Investigating the Environmental Impact of Industrial Goods by Analyzing the Energy Consumption of Manufacturing ArmaFORM PET Foam AC Core

A life cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to systematically analyze the environmental impact of industrial goods ‘from the cradle to the grave.’ This assessment includes all processes such as raw material production, transport, manufacturing, energy supply, use and disposal of the products. Such ecobalances, for instance, can deliver data on the consumption of raw materials and energy and emission of greenhouse gases.

Analyzing the Energy Consumption of Manufacturing ArmaFORM PET AC Foam Core

The Armacell ecobalance analyzes the energy consumption for producing ArmaFORM PET AC foam core, as defined by ISO 14040 international standard for an ISO-compliant ecobalance. The analysis focuses on the greenhouse effect with global warming potential. To put this impact into context, the energy savings over the service life of the product are also specified, based on a wind turbine application. All results are specific CO2 values. The analysis included:

  • Extraction, processing and transport of the raw materials
  • Energy use, fuel and water usage for the production process
  • Transport of the product to the customer.

Analysis Results

All emissions and the raw materials consumption involved in each process of the entire PET manufacturing cycle were transformed into a long list of emissions (called an impact table). As these impacts usually cause very different types of environmental problems, they are classified by the effects they cause and designated to one of the 11 categories provided in the EI 95 method. Table 1 shows air emissions with global warming potential related to the production of 1kg of PET foam.

Table 1. Air emissions with global warming potential associated with the production of 1kg of PET foam.

Substance emitted to air Load in CO2 equivalents
Carbon dioxide 4,11 kg CO2
Methane 0,25 kg CO2
Dinitrogen monoxide 2,00E-02 kg CO2
Bromotrifl uoromethane, Halon 1301 4,88E-04 kg CO2
1,2-dichloro-1,1,2,2-tetrafl uoroethane, CFC-114 3,40E-04 kg CO2
Trichlorofl uoromethane, CFC-11 7,45E-05 kg CO2
Methane, chlorotrifl uoromethane, CFC-13 3,84E-05 kg CO2
Methane, dichlorodifl uoromethane, CFC-12 3,34E-05 kg CO2
Chlorinated fl uorocarbons, soft 2,33E-05 kg CO2
Chlorodifl uoromethane, HCFC-22 8,24E-06 kg CO2
Tetrafl uoromethane, FC-14 1,25E-06 kg CO2
Tetrachloromethane, CFC-10 2,71E-07 kg CO2
Hexafl uoroethane, HFC-116 1,91E-07 kg CO2
Ddichloromethane, HCC-30 1,88E-08 kg CO2
Total of all compartments 4,40 kg CO2/1 kg of PET foam

It is possible to quantify the contribution of each raw material to greenhouse gases emission or the energy used for production purposes, as shown in Figure 1. As can be observed, the contribution of electricity is considerably higher than the blowing agent. One may think that the overall CO2 balance could be significantly influenced if the gas is used as a blowing agent. Nevertheless, using CO2 increases electricity consumption within production. Armacell is not re-using CO2 as a blowing agent. Like the production step, the remaining impact categories are also analyzed using a similar approach.

Energy Savings of ArmaFORM PET Foam Core in Wind Energy Applications

ArmaFORM PET AC is applied as a core foam in sandwich constructions for wind turbine blades. The energy savings of ArmaFORM PET AC in wind energy applications would be much greater than the raw materials and natural resources used in the production process. The amount of CO2 that could be eliminated by wind energy is estimated based on an assumption for the carbon intensity of the worldwide electricity market (i.e., the typical amount of CO2 released by generating 1kWh of power).

Although there is a substantial difference in the emissions of individual countries, Armacell uses the IEA's estimate of 600g/kWh as an average value for the CO2 elimination to be achieved from wind generation. Based on the blade design and the density of the foam used, roughly 400kg of ArmaFORM PET AC foam is required to fabricate a 42m long blade.

According to the results of ‘cradle-to-gate’ analysis by Armacell, nearly 1,760kg of CO2 (400 x 4.40 kg/ CO2) is emitted for one blade. This amounts to 5.28tons of CO2 emission for producing the quantity of ArmaFORM PET foams required for three blades. In comparison, a 2MW offshore wind turbine roughly provides a lifetime CO2 saving of 81,250 tons.

These calculations have two main limitations owing to two different sources: The first one is the limited accessibility of transport data as it is too complicated to be calculated correctly. The second one derives from the software library, as the database does not include all of the raw materials. Hence, in some cases, the actual environmental impact of a raw material utilized for production is calculated by selecting the chemically similar compound listed in the database.

The analysis method was selected from all of the resources available in SimaPro Analyst 7.1 software (Netherlands) based on the impact categories and characterization factors associated with each method. Before estimation, the greenhouse effect and the emissions of gases with global warming potential were given focus. Consequently, the Eco-Indicator 95 (EI 95) was selected.

In this method, Impact categories taken into account are greenhouse effect, solid waste, energy resources, pesticides, summer smog, winter smog, carcinogens, heavy metals, eutrophication, acidification, and ozone depletion. The EI 95 has more than 30 different gases with global warming potential when considering the greenhouse effect. The impact of these gases is given in carbon dioxide equivalents (kg of CO2).

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Armacell Benelux.

For more information on this source, please visit Armacell Benelux.

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