Grandson of Billion Ton: DOE releases radically improved 2016 Billion Ton Report

July 12, 2016 |

InBD TS 071316 Billion ton sm Washington, the US Department of Energy released its 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic
Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, and said that 1.2 billion tons of biomass would be available at $60 or less per ton by 2040, and 1 billion tons would be available by 2030.

The Big Change

You’ll see much has changed in this Grandson of Billion Ton, the third assessment of bioenergy feedstock resources.

Biggest change by far? It’s about delivery cost, not the cost at the stump or the farmgate. The advanced bioeconomy will be based around the actual cost of feedstock at the throat of the bioreactor. Delivery costs and infrastructure limitations — this is the big change in focus this time around. Here’s an illustration from the Report.

DOE Billion Ton illustration

There are new feedstocks considered. The new headline acts are algae and MSW — meaning that we are looking at novel, low-impact crops ike algae as well as a complete suite of residues, not just forest and ag residues as before.

The headline numbers

The DOE projected that 310, 679, and 985 million dry tons in the near-term, long-term base-case, and long-term high-yield scenarios would be available at the DOE’s target price at the factory throat of $84 per dry ton, or less, including production, harvest, transportation, and grinding. When calculated as weighted average prices, 70%, 69%, and 84% of the near-term, long-term base-case, and long-term high-yield scenarios, respectively, can be delivered at prices up to $84 per ton.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Transportation, Reuben Sarkar, joked that the report is so detailed and thorough that “it feels like it weighs a billion tons. The 2016 Billion Ton Report will improve and expand on previous reports, includes algae and MSW, and provides greater detail and incorporate logistic costs of delivering feedstock to the bioenergy facility.”

The DOE’s Dr. Alison Goss-Eng cautioned “it is not a picture of what will be, but what could be,” noting that the marketplace would eventually determine which feedstocks were available at which price.

It is the third in a series of national biomass resource assessments commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy. The first assessment was released in 2005 and the Billion Ton Update was released in 2011. This is Volume One of the full report; Volume Two will be released later in the year.

Everything Interactive

Not your Dad’s Knowledge Discovery Framework, or KDF, either. Now, you can do your own calculations   on the fly. Here at the DOE’s Bioenergy 2016, Oak Ridge’s Billion Ton Data Czar, Laurence Eaton, was able to calculate, from his iPhone, that the Billion Ton Report also projects that 616 million dry tons of biomass would be available at $40 per ton s (in 2040), or 987 million dry tons would be available at the $50 per ton price. Impressive flexibility for forecasters there; that’s what makes new Billion Ton really a leap forward rather than a step ahead, compared to its predecessors.

The Report’s Key Topics

The report (BT16) builds on previous research to address 3 key questions:

1. What is the potential economic availability of biomass resources using the latest-available yield and cost data?

2. How does the addition of algae, miscanthus, eucalyptus, wastes, and other energy crops affect potential supply?

3. With the addition of transportation and logistics costs, what is the economic availability of feedstocks delivered to the biorefinery?

Combined Resources from Forestry, Agriculture, and Wastes

The Report said:

Combined forestry resources, agricultural resources, wastes, and currently used supplies potentially available at $60 or less in select years are shown in table ES.1.8 Combined resources total 1.2 billion tons under the base-case scenario and 1.5 billion under tons a high-yield scenario by 2040. Notably, resources potentially available in the near term include agricultural residues, wastes, and forest resources, totaling 343 million tons in 2017 in the base-case scenario.

Conversely, energy crops shown are scarce in the near term, but are the greatest source of potential biomass in the future, contributing 411 million tons and 736 million tons in 2040 under the base-case and high-yield scenarios, respectively. Combined potential supplies from forestry, wastes, and agricultural resources under the base case in 2040 are shown in figure ES.4. Potential forestry, agricultural, and waste biomass resources as a function of marginal and average prices at the roadside in 2040 are shown in figures ES.5 and ES.6. 


On algae, the Report stated:

Biomass estimates for algae grown in open pond-raceway systems using freshwater or saline water sources were derived from a biophysical model calibrated with algae production data and using costs from an established techno-economic model. The national biomass potential for algae co-located with ethanol production plants, coal-fired power plants, and natural gas-fired power plants is highly dependent on the algae strain, media, local meteorology, and assumed productivities.

Under current productivities and operational assumptions, biomass potential for Chlorella sorokiniana in freshwater media is estimated to be 12 million, 19 million, and 15 million dry tons for co-location scenarios with CO2 from ethanol production plants, coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs), and natural gas EGUs, respectively. Current productivities for Nannochloropsis salina in saline media are potentially higher (table ES.2). Costs (equivalent to minimum prices) for algae production and dewatering to a 20% solids content are estimated to range from $490 to $2,889 per dry ton depending on production scenario (table ES.2).

The broad range of costs reflects regional annual productivity differences, as well as source of CO2 and distance to that source. The spatial distribution of potential co-located algae production using saline water assuming present productivities is shown in figure ES.7. A summary of the biomass available under other scenarios is shown in table ES.2. (Interactive visualizations are available for both.) Minimum prices are much lower when future, higher productivities are used than when current productivities are used in simulations. Minimum prices of potentially available biomass are also dependent on the extent of pond liner coverage (i.e., minimal [only covering corners prone to erosion] or full).

Cost savings from co-location are clear in many regions of the country but are lower than cost savings from doubling productivity or reducing liner costs. Minimum prices per ton for algae are much higher than those for terrestrial feedstocks, but algae has potential for higher fuel yields per dry ton of biomass than terrestrial feedstocks. Reducing the cost of algae feedstock production is a research priority. However, algae has other benefits, such as flexibility in land and water requirements, use of less land for an equivalent yield, and flexibility in coproduct options. 

Delivered Resources

On delivering resources to the bioconversion plant, the Report stated:

Major categories of forest, agricultural, and waste resources available at $60 per ton or less at the roadside are included in the scenario analysis of resources delivered to the throat of the biorefinery. This subset of the total potential supply includes 310, 679, and 985 million dry tons in the near-term, long-term base-case, and long-term high-yield scenarios, respectively.

Results indicate that 45%, 37%, and 54% of the supplies for the near-term, long-term base-case, and long-term high-yield scenarios, respectively, can be delivered at prices of $84 per dry ton (including production, harvest, transportation, and grinding) or less. When calculated as weighted average prices, 70%, 69%, and 84% of the near-term, long-term base-case, and long-term high-yield scenarios, respectively, can be delivered at prices up to $84 per ton. 

The complete report is available here.

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