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(440a) Framework for the Design and Optimization of Biorefinery Networks

Torres, A., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephanopoulos, G., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Advances in the processing of biomass feedstocks has resulted in the development of a large number of potential bio-based fuels and specialty chemicals, each of which can be produced using many different conversion technologies. To address questions such as; which is the most attractive set of products that can be produced from a particular feedstock, which are the best processing pathways, and which are the costs and environmental benefits associated with these conversions, researchers have performed detailed techno-economic analyses of particular technologies and developed biomass conversion superstructures to link feedstocks to products through all the possible technologies. In all cases, the set of feedstocks and potential products was considered to be fixed and the biorefinery was optimized to find which technologies should  be used and which is the optimal set of process design parameters.

In this presentation, we will propose an alternative framework for the design and optimization of biorefineries  in which we aim to introduce the flexibility required for the identification of new bio-based “products”. We propose to do so by establishing a natural decomposition of the biorefinery network in a supply and a demand problem that are linked through a set of fixed intermediates. These intermediates are the result of the fractionation of biomass through a sequence of pre-treatment technologies that create streams of different compositions, purities and costs. The structure of the supply problem is optimized to establish the pathways that lead to the minimum cost of production of the different intermediate compound streams. The demand side problem focuses on the fast screening of new technologies and products that use these intermediate chemicals at the prices determined by the solution of the supply problem. In here, simple evaluations are used to asses the potential of a particular process or product and advantage in the use of a  less pure but less costly intermediate stream is taken whenever possible.  

This presentation depicts joint research activities at Masdar Institute and MIT and the proposed framework is demonstrated by analysing a biorefinery that conforms to the needs of the United Arab Emirates.

This work was funded by the Cooperative Agreement between the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Masdar Institute), Abu Dhabi, UAE and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA -  Reference 02/MI/MI/CP/11/07633/GEN/G/00 for work under the Second Five Year Agreement.