A systems level analysis of ethanol upgrading strategies to middle distillates

Juan Manuel Restrepo-Flórez, Joonjae Ryu, Dustin Witkowski, David A. Rothamer, Christos T. Maravelias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We systematically study the upgrading of ethanol toward middle distillates with desired properties. To survey the large design space, we introduce a novel superstructure-based optimization framework integrating process design and fuel formulation. We show that biorefineries that produce middle distillates by upgrading lignocellulosic ethanol can have an energy return on investment (EROI) greater than 1. Additionally, we show that technological improvements can lead to significant increases in EROI. Furthermore, trade-offs between fuel properties and biorefinery profitability are established, showing how process economics are strongly influenced by fuel properties. In the case of diesel, the feasibility of producing high cetane number biofuels is demonstrated, coupled with a discussion of the technological requirements and costs to produce these superior fuels. It is also shown that the minimum fuel selling price (MFSP) can be reduced by increasing the biorefinery complexity. Finally, we discuss the possibility of satisfying current and projected middle distillate demand in the U.S. using biofuels produced by ethanol upgrading, and we estimate the potential CO2 mitigation of these technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4376-4388
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2022


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