Sustainability assessment of formic acid production : comparison of CO₂ based and conventional processes
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Technology, Department of Process and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering
|Online Access:||PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.9 MB)|
|Persistent link:|| http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:oulu-201308281647
|Publish Date:|| 2013-08-28
|Thesis type:||Master's thesis (tech)
Sustainability can be described as a developmental approach whose focus is to integrate economic activity with social security and environmental protection. Sustainability of chemical process involves the use of sustainable practices in the chemical industry. Sustainability assessment describes the methods used for achieving sustainability in industries, it is needed because unsustainable practices can be tracked and corrected and also to track progress made by the company in achieving sustainability. The aim of this thesis was to use a green chemistry based sustainability assessment tool to compare one conventional and two CO₂ utilization routes in order to find the more sustainable way of producing formic acid and to suggest methods for improving the tool. The three routes considered in this work were the conventional route, which was done on a commercial scale. This method of producing formic acid is via methyl formate hydrolysis. The experimental route and the BP patented routes represented CO₂ utilization routes on laboratory scale setting and commercial setting respectively. These methods for producing formic acid involved the hydrogenation of CO₂. Another aim of this thesis was to review some currently used assessment tools related to sustainability. Six currently utilized assessment tools related to sustainability were compared based on their strengths and weaknesses and evaluated. Sustainability assessment was conducted on the three formic acid production routes based on the green chemistry assessment tool using the most important features. Sustainability assessment questionnaire based on the twelve green chemistry principles was used to assess the three formic acid production routes. The strengths and weakness of the green chemistry tool were discussed and recommendations for improving the tool were suggested. One way of improving the tool is to merge it with LCA in order to assess every stage of a product’s life cycle from cradle to grave. The results from the assessment showed that the conventional route was harmful to the environment while the CO₂ utilization routes were beneficial to the environment. The social section of the result showed that both the conventional and CO₂ utilization routes were socially unsustainable and the economic section of the results showed that the conventional and the CO₂ utilization routes were economically viable but the CO₂ utilization routes were more economically viable than the conventional route. Overall, the experimental CO₂ utilization route is the most sustainable way to produce formic acid. It is important that more research will be done on CO₂ utilization method of producing formic acid in order for it to fulfill its potential as a sustainable method.
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