Low-carbon “drop-in replacement” transportation fuels from non-food biomass and natural gas

Anna K. Hailey, Johannes C. Meerman, Eric David Larson, Yueh Lin Loo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We assessed the technical and economic viability of small-scale plants producing “drop-in replacement” transportation fuels from non-food biomass and capturing and storing byproduct CO2 in spent shale-gas wells. Additional designs considered co-processing of natural gas — the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel — to increase liquid-fuel yields and plant efficiency, with some penalty in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions footprint. For fuels from first-of-a-kind facilities to be cost-competitive with petroleum-derived fuels when crude oil costs $100/bbl, an effective GHG emissions price in excess of $250/tCO2,eq would be required. If lower production costs are achieved in successive facilities via innovation and experience, fuels from future plants may become cost-competitive at crude oil prices as low as $85/bbl in the absence of any GHG emissions price, and at $50/bbl with a GHG emissions price of $135/tCO2,eq, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests is an emissions price level needed before 2050 to induce the emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to 2 °C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1722-1730
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Biofuels
  • Carbon capture
  • Economics
  • Natural gas
  • Process design
  • Shale CO storage


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