Comparative thermodynamic analysis of biomass gasification-based light olefin production using methanol or DME as the platform chemical
Journal article, 2016

This work investigates and compares the thermodynamic performance of alternative platform chemicals for the production of light olefins (i.e., ethylene, propylene, and mixed butylenes) via gasification of lignocellulosic biomass (forest residues). Two concepts based on the same general process layout are considered: (i) via methanol synthesis and methanol-to-olefins (MTO) synthesis; (ii) via direct dimethyl ether (DME) synthesis and DME-to-olefins (DTO) synthesis. The work is based on process models established in Aspen Plus to obtain mass and energy balances. Heat recovery targets for integration of a steam network for combined heat and power production are investigated using pinch analysis tools. The different process alternatives are compared in terms of energy efficiency (?en). Additionally, to identify key process differences, the cold gas efficiency (?cg,i) and carbon conversion (Cconv,i) from biomass feedstock to various intermediate products along the process value chain are compared. The results show that light olefins could be produced with an energy efficiency of approximately 52–54% (higher heating value (HHV) basis) using methanol and DME as platform chemicals. The two investigated concepts had similar cold gas efficiency along the process value chain and overall electricity balance. Accordingly, no significant thermodynamic difference could be identified for the two investigated cases. One interesting feature that is identified is that the same amount of the renewable carbon in the feedstock is lost, mainly as CO2, regardless of whether the methanol or DME route is adopted. The difference is where in the process value chain most of the CO2 is formed and removed. © 2016 Institution of Chemical Engineers

Light olefins

Platform chemical






Maria Arvidsson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Industrial Energy Systems and Technologies

Pedro Haro

University of Seville

Matteo Morandin

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Industrial Energy Systems and Technologies

Simon Harvey

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Industrial Energy Systems and Technologies

Chemical Engineering Research and Design

0263-8762 (ISSN) 1744-3563 (eISSN)

Vol. 115 182-194

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Organic Chemistry



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