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Exposure to Harmful Emissions Could be Minimized at Minimal Operational Costs

Everything deals with location! That wise advice about purchasing real estate can also reduce public exposure to airborne pollutants while providing electricity to customers.

Combining emissions modeling with operational cost analyses can help companies select locations for coal-powered electricity plants. The goal is to minimize the public’s exposure to airborne pollutants while providing customers with the electricity they need. (Image credit: South Dakota State University)

My research provides a decision analysis tool that allows a strategic compromise between profitability and environmental care.

Najam Khan, Graduate Student, South Dakota State University

Khan also completed his master’s degree in operations management in May 2018.

Khan incorporated emissions modeling with operational cost analyses in order to assist companies in selecting locations for coal-powered electricity plants. Here, the aim is to reduce the public’s exposure to airborne pollutants while customers get provided with all the electricity they require.

Khan further explained that several countries, including India and China, still depend greatly on coal for electricity generation even though there has been a surge in the usage of renewable energy technologies. Furthermore, a huge number of African countries are beginning to rely on coal in order to provide electricity for industrial development; however, most of these countries do not have emissions principles.

Typically, locations for coal-powered electrical plants were determined by where the coal was or who the largest consumer electricity was.

Najam Khan, Graduate student, South Dakota State University

Due to this, coal power plants were frequently built nearby commercials/manufacturing, thus exposing huge populations to airborne pollutants.

This research provides a tool for industrial zone planners, environmental engineers and stakeholders that can help to minimize the public’s exposure to harmful emissions while maintaining minimal operational costs. We want the plant to be far enough away from the population, but not too far. It is a balancing act.

Najam Khan, Graduate Student, South Dakota State University

For his study, Khan was honored with the 2019 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award in the mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering category. He is the first ever SDSU graduate student to earn the regional award.

The American Journal of Operations Research features an article explaining his model in its January issue.

Developing Model

Khan developed the model by using Environmental Protection Agency pollutant dispersion models to assess pollutant dispersion from a point source, for example, a coal power plant. He further incorporated the pollutant dispersion modeling along with Prim’s minimum spanning tree algorithm with back-tracking strategy to estimate the network-based cost of transferring coal to the plant and the transmission line losses that arise when supplying electricity to the customer. The overall cost of coal transportation and line losses is calculated at different grid points, based on the emission exposure constraint.

Transportation costs always come into play when deciding on a location,” stated Khan. With the help of a grid search, the program decreases the number of possible locations until it detects the optimum location.

In the course of his doctoral work, Khan plans to expand the model to study emissions from several industries and thus help community planners to cleverly select sites for industrial parks.

Winning Midwestern Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

The university recognition was quite a surprise but receiving the regional award was definitely unexpected. This is indeed an honor that will provide much needed motivation for my Ph.D. studies.

Najam Khan, Graduate Student, South Dakota State University

Khan is currently working on his doctorate in agricultural, biosystems, and mechanical engineering at SDSU.

As part of the regional award, Khan will receive a $750 honorarium and $500 for travel expenses while he attends the Midwestern Association annual meeting scheduled from March 20th to 22nd in St. Louis.

Khan started working full time as an operations research analyst at CSW in Olympia, Washington, while completing his thesis. “Working made me have a practical approach to the thesis,” he stated. Khan will continue to work at CSW while doing his doctorate.

Najam is a very motivated, hard-working student. He is an independent learner who wants to figure things out for himself. He definitely deserves this award.

Ekaterina Koromyslova, Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University

Koromyslova is Khan’s thesis adviser.

While finishing his bachelor’s degree at State, Khan took up graduate courses that were linked with the requirements of the master’s degree. “Because of this, he was one-third of the way through the graduate program when he started in fall 2016,” Koromyslova noted.

This is an exciting moment for our university, our graduate school and this outstanding student.

Nicole Lounsbery, Assistant Dean, SDSU Graduate School

Since 2015, the graduate school has been regularly recognizing exceptional research and scholarship via the university’s Master’s Thesis Award. Every year, the SDSU thesis award winner gets nominated for the regional award.

The Midwestern Association thesis committee has been responsible for reviewing submissions in the fields of mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering from 27 universities, including Kansas State University, Purdue University, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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