The chemical industry is increasingly looking for bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based platform chemicals to reduce reliance on fossil resource depletion and lower greenhouse gas emissions. 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) are two examples of bio-based chemicals that could enable the synthesis of a wide variety of chemicals and materials, especially polymers, from renewable resources. In this review article, the results of existing studies on the life cycle assessment (LCA) and on the techno-economic analysis (TEA) of the HMF and FDCA synthesis are summarized and critically assessed. In this way, various pieces of advice are given for future investigations and evaluations of the synthetic pathways towards these bio-based products. Chemical considerations such as the choice of solvent system, catalyst, and power generation are reviewed. and methodological questions in the life cycle assessment, such as the treatment of biogenic carbon and allocation methods, are discussed. Overall, the results suggest that making HMF- and FDCA-based products may have less of an impact from CO2 Emissions than their fossil counterparts, but this often leads to an increase in environmental impacts in other impact categories. Higher operating costs due to expensive fructose raw materials and high energy requirements also make HMF and FDCA less economical than current chemicals. In the future, further research on various lignocellulosic raw materials, power generation units and the development of new catalytic systems could help make HMF and FDCA production cheaper than the production of fossil counterparts.

Graphic summary: Manufacture of HMF, FDCA and their derivative products: a review of the life cycle assessment (LCA) and techno-economic analysis (TEA) studies


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