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Hydrocarbon bio-jet fuel from bioconversion of poplar biomass: techno-economic assessment

Crawford, Jordan T., Shan, Chin Wei, Budsberg, Erik, Morgan, Hannah, Bura, Renata, Gustafson, Rick
Biotechnology for biofuels 2016 v.9 no.1 pp. 141
acetic acid, aviation, bacteria, biofuels, biomass, biorefining, biotransformation, capital, carbon dioxide, coproducts, economic investment, electricity, energy, enzymatic hydrolysis, ethanol, ethyl acetate, ethylene, feedstocks, fermentation, fuel production, funding, gasification, hybrids, hydrogen, lignin, natural gas, operating costs, petroleum, prices, risk reduction, steam, streams, subsidies, sugars, transportation, wood, United States
BACKGROUND: Infrastructure compatible hydrocarbon biofuel proposed to qualify as renewable transportation fuel under the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) is evaluated. The process uses a hybrid poplar feedstock, which undergoes dilute acid pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis. Sugars are fermented to acetic acid, which undergoes conversion to ethyl acetate, ethanol, ethylene, and finally a saturated hydrocarbon end product. An unfermentable lignin stream may be burned for steam and electricity production, or gasified to produce hydrogen. During biofuel production, hydrogen gas is required and may be obtained by various methods including lignin gasification. RESULTS: Both technical and economic aspects of the biorefinery are analyzed, with different hydrogen sources considered including steam reforming of natural gas and gasification of lignin. Cash operating costs for jet fuel production are estimated to range from 0.67 to 0.86 USD L⁻¹ depending on facility capacity. Minimum fuel selling prices with a 15 % discount rate are estimated to range from 1.14 to 1.79 USD L⁻¹. Capacities of 76, 190, and 380 million liters of jet fuel per year are investigated. Capital investments range from 356 to 1026 million USD. CONCLUSIONS: A unique biorefinery is explored to produce a hydrocarbon biofuel with a high yield from bone dry wood of 330 L t⁻¹. This yield is achieved chiefly due to the use of acetogenic bacteria that do not produce carbon dioxide as a co-product during fermentation. Capital investment is significant in the biorefinery in part because hydrogen is required to produce a fully de-oxygenated fuel. Minimum selling price to achieve reasonable returns on investment is sensitive to capital financing options because of high capital costs. Various strategies, such as producing alternative, intermediate products, are investigated with the intent to reduce risk in building the proposed facility. It appears that producing and selling these intermediates may be more profitable than converting all the biomass into aviation fuel. With variability in historical petroleum prices and environmental subsidies, a high internal rate of return would be required to attract investors.
  Unit process data for bio-jet fuel production from poplar biomass via bioconversion at a biorefinery