Economic feasibility of gasoline production from lignocellulosic wastes in Hong Kong

Weixiang Guan, Dalian University of Technology
Sim-Ying Chua, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi)
Chi-Wing Tsang, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi)
Xiao Chen, Dalian University of Technology
Carol Sze Ki Lin, City University of Hong Kong
Raymond Sze Wai Fu, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi)
Haoquan Hu, Dalian Universityof Technology
Changhai Liang, Dalian Universityof Technology


In this study, the conceptual process flowsheet was developed and the economic feasibility of woody biomass conversion to biofuel as feedstock was analysed by considering several promising experimental processes for lignin depolymerization, such as hydrodeoxygenation and hydrogenolysis, along with lignocellulosic biomass fractionation processes. The engineering simulation process toward the commercial production of bio-gasoline from lignocellulosic biomass using SuperPro Designer® was modeled. The compatibility of the end products with thev current gasoline specifications was evaluated and various blending options were investigated to meet the octane number and Reid vapor pressure requirement of the product. The economic potential of the simulated engineering process was then evaluated from an economic perspective. The operating costs and capital investment of three scenario using three different catalytic systems were estimated and discussed to assess of the potential of commercializing of woody biomass valorization process. The main potential market segments were identified, including the process by-products such as xylose and cellulose pulp. From the economic evaluation study, it was found that selling the biomass fractionation products alone does have a greater profit than valorization of lignin to produce bio-gasoline, with net present value of RMB 22,653,000 and RMB 177,000, respectively at the same return on investment if the plant is set up in Hong Kong. It was also found that catalysts play a pivotal role in determination of the profitability in the valorization process, not only because of the price of the catalyst, but also the product distributions obtained with various types of it. To obtain the same gross profit, the sale price of biogasoline has to be set higher with platinum catalysts than with ruthenium catalysts (nearly 10 folds). Thus, catalyst development and process improvement are crucial in the establishment of bio-based circular economy.