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Strategic Assessment of Bioenergy Development in the West
Westwide Strategic Assessment
The West is blessed with an abundance of diverse resources that present the opportunity for the region to be a leader in the development of alternative transportation fuels. Transportation fuels produced from starch-based biomass, such as corn and soybeans, make up an increasing part of the country’s transportation fuels portfolio, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Strategic Assessment of Bioenergy Development in the West is a strategic analysis of the Wests’ supply of biomass, conducted to provide a clearer vision for the Western Governors of how the next era in the development of biofuels could unfold in the West. It examines how the implementation of proposed policy measures can enable continuous and progressive additions of new bioenergy resources and technologies through 2015. This analysis aims to assist the governors individually and collectively in developing bioenergy policy based on the resource potential evaluated in four reports of the Strategic Assessment of Bioenergy Development in the West:
Task 1: Biomass Resources in the Western States
Task 2: Biofuel Conversion Technologies
Task 3: Spatial Analysis and Supply Curve Development
Task 4: Analyses of Deployment Scenarios and Policy Interactions
These reports show that advanced bioenergy technologies have the potential for the production of 6.7 billion gallons per year (gasoline equivalent) by 2015, which equate to $18 billion in economic opportunity.
Task 1 - Biomass Resources in the Western States
Resource assessment and supply analyses are important factors in determining the economic feasibility of biomass-related production and utilization scenarios. Quantitative assessment and cost of delivery associated with each individual and applicable biomass resource within a set distance of a conversion facility is critical to optimizing and maximizing the energy returns, environmental enhancement, and economic feasibility. This assessment estimates quantities of various biomass resources throughout the WGA region on a county or city basis for use as feedstocks for liquid fuel (transportation) production. The estimates are used to generate potential supply curves, calculate the effect of biomass and crop production on water use and carbon dioxide emissions, and provide quantities and supply curve data for an integrated GIS analysis, http://projects.atlas.ca.gov/. And finally, the assessment examines the impact that bioenergy crop production (grain and stover/straw) has on water use and carbon dioxide emissions due to irrigation and emissions of CO2 from crop planting/establishment, field maintenance, and harvesting.
Biomass resources considered in this project included:
Agricultural crop residues (corn stover and small-grain straws, including wheat, barley, and oats,
Animal fats and waste greases (beef tallow, yellow grease)
• Forest biomass resources
• Mixed grass species crops (short-rotation woody crops (SRWC) and herbaceous)
• Orchard and vineyard trimmings (apples, almonds, grapes, etc.) • Biosolids
• Grain and oilseeds (corn, soy, and canola)
Task 2 - Biofuel Conversion Technologies
This analysis investigates the biofuel conversion technologies that are currently available, as well as technologies currently under development that are far enough along the development path to potentially be available on a commercial basis in the time frame for the strategic assessment (circa 2015). Due to the complexity of the biofuel conversion technologies, there is no simple equation to describe production costs and process yields. As such, spreadsheet models were developed to calculate the costs and yields for selected technologies based on key variables: feedstock type, conversion option and facility size.1 The technologies were chosen to be representative of the types of biofuel production processes that the assessment team believes can be commercial in the mid term. They are not endorsements of any specific technology and the assessment team believes that the actual plant configurations built will likely incorporate features that could not be foreseen in this study. The technology choices for detailed analysis were based on the relative benefits and challenges for each conversion process, status of the technology, and availability of published data. It is assumed that to have a significant presence in future markets, competing technologies will need to have similar or better yields and similar or lower production costs than the modeled technologies.
Ten biofuel conversion technologies were considered in the assessment. Brief explanations and process descriptions for each of these conversion technologies are given in Table 1. Reference name abbreviations are also included in this table. An overview of the benefits, challenges and status of each technology is provided in Appendix A. Detailed technical descriptions of the current conversion processes are given in Section 2, and descriptions of the advanced technologies are provided in Section 3. A summary of pretreatment requirements for the technologies is given in Appendix B.
From the detailed characterization, the following conversion technologies were selected to include in the supply curve assessment: grain to ethanol production via dry and wet milling, FAME transesterification to produce biodiesel, lignocellulosic ethanol production via enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation, Fischer Tropsch synthesis, pyrolysis oil production and upgrading, and renewable diesel2 production via hydrotreatment of fatty acids. The subsection treating each technology includes a description of the methodology and assumptions used to generate the performance and cost model and an overview of the results.
Task 3 - Spatial Analysis and Supply Curve Development
Uncertainties in the contribution that biofuels might make in meeting the energy needs of the transportation sector in the western US by 2015 were addressed by combining a spatially-explicit resource inventory and assessment, models of conversion technologies, and transportation costs into an integrated model of biofuel supply chains. Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling http://projects.atlas.ca.gov/ was used in conjunction with an infrastructure system cost optimization model to develop biofuel supply curves using biomass feedstocks throughout the western US. Biofuels could provide between 5 and 10 percent of the projected transportation fuel demand in the region with fuel price between $2.40 and $3.00 per gasoline gallon equivalence (gge) excluding local distribution costs and taxes. A diverse resource base is relied on to provide this fuel with significant contributions from municipal solid waste, agricultural residue, herbaceous energy crop, forest thinning, corn, and lipid resources. The biofuel potential estimated in this way is significant, but substantial uncertainties remain. In interpreting the supply estimates, unresolved questions remain regarding economic performance of the different conversion technologies and the overall sustainability of many of the biomass resources considered.
Task 4 - Analyses of Deployment Scenarios and Policy Interactions
The analysis team has employed all of the expertise of the Strategic Assessment Team and the Transportation Fuels for the Future1 Advisory Committee and technical teams to lay out resource and technology development scenarios and the market and policy conditions that could support those scenarios. The date chosen for projecting potential production capability was 2015 so that results would be directly comparable to the Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative (CDEI) analysis for biomass power development in the West. Technology and resources will continue to be developed beyond this near term horizon so that this forecast production capability is not the endpoint but an intermediate point at which Biofuels production could become a significant supply and results can be measured.
The scenarios identify what resources, technologies and strategic locations could be developed and the pace at which they might be introduced to achieve the potential for Biofuels production set forth in the accompanying report. The expected technology progression and transition from today’s technology and processes to tomorrow’s vision is provided. The critical transition forecast for this time period is the switch from starch to cellulose resources grown on lands or recovered from waste streams that minimize the impact on standing carbon reserves and food production. That is, sustainability is an important criterion throughout our work.
In this report we use the term Lignocellulosic Biofuels (LCB) to represent the class of feedstocks and technologies that will enable this transition. In addition to a baseline projection for Biofuels production in 2015, six key sensitivity cases were considered. These variations on the baseline scenario are all valid projections for Bioenergy development and help policy decision makers understand some of the important factors that could increase or reduce Biofuels production capability in the West by 2015.
Scenarios also suggest how the technology transition is likely to proceed while taking advantage of synergies available only in Bioenergy facilities. Meeting the challenge for deploying Biofuels technology at the rates forecast in this strategic assessment will require a private and public partnership of a scope not heretofore applied to Bioenergy development. To better understand what policies would be most effective and efficient to encourage realization of the Bioenergy potential in the West, WGA relied on the expertise of its Advisory Committee on Transportation Fuels for the Future. Under the leadership of the Committee, expert teams on gasoline substitute Biofuels and Biodiesel/Renewable Diesel technologies were formed to advise on the prospects and policy framework that would be required to develop Bioenergy resources for transportation fully.
For more information, contact Ann Walker Western Governors' Association Program Director -Forest Health and Biomass at 303 623-9378 or by email, Ann Walker Strategic Assessment of Bioenergy Development in the West