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Techno-economic feasibility analysis of engineered energycane-based biorefinery co-producing biodiesel and ethanol

Publication Title (Publisher Name)
GCB Bioenergy


High feedstock cost and low oil yields per unit of land from temperate oilseed crops limit the growth of commercial-scale biodiesel production. Recently, highly productive crops, such as sugarcane and energycane, have been engineered to accumulate triacylglycerides (TAGs) that allow the production of far more industrial vegetable oil than previously possible. A proof-of-concept suggests that biodiesel production from engineered energycane will be possible. However, before making efforts for scale-up, it is critical to understand the commercial feasibility and economic competitiveness of this process. This study performs techno-economic analysis of a unique biorefinery processing energycane to co-produce biodiesel and ethanol. Comprehensive process simulation models were developed for two scenarios: (i) biodiesel from TAGs and ethanol from fermentation of sugars in juice and (ii) biodiesel from TAGs and ethanol from fermentation of sugars in juice and hydrolysis of carbohydrates in bagasse. Based on the target levels, the analysis was performed for energycane containing 0%, 5%, and 7.7% TAGs (d.b.). The biodiesel from engineered energycane was found economically viable and competitive to soybean biodiesel. Although the capital investment is higher compared to the soybean biodiesel plant, the biodiesel production costs ($0.66–$0.9/L) were lower than soybean biodiesel ($0.91/L). Biorefinery-scenario-1 processing energycane containing 7.7% TAG produces biodiesel with profitability (IRR 7.84) slightly lower than soybean biodiesel (IRR 8.3), but yields five times of biodiesel per unit land and is self-sustainable for energy requirements. The surplus electricity can displace fossil electricity and provide environmental benefits. Monte Carlo simulation indicated that biorefinery is profitable with a 29%–65% probability (NPV > 0) which is largely controlled by feedstock composition and biodiesel market price. It is important to note that energycane can be grown on the marginal rainfed lands in S.E. USA, where soybean would not be viable. Biodiesel from engineered energycane would therefore be complementary to soydiesel in the United States.

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