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Early-stage evaluation of catalyst manufacturing cost and environmental impact using CatCost


The costs and environmental impacts of catalyst manufacture are often neglected during early-stage research because of a lack of accessible, standardized tools to assess them. Here we report the key features of CatCost, a free and public estimation tool for the evaluation of catalyst cost. We demonstrate its functionality with a case study of diverse catalysts (ZSM-5, Pt/TiO2 and Mo2C) for the catalytic fast pyrolysis of biomass. We quantified the economic and environmental improvements made by replacing circulating-bed ZSM-5 with more stable, fixed-bed Pt/TiO2 and Mo2C catalysts, while revealing the effects of synthesis methods and production scale on catalyst costs. The manufacture of ZSM-5 had a large processing cost contribution that was strongly scale dependent, whereas the costs of the other catalysts were dominated by raw materials at all scales. Furthermore, while ZSM-5 costs the least per kilogram, the more stable catalysts cost half as much per gallon of fuel.

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Fig. 1: Components of cost and life cycle analysis.
Fig. 2: Effect of purchase scale on catalyst cost. Direct demonstration of economies of scale using CatCost, from the perspective of a catalytic plant operator (catalyst buyer).
Fig. 3: Sankey diagrams for catalyst costs61.
Fig. 4: Tornado plot showing the results of sensitivity analysis.
Fig. 5: Environmental impacts of CFP catalysts.
Fig. 6: Quantitative analysis evaluating catalyst alternatives for CFP.

Data availability

The latest version of CatCost, including the downloadable spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel format, the web-based app. and the user guide, is available at Completed, editable CatCost spreadsheets for the catalysts featured in this article have been included as Supplementary data files and are also shown as Supplementary Figs. 1324. The data used to compile specific figures in this article, if not already found in the Supplementary Information, can be obtained from the authors upon reasonable request.


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We thank J. Hensley, S. Habas, D. Ruddy, A. Dutta, M. Talmadge and L. Snowden-Swan for their contributions to the early conceptual development of CatCost. For the final figure comparing catalyst alternatives, we thank A. Dutta, K. Iisa and C. Mukarakate for helpful discussions. We thank M. Griffin for discussion of SEA methods. We thank the team that developed the web-based app. version of CatCost from the spreadsheet version, including N. Wunder, K. Potter, J. Yarbrough, K. Gruchalla, M. Jankousky and A. Young. We thank T. Sandberg of the NREL Library and E. Livingston of Scopus for their assistance in performing the catalyst cost literature frequency survey. We thank A. Bhatt for his contributions to the Pt/TiO2 synthesis process model. This work was authored in part by NREL, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC for the US Department of Energy (DOE) under contract no. DE-AC36–08GO28308, in collaboration with the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium, a member of the Energy Materials Network. Funding was provided by the US DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the DOE or the US Government. The US Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the US Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide licence to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for US Government purposes.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.G.B. and J.A.S. formulated the CatCost concept and won funding. K.M.V. developed cost estimation methods and built the spreadsheet version of CatCost, as well as portions of the web-based app. K.M.V. and F.G.B. managed the development of the web-based app. version of CatCost. E.C.D.T. and J.D.S. developed the process models that translate laboratory-scale syntheses into industrial production costs. K.M.V. performed cost analysis. E.C.D.T. developed life cycle assessment. K.M.V., E.C.D.T., J.A.S. and F.G.B. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frederick G. Baddour.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Catalysis thanks Marianthi Ierapetritou, Aimaro Sanna and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–24, Tables 1–13, Notes 1–3 and Discussion.

Supplementary Data 1

CatCost estimate: ZSM-5.

Supplementary Data 2

CatCost estimate: 2% Pt/TiO2.

Supplementary Data 3

CatCost estimate: 0.5% Pt/TiO2.

Supplementary Data 4

CatCost estimate: Mo2C.

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Van Allsburg, K.M., Tan, E.C.D., Super, J.D. et al. Early-stage evaluation of catalyst manufacturing cost and environmental impact using CatCost. Nat Catal 5, 342–353 (2022).

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