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Keywords:

  • biorenewables processing;
  • biofuels;
  • reaction network flux analysis;
  • multi-objective optimization;
  • bioeconomy;
  • chemical process design

Abstract

Recently, novel biofuel candidates have been proposed by catalysis research. To guide follow-up research activities efficiently, it must be assessed whether large-scale production of such next-generation biofuels is competitive in comparison with established biofuels like ethanol. However, it is very time-consuming to provide complete process designs for all alternatives, especially as important data are missing in the early development phase. Instead, reaction network flux analysis (RNFA) has been introduced recently for rapid screening of production routes to bridge the gap between catalysis research and process design. Using this approach, mass balances are formulated for a network of possible reactions such that multi-objective optimization techniques can be applied to identify the attractive pathways with high performance. Typical performance indicators like total annualized cost or environmental impact are adapted to the requirements of the early design phase and integrated in the flux analysis. In this paper, production performance indicators of ten novel biofuel candidates are compared to those of methanol, ethanol, butanol, and methane as reference fuels using RNFA. While some pathways already show an encouraging performance, the reaction yield of others must be increased significantly, if the target product should qualify as promising fuel candidates. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd