Allocation of Biomass Derived Products for Optimal Economic and Environmental Performance

EPA Grant Number: F6A10603
Title: Allocation of Biomass Derived Products for Optimal Economic and Environmental Performance
Investigators: Sammons, Norman Edward
Institution: Auburn University Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Economics and Decision Sciences , Fellowship - Chemical Engineering


The research project involves developing a framework to help decision makers in determining the optimal processing routes in the field of biorefining, which is the conversion of various forms of biomass into high-value final products. The vast range of possible products from biorefining results in a high level of complexity and a need for a systematic approach to formulate a production strategy needed to maximize value while minimizing environmental impact. The framework will determine the products and amounts needed to attain optimal economic performance as well as level of environmental impact for profitable production routes using the EPA WAR algorithm.

The objective of this work is to develop a flexible decision making framework for the allocation of biomass into value-added products through the use of a holistic problem solving approach.


First, a superstructure will be constructed to illustrate all possible process routes in the field of biorefining. Next, literature for the process routes will be reviewed in order to determine processing cost, yield, and amounts and types of releases into the environment. If literature does not reveal the needed information, process simulators and economic tools will be used in order to approximate the necessary data. Process integration will then be used to maximize resource utilization while ensuring sustainable production. Once the process routes are all optimized through process integration, data on cost, yield, and outputs for each path of the superstructure will be incorporated into a mathematical solver that will use linear programming optimization to determine the most profitable processing routes. Through the use of the EPA WAR algorithm, relative environmental impact will then be determined separately for the economically optimal routes to assist the end user in making the decision on which production route to follow in order to maximize value while minimizing environmental impact.

Expected Results:

The end result is a superstructure that contains all possible routes in biorefining, a library of simulation models and information relevant to each possible route, and an optimization program capable of determining the most optimal production routes and corresponding environmental impact levels while using acceptable computing power. Data on overall production cost, yield, and environmental releases is determined from process simulators and/or available literature, and linear approximations of relevant data is then incorporated into the mathematical solver. By keeping the nonlinear process simulations separate from the optimization program, the linearized problem becomes much more simplified. The flexibility of this framework will also allow for technological breakthroughs to be incorporated by developing a process simulation for the new technology, and entering the new data into the framework.

Supplemental Keywords:

Integrated biorefineries, sustainability, optimization, framework, biomass,, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Economics, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Economics & Decision Making, model-based analysis, economic research, biofuel policy, economic benefits, decision making, cost benefit, econometric analysis