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commodity chemicals. With this new emphasis on building larger processing plants for
biochemicals with lower prices (e.g., ethanol for fuel must compete with very low-priced
gasoline) there is a need to design processes with optimized use of resources and utilities and
minimized waste. This demands a rigorous process simulator, with the capabilities to simulate
this new, technology.
Origins of BEST
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was the focal point of a
government/industry collaboration to develop, commercialize, and improve bioprocesses for
producing fuels, chemicals, and other products, and for such applications as waste treatment and
closed life-support systems. The parties to this collaboration recognized a growing need to-
" Screen alternate bioprocess configurations and focus bioprocess R&D
" Evaluate new developments in biotechnology
" Evaluate the progress of bioprocess R&D
" Conduct bioprocess pilot plant work
" Assess the economic feasibility of proposed bioprocess facilities
" Develop quality designs for bioprocess plants
" Optimize bioprocess operations
" Assess and correct operating problems
" Determine the impact of modifications to bioprocess operations and facilities.
They further recognized that process simulation would greatly enhance the efficiency and quality
of all the above activities, and that a process simulator that can use biotechnology to produce
high-volume, low-value fuels and chemicals was not available.
To meet this need, the parties proposed to collaborate in R&D activities to develop a bioprocess
simulator called Biochemical Engineering Simulation Technology (BEST). NREL, on behalf of
all parties, managed the overall BEST research effort, including the work of developing BEST at
the NREL facilities and controlling (selecting, negotiating, and executing) associated
subcontracts, agreements, understandings, and other supplemental arrangements.
The ASPEN process simulation system is the only commercial package that can be easily
modified to simulate these new biochemical processes. Of the two commercial companies at the
time (SimSci and Aspen Technology, Inc. [AspenTech]), only SimSci was willing to contract for
this type of project.
NREL staff formulated the mathematical algorithms and collected the various physical and
chemical data necessary to simulate the selected biochemical unit operations and provided this
information to SimSci. SimSci then encoded the algorithms and data and integrated them into its
version of the original DOE ASPEN simulator, ASPEN/SP.
The project experienced various staff changes at NREL and SimSci, and never expanded the
sponsorship beyond DOE's Biological and Chemical Technologies Research (BCTR) program.
In addition, SimSci announced in 1993 that it would stop supporting ASPEN/SP as a commercial
simulator by the end of that year. This put an abrupt end to the development efforts. However,
several reactor unit operation models were completed and integrated into ASPEN/SP. As a result
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BEST: Biochemical Engineering Simulation Technology, report, January 1, 1996; Golden, Colorado. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc832807/m1/6/: accessed October 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.