Save up to $4M per year on biomass costs? Yep, Genera Energy has an app for that.

August 4, 2014 |

WillowIn Tennessee, Genera Energy has come up with a biomass management methodology that results in a 13% reduction in the delivered cost of biomass feedstock — or as much as $4 million per year for large-scale cellulosic biofuels systems.

The nearly $10 per dry ton savings come via a combination of reducing transportation costs (by delivering lower moisture bales), reducing dry matter losses in storage, and scheduling inventory rotation to take best advantage of nonlinear deterioration rates of the biological material over time.

Genera has enshrined the best practices in its Energy Grange and Supply ASSURE feedstock management systems, which will work with a wide range of project scales — Genera customers working on projects that range, for example, from 400,000 tons per year projects all the way down to 60,000 ton projects (around 5 million gallons of fuel per year).

Eliminating variability

In cellulosic biofuels projects, we’ve heard of troubling levels of variability in yield per ton — based on grower-managed systems, yields have ranged from 48 to 85 gallons of ethanol per dry ton of feedstock. The Genera solutions narrow that range to around 81 to 85 gallons per dry ton.

“While the cost savings per delivered ton are significant, it’s the improvements in quality and variability that really make a difference for our customers,” said Keith Brazzell, Genera’s COO.

SorghumThe systems

Genera’s Energy Grange management system is a suite of services that focus on establishing and managing biomass feedstock including: land selection, recruiting and working with landowners, feedstock selection, crop establishment and annual management of the crop until harvest.

Once a feedstock crop is ready for harvest, Genera’s Supply ASSURE (Advantaged Supply System for Upstream Reliability & Efficiency) management system oversees and coordinates harvesting, aggregation, storage and transportation. A critical part of the Supply ASSURE system, Genera says, is industrial inventory management and control through a sophisticated data collection, monitoring, and integrated software system that offers traceability of product.

“These are industrial projects,” noted Genera’s Sam Jackson in speaking with the Digest. “Yes, it’s agriculture, but it can be managed like any other industrial operation, where you look for new efficiencies, new techniques.”

One example — switching from baling to in-field chopping for feedstock that is going to be used on a just-in-time basis.

“For long term storage,” says Genera’s Jackson, “bales work better, but for biomass that is going to be stored for a very short time or used almost right away, truck unloading time is around 7-1/2 minutes at the project site for chopped biomass, compared to 20-30 minutes for a truck loaded with bales.”

Bottom line impact

“To very simply illustrate the impacts of that reduction in variability on the bottom line for our customer,” Brazzell continued, “A customer producing 20 million gallons of ethanol per year using a grower-managed system would require nearly 60,000 additional tons of biomass feedstock every year compared to the Genera-managed feedstock. At $65 per ton, Genera delivers an additional cost savings of nearly $3.9 Million every year.”

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