EGEE 439
Alternative Fuels from Biomass Sources

5.1 Final Project (Biorefinery Project)

5.1 Final Project (Biorefinery Project)

The final project will be due at the end of the semester. Toward the end of the semester, the homework will be less, so you’ll have ample opportunity to work on this. However, I am including the expectations now, so that you can begin to work on it.

Biomass Choice

You will be choosing a particular biomass to focus your report on. For the biomass you choose, you will need to do a literature review on the biomass and how and where it grows. Your requirements for location include 1) where it grows, 2) climate, 3) land area requirement, and 4) product markets near location. However, you are not to make a choice that already exists in the marketplace. This includes 1) sugarcane for ethanol production in Brazil and 2) corn for ethanol production in the Midwest of the USA. You need to put thought into what biomass you are interested in converting to fuels and chemicals, as well as where you want to locate your small facility. Most of all, choose biomass and location based on your particular interests, so as to make it interesting to you.

The literature review should consist of a list of at least ten resources that you have consulted from journals and websites of agencies such as IEA. If available, five of these sources should be from the last five years. Please use APA style for your references.  

Location Choice and Method of Production

Once you have determined a biomass, choose a location based on previous information. Discuss your reasons for the choice of biomass, location, and desired products for production. Include a map of the area where you want to grow and market your product. You need to be aware of whether or not the biomass you choose can grow in the climate of the area you choose.

You will be choosing a method with which to convert your biomass into fuels. You are expected to include a schematic of the process units and a description of each process that will be necessary to do the biomass conversion; you should include what each process does and a little about the chemistry of each. Show the major chemical reactions that will take place in the process. The figures below show a process diagram and a chemical reaction so you have an idea of what I expect.

Schematic of sulfuric acid pretreatment process
Schematic of the sulfuric acid pretreatment process. This is a typical process schematic or diagram.
Click here for a text description of the sulfuric acid pretreatment process schematic.
Schematic of the sulfuric acid pretreatment process. Biomass is added to dilute sulfuric acid, called acid impregnation (0.5 – 5.0% H2SO4) it then goes to dilute acid pretreatment around (140-200 C). This pretreatment can take seconds to hours. It then becomes a slurry which goes into neutralization conditioning. The solids go to enzymatic hydrolysis where hexose sugars and solid residue (lignin) are separated. The liquids from the neutralization condition go to acid post-hydrolysis. The slurry can also go to solid/liquid separation. The solid products of this separation go to neutralization condition and the liquids go to acid post-hydrolysis. Acid post-hydrolysis yields pentose sugars.
Credit: BEEMS Module B1
Schematic of the reaction of lignin in subcritical water, see image caption, contact instructor if you need more assistance
Schematic of the reaction of lignin in subcritical water (1. ether cleavage via hydrolysis, 2. cleavage of aldehyde/ketone and methoxy, rearrangement reaction with each other). This is a typical reaction depiction, although most likely more complex than what I expect you to include.
Credit: M. Bembenic and C. Clifford, Energy Fuels, 27 (11), 6681-6694, 2013


The next section has to do with marketing your product. If you don’t have somewhere to sell your product, it will sit in a warehouse, maybe degrade (spoil is a more common term), and you won’t be making money on it. In the location you have chosen, is there a market for the product? If not, is there a location nearby where you can sell it? Discuss how you might market your products in the areas where you want to use biomass and sell products. How might you make the product you are selling appeal to the public? Due to the deregulation of electricity markets in various states, the prices of electricity will vary. Some companies charge more for renewable-based electricity, so they have to appeal to a particular market of people who are willing to spend more on renewable electricity.


We are going to assume that your process is going to be economic. However, any economic evidence that you can include that supports your process or indicates it would be a highly economical process will be beneficial to your paper. I would also like for you to include any research and development that must occur in order for the process to become viable and economic (i.e., what is the current research on this process?).

Other Factors

Discuss other factors that could affect the outcome of implementing a bio-refining facility. What laws, such as environmental laws, might be in place? What is the political climate of the community you have chosen? What is the national political climate related to the biomass processing you have chosen? Are there any tax incentives that would encourage your process to be implemented or the product to be sold? An example would be something like this: all airlines in the US are expected to include a certain percentage of renewables in the jet fuel they use. So, would your process make jet fuel, and how would you market it to airlines? Include other factors that could “make or break” the facility.


The report should be 8-12 pages in length. This includes figures and tables. It should be in 12-point font with 1” margins. You can use line spacing from 1-2. It is to be clearly communicated in English, with proper grammar, and as free from typographical errors as possible. You will lose points if your English writing is poor. 

The following format should be followed:

  • Cover Page – Title, Name, Course Info
  • Introduction
  • Body of Paper (see sections described above)
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • APA citation style for citations and references. 

Grading Rubric:

  • Outline: 10 points
  • Rough Draft: 30 points
  • Final Draft: 30 points
  • Presentations (will be uploaded as videos): 30 points
  • TOTAL: 100 points

Rubrics specific to each section of the final project are available in the submission dropboxes. 

When submitting, please upload your final project to the Final Project Submission DropboxSave it as a PDF according to the following naming convention: userID_FinalProject (i.e., ceb7_FinalProject)


Please remember that by submitting your paper in Canvas, you affirm that the work submitted is yours and yours alone and that it has been completed in compliance with University policies governing Academic Integrity, which, as a Penn State student, is your responsibility to understand and follow. Your projects will be reviewed closely for unattributed material and may be uploaded to the plagiarism detection service to ensure originality. Academic dishonesty and lazy citation practices are not tolerated, and should you submit a paper that violates the Academic Integrity policies of the College and the University, be advised that the strictest penalties allowable by the University will be sought by your instructor. Please ask for help if you are concerned about proper citation.


If you have questions:

Office hours are by appointment on Tuesdays: 15:00-16:30 (Hilal Ezgi Toraman and Do Hyun Lee) and Thursdays: 17:30-18:30 (Do Hyun Lee). Please contact me,, and the assistant of the course: Do Hyun Lee,, to set up a time for the office hour the previous Sunday until 11:59 pm. Please provide the question(s) that you plan to ask during the office hour when you set up a time for the office hour.