Environmental and economic performance of hybrid power-to- liquid and biomass-to-liquid fuel production in the united states

Mark D. Staples, Stewart A. Isaacs, Florian Allroggen, Dharik S. Mallapragada, Christoph P. Falter, Steven R.H. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Power-to-liquids are a class of liquid drop-in fuels produced from electricity and carbon dioxide as the primary process inputs, which have the potential to reduce transportation's climate impacts. We quantify the economic and life cycle environmental characteristics of four electrofuel technology pathways that rely on the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis but produce synthesis gas via different schemes: Power-to-liquid (PtL) via electrolysis and a reverse water gas shift (RWGS) reaction; PtL via co-electrolysis; gasification of biomass-toliquid (BtL); and a hybrid power- and biomass-to-liquid (PBtL) pathway. The results indicate that the hybrid PBtL pathway is the most environmentally and economically promising option for electrofuel production, with results highly dependent on input electricity source characteristics such as cost and emissions. The carbon intensities of electricity generation that must not be exceeded for electrofuels to have lower life cycle emissions than conventional diesel are 222, 116, and 143 gCO2e/kWh for PBtL, PtL electrolysis + RWGS, and PtL co-electrolysis, respectively. We characterize the PBtL pathway in more detail by combining spatially resolved data on biomass cultivation, electricity generation, and cost-optimized hydrogen production from renewable electricity in the United States (US). We find that the private emissions abatement cost for PBtL fuels varies between 740 and 2000 $/tCO2e, depending primarily on the location of fuel production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8247-8257
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021


  • Electrofuel
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Power-to-liquid
  • Renewable energy
  • Renewable hydrogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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