Biorefinery for combined production of jet fuel and ethanol from lipid-producing sugarcane: a techno-economic evaluation
Deepak Kumar, Stephen P. Long, and Vijay Singh
Replacing fossil fuels with an economically viable green alternative at scale has proved most challenging in the aviation sector. Recently sugarcane, the most productive crop on the planet, has been engineered to accumulate lipids. This opens the way for production of far more industrial vegetable oil per acre than previously possible. This study performs techno-economic feasibility analysis of jet fuel production from this new cost efficient and high yield feedstock. A comprehensive process model for biorefinery producing hydrotreated jet fuel (from lipids) and ethanol (from sugars), with 1 600 000 MT yr−1 lipid-cane processing capacity, was developed in SuperPro Designer. Considering lipid-cane development is continuing for higher oil concentrations, analysis was performed with lipid-cane containing 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% lipids. Capital investments for the biorefinery ranged from 238.1 to 351.2 million USD, with jet fuel capacities of 12.6–50.5 million liters (correspondingly ethanol production of nil to 102.6 million liters). The production cost of jet fuel for different scenarios was estimated $0.73 to $1.79 per liter ($2.74 to $6.76 per gal) of jet fuel. In all cases, the cost of raw materials accounted for more than 70% of total operational cost. Biorefinery was observed self-sustainable for steam and electricity requirement, because of in-house steam and electricity generation from burning of bagasse. Minimum fuel selling prices with a 10% discount rate for 20% lipid case was estimated $1.40/L ($5.31/gal), which was lower than most of the reported prices of renewable jet fuel produced from other oil crops and algae. Along with lower production costs, lipid-cane could produce as high as 16 times the jet fuel (6307 L ha−1) per unit land than that of other oil crops and do so using low-value land unsuited to most other crops, while being highly water and nitrogen use efficient.