Biorefineries with Carbon Dioxide Utilization to Deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Biorefineries with carbon dioxide utilization can deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015) because these systems are the only alternatives to fossil-based systems by de-fossilizing carbon. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all the United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people

Life cycle assessment, life cycle costing and social life cycle assessment categories, relevant and important for

Figure 4. Life cycle assessment, life cycle costing and social life cycle assessment categories, relevant and important for

biorefinery systems with carbon dioxide utilization.

and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries—developed and developing—in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spin economic growth—all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.” With these ethos, alternative biorefinery supply chain systems should be developed to preserve natural capital as well as end poverty and inequality. Biorefineries are believed to deliver the SDGs, in particular, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13, discussed below (Sadhukhan et al., 2019).

SDG 6—clean water and sanitation

Clean water and sanitation are foundational needs of the society. The microbial electrosynthesis systems intake waste streams, sludge, etc., as the feedstock or substrate for microbial growth and thereby decompose organic loading of the wastewaters and purify them. These systems operating at small scales can be integrated into individual sanitation systems for treatment to recycle water and at the same time harvest energy by electron and proton sourcing by decomposition of the organic load in wastewaters (Ban^ci et ah, 2016). It is believed that the system would have an increasingly important role to play in the development of sustainable toilets with multi-productions, recycled water, energy and compost, in order to deliver cost-effective clean water and sanitation systems.

SDG 7—affordable and clean energy

Like clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy constitutes a foundational need of society. The core of the innovation is to transform heterogeneous complex waste streams into clean energy generation. The microbial electrosynthesis systems are able to effectively harvest electrons and protons, the vital sources of energy from wastewaters (Seelam et ah, 2018). Electrons can flow' through the external circuit to generate a clean form of electricity. At a household scale or small distributed scale, the system can operate to utilize household wastewaters and transform into clean electricity by the way of recycling water, the system being called microbial fuel cells (Jadhav et al., 2018).

SDG 8—decent work and economic growth (by “economicproductivity through diversification and technological upgrading and innovation ”) (Sadhukhan et al., 2019)

Integrated advanced biorefinery systems defined as a facility with integrated, efficient and flexible conversion of biomass feedstocks, through a combination of physical, chemical, biochemical and thermochemical processes, into multiple products (Sadhukhan et ah, 2014) should be deployed to deliver the SDG 8. Biorefineries can create green jobs and offer decent work and clean economic growth.

SDG 9—industry, innovation and infrastructure (by “increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes”) (Sadhukhan et al., 2019)

Multi-productions from multiple feedstocks by integrated multi-process biorefinery systems are the only effective way to confront the highly energy efficient but environmentally damaging fossil-based systems. Biorefineries with multi-productions from heterogeneous complex waste streams are extremely important for sustainable development, alternative to fossil based systems (Sadhukhan et ah, 2014). Innovations, research and development should be focused on integrated biorefineries until these succeed in effectively replacing fossil-based systems.

SDG 12—responsible consumption and production

With alternative products and by maximizing resource efficiency and infrastructure sustainability, biorefineries are able to deliver SDG 12.

SDG 13—climate action

By underwriting national policies, strategies and planning for eliminating climate change impact culprit, fossil derived products, by alternative integrated advanced biorefinery systems, SDG 13 can be delivered.


This chapter shows that integrated advanced biorefinery systems defined as a facility with integrated, efficient and flexible conversion of biomass feedstocks, through a combination of physical, chemical, biochemical and thermochemical processes, into multiple products can be industrially deployed. The biorefinery feedstocks should be waste materials, including lignocelluloses, and should not compete in terms of indirect land use for food or feed production. A successful industrial deployment depends on the scale of the process operations and biomass availability and how closely these two scales can be aligned to make economic sense. Integrated process systems, including hybrid and intensified unit operations, are able to process heterogeneous waste streams. In reality, heterogeneous waste streams are more usual than homogeneous. Thus, all technologies should be developed with an aim to process heterogeneous waste streams. Waste streams as potential feedstocks for biorefineries could be available in small quantities and dilute conditions, but may fail to comply with stricter environmental regulations. Thus, contaminants present in small quantities and in dilute conditions need to be removed by innovative technologies. Microbial synthesis is one such process that can remove and recover contaminants present in small quantities and in dilute conditions from waste streams as resources. Microbial electrosynthesis technologies are being developed at pilot and demonstration scales can thus be suitable to match the scale of feedstock availability. At the heart of its development is the ability to remove, capture and utilize carbon dioxide into added value products. By the method of carbon dioxide reduction reaction and reuse, microbial electrosynthesis shows the promise of carbon dioxide capture and reuse from the atmosphere. Microbial electrosynthesis can be an important technology for consideration to meet the carbon dioxide reduction target recommended by the IPCC. Microbial electrosyutliesis needs to embody integrated preprocessing and post-processing product separation and purification unit operations as well as utility systems for heat recovery to demonstrate economic feasibility. Such a complete conceptual process synthesis should follow the twelve principles of green chemistry as well as process integration. Waste streams as the substrate to microbes or feedstocks to both the anode and the cathode chambers to feed the microbes is the sustainable way forward for microbial electrosynthesis of products by carbon capture and reuse. Any energy requirement should be fulfilled by renewable energy supply. Electrolytes should be environmentally friendly and supplied by sustainable supply chain. Electrodes and any membrane material should not be made of critical or rare earth materials, should be non-toxic and safe for the environment as well as stable over a long duration of operation. The outlet stream from a microbial electrosyutliesis process would contain bacterial cells and proteins or nutrients, etc., which need to be recovered from the desired product by micro- and ultra-filtration, as appropriate, and recycled back to the biochemical reaction process. The broth without biomass, primarily containing salts, minerals and metals, in addition to a target desired product by carbon dioxide utilization, can be routed through electrodialysis, chelation and electrodialysis with bipolar membranes to separate salts, minerals and metals from the desired organic stream. Such a separation protocol can be developed bespoke for a desired product objective from the industrial deployment of succinic acid or lactic acid production processes from waste biomass. Furthermore, the desired product can be purified by the crystallization process. Organic products by carbon dioxide utilization can range from low to molecular chain volatile fatty acids with similar properties as transport or aviation fuels. A target organic product by carbon dioxide utilization can also be recovered as a chemical product with a higher market price than the price of biofuel. A systematic synthesis analysis, applying the twelve principles of green chemistry and process integration, gives an overall optimal flowsheet integrating reaction, separation, water and utility systems. These principles deploy in common, benign solvents, reagents and chemicals, production of benign products, and energy efficiency and atom economy measures. They also emphasize green catalyst design and selection. Waste mitigation, least hazardous routes to synthesis, renewable feedstock selection, real time monitoring, control and analysis and safety are also the common ethos across the two disciplines. The two disciplines can, therefore, go hand-in-hand in order to create a holistic optimal system. By strictly adhering to these principles, the designer can have a full control over optimal decision making. Life cycle sustainability assessment should be carried out beyond the process systems across the supply chains, so as to ensure that the entire system is sustainable. Life cycle sustainability assessment is a rigorous, holistic and systematic methodology regarding the assessment of life cycle environmental, economic and social impacts of a system. Life cycle impact categories are an important consideration for informed decision making. The impact categories that are relevant and important for a given system and are sensitive to make a difference between design configurations should be carefully selected. The environmental impact categories can correspond to emissions to the atmosphere, laud and water. Furthermore, biorefineries utilizing microbial electrosynthesis and carbon dioxide are discussed to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13.


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