What PCR, EPD and LCA mean to AI

By John Brownie

Product Category Rules (PCR), Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of North American asphalt binders

At the summer 2014 Asphalt Institute (AI) meeting in Boston, Massachusetts the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) hosted a seminar detailing the establishment of Product Category Rules (PCR) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for North American Asphalt Binders.

The intent of the seminar was to introduce the broader Asphalt Institute community to these environmental assessment methodologies and their application to the North American asphalt business.

Based upon the seminar and European experience the TAC and Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) committees elected to form an LCA task force at that meeting. This article will discuss what PCR, EPD & LCA mean to the asphalt industry. In addition, an overview of PCR, EPD and LCA and how the three methodologies fit together will be covered before reviewing experience from Eurobitume.



The LCA approach was originally developed in the 1960s & 1970s as an approach to quantify environmental sustainability against specific criteria for a product’s full life cycle or from “cradle-to-grave.”

As shown in Figure 1 the cradle-to-grave approach means that the inputs and outputs from raw material acquisition and processing, manufacturing, use and end of life management are all included in the LCA. The LCA process can be used to look at a number of different criteria including greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, etc. The LCA approach, therefore, lends itself to quantifiable environmental sustainability comparison between widely different techniques to achieve the same ends (i.e. paving with asphalt cement or with Portland cement).

How does one perform a LCA? ISO LCA standards (ISO 14040) have been developed that provide general guidance for completing an LCA. However, these standards do not provide the detailed information that would be required to complete an assessment on a specific product. To complete an LCA the boundary conditions must clearly define what will be included in your system and what will be left out.


PCR are defined in ISO 14025 as a “set of specific rules, requirements, and guidelines for developing Type III environmental product declarations for one or more product categories.”

In simpler terms, the PCR define how the EPD will be created for a specific product, such as an asphalt binder. This includes how system boundaries are chosen, what impact categories will be included and what methodology will be used. Creation of a PCR always involves industry. By developing a PCR, an industry can align itself on the methodology to be used to ensure consistent application of best practices and guiding principles for LCA development to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to sustainability.


EPD are defined by ISO 14025 as “providing quantified environmental data using predetermined parameters and, where relevant, additional environmental information.”

The EPD is meant to be a publicly available summary of LCA and PCR activities that enable simple comparisons of environmental impacts.


All three elements, LCA, PCR and EPD, are needed to help understand the environmental sustainability of a given product throughout its life cycle.

The PCR defines the rules of the game for the LCA, including boundary conditions, data used & system inputs. The LCA then assesses available data by the rules defined in the PCR to develop a model to quantify specific environmental outcomes of a product’s full life cycle. The EPD reports the output of the LCA and the rules defined in the PCR to the public & interested bodies. Together, LCA, PCR and EPD provide the comprehensive assessment and reporting of a product’s environmental impact.


Now that these three terms have been defined and reviewed, why should the asphalt industry care about completing each of these three elements? One clear reason is that the asphalt industry’s key end-use customers are beginning to be interested in this type of environmental impact information.

EPDs are also a component of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 rating system. In addition, the FHWA is working to implement MAP-21 federal legislation for defining performance measures for highways that include indicators for environmental sustainability. The FHWA has yet to define the method that will be used to quantify this information. Therefore, if the asphalt industry acts proactively we can help set the course of this approach.

A second reason is that today, “environmental impacts are being applied to pavement decision making” (J. Harvey, Presentation to AI, Boston, Aug. 14, 2014). Often, these assessments are using outdated or incomplete information that may lead to inappropriate choices and potential negative consequences that include higher costs and no environmental benefits (J. Harvey, Presentation to AI, Boston, Aug. 14, 2014). The asphalt industry must make certain that decisions are made on appropriate data to ensure the best outcome for asphalt users from both a financial and environmental perspective.

Finally, our partners in NAPA (National Asphalt Pavement Association) have started to develop the PCR and EPD approach for asphalt mixtures. The Portland Cement and concrete industries have also started to develop PCR and EPD approaches for their products.

As AI Director of Engineering Mark Buncher stated in the introduction to the Boston TAC seminar “the risk of doing nothing is that the asphalt binder industry becomes vulnerable to others leading this decisionmaking process – essentially defining how asphalt binder calculates and communicates its environmental impact.”

By completing an LCA for asphalt binders, the asphalt industry can provide valuable data for partners in NAPA and proactively define the path forward.


Since 2011, Eurobitume has been working on developing an LCA for asphalt binder production, including emulsion and polymer modified asphalts. This model encompasses crude oil extraction, shipping, refining and storage as boundaries for LCA development.

A key for Eurobitume’s LCA development was defining the boundary conditions and assumptions used to develop the model. Using existing international standards, the Eurobitume LCA model utilizes the most current environmental and technical data to assess CO2, SO2, NOx, CO & total hydrocarbon emissions. The LCA report and database are available freely online at eurobitume.eu. Eurobitume has also validated its LCA through independent review by an LCA expert; the review is included in the Eurobitume LCA report.


As discussed in the introduction, the Asphalt Institute TAC and HSE committees voted to implement a task force to tackle LCA development. AI has an opportunity to proactively shape the outcome of the North American LCA approach to ensure that asphalt’s EPD is truly reflective of reality by using sound scientific data and internationally available best practices.

The opportunity to leverage AI’s strong relationship with Eurobitume and Eurobitume’s experience with LCA development can help the task force to meet the needs of the asphalt industries’ stakeholders now and in the future.

Brownie is the Americas Asphalt Zone Technical Leader at Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil).

1. “Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for Asphalt Binder in North America”; Dr. John Harvey, Presentation to Asphalt Institute, Boston, MA; Aug. 14, 2014.
2. “Overview of LCAs, EPDs, and PCRs – A Primer for the Asphalt Institute”; Dr. Nick Santero, Presentation to Asphalt Institute, Boston, MA; Aug. 14, 2014.
3. “Life Cycle Inventory Bitumen”; Mr. Mike Southern, Presentation to Asphalt Institute, Boston, MA; Aug. 14, 2014.