BioEnergy Research

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 263–275 | Cite as

Technical and Economic Modeling for the Production of Torrefied Lignocellulosic Biomass for the U.S. Densified Fuel Industry

  • Adrian Pirraglia
  • Ronalds Gonzalez
  • Joseph Denig
  • Daniel Saloni


During recent years, a renovated interest in the pre-treatment of biomass through torrefaction has led to several proposals on industrial-scale application of the technology. Torrefaction holds promising characteristics for obtaining a high-energy yield biomass for further processing, including densified biofuels such as pellets and briquettes, at low overall costs, low energy input, and high capacity and availability for the near future, having the capability of displacing coal in power facilities. Despite many efforts in developing the technology at an industrial scale, very few manufacturers and companies are offering torrefied machinery and lignocellulosic torrefied biomass. Furthermore, information about the actual profitability of the business, sensitivity, and costs of torrefied biomass are very scarce and are limited to very focused studies in some areas of the production, but not in the overall supply chain, and manufacturing processes. This study aimed to develop and validate a technical and economic model for the production of lignocellulosic torrefied biomass for its utilization in the solid biofuels industry, with a focus on production and delivered costs for U.S. potential manufacturers. This model also includes analysis of important variables affecting production, such as biomass delivered costs, capital expenditure (CAPEX), and technology availability. Results indicate that the production of torrefied lignocellulosic biomass can be profitable for U.S. manufacturers, subject to a high sensitivity on biomass cost, CAPEX, and technology affordability for large-scale production. Other sensitive facts include carbon credits scenarios, which may influence profitability based on analyses of net present value and internal rate of return for the manufacturing facility.


Torrefaction Techno-economics Biomass pre-treatment Densified biofuel Lignocellulosic biomass 


  1. 1.
    Andersson E, Harvey S, Berntsson T (2006) Energy efficient upgrading of biofuel integrated with a pulp mill. Energy 31:1384–1394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Arias B, Pevida C, Fermoso J, Plaza MG, Rubiera F, Pis JJ (2008) Influence of torrefaction on the grindability and reactivity of woody biomass. Fuel Process Technol 89(2):169–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bergman PCA (2005) Combined torrefaction and pelletization. The TOP Process. ECN Biomass. Accessed 06 January 2012
  4. 4.
    Bergman PCA, Kiel JHA (2005) Torrefaction for biomass upgrading. 14th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition. Paris, France, 17–21 October 2005. Accessed 06 January 2012
  5. 5.
    Bergman PCA, Boersma AR, Zwart RWR, Kiel JHA (2005) Torrefaction for biomass co-firing in existing coal-fired power stations. ECN Biomass. Accessed 05 January 2012
  6. 6.
    Björklund P (2011) Metso Torrefaction Concept. EUBIONET 3 Seminar. April 15th. Espoo, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bourgeois JP, Doat J (1985) Torrefied wood from temperate and tropical species: advantages and prospects. Bioenergy 84, Proc Int Conf Bioenergy (Göteborg) 3:153–159. Elsevier Applied Science, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bourgeois JP, Guyonnet R (1988) Characterization and analysis of torrefied wood. Wood Sci Technol 22:143–155Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Brechbill S, Tyner W (2008) The economics of biomass collection, transportation, and supply to Indiana cellulosic and electric utility facilities. Working paper #08-03. Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University. Accessed 06 January 2012
  10. 10.
    Bridgwater AV (2009) Technical and economic assessment of thermal processes for biofuels. Life Cycle and Techno-Economic Assessment of the Northeast Biomass to Liquids Project. NNFCC project 08/018Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    BTG (2011) Torrefaction. Accessed 05 January 2012
  12. 12.
    Bureau of Labour Statistics (2011) May 2010 Occupational employment and wages estimates. Accessed 06 January 2012
  13. 13.
    Campbell K (2007) A feasibility study guide for an agricultural biomass pellet company. Campbell Consulting LLC. An affiliated consultant of Cooperative Development Services, St. Paul, Minnesota. Agricultural Utilization Research InstituteGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cerezo LM (2011) Biomass Torrefaction Workshop. EPRI’s Biomass R&D. Pre-Treatment Technologies Update. Electric Power Research InstituteGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Chiaramonti D, Rizzo AM, Prussi M, Tedeschi S, Zimbardi F, Braccio G et al (2010) 2nd generation lignocellulosic bioethanol: is torrefaction a possible approach to biomass pretreatment? Biomass Convers Bioref 1:9–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Childs W (2012) Torrefied biomass: an ideal co-firing solution. Presentation, Integro EarthfuelsGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Digiacomo G, Taglieri L (2009) Renewable energy benefits with conversion of wood residues to pellets. Energy 34:724–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Evergreen Renewable LLC (2009) Biomass torrefaction as a preprocessing step for thermal conversion. Accessed 14 January 2012
  19. 19.
    Fonseca F, Luengo CA, Bezzon G, Beaton P (1998) Bench unit for biomass residue torrefaction. Proc Int Conf Biomass Energy and Industry (Würzburg, Germany)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Girard P, Shah N (1991) Recent developments on torrefied wood, an alternative to charcoal for reducing deforestation. REUR Tech Ser 20:101–114Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Gonzalez R, Saloni D, Phillips R, Wright J (2010) Loblolly pine biomass delivered cost. 2010 Biomass Conference. Minneapolis, MNGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gonzalez R, Phillips R, Saloni D, Jameel H, Abt R, Pirraglia A et al (2011) Biomass to energy in the southern United States: supply chain and delivered cost. BioResources 6(3):2954–2976Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gonzalez R, Treasure T, Wright J, Saloni D, Phillips R, Abt R et al (2011) Exploring the potential of eucalyptus for energy production in the southern United States: financial analysis of delivered biomass. Part I. Biomass Bioenerg 35(2):755–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gonzalez R, Treasure T, Phillips R, Jameel H, Saloni D (2011) Economics of cellulosic ethanol production: green liquor pretreatment for softwood and hardwood, greenfield and repurpose scenarios. BioResources 6(3):2551–2567Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gonzalez R, Treasure T, Phillips R, Jameel H, Saloni D, Abt R et al (2011) Converting Eucalyptus biomass into ethanol: financial and sensitivity analysis in a co-current dilute acid process. Part II. Biomass Bioenerg 35(2):767–772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hakkou EM, Patterson HP, Williams MC, Gladney ES (2006) Investigations of the reasons for fungal durability of heat-treated beech wood. Polym Degrad Stab 91:393–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Jacobs J (2008) Bioenergy: the role of short manufacturing processes. Accessed 07 January 2012
  28. 28.
    James J (2009) Using torrefied wood for electricity, briquettes and pellets production. Accessed 06 January 2012
  29. 29.
    Lipinsky ES, Arcate JR, Reed TB (2002) Enhanced wood fuels via torrefaction. Fuel Chem Div Prepr 47(1):408–410Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mani S (2006) Simulation of biomass pelleting operation. Bioenergy Conference and ExhibitionGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Mburu F, Dumarcay S, Petrissans M, Gerardin P (2007) Evaluation of thermally modified Grevillea robusta heartwood as an alternative to shortage of wood resource in Kenya: characterization of physicochemical properties and improvement of bio-resistance. Bioresour Technol 98(18):3478–3486PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Mitchell P, Kiel J, Livingston B, Dupont-Roc G (2007) Torrefied biomass. A foresighting study into the business case for pellets from torrefied biomass as a new solid fuel. A presentation to All Energy ’07, May 24th 2007Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Nielsen-Pincus M, Krumenauer M, MacFarland K, Moseley C (2011) Impacts of the biomass producer or collector tax credit on Oregon’s Wood Fuels Market and Economy. Ecosystem Workforce Program. Working Paper Number 32, Fall 2011. Accessed 07 January 2012
  34. 34.
    North American Wood Fiber Review (2011) Study: woody biomass prices drop. Accessed 06 January 2011
  35. 35.
    Pach M, Zanzi R, Bjornbom E (2002) Torrefied biomass as a substitute for wood and charcoal. 6th Asia-Pacific International Symposium on Combustion and Energy Utilization, 20–22 May, 2002, Kuala LumpurGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Phillips BD (2011) Radian bioenergy torrefaction technology. Accessed 12 January 2012
  37. 37.
    Pirraglia A, Gonzalez R, Saloni D (2010) Techno-economical analysis of wood pellets production for U.S. manufacturers. Bioresources 5(4):2374–2390Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Pirraglia A, Gonzalez R, Saloni D, Wright J, Denig J (2012) Fuel properties and suitability of Eucalyptus benthamii and Eucalyptus macarthurii for torrefied wood and pellets. Bioresources 7(1):217–235Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pomer L, Gerber L, Olofsson I, Wiklund Lindstrom S, Nordin A (2010) Gas composition from biomass torrefaction—preliminary results. 18th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition. Accessed 10 July 2012
  40. 40.
    Rhode M (1999) Biomass power for rural development. Department of Energy. Accessed 12 January 2011
  41. 41.
    Rowell RM (2005) Chemical modification of wood. Handbook of engineering biopolymers. Hanser, Munich, pp 674–691Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Samson R, Duxbury P, Drisdelle M, Lapointe C (2000) Assessment of pelletized biofuels. Resource Efficient Agricultural Production, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Sklar T (2009) Torrefied wood, a bio-energy option that is ready to go. Accessed 12 January 2012
  44. 44.
    Stuber D (2011) Roundwood Price Update: 3Q2011 Results. Forest2Market. Accessed 16 January 2012
  45. 45.
    Thek G, Obernberger I (2004) Wood pellet production costs under Austrian and in comparison to Swedish framework conditions. Biomass Bioenerg 27:671–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Topell Energy (2009) Topell on torrefaction. Workshop IEA Bioenergy Task 32—New Biomass Co-firing Concepts. Hamburg, June 30thGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Topell Energy (2011a) Topell energy. World Economic Forum. Technology Pioneers. Graz, January 28th, 2011. Accessed 07 January 2012
  48. 48.
    Topell Energy (2011b) Topell on torrefaction. World Economic Forum. Technology Pioneers. Accessed 07 January 2012
  49. 49.
    U.S. Energy Information Administration (2011) Form EIA-826, Monthly Electric Sales and Revenue Report with State Distributions Report. Accessed 12 January 2012
  50. 50.
    U.S. Energy Information Administration (2012) Heating Oil and Propane Update. Accessed 12 January 2012
  51. 51.
    Uslu A, Faiij AP, Bergman PCA (2008) Pre-treatment technologies, and their effect on international bioenergy supply chain logistics. Techno-economic evaluation of torrefaction, fast pyrolysis and pelletization. Energy 33:1206–1223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Woodworth R, Kelly J, Namazian M, Miller G (1997) Biobinder process for reconstitution of fine coal. Altex Technology Corporation. Accessed 12 January 2012
  53. 53.
    Yan W, Hastings JT, Acharjee TC, Coronella CJ, Vasquez V (2010) Mass and energy balances of wet torrefaction of lignocellulosic biomass. Energy Fuel 24:4738–4742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Zwart R, Boerrigter H, Van der Drift A (2006) The impact of biomass pre-treatment on the feasibility of overseas biomass conversion to Fischer–Tropsch products. Energy Fuel 20:2192–2197CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Pirraglia
    • 1
  • Ronalds Gonzalez
    • 1
  • Joseph Denig
    • 1
  • Daniel Saloni
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest Biomaterials, College of Natural ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

Personalised recommendations