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Life Cycle Assessment


Jorrit van der Velde


June 2023


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Life Cycle Assessment

The Sirius Effect:


Life cycle analysis of surfactants

Making products more and more sustainable ? That’s what Sirius does. An accurate cradle-to-gate life cycle analysis (LCA) shows exactly how much smaller the carbon footprint and environmental impact of Sirius' bio-based products are compared to those of petrochemical counterparts. But also on which points there is still room for improvement…


To what extent is one product more sustainable than another? And is a product made from organic raw materials really as sustainable as it seems? To answer that question, it is important to look further than just the usual raw materials. How energy-intensive are the different steps in the production process? What is the impact of transporting raw materials to and from the factory? What kind of waste is created during the production process, and what is done with it?

"Life Cycle Assessment – the quantitative proof of green quality"


Transparency is essential

To determine this properly, Sirius uses a cradle-to-gate life cycle analysis. We use this to calculate the total environmental impact of a product, from raw material extraction up to and including the moment the product leaves the gate of the company (in this case Sirius). Our calculations include impact on climate change expressed in CO2 equivalents, ocean and soil acidification, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, resource depletion, and several others. Intuitively, the CO2 footprint of bio-based products is lower because plants convert CO2 from the air into raw materials. To be able to make a good comparison between bio-based and petrochemical products, we have therefore included exactly how much CO2 the plants have absorbed from the air before they are eventually processed into raw materials.

“This requires a lot of calculating,” says R&D chemist Jorrit van der Velde. “We try to gather as much data as possible from manufacturers in order to be able to calculate everything as accurately as possible. We also have a database with data on raw materials.

Because this is market average data, it is especially useful for raw materials that have a relatively low impact. And even then, drawing up an LCA remains a challenge. There are many uncertainties to deal with and choices to make. Ultimately, it's about being able to justify the choices and getting as close to the truth as possible. Transparency is essential in this.”


Much lower footprint

Over the past year, intern Martijn van Beekhuizen of Hogeschool Utrecht carried out a number of these types of life cycle analyses. He used it to calculate the environmental impact of three surfactants, Ethoxybrite SLES, Britens SLS and Ethoxybrite EFA, comparing Sirius' bio-based products with petrochemical variants. The results of the life cycle assessment showed that Ethoxybrite EFA has a 76% lower cradle-to-gate CO2 equivalent footprint than the petrochemical alternative. Britens SLS and Ethoxybrite SLES had a 44% and 40% lower impact, respectively. These results appeared to be in line with data from the literature.


Address bottlenecks

Due to the thorough approach, an LCA also offers starting points for making products even more sustainable. “It shows exactly the biggest bottlenecks,” says Jorrit van der Velde. “For the Ethoxybrite surfactants, it turned out to be the hydrogenation. The hydrogenation required for the production of these surfactants is an energy-intensive process that is carried out at very high pressure. We are now investigating together with the manufacturer how we can improve this step. Think of using sustainable energy, or eventually switching to a new way of hydrogenation, for example under lower pressure, and hopefully in the future also by using green hydrogen. That is how we continue to deliver increasingly sustainable chemistry”.


Mild surfactants

It is also possible to switch to surfactants where hydrogenation is no longer necessary at all. This applies to the new mild surfactants that Sirius has recently made available, such as the amino acid surfactants Britens Alaninaat, Britens Glycinaat and Britens Glutamate. Part of the production process is based on fermentation, which is usually more efficient than the chemical process. Intern Andrea van Kooten is currently working on LCA of these mild surfactants. The first results are promising and confirm our suspicion that avoiding hydrogenation yields, gives us surfactants with an even lower CO2 footprint.



Curious about the results of our analyses? Want to know what the environmental impact of your own products is when you use our surfactants?

Contact us without obligation.

We are happy to help make your products more durable too!


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