Iris Vural Gursel

Abstracts

2 Techno-Economic Analysis of 1,3-Butadiene and ε-Caprolactam Production from C6 Sugars

Authors: Iris Vural Gursel, Jonathan Moncada, Ernst Worrell, Andrea Ramirez

Abstract:

In order to achieve the transition from a fossil to bio-based economy, biomass needs to replace fossil resources in meeting the world’s energy and chemical needs. This calls for development of biorefinery systems allowing cost-efficient conversion of biomass to chemicals. In biorefinery systems, feedstock is converted to key intermediates called platforms which are converted to wide range of marketable products. The C6 sugars platform stands out due to its unique versatility as precursor for multiple valuable products. Among the different potential routes from C6 sugars to bio-based chemicals, 1,3-butadiene and ε-caprolactam appear to be of great interest. Butadiene is an important chemical for the production of synthetic rubbers, while caprolactam is used in production of nylon-6. In this study, ex-ante techno-economic performance of 1,3-butadiene and ε-caprolactam routes from C6 sugars were assessed. The aim is to provide insight from an early stage of development into the potential of these new technologies, and the bottlenecks and key cost-drivers. Two cases for each product line were analyzed to take into consideration the effect of possible changes on the overall performance of both butadiene and caprolactam production. Conceptual process design for the processes was developed using Aspen Plus based on currently available data from laboratory experiments. Then, operating and capital costs were estimated and an economic assessment was carried out using Net Present Value (NPV) as indicator. Finally, sensitivity analyses on processing capacity and prices was done to take into account possible variations. Results indicate that both processes perform similarly from an energy intensity point of view ranging between 34-50 MJ per kg of main product. However, in terms of processing yield (kg of product per kg of C6 sugar), caprolactam shows higher yield by a factor 1.6-3.6 compared to butadiene. For butadiene production, with the economic parameters used in this study, for both cases studied, a negative NPV (-642 and -647 M€) was attained indicating economic infeasibility. For the caprolactam production, one of the cases also showed economic infeasibility (-229 M€), but the case with the higher caprolactam yield resulted in a positive NPV (67 M€). Sensitivity analysis indicated that the economic performance of caprolactam production can be improved with the increase in capacity (higher C6 sugars intake) reflecting benefits of the economies of scale. Furthermore, humins valorization for heat and power production was considered and found to have a positive effect. Butadiene production was found sensitive to the price of feedstock C6 sugars and product butadiene. However, even at 100% variation of the two parameters, butadiene production remained economically infeasible. Overall, the caprolactam production line shows higher economic potential in comparison to that of butadiene. The results are useful in guiding experimental research and providing direction for further development of bio-based chemicals.

Keywords: Biorefinery, Bio-based chemicals, Process Modelling, Economic analysis, C6 sugars

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1 Lignin Valorization: Techno-Economic Analysis of Three Lignin Conversion Routes

Authors: Iris Vural Gursel, Andrea Ramirez

Abstract:

Effective utilization of lignin is an important mean for developing economically profitable biorefineries. Current literature suggests that large amounts of lignin will become available in second generation biorefineries. New conversion technologies will, therefore, be needed to carry lignin transformation well beyond combustion to produce energy, but towards high-value products such as chemicals and transportation fuels. In recent years, significant progress on catalysis has been made to improve transformation of lignin, and new catalytic processes are emerging. In this work, a techno-economic assessment of two of these novel conversion routes and comparison with more established lignin pyrolysis route were made. The aim is to provide insights into the potential performance and potential hotspots in order to guide the experimental research and ease the commercialization by early identifying cost drivers, strengths, and challenges. The lignin conversion routes selected for detailed assessment were: (non-catalytic) lignin pyrolysis as the benchmark, direct hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of lignin and hydrothermal lignin depolymerisation. Products generated were mixed oxygenated aromatic monomers (MOAMON), light organics, heavy organics, and char. For the technical assessment, a basis design followed by process modelling in Aspen was done using experimental yields. A design capacity of 200 kt/year lignin feed was chosen that is equivalent to a 1 Mt/y scale lignocellulosic biorefinery. The downstream equipment was modelled to achieve the separation of the product streams defined. For determining external utility requirement, heat integration was considered and when possible gasses were combusted to cover heating demand. The models made were used in generating necessary data on material and energy flows. Next, an economic assessment was carried out by estimating operating and capital costs. Return on investment (ROI) and payback period (PBP) were used as indicators. The results of the process modelling indicate that series of separation steps are required. The downstream processing was found especially demanding in the hydrothermal upgrading process due to the presence of significant amount of unconverted lignin (34%) and water. Also, external utility requirements were found to be high. Due to the complex separations, hydrothermal upgrading process showed the highest capital cost (50 M€ more than benchmark). Whereas operating costs were found the highest for the direct HDO process (20 M€/year more than benchmark) due to the use of hydrogen. Because of high yields to valuable heavy organics (32%) and MOAMON (24%), direct HDO process showed the highest ROI (12%) and the shortest PBP (5 years). This process is found feasible with a positive net present value. However, it is very sensitive to the prices used in the calculation. The assessments at this stage are associated with large uncertainties. Nevertheless, they are useful for comparing alternatives and identifying whether a certain process should be given further consideration. Among the three processes investigated here, the direct HDO process was seen to be the most promising.

Keywords: Process Design, Biorefinery, economic assessment, lignin conversion

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