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Gonzalez, R., Treasure, T., Phillips, R., Jameel, H., and Saloni, D. (2011). "Economics of cellulosic ethanol production: Green liquor pretreatment for softwood and hardwood, greenfield and repurpose scenarios," BioRes. 6(3), 2551-2567.

Abstract

Green liquor pretreatment, a technology presently used worldwide in hundreds of kraft pulp mills, is proposed in this work as a potential pretreatment pathway for the efficient conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol. Mixed southern hardwood, eucalyptus, and loblolly pine were evaluated through process simulations in two investment scenarios: a greenfield mill scenario and a repurposing scenario, using existing kraft pulp mill assets for cellulosic ethanol production. Several advantages come with this concept: i) proven technology (both process and equipment), ii) chemical and energy recovery in place, iii) existing fiber supply chain, and iv) experienced labor force around the mill. Ethanol yields through enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated fibers were highest in natural mixed hardwood and eucalyptus (280-285 liters of ethanol per dry ton of biomass) and lowest in loblolly pine (273 liters per dry ton of biomass). Natural hardwood and eucalyptus in the repurposing scenario form the most profitable combinations with an IRR of about 19%, mainly due to low capital expenditure (CAPEX) (per liter of ethanol), low enzyme costs, and higher ethanol yield (compared to loblolly pine). Production cost (in the repurposing scenario) was estimated at $2.51 per gallon of ethanol (or $0.66 per liter), cash cost at $2.14 gallon-1 (or $0.57 per liter), and CAPEX at $3.15 gallon-1 (or $0.83 per liter). Repurposing existing closed mills creates a potential alternative to ramp up in the task of producing alternative lignocellulosic biofuels.
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