Novel Optimization Methods for Design, Synthesis, Supply Chain, and Uncertainty of Hybrid Biomass, Coal, and Natural Gas to Liquids, CBGTL, Processes Grant uri icon


  • Intellectual Merit of Proposed Activity:A grand challenge in sustainable supply of energy is the introduction of hybrid energy processes with feedstocks that include renewable raw materials and improve the life cycle analysis. The primary objective of the research proposed here is to develop novel theoretical, algorithmic and computational techniques for the discovery and analysis of transformative hybrid energy processes based on biomass, coal, and natural gas that produce gasoline, diesel, and kerosene at levels that can address the United States transportation fuel demands. We propose to investigate: (i) an optimization-based process synthesis framework for novel hybridenergy CBGTL processes based on superstructure representation of the most promising alternatives that will address (a) thermochemical conversion, (b) biochemical conversion, (c) heat, power, and water integration, and (d) global optimization of the resulting nonconvex MINLP models; (ii) a systematic framework for the determination of the optimal energy supply chain network in the United States for the hybrid energy CBGTL plants that will address (a) the optimal geographic location and size of the CBGTL plants, (b) the optimal layout and connectivity of the different available feedstock resources (i.e., natural gas, different types of coal and biomass), and (c) the optimal transportation infrastructure to deliver feeds and products to and from the CBGTL plants; (iii) new approaches for quantifying the role of uncertainty in (a) feedstock availability and prices, (b) yields, (c) transportation topology andcost, (d) demand profiles, and (e) product prices, that will be based on (i) a robust optimization, (ii) a conditional value at risk,CVAR, framework, (iii) a two-stage stochastic programming, and (iv) a combination of CVAR and robust optimization; and (iv) novel approaches for the long range and strategic planning of CBGTL processes for both the deterministic and under uncertainty cases. We expect that new and transformative theoretical, algorithmic, and computational results, and novel methodologies will be developed and applied to the (i) design and synthesis of individual novel hybrid energy CBGTL processes; (ii) integration of heat, power, and water within the process synthesis of CBGTL processes; (iii) optimal determination of the energy supply chain network; and (iv) elucidation of the role and impact of uncertainty on feedstock levels and prices, yields, transportation costs and topology, and product prices for the CBGTL individual plants and their energy supply network.Broader Impacts Resulting from the Proposed Activity:The proposed approach has the potential to significantly advance and transform the traditional chemical processing and production so as to attain a sustainable future. The development of novel hybrid biomass, coal, and natural gas, CBGTL, energy processes, and their deployment in the energy supply network, has the potential to contribute significantly to the economic growth of the US.Integration of Research and Education: The proposed effort will integrate participation of undergraduate andgraduate students and will include underrepresented minorities and visiting students. At the undergraduate level, thePI has used and will use as a senior design project, hybrid energy processes, while at the graduate level, the PI intendsto incorporate the findings in a graduate course on Optimization in Process Systems Engineering. The students willreceive training in process design, simulation, synthesis, optimization, energy, power and water integration, life cycleanalysis, and scientific computation.Broaden Representation of Underrepresented Groups: The proposed research will broaden the participation of under-represented groups since it will aim at attracting female and minority students at the graduate level and the undergraduate junior independent and senior theses students level. The PI has a proven record of promoting diversity in chemical engineering. His trainees have had diverse socioeconomic, racial and ethnical backgrounds, and have included (18) female students and postdoctoral fellows many of whom are now distinguished researchers and Professors in the US or abroad. Currently, the PI supervises 3 female graduate students and 1 female high school student. The PI will continue recruiting efforts of under-represented groups for this project via meeting during his seminar visits and conferences, and attracting juniors and seniors for independent research work.Dissemination: The results of the proposed work will be broadly disseminated to researchers in academia and industry through presentations at domestic and international meetings, scholarly refereed journal publications and through an already available dedicated web site ( which will describe the approaches, implementations and results. We will also make freely available all case studies and our implementations of the proposed work and create a web tool for easy access. We also intend to prepare a CACHE Design case study to be widely distributed worldwide. Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in its preparation.Impact on Society: The proposed research has potential to accelerate the discovery of transformative hybridenergy processes that will lead into sustainable biofuels that meet the transportation targets of the United States.

date/time interval

  • 2015 - 2017