Thermodynamics and economic feasibility of acetone production from syngas using the thermophilic production host Moorella thermoacetica

Stephanie Maria Anna Redl, Sumesh Sukumara, Tom Ploeger, Liang Wu, Torbjørn Ølshøj Jensen, Alex Toftgaard Nielsen, Henk Noorman

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Background: Syngas fermentation is a promising option for the production of biocommodities due to its abundance and compatibility with anaerobic fermentation. Using thermophilic production strains in a syngas fermentation process allows recovery of products with low boiling point from the off-gas via condensation. Results: In this study we analyzed the production of acetone from syngas with the hypothetical production host derived from Moorella thermoacetica in a bubble column reactor at 60 degrees C with respect to thermodynamic and economic feasibility. We determined the cost of syngas production from basic oxygen furnace (BOF) process gas, from natural gas, and from corn stover and identified BOF gas as an economically interesting source for syngas. Taking gasliquid mass transfer limitations into account, we applied a thermodynamics approach to derive the CO to acetone conversion rate under the process conditions. We estimated variable costs of production of 389 $/t acetone for a representative production scenario from BOF gas with costs for syngas as the main contributor. In comparison, the variable costs of production from natural gas-and corn stover-derived syngas were determined to be higher due to the higher feedstock costs (1724 and 2878 $/t acetone, respectively). Conclusion: We applied an approach of combining thermodynamic and economic assessment to analyze a hypothetical bioprocess in which the volatile product acetone is produced from syngas with a thermophilic microorganism. Our model allowed us to identify process metrics and quantify the variable production costs for different scenarios. Economical production of bulk chemicals is challenging, making rigorous thermodynamic/economic modeling critical before undertaking an experimental program and as an ongoing guide during the program. We intend this study to give an incentive to apply the demonstrated approach to other bioproduction processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number150
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


  • Syngas fermentation
  • Syngas
  • Biomass gasification
  • Basic oxygen furnace
  • Natural gas
  • Techno-economic evaluation
  • Acetone
  • Thermophilic fermentation
  • Biochemical production
  • Corn stover

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