Assessing Alignment Between a Top-Down LCA Model and a Bottom-Up Supply Chain Model for Data Gap Identification and Prioritization

Rebecca Hanes, Alberta Carpenter Petri, Xiaoju Chen, H. Matthews

Research output: NRELPoster


This work presents a method for evaluating the alignment between the results of bottom-up and top-down models and using the evaluation to enhance the bottom-up model and underlying data set. Disaggregation is used to enhance the embodied energy results of top-down models, which are then compared to bottom-up model results. Using the disaggregated top-down results makes it possible to identify specific data gaps and deficiencies within the bottom-up model and its data set. The top-down results will also provide information around which data gaps in the bottom-up model are contributing the most error to the results; in this way, data gaps can be identified as either critical or non-critical, and the effort needed to acquire and add data can be prioritized. Although the proposed method could be applied to any physical quantity or environmental impact that can be quantified with both bottom-up models (typically in physical units) and top-down models (typically in monetary units), embodied energy is the focus of this work. The disaggregated energy baseline is calculated from the throughput vector x, which gives the total economic activity required from each sector to provide a final demand. Using the direct requirements matrix, each element in x is disaggregated into a vector of inputs to the corresponding sector. Energy data from the interventions matrix B is then used to convert the monetary flows of the disaggregated x into physical energy flows. For each energy flow, the origin sector, the destination sector, and the energy carrier type will all be known. These energetic flows are analogous but not identical to direct energy inputs that would appear in a unit process used in life cycle analysis and other bottom-up methods, and thus can be used to evaluate the alignment between the top-down results and the results of a bottom-up model. To demonstrate and further develop the proposed method, embodied energy for chemicals assessed in the 2015 U.S. DOE bandwidth study on energy use within the chemical sector will be calculated using a top-down and a bottom-up model. The Materials Flows through Industry (MFI) modeling tool developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is used as the bottom-up model, and the U.S. EEIO model, recently published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is used as the top-down model. U.S. EEIO and MFI results will be evaluated to determine how well the model results align. Where the two models are not in good alignment, the disaggregation method described above will be applied to the top-down model to generate a more detailed set of results that will aid in identifying data gaps in the MFI database. Using only MFI, data gaps can be identified in terms of which sectors have few or no unit processes in the database, but no information is available regarding the impact of the missing data on MFI results. The disaggregated top-down results will provide this information on which gaps in the MFI data are critical and have a significant impact on the results, and which are less important.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NamePresented at the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology 2018, 26-28 June 2018, Buffalo, New York

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-6A20-71760


  • advanced manufacturing
  • LCM
  • life cycle assessment
  • manufacturing processes
  • material flows through industry
  • MFI
  • supply chain


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