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How green is your engineering proposal? – Life cycle impact assessment in High Value Chemical Manufacturing

corresponding

FRANS L. MULLER
School of Process, Environmental & Materials Engineering, University of Leeds, woodhouse lane, LEEDS, LS2 9JT, UK

Abstract

The high value chemical manufacturing industrial sector (HVCM) is an important contributor to Europe’s economy. This industries output consists of complex end user chemicals like drugs, agro chemicals, Colours, fragrances and surfactants. This paper demonstrates the sustainability of the HVCM sector is difficult to assess and how splitting the unit process in 3 parts: a) contributory materials and energy, (b) processing related emissions and (c) secondary process streams requiring further processing can facilitate the understanding of the LCIA. A rapid and consistent assessment LCIA tool is necessary before engineers and chemist can consistently rank green and conventional processing options in the HVCM sector.


INTRODUCTION

To many people the word “Chemical” is synonymous with artificial, industrially made, toxic, environmentally and health endangering materials. Their views may be shaped by the properties of chemical reagents and intermediates generated in industrial plants which often are indeed dangerous substances, and subject to stringent controls. Incidents in plants using or manufacturing these chemicals can indeed have grave consequences (1).
Products supplied to end-users (consumers) rarely consist of a single chemical substance. Most products are a mixture, or formulation, of “effect” chemicals e.g. solutions, suspensions, pills, tablets, powders, aerosols. The “end-user” chemicals in these products are typically high value chemicals desi