SUSCAPE (improved process SUStainability using Computer Aided Process Engineering tools) is a research group created at University Rovira i Virgili to promote the emerging area of sustainable process design.
During the last decade, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of incorporating environmental concerns along with traditional economic criteria in the optimization of industrial processes. This trend has been motivated by several issues, a major one being the tighter government's regulations. Additionally, the need to improve the perception of the firm by customers for being more environmentally conscious, which may eventually lead to higher product sales, has also contributed to this business trend.
Unfortunately, despite the effort made so far, the overwhelming majority of the available strategies in the field focus on the manufacturing stage, and for this reason their scope is rather limited. Because of this, they can sometimes lead to solutions that decrease the impact locally at the expense of increasing certain negative effects in other stages of the life cycle of the process, in such a manner that the overall environmental damage is increased. This drawback can be overcome by expanding the boundaries of the study beyond the production stage in order to include a wider range of production and logistic activities. Thus, in the past decade it has become clear that the environmental issues must be considered throughout the entire production chain.
Life-cycle assessment (LCA) arose in response to this situation. LCA is an objective process for evaluating the environmental loads associated with a product, process or activity. During the application of LCA, the energy and materials used in a process are firstly identified and quantified along with the wastes released to the environment. This information is further translated into a set of environmental impacts that can be aggregated into different groups. These impacts are finally used to assess diverse process alternatives that may be implemented to achieve environmental improvements. Today, LCA can be said to be the main instrument in sustainable process design as it can be effectively used to restructure any process in order to improve its environmental performance.
Our research goal is to develop quantitative tools based on mathematical programming to address the design and planning of sustainable processes. Our approach relies on the combined use of multi-criteria mixed-integer modeling techniques and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) principles, a framework that enables us to systematize the identification of process alternatives leading to environmental savings. Efficient solutions strategies that exploit the mathematical structure of the underlying formulations are also being investigated.
Check this presentation for more information about the SUSCAPE group
Figure. Life cycle assessment.
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