Life Cycle Assessment of Soil-based Options for Greenhouse Gas Removal - PhD

Cranfield University
September 07 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Sponsored by NERC, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £14.553. (tax free) plus fees* for 3 years

*The PhD funding is eligible to UK and EU nationals.

Eligibility: UK, EU
Duration of award: 3 years
Ref: SWEE0017
Cranfield Supervisors:

Dr. Pietro Goglio and Dr. Adrian Williams
External supervision from:

Prof. Mat Williams, University of Edinburgh and Dr Saran Sohi, University of Edinburgh

This PhD studentship is part of the NERC-funded Soils-R-GGREAT project. The PhD focuses on the consequential Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of managing agricultural and forestry systems including the use of biochar for greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere (GGRA) through increased soil carbon. You will use a global-scale LCA considering local characteristics across different geographical areas. This PhD offers a unique opportunity to interact with a range of several leading research centres to address a key world environmental challenge.

This PhD is funded by NERC's new and exciting greenhouse gas removal (GGR) programme investigating options to address climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In particular, this PhD is part of the Soils-R-GGREAT consortium project, which aims to deliver the most comprehensive global assessment of the potential, feasibility, barriers and impacts of soil-based greenhouse gas removals from the atmosphere (GGRA). The student will primarily work in the context of Work-Package 5 within the project. The aim of this work-package is to quantify the net greenhouse gas (GHG) effects of changing land use management practices using consequential LCA. Specific objectives include: 1) to define the scope and limits of the analyses, 2) to develop the scenarios to be analysed, 3) to assess critically alternative approaches to consequential LCA to ensure least uncertainty and maximum policy benefit, 4) to collect, process and analyse input data for each scenario, 5) to address temporal effects of soil C dynamics and the scalability of GHG removal scenarios and 6) to deliver and report the results of the LCA highlighting both environmental hotspots and benefits of the different scenarios. The PhD student will collaborate with other staff part responsible for WP5.

The studentship will focus on conducting life cycle assessment (LCA) of some of the GGRA techniques with a particular focus on differences in biophysical and economic data availability and quality between regions. During the studentship, the student will also investigate possible approaches for robust, fast and systematic data collection for large Life Cycle Inventory datasets. Throughout the studentship, the student will also learn and apply extensively the tools models and techniques necessary to carry out consequential LCA in the agricultural and forestry sectors. The studentship will also offer the opportunity to explore the technical challenges of carrying out a consequential LCA at global scale.

The student will be based at Cranfield University with frequent interactions with the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and SRUC as well as interacting with other project partners involved with WP 3, 4, 6. The student will contribute to some data collection and processing for GGR techniques to build the life cycle inventory and in carrying out some of the LCA for the GGR.

The student will also liaise with other partners overseas to derive better data quality.

The currently planned objectives for the PhD are:

  • To contribute to the definition of GGR scenarios

  • To contribute to conceive a protocol for systematic data collection for the life cycle inventory

  • To conceive and develop tools to carry out life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas related to soil C

  • To liaise with the University of Edinburgh to conceive biochar use scenarios across the world

  • To liaise with University of Vermont and other key collaborations to develop agricultural scenarios, especially for agriculture in the tropics and in developing countries

  • To develop life cycle assessment LCA scenarios for GGRA to be tested throughout the Soils-R-GGREAT project.

The PhD will extend the field of LCA of land based systems for GGR. The results of the Soil-R-GGREAT project will have significant impact at national and international scale by informing policy makers and the general public of the GGR potential of soil based management. The PhD research constitutes a relevant contribution in the field of LCA of land based systems for GGR. The opportunity offered by this project will enable to develop a strong expertise both in the field of GGR and spatial LCA methodologies.

The PhD student will be based with the GGRA team at the Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures (CIRF), which is part of the School of Water, Energy, and Environment and Agri-Food (SWEE). The PhD student will be part of the (Greenhouse Gas Removal from the Atmosphere) GGRA team together with other staff.

As part of working with the SOIL-R-GGREAT consortium, the student will liaise with the University of Edinburgh for biochar related aspects and will interact with other partners of the consortium and participate to the workshops organised as part of the GGRA call.

How to apply

For further information please contact: Dr. Pietro Goglio, E:, T: (0) 1234 750111 Ext: 4293; skype: p.goglio

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form

For further information contact us today:

School of Water, Energy, Environment and Agrifood

T: 44 (0)1234 758082


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