Executive Summary of the Nickel Products LCI Report
Life Cycle Inventory of Nickel Products
The following provides context for a better understanding of the existing Life Cycle Inventory of Nickel Products and where it fits in the larger picture of Life Cycle Assessment.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
LCA is a tool for quantitative and scientific analysis of the environmental impacts of products and their associated industrial systems.
There is an immense amount of technical literature available on LCA. For further information, consult the International Standards Organization for its ISO14040 series of standards on LCA or, for an academic view, the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)
LCI is the assemblage of data on all relevant inputs and outputs/discharges per unit of production of a product. It is the first and essential step upon which all subsequent LCA work, including the calculation of impacts on environments and human health, is based.
Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)
LCIA is that part of a product LCA that uses models and formulae that have broad international acceptance to extrapolate the LCI data to arrive at calculations of impacts on the quality and health of environments (air, water, soils) and humans.
Coverage of the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
The LCI includes all environmentally significant inputs and outputs involved in the mining, beneficiation (concentration and smelting), and refining of metallic nickel, nickel oxide and ferro-nickel. It is a cradle-to-gate inventory but includes calculations for a number of impact assessment (LCIA) categories.
Percentage of World Nickel Production Covered by the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
The data in the LCI represents approximately 55% of the total annual world production of primary nickel. Annual world production at the time was approximately one million tonnes.
Not Captured by the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
While metallic nickel, nickel oxide and ferro-nickel made up approximately 98% of the output of the participating companies in the base year (1999), the LCI does not include data on a number of specialty nickel products and chemicals.
Nickel production from Russia and China -- both significant nickel producers then and now -- is not included. Only a portion of Cuba's nickel production was included and, as well, a number of smaller nickel producing companies in Africa and elsewhere did not participate in the project. Lastly, there were a number of new nickel producers -- particularly in Australia – that were just coming into production and did not have an operating history and thus data for the LCI.
Although referred to as the nickel LCA in the formal report prepared by PwC Ecobalance, it is not a true LCA: it is a cradle-to-gate study. It does not include the use or end-of-life (including recycling) phases of nickel-containing products. It is an essential building block, however, for any complete LCA that might be done on nickel-containing products such as certain stainless steels, batteries, catalysts, turbines, etc.
Strengths of the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
The LCI was and still is by far the largest, most representative data base on nickel, replacing dated and fragmentary information, information that was generated in a variety of ways that were not comparable and not consistent with ISO standards. The nickel industry LCI was conducted to ISO standards and subjected to external peer review.
Weaknesses of the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
While the data collection and quality was the best achievable at the time, the data quality is uneven and includes estimates. As noted, some small but significant nickel products fell outside this LCI and, more importantly, nickel production from the largest nickel producer in the world -- Russia -- was not included.
Work conducted under contract in 2003 revealed errors in how the input data were handled and this led to revisions to baseline data for metallic nickel and oxidic nickel.
Nickel Industry View of the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
The Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) portion of the LCI was problematic in parts. This was not the fault of the report itself. Rather, it is a reflection of the relatively undeveloped state of methodologies associated with some LCIA categories (eg., toxicity, resource depletion) and these shortcomings were broadly understood in the LCA community. The LCIA values were nonetheless included in the report for the sake of completeness and transparency.
Corporate and Global Coverage of the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
Nine companies participated in the LCI project: Société Eramet, Falconbridge Ltd. (now Xstrata Nickel), Inco Ltd. (now Vale), Nippon Yakin Kogyo Company Ltd., Outokumpu Oy (nickel assets now owned by OM Group Inc.), QNI Pty. Ltd., Sherritt International Corporation, Sumitomo Metal Mining Company Ltd., WMC Ltd (now part of BHP Billiton).
The companies collectively had operations in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Indonesia, Japan, New Caledonia, Norway, Sweden and Wales.
Consultant for the LCI of Nickel Products (2000)
PwC Ecobalance was contracted for the design and management of the project.
Members of the Peer Review Panel
The Life Cycle Inventory of Nickel Products was peer reviewed by:
Carl-Otto Nevén, Assess Ecostrategy Scandinavia AB (Chair of the Panel); Ole Jörgen Hanssen, Stiftelsen Östfoldforskning; Staffan Malm, Avesta Sheffield; John Pullen, Alcoa World Alumina Australia; Stephen Young, Five Winds International.
Rationale for the LCI
The environment is a priority for society, of which industry is part. The understanding of environmental impacts of products and processes supports progress towards a sustainable future that includes the viability and profitability of corporations that perform well environmentally.
Nickel goes into hundreds of materials - alloys and chemicals - and tens of thousands of products depend on those alloys and chemicals. Understanding the environmental impacts of those products requires information on the constituents of those products, including nickel. The nickel LCI data is one of the necessary building blocks for that understanding.
Use of the LCI by Participating Companies
While nickel LCI data is available to anyone, the nickel industry itself benefits. As long as the data was current and representative of a large percentage of world primary nickel production the data base could:
allow the identification of opportunities for process and product improvement;
support and improve their Environmental Management Systems;
establish a means for internal company and industry-wide benchmarking of environmental performance;
assist with improving data on environmental indicators;
assist nickel companies with investment decision-making and the integration of environmental criteria in corporate business plans; and
provide information that can be used with customers, regulatory authorities and other stakeholders in support of the sales and marketing of nickel products.