Thermodynamic resource indicators in LCA: A case study on the titania produced in Panzhihua city, southwest China

Wenjie Liao*, Reinout Heijungs, Gjalt Huppes

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Purpose: While life cycle assessment (LCA) has standardized methods for assessing emission impacts, some comparable methods for the accounting or impact assessment of resource use exist, but are not as mature or standardized. This study contributes to the existing research by offering a comprehensive comparison of the similarities and differences of different resource indicators, in particular those based on thermodynamics, and testing them in a case study on titania (titanium dioxide pigment) produced in Panzhihua city, southwest China. Materials and methods: The system boundary for resource indicators is defined using a thermodynamic hierarchy at four levels, and the case data for titania also follow that hierarchy. Seven resource indicators are applied. Four are thermodynamics-based-cumulative energy demand (CED), solar energy demand (SED), cumulative exergy demand (CExD), and cumulative exergy extraction from the natural environment (CEENE)-and three have different backgrounds: abiotic resource depletion potential, environmental priority strategies, and eco-indicator 99. Inventory data for the foreground system has been collected through on-site interviews and visits. Background inventory data are from the database ecoinvent v2.2. Characterizations factors are based on the CML-IA database covering all major methods. Computations are with the CMLCA software. Results and discussion: The scores of resource indicators of the chloride route for titania system are lower than that of the sulfate route by 10-35 %, except in terms of SED. Within the four thermodynamic indicators for resources, CED, CExD, and CEENE have similar scores, while their scores are five orders of magnitude lower than the SED score. Atmospheric resources do not contribute to the SED or CEEND score. Land resources account for a negligible percentage to the SED score and a small percentage to the CEENE score. Non-renewable resources have a dominant contribution to all seven resource indicators. The global production of titania would account for 0.12 and 0.14 % of the total anthropogenic non-renewable resource demand in terms of energy and exergy, respectively. Conclusions: First, we demonstrate the feasibility of thermodynamic resource indicators. We recommend CEENE as the most appropriate one within the four thermodynamic resource indicators for accounting and characterizing resource use. Regarding the case study on the titania produced in China, all the resource indicators except SED show that the sulfate route demands more resource use than the chloride route.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)951-961
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


    • Energy
    • Exergy
    • Indicator
    • Resource
    • Titania


    Dive into the research topics of 'Thermodynamic resource indicators in LCA: A case study on the titania produced in Panzhihua city, southwest China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this