Dear Duane, Mills and others, (01)
There are a few papers out there about the use of ontologies in LCA (Life
Cycle Assessment). There were also two EU co-funded research projects DEPUIS
and CASCADE which investigated this and created RDF/OWL equivalents to the
XML representations of LCA data to ISO 14048, such as the EcoSpold format.
There was only limited interest from the LCA community in these projects.
These projects were also concerned with the representation of LCA data using
ISO 10303 (STEP) and ISO 15926 (Life cycle data for process plant). Both
these international standards have their strengths, but are not "everybody's
cup of tea". (02)
One of the reasons why the LCA community was not very interested in the
work, is that LCA data is currently very sparse so that sophisticated
computing techniques for dealing with it are barely needed. Going into the
US NREL (National Renewable Engineering Laboratory) site for LCA data
<http://www.nrel.gov/lci/> and picking "Primary Metal Manufacturing" there
are 21 classes of product. Going into the EU "LCA InfoHub" site for LCA data
<http://lca.jrc.ec.europa.eu/lcainfohub/datasetCategories.vm> and picking
"Material production" and "Metals and semi-metals" there are 11 classes. (03)
All of these classes are very broad, and give figures which are averaged
across the industry and which hid difference caused by different production
technologies and energy sources. As soon as we move to data which reflects
the richness of the industry, there will be several orders of magnitude more
classes. We also need to move from information about industry averages
provided by governments to actual information about particular products from
particular manufacturers. (04)
I think that Duane is right is saying that many of the pieces needed for an
ontology to support LCA, and embedded CO2 emissions, are present. The
current situation seems to be:
a) the creation of LCA information is not a routine part of product
development, and is not derived automatically from other product data;
b) there is no standard set of ontologies and set of product data
publication practices, that would enable LCA information to be derived
automatically from other product data.
Perhaps (b) is a problem that we can address. (05)
>In a complicated situation with long supply chains, perhaps step-by-step
English explanations of calculated results are useful? (06)
This is correct, and in a world of total honesty and trust, all that is
needed is LCA information from immediate suppliers. But as soon as you ask
"can we audit these figure", you are immediately back into supply chain
analysis. If LCA information becomes an important factor in procurement,
there may be a temptation to "massage" the figures. (07)
At 17:02 08/03/2010 -0800, you wrote:
>Very cool Mills! I met David Boyd (who co-wrote a book with David Suzuki)
and it was he who got me thinking about this. Such a model is surely absent
even though so many of the pieces are present (and even data is available).
>On 3/8/10 3:56 PM, "Mills Davis" <lmd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>You may want to refer to the NREL Life Cycle Inventory database.
>Also, there is are ISO 14000 series standards on environmental management
that may help.
>On Mar 8, 2010, at 6:45 PM, Duane Nickull wrote:
>Thank you David. I had suspected that an ontology component was required.
We seem to have the concrete models worked out (UoM for energy etc) but not
a complex high level model that can be used to build evaluations. I agree
this would be very complex.
>On 3/8/10 5:11 AM, "David Leal" <david.leal@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
<x-msg://17/david.leal@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> > wrote:
>I agree with Duane's comments. The calculation of embedded CO2 is very
>complicated, and the ontology/semantic web community has a key part of the
>The problem is that the supply chains for most products are very long. For
>example the CO2 calculations for an electronic product have to include the
>mineral extraction to make the special steels, to make the machine tools, to
>grind the glass in the optical instruments, which make the masks, etc.. For
>this reason a standard in this area, BSI PAS 2050, excludes capital goods
>from embedded CO2 calculations. So the calculation of the embedded CO2 in a
>holiday includes the jet fuel burned during the flight, but not the fuel
>needed to make the aeroplane.
>The reason for the difficulty is simple - a manufacturer or supplier knows
>about direct inputs, and direct outputs to waste disposal and re-cycling,
>but nothing about what happens further up the supply chain, or further down
>the disposal/re-cyclying chain. As a result, it would cost a
>manufacturer/supplier a lot of time and money to produce an accurate
>estimate of the embedded CO2 in a product.
>A possible solution involves publication of information about inputs and
>outputs by each organization within a supply chain (including the
>disposal/re-cycling chain). Each organization would publish only what it
>knows - direct inputs and outputs. The CO2 emissions embedded within a
>product are then produced by software which navigates the published
>information about the supply chain as a whole.
>In order to enable this to happen, standard ontologies are needed:
>- to represent product structure;
>- to represent the inputs and outputs from processes.
>There is another problem - security. The details of product structure, the
>inputs and outputs from processes, and the organizations from which supplies
>are obtained, are absolutely commercially confidential. The resulting
>assessment of embedded CO2 may be commercially embarrasing, but is not
>confidential in the same way. Hence there are two parts to implementing a
>- standards ontologies which can describe a supply chain; and
>- a network of non-disclosure agreements with environmental auditors which
>will allow their software to navigate supply chain information published on
>the Web to produce accurate figures for embedded CO2.
>Such a network would not involve everybody, and so there would have to be
>C02 estimates for non-participating organizations. The estimates could be
>provided by data bases such as the EU Platform on LCA
><http://lct.jrc.ec.europa.eu/eplca>. If these estimates were sufficiently
>conservative, then there would be an incentive to join the network.
>At 13:32 05/03/2010 -0800, you wrote:
>>> Mills wrote:
>>> "Let me give a practical near-term example. The Open Energy Information
>>> initiative sponsored by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
>>> seeks to establish a global energy information commons based on linked open
>>> data and data commons principles"....
>>Are you involved in this? Very cool! I have been thinking for a long time
>>about the various arguments used for "green" initiatives such as "buy
>>locally" and have really felt that the lack of some sort of shared metrics
>>for determining what "green" really means is allowing marketeers to hijack
>>the term. Here is an example.
>>Many people tell you to "buy locally". On some sliding scale though, buying
>>locally grown tomatoes becomes more likely more energy consuming that
>>importing from other areas. The various factors that would affect this are
>>almost too numerous to think about. Here is a short list:
>>* the energy required to grow food year round in green houses in northern
>>climates vs. using natural sunlight.
>>* the energy used to move the food (plus how is was produced. An electric
>>train powered by wind carrying Californian avocados to Canada might be
>>better than propane powered Canadian greenhouses).
>>* The energy used by the farm/producer (including the living arrangements
>>with employees, fuel and equipment used, shipments of fertilizer etc.).
>>* The distribution network and it's challenges (refrigeration, freezing,
>>* The use of manual vs automated labor
>>The idea came to me as I was shopping and was looking at Apples and my wife
>>and I were trying to decide which Apples to buy. It would be nice if every
>>food item was clearly labeled with something like "This piece of fruit used
>>XXX of YYY units of energy to be on this shelf". There are units of energy
>>that would be appropriate measuring metrics such as Kilojoules/calories.
>>In order to do this, there would have to be a formal model for energy
>>calculations. Most of the data is already known in terms of how much fuel
>>the transporters/farms purchase plus the utilities various buildings use.
>>Seems like a good place for some data commons principles.
>>I started working on such a model but have had little time to complete it.
>>I was going to see if someone from the David Suzuki foundation here in town
>>might be interested in pursuing this.
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