A multi-criteria approach to screening alternatives for converting sewage sludge to biodiesel Academic Article uri icon


  • The search for cheaper feedstock for use in the production of biofuels such as biodiesel has turned attention to various forms of waste products including animal fats, waste oils and now lipids in sludge. With the potential of obtaining sludge at a reduced cost, free, or possibly with incentives, sewage sludge is being investigated as a potential feedstock for biofuel production. For the extraction of oils from the sewage sludge and the subsequent processing, there are various alternatives that should be designed, analyzed, and screened. In developing and screening these alternatives, it is necessary to have a consistent basis for comparing alternatives based on key criteria. While most of the design studies focus on techno-economic criteria, it is also important to include safety metrics in the multi-criteria analysis. In this work, a detailed economic analysis and a safety evaluation are performed on a process involving extraction oftriglycerides and fatty acids, pre-treatment of fatty acids (direct conversion to biodiesel), and transesterification of triglycerides to biodiesel. Four solvents, toluene, hexane, methanol and ethanol, are individually used in the extraction process. The resulting triglycerides and fatty acids from each extraction are modeled in the pre-treatment process. ASPEN Plus software is used to simulate the detailed process. Economic analysis is performed using ASPEN ICARUS, and scale-up of a previously analyzed process is used to estimate the cost of the biodiesel portion of the process. A new safety metric (referred to as the Safety Index "SI") is introduced to enable comparison of the various solvent extraction processes. The SI is based on solvent criteria as well as process conditions. A case study is presented to demonstrate the insights and usefulness of the developed approach. The results of the techno-economic analysis reveal that of the four solvents used for the initial extraction, hexane and toluene were least costly (2.89 and 2.79$/gal, respectively). Conversely, the safety analysis utilizing the SI reveals that methanol and ethanol are the safer solvent options. The issue of cost/safety tradeoffs is also discussed. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Pokoo-Aikins, G., Heath, A., Mentzer, R. A., Mannan, M. S., Rogers, W. J., & El-Halwagi, M. M.

citation count

  • 101

complete list of authors

  • Pokoo-Aikins, Grace||Heath, Aubrey||Mentzer, Ray A||Mannan, M Sam||Rogers, William J||El-Halwagi, Mahmoud M

publication date

  • May 2010