How to Use Process Modeling to Support Sustainable Development Process Models - Irreplaceable Component of Future Industry Development

Ivana Lukec, Ph.D.
How to Use Process Modeling to Support Sustainable Development

Talking about "Sustainability" - one of the most mentioned words across industry communities today! By its definition, it stands for the concept of responsibility towards “triple P”: needs of people, planet, and profits aiming towards balance.

The concept that should bring us balance, progress and change. However, still raises more questions than it brings answers and the way ahead is long, complex, and uncertain...

That complexity and uncertainty is already the first checkpoint where mathematical and process models are and should be employed more.

Let me just quickly remind you: the mathematical or a process model is a mathematical representation of reality. This representation can be a very simple one, such as a simple mathematical equation. But it can also be a very complex one with a huge number of differential equations where solution needs to be found numerically. Either one is a process model.

Sometimes, we too easily forget about the first one that should remain the premise of every complex model. We always need to understand the basics in order to be able to describe complexities. A simple, 1-2-equation model should be employed at every beginning and every end of your process modeling journeys and anytime when any doubts arise. That's how you'll find out whether your complex model is in tune with reality.


Planning Strategies & Scheduling Execution

Now, back to sustainability...

...exactly these, mathematically simple but conceptually complex models where the strategies and plans are being developed are the answers to many questions and uncertainties that arise through the development of sustainability concept.

These include plans and strategies development of available resources, feeds, products, energy requirements, waste footprints, etc. For the beginning. These can be done on industry site level, regional level, or global level.


Process Design as the most obvious example

If looking into how process modeling is applied in the design of sustainable industry, we are looking into 3 ways:

  1. Reconstruction and adaptation of existing processes - this stands for all process improvement and optimization efforts that are focused on lowering emissions, energy&water efficiency improvement, applying more efficient technologies, etc.

  2. Integration of existing feeds, products, and processes and the adoption to circular economy principles - as one of the key potentials in lowering wastes and emissions of different processes where the waste of one process unit can be used as the feed of another. This as well includes the integration of heat, water and other resources. Pinch analysis is one of the technologies that are used. Process modeling that uses steady state first principles models enables research of all potential routes and their specifics.

  3. New processes & production routes that enable production from renewable feedstocks and/or significantly lowered environmental impact. This field starts with thorough research&development projects and conceptual design. Those processes include biofuel and bioproduct networks, biogas based ammonia production, CO2 hidrogenation, CO2 capture and storage and many more that are being investigated and optimized.

Following this trend, a wide range of production technologies, most of them yet commercially immature, are under investigation to improve the sustainability level of chemicals and fuels.

Predictive analytics models:

Let's also not forget predictive analytics data based models which are not directly creating a more sustainable industry but have a huge impact on monitoring and control of the operation to make it efficient and optimized.

Different applications of process modeling are applied accross industries that were not covered with this short overview. The goal of this concise article was the overview of the main trends without going into too much details.

This overview does clearly underline the main trends, especially that one how skilled process modeling engineers, engineers with innovative ideas and process modeling as a field are extremely important for our sustainable future.