Evaluation of life cycle, exergy, and carbon footprint of wastewater treatment system by activated sludge method in petrochemical industries

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Faculty of Environment, Alborz College, University of Teran, Tehran, Iran

2 Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Iran

3 Environmental economic and Technology Management office, Department of Environment, Tehran, Iran


Wastewater management in petrochemical industries plays an effective role in reducing their environmental consequences. This study utilized life cycle assessment and carbon footprint methodologies to assess these environmental impacts. The objectives of the investigation were pursued using the ReciPe 2016, Cumulative Energy Demand, Cumulative Exergy Demand approaches, and sensitivity analysis. The outcomes of the endpoint analysis revealed that damage to resources, human health, and ecosystems received more than 98% of the total impact due to electricity consumption. Furthermore, electricity consumption and COD were responsible for the most significant midpoint-level consequences. The sensitivity analysis showed that a change of approximately 20% in electricity and chemical oxygen demand had the most significant impact on the ozone depletion category. The primary gas emitted as a result of the wastewater treatment process was carbon dioxide, which accounted for 99.78% of the carbon footprint associated with the process. Based on these findings, it can be inferred that replacing the current energy source with renewable alternatives would reduce over 90% of the environmental impacts of the wastewater treatment process in these industrial units.

Graphical Abstract

Evaluation of life cycle, exergy, and carbon footprint of wastewater treatment system by activated sludge method in petrochemical industries


[1] Abyar, H., Nowrouzi, M. (2020). Highly efficient reclamation of meat-processing wastewater by aerobic hybrid membrane bioreactor-reverse osmosis simulated system: A comprehensive economic and environmental study. ACS sustainable chemistry and engineering, 8(37), 14207-14216.
[2]  Hong, J., Hong, J., Otaki, M., Jolliet, O. (2009). Environmental and economic life cycle assessment for sewage sludge treatment processes in Japan. Waste management, 29(2), 696-703.
[3] Nowrouzi, M., Abyar, H., Rostami, A. (2021). Cost coupled removal efficiency analyses of activated sludge technologies to achieve the cost-effective wastewater treatment system in the meat processing units. Journal of environmental management, 283, 111991.
[4] Ye, C., Zhou, Z., Li, M., Liu, Q., Xu, T., Li, J. (2018). Evaluation of simultaneous organic matters and nutrients removal from municipal wastewater using a novel bioreactor (D-A2O) system. Journal of environmental management, 218, 509-515.
[5] Abyar, H., Younesi, H., Nowrouzi, M. (2020). Life cycle assessment of A2O bioreactor for meat processing wastewater treatment: An endeavor toward the achievement of environmentally sustainable development. Journal of cleaner production, 257, 120575.
[6] Khaki, E., Abyar, H., Nowrouzi, M., Younesi, H., Abdollahi, M., Enderati, M. G. (2021). Comparative life cycle assessment of polymeric membranes: Polyacrylonitrile, polyvinylimidazole and poly (acrylonitrile-co-vinylimidazole) applied for CO2 sequestration. Environmental technology and innovation, 22, 101507.
[7] Abyar, H., Nowrouzi, M., Rostami, A. (2022). A comprehensive study of biological phosphorus removal systems from economic and environmental perspectives based on the optimization approach. Environmental technology and innovation, 28, 102811.
[8] Nowrouzi, M., Abyar, H., Younesi, H., Khaki, E. (2021). Life cycle environmental and economic assessment of highly efficient carbon-based CO2 adsorbents: A comparative study. Journal of CO2 utilization47, 101491.
[9] Naranjo, G. P. S., Bolonio, D., Ortega, M. F., García-Martínez, M. J. (2021). Comparative life cycle assessment of conventional, electric and hybrid passenger vehicles in Spain. Journal of cleaner production, 291, 125883.
[10] International standards organization (ISO). (2006). Environmental management—life-cycle assessment—principles and framework (ISO 14040).
[11] International Organization for Standardization. (2006). Environmental management: life cycle assessment; requirements and guidelines (Vol. 14044). Geneva, Switzerland: ISO.
[12] Mehboudi, N., Nowrouzi, M., Abyar, H. (2022). Life cycle assessment of graphite carbon nitride synthesis with application approach in industries located in the Persian Gulf basin. Journal of natural environment, 74(4), 855-868.
[13] Abyar, H., Younesi, H., Nowrouzi, M. (2020). Life cycle assessment of A2O bioreactor for meat processing wastewater treatment: An endeavor toward the achievement of environmentally sustainable development. Journal of cleaner production, 257, 120575.
[14] Morelli, B., Cashman, S. (2017). Environmental life cycle assessment and cost analysis of bath. NY wastewater treatment plant: Potential upgrade implications, 3-9.
[15] Tabesh, M., Feizee Masooleh, M., Roghani, B., Motevallian, S. S. (2019). Life-cycle assessment (LCA) of wastewater treatment plants: a case study of Tehran, Iran. International journal of civil engineering, 17, 1155-1169.
[16] Kamble, S., Singh, A., Kazmi, A., Starkl, M. (2019). Environmental and economic performance evaluation of municipal wastewater treatment plants in India: a life cycle approach. Water science and technology, 79(6), 1102-1112.
[17] Nowrouzi, M., Abyar, H. (2021). A framework for the design and optimization of integrated fixed-film activated sludge-membrane bioreactor configuration by focusing on cost-coupled life cycle assessment. Journal of cleaner production, 296, 126557.
[18] Ibn-Mohammed, T., et al., Ibn-Mohammed, T., Koh, S. C. L., Reaney, I. M., Acquaye, A., Wang, D., Taylor, S., Genovese, A. (2016). Integrated hybrid life cycle assessment and supply chain environmental profile evaluations of lead-based (lead zirconate titanate) versus lead-free (potassium sodium niobate) piezoelectric ceramics. Energy and environmental science, 9(11), 3495-3520.
[19] Tarpani, R. R. Z., Alfonsin, C., Hospido, A., Azapagic, A. (2020). Life cycle environmental impacts of sewage sludge treatment methods for resource recovery considering ecotoxicity of heavy metals and pharmaceutical and personal care products. Journal of environmental management, 260, 109643.
[20] Kalbar, P. P., Karmakar, S., Asolekar, S. R. (2013). Assessment of wastewater treatment technologies: life cycle approach. Water and environment journal, 27(2), 261-268.
[21] Flores, L., García, J., Pena, R., Garfí, M. (2019). Constructed wetlands for winery wastewater treatment: A comparative Life Cycle Assessment. Science of the total environment, 659, 1567-1576.
[22] Renou, S., Thomas, J. S., Aoustin, E., Pons, M. N. (2008). Influence of impact assessment methods in wastewater treatment LCA. Journal of cleaner production, 16(10), 1098-1105.
[23] Bai, S., Wang, X., Huppes, G., Zhao, X., Ren, N. (2017). Using site-specific life cycle assessment methodology to evaluate Chinese wastewater treatment scenarios: A comparative study of site-generic and site-specific methods. Journal of cleaner production, 144, 1-7.
[24] Yay, A. S. E. (2015). Application of life cycle assessment (LCA) for municipal solid waste management: a case study of Sakarya. Journal of cleaner production94, 284-293.
[25] Ioannou-Ttofa, L., Foteinis, S., Chatzisymeon, E., Fatta-Kassinos, D. (2016). The environmental footprint of a membrane bioreactor treatment process through Life Cycle Analysis. Science of the total environment, 568, 306-318.
[26] Benetto, E., Nguyen, D., Lohmann, T., Schmitt, B., Schosseler, P. (2009). Life cycle assessment of ecological sanitation system for small-scale wastewater treatment. Science of the total environment, 407(5), 1506-1516.
[27] Foteinis, S., Borthwick, A. G., Frontistis, Z., Mantzavinos, D., Chatzisymeon, E. (2018). Environmental sustainability of light-driven processes for wastewater treatment applications. Journal of cleaner production, 182, 8-15.
[28] Mathuriya, A. S., Hiloidhari, M., Gware, P., Singh, A., Pant, D. (2020). Development and life cycle assessment of an auto circulating bio-electrochemical reactor for energy positive continuous wastewater treatment. Bioresource technology, 304, 122959.
[29] Alyaseri, I., Zhou, J. (2017). Towards better environmental performance of wastewater sludge treatment using endpoint approach in LCA methodology. Heliyon, 3(3).
[30] Ledon, Y. C., Rivas, A., Lopez, D., Vidal, G. (2017). Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions assessment and extended exergy accounting of a horizontal-flow constructed wetland for municipal wastewater treatment: a case study in Chile. Ecological indicators, 74, 130-139.