Techno-Economic Analysis and Life-Cycle Assessment for Gas Phase Catalytic Oxidation of Lignin to Produce Phenolic Compounds

Research output: NRELPresentation


Displacing fossil fuels with biofuels is an effective way to sustainably mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and natural resource consumption. As DOE's only national laboratory solely dedicated to researching and developing clean energy and energy efficiency technologies, NREL has been developing conceptual biomass-to-fuels conversion processes. To improve the economic feasibility of biofuels production from lignocellulosic biomass, NREL's researchers have been exploring various design options. Our team has developed a vapor phase selective oxidation process that will convert lignin streams from biofuels production into high-value chemicals and thereby improve the economics and GHG emissions of biofuels plants. This approach is directed towards valorizing lignin, which is often treated as waste or burnt for low value process heat. For techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life-cycle assessment (LCA), we have developed and modeled this hybrid process: 1) biochemically converting C5/C6 sugars from biomass to a hydrocarbon blendstock, and 2) thermochemically converting lignin from biomass, via selective partial oxidation of lignin pyrolysis vapor, to phenols. Results from the TEA and LCA for this process will be presented and discussed. The lignin valorization readily improves the biofuel production cost and reduces the life cycle carbon footprint. Even though more electricity is required as lignin is used for coproduct production instead of for heat and power generation, the GHG coproduct credit from phenols is more than enough to compensate for the GHG associated with the additional import electricity use. These analyses show that our process to produce phenol has significant economic and environmental impacts, which will enable biofuel production.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2018 AIChE Annual Meeting, 28 October - 2 November 2018, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-72613


  • biofuels
  • fossil fuels
  • GHG
  • green house gas
  • hydrocarbon blendstock
  • LCA
  • life cycle analysis
  • lignocellulosic biomass
  • oxidation process
  • TEA
  • techno-economic analysis


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