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Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Analysis of Stone Wool Production Using Traditional and Alternative Materials

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The mineral wool sector represents 10 % of the total output tonnage of the glass industry. The thermal, acoustic and fire protection properties of mineral wool make it desirable for use in a wide range of economic sectors especially in the construction industry for the creation of low energy buildings. The traditional stone wool manufacturing process involves melting raw materials, in a coke-fired hot blast cupola furnace, fiberization, polymerization, cooling, product finishing and gas treatment. The use of alternative raw materials as torrefied biomass and sodium silicate, is proposed as an alternative manufacturing process to improve the sustainability of stone wool production, particularly the reduction of gas emissions (CO2 and SO2). The present study adopts a life cycle analysis (LCA) approach to measure the comparative environmental performance of the traditional and alternative stone wool production processes; process data are incorporated into a LCA model using SimaPro 8 software with the Ecoinvent version 3 life cycle inventory database. The CML 2000 and Eco-Indicator99 methods are used to estimate effects on different impact categories. The Minerals and Land use impacts in Eco-Indicator99 and the Eutrophication impact in CML2000 increase between 2 and 4 % for the alternative process instead of the traditional one. Similarly, the ecotoxicity-related impacts increase between 9 and 24 % with the use of the alternative process. However these increases are compensated by concomitant impact decreases in other categories of impact; consequently, the three areas of impact grouped by individual Eco-indicator 99 impacts, show environmental benefits improvements between 6 and 15 % when using the alternative process based on torrefied biomass and silicate instead of the traditional process based on coke and cement use.

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Correspondence to Javier R. Viguri.



Detailed Inventory Data of Materials Introduced in the Melting and Fiberization Stage

See Tables 7 and 8.

Table 7 Detailed inventory data of materials introduced for the melting process stage
Table 8 Detailed inventory data of materials introduced for the fiberization stage

Characterization of the Impacts for Traditional Stone Wool Manufacturing Process Using Petcoke

The following figures are the result of analyzing the traditional process of manufacturing stone wool with CML200, Eco-Indicador99 and damage assessment methods (Figs. 12, 13, 14).

Fig. 12
figure 12

Characterization of the CML2000 impacts at different stages of the life cycle for the traditional stone wool manufacturing process using petcoke

Fig. 13
figure 13

Characterization of the Eco-Indicator99 impacts at different stages of the life cycle for the traditional stone wool manufacturing process using petcoke

Fig. 14
figure 14

Areas of protection from Eco-Indicator99 for the traditional stone wool manufacturing process using petcoke

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de la Hera, G., Muñoz-Díaz, I., Cifrian, E. et al. Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Analysis of Stone Wool Production Using Traditional and Alternative Materials. Waste Biomass Valor 8, 1505–1520 (2017).

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