Techno‐economic analysis of biodiesel and ethanol co‐production from lipid‐producing sugarcane
Haibo Huang, Stephen Long, and Vijay Singh
Biodiesel production from vegetable oils has progressively increased over the past two decades. However, due to the low amounts of oil produced per hectare from temperate oilseed crops (e.g. soybean), the opportunities for further increasing biodiesel production are limited. Genetically modified lipid-producing sugarcane (lipid-cane) possesses great potential for producing biodiesel as an alternative feedstock because of sugarcane’s much higher productivity compared with soybean. In this study, techno-economic models were developed for biodiesel and ethanol coproduction from lipid-cane, assuming 2, 5, 10, or 20% lipid concentration in the harvested stem (dry mass basis). The models were compared with a conventional soybean biodiesel process model to assess lipid-cane’s competiveness. In the lipid-cane process model, the extracted lipids were used to produce biodiesel by transesterification, and the remaining sugar was used to produce ethanol by fermentation. The results showed that the biodiesel production cost from lipid-cane decreased from $0.89/L to $0.59 /L as the lipid content increased from 2 to 20%; this cost was lower than that obtained for soybeans ($1.08/L). The ethanol production costs from lipid-cane were between $0.40/L and $0.46/L. The internal rate of return (IRR) for the soybean biodiesel process was 15.0%, and the IRR for the lipid-cane process went from 13.7 to 24.0% as the lipid content increased from 2 to 20%. Because of its high productivity, lipid-cane with 20% lipid content can produce 6700 L of biodiesel from each hectare of land, whereas soybean can only produce approximately 500 L of biodiesel from each hectare of land. This would indicate that continued efforts to achieve lipid-producing sugarcane could make large-scale replacement of fossil-fuel-derived diesel without unrealistic demands on land area.