Market Research

Thermochemical Pretreatment Options

January 14, 2014

Lux Research analysts built a cost model for a 700,000-ton-per-year plant to study the five main routes from lignocellulosic biomass to sugars. Among their findings:

Cellulosic sugar costs vary. The minimum selling price for cellulosic sugars depends on the processes used. Dilute acid yields USD 0.34/kg, high-opex steam explosion costs USD 0.35 per kg, ammonia fiber expansion costs USD 0.36/kg, and supercritical water can yield the cheapest price of USD 0.32/kg. Feedstock has a 21 percent impact on cellulosic sugar prices. A sensitivity analysis of cellulosic sugar prices found that flexing feedstock up to USD 100 per metric ton and down to USD 45 per metric ton (from a baseline of USD 70 per metric ton) had the largest impact on sugar prices, changing it by over 21 percent.

Eschewing enzymes yields cheapest prices. Enzymes are the most expensive variable in prices of cellulosic sugar, and supercritical fluid and concentrated acid processes don’t require enzymes at all, potentially offering the cheapest options – though technology risk remains.

The report, titled “Cellulosic Chemicals and Fuels Race to Compete with First-Gen Sugar Economics,” is part of the Lux Research Alternative Fuels Intelligence and the Bio-based Materials and Chemicals Intelligence services.

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