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Keywords:

  • BioFeed;
  • biomass feedstocks;
  • distributed storage;
  • pre-processing;
  • Miscanthus;
  • Miscanthus x giganteus

Abstract

Distributed storage and pre-processing of biomass feedstock at satellite storage locations (storage depots) has been proposed in literature to reduce costs and improve efficiency of the supply system. The performance of such a system, however, has not yet been rigorously quantified and compared with conventional alternatives. This work presents such an analysis using the BioFeed optimization model. BioFeed is a system-level model that optimizes the important feedstock production activities and determines the optimal system configuration on a regional basis. The BioFeed model was first modified to enable modeling of mechanical pre-processing, such as pelletization and grinding, at the input or the output of storage facilities, which can be mandatory or optional. The model was used to study different Miscanthus production scenarios in southern Illinois. The results showed that making storage pre-processing mandatory increased the total cost by up to 16–53% as compared to the base case. However, it reduced the farmers' share of the total cost by up to 13–39%. The exact values depended on the particular pre-processing technology and scenario modeled. The most cost-effective system consisted of a combination of pre-processing on the farms as well as at the storage facilities. The study recommended that biomass output from a hammer mill should be the biorefinery delivery specification; the hammer mills should be installed at the input of the storage facilities, but pre-processing at the storage facility should be optional. This led to the minimum total cost of 46.4 $ Mg-1. © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd