How should methodological pitfalls be avoided when using LCA for CCU value chains?

Guidelines for Life Cycle Assessment LCA of CCU systems

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and subsequently storing carbon dioxide (CO2). CCU (carbon capture and utilization), on the other hand, represents a way of recycling the carbon in the captured CO2 by converting it to fuels or other products. The acronym CCUS describes systems including both utilization and storage of captured CO2.

This report gives an overview of the three potential CO2 emissions sources to be captured: direct air capture, geothermal power generation and industrial point sources, and it shows whether the CO2 can be considered fossil or non-fossil. Furthermore, the main pathways for utilising captured CO2 are presented.

CCU systems connect two (or more) product systems; the first being the source of the CO2 and the second being the production system which uses CO2 as feedstock. Hence, CCU systems are multifunctional, and CO2 has a double role, representing both emission and feedstock.

The report presents Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology in general with a deeper focus on how to solve multifunctionality. The recommendation is to apply system expansion without substitution and to compare the CCU system with a reference system. It is crucial to establish relevant system boundaries for the compared systems to ensure that all systems provide the same functions to society. The report includes a practical LCA guideline for CCU value chains to help avoiding methodological pitfalls.

Read the report