U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Bioenergy Technologies Office
Bioenergy Technologies Office Announces the Release of Biochemical Biorefinery Study
April 24, 2013
Four of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) national laboratory partners have contributed to a recently published joint study on biochemical biorefineries. “Investigation of biochemical biorefinery sizing and environmental sustainability impacts for conventional bale system and advanced uniform biomass logistics designs” examines issues around biorefinery capacity, life cycle assessment, sustainability, and reliable feedstock logistics. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked cooperatively on the study, which focuses on biochemical conversion of herbaceous, non-edible feedstock.
The study uses BETO’s 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update as the initial starting point of research, providing a rigorous analysis of biorefinery sizing assumptions to assist BETO in meeting its goal of displacing 30% of petroleum consumption by 2030. The research team incorporated new data from feedstock supply studies and new information on biorefinery costs into their efforts, while simultaneously considering sustainability of each step in the conversion process.
Among the key findings, the team noted that previous results of optimal biorefinery capacity studies were no longer the most accurate or applicable with changes in costs and crop yields. The study concluded that an advanced uniform design (AUD) to biomass feedstock supply—which involves ‘pre-processing’ the biomass into a higher-density, more stable, easily transportable format—would yield greater advantages over a conventional-bale system, in which feedstocks are harvested and transported to a biorefinery without additional processing. Applying the AUD approach increases the cost-efficiency of the biofuel production process by making feedstock more transportable; facilitates more sustainable land practices; allows biorefineries to be constructed with greater access to utilities, infrastructure, and workers; and makes biorefineries less vulnerable to price fluctuations.
Please read the full study for more information.