How to take time into account in the inventory step: a selective introduction based on sensitivity analysis

  • Pierre Collet
  • Laurent Lardon
  • Jean-Philippe Steyer
  • Arnaud Hélias



Life cycle assessment is usually an assessment tool, which only considers steady-state processes, as the temporal and spatial dimensions are lost during the life cycle inventory (LCI). This approach therefore reduces the environmental relevance of certain results, as it has been underlined in the case of climate change studies. Given that the development of dynamic impact methods is based on dynamic inventory data, it seems essential to develop a general methodology to achieve a temporal LCI.


This study presents a method for selecting the steps, within the whole process network, for which dynamics need to be considered while others can be approximated by steady-state representation. The selection procedure is based on the sensitivity of the impacts on the variation of environmental and economic flows. Once these flows have been identified, their respective timescales are compared to the inherent timescales of the impact categories affected by the flows. The timescales of the impacts are divided into three categories (days, months, years) based on a literature review of the ReCiPe method. The introduction of a temporal dynamic depends on the relationship between the timescale of the environmental and economic flows on the one hand and that of the concerned impact on the other hand.

Results and discussion

This approach is illustrated by the life cycle assessment of palm methyl ester and ethanol from sugarcane. In both cases, the introduction of a temporal dynamic is limited to a small proportion of the total number of flows: 0.1 % in the sugarcane ethanol production and 0.01 % in the palm methyl ester production. Future developments of time integration in the LCI and in the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) are also discussed in order to deal with the need of characterization functions and the recurrent problem of waiting times.


This work provides a method to select specific flows where the introduction of temporal dynamics is most relevant. It is based on sensitivity analyses and on the relationship between the timescales of the flows and the timescale of the involved impact. The time-distributed LCI generated by using this approach could then be coupled with a dynamic LCIA proposed in the literature.


Dynamic LCA Life cycle impact assessment Life cycle inventory Perturbation analysis Sensitivity analysis Timescale 


  1. Brandão M, Levasseur A, Kirschbaum MUF et al (2013) Key issues and options in accounting for carbon sequestration and temporary storage in life cycle assessment and carbon footprinting. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(1):230–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cucurachi S, Heijungs R, Ohlau K (2012) Towards a general framework for including noise impacts in LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17(4):471–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cherubini F, Peters GP, Berntsen T et al (2011) CO2 emissions from biomass combustion for bioenergy: atmospheric decay and contribution to global warming. GCB Bioenergy 3(5):413–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crouzet P, Leonard J, Nixon S, Rees Y, Parr W, Laffon L, Bogestrand J, Kristensen P, Lallana C, Izzo G, Bokn T, Bak J, Lack TJ, Thyssen N (ed) (1999) Nutrients in European ecosystems. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Environmental assessment report, no 4Google Scholar
  5. Field F, Kirchain R, Clark J (2000) Life-cycle assessment and temporal distributions of emissions: developing a fleet-based analysis. J Ind Ecol 4(2):71–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Goedkoop M, Spriensma R (2000) The Eco-indicator 99: a damage oriented method for life cycle impact assessment. PRé Consultants, Amersfoort, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  7. Goedkoop M, Heijungs R, Huijbreghts, De Schryver A, Struijs J, van Zelm R (2009) ReCiPe 2008. A life cycle impact assessment method which comprises harmonised category indicators at the midpoint and the endpoint levelGoogle Scholar
  8. Guinée JB, Gorrée M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Kleijn R, de Oning A, van Oers L, Sleeswijk AW, Suh S, Udo de Haes HA, de Bruin H, van Duin R, Huijbregts MAJ (2002) Handbook on life cycle assessment. Operational guide to the ISO Standards. Centre of Environmental Science, Leiden University (CML)Google Scholar
  9. Harville D (1997) Matrix algebra from a statistician's perspective. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hauschild M, Potting J (2005) Spatial differentiation in life cycle impact assessment—the EDIP2003 methodology. Environmental news no. 80. The Danish Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  11. Hauschild M (2006) Spatial differentiation in life cycle impact assessment: a decade of method development to increase the environmental realism of LCIA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(S1):11–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heijungs R, Suh S (2002) The computational structure of life cycle assessment. Kluwer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heijungs R (2010) Sensitivity coefficients for matrix-based LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15(5):511–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hellweg S, Hofstetter B, Hungerbühler K (2003) Discounting and the environment should current impacts be weighted differently than impacts harming future generations? Int J Life Cycle Assess 8(1):8–18Google Scholar
  15. Hellweg S, Hofstetter B, Hungerbühler K (2005) Time-dependent life-cycle assessment of slag landfills with the help of scenario analysis: the example of Cd and Cu. J Clean Prod 13(3):301–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huijbregts MAJ (1998) Application of uncertainty and variability in LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 3(5):273–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. IPCC (2000) Land use, land-use change and forestry. IPCC special report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Google Scholar
  18. IPCC (2007) IPCC fourth assessment report, Working Group 1, report “The Physical Science Basis”. Accessed Apr 2012
  19. Lebailly F, Levasseur A, Samson R et al (2013) Considering temporal variability for the characterization of metals aquatic ecotoxicity impacts in LCA. Proc. of the 23rd SETAC Europe, 12–16 May 2013, Glasgow, ScotlandGoogle Scholar
  20. Levasseur A, Lesage P, Margni M et al (2010) Considering time in LCA: dynamic LCA and its application to global warming impact assessments. Environ Sci Technol 44(8):3169–3174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Levasseur A, Brandão M, Lesage P et al (2011) Valuing temporary carbon storage. Nat Clim Chang 2(1):6–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levasseur A, Lesage P, Margni M et al (2012) Assessing temporary carbon sequestration and storage projects through land use, land-use change and forestry: comparison of dynamic life cycle assessment with ton-year approaches. Clim Chang 115(3–4):759–776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Manneh R, Margni M, Deschênes L (2012) Evaluating the relevance of seasonal differentiation of human health intake fractions in life cycle assessment. Integr Environ Assess Manag 8(4):749–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McKone TE, Nazaroff WW, Berck P et al (2011) Grand challenges for life-cycle assessment of biofuels. Environ Sci Technol 45(5):1751–1756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Owens JW (1997) Life-cycle assessment in relation to risk assessment: an evolving perspective. Risk Anal 17(3):359–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pesonen H, Ekvall T, Fleischer G, Huppes G, Jahn C, Klos ZS, Rebitzer G, Sonnemann GW, Tintinelli A, Weidema BP (2000) Framework for scenario development in LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 5:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pfister S, Koehler A, Hellweg S (2009) Assessing the environmental impacts of freshwater consumption in LCA. Environ Sci Technol 43(11):4098–4104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reap J, Roman F, Duncan S, Bras B (2008) A survey of unresolved problems in life cycle assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(4):290–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schwietzke S, Griffin WM, Matthews HS (2011) Relevance of emissions timing in biofuel greenhouse gases and climate impacts. Environ Sci Technol 45(19):8197–8203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Seppälä J, Posch M, Johansson M, Hettelingh J (2006) Country-dependent characterisation factors for acidification and terrestrial eutrophication based on accumulated exceedance as an impact category indicator. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(6):403–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shah VP, Ries RJ (2009) A characterization model with spatial and temporal resolution for life cycle impact assessment of photochemical precursors in the United States. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14(4):313–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stasinopoulos P, Compston P, Newell B, Jones HM (2011) A system dynamics approach in LCA to account for temporal effects—a consequential energy LCI of car body-in-whites. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17(2):199–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thompson M, Ellis R, Wildavsky A (1990) Cultural theory. Westview Print, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  34. Udo deHaes HA, Finnveden G, Goedkoop M, Hauschild M, Hertwich EG, Hofstetter P, Jolliet O, Klopffer W, Krewitt W, Lindeijer E, Mueller- Wenk R, Olsen SI, Pennington DW, Potting J, Steen B (eds) (2002) Life-cycle impact assessment: striving towards best practice. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), PensacolaGoogle Scholar
  35. Udo de Haes HA, Heijungs R, Suh S, Huppes G (2004) Three strategies to overcome the limitations of life-cycle assessment. J Ind Ecol 8(3):19–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Udo de Haes HA (2006) How to approach land use in LCIA or, how to avoid the Cinderella effect? Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(4):219–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wuebbles DJ (1983) Chlorocarbon emission scenarios: potential impact on stratospheric ozone. J Geophys Res 88(C2):1433–1443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. van Zelm R, Huijbregts MAJ, van Jaarsveld HA, Reinds GJ, de Zwart D, Struijs J, van de Meent D (2007) Time horizon dependent characterization factors for acidification in life-cycle assessment based on forest plant species occurrence in Europe. Environ Sci Technol 41(3):922–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre Collet
    • 1
  • Laurent Lardon
    • 1
  • Jean-Philippe Steyer
    • 1
  • Arnaud Hélias
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.UR0050, Laboratoire de Biotechnologie de l’EnvironnementINRANarbonneFrance
  2. 2.Montpellier SupAgroMontpellier Cedex 2France

Personalised recommendations