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Quantifying Uncertainties In Biorefinery Options Using Expert Opinions

Farminder S. Anand, Matthew Realff, and Kristiina Iisa. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Tech, 311 Ferst Drive, N.W., Atlanta, GA 30332-0100

Integrated combinations of bio-chemical and thermo-chemical routes for bio-fuel production have shown great potential [1, 2]. But, the value of all these alternatives is clouded by the scores of uncertainties surrounding various unit operations [1, 2]. Moreover, the lack of physical evidence in the form of experimental data to corroborate the uncertainties further hampers the evaluation of the various biorefinery alternatives. From decision makers point of view it becomes difficult to optimally utilize the R&D resources when one is not even able to quantify the extent of the uncertainties. In light of the above, we have used the techniques used in risk and decision analysis to elicit and aggregate expert opinions in order to obtain some initial estimates of the uncertainties. Global sensitivity analysis performed on these initial estimates of the uncertainties provides the decision maker with the relative importance of various uncertainties and the ability to optimally channel the R&D resources.

1. Anand, F. S., M. Realff, et al. (2006). Evaluating Biorefinery Options in a Pulp and Paper Mill: Carbon Balances. EPE, Engineering, Pulping & Environmental Conference. Atlanta, GA, TAPPI.

2. Anand, F. S., M. Realff, et al. (2008). Integrated Bio- & Thermo- chemical route for mixed alcohol production in a pulp and paper Mill. EPE (Engineering, Pulping & Environmental Conference) & IBBC (International Bio-energy and Bio-products Conference). Portland, OR, TAPPI.