FEDIOL LCA study on EU oilseed crushing and vegetable oil refining

FEDIOL commissioned TU Berlin to conduct an ISO compatible life cycle assessment (LCA) of EU rapeseed and soybean crushing and rapeseed oil, soybean oil and palm oil refining. The goal of this study was to establish a robust and up to date Life Cycle Inventory dataset to assess the key potential environmental impacts of these activities.

The results from this study will allow FEDIOL companies to perform site-specific comparisons and will thus be instrumental in environmental management decisions. They can also serve as a basis to understand the relative contribution of this sector to potential environmental impacts of the supply chain as a whole. It could also form the basis of future Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

The so-called ‘system boundary’ in this LCA is from oilseeds entering a crushing plant to the refined vegetable oil leaving the refinery. In this ‘gate-to-gate’ approach only inputs (e.g. raw materials, energy) and outputs (e.g. emissions, waste) associated with the processes within the boundary are included. Upstream activities (e.g. agricultural production, transport and storage or seeds) and downstream activities (e.g. distribution and use) are not part of this study.

What started with a workshop by TU Berlin at the end of 2010 with this report has led to an overview of the most relevant potential environmental impacts of crushing and refining. This enriches the literature on LCAs in the industrial agro chains. With its commitment in supporting environmental assessments, the EU Protein meal and Vegetable Oil Industry is showing that LCAs need to be developed at an international level so as to facilitate the internal market. This industry is also showing that it is ready for a further dialogue within the SCP RT, with the EC and within the FAO Lifecycle Environmental Assessment Partnership on how to best shape LCA methodologies in the agro supply chains.

The methodology presents a new concept to analyse environmental issues to support environment related management decisions. However, LCAs of products or processes require complex modeling. This is due to the application of different methods, different data and different assumptions at the various stages of the value chain. Therefore, a lot more progress has to be booked in these fields before the LCA methods can become instrumental for delivering consumer information.