The adoption of a sustainability perspective in chemical industry shall start from the early phases of process design (e.g. conceptual design, technology selection, process development) where the key drivers in the environmental, economical, and hazard fingerprint of a process are defined. These phases also allow the opportunities for the lower cost of design change. A sound support of design activities requires quantitative tools, allowing for the assessment of the sustainability profile of a process, the identification of possible improvements and supporting informed tradeoffs.
Though several tools for process development were proposed in last decades, application is still limited in the current practice because of issues on data requirement, indicator definition and customization to specific application needs (e.g. PFD definition in design of polypropylene production plants).
This study focuses on the application to the early process design of environmental and exergy Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to support sustainability-oriented design activities. It was tailored on the specific industrial application of polypropylene production plants. The choice of a specific sector allowed customization of the method, promoting ease of application and allowing the assessment of multiple scenarios (e.g. sensitivity on material and energy supply strategies, comparison of different technologies). Results obtained draw up sustainable guidelines to improve design activities within the scope in a lifecycle perspective.