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Techno-economic and Life Cycle Analysis of MixAlco® Processes for Mixed Alcohol Production from Brown Algae


The need for producing renewable fuels from biomass has increased due to depleting fossil resources and environmental concerns. However, the low fraction of biomass carbon converted to product is an undeniable drawback for most current biofuel productions from fermentation due to undecomposed lignin in biomass composition and carbon loss as CO2. In this work, two main production routes of the MixAlco® process, the ketonization route (KR) and esterification route (ER) are evaluated for the mixed alcohol production by brown algae, a third-generation biomass without lignin. A novel fermentation process using syntrophic bacteria consortia (SBC) is developed to produce acetic acid from waste gas produced by KR and ER process. The paper investigates the integrated flowsheet for these alternative routes, using techno-economic and life cycle analysis to compare the minimum selling price and environmental impacts. From TEA, we find that the overall costs for KR and ER are lower than the SBC processes. The cost of ketonization routes is lower than esterification routes. The capital cost and operating cost for the ER+SBC process are the highest. Raw materials and utilities are the two major costs for all the processing routes examined. The MSP for the ER+SBC process is the lowest out of all four routes. ER process performs the best in terms of environmental impacts except in water depletion compared with other processes, while the KR process performs the worst regarding the environmental metrics.

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The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation under the grant number NSF CBET 1434548 and the RAPID manufacturing institute, supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), award number DE-EE0007888-7.6.

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All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Yue Zhang performed material preparation, data collection, and analysis. Yue Zhang wrote the first draft of the manuscript, and Abhay Athaley and all authors commented on previous versions of the document. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marianthi Ierapetritou.

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Athaley, A., Zhang, Y., Papoutsakis, E.T. et al. Techno-economic and Life Cycle Analysis of MixAlco® Processes for Mixed Alcohol Production from Brown Algae. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 193, 2964–2982 (2021).

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  • Techno-economic analysis
  • Brown algae
  • Syntrophic bacteria consortia
  • Bio-based alcohol production