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Tools to Support the Widespread Application of Life Cycle Assessment: Development of the Life Cycle Assessment Harmonization Tool and the Improvement of OpenLCA

Troy Hawkins,   US Environmental Protection Agency
Wesley Ingwersen,   US Environmental Protection Agency
Michael Srocka,   GreenDelta
Thomas Transue,   Lockheed Martin
Andreas Ciroth,   GreenDelta

This presentation focuses on two ongoing efforts: (1) improving the user experience and providing enhanced modeling capabilities for openLCA and (2) the development of the LCA Harmonization Tool, which facilitates the incorporation of multiple datasets within a common LCA model. These tools address two key bottlenecks for the broader application of LCA, the lack of low-cost, user-friendly LCA software and the challenge of reconciling data sources for use in a common model. The objective of this project is to set in place the data architecture and modeling infrastructure required to support a wide array of quantitative assessments from a systems-perspective.

Part I: OpenLCA is a freely available, fully open source software developed in Java on the Eclipse platform with data managed in a MySQL server and made publicly available under the Mozilla Public License 1.1. Here we present the outcomes associated with an EPA project which enhances the openLCA user experience through improving:

  1. calculation speed
  2. navigation
  3. data transfer; and enhances modeling capabilities through providing for:
  4. location-specific impacts
  5. Monte Carlo and sensitivity analysis
  6. uncertainty distributions for LCIA characterization factors
  7. flexible definition of life cycle stages for contribution analysis.

Part II: The LCA Harmonization Tool assists users to define clear relationships between life cycle inventory, life cycle impact assessment, and other data sources to allow for their incorporation in LCA models. The tool will be made publicly available as an open source plug-in for openLCA and will be populated with publicly available life cycle impact assessment data, master lists of elementary flows and environmental compartments, and correspondences between nomenclatures. In the near-term, this tool facilitates the development of more robust LCA models and comparison between LCA models. From a mid-term perspective, this tool provides a first step toward the development of a pipeline for the incorporation of a diverse array of datasets into an EPA LCA Database.