Economic Feasibility of the Sugar Beet-to-Ethylene Value Chain



As part of a long-term strategy toward renewable feedstock, a feasibility study into options for the production of bioethylene by integrating the sugar beet-to-ethanol-to-ethylene value chain. Seven business cases were studied and tested for actual economic feasibility of alternative sugar-to-ethanol-to-ethylene routes in comparison to fossil-fuel alternatives. An elaborate model was developed to assess the relevant operational and financial aspects of each business case. The calculations indicate that bioethylene from sugar beet is not commercially viable under current market conditions. In light of expected global energy and feedstock prices it is also reasonable to expect that this will not change in the near future. To consider biorenewable sources as starting material, they need to be low in cost (compared to sugar beets) and also require less capital and energy-intensive methods for the conversion to chemicals. In general, European sugar prices will be too high for many chemical applications. Future efforts for in sugar-to-chemicals routes should, therefore, focus on integrated process routes and process intensification and/or on products that contain a significant part of the original carbohydrate backbone.