The Economics of Current and Future Biofuels

Ling Tao, Andy Aden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus Citations


This work presents detailed comparative analysis on the production economics of both current and future biofuels, including ethanol, biodiesel, and butanol. Our objectives include demonstrating the impact of key parameters on the overall process economics (e.g., plant capacity, raw material pricing, and yield) and comparing how next-generation technologies and fuels will differ from today's technologies. The commercialized processes and corresponding economics presented here include corn-based ethanol, sugarcane-based ethanol, and soy-based biodiesel. While actual full-scale economic data are available for these processes, they have also been modeled using detailed process simulation. For future biofuel technologies, detailed techno-economic data exist for cellulosic ethanol from both biochemical and thermochemical conversion. In addition, similar techno-economic models have been created for n-butanol production based on publicly available literature data. Key technical and economic challenges facing all of these biofuels are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)199-217
Number of pages19
JournalIn Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-510-46175


  • Biobutanol
  • Biodiesel
  • Biofuel
  • Ethanol
  • Process economics
  • Techno-economic analysis
  • Transportation fuel


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