A process synthesis-intensification framework for the development of sustainable membrane-based operations

Deenesh Kavi Babi, Philip Lutze, John Woodley, Rafiqul Gani

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In this paper a multi-level, multi-scale framework for process synthesis-intensification that aims to make the process more sustainable than a base-case, which may represent a new process or an existing process, is presented. At the first level (operation-scale) a conceptual base case design is synthesized through the sequencing of unit operations and subsequently analyzed for identifying process hot-spots using economic, life cycle and sustainability metrics. These hot-spots are limitations/bottlenecks associated with tasks that may be targeted for overall process improvement. At the second level (task-scale) a task-based synthesis method is applied where one or more tasks representing unit operations are identified and analyzed in terms of means-ends for generating intensified flowsheet alternatives. At the third level (phenomena-scale) a phenomena-based synthesis method is applied, where the involved phenomena in various tasks are identified, manipulated and recombined to generate new and/or existing unit operations configured into flowsheet alternatives that target the tasks associated with hot-spots. Every lower-scale or higher-level, generates more alternatives than their corresponding larger-scale. Those alternatives that are able to address the identified hot-spots therefore give innovative and more sustainable process designs that otherwise could not be found from the larger-scales. In this paper, membrane-based operations identified through this framework are highlighted in terms of extension of the combined intensification-synthesis method and its application to generate membrane-based operations. Also, application of the framework is illustrated through a case study involving the production of methyl acetate where membrane-based intensified operations play a major role in determining more sustainable process design alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Engineering and Processing
Pages (from-to)173-195
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Process synthesis
  • Process design
  • Process intensification
  • Sustainable membrane-based design
  • Phenomena
  • Systematic framework

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