Currently, the process industry is moving towards the design of innovative, more sustainable processes that show improvements in both economic and environmental factors. The design space of unit operations that can be combined to generate process flowsheet alternatives considering known unit operations as well as reported hybrid/intensified unit operations is large and can be difficult to manually navigate in order to determine the best process flowsheet for the production of a desired chemical product. Therefore, it is beneficial to utilize computer-aided methods and tools to enumerate, analyze and determine within the design space, the more sustainable processes. In this paper, an integrated computer-aided software-tool that searches the design space for hybrid/intensified more sustainable process options is presented. Embedded within the software architecture are process synthesis and intensification methods that operate at multiple scales, namely, unit operation, task and phenomena. First a base case process flowsheet (if it is not already available) is generated through process synthesis considering only known unit operations. The generated or supplied base case is then analyzed in order to identify process bottlenecks/limitations (hot-spots) that are translated into design targets. Next, phenomena-based synthesis is performed to identify process flowsheets that match the design targets through the use of hybrid/intensified unit operations. As these process flowsheets satisfy all process constraints while also matching the design targets, they are therefore more sustainable than the base case. The application of the software-tool to the production of biodiesel is presented, highlighting the main features of the computer-aided, multi-stage, multi-scale methods that are able to determine more sustainable designs.
- Process intensification
- Process synthesis