Optimal Design and Synthesis of Sustainable Integrated Biorefinery for Pharmaceutical Products from Palm-Based Biomass


In the last decade, numerous technologies have been developed to convert biomass into value-added products (bioenergy, biomaterial and biochemical). However, not much research has been done in the identification of possible pathways to convert biomass into pharmaceutical products. This research focuses on exploiting the potential pharmaceutical products that can be derived from palm-based biomass. However, due to the large number of potential products, multiple reaction pathways and processing technologies involved. Thus, there is a need for a systematic methodology which is capable to identify the optimal production routes in the integrated biorefinery based on different optimisation objectives. In this work, a mathematical optimisation-based approach is developed to determine the optimum conversion pathway that converts palm-based biomass into pharmaceutical products with maximum economic performance. Besides, a novel approach which can estimate the operating cost of pharmaceutical products is also introduced in this work. In addition, sensitivity analysis is carried out to investigate the impact of changes in conversion of reaction, market price and operating cost to the economic performance of the synthesised integrated biorefinery.

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q 1 :

Conversion pathway from biomass to intermediate 1

q 2 :

Conversion pathway from intermediate 1 to intermediate 2

q 3 :

Conversion pathway from intermediate 2 to intermediate 3

q 4 :

Conversion pathway from intermediate 3 to final product

F :

Flow rate

\( {B}_b^{\mathrm{Bio}} \) :

Total flow rate of biomass feedstock

\( {T}_n^{Inter} \) :

Total flow rate of intermediates

\( {T}_p^{Prod} \) :

Total flow rate of final products

R q :

Conversion rate for a given pathway

GP Total :

Gross profit of the overall integrated biorefinery configuration


Total annualised cost


Total annualised operating cost

\( {G}_p^{\mathrm{Prod}} \) :

Cost of final products p

\( {G}_b^{\mathrm{Opr}} \) :

Operating cost for conversion of biomass b

\( {G}_{s1}^{\mathrm{Opr}} \) :

Operating cost for conversion of intermediate 1 s 1

\( {G}_{s2}^{\mathrm{Opr}} \) :

Operating cost for conversion of intermediate 2 s 2

\( {G}_{s3}^{\mathrm{Opr}} \) :

Operating cost for conversion of intermediate 3 s 3


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This work was supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Malaysia under Grant no. 06-02-12-SF0224.

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Correspondence to Nishanth G. Chemmangattuvalappil.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Ng, S.Y., Ong, S.Y., Ng, Y.Y. et al. Optimal Design and Synthesis of Sustainable Integrated Biorefinery for Pharmaceutical Products from Palm-Based Biomass. Process Integr Optim Sustain 1, 135–151 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41660-017-0010-5

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  • Integrated biorefinery
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Palm-based biomass
  • Reaction pathway
  • Economic performance
  • Uncertainty