Environmental Sustainability: Process Design, Life Cycle Assessment, and Decision Making

Dr. Raymond L. Smith,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,Office of Research and Development,National Risk Management Research Laboratory,Cincinnati, OH

26 March 2015 at 10:30

Location: JHE 326H

Environmental sustainability provides direction for system-based research at the U.S. EPA, as it can include elements as diverse as chemical process design and evaluation, life cycle assessment (LCA), and decision making.  These various systems require different models, methods of analysis, and approaches to improve their sustainability. 


In the area of process design and evaluation, a team of researchers at the EPA has developed a beta software tool called GREENSCOPE, which can aid in the evaluation of existing processes and in the design of new ones.  GREENSCOPE uses process data to evaluate ~140 indicators in four areas: environment, economics, efficiency, and energy.  Where many methods provide qualitative descriptors of processes, GREENSCOPE provides a quantitative assessment, allowing for comparisons of various processes on defined sustainability scales. 


Supply chain design suggests a need to develop analysis and synthesis approaches on a larger scale than the process.  Potential methods are reviewed and a discussion on aspects of LCA is offered.  Benefits and potential issues with LCA are described, along with results for an example system including products for the oxidation of toluene. 


Finally, a method is described to incorporate process information and user preferences into multiobjective decisions.  Often, scientists and engineers are uncomfortable with the methods available for integrating values into objective and quantifiable science.  While the existence of values in decision making cannot be eliminated, one can navigate a path that provides scientific clarity.  The method described will be exemplified through various results for a terephthalic acid process. 



Ray Smith has been a Chemical Engineer in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research & Development for over 15 years, after earning his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  During his tenure with EPA, Ray has established an expertise in sustainability by performing research and publishing in the areas of life cycle assessment, biofuels, industrial ecology, process design, sustainability indicators, optimization, and decision making.  As a Principal Investigator, Ray’s research on method development for solving sustainability problems describes often overlooked details of seemingly simple systems and shows how to obtain appropriately simplified solutions to complex problems.  Over the course of his career he has also been employed in industry and collaborated with domestic and international academic, industrial, and consultant groups.  Ray has volunteered his time to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, serving as the first Chair of both the Environmental Division and (next year) the Sustainable Engineering Forum.


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