Potential of commodity chemicals to become bio-based according to maximum yields and petrochemical prices

Adrie J.J. Straathof*, Ariana Bampouli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


Carbohydrates are the prevailing biomass components available for bio-based production. The most direct way to convert carbohydrates into commodity chemicals is by one-step conversion at maximum theoretical yield, such as by anaerobic fermentation without side product formation. Considering these hypothetical yields and petrochemical prices in Europe in 2010–2014, a ranking of 58 commodity chemicals was made using a simple model with ethanol as a base case. It was concluded that base chemicals such as lower olefins and benzene-toluene-xylene (BTX) are too cheap and require too much carbohydrate to be produced competitively compared to bioethanol. However, more oxidized products that require multiple conversion steps in petrochemical production, such as adipic acid, acrylic acid, acrylate esters, and 1,4-butanediol, can be produced competitively from carbohydrates if theoretical yields are approached and if processing is efficient. Instead of carbohydrate fermentation, hypothetical photochemical production from CO2 was also considered. Using again a simple model, the same commodity chemicals remained the most attractive ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-810
Number of pages13
JournalBiofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • carbohydrates
  • carbon dioxide
  • commodity chemicals
  • petrochemical production
  • prices
  • yields


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