An Economic Comparison of Different Fermentation Configurations to Convert Corn Stover to Ethanol Using Z. mobilis and Saccharomyces

Abhijit Dutta, Nancy Dowe, Kelly N. Ibsen, Daniel J. Schell, Andy Aden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus Citations


Numerous routes are being explored to lower the cost of cellulosic ethanol production and enable large-scale production. One critical area is the development of robust cofermentative organisms to convert the multiple, mixed sugars found in biomass feedstocks to ethanol at high yields and titers without the need for processing to remove inhibitors. Until such microorganisms are commercialized, the challenge is to design processes that exploit the current microorganisms' strengths. This study explored various process configurations tailored to take advantage of the specific capabilities of three microorganisms, Z. mobilis 8b, S. cerevisiae, and S. pastorianus. A technoeconomic study, based on bench-scale experimental data generated by integrated process testing, was completed to understand the resulting costs of the different process configurations. The configurations included whole slurry fermentation with a coculture, and separate cellulose simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) and xylose fermentations with none, some or all of the water to the SSF replaced with the fermented liquor from the xylose fermentation. The difference between the highest and lowest ethanol cost for the different experimental process configurations studied was $0.27 per gallon ethanol. Separate fermentation of solid and liquor streams with recycle of fermented liquor to dilute the solids gave the lowest ethanol cost, primarily because this option achieved the highest concentrations of ethanol after fermentation. Further studies, using methods similar to ones employed here, can help understand and improve the performance and hence the economics of integrated processes involving enzymes and fermentative microorganisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalBiotechnology Progress
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-510-45764


  • Cost
  • Ethanol
  • Fermentation
  • SSF
  • Xylose


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