Economic risk analysis and critical comparison of optimal biorefinery concepts

Peam Cheali, J.A. Posada Duque, Krist V. Gernaey, Gürkan Sin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, eight optimal biorefinery concepts for biofuels and biochemicals production are critically analyzed and compared in terms of their techno-economic performance and associated economic risks against historical market fluctuations. The investigated biorefinery concepts consider different combinations of biomass feedstock (lignocellulosic versus algal) and conversion technologies (biochemical versus thermochemical). In addition, the economic performance of each biorefinery concept is tested assuming a sudden drop in oil prices in order to compare the fitness/survival of each concept under extreme market disturbances. The analyses reveal amongst others that: (i) lignocellulosic bioethanol production is not economically feasible considering a drop in oil prices (a negative internal rate of return); (ii) a multi-product biorefinery concept, where bioethanol is upgraded to higher value-added chemicals (diethyl ether and 1,3-butadiene), provides an improved resilience and robustness against market price fluctuations by reducing economic loss by 140 MM$/a (17% IRR); (iii) the economic analysis favors biochemical conversion technologies for a small production/processing capacity, whereas the thermochemical conversion platform is favored for a relatively larger production capacity; and (iv) the microalgae-based biorefinery concept performed worse in terms of economics compared to the others, which is largely due to the cost of algae production and harvesting. In general, we recommend that a comprehensive economic risk analysis, using for example the Monte Carlo technique, should be an integral part of the conceptual design, development, and optimization of biorefineries to help improve their economic robustness in view of the competitive market for chemicals and fuels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-445
Number of pages11
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • biorefinery
  • economic analysis
  • process synthesis
  • risk analysis
  • superstructure optimization


Dive into the research topics of 'Economic risk analysis and critical comparison of optimal biorefinery concepts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this