Abstract for: Simulating Pelletization Strategies to Reduce the Biomass Supply Risk at America’s Biorefineries

Demand for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels has been on the rise, due in part to federal targets enacted in 2005 and extended in 2007. The industry faces major challenges in meeting these worthwhile and ambitious targets. The challenges are especially severe in the logistics of timely feedstock delivery to biorefineries. Logistical difficulties arise from seasonal production that forces the biomass to be stored in uncontrolled field-side environments. In this storage format physical difficulties arise; transportation is hindered by the low bulk density of baled biomass and the unprotected material can decay leading to unpredictable losses. Additionally, uncertain yields and contractual difficulties can exacerbate these challenges making biorefineries a high-risk venture. Investors’ risk could limit business entry and prevent America from reaching the targets. This paper explores pelletizer strategies to convert the lignocellulosic biomass into a denser form more suitable for storage. The densification of biomass could reduce supply risks, and the new system would outperform conventional biorefinery supply systems. Pelletizer strategies exhibit somewhat higher costs, but the reduction in risk is well worth the extra cost if America is to grow the biofuels industry in a sustainable manner.