iScience. 2022 Oct 18;25(11):105384. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105384. eCollection 2022 Nov 18.
Biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals is crucial to decarbonization, but choosing an advantageous upgrading pathway out of many options is challenging. Rigorously evaluating all candidate pathways (process simulation, product property testing) requires a prohibitive amount of research effort; even simple upgrading schemes have hundreds of possible permutations. We present a method enabling high-throughput screening by approximating upgrading unit operations and drop-in compatibility of products (e.g., fuel properties) and apply it to volatile fatty acid (VFA) conversion to liquid transportation fuels via a MATLAB script, VFA Upgrading to Liquid Transportation fUels Refinery Estimation (VULTURE). VULTURE selects upgrading configurations that maximize fuel blend bio-derived content. We validate VULTURE’s approximations through surrogate fuel property testing and process simulation. Techno-economic and life cycle analyses suggest that VFA upgrading processes down-selected by VULTURE are profitable and have low carbon intensities, demonstrating the potential for the strategy to accelerate process development timelines at decreased costs.