Investment and production costs of synthetic fuels - A literature survey
Synthetic fuels, or synfuels, can be produced from gas, coal and biomass. The conversion of gas and coal is well established but lignocellulosic biomass conversion is slow to develop. This paper addresses the issue of the production cost of second generation biofuels via the thermo-chemical route, biomass to liquids (BtL). Techno-economic studies help identify promising conversion processes, but also introduce a false confidence in the technology that may lead to ill fated decisions. A large number of techno-economic studies have been published since the year 2000 showing a large variability in the results. This paper analyses the published data and presents causes of the observed variability, including a comparison with coal and gas to liquids. Large uncertainties remain however with regard to the precision of the economic predictions. It will be shown that the spread in the economic source data accounts for much of the spread in the predictions. These uncertainties affect both CtL and BtL cost predictions. It will be shown however that the results are relatively coherent and that most of the differences between the costs of synthetic fuels can be traced back to economies of scale considering mature technology. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.