Computer-Aided Sustainable Process Synthesis-Design and Analysis

Anjan Kumar Tula

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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Process synthesis involves the investigation of chemical reactions needed to produce the desired product, selection of the separation techniques needed for downstream processing, as well as taking decisions on sequencing the involved separation operations. For an effective, efficient and flexible design approach, what is needed is a systematic way to identify the types of tasks-operations that need to be performed, the corresponding design of the operation-equipment, their configuration, mass-energy flows, etc., giving an optimal flowsheet. Due to the fact that process synthesis problems are by nature combinatorial and open ended, a number of different solution approaches have been proposed. However the solution for any synthesis-design problem is dependent on the search space of alternatives and the process performance criteria which in most cases are influenced by economic factors. This work focuses on the development and application of a computer-aided framework for sustainable synthesis-design and analysis of process flowsheets by generating feasible alternatives covering the entire search space and includes analysis tools for sustainability, LCA and economics. The synthesis method is based on group contribution and a hybrid approach, where chemical process flowsheets are synthesized in the same way as atoms or groups of atoms are synthesized to form molecules in computer aided molecular design (CAMD) techniques. The building blocks in flowsheet synthesis problem are called as process-groups, which represent a single or set of unit operations that are selected by employing a thermodynamic insights based method. These building blocks are then combined using connectivity rules to generate all the feasible flowsheet alternatives. The main advantage of representing the flowsheet with process-groups is that, the performance of the entire process can be evaluated from the contributions of the individual process-groups towards the selected flowsheet property (for example, energy consumed). The developed flowsheet property models include energy consumption, carbon footprint, product recovery, product purity etc. In this way, the entire list of feasible chemical process flowsheets are quickly generated, screened and selected for further analysis. In the next stage, the design of the most promising process flowsheet candidates is performed through a reverse simulation approach, where the design parameters of the unit operations in the process flowsheet are calculated from selected process-groups definition. In the next stage the selected design is analyzed, for identifying process limitations or bottlenecks (hot-spots) using a comprehensive analysis method consisting of economic, life cycle and sustainability factors that are translated into design targets. In the final stage the identified hot-spots are targeted for overall process improvement and to generate innovative designs.
In this work the developed framework along with the associated methods and tools is tested through three case studies related to both chemical and biochemical industry in order to ascertain the applicability of the framework. In each of the cases numerous alternatives of novel and designs reported by others are quickly generated and evaluated. In all the case studies tested, the final design generated by the framework was novel and more sustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherDanmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU)
Number of pages187
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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