It's all about the bottom line

Along with the technical revolution in energy production comes a growing body of research into "techno-economics". Two articles just published in Biotechnology for Biofuels this month present economic models of cellulosic ethanol production.

Stefano Macrelli and colleagues explore how cost parameters affect the profitability of a second generation fermentation process, when used in tandem with first generation production. They model fourteen scenarios, to optimize integration of both first and second generation processes in a single plant. The profitabilty of the optimum processing scenario is found to be highly sensitive to the electricity selling price and to the cost of leaves and enzyme, and such a plant would require subsidy to compete within Europe. The authors predict that it would already be profitable, without subsidy, to run a plant using their model in Brazil.

In a separate article, Kristin Vicari and colleagues look at the uncertainty in the experimental data, upon which yields are predicted in techno-economic models. Their analysis of the input variables, used in modelling lignocellulosic ethanol production, identifies process parameters that cause a $0.15/gal uncertainty in the minimum ethanol selling price (MESP). The result is a framework of key measurements that can be made more accurate, in order to reduce uncertainty in the models and so help to avoid investment risk.


Helen Whitaker

Journal Development Manager at BioMed Central
Helen is part of the Biological Sciences publishing team at BioMed Central. She obtained her PhD in molecular ecology from the University of Glasgow, UK. Her post-doctoral studies in aquaculture genetics took her from Scotland to South Africa, before joining BMC in 2008.

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