Biochemical Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Hydrocarbon Fuels and Products: 2020 State of Technology and Future Research

Ryan Davis, Andrew Bartling, Ling Tao

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The annual State of Technology (SOT) assessment is an essential activity for biochemical platform research. It allows the impact of research progress to be quantified in terms of economic improvements in the overall cellulosic biofuel production process for a particular conversion pathway. As such, initial benchmarks can be established for currently demonstrated performance and progress can be tracked towards out-year goals to ultimately demonstrate cost-competitive cellulosic biofuel technology. The purpose of this report is to benchmark the latest experimental developments across a number of potential bioconversion pathways as quantified by modeled minimum fuel selling prices (MFSPs), as a measure of current status relative to those final targets. For this state of technology, TEA models were run for two separate biological conversion pathways to fuels, based on available data for integrated biomass deconstruction and hydrolysate processing; namely carboxylic acids (primarily butyric acid) and diols (2,3-butanediol [BDO]), reflecting NREL's recently-published 2018 biochemical design report focused on those two pathways. The models were run across three scenarios for lignin utilization, namely combustion, conversion to coproducts based on "base case" performance with biomass hydrolysate, and conversion to coproducts based on "high" performance demonstrated with model lignin monomer components. Relative to prior 2019 benchmarks, the 2020 SOT achieved further MFSP reductions of approximately $1/gallon gasoline equivalent, primarily attributed to improvements in pretreatment that led to both cost reductions and yield improvements.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5100-79930


  • biochemical conversion
  • hydrocarbon fuels and products
  • lignocellulosic biomass
  • state of technology
  • TEA


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