Research Themes

Bioenergy & Bioeconomy

The Bioenergy and Bioeconomy group at the Centre for Environmental Policy makes extensive use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate conventional and novel bioenergy and advanced biomaterial supply chains (e.g. bioplastics, construction and bioenergy).  The group has helped develop integrated consequential and attributional LCA methodologies using whole systems modelling approach coupled to technology and pathway specific frameworks.  We apply this approach to both research and teaching at postgraduate level in the department and across faculties.  In our research, we lead in the use of LCA in a range of national, European and international research projects e.g. the European Calculator, Bioprocesses for the optimized, integrated production of butyl esters from sustainable resources (BESTER), BioSuccInnovate, BIOSKOH and for industry e.g. Shell, CLIMATE KIC affiliates, World Gold Council (WGC) etc. CEP also supports LCA research and teaching across college by providing access to industry standard LCA software and providing advice and guidance to students and researchers.

Energy Storage Systems

Energy storage systems (ESS), such as batteries and fuel cells, play a key role in our efforts to decarbonise the transport and energy sectors and to move towards a sustainable energy future. However, these technologies come with their own environmental impacts, associated with raw materials extraction, manufacturing and end-of-life disposal, reducing their overall environmental benefits. In order to prevent energy storage technologies from becoming an environmental burden, their careful and detailed life cycle assessment is essential. It is especially important to take into account the entire value chain in the LCA and techno-economic models, as only with a holistic, whole systems-based analysis can the true environmental/economic hotspots of ESS be identified. Across Imperial College London, researchers are evaluating the impacts and potentials of ESS, using different approaches at all lifecycle stages to realise the full environmental benefits, deriving research strategies and policy guidelines for the development and implementation of ESS in our society.

Group: Electrochemical Science & Engineering

As part of the ESE group, a new research theme of battery envirotechnoeconomics is emerging, which combines whole system cost-benefit analysis with lifecycle assessment, to estimate Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and similar measures for each of the environmental impact factors, with a strong focus on lithium-ion battery technologies and engineering solutions which prolong battery lifetime, such as thermal management. This work is led by Drs. Jacqueline Edge and Laura Lander, based in the Mechanical Engineering Department, and forms part of the Faraday Institution’s project on Multiscale Modelling of lithium-ion batteries.

Waste & Resources Management

WASTE MANAGEMENT: European legislation has moved away from the rigid waste hierarchy and requires the assessment of alternative scenarios for managing waste. The Waste Framework Directive (European Commission, 2008) allows for a departure from the waste hierarchy where this is justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impacts of the generation and management of waste. We have been using the WRATE LCA model to compare the environmental impacts of alternative waste treatment technologies and more recently to identify potential opportunities for reducing the UK waste sector’s GHG emissions. In response to the identified shortfall in achieving the UK’s 4th and 5th Carbon Budget targets (spanning 2023 to 2032), we have been using LCA (SimaPro 8) to assess reduction opportunities for all key emission sources in the waste sector.

The recently published policy brief on Examining Material Eviedence: The Carbon Footprint is an example of how we integrate LCA into our research that provides evidence on the carbon footprint of plastic packaging. This highlights the relevance and importance of LCA in our research that supports policymaking. 

RESOURCES MANAGEMENT: We have also just completed the environmental assessment of cigarette smoking using LCA as part of a project funded by the WHO FCTC and ASH UK. The work was initiated through an MSc project (Zafeiridou, 2018) and looked at tobacco’s carbon footprint across its global supply chain. The environmental impacts associated with global tobacco production and consumption were quantified across thirteen impact categories using SimaPro 8 and the Recipe Midpoint (H) methodology, covering climate change potential, resource depletion, and damage to ecosystem health.