Biorefinery Upgrading of Herbaceous Biomass to Renewable Hydrocarbon Fuels, Part 1: Process Modeling and Mass Balance Analysis

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4 Scopus Citations


Process simulation has long been a well-established tool to track key operational, design, and mass and energy balance metrics for pre-commercial technologies such as advanced lignocellulosic biofuels. While tools such as this are well-documented in the public literature around 2nd-generation cellulosic ethanol technologies (which have been scaled up to commercial deployment to some degree over the past decade), such models and analysis information remain more sparse for more complex biorefinery pathways focused on producing drop-in hydrocarbon fuels and blend-stocks, particularly regarding information required to support air emissions or other environmental analysis. In this work, we summarize key details for an established “design case” modeling the conversion of herbaceous lignocellulosic biomass into a renewable diesel hydrocarbon blend-stock based on a representative lipid pathway from oleaginous yeast. The process is based on a biochemical deconstruction and upgrading approach utilizing deacetylation and dilute acid pretreatment, followed by enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, and catalytic upgrading of hydrolysate sugars to fuels. We provide key mass and energy balance outputs from the process models, with accompanying stream tables and component-level flowrates. A total of 12 model scenarios are presented spanning two feedstocks, three biorefinery scales, and two processing approaches for the lignin/residual solids waste streams. This “Part 1” manuscript presents the resulting impacts across the 12 cases on fuel yields and key output streams, focused here on direct biorefinery air emissions for selected components including CO2 as well as sulfur (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In the context of cleaner production, the latter focus on selected biorefinery air emission outputs establishes an initial baseline estimate and accompanying framework of the model cases, upon which an accompanying “Part 2” study will build to refine the values for these and other air pollutants across these scenarios, also considering mitigation options to comply with applicable regulatory standards. We also highlight further optimization opportunities based on potential tradeoffs identified here between air emissions versus life-cycle greenhouse gas profiles attributed to the disposition of lignin/residual solids.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 132439
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-83010


  • Air emissions analysis
  • Biofuels
  • Biorefining
  • Process modeling
  • Renewable diesel


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