Environmental impacts of palm oil products: What can we learn from LCA?

Bessou Cécile, Pardon Lénaïc. 2017. Environmental impacts of palm oil products: What can we learn from LCA?. Indonesian Journal of Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability, 1 (1) : pp. 1-7.

Journal article ; Article de synthèse ; Article de revue à comité de lecture Revue en libre accès total
Published version - Anglais
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Abstract : Quantifying the environmental impact of production systems has become a milestone for agricultural commodity chains. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a unique ISO standardized methodology for estimating the environmental impact of human activities along a commodity chain. In the last decade, LCA has become the worldwide standard for environmental product declarations and the baseline model behind various GHG calculators and certifications (e.g. European Directive 2009; RSPO PalmGHG 2012). Various LCA on palm oil products have shown that the agricultural stage is a major contributor to most of the potential environmental impacts, including global warming, eutrophication and acidification for instance. This large contribution is due to combined important nitrogen (N) input levels in the field and low input levels at the mill and refinery stages. The agricultural stage remains a critical contributor even when the system boundary is extended to palm-based biofuel production. Focusing on global warming impact, main contributors are N-related GHG emissions in the plantation and methane emissions from palm oil mill effluent treatment. The impact from the plantation becomes overwhelming when forests or peatland areas are converted to palm plantations. Meanwhile, impact from palm oil mill effluent can be drastically reduced if the biogas is captured with electricity recovery. While nitrogen inputs are critical, LCA models still mostly rely on global emission factor. A better modeling of the nitrogen balance including a better accounting for soil processes would allow for a more accurate diagnosis of environmental impacts and control levers in plantation management. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés Agrovoc : Elaeis guineensis, Huile de palme, Industrie, Impact sur l'environnement, Pratique culturale, Déboisement, Cycle de l'azote, Effluent gazeux, Gaz à effet de serre, Changement climatique, effluent thermique, Réchauffement global, Biogaz, Bioénergie, Purification

Mots-clés géographiques Agrovoc : Monde, Asie du Sud-Est, Indonésie, Thaïlande

Mots-clés complémentaires : Filière, Plantation industrielle

Classification Agris : P01 - Nature conservation and land resources
K70 - Forest injuries and protection
F08 - Cropping patterns and systems

Champ stratégique Cirad : Axe 1 (2014-2018) - Agriculture écologiquement intensive

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Bessou Cécile, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR Systèmes de pérennes (FRA) ORCID: 0000-0001-6686-8468
  • Pardon Lénaïc, CIRAD-PERSYST-UPR Systèmes de pérennes (FRA)

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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