Life-cycle assessment of hydrogen technologies with the focus on EU critical raw materials and end-of-life strategies


We present the results of a life-cycle assessment (LCA) for the manufacturing and end-of-life (EoL) phases of the following fuel-cell and hydrogen (FCH) technologies: alkaline water electrolyser (AWE), polymer-electrolyte-membrane water electrolyser (PEMWE), high-temperature (HT) and low-temperature (LT) polymer-electrolyte-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), together with the balance-of-plant components. New life-cycle inventories (LCIs), i.e., material inputs for the AWE, PEMWE and HT PEMFC are developed, whereas the existing LCI for the LT PEMFC is adopted from a previous EU-funded project. The LCA models for all four FCH technologies are created by modelling the manufacturing phase, followed by defining the EoL strategies and processes used and finally by assessing the effects of the EoL approach using environmental indicators. The effects are analysed with a stepwise approach, where the CML2001 assessment method is used to evaluate the environmental impacts. The results show that the environmental impacts of the manufacturing phase can be substantially reduced by using the proposed EoL strategies (i.e., recycled materials being used in the manufacturing phase and replacing some of the virgin materials). To point out the importance of critical materials (in this case, the platinum-group metals or PGMs) and their recycling strategies, further analyses were made. By comparing the EoL phase with and without the recycling of PGMs, an increase in the environmental impacts is observed, which is much greater in the case of both fuel-cell systems, because they contain a larger quantity of PGMs.

Funding source: European HYTECHCYCLING; Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking; Slovenian Research Agency
Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain
Countries: Slovenia

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