Effect of Feedstock Variability, Feedstock Blends, and Pretreatment Conditions on Sugar Yield and Production Costs

Yudong Li, Ling Tao, Nick Nagle, Melvin Tucker, Xiaowen Chen, Erik Kuhn

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5 Scopus Citations


Mass production of sustainable biofuels replacing fossil fuels will significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. However, biomass feedstock variability, availability, and affordability pose significant risks for the sustainable production of biofuels in biorefinery plants. To derisk the sustainable production of biofuels, this work investigates the sugar yields and production costs of four different feedstocks as well as their blends, using different pretreatment methods: deacetylation and dilute acid pretreatment (DDA) and deacetylation and mechanical refining pretreatment (DMR). We found that not only feedstock species variability, but also feedstock harvesting techniques have large impacts on both sugar yields and production costs. Single-pass harvested corn stover (SPCS) showed higher sugar yields and lower production costs than multipass harvested corn stover, followed by sorghum and switchgrass. The highest glucose yields of 91% and 95.3%, which corresponds to the lowest sugar production costs of $0.2286/lb. and $0.2490/lb., were observed for SPCS using DDA and DMR, respectively. The difference in sugar yields and production costs due to feedstock variability can be largely mitigated by increasing deacetylation severity, especially in DMR. Higher deacetylation severity resulted in decreased sugar production costs in the case of DMR in contrast to increased costs in the case of DDA. Blending switchgrass and sorghum into corn stover, which can significantly increase the feedstock availability and sustainability, resulted in sugar yields and production costs of roughly the weighted average of those derived from constituent individual feedstocks, respectively. Thus, blending feedstocks of different biomass species is a potential successful strategy for sustainable production of biofuels to replace fossil-derived fuels.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number792216
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Energy Research
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Li, Tao, Nagle, Tucker, Chen and Kuhn.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-80750


  • alkaline pretreatment
  • biomass pretreatment
  • biomass to biofuel conversion
  • dilute acid pretreatment
  • feedstock blend
  • mechanical refining
  • technoeconomic analysis


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