The chemical and biochemical industry needs major reductions in energy consumption, waste generation, etc., in order to remain competitive through the design and operation of more sustainable chemical and biochemical processes. These required reductions can be addressed through process synthesis-intensification-control, that is, the efficient use of raw materials (feedstock), the use of sustainable technologies and the design (and control) of processes that directly impact and improves sustainability/LCA factors. The unit operations concept, which has been sufficient until now, is one of the most used for performing process synthesis (and intensification) because it allows the association of tasks (functions) with the processing route to be followed. At the unit operations scale (Jaksland et al., 1995) and task scale (Siirola, 1996) alternatives are limited to existing (well-known) unit operations and therefore, may not be able to generate new integrations/combinations of intensified existing equipment.
However, to find innovative processes designs, extensions of the current concepts are necessary. Here, process synthesis-intensification using a phenomena based process synthesis method (Lutze et al., 2013) can play a major role because it provides the opportunity to perform the same tasks in a more sustainable way, new/novel unit operations can be generated (Lutze et al, 2013) and more sustainable processes can be designed (Babi et al., 2014).
An integrated, multi-stage, multi-scale, computer-aided framework has been developed in order to perform process synthesis-intensification-control. The framework operates at different scales, the unit operations scale, task scale and phenomena scale. In stage 1, process synthesis is performed (at the unit operations scale) using computer-aided flowsheet design (CAFD) (Tula et al, 2015), considering a superstructure of all possible alternatives based on known technologies, in order to generate a base case design. In stage 2, the base case design is decomposed into the smallest constituent units, that is, tasks then the involved phenomena. The base case design is analysed using economic and sustainability analyses in order to identify process limitations (hot-spots) that are translated into intensification design targets. In stage 3, an integrated task-phenomena-based synthesis-intensification method is embedded and applied (Babi et al., 2015) that consists of combining the phenomena to fulfil tasks, which are then translated into unit operations that constitute the (more sustainable) flowsheet alternatives which satisfy the intensification design targets. In this way, truly predictive and innovative solutions are generated much in the same way as atoms are combined to form molecules with desired properties (that is, analogous to computer-aided molecular design). The final stage involves validation and selection. Here detailed model-based calculations and/or experiments are performed to evaluate and compare the new solutions. In stage 4, design-control integration issues are validated/fine-tuned in order to generate the more sustainable controller structure. Note that in stages 1-3 design decisions are structured and made in such a way that the designed process(s) will also have the best opportunity for control (Mansouri et al., 2015).
In this presentation, the integrated process synthesis-intensification-control framework will be presented together with the corresponding databases, computer-aided models and tools needed to achieve sustainable synthesis-intensification. Different examples, related to synthesis, intensification and control will be presented for each stage of the framework.
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