BACKGROUND: Microbial oils, often termed single cell oils (SCOs), offer an alternative to terrestrial oil crops across the energy, food, and chemical industries. In addition to oils, a range of secondary metabolites can be produced from the heterotrophic organisms as part of a bio-refinery system. Techno-economic analysis (TEA) is an important tool for evaluating economic viability, and while TEA is subject to high uncertainties where production is still at the laboratory scale, the tool can play a significant role in directing further research to evaluate suitability of scale-up.

RESULTS: SCO production from the oleaginous yeast Metschnikowia pulcherrima using sucrose, wheat straw and distillery waste feedstocks was evaluated at two production scales. At a scale of 100 tonnes a-1 oil production a minimum estimated selling price (MESP) of €14k per tonne was determined for sucrose. This reduced to €4-8k per tonne on scaling to 10,000 tonne a-1, with sucrose and wheat straw yielding the lowest MESP.

CONCLUSIONS: Feedstock price and lipid yield had the greatest impact on overall economic return, though the valorisation of co-products also had a large effect, and further play between feedstock and system productivity strategies could bring the price down to be competitive with terrestrial oils in the future. The novel approach demonstrated here for the first time integrates uncertainty into economic analysis whilst facilitating decision-support at an early technology development stage.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 665992
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-711
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • TEA
  • biorefinery
  • microbial oil
  • single cell oil
  • techno-economic analysis
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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