Microbial electrosynthesis (MES) allows carbon-waste and renewable electricity valorization into industrially-relevant chemicals. MES has received much attention in laboratory-scale research, although a techno-economic-driven roadmap towards validation and large-scale demonstration of the technology is lacking. In this work, two main integrated systems were modelled, centered on (1) MES-from-CO2 and (2) MES from short-chain carboxylates, both for the production of pure, or mixture of, acetate, n–butyrate, and n–caproate. Twenty eight key parameters were identified, and their impact on techno-economic feasibility of the systems assessed. The main capital and operating costs were found to be the anode material cost (59%) and the electricity consumption (up to 69%), respectively. Under current state-of-the-art MES performance and economic conditions, these systems were found non-viable. However, it was demonstrated that sole improvement of MES performance, independent of improvement of non-technological parameters, would result in profitability. In otherwise state-of-the-art conditions, an improved electron selectivity (≥36%) towards n-caproate, especially at the expense of acetate, was showed to result in positive net present values (i.e. profitability; NPV). Cell voltage, faradaic efficiency, and current density also have significant impact on both the capital and operating costs. Variation in electricity cost on overall process feasibility was also investigated, with a cost lower than 0.045 € kWh−1 resulting in positive NPV of the state-of-the-art scenario. Maximum purification costs were also determined to assess the integration of a product's separation unit, which was showed possible at positive NPV. Finally, we briefly discuss CO2 electroreduction versus MES, and their potential market complementarities.
- CO electroreduction
- CO valorization
- Microbial electrosynthesis
- Organic waste streams valorization