A Technoeconomic Evaluation of the Potential of Industrial Biotechnology for the Competitive Production of Commodity and Bulk Chemicals
Fermentation based bioprocesses are routinely developed for higher value products; however, the development of bioprocesses for larger volume chemicals has lagged. While electrification of transportation may enable significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the fuel sector, the production of chemicals, by its very nature, requires a carbon feedstock. The utilization of more sustainable bioprocessing has unique potential in this sector. Despite the start- up of several bio-based chemical facilities none of these technologies have had break-out success, as measured by the construction of multiple follow on plants. A key barrier to the wide-spread adoption of large scale bio-based processes includes the potential financial return on capital spent on new facilities and, importantly, the comparative financial return for bioprocesses vs. incumbent petrochemical technology. A standard metric of a project’s financial return is the internal rate of return or IRR. Bio-based chemical processes will likely not be extensively commercialized unless they have an IRR that is competitive with petrochemical routes.