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International Journal of Chemical Engineering
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 492058, 16 pages
Research Article

Life Cycle Costs and Life Cycle Assessment for the Harvesting, Conversion, and the Use of Switchgrass to Produce Electricity

Department of Chemical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0002, USA

Received 2 May 2013; Revised 16 July 2013; Accepted 21 July 2013

Academic Editor: Antonia Pérez de los Ríos

Copyright © 2013 Nuttapol Lerkkasemsan and Luke E. K. Achenie. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper considers both LCA and LCC of the pyrolysis of switchgrass to use as an energy source in a conventional power plant. The process consists of cultivation, harvesting, transportation, storage, pyrolysis, transportation, and power generation. Here pyrolysis oil is converted to electric power through cocombustion in conventional fossil fuel power plants. Several scenarios are conducted to determine the effect of selected design variables on the production of pyrolysis oil and type of conventional power plants. The set of design variables consist of land fraction, land shape, the distance needed to transport switchgrass to the pyrolysis plant, the distance needed to transport pyrolysis oil to electric generation plant, and the pyrolysis plant capacity. Using an average agriculture land fraction of the United States at 0.4, the estimated cost of electricity from pyrolysis of 5000 tons of switchgrass is the lowest at $0.12 per kwh. Using natural gas turbine power plant for electricity generation, the price of electricity can go as low as 7.70 cent/kwh. The main advantage in using a pyrolysis plant is the negative GHG emission from the process which can define that the process is environmentally friendly.