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SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR: Tool for evaluating process sustainability

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A novel impact assessment tool, the “SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR” has been developed for evaluating processes for sustainability. Traditionally, engineers designed processes to meet economic goals; however, with the awareness of sustainability, engineers are now considering other constraints such as resource usage, environmental impacts, social benefits, and economics. This tool applies selected metrics that address economic, environmental, and health and safety concerns. The SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR is a Microsoft Excel–based tool that uses mass and energy flows as inputs to evaluate the sustainability of a process. This impact assessment tool equips the process designer with a framework to design industrial processes for sustainability. The objective is for process designers to use the results generated from the tool to assess and improve the sustainability of a process. The ultimate goal in every industrial process is to maximize profits; thus, a process is not sustainable if it is not economically viable. Thus, this study introduces a methodology that involves addressing economical concerns by completing a profitability analysis, addressing environmental concerns by using a set of selected environmental metrics, and addressing social concerns by completing a health and safety risk analysis. The SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR has been demonstrated by the dimethyl ether (DME) process. In this work, two options for producing DME are compared and then the most sustainable option is selected. Lastly, the results obtained from the SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR are validated with the Environmental Protection Agency's Waste Reduction Algorithm. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Environ Prog, 32: 749–761, 2013