Design of biorefinery systems for conversion of corn stover into biofuels using a biorefinery engineering framework

Elias Martinez Hernandez, Kok Siew Ng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)


Unlocking the potential and value of lignocellulosic residues is an important step in making biorefineries economically and environmentally promising. This calls for a holistic and systematic approach in designing sustainable industrial systems. In this work, biorefinery systems via biochemical route (acetone–butanol–ethanol or ABE system) and thermochemical route (gasification and mixed alcohols or GMA system) for converting corn stover into biofuels have been designed using a Sustainable Engineering Framework. The framework involves eight main steps: (1) design problem definition, (2) data collection, (3) process synthesis and simulation, (4) process integration, (5) resource recovery from residues, (6) utility system design, (7) economic and environmental modelling and (8) economic value and environmental impact margin analysis for decision making. Consideration of resource recovery from biorefinery waste streams has proven to be the key in making biorefineries self-sustaining and with low environmental impacts. Simultaneous economic and environmental feasibility assessment at the early stage of process design is highly envisaged. The cost of biofuel production in the ABE system has been found to be 49.2 US$/GJ and 69.9 US$/GJ in the GMA system. The greenhouse gas emissions are 46.2 g CO2-eq/GJ for ABE and 19.0 g CO2-eq/GJ for GMA, lower than gasoline (85 g CO2-eq/GJ). The GMA system is not economically compelling though with high environmental benefit, while the ABE system has shown to be both economically and environmentally feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalClean Technologies and Environmental Policy
Early online date20 Dec 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2017


  • Biofuels
  • Biorefineries
  • Butanol
  • Economic and environmental analysis
  • Ethanol
  • Process design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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