We provide a new method to represent all potential flowsheet configurations for the superstructure-based simultaneous synthesis of work and heat exchanger networks (WHENS). The new representation is based on only two fundamental elements of abstract building blocks. The first design element is the block interior that is used to represent splitting, mixing, utility cooling, and utility heating of individual streams. The second design element is the shared boundaries between adjacent blocks that permit inter-stream heat and work transfer and integration. A semi-restricted boundary represents expansion/compression of streams connected to either common (integrated) or dedicated (utility) shafts. A completely restricted boundary with a temperature gradient across it represents inter-stream heat integration. The blocks interact with each other via mass and energy flows through the boundaries when assembled in a two-dimensional grid-like superstructure. Through observation and examples from literature, we illustrate that our building block-based WHENS superstructure contains numerous candidate flowsheet configurations for simultaneous heat and work integration. This approach does not require the specification of work and heat integration stages. Intensified designs, such as multi-stream heat exchangers with varying pressures, are also included. We formulate a mixed-integer non-linear (MINLP) optimization model for WHENS with minimum total annual cost and demonstrate the capability of the proposed synthesis approach through a case study on liquefied energy chain. The concept of building blocks is found to be general enough to be used in possible discovery of non-intuitive process flowsheets involving heat and work exchangers.
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