Rising prices and uncertain supplies of petroleum, together with environmental concerns regarding fossil fuel combustion, has enhanced interest in biobased products and fuels. The work reported here analyzes the feasibility of a multi-product biorefinery using wheat straw as feedstock that produces ethanol, electricity, and cellulose nanofibers. The nanofibers (nanowhiskers) would be used as reinforcements in a biobased nanocomposite material that could substitute for fiberglass in many applications. The analysis indicates that, at 2005 prices and costs, the biorefinery would be marginally profitable. Anticipated advances in bioprocessing technology would enhance profitability. The facility would also make a substantial contribution to the biorefinery site area economy, as a high percentage of operating expenses would be payments to local entities. The growth of a biobased industry could have major economic development implications for the Great Plains/Midwest region.


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