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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Dec 15;41(24):8477-83.

Cumulative exergy extraction from the natural environment (CEENE): a comprehensive life cycle impact assessment method for resource accounting.

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Research Group EnVOC, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


The objective of the paper is to establish a comprehensive resource-based life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method which is scientifically sound and that enables to assess all kinds of resources that are deprived from the natural ecosystem, all quantified on one single scale, free of weighting factors. The method is based on the exergy concept. Consistent exergy data on fossils, nuclear and metal ores, minerals, air, water, land occupation, and renewable energy sources were elaborated, with well defined system boundaries. Based on these data, the method quantifies the exergy "taken away" from natural ecosystems, and is thus called the cumulative exergy extraction from the natural environment (CEENE). The acquired data set was coupled with a state-of-the art life cycle inventory database, ecoinvent. In this way, the method is able to quantitatively distinguish eight categories of resources withdrawn from the natural environment: renewable resources, fossil fuels, nuclear energy, metal ores, minerals, water resources, land resources, and atmospheric resources. Third, the CEENE method is illustrated for a number of products that are available in ecoinvent, and results are compared with common resource oriented LCIA methods. The application to the materials in the ecoinvent database showed that fossil resources and land use are of particular importance with regard to the total CEENE score, although the other resource categories may also be significant.

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