Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Nov 25. pii: 201821684. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1821684116. [Epub ahead of print]

Technoeconomic and life-cycle analysis of single-step catalytic conversion of wet ethanol into fungible fuel blendstocks.

Author information

Vertimass LLC, Irvine, CA 92614.
Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN 37831;
Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755.
Research & Technology Center, Boeing, Chicago, IL 60606.
Energy Systems, Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL 60439.
Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN 37831.
National Bioenergy Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80401.
Office of Environment & Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC 20591.
Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory, Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials, 13083-970 Campinas, Brazil.
Systems Biology and Biotechnology Group, ORNL, Oak Ridge TN 37830.
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801.
Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, SW7 2AZ London, United Kingdom.
Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521.


Technoeconomic and life-cycle analyses are presented for catalytic conversion of ethanol to fungible hydrocarbon fuel blendstocks, informed by advances in catalyst and process development. Whereas prior work toward this end focused on 3-step processes featuring dehydration, oligomerization, and hydrogenation, the consolidated alcohol dehydration and oligomerization (CADO) approach described here results in 1-step conversion of wet ethanol vapor (40 wt% in water) to hydrocarbons and water over a metal-modified zeolite catalyst. A development project increased liquid hydrocarbon yields from 36% of theoretical to >80%, reduced catalyst cost by an order of magnitude, scaled up the process by 300-fold, and reduced projected costs of ethanol conversion 12-fold. Current CADO products conform most closely to gasoline blendstocks, but can be blended with jet fuel at low levels today, and could potentially be blended at higher levels in the future. Operating plus annualized capital costs for conversion of wet ethanol to fungible blendstocks are estimated at $2.00/GJ for CADO today and $1.44/GJ in the future, similar to the unit energy cost of producing anhydrous ethanol from wet ethanol ($1.46/GJ). Including the cost of ethanol from either corn or future cellulosic biomass but not production incentives, projected minimum selling prices for fungible blendstocks produced via CADO are competitive with conventional jet fuel when oil is $100 per barrel but not at $60 per barrel. However, with existing production incentives, the projected minimum blendstock selling price is competitive with oil at $60 per barrel. Life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reductions for CADO-derived hydrocarbon blendstocks closely follow those for the ethanol feedstock.


ethanol; heterogeneous catalysis; low-carbon fungible fuel blendstocks


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interest statement: J.R.H. and C.E.W. of Vertimass and B.H.D. of Oak Ridge National Laboratory have a commercial interest in the subject of this paper.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center