Balancing Economics and Sustainability
To be able to compete with fossil feedstock, highly efficient production of biomass-based products is required to optimize overall process economics and to minimize negative environmental impact. In order to reach reasonable production costs, a favorable economy-of-scale must be identified with scale-up data applied to a model.
At ABPDU we utilize techno-economic analyses (TEA) at different levels of rigor at various stages of the conversion process from preliminary exploration and detailed investigation to development and validation. TEA provides us with a quantitative and qualitative understanding of the impact that technology and research breakthroughs have on the financial viability of the biomass conversion strategy.
How TEA Works
An integral tool for both research and commercial project development, TEA combines process modeling and engineering design with economic evaluation. TEA helps to assess the economic viability of a process and provides direction to research, development, investment, and policy making. It integrates well with the stage gate analysis process many private industry and R&D centers use for project development. To be fully effective, TEA requires the harnessing of detailed information drawn from multiple sources such as literature, research data, and vendor specifications.
Eliminating bottlenecks and optimizing the process is a high priority in scale-up research and TEA is a powerful tool that helps us addresses these issues. We utilize the pilot scale data and simulate the operation of a commercial scale facility. This simulation enables us to identify bottlenecks in the process and re-define the scope of future process research.
Our Techno-Economic Analysis Methodologies
- Feedstock handling
- Biomass Deconstruction
- Product recovery
- Wastewater treatment
We integrate these units and populate the model with data generated at the ABPDU or elsewhere and identify the most expensive processes and/or material handling steps. We can also identify geographical location related restrictions that can sway the economic analysis. Once such a performing model is developed, we are able to compare it to similarly developed models for other end-to-end technology pathways. Such comparisons can guide strategic decision-making, very early on.
Mass and Energy Balance
Related Papers and Publications
Predictive modeling to de-risk bio-based manufacturing by adapting to variability in lignocellulosic biomass supply
Commercial-scale bio-refineries are designed to process 2000 tons/day of single lignocellulosic biomass. Several geographical areas in the United States generate diverse feedstocks that, when combined, can be substantial for bio-based manufacturing. Blending multiple feedstocks is a strategy being investigated to expand bio-based manufacturing outside Corn Belt. In this study, the ABPDU in collaboration with Idaho and Sandia National Laboratories developed a model to predict continuous envelopes of biomass blends that are optimal for a given pretreatment condition to achieve a predetermined sugar yield or vice versa. For example, the model predicted more than 60% glucose yield can be achieved by treating an equal part blend of energy cane, corn stover, and switchgrass with alkali pretreatment at 120 °C for 14.8 h. By using ionic liquid to pretreat an equal part blend of the biomass feedstocks at 160 °C for 2.2 h, we achieved 87.6% glucose yield. Such a predictive model can potentially overcome dependence on a single feedstock.
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ABPDU has been developing and validating an integrated waste-to-energy process under a DOE work-for-others (WFO) agreement with FATER, an Italian JV between Procter & Gamble and the Angelini Industrial Group.
Key outcomes indicate that post-consumer absorbent hygiene products (AHP) can be readily and economically converted — without using harsh or expensive pretreatment routes — to fermentable sugar intermediates as well as biofuel and bio-based chemical products.
Biofuels that are produced from biobased materials are a good alternative to petroleum based fuels. They offer several benefits to society and the environment. Producing second generation biofuels is even more challenging than producing first generation biofuels due the complexity of the biomass and issues related to producing, harvesting, and transporting less dense biomass to centralized biorefineries. In addition to this logistic challenge, other challenges with respect to processing steps in converting biomass to liquid transportation fuel like pretreatment, hydrolysis, microbial fermentation, and fuel separation still exist and are discussed in this review. The possible coproducts that could be produced in the biorefinery and their importance to reduce the processing cost of biofuel are discussed. About $1 billion was spent in the year 2012 by the government agencies in US to meet the mandate to replace 30% existing liquid transportation fuels by 2022 which is 36 billion gallons/year. Other countries in the world have set their own targets to replace petroleum fuel by biofuels. Because of the challenges listed in this review and lack of government policies to create the demand for biofuels, it may take more time for the lignocellulosic biofuels to hit the market place than previously projected.
Techno-economic Analysis and Life-cycle Assessment of Cellulosic Isobutanol and Comparison with Cellulosic Ethanol and N-Butanol
This work presents a detailed analysis of the production design and economics of the cellulosic isobutanol conversion processes and compares cellulosic isobutanol with cellulosic ethanol and n-butanol in the areas of fuel properties and engine compatibility, fermentation technology, product purification process design and energy consumption, overall process economics, and life cycle assessment. Techno-economic analysis is used to understand the current stage of isobutanol process development and the impact of key parameters on the overall process economics in a consistent way (i.e. using the same financial assumptions, plant scale, and cost basis).
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