Production of Caproic Acid from Mixed Organic Waste: An Environmental Life Cycle Perspective

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Caproic acid is an emerging platform chemical with diverse applications. Recently, a novel biorefinery process, that is, chain elongation, was developed to convert mixed organic waste and ethanol into renewable caproic acids. In the coming years, this process may become commercialized, and continuing to improve on the basis of numerous ongoing technological and microbiological studies. This study aims to analyze the environmental performance of caproic acid production from mixed organic waste via chain elongation at this current, early stage of technological development. To this end, a life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed to evaluate the environmental impact of producing 1 kg caproic acid from organic waste via chain elongation, in both a lab-scale and a pilot-scale system. Two mixed organic waste were used as substrates: the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) and supermarket food waste (SFW). Ethanol use was found to be the dominant cause of environmental impact over the life cycle. Extraction solvent recovery was found to be a crucial uncertainty that may have a substantial influence on the life-cycle impacts. We recommend that future research and industrial producers focus on the reduction of ethanol use in chain elongation and improve the recovery efficiency of the extraction solvent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7159-7168
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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