Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Cobalt and Cobalt Compounds

The Cobalt Institute is currently conducting a LCA of cobalt and cobalt compounds to inform stakeholders about the potential environment impacts of the production of cobalt products.

The study will generate industry average cradle-to-gate datasets for refined cobalt metal (an update of the 2015 LCA), crude cobalt hydroxide, and two cobalt compounds used primarily in battery applications, tricobalt tetraoxide and cobalt sulphate heptahydrate, for the reference year 2019.

The aggregated industry results of the study will be critically reviewed according to relevant ISO standards, and are expected to be available to communicate to stakeholders in early 2022.

In 2015, the Cobalt Institute completed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of cobalt, focussing on cobalt metal, which was the first of its kind in the cobalt sector.

It generated an industry-supported cradle-to-gate life cycle inventory (LCI) and impact assessment results for refined cobalt. The LCI data were produced to support downstream users of refined cobalt in their efforts to produce more sustainable products. The work demonstrates industry’s continued commitment to support the sustainable production and use of cobalt.  

The life cycle was modelled in four stages: mining; beneficiation; primary extraction; and refining. Transport of intermediates and material inputs to processes are also considered in the study. Transport of final products to users was outside the scope of the study. Selected data from the 2015 study are shown in the table.

The data from the 2015 cobalt LCA study have already been incorporated into several of the LCA databases and can be freely accessed from the Cobalt Institute’s LCA data node.  

Impact assessment results for refined cobalt (per 1 kg)

Impact category Unit

Refined cobalt

Global warming Potential (GWP) kg CO2 equiv. 38
Acidification Potential (AP) kg SO2 equiv. 0.62
Eutrophication potential (EP) kg PO2-3 equiv. 0.060
Photochemical Oxidant Creation Potential (POCP) kg ethene equiv. 0.033
Primary Energy Demand (PED)* MJ 653

* Although not an impact category, primary energy demand has been included here for information.

** 2015 data