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Technische Universität Berlin (2021)

Hybrid Life Cycle Assessment and Modelling Approaches. The Case of Desalination in Australia

Heihsel, Michael

Titre : Hybrid Life Cycle Assessment and Modelling Approaches. The Case of Desalination in Australia

Auteur : Heihsel, Michael

Université de soutenance : Technische Universität Berlin

Grade : Doktor der Ingenieurwissenschaften - Dr.-Ing. - 2021

A steadily growing part of the world population is confronted with water shortages and drought. Population growth, economic development and climate change are the drivers of this development. Australia has been severely affected by this trend since the beginning of the millennium, which is why the country is looking for paths to become less dependent on precipitation.

Seawater desalination is particularly promising for coastal regions, as the process basically provides an inexhaustible source of freshwater. The technology enables water production in response to demand, thus providing security of supply and ensuring the prosperity of a society. Nevertheless, it is the last resort in the battle against water scarcity. The considerable energy consumption, the associated high costs and carbon emissions, and the impact on marine biology are the main obstacles. The use of renewable energy could offer significant benefits to seawater desalination, but the integration of both technologies is still evolving. This thesis has quantified the coupling potentials of seawater desalination and renewable energies and developed a methodological framework to this end. For this purpose, input-output-based hybrid life cycle assessment models were developed, and a load-shifting model was modified. The studies carried out in the process are presented in chapters 2 to 4.

Chapter 2 focuses on the carbon footprint of seawater desalination plants constructed in Australia at the beginning of the 2000s. Both the construction and the operation and maintenance of the plants were considered. The study examines the 20 largest reverse osmosis plants against the background of using the regionally predominant conventional electricity mix. The plants represent 95% of Australia’s seawater desalination capacity. We estimate the total emissions for 2015 at 1193 kt CO2e. Chapter 3 shows the synergy effects of seawater desalination plants and a 100% renewable electricity grid using a load- shifting model. The electricity demand of fictitious desalination plants was modelled to cover the missing water in the Murray-Darling basin. Finally, in chapter 4 the results of this study were used to compare the social, environmental and economic sustainability of the desalination plants in the fictitious 100% renewable energy grid with the sustainability in the use of conventional electricity. Using renewable energies would result in 90% less greenhouse gas emissions and 20% less water consumption. However, gross value added would be reduced by 10%.

Mots clés  : input-output analysis ; life cycle assessment ; desalination ; multi-regional input-output ; renewable energy ; Input-Output-Analyse ; Lebenszyklusanalyse ; Meerwasserentsalzung ; multiregionale Input-Output-Analyse ; erneuerbare Energien


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