Estimation of Economic Impacts of Cellulosic Biofuel Production: A Comparative Analysis of Three Biofuel Pathways

Yi Min Zhang, Eric Tan, Marshall Goldberg, Pimphan Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus Citations


The development of a cellulosic biofuel industry utilizing domestic biomass resources is expected to create opportunities for economic growth resulting from the construction and operation of new biorefineries. We applied an economic input-output model to estimate potential economic impacts, particularly gross job growth, resulting from the construction and operation of biorefineries using three different technology pathways: (i) cellulosic ethanol via biochemical conversion in Iowa, (ii) renewable diesel blendstock via biological conversion in Georgia, and (iii) renewable diesel and gasoline blendstock via fast pyrolysis in Mississippi. Combining direct, indirect (revenue- and supply-chain-related), and induced effects, capital investment associated with the construction of a biorefinery processing 2000 dry metric tons of biomass per day (DMT/day) could yield between 5960 and 8470 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs during the construction period, depending on the biofuel pathways. Fast pyrolysis biorefineries produce the most jobs on a project level thanks to the highest capital requirement among the three pathways. Normalized on the scale of $1 million of capital investment, the fast pyrolysis biorefineries are estimated to yield slighter higher numbers of jobs (12.1 jobs) than the renewable diesel (11.8 jobs) and the cellulosic ethanol (11.6 jobs) biorefineries. While operating biorefineries is not labor-intensive, the annual operation of a 2000 DMT/day biorefinery could support between 720 and 970 jobs when the direct, indirect, and induced effects are considered. The major factor, which results in the variations among the three pathways, is the type of biomass feedstock used for biofuels. Unlike construction jobs, these operation-related jobs are necessary over the entire life of the biorefineries. Our results show that indirect effects stimulated by the operation of biorefineries are the primary contributor to job growth. The agriculture/forest, services, and trade industries are the primary sectors that will benefit from the ongoing operation of biorefineries.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)281-298
Number of pages18
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-65330


  • Cellulosic biorefinery
  • Construction
  • Economic impact
  • Job growth
  • Operation


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