Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


H2FC-LCA Report Summary

Project ID: 256850
Funded under: FP7-JTI
Country: Italy

Final Report Summary - H2FC-LCA (Development of Guidance Manual for LCA application to Fuel cells and Hydrogen technologies)

Executive Summary:
1. Description of the project context and main objectives.
Sustainability in the energy filed is becoming more and more a must. The very recent new EU directives like the “20-20-20” by 2020 and the reduction by 2050 of the 80% in CO2 emissions impose a very high attention when proposing new technologies replacing the conventional ones in terms of cost benefit analysis and in terms of their real contribution in lowering CO2 and other greenhouse gases and pollutants. In other words when developing new technologies it is important to evaluate them even by their environmental sustainability, it is mandatory to perform a Life Cycle Assessment.

In particular LCA is mandatory for Fuel cells because they are not yet a commercial technology and a considerable effort in research and development is ongoing to meet not only the efficiency, durability and cost targets but also environmental sustainability that is required to gain significant market shares and be fully accepted by consumers. LCA can increase this acceptance, so common rules to carry out such assessments will be necessary.
It is well known that ISO standards 14040 and 14044 have been set for LCA, but they leave a high degree of freedom to practitioners: subjectivity linked to some methodological choices (e.g. system boundary definition, allocation, modeling, etc.). To overcome the problem, the ILCD Handbook addressed these topics, providing guidance on the LCA process, from the definition of the decision context to specific requirements for review process. However, the ILCD Handbook is necessarily still generic as it applies to all possible industry sectors, technologies, decision context, etc.. That means a sector specific manual (guidance document) defining rules and the effort of the practitioners and data gathering, data quality, etc. is needed.

The goal of H2FC-LCA project was to overcome the weak comparability and to reduce complexity by sector specific guidance, developing a simple suitable instrument to be used at program level all over European Union based on common agreed methodologies, with the same approach and with homogenous and harmonized data to ensure that LCA applied by different teams in different contests could immediately be compared and used as they were homogenously calculated on the base of a common harmonized agreed procedures.
To this aim two projects respectively named “HYGuide” and “H2FC-LCA”, funded by FCH-JU as support action projects, were joined together focussed on delivering a guidance document, training materials and courses as well as case studies and LCI datasets related to fuel cells technologies and on hydrogen production systems.
The two consortia agreed to coordinate their projects and to share a common work programme mainly concerning the key overall LCA methodological choices avoiding in such way contradictory results and the delivering of different methodologies.

According to this decision the H2FC-LCA project has reached the following objectives:

• Developed, in liaise with the JRC-IES, a Specific Guidance Document for application to fuel cell technologies and related training material with courses for practitioners in industry and research, based on and in line with the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook, coordinated/ co-developed by the EC's JRC-IES. The guidance document has been developed with the following characteristics:
? has been reviewed by an external body and accepted by industry
? has a modular structure and is applicable for technologies at different stage of maturity (from lab- to commercial-scale) and to different technology-levels (from base technologies up to technology systems). The modular approach will allow each technology developer to assess their own technology without taking into account all the possible combinations in more complex systems, and to make the related information available in the ILCD (International reference Life Cycle Data system) Data Network. The structure of information modules allows the accumulation of knowledge to build up assessments also for more complex systems.
? has been developed with the idea of offering step by step guidance for LCA practitioners in industry, as well as for researchers

The Specific Guidance document consists in to 2 parts and 5 annexes is the following:

PART I General information
PART II Guidance on performing LCA on H2 production and FC technologies

Annex I Provides LCA study reporting templates
Annex II Shows the meta-documentation fields for the ILCD format to be filled out within the data sets.
Annex III Provides a specific data collection template.
Annex IV Includes a review reporting template
Annex V Gives examples from case studies.

• Developed 3 case studies concerning the application of the LCA guidance to PEMFC, SOFC and MCFC systems in order to provide practitioners with real examples how to apply concepts and rules contended in the guidance
• Developed materials for training courses which will be an useful tool to teach researchers, stakeholders from industry and policy makers.
• Implemented, by the two consortia, a website ( as a central information point and as fully integrated component of the ILCD data network, with public and restricted access areas.

Project Context and Objectives:
1.1. Project context
Fuel cells hare receiving increasing attention on the basis of their potential contribution to solve growing concerns on energy supply, security, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions thank to their potential contribution to the development of a sustainable energy system in terms of emission reduction (both at global and local level), diversification of primary energy sources and industrial opportunities. Main factors to successful penetration of FC and related fuel technologies in the market is their acceptance by the public not only for economical and technical reasons but even for their sustainability compared to the other conventional technologies.
They are, in general, technologies for the medium-long term. Their role in the energy system depends on many factors, technical and non-technical, and in general on their capability to satisfy requirements of energy and environmental type in a more effective and suitable way than possible competing solutions.
There are several barriers that prevent or could affect future implementation of fuel cells: political, economical, infrastructural, code and standards, social. More in detail the political barriers mainly concern the fact that the related extra cost for their implementation will be accepted, in a medium-long term perspective, only where strong energy and environmental policies are endorsed. Economical barriers: is well know that for fuel cells the cost be less than 30-50 €/kW for traction and 1,000-1,500 €/kW for stationary uses. Social barriers: the more sustainable are the technologies the more they could be socially accepted.
In general fuel cells are not yet a commercial technology and a considerable effort in research and development is on going to meet not only the efficiency, durability and cost targets but also environmental sustainability required to gain significant market shares and be fully accepted by consumers.
The full introduction of these technologies on the market provides potentially large advantages in terms of competitiveness and quality of life. However, their full scale implementation can imply potential negative impacts also on the environment. The need of developing a methodological framework based on a life cycle approach has been stressed by the European Commission in several documents In particular DG RTD states:
“The fast development and improvement of technologies has become a characteristic of our society and it is considered to be a fundamental step in the attempt to assure better living conditions to citizens both living in Europe and worldwide.
[…]However, the full scale implementation of any new technology, especially the most innovative ones, can imply the risk of socio-economic disruptive changes and/or potential negative impacts on the environment. […] The skilfulness to quantitatively forecast as correctly as possible these impacts, especially those linked to technologies that are not yet on the market, would greatly improve the ability to move towards a more sustainable word. [...] A conditio sine qua non identified by DG RTD is that both the framework methodology and its derived method(s) and tool(s) shall be abased on a life cycle thinking approach.”
In this regard, the European Commission JRC through its European LCA Platform has developed and coordinated the International Life Cycle Data System, which promotes the availability, exchange and use of consistent and quality-assured life cycle data and methods for robust decision support for more coherent policy making and in business. The ILCD consists primarily of the ILCD Data Network and the ILCD Handbook. The Data Network is a web-based, decentralised network of consistent and quality-assured life cycle inventory (LCI) data sets. The Handbook is a series of technical guidance documents in line with the ISO 14040 series and developed through peer review and public consultation, aimed at ensuring consistent and reproducible life cycle data and robust assessment, for use in policy context and for reliable decision support in the public and private sector.
They serve as global guidance for standardized LCA application to technologies, processes and systems as well as Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of those technologies that are close to the market. Standard LCA and EPD procedures and protocols allow comparison of technologies and products and therefore constitute the basis for fair and environmentally sound market competition. Nevertheless, the Handbook is addressed mainly to LCA experts and scientists, and it is not product-group or technology specific. This means that for specific applications, the Handbook needs to be further adapted, as to simplify its applications also by non-experts.

Starting point for this process of adaptation and translation of the Handbook to the selected technological applications is represented by the knowledge accumulated and available in previous (EU) projects in the filed of life cycle analysis, related to both the methodology developments and to their applications (case studies, Product Category Rules developments, EPD, etc.).
FC technologies are a fast growing, improving and developing set of very different technologies with a broad range of functions, depending on the specific application and on the input processes thus their environmental performances strongly depend on the specific application and on the fuel which feeds the cell. Due to this strong variability of the application contexts that makes a full assessment of the whole system out of feasibility, we adopted a flexible approach to the problem, adapting the modularity concept of the ISO 14025: LCA-based data for the FC apparatus that are used in other more complex systems may be used to contribute to the LCA study for those other systems. In such circumstances, the LCA-based data for FC system have been referred to as information modules and represented the whole or a portion of the life cycle for those partial systems. Information modules shall be developed in accordance with the PCR for the FC system. Information modules may be used to develop a Type III environmental declaration or may be combined to develop an LCA of the complete system. An information module may be, but does not have to be, a Type III environmental declaration
The modularity approach would allow analysing the technology in terms of its main parts, each representing a module (e.g. fuel production, FC apparatus, distribution system, etc.): the sum of all modules contributes to the full assessment of the whole system the specific technology works in.
1.2 Project objectives
Have the possibility to “quantify the environmental sustainability” in an agreed and common procedure for those applications that characterise the innovation of today’s energy infrastructure will help make up a large share of tomorrow’s energy supply: decentralised utilisation of renewable and waste-derived fuels.
This project was completely devoted at tackling the vast field of developing Guidance Manual for LCA application to fuel cell. In particular FC-Guide project was aimed to develop:
• a Manual and Product Categories Rules (PCRs) for LCA applications to fuel cell (FC) and, in liaise with the JRC-IES,
• a Specific Guidance Document, structured in modules, offering step by step guidance for LCA practitioners in industry, as well as for researchers for application to fuel cell technologies, reviewed and accepted by industry
• reporting templates, tailor-made to FC technologies, with related training material and courses for practitioners in industry and research, based on and in line with the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook, coordinated/ co-developed by the EC's JRC-IES. e document has been developed with the following characteristics, including LCA study
• a data Network. The structure of information modules allows the accumulation of knowledge to build up assessments also for more complex systems.
• examples (LCA data sets incl. reporting template) from case studies to facilitate practitioners to apply the rules set in the guidance document
• teaching materials for the organisation of two training courses
• materials, such as power point presentations and revised papers, to disseminate the above “products” attending main international conferences in the field of H2, FCs and LCA.
• a website, as a central information point and as fully integrated component of the ILCD data network, with public and restricted access areas (

The technologies selected for FCs were high temperature FCs such as Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC) and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) and low temperature FC such as Polymeric Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC). Indeed, these FCs represent the largest market share at present and likely also in the future.
A modular approach, similar to the one described in ISO 14025, has been implemented in order to make the studies on specific technologies of FCs free from the more complex technological context in which they operate.
The proposed approach, based on the development of information modules according to specific LCA rules for each technology category (PCR), will allow each technology developer to assess its own technology, and to make the related information available in the ILCD (International reference Life Cycle Data system) Data Network, as to increase the availability of data and to support future LCA studies in this field. Beside the comparative purpose of PCRs, the structure of information modules allows also the accumulation of knowledge, an element which can allow the building up and assessment of more complex systems. Certainly, the full environmental assessment of a technology system adopting FC technologies is a very complex task, mainly because in many cases the commonly adopted “ceteris paribus” assumption is not valid. This means that the assessment would require taking into account the interaction between foreground and background systems and, in prospective studies, their evolution in time. Having detailed LCA information on different FC technologies available in the Data Network will definitely simplify this work.
The development of PCRs is compliant with ISO 14025, while the Manual builds on the ILCD Handbook: in particular, it consists of a step by step guidance for LCA applications to FC, and it is equipped with a report template for data collection and two case studies, performed during the project to develop and test the PCRs and the Manual, which have an illustrative purpose. The Manual addresses users knowledgeable in LCA but not experts, thus mainly LCA practitioners in the organisations (industry and research centres) developing LCA applications.

In practice the adopted approach consisted of the following steps:

1. Definition of the product category groups for FC apparatus. In order to allow a broader comparability among the different technologies and to guarantee a high degree of accuracy at the same time, product categories have been defined, taking into account the range of power, intended applications, technology characteristics, etc.
2. Development of common rules (PCR-type documents) for each product category. They have been developed basing on the experience available in the Consortium and in the literature on LCA studies of FC technologies. The document prescribes how to perform each step of the LCA study, including: life cycle stages to be included, system boundaries, parameters to be covered, relevant impact categories, cut-off rules, allocation rules etc. The principal methodological issues have been defined on the basis of the Handbook prescriptions. In particular, the ILCD Handbook has identified four differentiated decision context situations which require different Life Cycle Inventory modelling frameworks and LCI method approaches to be applied. An attributional modelling with the use of current data for the background systems and Best Available Technology data mix for the foreground system has been developed as well as specific rules have been defined for dealing with the multifunctional processes (very relevant in the FC technologies). Nevertheless, also other decision situations may be relevant, like for example the one related to Monitoring.
3. Consensus process on PCRs (Product Category Rules). Relevant stakeholders, with particular attention to the intended target audience, have been contacted and invited in workshops and discussion forum
4. Development of the MANUAL, through the execution of case studies to be used for illustrative purpose. It included a step-by-step guided procedure on Goal and Scope definition, Life Cycle Inventory, including data collection and documentation for ILCD Data Network, Impact Assessment, Interpretation and Review, strictly adhering to the ILCD Handbook. It included also the LCA study reporting templates.
5. The MANUAL and the PCR-type documents for each product category identified (MCFC, SOFC, PEMFC) form the guidance document, called FC-Guide.
6. Definition of case studies on the technologies developed by the consortium used for the validation of the guidance document. They were meant mainly for illustrative purpose; in particular, the purpose was to:
• contribute to the development of the guidance document on LCA;
• test it, with a real application;
• develop a background document, i.e. a technical document in which all the methodological choices summarised in the guidance book are justified and explained;
7. Development of the LCA study reporting template for supporting the LCA studies;
8. Development of training materials and courses on the FC-Guide.
The proposed approach, based on facilitating the development of Information modules, allows each technology developer producing the information module of its own product and making it available in the Data Network. The accumulation of LC data can then facilitate the comparison and the improvement of systems adopting FC technologies besides more comprehensive assessments by the decision makers.

Project Results:
2. Main S&T results

The main results of the project has been, of course , the development of the guidance document to apply life cycle assessment to fuel cells technologies. This guide, together with the guidance to perform LCA on hydrogen technologies, developed in the frame of the other consortium HyGuide, strictly linked with H”FC-LCA consortium, will represent a very powerful instrument to asses new incoming technologies in comparison with conventional technologies in the frame of energy production. Beside this Guide we also developed other instruments and materials such as FC product categories, training course materials, case studies.
Here after a brief description of the above mentioned reports.

2.1 Guidance document for performing LCAs on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (FC-HyGuide)

The Guidance Document, from now on referred as “GD”, consists of two parts and five annexes:

Part I Based on the sections 1, 2 and 3 which provide general information on the document, explaining its purpose and structure. A general description of LCA is also provided in section 3 to briefly introduce the methodology to the users. The content of Part I is :
1. About this document
2. How to use this document
3. Introduction in LCA
Part II Represents the core of the document. It provides detailed guidance on how to perform LCA for fuel cell and hydrogen production technologies. The methodological aspects include the definition of the functional unit, the system boundary selection, allocation rules and selection of impact indicators. They are explained with reference to the technological systems under study. A specific set of rules about the information and topics that have to be considered and reported in a LCA study are described in parallel to the methodological aspects in Part II. Some of the methodological aspects and general elements of a LCA study are mandatory some are optional. To distinguish between these two methodological elements “shall” is used for all mandatory parts and “should” is used for recommended but optional elements.
This section provides comprehensive information for experts such as technical engineers, decision-makers in industry and government policy on how to perform an LCA of fuel cells, both stack and system. Therefore, the methodological background is explained in detail, and each important step of an LCA – mandatory or optional – is described. The information on the methodological background is adapted according to ISO 14040, 14044 and the ILCD Handbook (ISO 2006a), (ISO 2006b), (JRC 2010a). The specific rules (including technical description and the information which has to be reported) are provided alongside the methodological information. The content of Part II is:
4. Introduction
5. Goal of the Life Cycle Assessment study
6. Scope of the Life Cycle Assessment study
7. Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of the study
8. Life Cycle Impact assessment of the study
9. Interpretation and quality control of the study
10. Reporting of the study
11. Critical review of the study

Annex I Provides LCA study reporting templates (i.e. how to report the results and conclusions of the LCA in a complete and accurate way, without bias to the audience), tailor-made to FC technologies. They have been developed to simplify reporting and to make results easily comparable and homogeneous.
Annex II Shows the meta-documentation fields for the ILCD format to be filled out within the data sets.
Annex III Provides a specific data collection template.
Annex IV Includes a review reporting template
Annex V Gives examples from case studies on fuel cells and hydrogen production which will assist users in the application of the guidance document. These examples (LCA data sets incl. reporting template) from case studies and two training course materials have been produced to facilitate practitioners to apply the rules set in the guidance document

The GD as been realized by H2FC-LCA consortium coordinated by ENEA and is the result of the contributions of all partners and of an external body that reviewed the report. The final version was set up and edited by Paolo Masoni and Alessandra Zamagni both researchers in ENEA.

The GD gives guidance for conducting a LCA study on fuel cells. Adapted from the ILCD Handbook and the ISO 14040 series, the document gives an overview of how to carry out a LCA on fuel cells. This is done by delivering a specific set of rules with clear specifications about the information and issues that have to be considered and reported in a LCA study on fuel cells.

It provides detailed technical guidance on how to conduct Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) (according to the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards) for fuel cells (FCs) and hydrogen production technologies. It builds on the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) , coordinated by the Joint Research Centre – Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC-IES), through the European Platform on LCA. This system promotes the availability, exchange and use of consistent and quality-assured life cycle data and methods for robust decision support in policy making and in business. The ILCD Handbook is applicable to a wide range of different decision-contexts and sectors, and therefore needs to be translated to product-specific criteria, guidelines and simplified tools to foster LCA applications in the specific industry sectors.
The FC-HyGuide project responded to this need by providing a Guidance Document (GD) on how to perform every step of a LCA for hydrogen (H?) production and fuel cell technologies.
The GD is foreseen to be applied to all projects funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) requesting LCA in the field of H? production and fuel cell technologies. By providing information on how to deal with key methodological aspects of LCA (for example definition of a functional unit, system boundary, allocation rules, relevant impact categories, etc.), the GD will allow each hydrogen production and fuel cells technology developers to assess their own technology, and make the information available in the ILCD Data Network. The availability of data sets will therefore be increased and future LCA studies in this field supported.
The intended audience of the GD is primarily, the FC technology developers working on projects funded by the FCH JU. However, the document can be relevant for any LCA study of FCs. It also provides a first example of ILCD sectoral guidance document.
The applicability of the provisions given in the GD is limited to micro-level decision-context situations in the ILCD Handbook (Situation A). Situation A applies to decisions or studies which have only a minor relevance in a particular industry sector so micro level decision support causes none or negligible change in the background system (further information on background system can be found in section 6.3.1). The GD is made for the geographical scope of Europe. A non-exhaustive list of possible applications includes: evaluating the production of fuel cells (stack(s) and/or system), identification of Key Environmental Performance Indicators of fuel cell production for the purposes of Ecodesign/simplified LCA; hot spot analysis of a specific product; comparison of specific goods or services; benchmarking of specific products against the product group's average; development of life cycle based Type I Ecolabel criteria; development of a life cycle based Type III environmental declaration (e.g. Environmental Product Declaration) for fuel cells and development of a carbon footprint etc.
Situation B would cover "Meso/macro-level decision support", i.e. life cycle based decision support at a strategic level (e.g. raw materials strategies, technology scenarios, policy options), which are assumed to have structural consequences outside the decision-context (they are supposed to change available production capacity). This GD does not cover this decision context because possible FC applications are strongly context-dependent and thus more specific rules than those defined in ILCD Handbook cannot be defined. In fact the FC can be applied in a wide range of applications, ranging from stationary to portable, and can use different fuel production processes. Each application of the FC stack or system into the final application has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
For the time being, some of the provisions reported in this GD are not detailed enough to allow for being unambiguously applied, due to the lack of more precise information. In fact, the still limited amount of life cycle information on the FC technology does not always allow extending the validity of choices, assumptions and results made to the entire product group. Thus, this GD should be conceived as a living document that will be further refined and detailed when more information from case studies will be available.
The GD is compliant with the ILCD Handbook with reference to situation A, which means the provisions and explanations given are in line with those of the ILCD Handbook with respect to five aspects:
1. Data quality relates to completeness, representativeness (technological, geographical and time-related), precision/uncertainty, methodological appropriateness and consistency.
2. Method relates to the appropriateness of the LCI modelling and other method provisions, and the consistency of their use.
3. Nomenclature relates to correctness and consistency of nomenclature which has been used (appropriate naming of flows and processes, consistent use of ILCD reference elementary flows, use of units etc.) and terminology (use of technical terms).
4. Review relates to the appropriateness and correctness of the review type, review methods and documentation. This includes ensuring that the methods used to carry out the LCA are consistent with this guidance document (i.e. the document reported below), and are scientifically and technically valid. The data used must be appropriate and reasonable in relation to the goal of the study, and the interpretations reflect the limitations identified and the goal of the study. The study report is also transparent and consistent.
5. Documentation relates to several topics: documentation extent (appropriate coverage of what is reported); form of documentation (selection of the applicable forms of reporting and documentation); documentation format (selection and correct use of the data set format or report template, and review documentation requirements).

If all the provisions are implemented, an LCA study conducted using this guide will be ILCD compliant.

The GD dedicates a few pages to describe in details what LCA consist off, here after some details:
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an analytical tool to assist making environmentally relevant decisions concerning product systems. The scope of LCA encompasses development, production, use, disposal and recycling of products for specific applications. LCA is an established, internationally-accepted method that is defined in two ISO Standards (14040/14044). The ISO 14040 defines a LCA as follows:
“LCA is the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its entire life cycle” (ISO 2006a).
The core of the LCA methodology is thinking in product systems and accounting for several environmental goals simultaneously. This methodology helps to keep decision-makers aware of potential shift of burdens that may occur when applying particular individual solutions.
In LCA, the entire life cycle of the product in question is described. This description includes the extraction of resources, the production of materials and intermediates from the resources, the assembly of the product from the materials, the use of the product, and the end of life (Figure 1). The compilation of all relevant processes (connected by material and energy flows) across the life cycle of the product and relevant processes from other contributing products is referred to as the product system. The purpose of building the product system is to identify the intended benefit from the product to be delivered.
Performing a LCA is divided into several steps. Most of them are done sequentially, but there are also iterative parts where the previous steps have to be reconsidered. These steps are:
1. Goal definition
2. Scope definition
3. Inventory analysis
4. Impact assessment
5. Interpretation

Figure 1: Overview of the LCA methodology

Figure 2 illustrates a simplified overview of LCA methodology derived from the ISO standard 14040. The main phases (goal definition, scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation) are shown.

Figure 2: Methodology of LCA taken from ISO 2006a and JRC 2010a (modified)

The interpretation interacts with all the phases. Moreover in the figure the iterative character of a LCA is shown. In fact, once the goal of the work is defined, the initial scope settings are derived that define the requirements on the subsequent work. However, as during the life cycle inventory phase of data collection and during the subsequent impact assessment and interpretation more information becomes available, the initial scope settings will typically need to be refined and sometimes also revised.

1. Goal definition
During the goal definition several aspects have to be defined:
• Intended application(s)
• Method, assumptions and impact limitations
• Reasons for carrying out the study and decision-context(s). Decision-contexts are goal situations under which the study is carried out and are defined by the intended application and by the specific decision to be supported.
• Target audience(s)
• A statement as to whether the results are intended to be used in comparative studies which will be made public
• Commissioner(s) of the study.

2. Scope definition
During the scope phase the following aspects should be defined:
• The function, functional unit and the reference flow
• Life Cycle Inventory modelling (multi-functionality)
• System boundary and cut-off criteria
• Life Cycle Impact Assessment methods and categories
• Type, quality and sources of required data and information
• Data quality requirements
• Comparisons between systems
• Critical review needs
• The intended reporting.

3. Life Cycle Inventory
A model of the product system is conceived to represent the interaction of the product system with the environment. The model is commonly programmed in a dedicated LCA software tool and covers each step of the life cycle from the raw material extraction through to the product’s end of life in a series of interconnected steps called processes. Interaction with the environment is represented as elementary flows crossing the system boundary, e.g. resources taken from nature and introduced into the product system or emissions arising from combustion, physical, thermal or chemical conversion processes which are vented into the environment. The elementary flows which make up the interaction of a product system with the environment are compiled. This compilation is referred to as the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI). Up to this point, the focus has been on the product system. It shifts towards the environment in the next step.

4. Impact Assessment
The large number of resources and emissions that make up the LCI is translated into a handful of environmental impact categories in the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) step. Each flow from the LCI is grouped into one or more categories. Within each category, the flows are aggregated using equivalence factors called characterisation factors. These factors are based on the physical and chemical properties of the impact-causing substances, as well as on the fate of the flows once they leave the product system towards the environment. The aggregated value is called a “potential impact” and is most commonly given in kg equivalent of a certain reference substance for the respective category. For example, the unit of the impact “Global Warming Potential” (GWP) is kg carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO?-eq.). Methane (CH4) has a 25 (IPCC 2007) times greater impact on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2) within 100 years span concerning greenhouse gas impacts, so it is characterised with a factor of 25 when aggregating GWP

5. Interpretation
Robust conclusions and recommendations relating to the goal and scope of the study are developed in the last phase. The results of the other phases are considered collectively and analysed in terms of the accuracy achieved and the completeness and precision of the data and the assumptions that were used.
Grouping and weighting, i.e. aggregation of all the environmental impacts into one single environmental value so as to tell which option is “best” when comparing product systems is often requested. However it is important to note that the aggregation of independent impact categories requires normative decisions. ISO 14044 specifies in section 4.1 that “It should be recognized that there is no scientific basis for reducing LCA results to a single overall score or number” (ISO 2006b). Grouping and weighting is based on subjective assessments rather than scientific findings and is therefore generally not recommended and forbidden for comparisons. When comparing, a complete set of indicators has to be used, e.g. it is not allowed to use Carbon Footprint alone for comparison. Most reports cover multiple impact categories, which allow trade-offs between different environmental impacts to be recognised and considered.
Decision-makers can use LCA to gain sound information on which to base decisions. The strength of the methodology lies in the two core aspects mentioned at the beginning of this text: thinking in product systems and accounting for all relevant impact categories. This ensures that shifts of environmental burdens between life cycle stages (or between impact categories) are recorded and decision makers can modify their processes to optimise the overall environmental benefits. The ability for multi-dimensional evaluation of system solutions is especially crucial when particular technology efficiencies have been maximised and substantial improvements can only be achieved through such system solutions.

2.2 Case studies

Three case studies have been developed concerning respectively:

a. Systems based on polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)
b. Systems based on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC)
c. Systems based on Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC)

The case studies are intended as a template case for future LCAs to be developed by producers of fuel cells, for consistent description and market introduction of their products as well as by researchers involved in FC EU-funded research projects. The study is designed to be ILCD compliant, with reference to the LCA standards.
These case studies were designed to be ILCD compliant, with reference to the LCA standards developed and available at
For all three cases, in addition to the specific inventory data, average and generic LCI data, regarding for example the electricity and auxiliary materials supply, were used.
Such data were derived from the databases available within the software SimaPro 7.3 used for performing the LCA. Among the methods available within this software, the method CML 2000 was selected.
According to the CML 2000 procedure, the impact categories evaluated for both the assembled stack, the assembled system and the use phase, were:

• Abiotic Depletion (ADP),
• Acidification Potential (AP),
• Eutrophication Potential (EP),
• Global Warming Potential (GWP),
• Ozone Layer Depletion Potential (ODP),
• Human Toxicity Potential (HTP)
• Photochemical Oxidation Potential (POP).

Furthermore technical and operational data were collected via a common questionnaire, established in order to obtain accurate and reliable data. In particular these questionnaires, useful eventually to be potentially submitted to the producer/manufacturing companies, were sent out and were filled with relevant data checked by PEMFC, SOFC, MCFC stack and system manufacturer.

Finally, according to the FC-LCA Guidance procedures, goal and scope of LCA studies were firstly defined and the functional unit was then chosen as:

Exergy delivered (kWhex) = Electricity delivered (kWhel) + ?th * Heat delivered (kWhth)

where ?th=1-(Ta/Tm) is the Carnot factor.

This case study deals with the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis on the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs). The study, as an example, refers to the construction of one complete NexaTM Power Module® system (1 stack + BoP-Balance of Plant, 1.2 kWel) over its complete lifetime (1500 operating hours), and its operation for electricity production fuelled by hydrogen.
The BoP includes a compressor, a fan, a heat exchanger/humidifier, pressure regulator, electronics (boards, circuits), wiring, housing, valves, fittings, piping, nuts and bolts, two electro-motors and a voltage converter. The stack is composed of 47 individual fuel cells, assembled together by means of specific components, such as endplates, buss plates, insulators, tie-rods, fittings etc. Each fuel cell comprises one anode, one cathode, membrane, gaskets and bipolar plate.
The system boundaries of PEMFC system were focused on the “cradle to grave” view. According to the ISO standards (ISO 14040: 2006), in this LCA study all the cut-offs are set at 2%.
The inventory analysis was addressed by identifying the input and output material and energy flows involved in the production and use processes and avoiding allocation.

PEMFC: Conclusions, limitations and recommendations

Although fuel cell systems, while converting chemical energy from a hydrogen to an electric energy, cause almost zero emissions, the production of fuel cell system, production and supply of a hydrogen and disposal of the system lead to environmental impact which cannot be neglected. Based on the LCIA results of the analyzed PEMFC system which are shown using column charts and using the network schemes, some recommendations can be done with the aim of improving the environmental performance of the PEMFC system:
• The reduction of impacts in every category analyzed can be achieved by reducing platinum loading or by recycling platinum.
• In addition to platinum recycling, recycling of the other materials used in production of the system can also significantly improve the environmental performance of the system. Reuse of the materials also should be considered.
• The use of tetrafluoroethylene in the gasket and in the membrane manufacturing should be reduced, since it impacts enormously in terms of global warming and ozone layer depletion.
• Copper used in manufacturing of the ancillary components and in BoP components should be decreased for reducing impacts on human toxicity and eutrophication.
• To decrease impact caused by hydrogen production, hydrogen, which is used as a fuel for PEMFC system, needs to be produced using renewable sources.

Further research should be focused on investigation of the materials, used in manufacturing processes, which cause less environmental impact and on reducing components which are integrated into a system.

The study refers to a SOFC system based on the SOFC stack manufactured by Hexis AG. Due to unavailability of data, the SOFC system produced by Hexis AG (with the commercial name “Galileo 1000 N”) was not considered. Instead, a hypothetic system is herewith analysed, containing two SOFC stacks by Hexis (each of 1 kWe capacity), integrated in the BoP developed within the framework of the EU funded project “FlameSOFC “(a prototype unit, which overall size and performance is not considered optimized).
As regards the components contained in the BoP, the planar SOFC stack is combined with the TPOX (thermal partial oxidation) reactor, the afterburner based on porous burner technology and heat exchangers for the heat-up of process gases and the waste heat recovery. A soot trap and a desulphuriser are used in order to guarantee a soot and H2S-free process gas at the stack inlet, respectively.
Also in this case , as fro PEMFC, the system boundaries were focused on the “cradle to gate” view in the case of SOFC stack and the “cradle to grave” view in the case of SOFC system. According to the ISO standards (ISO 14040: 2006), in this LCA study all the cut-offs are set at 2%. Only in few cases, a different cut off was selected for a more detailed interpretation of results.
Assumptions, methods and data were double-checked for consistency throughout both the LCI and LCIA study. Inventory data result to be consistent in terms of time-related, geographical and technological representativeness. The databases utilized refer to present European data. The impact assessment results are therefore consistent and in line with the goal and scope defined in the GD.

SOFC: Conclusions, limitations and recommendations.

On the basis of the network schemes of the main system components calculated for each impact category (see as examples figures 3 and 4),

Figure 3 - SOFC: Contribution (%) of a single cell components to the main LCA impact categories.

Figure 4 - SOFC: Contribution (%) of one single stack components to the main LCA impact categories.

some recommendations can be made with the aim of improving the environmental performance of the SOFC life cycle:
• Improving the overall CHP efficiency (primarily the electric, which has a direct impact on the exergetic efficiency) would decrease both the fuel demand and the operational emissions. A clear reduction on all impact categories is thus expected, though less intense in the case of Human Toxicity, where the SOFC system contributes more than half of the total impact.
• A potential adoption of a non-fossil energy source to drive the SOFC system (such as liquid biofuels, biomass derived syngas/biogas or renewably produced hydrogen) should be envisaged in order to drastically decrease the impact of fuel supply and operation.
• The amount of chromium alloys used in the interconnects and non repetitive parts of the stacks should be decreased (for instance by using thinner steel plates) due to their impact on human toxicity.
• The use of trichloroethylene in the cell manufacturing should be limited, since it has a clear impact in terms of ozone layer depletion.

A crucial factor remains the requirement for an operational strategy that would assure an annual utilization of the SOFC ?-CHP unit for at least 3500-4000 hours and/or at a minimum total efficiency of 95% (LHV).

Further research should be focused on the development of materials used in SOFC manufacturing processes which cause less environmental impact, and on reducing the materials amount in components which are integrated into a system.


The investigated MCFC system, made up with high-temperature fuel cells operating at temperatures of 650 °C, and produced by Ansaldo Fuel Cells S.p.A. (AFCo), Italy, is capable to cogenerate electricity and heat. Focus was placed on the construction of a single MCFC stack (125 kWel), the construction of one complete TWINSTACK® system (4 stacks + BoP-Balance of Plant, 500 kWel) over its complete turnover time (20 years), and its operation for electricity production fuelled by natural gas for the same time. The BoP includes reformer, pressurized vessels, start up electrical heater, steam generator, power conditioner, pipes, valves, cathode recycle system and micro-turbine. Each stack consists of 230 active cells, assembled together by means of specific steel components, such as anode and cathode collectors, bipolar plates, tie-rods, fittings etc. Each active cell comprises one anode, one cathode and three layers of matrix.
In the present case study the system’s usable heat output is not converted into an actually used service by means of cogeneration devices. Therefore, the only valuable product taken into account and referred to is electricity. The functional units chosen are therefore only referred to the electric power capacity of the manufactured stack (125 kWel) and system (4 stacks + BoP, 500 kWel), although is highly advisable that heat is usefully delivered by the system and included among the products, in future studies.
The system boundaries were focused on the “cradle to gate” view in the case of MCFC stack and the “cradle to grave” view in the case of MCFC system. According to the ISO standards (ISO 14040: 2006), in this LCA study all the cut-offs are set at 2%. Only in few cases, a different cut off was selected for a more detailed interpretation of results.
The inventory analysis was addressed by identifying the input and output material and energy flows involved in the production and use processes and avoiding allocation. In addition to the specific inventory data, average and generic LCI data, regarding for example the electricity and auxiliary materials supply, were also used.
Assumptions, methods and data were double-checked for consistency throughout both the LCI and LCIA study. Inventory data result to be consistent in terms of time-related, geographical and technological representativeness. Out-of-date data were discarded and only databases referred to Europe were chosen and applied. The impact assessment results are therefore consistent and in line with the goal and scope initially defined.

MCFC: Conclusions, limitations and recommendations.

On the basis of the network schemes of the main system components calculated for each impact category (See some examples in figures 5 and 6),

Figure 5 Contribution (%) of system components to the main LCA impact categories (the system is supposed to be operating for 20 years, thus including 16 stacks and 4 reformer).

Figure 6 Contribution (%) of operating assembled system for electricity production over 20 years to the main LCA impact categories.

the conclusions of LCA have been some recommendations that can be made to improve the environmental performance of the MCFC production process and system operation:
• A strategy for their dismantling and recycling or safe disposal is mandatory and urgent. In fact most of the MCFC system steel components can be recycled as secondary raw material for the steel industry, with minimum additional costs, while insulation materials could be used in the cement industry. Concerning Nickel, one of the most impacting chemical species used for the cell manufacturing, specific solutions can be adopted to separate it from the rest of the stack and eventually to “regenerate" it by means of the Mond process to produce pure Ni powder. LiAlO2 from matrix can, instead, be recycled directly as additive (for pyroceramic or for concrete) or as reagent for asbestos-free thermal insulation materials.
• The impact of MCFCs on abiotic depletion and on global warming impact categories should be reduced by optimizing the electricity use in the production process;
• Impacts on acidification, eutrophication and photochemical oxidation are mainly derived from the use of palladium in the system reformer and of nickel in both anode and cathode. Technical improvements should be achieved by finding a good substitute for palladium and/or by increasing the recycling rate of both metals.
• The use of tetrachloroethylene in the matrix manufacturing should be limited, since it impacts enormously in terms of ozone layer depletion.
• The chromium steel used in the reformer, power conditioner and non repetitive parts of the stacks should be decreased due to its impacts on human toxicity.
• Natural gas impacts on global warming.
Although the use of natural gas in fuel cells is, however, much more efficient and environmental friendly than its use in thermal power plants or its replacement by other fossil fuels, the future option must be fuelling the FCs with hydrogen from electrolysis powered by excess grid electricity in low demand hours. In so doing, not only the contribution to global warming would decrease, but also the environmental burden related to the reformer unit.
In conclusion further research should, therefore, focus on the source and kind of fuel supplied to the MCFC system and on the suitable technical progress about less impacting materials to be used in the manufacturing process.

2.3 Training course materials

Two training courses were organised by both Consortia, at the end of the project, one in Berlin and the other one in Bologna. The materials presented during these two training courses were revised according to the feedback from the participants. The final version has been uploaded into the website ( In particular 7 different power point presentations have been issued concerning:
1. Introduction on LCA
2. Guidance Document
3. Case studies on Hydrogen
4. Examples of application of FC Guide to:
• Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)
• Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC),
• Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC)
5. Data collection template
6. LCA reporting template
7. ILCD editor for ILCD compliant data sets:
• ILCD Handbook ( )
• ELCD database ( ). About 300 data sets:
a. End-of-life treatment 45
b. Energy carriers and technologies 173
c. Materials production 63
d. Systems 14
e. Transport services 22
8. Provisions: divided in working groups:

Group 1
Provision 6: Method, assumption and impact limitation
Provision 12: Functional unit
Provision 15: Multifunctionality
Provision 18: Cut-off criteria
Provision 19: Life Cycle Impact Assessment
Provision 34: Evaluation of results
Group 2
Provision 3: Product system description
Provision 4: Goal of the LCA study
Provision 19: Life Cycle Impact Assessment
Provision 20: Type and sources of data and information
Provision 30: Classification and characterisation
Group 3
Provision 4: Goal of the LCA study
Provision 11: Scope of the LCA study
Provision 16: System boundaries
Provision 25: Identifying processes within the system boundaries
Provision 34 : Evaluation of results

Potential Impact:
3. Potential impact
LCA guidance manual and suitable training tools for LCA practitioners will lay the foundations for clear product identification, fair market penetration and informed and unequivocal normative and law-making process.
The two Consortia have met the goal of preparing the way for an harmonised Life Cycle Assessment methodologies applicable both for hydrogen and fuel cells technologies with standardised quality and product declaration rules, for fair comparison and competition in the larger European and World markets. The Guidance Document for LCA and related materials will have a big impact on the assessment of new technologies because could be used in the filed of cost benefit analysis to compare the environmental impact of different (conventional and innovative) solutions.
As well known European Union aims at reaching and stabilising a worldwide leadership in the technologies of fuel cells, also by enabling breakthrough innovation and market penetration in support of industrial business and related public benefits. Such a leadership as well as the coordinated efforts of Member States are expected to attract private and public investments in the field and further facilitate innovation and technological development. Close cooperation among stakeholders, guided by fair and transparent competitiveness and search for excellence, are expected to allow the best possible benefit for Europe.
The impacts listed in the Annual Implementation Plan can only be achieved by developing a portfolio of technologies ready for, or close to, market application and penetration. Such a goal requires that both technical and non-technical barriers are addressed and removed not to prevent the appropriate technological improvement.
Applying the above mentioned GD for LCA to the entire production/manufacturing chain of Fuel Cells stack and/or systems will enable stockholders to achieve quality standards and identify market penetration paths. In so doing, the EU energy and environmental strategies (20% reduction of greenhouse gases; 20% share of renewable energy sources; and 20% reduction in primary energy use) towards increased decarbonisation are facilitated by the higher efficiency, flexibility and lower emissions of FCs.
Such a large scale development will be made easier by the creation of standards and LCA category rules that ensure quality and fair and effective competition ground.
The proposed approach, based on the development of information modules according to specific LCA rules for each technology category (Product Category Rule, PCR), allows the accumulation of knowledge, an element which supports the building up and assessment of more complex systems. The simplification of the assessment allowed by the Manual, PCRs and information modules makes it possible a broad use of LCA in the industrial context, guaranteeing at the same time sound scientific results. Indeed, the best available knowledge, represented by the ILCD Handbook and by the LCA applications published in the scientific literature, is “translated” into a more user friendly format for final users. As a final results, having available in the Data Network detailed LCA information on the different FC technologies will definitely simplify the future work of full assessment of complex technology systems.

The project will also have a possible economic impact, in fact FC sector clearly could contribute to one of the “Lisbon Strategy” aims that states, by 2010, Europe has to be “the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment”
The development of innovative technologies such as fuel cells requires long-term normative stability and market opportunities that attract investments. The project aims at creating a dialogue among stakeholders as a basis for public-private partnership Europe wide as well as at training LCA professionals that are capable to analyse the characteristics of each product in the field according to agreed upon Product Category Rules for product standardisation and competitive marketing.
The materials issued by the consortia: GD (FC-Guide) that includes a Manual for LCA, Product Category Rules for a set of products in the field, LCA study reporting templates, training toolkit (useful both fro individual study and training courses) will to contribute to the implementation of EU environmental policies in the energy sector. The tool-set of recommendations and rules at a general level, will provide a robust scientific basis for policy, decision making and scenarios building. Results from LCA will become integral part of the policy tools and will help identification of market opportunities and policy options.
The technological level characterising Fuel Cells is very high and requires joint research and applied efforts and large financial investments. The whole system of production and use is complex and likely to affect the whole energy and technological structure of the industrial, transportation and household sectors. The complexity of the infrastructure required and the expected changes generated are such that the implementation cannot be designed at the small regional or national scales. For this reason the Project was based on the main principles of the European policy on renewable energy, which are:
? increasing the diversity of energy supply sources and security of supply for Europe;
? reducing the effects on climate change;
? contributing to the sustainable economic growth of the world’s economy and of Europe in particular;
? developing a strong European high-tech industry in the field of innovative energy technologies and ensuring its leading role in the world.

The innovative point of view of distributed/networked Fuel Cells technologies adds to the European interests, since it provides new strategies for waste management, increased efficiency, environmental protection and additional income Europe-wide.
This Project is the result of previous collaboration of R&D institutes, centres and companies from several EU countries. The European dimension of the project has been therefore fundamental, not only for its elaboration, but also in order to guarantee a relevant impact of its implementation.

List of Websites:
4. Dissemination activities
The dissemination activities were aimed to increase visibility of LCA as a methodology useful for sustainability assessment and to strengthen the impact of the project results. Through several channels of communication, the context and potential of LCA and the FC-Guide has received wide attention and the results of the project were adequately disseminated in workshops, training courses, etc. With the intention to reach all interested parties (analysts, researchers, business people) to transmit them the necessary information/knowledge, guidance documents and tools on how to conduct LCA. The training material (PPTs, schemes, templates for course on PCRs and MANUAL), as said, have been revised and amended by feedback gained during the training course to maximize their quality.
In particular the dissemination of tools developed by the Consortium (guidance book, demo case studies, illustration of LCA reporting templates, training toolkits and courses) has been performed in two ways:
Table A1: Conferences and workshops:
• European Parliament Seminar – March 15, 2011 (Belgium)
• H2 FC Exhibition, Hannover Fair 4 Presentations during technical forums – Apr 4-8, 2011 (Germany)
• EU Sustainable Energy Week, 150 participants – Apr 12-14, 2011 (Belgium)
• UNEP-SETAC Europe 21st Annual Meeting, 15-19 May, 2011 (Italy)
• IPHE Hydrogen & Fuel Cells 2011 – May 15-18, 2011 (Canada)
• FCH JU Brokerage in Berlin – May 19, 2011 (Germany)
• Regional meeting on future demonstration projects – June 13, 2011 (Italy)
• Seminar on Life Cycle Assessment, JRC-IE, Petten – June 15, 2011 (the Netherlands)
• H2 IT conference – June 19, 2011 (Italy)
• International Conference on Hydrogen Production – June 22, 2011 (Greece)
• Life Cycle Management Conference in Berlin – Aug 29-31, 2011 (Germany)
• World Hydrogen Technologies Conference – Sept 16, 2011 (Scotland)
• KlimaMobility and Eco Dolmites – Sept 18-23, 2011 (Italy)
• Ökobilanz Werkstatt 2011 – Sept 20-22, 2011 (Germany)
• FuelCell Europe workshop on fuel cells and energy efficiency - Sept 21, 2011 (Belgium)
• F-cell Stuttgart, presentation by TÜV SÜD – Sept 27, 2011 (Germany)
• Workshop of the Hungarian Hydrogen Association – Sept 29, 2011 (Hungary)
• EHA Board Meeting – Oct 12, 2011 (London)

Table A2: Training Courses:
• FC-HyGuide training course in Berlin – Sept 2011 (Germany)
• FC-HyGuide training course in Bologna – Sept 28, 2011 (Italy)

6. Website address and relevant contact details.
A web site has been developed in cooperation between the two consortia and was built in two different areas one for internal purpose and restricted to the partners of the two consortia and another part open to public access to provide the platform to down-load data for assessment, tools, etc. The website will be part of the ILCD data network, e.g. it will also be the platform for storing in future developed life-cycle data sets on hydrogen and fuel cells.
The website serves as a central information hub for people doing LCA studies related to the “Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU)”. The website provides a dedicated access point for the corresponding handbook sections and LCA study reporting templates as well as the background data required. The website provides also an easy to use Web 2.0 based user interfaces to search, upload, and download data sets and to access the handbook pages and templates. The website is tightly integrated with the ILCD data network hub of DG JRC-IES and their corresponding documentation and guideline documentation, like the generic ILCD data network handbook.

The web side is:

Contact persons:
• Angelo Moreno
• Oliver Schuller
• Paolo Masoni
• Alessandra Zamagni
• Michael Eder

Related information


Angelo Moreno, (Responsible of High Temperature Fuel Cell Project)
Tel.: +390630484298
Fax: +390630486306
Record Number: 196136 / Last updated on: 2017-03-22