"How much biomass is available sustainably?" and "How much does it cost to deliver biomass to a bio-conversion facility?" These are the first questions that must be addressed in the feasibility study of the establishment of a bio-conversion facility. We work with our clients to evaluate whether there are sustainable quantities of biomass available to meet the demand of the bio-conversion facility. We also help to determine the size of the bio-conversion facility based on the biomass availability in the surrounding region. The costs of access to biomass, its collection, storage, handling and transportation and preprocessing are estimated in order to evaluate the commercial viability of the project.
The steady growth of biorefinery projects has been hindered by risks arising from technical and non-technical obstacles. These risks are inevitable as there are always some uncertain and unknown elements in the supply chain to decision-makers. The risk-mitigation strategies depend on individuals and companies’ risk-taking capabilities, attitudes towards risk (e.g. risk-averse, risk-seeking and risk-neutral) and expected profits. Biomass Supply Chain Consulting is capable of developing risk mitigation strategies in the supply chain that can either increase the profit with a given level of risk or to reduce the level of risk with a given expected profit.
Availability of large quantities of sustainable biomass in a region does not guarantee the long-term success of a biorefinery project. Due to the wide distribution of biomass in the supply area, the location of bio-conversion facility and the intermediate storage sites as well as the selection of biomass producers must be determined in a way that the total cost of inbound and outbound transportation is minimized. In addition to transportation costs, the size and type of storage sites must be determined in a way that the costs of storage and handling (e.g. loading and unloading at storage sites) are minimized. We work with our clients to design their biomass supply chain in a way that the logistics costs including harvesting and collection, storage, handling and transportation and pre-processing are minimized. Other factors such as social and legal restrictions are also incorporated in the design of the supply chain. The main decisions made to design the biomass supply chain include: 1) location of the bio-conversion facility in the supply region; 2) location, size and type of intermediate storage sites; 3) selection of biomass producers/suppliers; and 4) assignment of harvested biomass to each storage site.
The optimal design of the biomass supply chain paves the way to manage the biomass supply chain efficiently and effectively at the operational level. The fulfillment of the biomass demand of the bio-conversion facility on a daily basis requires right number of logistics equipment. In addition, these pieces of equipment must be scheduled so that right quantities of biomass are harvested, stored and transported to the bio-conversion facility. We work with our clients to plan and schedule their logistics systems to meet the biomass demand of the bio-conversion facilities at low cost and desirable quality considering uncertainties and restrictions in the logistics system such as weather conditions and short harvest season. The main decisions made to plan the biomass supply chain include: 1) sequence of harvesting the fields; 2) number of required machinery for each logistics operation; 3) daily schedule for each machinery and 4) Inventory planning.
In addition to sustainability assessment, another integral tool for commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts is techno-economic analysis (TEA). TEAs will be conducted on the feedstock/technology pathways for various technology pathways to assess the technical, engineering and economic viability of leading pathways and to provide direction to research, development, investment, and policy making.
The overall sustainability of biofuels and bioproducts will require ongoing use of analytical tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to facilitate policy decisions to help implement and accelerate the commercialization and adoption of biofuels and bioproducts. The overall sustainability assessment of biofuels and bioproducts is very much impacted by the source of the biomass feedstock used in the biorefinery. Oleochemical, lignocellulosic biomass resources and residues, and other processing waste feedstocks and their conversion technology pathways will be evaluated for the production of biofuels and bioproducts.