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A techno-economic review of hydroprocessed renewable esters and fatty acids for jet fuel production


Correspondence to: Matthew Pearlson, Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Building 33 Room 115, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. E-mail:


Jet fuels produced from sources other than petroleum are receiving considerable attention because they offer the potential to diversify energy supplies while mitigating the net environmental impacts of aviation. The hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) process is a commercially deployed technology that converts vegetable oils and animal fats from triglycerides into hydrocarbons suitable for use in diesel and jet fuels. The technical means of producing alternative fuels from renewable oils, and the resulting carbon intensity has been documented in previous work. However, the cost of production is not available in the literature. This work reviews HEFA fuel production, and estimates the gate price of fuel for several plant sizes and operating conditions. Aspen Plus was used to model biorefinery material and energy balances for unit operations and supporting utilities. A discounted-cash-flow-rate-of-return (DCFROR) economic model was used for sensitivity analysis. The gate price was found to range between $1.00 L–1 for a 378 MML yr–1 HEFA facility, and $1.16 L–1 for a 116 MML yr–1 facility. Maximizing jet fuel production ranged between $0.07 and $0.08 L–1 due to increased hydrogen use and decreased diesel and jet fuel yield. While feedstock cost is the most significant portion of fuel cost, facility size, financing, and capacity utilization also influence production costs. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd