Final Report Summary - RENESENG (RENESENG)
The Renewable Systems Engineering grant (RENESENG) is an FP7 Marie Curie project that researches and trains a new breed of engineers with project experience in biorefineries and emphasis on advanced process design, synthesis, model-based screening and analysis and process integration. Major scientific aims of the RENESENG project are to: • Build synthesis capabilities in Process Systems Engineering (PSE) tools addressing challenges to important problems in bio renewables including process design, supply chain analysis, valorisation of paths and industrial chemistries, and process integration • Develop families of models to function at different level of analysis (multi-scale applications) and compatible with each other • Consolidate bio renewables modelling and systems engineering knowledge into sharable environments, repositories and software prototypes with capabilities to support engineering tasks (flowsheeting, scale-up, costing, screening) and decisions further offering the opportunity to build dedicated communities of expertise. The project started on November 1, 2013. RENESENG work has been performed by project partners largely in parallel to each other with project events and placements acting as binding agent among them. Work at DTU has focused on predicting more reliably the physical properties of pure components. Separately, environmental impact analysis under uncertainties in the characterisation factors has now been successfully implemented. Reducing uncertainty when performing Life Cycle Assessment on processes lies behind work performed at QUANTIS, where geographically non-descript LCA data has been disaggregated systematically to allow regionalisation of the supply chain without excessive data collection. A facility for performing hydrolysis and pretreatment of biomass has been constructed at BPF along with biomass characterisation analyses. Separately, torrefaction of biomass, a special pretreatment method, has been studied to reasonable depth at CERTH. Chains of valorising wood biomass into chemicals and energy have been successfully ranked by their combined economic and environmental performance in a case study by EPFL, using extensive optimisation models. Simulation and optimisation models have been set up at CIMV to help integrate optimally the traditional ethanol production process from sugarcane with the CIMV-patented process from wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse (Organosolv). Imperial College has applied to the same Organsolv process a new optimisation model that helps locate optimally a biorefinery so that its economic performance is maximised taking into account the best biomass conversion routes and all associated logistics. At DLO, production of the industrially relevant 1,2-propanediol by bacterial fermentation of the hydrolysate of the green seaweed U.lactula has been studied from both chemical and biological viewpoints. Identification of ‘best’ location for biorefinery processes has been proven not to be possible based on conventional petrochemical process costing methods. Data has been collected to help devise a bio-based costing method and extend it to encompass LCA considerations and logistics; application has been pursued in one of ARKEMA’s patented processes. Work has been performed at NTUA to create a short-cut decision support tool by forming a “superstructure” that represents a waste bio-refinery which contains dozens of different synthesis paths that can valorise biodegradable waste (MSW) to biofuels, bio-based chemicals and energy. One level down, the impact is examined of different mass transfer correlations on the real design of bio-reactors using a new simulated annealing code. One level up, work has been carried out to integrate biomass pathways, models and tools for biorefineries that already exist in the literature and create a repository that contains information on these existing biomass pathways and models. At the same level, the University of Surrey has developed an initial ontology design enroute to providing a knowledge based platform to integrate conventional and non-conventional models and data developed by different tools, for differing processing scales and using different physical properties of biorenewables. Researchers participating in RENESENG have exhibited a varied activity in research training. All Project researchers have participated in the project events (workshops and training courses). Some have undertaken extensive in-house training on subjects of their specialty but also generic transferable skills. Some have supervised undergraduate student work and have taught courses. Some have attended training schools and lectures given outside their hosting organisation. Researchers have achieved a high level of networking among them and with research communities outside RENESENG through active participation in the RENESENG events but also a wide variety of external conferences, trips, workshops and schools. Notable in this direction are the many completed secondments within RENESENG. All events attended and contributed to by the researchers of RENESENG have had a bi-directional role: apart from providing training and networking opportunities to the participants, they have also helped disseminate work carried out under RENESENG to wider audiences. A large number of publications and conference announcements has been made by RENESENG researchers, creating a solid background on which to build further dissemination activity. RENESENG has been physically present in conference/exhibition booths and electronically through webcasts, training videos and a portal. RENESENG partners have made several oral representations on the project in their general dissemination activities. Central role in outreach has been played by the project website (www.reneseng.com) which provides a focal point for internal project use but, importantly, also a point of reference for other communities, including academia, authorities and investors. The website has been designed according to recent trends to ensure its attractiveness to people outside RENESENG and streamline its use for project purposes. The ultimate long-term objective of RENESENG is to initiate and encourage agreements between European universities that will lead to joining a multicentre PhD program in order to strengthen European research and structure the research in the new field of design of biorefinery, biofuel and (bio)chemical process systems of the future, their exploitation and career opportunities for young scientists. The network program will have a significant impact for the partners involved that goes beyond training and research programs. Integration and exchange will mutually increase the partners’ workforce and effectiveness, at the very least via collaboration with external researchers with specific know-how and experience in the relevant fields. This will contribute to diversify the scientific and technological expertise of the partners and reduce knowledge fragmentation, and will also lead to new long term collaborations. In addition, the presence of international researchers at the host institutes will improve the communication skills of local researchers and students with respect to foreign languages and will certainly enhance readiness for international mobility, thus improving knowledge transfer to other European countries. Casting a wider net, RENESENG results (methods, tools, people, extended network) places renewable process systems engineering on the map of such contemporary societal priorities as climate change, cyclical economy, sustainable development and zero-emission human activity. The project has acted as an incubator of significant renewables production engineering tools, at the crossroads between technical, business and policy levels and has bridged at least one gap in people’s minds as to the transition sought from conventional economy to sustainable economy: how to design material and energy processes for businesses of the future, wherein innovation, employment and prosperity will be spearheaded. Lastly, let it be said, that the wealth of RENESENG outcomes will only fulfil its purpose if they are taken one step further to a unified tool, with a publically available part and a commercially exploitable part, ready for application to cases of real interest by society.