Publication | Studien | Potentiale, Bioenergiesysteme, Logistik

Economic and environmental assessment of the retrofitting of a first-generation ethanol Plant

Published 20 June 2024

Citation: Susmozas A, Matschegg D, Davidis B, Spekreijse J, Tzelepi V, Kourkoumpas D, Alonso J, Coto B, Iglesias R. Economic and environmental assessment of the retrofitting of a first-generation ethanol plant. Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery.20 June 2024


Bioenergy retrofitting may be a short-term strategy to promote the transition from first-generation to advanced bioethanol, as it could improve the cost-competitiveness of the latter. In addition, this strategy could also extend the operational lifetime of first-generation ethanol plants, whose production is restricted by the current European renewable energy regulations. Therefore, this work evaluates two retrofitting scenarios of an existing corn-based first-generation ethanol facility located in Spain from an economic and environmental perspective. In the first case (scenario 1), advanced bioethanol was produced using industrial waste streams included in the Renewable Energy Directive II. The second approach (scenario 2) involves the integration of second-generation technology into the existing first-generation facility. The economic analysis shows that scenario 1 presents a low capital expenditure (CAPEX, €100,000), as it only requires the installation of an industrial waste storage tank. Although, in terms of net present value (NPV), the CAPEX of scenario 2 is higher. It obtains better profitability reaching an NPV of approximately €25,610,000. The environmental assessment identified natural gas consumption as the main contributor to the overall score of the global warming impact category. Consequently, the increased energy demand of the retrofit scenarios, mainly linked to second-generation technology, has a negative impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, a key aspect to improve the environmental performance of these scenarios would be the replacement of natural gas with a more sustainable alternative, such as bio-based gases.

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