Integrated Environmental and Exergoeconomic Analysis of Biomass-Derived Maleic Anhydride
Life cycle analysis and exergy analysis are applied to compare the production of maleic anhydride from different feedstock, both biomass- and petrochemical-derived raw materials, in order to evaluate the sustainability of alternative biorefinery processes to conventional routes. The considered processes involve two options: gas and aqueous phase furfural oxidation with oxygen (air) and hydrogen peroxide as oxidants, respectively, considered as sustainable technologies because of the use of renewable feedstock. Conventional routes, used as benchmarks, include the current production processes using benzene or butane as raw materials. The results show that the aqueous phase process is far from being viable from an energy and environmental point of view due to the high exergy destruction and the use of H2O2 as oxidant (whose production entails important environmental drawbacks). On the contrary, the gas phase oxidation of furfural shows competitive results with petrochemical technologies. Nevertheless, the major environmental drawback of the new furfural-to-maleic anhydride production processes is detected on the environmental profile of the starting raw material. The results suggest that a better environmental footprint for maleic anhydride production in gas phase can be obtained if environmentally friendly furfural production technologies are used at the commercial scale.
This research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (projects RTI2018-094918-B-C41, RTI2018-094918-B-C42, and RTI2018-094918-B-C43)
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