Techno-Economic Analysis of Biochemical Scenarios for Production of Cellulosic Ethanol

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


A techno-economic analysis on the production of cellulosic ethanol by fermentation was conducted to understand the viability of liquid biofuel production processes within the next 5-8 years. Initially, 35 technologies were reviewed, then a two-step down selection was performed to choose scenarios to be evaluated in a more detailed economic analysis. The lignocellulosic ethanol process was selected because it is well studied and portions of the process have been tested at pilot scales. Seven process variations were selected and examined in detail. Process designs were constrained to public data published in 2007 or earlier, without projecting for future process improvements. Economic analysis was performed for an 'nth plant' (mature technology) to obtain total investment and product value (PV). Sensitivity analysis was performed on PV to assess the impact of variations in process and economic parameters. Results show that the modeled dilute acid pretreatment process without any downstream process variation had the lowest PV of $3.40/gal of ethanol ($5.15/gallon of gasoline equivalent) in 2007 dollars. Sensitivity analysis shows that PV is most sensitive to feedstock and enzyme costs.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages102
StatePublished - 2010

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A2-46588


  • biochemicals
  • biofuels
  • cellulosic ethanol
  • dilute acid pretreatment
  • economic analysis
  • enzymes
  • feedstocks
  • fermentation
  • process design
  • product value


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