Makstil AD, a North-Macedonian steel producer, approached Ecomatters to create a Type III environmental product declaration (EPD) according to ISO 14025, for a number of their steel plate products. Makstil produces hot rolled thick steel plates out of 100% recycled steel, designed for a wide range of applications, such as structural steel, steel for shipbuilding, pressure vessels, manufacturing structural parts, pipes, and more. In Makstil’s plate mill, steel slabs undergo a series of processes to be hot rolled into steel plates, such as heating of the furnace, hot rolling in a quarto mill, stamping, oxycutting of the plates, and finally sandblasting and coating.
In our article on the EPD process, we describe the seven steps in the procedure of creating an EPD from start to finish. In this case study of Makstil’s steel plates EPD, we illustrate what this can look like in practice, and give insight into some methodological aspects. The final published EPD can be found on the website of MRPI.
The first step in creating an EPD is narrowing down the whole product catalogue to a select number of product variations that will be included in the EPD. This choice can, for example, be made based on the sales volume or client demand, or based on data availability. Makstil chose ten steel plate variations belonging to two standards, of which the EPD presents the average results.
Another aspect of scoping is deciding on the product category rules (PCR) to be followed and the system boundaries. For Makstil we followed EN15804+A2, which is the most common EPD standard for construction products, and used guidance from the more specific PCR for steel structures (EN 17662). The system boundaries are set as Cradle-to-Gate (modules A1-A3), with modules C1-C4 and module D. This means that all major steps from the extraction of natural resources to the final disposal of the product are included in the scope of the study, while the installation and use stage are excluded.
2. Data collection
Once the scope is agreed upon, the data collection process can start for data on raw materials, manufacturing, and logistics. In order to streamline this process, Ecomatters prepared a data questionnaire which was filled in by Makstil. At Ecomatters we reviewed the data followed by some additional correspondence to ensure all data was clear. In line with EN15804+A2, a data quality assessment was performed based on the technological, geographical, and time coverage of the data and datasets used.
The first two steps in the steel plates EPD creation involved interaction between Ecomatters and Makstil to align on scoping choices and data input. However, from this point on, the EPD creation became hands-off for Makstil as we at Ecomatters can perform the LCA and create the EPD independently.
Creating the LCA model is done using the LCA software GaBi, making use of the Ecoinvent database for background processes.
Often, no data is available on the use of utilities (e.g. electricity, natural gas for heating, or water use) for each individual product. However, the utilities for the whole factory per year are usually well known. In that case, allocation factors are applied to estimate the fraction of the total utilities which each of the individual product variations uses. For Makstil, physical allocation factors were used, which are slightly different between the product variations due to a difference in characteristics. This results in slightly different amounts of utilities estimated for each variation.
Manufacturers typically have little insight into the treatment of the product after the end of its lifetime at the consumer (modules C1-C4). In that case, end-of-life scenarios are used which are based on statistics, and often a default scenario is suggested in the PCR (EN 17662), which was also chosen for the Makstil steel plates EPD. The scenario includes the percentage of steel plates reused and recycled, the energy consumption needed for dismantling, and transport distances to the treatment or disposal facility.
When the steel plates are reused or recycled at the end of life, this generates both additional burdens and benefits for the environment. These benefits and burdens beyond the system boundaries (information module D) were calculated using a formula and scenario suggested in the PCR. The burdens are characterised by the process steps needed for reusing (such as cutting and refurbishment) or recycling (remelting and casting) the steel plates. On the other hand, the benefits of reuse and recycling are the substitution of a steel plate made from virgin steel with a steel plate made from recycled steel. To avoid double counting, these benefits and burdens are only calculated for the net quantity of steel leaving the system boundaries. In other words, the amount of steel plates reused or recycled is the amount of reused or recycled material entering the system as secondary raw materials (i.e. the 100% recycled steel slabs used as input for the hot rolling process) minus the amount of steel plates leaving the system boundaries at the end-of-life.
4. Result and interpretation
Using the GaBi software, the modelled input and output flows are translated into actual environmental impacts for a number of impact categories and per life cycle stage.
Besides a table with the absolute impact values, an interpretation of these results is an insightful (and required) addition. For example, for Makstil’s steel plates, the acquisition of raw materials (life cycle stage A1) has by far the highest contribution to the environmental impact over all life cycles and for all impact categories. The impact of the raw materials can mostly be attributed to the production of the steel slabs by remelting steel scrap and casting it into slabs, with minor contribution of the coating. The manufacturing stage (A3) is the life cycle stage with the second highest impact. This impact can be attributed to direct CO2 emissions and the generation of electricity used during the various processes in the plate mill.
5. LCA report and EPD document
In an LCA report, the methodological aspects and results of the LCA study are presented and explained, which allows the verifier to review the validity of the calculation. The EPD document is created based on the most important aspects of the LCA report. Both the LCA report and EPD document follow the PCR guidelines on the required contents.
6. Review and validation of EPD and LCA report
At Ecomatters, we have partner relationships with many reviewers who carry out independent third-party verification of the LCA report and EPD. During the verification process, the reviewer may ask to elaborate on some methodological choices and in some cases make changes to the calculation or report. In the end, the reviewer provides a review statement, which allows publication on the chosen EPD platform.
7. Certification and registration
While the steel plates EPD itself is published, the LCA report is not publicly available, as it can contain confidential information. Makstil has registered its EPD for steel plates with MRPI and also on the ECO platform, and can now use the EPD document for communication with its clients.
We are happy to support Makstil in creating EPDs that match their needs and expectations. If you are also interested in an EPD for your company, our team has the expertise to both support you through the EPD process and make the EPD for you. Get in contact with us for more information.
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