Modeling the Sustainability of Wood-Based Bio-refinery and its Supply Chain

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Research Details

This research pursues a vision of sustainable production of wood-based bio-fuels in view of the triple dimensions of sustainability. Political leaders, policy makers, and the public demand detailed information about the environmental, social and economic impacts of any emerging technology and how it compares with existing mature processes. Thus, the need for assessing the environmental, economic and social sustainability implications of promising technology and product systems over their life cycles are inevitable such as the production of forest-based bio-fuels.

Sustainability involves recognizing interconnections among ecological, social, and economic systems and competing views of acceptable tradeoffs among them. Criteria and indicators are used to operationalize the overarching principle of sustainable development. Majority of the existing systems models for analyzing the impacts of biofuels have not considered the triple dimensions of sustainability and failed to integrate the different tiers of biofuel supply chains. The current research focuses on the development of a prototype systems model for life cycle sustainability assessment of biofuel technologies. The primary use of this model is to analyze the life cycle and long term environmental emissions, energy and other resource consumptions of the wood-based bio-refinery system.  Nonetheless, social and economic aspects such as population increase, growth in economy and employment are taken into consideration.

Sustainability of biofuel supply chain is modeled using a holistic approach such as dynamic system modeling. The interrelationships of critical variables are modeled over a finite time horizon. A suite of interlinking models for technology assessment in biofuel industry is being developed to integrate the entire biomass-to-hydrocarbons process. When a valid working prototype is created, scenario analysis is carried out to assess whether the development and use of novel biofuel technologies can really contribute towards meeting the sustainable development of biofuel supply chains.