Techno-economic and uncertainty analysis of Biomass to Liquid (BTL) systems for transport fuel production

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This work examines the technical and economic feasibility of Biomass-To-Liquid (BTL) processes for the manufacture of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Six BTL systems are modelled and evaluated which are based on pressurised oxygen gasification of woody biomass, and specifically on circulating fluidised bed and entrained flow gasification systems. Three fuel synthesis technologies are considered: Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methanol conversion followed by Methanol to Gasoline (MTG) and the Topsoe Integrated Gasoline (TIGAS) synthesis.

Published modelling studies of BTL systems based on gasification have only used deterministic estimates of fuel production costs to assess economic viability without accounting for uncertainties of their model parameters. Unlike other studies, the present techno-economic assessment examines and quantifies the effect of uncertainty of key parameters on the fuel production costs. The results of this analysis show that there is a realistic chance (8–14%) of concepts based on Fischer-Tropsch synthesis meeting the cost of conventional fuels; that this probability could be increased to 50% with moderate tax incentives (an 8% reduction in the tax rate); but that deterministic estimates may be systematically underestimating likely production costs.

The overall energy efficiency and production costs of the BTL designs evaluated range from 37.9% to 47.6% LHV and €17.88–25.41 per GJ of produced fuels, respectively. The BTL concept with the lowest production costs incorporates CFB gasification and FT synthesis. The model deterministic estimates of production costs of this design indicate that a BTL process is not yet competitive with conventional refineries since the biofuel production costs are approximately 8% higher than current market prices. Large scale biofuel production may be possible in the long term through subsidies, crude oil price rises and legislation.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-175
JournalRenewable and sustainable energy reviews
Early online date12 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2018

Bibliographic note

© 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Funding: SUPERGEN Bioenergy II Programme; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


  • Biomass-to-liquid (BTL); Gasification; Fischer-Tropsch synthesis; Synthetic fuels; Techno-economic assessment; Process simulation

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