Analyzing Economic and Environmental Performance of Switchgrass Biofuel Supply Chains
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This study optimized the net present value (NPV) of profit of various switchgrass-based ethanol supply chains and estimated associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in west Tennessee. Three configurations of feedstock harvesting and storage, including a large round baler system, a large square baler system, and a chopping/densification system, were evaluated. A mixed-integer mathematical programming model incorporating high-resolution spatial data was used to determine the optimal locations and capacities of cellulosic ethanol plants and feedstock preprocessing facilities, and associated feedstock-draw areas by maximizing the NPV of profit over 20 years. The optimized outputs were then used to estimate the GHG emissions produced in the biofuel supply chain (BSC) per year. The study shows that BSC configurations have important implications for the economic and environmental performance of the system. The harvest and storage configurations affect the locations of conversion and preprocessing facilities, and associated feedstock-draw areas, hence impacting the cost and emissions of both feedstock and biofuels transportation. The findings suggest the BSC system that harvests feedstock with forage choppers and utilizes stretch-wrap balers to increase feedstock density has the highest NPV of profit. The BSC system that uses large square balers for harvest and storage emits the lowest amount of GHGs per year. In addition, the sensitivity analysis suggests that biofuel price and scaling factor of facility capital was influential to the economics of BSC systems. The breakeven price of biofuel for the three BSCs was around $0.97 L−1.
KeywordsCellulosic ethanol Switchgrass Supply chains Net present value GHG emissions
This project was funded by the US Department of Transportation (grant no. DT0S5907G00050). We would acknowledge the comments and edits provided by Dr. Roland Roberts and Mr. Robert Menard for the manuscript. We are also grateful for research assistance by Ms. Jia Zhong. The usual disclaimer applies.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This study was funded by US Department of Transportation (grant no. DT0S5907G00050).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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