Life-Cycle Assessment of Biochemicals with Clear Near-Term Market Potential

Chao Liang, Ulises R. Gracida-Alvarez, Troy R. Hawkins*, Jennifer B. Dunn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The urgent need for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions to mitigate climate change calls for accelerated biorefinery development and biochemical deployment to the market as structural or functional replacements for chemicals produced from fossil-derived feedstocks. This study evaluated the energy and environmental impacts of 15 biochemicals with clear near-term market potential and their fossil-based counterparts, when applicable, on a cradle-to-gate basis. Three of these chemicals are produced exclusively from biomass; eight are predominantly produced from fossil-derived feedstocks; and four are predominantly produced from biomass. For the 12 cases that can be produced from either feedstock, eight exhibited fossil energy consumption and GHG emission reductions when produced from biomass instead of fossil-derived feedstocks between 41%-85% and 35%-350%, respectively. Water consumption results were mixed because several of the biobased pathways consumed more water. Annually, replacing the predominantly fossil-fuel-based chemicals with biobased alternatives could avoid 120 MMT CO2e emissions and save 1,500 PJ of fossil energy. The potential of these chemicals as coproducts in integrated biorefineries was analyzed in terms of market, economics, and environmental effects with an emphasis on GHG emissions. Adipic acid, succinic acid, acrylic acid, propylene glycol, 1,4-butanediol, 1,3-butadiene, furfural, and fatty alcohol are promising coproduct candidates based on their low life-cycle GHG emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2773-2783
Number of pages11
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 20 2023


  • Biochemicals
  • Carbon credit
  • Fossil-based chemicals
  • GHG mitigation
  • Integrated biorefinery
  • Life-cycle assessment
  • Market analysis
  • Supply chain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


Dive into the research topics of 'Life-Cycle Assessment of Biochemicals with Clear Near-Term Market Potential'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this