods 2009-2011)

Two UK based Bio-ethanol producers.

The Challenge: Assess the GHG balance of bio-ethanol produced from UK wheat, against a background of regulatory uncertainty.

LCAworks carried out a detailed evaluation of the likely outcomes of EU regulation uncertainty to identify the most likely impacts on biofuel LCA methodologies. The outcomes of the evaluation were then used as a basis for updating LCA methodology for wheat ethanol to create a set of scenarios for which the GHG balance was assessed. Detailed input data were obtained from the clients for feedstock, conversion and transport/storage segments of the biofuel value chain.

Results: The results show a range of possible GHG balances for the clients’ biofuels, depending upon different interpretations of the regulation and different choices of input data.  The results have been used in both cases to inform technology and feedstock choices.

2. Life cycle assessment projects for biomaterials

Scoping Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Footprint of Microencapsulated Laundry Detergent Application (Prof. Richard Murphy, Nicole Kalas, Kenny Leung, 2014)

Client: Aqdot Limited.

The Challenge: Carry out preliminary life cycle assessment and carbon footprint of a novel fabrication technology for smart capsules that possess customisable properties to suit the needs of a variety of industries. The project is funded from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s “Climate KIC”.

Approach: The funding has been used to support the development of data, methodologies and modelling tools, which will support Aqdot’s strategy of building low carbon performance into its business. LCAworks carried out a preliminary life cycle assessment of the processes involved.  LCAworks used proprietary LCA software “SIMApro” to model the Life Cycle Inventory and Impacts.

Results: The project has taken a preliminary look at how to optimise and value the greenhouse gas (GHG) saving potential of Aqdot’s technology.  The project is still in progress.

Complete Life Cycle Assessment of Bio-polyethylene (Dr Richard Murphy, Miao Gao, Mark Akhurst 2011 – 2014)

Client: Multinational Chemicals Company

Challenge: To carry out a full lifecycle assessment (LCA) on bio-polyethylene manufactured from sugar and molasses sourced from multiple world regions.

Approach and results: Using ISO14000 series compliant LCA methods, LCAworks carried out a detailed environmental life cycle assessment.  The project is complete and the client is in the process on internalising the findings and knowledge base generated by the project. The client has recognised significant value in the project as a means of delivering environmental benefits to its customers and of documenting the environmental performance of its products.

Sustainable drink bottles (Dr Richard Murphy, Miao Gao,
2009- 2011)

Client: Multinational drinks supplier

Challenge: To carry out a full lifecycle assessment (LCA) on a new bottle developed through an innovative process that converts sugar cane and molasses, a by-product of sugar production, into a key component for PET plastic.

Approach and results: Using ISO14000 series compliant LCA methods, LCAworks carried out an LCA which indicates that the new bottle with 30 percent plant-base material should reduce the related carbon footprint as compared to petroleum-based PET plastic bottles. Work is ongoing to evaluate a range of other environmental and sustainability impacts.

Complete life cycle assessment of bio-polyethylene (Dr Richard Murphy, Miao Gao, 2011 – 2012)

Client: Multinational chemicals company

Challenge: To carry out a full lifecycle assessment (LCA) on bio-polyethylene manufactured from sugar and mo molasses sourced from multiple world regions.

Approach and results: Using ISO14000 series compliant LCA methods, LCAworks is conducting a detailed LCA. The project is not yet complete and work is ongoing.

3. Sustainable land use projects (including indirect land use change – ILUC – modelling)

Review of European Commission Modelling of Biofuel Indirect Land Use Change (Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas, Dr Jeremy Woods 2010-2011)

Client: BP Biofuels.

The Challenge:
The European Commission is facing a difficult challenge to implement policy dealing with the indirect impacts (on land use) of expanding biofuel use in Europe. In an attempt to better understand and quantify the challenge, the Commission commissioned a series of studies in 2010 to model the impacts using global and partial equilibrium models. Thought leaders are of differing opinions regarding the accuracy and relevance of the modelling.

Approach: LCAworks carried out a detailed comparison of the modelling methodologies and input data / assumptions and presented the findings in consistent units and frames of reference, facilitating clear comparison between the models and their inputs/assumptions.

: The results have been used widely, including by the Commission itself as an input to further analysis.

Application of “Causal-Descriptive” modelling techniques to assess indirect land use change impacts of European Rapeseed biodiesel production (Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas, Dr. Jeremy Woods, 2010-2011)

Client: A consortium of major European oilseed growers and biodiesel manufacturers.

The Challenge: Assess the GHG impacts of indirect land use change (ILUC) caused by expansion of oilseed rape biodiesel production.

Approach: Apply the “Causal-Descriptive” modeling approach developed by E4tech to oilseed rape biodiesel production in Europe.  Create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet model which allows a series of scenarios to be evaluated and their ILUC impacts estimated, using a range of actual OSR production data.

Results: The results show that the ILUC impacts of European OSR biodiesel could lie within a broad range of values and are very sensitive to small changes in some key and often very uncertain inputs.  The project helped to identify several key factors which demonstrate that ILUC impacts for European OSR biodiesel may be much lower than suggested by the results of earlier ILUC modeling.    

4. Sustainability and sustainability regulation

Full Integrated Sustainability Assessment of Novel Process for Regenerating/up-cycling of Waste Oils (Mark Akhurst, Nicole Kalas, Prof. Richard Murphy, Dr Jeremy Woods 2013-2014)

Hydrodec Group plc ("Hydrodec"), the cleantech industrial oil re-refining group (AIM: HYR).

Challenge: Under a programme sponsored by Climate-KIC, HYR have requested support to identify and quantify the wider sustainability benefits of the its technology as a preferred means of regenerating / up-cycling waste oils, by comparing a range of environmental and socio-economic indicators across HYR technology and counterfactuals.

Approach: LCAworks has provided this support by carrying out a qualitative “Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA)”, to include environmental and socio-economic elements, for the HYR process, and likely counterfactuals (e.g., PFO), for the UK market.  This work intended to form a key part of developing LCAworks’ internal capability and expertise/data/tools for Integrated Sustainability Assessment, which can subsequently provide ongoing support for the wider low carbon and sustainable business community. 

Results: The outcomes could help Hydrodec better understand how to optimise the overall sustainability of its technology/processes, which could help to support the market value of possible future carbon credits and to help support government policy making for the treatment/disposal of used oil. 


Benchmarking of sustainability standards across Europe (Dr Rocio Diaz-Chavez, Dr Frank Rossilio-Calle 2010-2011)

Client: European Commission DG Energy (ENER/C1/495-2009)

Challenge: To compare and contrast national regulation related to biomass sustainability and to determine the impact of the regulation on biomass availability and cost, with a view to determining whether there are impacts on biomass trade within the EU and to and from the EU.

Approach: Working as part of a consortium (together with: VITO (main contractor); Copernicus Institute (Utrecht University); TU Vienna; Öko-Institut; ETA Florence; and REC), collect data on all national, regional/local biomass sustainability regulations, on the sustainable use of solid and gaseous biomass. Constructed a series of scenarios to model the impacts of the regulations on biomass production and use in the EU until 2020 (and beyond) - including an assessment of the impacts on international bioenergy trade, both within the EU and from/to the EU. 


5. Availability of Sustainable Biomass

Climate-KIC Innovation - Adaptation and Mitigation through Bio-Succinate Innovation (ADMIT Bio-SuccInnovate) – (Prof Richard Murphy, Dr Jeremy Woods, Nicole Kalas, Kenny Leung, 2014-ongoing)

Client: Climate-KIC, working in a consortium with other academic and commercial partners.

The Challenge: Deliver 2nd generation C6 sugar streams produced from lignocellulosic biomass for the commercial production of bio-succinic acid;  demonstrate improved greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, and economic viability to facilitate commercialisation of 2G sugars; Develop innovative bio-tech processes for the commercialisation of lignocellulosic biomass co-products; Identify market hot-spots to accelerate the uptake of bio-based products with greatest potential economic growth and GHG reduction.  LCAworks’ role is specifically to input to the Lice Cycle Assessment and Sustainability Assessment aspects of the project.

Results: The work is at a very early stage and is a multi-year project spanning 2014 - 2018.

Leadership of Quatermass (Dr. Jeremy Woods, 2007 – 2010):

An EU FP7 funded programme to quantify the potential of terrestrial biomass to mitigate climate change. The project used scientific analyses of carbon uptake and release by forestry, biofuels and other land-use changes to investigate climate change mitigation options. It used innovative new approaches to land-use evaluation, and integrated forestry and agroeconomic modelling (of agricultural, forestry and bioenergy production with global trade) to create a scientific framework for policy.  It analyzed the environmental and socio-economic impacts of mitigation options and trade-offs of ecosystem services by country and region. It was funded by the NERC under the Quantifying and Understanding Earth Systems programme (QUEST).

COMPETE: Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems- Africa.  (Dr. Rocio Diaz-Chavez and Dr. Jeremy Woods 2007-2009):

An EUFP7 funded project to research the use of renewable natural resources for bioenergy implementation in sub Saharan Africa. The work incorporated research on: current and potential land use and bioenergy crops; review and consultation on certification and standard systems related to biofuels; stakeholders mapping; and assessment of policies. This project also contributed to the review of some of the EIA procedures in different countries and the guidelines regarding the implementation of ESIAS particularly in Africa but also in Latin America and Asia. 

CIFOR/EuropeAid, “Bioenergy, sustainability and trade-offs: Can we avoid deforestation while promoting bioenergy?”  (Dr. Jeremy Woods, 2008-2011):

A EuropeAid funded project aiming to evaluate the impacts of expanded bioenergy on deforestation, with a special emphasis on the impacts from expanded biofuels imports into the EU. The analysis includes case studies in Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania and Indonesia. One component looks specifically at the expected impacts from the EU Renewable Energy Directive.  Dr Jeremy Woods.

Lead Authorship on SCOPE Study: “Biofuels: Environmental Consequences and Interactions with Changing Land Use” (Dr. Jeremy Woods 2008 – 2009):

The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) established the International SCOPE Biofuels Project to provide a comprehensive and objective, science-based analysis of the effects of biofuels on the environment. Dr Jeremy Woods.