Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 735–747 | Cite as

A comparison of major petroleum life cycle models

Original Paper


Many organizations have attempted to develop an accurate well-to-pump life cycle model of petroleum products in order to inform decision makers of the consequences of its use. Our paper studies five of these models, demonstrating the differences in their predictions and attempting to evaluate their data quality. Carbon dioxide well-to-pump emissions for gasoline showed a variation of 35 %, and other pollutants such as ammonia and particulate matter varied up to 100 %. Differences in allocation do not appear to explain differences in predictions. Effects of these deviations on well-to-wheels passenger vehicle and truck transportation life cycle models may be minimal for effects such as global warming potential (6 % spread), but for respiratory effects of criteria pollutants (41 % spread) and other impact categories, they can be significant. A data quality assessment of the models’ documentation revealed real differences between models in temporal and geographic representativeness, completeness, as well as transparency. Stakeholders may need to consider carefully the tradeoffs inherent when selecting a model to conduct life cycle assessments for systems that make heavy use of petroleum products.


Life cycle assessment Petroleum refining Data quality Transportation 



This research was supported in part by an appointment for Donald Vineyard to the Postdoctoral Research Program at the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an Interagency Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Supplementary material

10098_2016_1260_MOESM1_ESM.docx (146 kb)
Online Resource 1 (DOCX 145 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oak Ridge Institute for Science and EducationOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Life Cycle Assessment Research Center, National Risk Management Research LaboratoryUnited States Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA

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