BioSTEAM: The Biorefinery Simulation and Techno-Economic Analysis Modules


BioSTEAM is a fast and flexible package for the design, simulation, and techno-economic analysis of biorefineries under uncertainty 1. BioSTEAM is built to streamline and automate early-stage technology evaluations and to enable rigorous sensitivity and uncertainty analyses. Complete biorefinery configurations are available at the Bioindustrial-Park GitHub repository, BioSTEAM’s premier repository for biorefinery models and results. The long-term growth and maintenance of BioSTEAM is supported through both community-led development and the research institutions invested in BioSTEAM, including the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI). Through its open-source and community-lead platform, BioSTEAM aims to foster communication and transparency within the biorefinery research community for an integrated effort to expedite the evaluation of candidate biofuels and bioproducts.

Key Features & Capabilities

  • Fast and flexible techno-economic analysis. BioSTEAM presents basic building blocks to design and simulate a biorefinery. These include objects that handle material properties, material flows, unit operations, and recycle loops.

  • Clear representation of streams, unit operations, and recycle systems. Dynamic generation of flowsheets and a clear representation of data allows users to visualize biorefineries in detail. BioSTEAM does not yet have a GUI but we are on our way to building one.

  • Automated process and technology evaluations. The evaluation of thousands of biorefinery designs is streamlined through smart and efficient management of biorefinery parameters to evaluate sets of design decisions and scenarios.

  • Complete biorefinery examples. Two complete biorefineries models are included in BioSTEAM: the co-production of ethanol and biodiesel from lipid-cane, and 2nd generation ethanol production from corn stover. Please refer to the tutorial to get started.



A simplified UML class diagram of the core classes of BioSTEAM.

All data on chemicals, fitted coefficients, and functions to estimate chemical properties are imported from chemicals, a community-driven open-source library developed by Caleb Bell. The thermosteam library, BioSTEAM’s premire thermodynamic engine, creates thermodynamic property packages by implementing both the mixing rules and the algorithms for thermodynamic equilibrium and by relying on the chemicals library for pure component models. Stream objects define material flows, and can be used to estimate mixture properties. A Unit object stores input and output Stream objects in the ins and outs attributes respectively. A System object serves to define a path of unit operations, functions, and subsystems, as well as a recycle stream (if any). When a System object is simulated, elements in the path are run sequentially within an iterative solver until the recycle stream converges (in both component flow rates and temperature). A TEA object can perform cashflow analysis on a system given a set of options. Adjustments can be made to the available heating and cooling agents of the HeatUtility class (e.g., steam pressure, cooling water temperature, price) as well as the electricity price of the PowerUtility class.


We intend to keep BioSTEAM perpetually open source with a liberal open source license. All of the code in BioSTEAM is available under the University of Illinois/NCSA Open Source License, which boils down to this:

  • You can freely distribute BioSTEAM.

  • You must retain the copyright notice if you redistribute BioSTEAM.

  • Binaries derived from BioSTEAM must reproduce the copyright notice.

  • You can’t use our names to promote your BioSTEAM derived products.

  • There’s no warranty on BioSTEAM at all.

Any contributions to the project must be licensed under these terms. We believe this fosters the widest adoption of BioSTEAM as it allows commercial products to be derived from BioSTEAM with few restrictions and without a requirement for making any derived works also open source (i.e. not a “copyleft” license). If further clarification is needed, we suggest that you read the License.



Cortes-Peña, Y.; Kumar, D.; Singh, V.; Guest, J. S. BioSTEAM: A Fast and Flexible Platform for the Design, Simulation, and Techno-Economic Analysis of Biorefineries under Uncertainty. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020.

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