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Keywords:

  • input-output analysis;
  • life-cycle inventory;
  • process analysis;
  • system boundary selection;
  • truncation error;
  • uncertainty

Summary

Conventional process-analysis-type techniques for compiling life-cycle inventories suffer from a truncation error, which is caused by the omission of resource requirements or pollutant releases of higher-order upstream stages of the production process. The magnitude of this truncation error varies with the type of product or process considered, but can be on the order of 50%. One way to avoid such significant errors is to incorporate input-output analysis into the assessment framework, resulting in a hybrid life-cycle inventory method. Using Monte-Carlo simulations, it can be shown that uncertainties of input-output– based life-cycle assessments are often lower than truncation errors in even extensive, third-order process analyses.