Life cycle inventory generation and data handling in a large LCI database in a global context

by Gregor Wernet (presenting author), Emilia Moreno-Ruiz, Carl Vadenbo

ecoinvent Association, Switzerland


The collection and processing of data for life cycle assessment (LCA) and other sustainability assessment techniques is often time- and resource-intensive. The ecoinvent Association has established a number of innovative approaches for data handling and processing for the ecoinvent life cycle inventory (LCI) database that reduce these efforts substantially: inventory generation and data entry is simplified by LCI tools for important sectors, such as agricultural crop production, petroleum refinery operation, and waste and wastewater treatment . Additionally, the capability of drawing information semi-automatically from major data sources was demonstrated for regionalised electricity supply in most recent version (v3.6) of the database. For data providers, the ecoinvent Association has refined its submission and review system to improve usability and to handle large data submissions efficiently. Since the introduction of version 3 of the database, users have been able to select from several system models, generated from a common pool of peer-reviewed, freely accessible multifunctional unit processes. New features allow for the creation of hybrid system models, where two distinct databases are linked together and can serve multiple purposes simultaneously. Examples include the chemical database delivered for the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative, as well as a hybrid database constructed for the Swiss Federal Offices to model Swiss consumption. As more national or sectorial database initiatives emerge around the world, ensuring interoperability between different LCA data sources becomes critical. The ecoinvent Association enables external databases to operate on ecoinvent’s background data while remaining independent. In parallel, the ecoinvent LCI database is continuously developed to meet the ever-increasing needs for consistent, high-quality LCA data worldwide. In this presentation, we describe these features, which have made the database architecture made more adaptable, flexible and efficient, and how that ultimately benefits practitioners through increased usefulness of the available data.