Sustainability assessment of novel chemical processes at early stage: Application to biobased processes

Akshay D. Patel*, Koen Meesters, Herman Den Uil, Ed De Jong, Kornelis Blok, Martin K. Patel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical conversions have been a cornerstone of industrial revolution and societal progress. Continuing this progress in a resource constrained world poses a critical challenge which demands the development of innovative chemical processes to meet our energy and material needs in a sustainable way. This challenge forms the basis for this article. We report a method for quick preliminary assessment of chemical processes at the laboratory stage. The proposed method enables a review of chemical processes within a broader sustainability context. It is inspired by green chemistry principles, techno-economic analysis and some elements of environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA). This method evaluates a proposed chemical process against comparable existing processes using a multi-criteria approach that integrates various economic and environmental indicators. An effort has been made to incorporate quantitative and qualitative information about the processes while making the method transparent and easy to implement based on information available at an early stage in process development. The idea is to provide a data-based assessment tool for chemists and engineers to develop sustainable chemistry. This paper describes the method in detail and examines plausibility of the results. A biobased process for the production of but-1,3-diene has been analyzed using this method. This biobased process is compared with a conventional process for the production of but-1,3-diene from petroleum sources. The effects of uncertainty in the underlying model parameters and assumptions are also analyzed, along with the effect of system boundary selection on the assessment outcome. Analysis and testing of the method shows that it can be used as a valuable tool for sustainable process development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8430-8444
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


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