Date: 01 Jun 2007

Process Engineering Economics of Bioethanol Production

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Abstract

This work presents a review of studies on the process economics of ethanol production from lignocellulosic materials published since 1996. Our objective was to identify the most costly process steps and the impact of various parameters on the final production cost, e.g. plant capacity, raw material cost, and overall product yield, as well as process configuration. The variation in estimated ethanol production cost is considerable, ranging from about 0.13 to 0.81 US$ per liter ethanol. This can be explained to a large extent by actual process differences and variations in the assumptions underlying the techno-economic evaluations. The most important parameters for the economic outcome are the feedstock cost, which varied between 30 and 90 US$ per metric ton in the papers studied, and the plant capacity, which influences the capital cost. To reduce the ethanol production cost it is necessary to reach high ethanol yields, as well as a high ethanol concentration during fermentation, to be able to decrease the energy required for distillation and other downstream process steps. Improved pretreatment methods, enhanced enzymatic hydrolysis with cheaper and more effective enzymes, as well as improved fermentation systems present major research challenges if we are to make lignocellulose-based ethanol production competitive with sugar- and starch-based ethanol. Process integration, either internally or externally with other types of plants, e.g. heat and power plants, also offers a way of reducing the final ethanol production cost.