Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey R. Seay

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Rankin

Abstract

Increasing demand for energy and transportation fuel has motivated researchers all around the world to explore alternatives for a long-term sustainable source of energy. Biomass is one such renewable resource that can be converted into various marketable products by the process of biorefining. Currently, research is taking strides in developing conversion techniques for producing biofuels from multiple bio-based feedstocks. However, the greatest concern with emerging processes is the long-term viability as a sustainable source of energy. Hence, a framework is required that can incorporate novel and existing processes to validate their economic, environmental and social potential in satisfying present energy demands, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own energy needs.

This research focuses on developing a framework that can incorporate fundamental research to determine its long-term viability, simultaneously providing critical techno-economic and decision support information to various stakeholders. This contribution links various simulation and optimization models to create a decision support tool, to estimate the viability of biorefining options in any given region. Multiple disciplines from the Process Systems Engineering and Supply Chain Management are integrated to develop the comprehensive framework. Process simulation models for thermochemical and biochemical processes are developed and optimized using Aspen Engineering Suite. Finally, for validation, the framework is analyzed by combining the outcomes of the process simulation with the supply chain models. The developed techno-economic model takes into account detailed variable costs and capital investments for various conversion processes. Subsequently, case studies are performed to demonstrate the applicability of the decision support tool for the Jackson Purchase region of Western Kentucky. The multidisciplinary framework is a unique contribution in the field of Process Systems Engineering as it demonstrates simulation of process optimization models and illustrates its iterative linking with the supply chain optimization models to estimate the economics of biorefinery from multi-stakeholder perspective. This informative tool not only assists in comparing modes of operation but also forecasts the effect of future scenarios, such as, utilization of marginal land for planting dedicated energy crops and incorporation of emerging enzymatic processes. The resulting framework is novel and informative in assisting investors, policy makers and other stakeholders for evaluating the impacts of biorefining. The results obtained supports the generalizability of this tool to be applied in any given region and guide stakeholders in making financial and strategic decisions.

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