The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 2091–2109 | Cite as

Life cycle assessment to evaluate the environmental performance of new construction material from stainless steel slag

  • Andrea Di MariaEmail author
  • Muhammad Salman
  • Maarten Dubois
  • Karel Van Acker



Many new opportunities are explored to lower the CO2 emissions of the cement industry. Academic and industrial researches are currently focused on the possibility of recycling steel production residues in the cement industry, in order to produce new “low-carbon” binders for construction materials. The purpose of this paper is to assess the environmental benefits and costs of steel residue valorisation processes to produce a new binder for construction materials.


Among other stainless steel slags (SSS), argon oxygen decarburisation (AOD)-slag has the potential to be recovered as a binder during the production of new construction materials. Alkali activation and carbonation processes can, in fact, activate the binding properties of the AOD-slag. However, AOD-slag is today only recycled as low-quality aggregate. For the present study, three different types of construction blocks (called SSS-blocks) were developed starting from the AOD-slag (one block through alkali activation and two blocks through carbonation). The data from the production of the three construction blocks have been collected and used to perform a life cycle assessment (LCA) study, comparing SSS-block production with the production of traditional paver ordinary Portland cement (OPC) concrete.

Results and discussion

The analysis showed that SSS-block production through alkali activation and carbonation has the potential of lowering some of the environmental impacts of OPC-concrete. The LCA results also show that the main bottleneck in the alkali activation process is the production of the alkali activators required in the process, while the use of electricity and of pure CO2 streams in carbonation lowers the environmental performances of the entire process.


The valorisation of AOD-slag to produce new construction materials is a promising route to lower the environmental impacts of cement and concrete industries. This product-level analysis stresses the need of updating the LCI datasets for alkali activators and boric oxide and of widening the scope of the environmental analysis up to system level, including potential economic interactions and market exchanges between steel and construction sectors.


Alkali activation Carbonation Hazardous waste management Industrial symbiosis Life cycle assessment Stainless steel slag Sustainable building materials 



Alkali-activated block


Argon oxygen decarburisation


Blast furnace slag


Fast-carbonated block


Ground granulated blast furnace slag


Life cycle assessment


Life cycle inventory


Life cycle impact assessment


Natural aggregates


Ordinary Portland cement


Slow-carbonated block


Supplementary cementitious materials


Stainless steel slag


Stainless steel slag blocks

Supplementary material

11367_2018_1440_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 37 kb)


  1. Adegoloye G, Beaucour A-L, Ortola S, Noumowé A (2015) Concretes made of EAF slag and AOD slag aggregates from stainless steel process: mechanical properties and durability. Constr Build Mater 76:313–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ammenberg J, Baas L, Eklund M, Feiz R, Helgstrand A, Marshall R (2015) Improving the CO2 performance of cement, part III: the relevance of industrial symbiosis and how to measure its impact. Spec Vol Support Your Future Today Turn Environ Chall Oppor 98:145–155Google Scholar
  3. Baciocchi R, Costa G, Di Bartolomeo E, Polettini A, Pomi R (2010) Carbonation of stainless steel slag as a process for CO2 storage and slag valorization. Waste Biomass Valoriz 1:467–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbieri L, Bonamartini AC, Lancellotti I (2000) Alkaline and alkaline-earth silicate glasses and glass-ceramics from municipal and industrial wastes. J Eur Ceram Soc 20(14-15):2477–2483. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Björklund A (2002) Survey of approaches to improve reliability in lca. Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(2):64–72. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blankendaal T, Schuur P, Voordijk H (2014) Reducing the environmental impact of concrete and asphalt: a scenario approach. J Clean Prod 66:27–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen C, Habert G, Bouzidi Y, Jullien A, Ventura A (2010) LCA allocation procedure used as an incitative method for waste recycling: an application to mineral additions in concrete. Resour Conserv Recycl 54:1231–1240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clavreul J, Guyonnet D, Christensen TH (2012) Quantifying uncertainty in LCA-modelling of waste management systems. Waste Manag 32:2482–2495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crossin E (2015) The greenhouse gas implications of using ground granulated blast furnace slag as a cement substitute. J Clean Prod 95:101–108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davidovits J (2008) Geopolymer: chemistry and applications, 4th edn. Institut Geoplymere, Saint-QuentinGoogle Scholar
  11. De Schepper M, Van den Heede P, Van Driessche I, De Belie N (2014) Life cycle assessment of completely recyclable concrete. Materials 7(8):6010–6027. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Durinck D, Engström F, Arnout S, Heulens J, Jones PT, Björkman B, Blanpain B, Wollants P (2008) Hot stage processing of metallurgical slags. Resour Conserv Recycl 52(10):1121–1131. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duxson P, Provis JL, Lukey GC, van Deventer JSJ (2007) The role of inorganic polymer technology in the development of “green concrete.”. Cem Concr Res 37(12):1590–1597. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Elia (2017) Belgium’s electricity transmission system operator, 2017. Belgium’s generating facilities [WWW document]. URL Accessed 7.17.17
  15. Faraone N, Tonello G, Furlani E, Maschio S (2009) Steelmaking slag as aggregate for mortars: effects of particle dimension on compression strength. Chemosphere 77(8):1152–1156. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Feiz R, Ammenberg J, Baas L, Eklund M, Helgstrand A, Marshall R (2015) Improving the CO2 performance of cement, part I: utilizing life-cycle assessment and key performance indicators to assess development within the cement industry. Spec Vol Support Your Future Today Turn Environ Chall Oppor 98:272–281Google Scholar
  17. Flower DJM, Sanjayan JG (2007) Green house gas emissions due to concrete manufacture. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(5):282–288. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ghisellini P, Cialani C, Ulgiati S (2016) A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. Post Foss Carbon Soc Regen Prev Eco-Ind Dev 114:11–32Google Scholar
  19. Habert G (2012) A method for allocation according to the economic behaviour in the EU-ETS for by-products used in cement industry. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:113–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Habert G, Billard C, Rossi P, Chen C, Roussel N (2010a) Cement production technology improvement compared to factor 4 objectives. Cem Concr Res 40:820–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Habert G, Bouzidi Y, Chen C, Jullien A (2010b) Development of a depletion indicator for natural resources used in concrete. Resour Conserv Recycl 54(6):364–376. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Habert G, d’Espinose de Lacaillerie JB, Roussel N (2011) An environmental evaluation of geopolymer based concrete production: reviewing current research trends. J Clean Prod 19(11):1229–1238. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hauschild M, Goedkoop M, Guinée J, Heijungs R, Huijbregts M, Jolliet O, Margni M, De Schryver A, Humbert S, Laurent A, Sala S, Pant R (2013) Identifying best existing practice for characterization modeling in life cycle impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(3):683–697. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huaiwei Z, Xin H (2011) An overview for the utilization of wastes from stainless steel industries. Resour Conserv Recycl 55(8):745–754. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huntzinger DN, Eatmon TD (2009) A life-cycle assessment of Portland cement manufacturing: comparing the traditional process with alternative technologies. J Clean Prod 17(7):668–675. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Iacobescu RI, Angelopoulos GN, Jones PT, Bart B, Pontikes Y (2016) Ladle metallurgy stainless steel slag as a raw material in ordinary Portland cement production: a possibility for industrial symbiosis. J Clean Prod 112(part 1):872–881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ishak SA, Hashim H (2015) Low carbon measures for cement plant—a review. J Clean Prod 103:260–274. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jolliet O, Müller-Wenk R, Bare J, Brent A, Goedkoop M, Heijungs R, Itsubo N, Peña C, Pennington D, Potting J, Rebitzer G, Stewart M, de HHU, Weidema B (2004) The LCIA midpoint-damage framework of the UNEP/SETAC life cycle initiative. Int J Life Cycle Assess 9(6):394–404. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kim YJ, Nettleship I, Kriven WM (1992) Phase transformations in dicalcium silicate: II, TEM studies of crystallography, microstructure, and mechanisms. J Am Ceram Soc 75:2407–2419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kirchofer A, Brandt A, Krevor S, Prigiobbe V, Wilcox J (2012) Impact of alkalinity sources on the life-cycle energy efficiency of mineral carbonation technologies. Energy Environ Sci 5:8631–8641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kriskova L, PontikesY CÖ, Mertens G, Veulemans W, Geysen D, Jones PT, Vandewalle L, Van Balen K, Blanpain B (2012) Effect of mechanical activation on the hydraulic properties of stainless steel slags. Cem Concr Res 42(6):778–788. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martaud T (2008) Evaluation environnementale de la production de granulats en exploitation de carrières (Applied geology). Université d’Orléans, OrléansGoogle Scholar
  33. Marvuglia A, Benetto E, Rege S, Jury C (2013) Modelling approaches for consequential life-cycle assessment (C-LCA) of bioenergy: critical review and proposed framework for biogas production. Renew Sust Energ Rev 25:768–781. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Motz H, Geiseler J (2001) Products of steel slags an opportunity to save natural resources. Waste Manag 21(3):285–293. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mroueh U-M, Eskola P, Laine-Ylijoki J, Wellman J (2000) Life cycle assessment of road construction. Finnish National Road Administration, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  36. Neville AM (2012) Properties of concrete, 5th edn. Trans-Atlantic Publications, IncGoogle Scholar
  37. Ollivier JP, Torrenti JM, Carcasses M (2012) Physical properties of concrete and concrete constituents properties of concrete. Wiley-ISTE. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pan S-Y, Lorente L, Chiang P-C (2016) Engineering, environmental and economic performance evaluation of high-gravity carbonation process for carbon capture and utilization. Appl Energy 170:269–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Panda CR, Mishra KK, Panda KC, Nayak BD, Nayak BB (2013) Environmental and technical assessment of ferrochrome slag as concrete aggregate material. Constr Build Mater 49:262–271. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Provis J, van Deventer J (2014) Alkali activated materials— state-of-the-art report, RILEM TC | John Provis | SpringerGoogle Scholar
  41. Rebitzer G, Ekvall T, Frischknecht R, Hunkeler D, Norris G, Rydberg T, Schmidt WP, Suh S, Weidema BP, Pennington DW (2004) Life cycle assessment: part 1: framework, goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, and applications. Environ Int 30(5):701–720. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Salman M (2014) Sustainable materialisation of residues from thermal processes into construction materials (Duurzame valorisatie van residu’s van thermische processen tot bouwmaterialen). KU Leuven, LeuvenGoogle Scholar
  43. Salman M, Cizer Ö, Pontikes Y, Santos RM, Snellings R, Vandewalle L, Blanpain B, Van Balen K (2014a) Effect of accelerated carbonation on AOD stainless steel slag for its valorisation as a CO2-sequestering construction material. Chem Eng J 246:39–52. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Salman M, Cizer Ö, Pontikes Y, Vandewalle L, Blanpain B, Van Balen K (2014b) Effect of curing temperatures on the alkali activation of crystalline continuous casting stainless steel slag. Constr Build Mater 71:308–316. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Salman M, Cizer Ö, Pontikes Y, Snellings R, Vandewalle L, Blanpain B, Balen KV (2015) Cementitious binders from activated stainless steel refining slag and the effect of alkali solutions. J Hazard Mater 286:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salman M, Dubois M, Maria AD, Van Acker K, Van Balen K (2016) Construction materials from stainless steel slags: technical aspects, environmental benefits, and economic opportunities. J Ind Ecol 20:854–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Santos RM, Bouwel JV, Vandevelde E, Mertens G, Elsen J, Gerven TV (2013) Accelerated mineral carbonation of stainless steel slags for {CO2} storage and waste valorization: effect of process parameters on geochemical properties. Int J Greenh Gas Control 17:32–45. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Setién J, Hernández D, González JJ (2009) Characterization of ladle furnace basic slag for use as a construction material. Constr Build Mater 23:1788–1794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sheen Y-N, Wang H-Y, Sun T-H (2013) A study of engineering properties of cement mortar with stainless steel oxidizing slag and reducing slag resource materials. Constr Build Mater 40:239–245. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shi C, Qian J (2000) High performance cementing materials from industrial slags—a review. Resour Conserv Recycl 29(3):195–207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shibasaki M, Warburg W, Eyerer P (2006) Upscaling effect and life cycle assessment. Presented at the LCE 2006 (life cycle engineering)Google Scholar
  52. Song H-W, Saraswathy V (2006) Studies on the corrosion resistance of reinforced steel in concrete with ground granulated blast-furnace slag—an overview. J Hazard Mater 138(2):226–233. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tian S, Jiang J, Chen X, Yan F, Li K (2013) Direct gas–solid carbonation kinetics of steel slag and the contribution to in situ sequestration of flue gas CO2 in steel-making plants. ChemSusChem 6:2348–2355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Turner LK, Collins FG (2013) Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) emissions: a comparison between geopolymer and OPC cement concrete. Constr Build Mater 43:125–130. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van den Heede P, De Belie N (2012) Environmental impact and life cycle assessment (LCA) of traditional and “green” concretes: literature review and theoretical calculations. Cem Concr Compos 34(4):431–442. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vázquez-Rowe I, Rege S, Marvuglia A, Thénie J, Haurie A, Benetto E (2013) Application of three independent consequential LCA approaches to the agricultural sector in Luxembourg. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(8):1593–1604. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weil M, Dombrowski K, Buchwald A (2009) 10—Life-cycle analysis of geopolymers. In: Geopolymers. Woodhead Publishing, pp 194–210Google Scholar
  58. Worrell E, Price L, Martin N, Hendriks C, Meida LO (2001) Carbon dioxide emissions from the global cement industry. Annu Rev Energy Environ 26:303–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Xiao L-S, Wang R, Chiang P-C, Pan S-Y, Guo Q-H, Chang EE (2014) Comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of accelerated carbonation processes using steelmaking slag for CO2 fixation. Aerosol Air Qual Res 14:892–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yi H, Xu G, Cheng H, Wang J, Wan Y, Chen H (2012) An overview of utilization of steel slag. Procedia Environ Sci 16:791–801. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zhao H, Qi Y, Shi Y, Na X, Feng H (2013) Mechanism and prevention of disintegration of AOD stainless steel slag. J Iron Steel Res Int 20:26–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Materials EngineeringKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Indian Institute of Technology BombayMumbayIndia
  3. 3.Cleantech & Sustainability ServicesEYBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations