Biological valorization of natural gas for the production of lactic acid: Techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment

Qiang Fei, Bobo Liang, Ling Tao, Eric Tan, Ramon Gonzalez, Calvin Henard, Michael Guarnieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus Citations


Due to the availability of natural gas, shale gas, and flared gas, there is increased interest in converting methane in these gases into commodity chemicals via cost-effective and sustainable processes. Recently, we have demonstrated an efficient process concept converting methane to lactic acid (LA) by methanotrophic bacteria with high carbon flux, pivoting potentials for commercialization. Herein, we present a first-of-kind conceptual design and a techno-economic analysis (TEA) of a biorefinery process with calculated minimum selling prices. This study includes both sensitivity analysis and scenario analysis for key cost drivers and for projecting path forwards in research and development. The analyses reveal that the conversion efficiency, LA product titer, LA productivity, and gas flow rate have the most significant impacts on cost. The MSP varies from $5.83-$2.17/kg LA depending on these key process attributes. Further, a life cycle assessment of this process concept is evaluated and compared to understand the sustainable aspects. In this TEA study, the bio-upgrading process from natural gas to LA presents a potentially promising approach in terms of the feedstock versatility, economic viability, and environmental impact.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number107500
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-73386


  • Bioconversion
  • Lactic acid
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Natural gas valorization
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Techno-economic analysis


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