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Wiki-based Techno Economic Analysis of a Lignocellulosic Biorefinery

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

JBEI has developed a model for a lignocellulosic biorefinery and posted it on an open wiki, making it the first open and widely accessible tool of its kind. The model can be used to estimate the economic impact of various aspects of lignocellulosic biorefinery processing technology. The model can be used to calculate the economic, environmental, and energetic performance of the corn stover-to-ethanol process, and allows users to model the scenarios that are of most interest to them. For example, we recently modeled the effect of reducing acetylation of the biomass feedstock on process performance. We found that the reduced acetylation led to improvements in fermentation efficiency, and thus improved the yield and reduced the cost of ethanol production. Additional modules will be built for production of fuels other than ethanol, and various pretreatment, hydrolysis, and fermentation technologies.

In addition, the wiki makes transparent all of the model’s assumptions. Each unit operation has a dedicated web-page for users to comment and exchange ideas. The model will be updated based on feedback from users. The model is based on the software SuperPro Designer for which a free demo version can be used to run the model.


The current process model contains all unit operations required to transform corn stover into ethanol using dilute acid pretreatment and co-fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars. Sections of the biorefinery model include:

  • feedstock handling (including transportation),
  • pretreatment and saccharification
  • fermentation
  • ethanol recovery
  • water recovery and recycling
  • steam and electricity production
  • wastewater treatment
  • The assumptions to the model are open and transparent
  • The parameters can be easily changed for any part of the process
  • Fermentation is modeled using kinetic equations
  • The model converges relatively quickly. In addition, a simplified version that runs in seconds is also included.
More Information

The model has been developed through the support of an industry consortium and the DOE Technology Commercialization Fund. Consortium members include Boeing, GM, and Statoil. Going forward, JBEI will assemble an industry advisory group with diverse membership and plans to seek federal support so that the model can be made more widely accessible to industry users and contributors.

Technology Status
Development StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
PrototypeAvailable - Non-commercial users can download the JBEI Techno Economic Model here: http://econ.jbei.org09/08/201009/17/2010

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To: Shanshan Li<>