Biological Conversion Pathway

Container with liquids

Learn about the economics of producing methane, acetic acid, ethanol, and polyhydroxybutyrate from carbon dioxide (CO2) and electricity via biological conversion.

For each product developed using this conversion pathway, visualizations show key cost and conversion metrics based on three different cases:

  • Current – published results in the open literature with electricity priced at $0.068/kilowatt-hours (kWh) and a CO₂ cost of $40/metric ton (MT)
  • Future – attainable process improvements with electricity priced at $0.03/kWh and a CO₂ cost of $20/MT
  • Theoretical – thermodynamic limitations with electricity priced at $0.02/kWh and a CO₂ cost of $0/MT.

Select a Product and Case


As of 2018, the estimated global production of methane reached 250 million metric tons per year with applications in energy and as a hydrogen precursor, selling for an average $0.16/kg ($0.13–$0.23 between 2014 and 2018).

The biggest cost contributors for producing methane from carbon dioxide and electricity via biological conversion include hydrogen feedstock cost and carbon dioxide feedstock cost for the current case and hydrogen feedstock cost for the future and theoretical cases.

Major Cost Drivers

  1. Hydrogen feedstock cost
  2. Onstream factor
  3. CO2 feedstock cost

Minimum Selling Prices ($2016/kg)

  1. Current: $
  2. Future: $
  3. Theoretical: $

Technical Metrics for Cases

[spider chart]
Current = Green
Future = Blue
Theoretical = Edge

Sensitivity Analysis

Shows process parameter impact on minimum selling price ($/kg)

[tornado chart]
Market parameters = Orange · Technical parameters = Blue
Mid-line values represent state of technology parameters.

Glossary of Terms

Need a term defined? See the glossary of terms.

Cite the Data

If you use this data in a publication, please cite it accordingly:

Huang, Zhe,  R. Gary Grim, Joshua A. Schaidle,  and Ling Tao. 2021. “The Economic Outlook for Converting CO2 and Electrons to Molecules.” Energy & Environmental Science.