Process Simulation-Based Life Cycle Assessment of Dissolving Pulps

Yuan Yao and 3 other contributors

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    Dissolving pulp (DP) is a specialty pulp product from a variety of lignocellulosic biomass (i.e., hardwoods (HW) and softwoods (SW)) with a broad range of applications. Conducting life cycle assessment (LCA) for DP end applications (e.g., textile products, specialty plastics) is challenging due to the lack of life cycle inventory (LCI) data and environmental information associated with different grades. This research addresses this challenge using process simulations to generate LCI for different DP grades (e.g., acetate and viscose) made from HW and SW, respectively. The LCA results show that biomass feedstock directly affects the environmental impacts of DP. For instance, HW acetate grade has higher global warming potential than SW acetate but lower environmental impacts in other categories related to ecosystems and human health. This HW versus SW comparison has similar results for viscose DP in all impact categories except eutrophication. Additionally, a hotspot analysis identifies that on-site emissions and chemicals are the main contributors to the environmental impacts across all grades in this study. The results and LCI data generated in this work provide critical information to support future LCA and sustainability assessment for end-products derived from DP.