A Step Closer to the “Greening” of Commercial Biofuel Production

Lignocellulosic biomass includes dedicated energy crops.

The Science

Ionic liquids, a relatively new class of “green” solvents, can break down a wide range of feedstocks for biofuels, producing high yields of sugar and relatively pure lignin with short treatment times. However, even after scale up, ionic liquids are expensive compared with other pretreatment options. To determine which biofuel production parameters have the greatest impact on total cost, DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) conducted a techno-economic analysis. A publically available techno-economic model of a biofuel refinery was developed, using ionic liquid pretreatment, to show a prioritized research path for fundamental understanding, process engineering, and operational improvements that would enable the use of ionic liquids in a commercial setting. The model results indicate, in decreasing order of significance, the importance of high prices for lignin byproducts, reducing the cost of the ionic liquid solvents and the concentration of the solvent used, and increasing the rate of solvent recovery. This analysis will lead to improvements in the cost effectiveness of biofuel production using ionic liquid-based processes.

BER Program Manager

Dawn Adin

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


Klein-Marcuschamer, D., B. A. Simmons, and H. W. Blanch. 2011. “Techno-Economic Analysis of a Lignocellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery with Ionic Liquid Pretreatment,” Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining. DOI:10.1002/bbb.303.