Assessing the environmental sustainability of early stage design for bioprocesses under uncertainties: An analysis of glycerol bioconversion

Carina Loureiro da Costa Lira Gargalo, Peam Cheali, John A. Posada, Ana Carvalho, Krist Gernaey, Gürkan Sin

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The development of a bio-based economy is seen as a key strategy towards a sustainable society in a world facing climate change, energy security and social distress. However, since substantial uncertainty is involved in early-stage design analyses, the ranking and identification of potential sustainable solutions is a challenging task. This work aims at facilitating the environmental sustainability assessment under uncertainty at the conceptual design of bioprocesses. This, in turn, enables screening design alternatives, and establishing a ranking of the most promising pathways. To this end, a step-wise methodology has been proposed to assist decision-makers to: (i) collect and generate the input data for bioprocesses; (ii) systematically reduce uncertainty concerning the material fluxes at the early stage design of bioprocesses, reducing overall uncertainty in the life cycle inventory; (iii) handle parameter uncertainty, by applying the Monte Carlo technique for the propagation of uncertainty in characterization factors to the potential impact categories' outcomes; (iv) establish sound quantitative thresholds for alternatives comparison by incorporating a probabilistic interpretation; and lastly, (v) rank the alternatives within the design space. Finally, the methodology's applicability is highlighted by screening early-stage glycerol bioconversion routes to value-added chemicals for future biorefinery concepts. Through the proposed methodology, it was demonstrated that the statistical approach suggested ensures consistent and robust ranking of alternatives; thereby identifying lactic acid as the best potential environmentally sustainable alternative within the design space.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Pages (from-to)1245-1260
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Early stage design
  • Life cycle environmental assessment
  • Uncertainty analysis
  • Bioprocesses
  • Characterization factors (CFs)
  • Glycerol biorefinery

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