Life cycle assessment of five vegetable oils

Schmidt J H (2015)

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Journal of Cleaner Production 87:130-138


The purpose of this study is to evaluate and compare the environmental performance of five different vegetable oils, including the relevant market responses induced by the oils’ by-products. The oils under study are palm oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and peanut oil. These oils are to a large extent substitutable and they are among the largest oils in terms of global production. Besides evaluating the environmental performance of each oil individually, the effect of reducing each one of the oils and replacing it with a mix of the others is also evaluated. The life cycle inventory is carried out using a consequential approach, which implies that co-product allocation is avoided by use of substitution, and that marginal market mixes are generally applied. The environmental performance is evaluated by focussing on global warming, land use and water consumption. With respect to global warming, rapeseed oil and sunflower oil are the best performing, followed by soybean oil and palm oil, and with peanut oil as the least good performing. For land use, palm oil and soybean oil are the oils associated with the smallest contribution, followed by rapeseed oil, and with sunflower oil and peanut oil as the oils with the largest net occupation of land. When focussing on water consumption (using the water stress index), sunflower oil had the smallest impact, followed by rapeseed oil, palm oil and soybean oil, and with peanut oil as the oil with the largest contribution.

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