Scientific article

Petrochemicals from oil, natural gas, coal and biomass: Production costs in 2030–2050

Published inResources, conservation and recycling, vol. 53, no. 12, p. 653-663
Publication date2009

Methane, coal and biomass are being considered as alternatives to crude oil for the production of basic petrochemicals, such as light olefins. This paper is a study on the production costs of 24 process routes utilizing these primary energy sources. A wide range of projected energy prices in 2030–2050 found in the open literature is used. The basis for comparison is the production cost per t of high value chemicals (HVCs or light olefin-value equivalent). A Monte Carlo method was used to estimate the ranking of production costs of all 24 routes with 10,000 trials of varying energy prices and CO2 emissions costs (assumed to be within $0–100/t CO2; the total CO2 emissions, or cradle-to-grave CO2 emissions, were considered). High energy prices in the first three quarter of 2008 were tested separately. The main findings are: • Production costs: while the production costs of crude oil- and natural gas-based routes are within $500–900/t HVCs, those of coal- and biomass-based routes are mostly within $400–800/t HVCs. Production costs of coal- and biomass-based routes are in general quite similar while in some cases the difference is significant. Among the top seven most expensive routes, six are oil- and gas-based routes. Among the top seven least expensive routes, six are coal and biomass routes. • CO2 emissions costs: the effect of CO2 emissions costs was found to be strong on the coal-based routes and also quite significant on the biomass-based routes. However, the effect on oil- and gas-based routes is found to be small or relatively moderate. • Energy prices in 2008: most of the coal-based routes and biomass-based routes (particularly sugar cane) still have much lower production costs than the oil- and gas-based routes (even if international freight costs are included). To ensure the reduction of CO2 emissions in the long-term, we suggest that policies for the petrochemicals industry focus on stimulating the use of biomass as well as carbon capture and storage features for coal-based routes.

  • Coal
  • Biomass
  • Methane
  • Petrochemicals
  • Production costs
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
REN, Tao et al. Petrochemicals from oil, natural gas, coal and biomass: Production costs in 2030–2050. In: Resources, conservation and recycling, 2009, vol. 53, n° 12, p. 653–663. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2009.04.016
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0921-3449

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