It’s been the big, big problem in biomass deconstruction and cellulosic fuels — the finicky nature of biomass. We’ve learned to get past the main line of cellulosic defenses — but by and large it’s been a feedstock-by-feedstock, multi-step process, not well suited for competing with $60 oil when the biomass cost itself has risen by DOE’s estimate to $115 per ton.
Pre-treatment cost has been one factor; more importantly, getting a consistent product stream out of a variable set of biomass inputs. No two feedstocks are alike, and sometimes no two deliveries of the same feedstocks are much alike. Consider the variability in municipal solid waste, for example.
JBEI / Sandia’s Seema Singh gave this illuminating presentation on the impact of MSW as a feedstock using ionic liquid pretreatment at the most recent DOE Peer Review meet-up.