Process simulation and life cycle assessment of converting autoclaved municipal solid waste into butanol and ethanol as transport fuels

Fanran Meng*, Roger Ibbett, Truus de Vrije, Pete Metcalf, Gregory Tucker, Jon McKechnie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In 2015/2016, the total municipal solid waste (MSW) collected by local authority in the U.K. was 26 million tonnes and over 57% is still put into landfill or incinerated. MSW is a promising feedstock for bio-butanol production as it has a high lignocellulosic fibre content such as paper, wood, and food waste, about 50 wt% of a typical MSW stream. The study evaluates acetone, butanol, ethanol and hydrogen production from autoclaved municipal solid waste feedstock. Life cycle assessment is undertaken to evaluate the acetone, butanol, ethanol and hydrogen production process, considering cogeneration of heat and power from residual biogenic waste based on experimental data and process modelling. Acetone, butanol, and ethanol product yield can be achieved at 12.2 kg butanol, 1.5 kg ethanol, 5.7 kg acetone, and 0.9 kg hydrogen per tonne MSW. The product yield is relatively low compared to other lignocellulosic feedstocks primarily because of the lower hydrolysis yield (38% for glucose) achieved in this study; however, hydrolysis yields could be improved in future optimisation work. The conversion shows a net primary energy demand of −1.11 MJ/MJ liquid biofuels (butanol and ethanol) and net greenhouse gas emission of −12.57 g CO 2 eq/MJ liquid biofuels, achieving a greenhouse gas reduction of 115% compared to gasoline comparator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-189
Number of pages13
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019



  • ABE fermentation
  • Enzymatic hydrolysis
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Waste autoclaving

Cite this