Synthesis and Design of Biorefinery Processing Networks with Uncertainty and Sustainability analysis

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Chemical industries usually rely on fossil based feedstock, which is a limited resource. In view of increasing energy demands and the negative
environmental and climate effects related to the use of fossil based fuels, this motivates the development of new and more sustainable technologies
for processing renewable feedstocks, with the aim of bridging the gap for fuel, chemical and material production. This project is focusing on biorefinery
network design, in particular for early stage design and development studies.
Optimal biorefinery design is a challenging problem. It is a multi-objective decision-making problem not only with respect to technical and economic
feasibility but also with respect to environmental impacts, sustainability constraints and limited availability & uncertainties of input data at the early
design stage. It is therefore useful to develop a systematic methodology to support the evaluation of processes and the generation of sustainable
alternatives for identifying the optimal processing routes. One particular challenge here is to include proactively sustainability analysis as part of the
synthesis of biorefinery networks. Another challenge is the handling of several sources of uncertainties such as availability and composition of
renewable feedstock, the technical performance of alternative processing technologies and the availability of future markets for biorefinery products,
among others.
As part of earlier work in our research group, a systematic methodology to identify/generate optimal biorefineries was developed using the
superstructure-based approach, and was implemented in a computer-aided framework. The methodology consists of tools and methods including
databases, models, superstructure, and solution strategies to represent, describe and evaluate various combinations of processing networks. The
optimization of the network is formulated as a mixed integer nonlinear programming type of problem and solved in GAMS. The methodology was
applied for designing optimal biorefinery networks considering biochemical routes. Furthermore, the methodology has also been applied to soybean oil
processing networks and industrial wastewater treatment networks. In the work presented here, the methodology for designing optimal biorefinery
networks was expanded with inclusion of thermochemical routes, which means the scope and the size of the biorefinery network problem was
extended at the level of the database, the models and the superstructure relevant for thermo-chemical conversion routes (the conversion of biomass
feedstocks (corn stover, poplar wood) to fuels and chemicals (FT-gasoline, FT-diesel, bioethanol and higher alcohols) via thermal decomposition
processes like pyrolysis and gasification).,
In this study, we extend the methodology, models and database by incorporating uncertainty and sustainability analysis as well. Appropriate ranges for
uncertain parameters are identified with their correlation/covariance structure and latin hypercube sampling (LHS) is used to sample parameters from
their respective domain of uncertainty. The parameter samples are then used as input for solving a deterministic and stochastic optimization problem.
The sustainability analysis was performed in two ways: First, it was performed retrospectively to the optimal biorefinery network solution obtained after
the MINLP by using an in-house software (SustainPRO) that employs ICHEME sustainability metrics. Secondly, the sustainability analysis was
included proactively as part of the MINLP optimization problem that is performed to find the optimal processing path with respect to multi-criteria
assessment including technical, economics and sustainability.
The expanded database and superstructure with uncertainty and sustainability analysis form a powerful process synthesis toolbox to be used in
design of future biorefineries with multi-criteria evaluation (technical and economic feasibility, environmental impact and sustainability).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event2013 AIChE Annual Meeting: Global Challenges for Engineering a Sustainable Future - Hilton San Francisco Union Square, San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: 3 Nov 20138 Nov 2013


Conference2013 AIChE Annual Meeting
LocationHilton San Francisco Union Square
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA


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