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The challenge of quantification: Social Life Cycle Assessment (s-LCA) for advanced biofuel from waste wood integrated in the steel industry
Within the EU project TORERO (TORefying wood with Ethanol as a Renewable Output), a cost-, resource-, and energy-efficient technology concept for producing bioethanol from wood waste, fully integrated in a large-scale, industrially functional steel mill will be demonstrated. Wood waste is converted to bio-coal which replaces fossil powdered coal in a steel mill blast furnace. Carbon monoxide in blast furnace exhaust fumes is fermented to bioethanol and material and energy loops of the process are closed to a very large degree. TORERO is an add-on technology that can be used to upgrade existing steel facilities, an industry that is actively scouting for technological solutions to make its production processes more sustainable. The outcomes of this project will be of great interest to both the bioethanol end-users but also to Europe as a whole through the reduction of the usage of fossil fuel and thus significantly reducing GHG emissions. To assess impacts along supply chains, Life cycle-based methodologies have been developed over the last years. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) considers mainly environmental impacts along supply chains, from extraction of raw materials to end-of-life of products. LCA is also a key tool for the steel industry as well as for biorefineries. Similarly to LCA, social Life Cycle Assessment (s-LCA) integrates traditional life cycle assessment methodological steps while having social impacts as focus. Coupling the assessment of environmental and socio-economic issues may support more comprehensive sustainability assessment of impacts, benefits, and related trade-offs. A s-LCA primarily has 2 objectives: to enable a comparison of products/services and processes for decision making and to attempt to identify improvements potentials within the system in order to slash social impacts. Compared with LCA, the level of methodological development, application, and harmonisation of social LCA is still in a preliminary stage and experience with product assessments focusing on social aspects is still limited, especially concerning quantification. In TORERO, the s-LCA (Social Life Cycle Assessment) methodology is being further developed and adapted to the specific challenges and framework conditions in the steel industry during the next 3 years and is done to identify and describe the most relevant social effects. The social sustainability is being assessed at a district and regional level at the demonstration plant location and its aim is the comparison of the new (TORERO) system with the conventional system referring to all effected stakeholders. Social impacts will be analysed qualitatively and quantitatively for different stakeholder categories (e.g. workers, local communities), different subcategories (e.g. health and safety, working conditions) and related relevant indicators. As the project advances, social “hot spots” will be identified and the options for reducing the potential negative impacts and risks through different measures. Finally, the options are assessed according to their relevance in the different production steps for an initial quantitative analysis. Through its massive material inputs and outputs and production process emissions, the steel industry is in need of a management framework to monitor, analyse and improve its impacts and societal relations which the methodology of s-LCA can provide.