Building a Prospective LCA Framework to Analyze Emerging Technologies in a Dynamic System Context

Research output: NRELPresentation


NREL's Lifecycle Analysis Integration into Opensource Numerical models (LiAISON) framework computes temporally explicit life cycle impacts and resource uses for specific technologies (foreground) in a dynamic system context (background). LiAISON computes results for a series of environmental mid-points enabling an analysis of prospective tradeoffs of emerging technologies toward 2100. This prospective feature is of critical importance when analyzing present-day emerging technologies whose large-scale impacts during deployment phases will occur in different, future system contexts. LiAISON systematically accounts for dynamic system changes by applying an integrated background of the future energy-economy-land-climate system, generated by exogenous integrated assessment models (IAMs). Using IAM scenarios, LiAISON generates a time-series of life cycle inventory (LCI) databases, which are then used to calculate the impacts per functional unit per time step. This expands current practice of using static, future system assumptions, e.g., a specific grid-mix each year. Further, IAM scenarios are provided in a standardized format of shared-socioeconomic pathways (SSP) and representative concentration pathways (RCP) combinations. These are coherent, regularly, published, and peer-reviewed scenario combinations that establish a reproducible and standardized societal and climate mitigation futures context. They are comparable across IAMs and expand the system boundary of the traditional LCA by including dimensions such as societal and behavioral changes. We apply the framework to assess two emerging Power-to-Hydrogen processes, high temperature electrolysis using solid oxide fuel cell (HT-SOE) and polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis (PEME). We compare the technologies to a baseline Hydrogen production process via steam methane reforming. Despite the decarbonized electricity systems' beneficial effects on the PtH2 processes' carbon intensities, we find environmental tradeoffs, which require technology improvements via learning-by-doing to be alleviated. Future work via ongoing collaborations will focus on linking the framework to other energy-economy-land-climate models and open-source life cycle inventory databases.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the AICHE 2022 Annual Meeting, 13-18 November 2022, Phoenix, Arizona

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-84483


  • hydrogen
  • life cycle assessment


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