CarboxyLCA: Assisting decision-making in waste valorization by computer-aided design tool

Main Presenter:    Mateo Saavedra del Oso;Almudena Hospido 

Co-Authors:   Miguel Mauricio-Iglesias     Almudena Hospido                                          

The carboxylate platform (Agler et al. 2011) presents an excellent opportunity to turn organic waste into valuable chemicals and other products as part of a circular economy. Despite its tremendous potential, the growth of the platform is hindered by technological and financial challenges in linking the key players involved. To tackle these obstacles, this study extends the tool previously established by the authors (Saavedra del Oso et al. 2022), The published framework only provides technical performance indicators (i.e. substrate conversion, VFA yield, productivity and equivalent hydroxyvalerate (HV)/hydroxybutyrate (HB) precursors ratio) and its scope is limited to the anaerobic fermentation. CarboxyLCA broads that scope and incorporates environmental and economic indicators so it would allow for a holistic evaluation of different organic waste sources, technologies, and products. However, comparing technologies with different technology readiness level (TRL) presents a significant
challenge and prospective life cycle assessment (pLCA) offers a solution by upscaling and comparing the environmental impact of emerging technologies against existing technologies (Cucurachi et al. 2018).
The computer-aided tool described here consists of the following components: (1) a substrate library, (2) a thorough kinetic and stoichiometric model, (3) an upscaling module, (4) a prospective life cycle assessment module, (5) a life cycle cost module, and (6) a set of comprehensive indicators for interpreting simulation results and facilitating decision making.
The effectiveness of the tool is demonstrated through three case studies, showcasing its use in selecting the optimal technology for valorising a specific organic waste (i.e. screening the environmental performance of valorisation routes for tuna canning wastewater), optimizing anaerobic fermentation for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) production (i.e. screening different operational conditions) and choosing the best substrate for PHA production. Finally, the study highlights the tool’s utility in supporting decision-making, connecting the key players and its versatility for customization.

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