Life Cycle Impacts of Road Infrastructure : Assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions

Abstract: Road infrastructure is essential in the development of human society, but has both negative and positive impacts. Large amounts of money and natural resources are spent each year on its construction, operation and maintenance. Obviously, there is potentially significantenvironmental impact associated with these activities. Thus the need for integration of life cycle environmental impacts of road infrastructure into transport planning is currently being widely recognised on international and national level. However certain issues, such as energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the construction, maintenance and operation of road infrastructure, are rarely considered during the current transport planning process in Sweden and most other countries.This thesis examined energy use and GHG emissions for the whole life cycle (construction, operation, maintenance and end-of-life) of road infrastructure, with the aim of improving transport planning on both strategic and project level. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was applied to two selected case studies: LCA of a road tunnel and LCA of three methods for asphalt recycling and reuse: hot in-plant, hot in-place and reuse as unbound material. The impact categories selected for analysis were Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). Other methods used in the research included interviews and a literature review.The results of the first case study indicated that the operational phase of the tunnel contributed the highest share of CED and GWP throughout the tunnel’s life cycle. Construction of concrete tunnels had much higher CED and GWP per lane-metre than construction of rocktunnels. The results of the second case study showed that hot in-place recycling of asphalt gave slightly more net savings of GWP and CED than hot in-plant recycling. Asphalt reuse was less environmentally beneficial than either of these alternatives, resulting in no net savings of GWP and minor net savings of CED. Main sources of data uncertainty identified in the two case-studies included prediction of future electricity mix and inventory data for asphalt concrete.This thesis contributes to methodological development which will be useful to future infrastructure LCAs in terms of inventory data collection. It presents estimated amounts of energy use and GHG emissions associated with road infrastructure, on the example of roadtunnel and asphalt recycling. Operation of road infrastructure and production of construction materials are identified as the main priorities for decreasing GHG emissions and energy use during the life cycle of road infrastructure. It was concluded that the potential exists for significant decreases in GHG emissions and energy use associated with the road transport system if the entire life cycle of road infrastructure is taken into consideration from the very start of the policy-making process.