Cellulosic Ethanol: Status and Innovation

Mary Biddy, Thomas Foust, Michael Himmel, Lee Lynd, Xiaoyu Liang, Andrew Allee, Hao Cai, Mark Laser, Michael Wang, Charles Wyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

284 Scopus Citations


Although the purchase price of cellulosic feedstocks is competitive with petroleum on an energy basis, the cost of lignocellulose conversion to ethanol using today's technology is high. Cost reductions can be pursued via either in-paradigm or new-paradigm innovation. As an example of new-paradigm innovation, consolidated bioprocessing using thermophilic bacteria combined with milling during fermentation (cotreatment) is analyzed. Acknowledging the nascent state of this approach, our analysis indicates potential for radically improved cost competitiveness and feasibility at smaller scale compared to current technology, arising from (a) R&D-driven advances (consolidated bioprocessing with cotreatment in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment and added fungal cellulase), and (b) configurational changes (fuel pellet coproduction instead of electricity, gas boiler(s) in lieu of a solid fuel boiler).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)202-211
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-68702


  • bioprocessing
  • cellulosic feedstocks
  • conversion
  • fermentation


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