Assessing the feasibility and sustainability of a surfactin production process: a techno-economic and environmental analysis

Johnny Alejandro Poveda-Giraldo, Juan Camilo Solarte-Toro, Chantal Treinen, Philipp Noll, Marius Henkel, Rudolf Hausmann, Carlos Ariel Cardona Alzate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Biosurfactants have been profiled as a sustainable replacement for chemical-based surfactants since these bio-based molecules have higher biodegradability. Few research papers have focused on assessing biosurfactant production to elucidate potential bottlenecks. This research aims to assess the techno-economic and environmental performance of surfactin production in a potential scale of 65m3, considering different product yields and involving the European energy crisis of 2021–2022. The conceptual design, simulation, techno-economic, and environmental assessments were done by applying process engineering concepts and software tools such as Aspen Plus v.9.0 and SimaPro v.8.3.3. The results demonstrated the high economic potential of surfactin production since the higher values in the market offset the low fermentation yields, low recovery efficiency, and high capital investment. The sensitivity analysis of the economic assessment elucidated a minimum surfactin selling price between 29 and 31 USD/kg of surfactin, while a minimum processing scale for economic feasibility between 4 and 5 kg/h is needed to reach an equilibrium point. The environmental performance must be improved since the carbon footprint was 43 kg CO2eq/kg of surfactin. The downstream processing and energy demand are the main bottlenecks since these aspects contribute to 63 and 25% of the total emissions. The fermentation process and downstream process are key factors for future optimization and research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Bioprocess engineering
  • Carbon footprint
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Process simulation
  • Surfactin
  • Winter wheat


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