Resource assessment, logistical simulation, and risk quantification Of biomass supply

Taraneh Sowlati and co-authors Jamie Stephen, Shahab Sokhansanj, and Toni Bi researched biomass supply. Generally, in assessments of bioenergy potential, biomass supply is assumed to be constant over an extended period of time for a particular region. This assumption is not realistic in the context of agriculture, said Sowlati. “Because there has been little examination of supply reliability, we wanted to examine changes in biomass over the lifetime of a power plant.” Sowlati and her colleagues also determined the delivered price of feedstock.

The Peace River region in Alberta served as a case study: it experiences boom-and-bust production and its situation is applicable elsewhere. For the resource availability analysis, Sowlati used geographic information systems and historic crop yield data to estimate average production for 10 sites in the region. From these, “we chose four sites with greater than 250,000 tonnes within a 100-kilometre radius of town.” Data on grain yield from 1980–2000 was used to estimate average, minimum, and maximum production. The latter is key when considering supply for power plant or biomass processing.

Oats provided the most biomass overall, compared to barley and wheat. Biomass minima were close to zero for several sites. All crops had high and low yields in the same years; Sowlati said that “some years you may end up with no biomass if you only rely on local [sources].”

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