Diversification helps to reduce risk. Learn about how a flexible fuel biomass supply system can be a better approach. When creating a new biomass project, most investors have a SINGLE solid waste or residue as feedstock. More recently, some companies started to focus on one species as sole energy crop to provide a single feedstock. Energy crops are already very well known as more sustainable source of biomass to supply biobased industries since owners and final user can have more security in the supply chain.
MULTI – FEEDSTOCK APPROACH
Our company focuses on several alternatives such as agricultural and forestry residues or energy crops producing biomass for energy purposes (biogas, combustion, gasification, biogas, etc.).
We show here 5 benefits to consider in a “multi-feedstock” approach to improve your supply chain and diversify risks.
#1. FLEXIBLE TECHNOLOGY EXISTS AND HAVE GREAT ADVANTAGES. Different biomass facilities can be very much flexible and use different biomass resources as fuel. We give you here some good sources of information about it.
- Circulating Fluidized Bed technology
- Review of concepts for a demand-driven biogas supply for flexible power generation
- Fuel flexibility in biomass gasfiers
- Performance of a pellet boiler fired with agricultural fuels
- Fuel-Flexible Microturbine and Gasifier System for Combined Heat and Power
- Biomass Feedstocks for Biopower: Background and Selected Issues
- Biomass gasification cogeneration – A review of state of the art technology and near future perspectives
- Biogas production potential from switch grass-animal manure mixture using dry anaerobic digestion
Here a good video showing some aspects on multi-feedstock handling for small scale facility.
#2. HIGHER STABILITY IF BOTH RESIDUES AND PLANTATIONS ARE USED
A main feedstock with some other sources that can serve as “buffer” in the system then could be advisable. For example, some crops like sorghum can provide a lot of biomass very fast (in 120-150 days) allowing rapid decisions for supply. Sorghum yields can be higher than 25 dried tons per hectare. A logistic manager can have a more stable and flexible system with residues from farmers and sawmills or husks but also with owned/leased lands. Farmers can have rotations with their traditional crops if lignocellulosic plantations are included in their landscape in a certain proportion (penetrability, %). Then several perennial and annual energy crops can reduce any biomass shortage and supply risks. Additionally, residues are finite and generally atomized so several difficulties can exist when collecting waste biomass. Rainfall and climatic variability can limit certain residues (logs, agricultural wastes, etc.) and of course other markets are being linked to biomass supply with those resources. Having plantations with energy crops will certainly help to concentrate biomass in one place and could reduce logistic costs too.
The systems with residues and plantations, can allow always a supply chain with pellets. Biomass pellets can be transported more efficiently when plantations are located in other areas.
- Learn more on all energy crops and grasses here.
- Learn more on woody crops.
- What residues could be used?
- Grasslands as energy crops produce lowest costs
- Learn more on best alterinative energy crops and perennials for marginal lands.
At the end, the more sources you have, the lower supply risk your facility will have.
#3. FARMERS KNOW IT: MORE ALTERNATIVES CAN REDUCE BUSINESS RISKS AND UNCERTAINTIES
Historically, farmers always tried to diversify crop production systems in order to reduce risks. Some of them choose from wheat, barley or oats or soybean, corn and sunflower consideirng prices, climatic year conditions or possible diseases from rotations. Others also consider to establish perennial pastures or have catttle or fallow lands. Energy crops, and in particular short rotation coppice, perennial grasses and many combinations (both in temperate or tropical areas) will clearly help to reduce risks.
It is clear that farmers know there is always a “most profitable alternative”. However, they know that more profits are often linked with higher risks. The true is that agriculture was always considered a risky activity. Climatic uncertainties have been very much reduced as more knowledge is available and farmers can have much more information on atmospheric conditions than they used to have in the past. Having more options and diversifying activities in the farm have been always a strategic management for farmers worldwide.
A power station or biofuel facilities using lignocellulosic biomass could consider several residues and energy crops in the area reducing any risk and providing stability to their system. A stable fuel cost and avaiability will always be a good strategy. If biomass can have other markets, farmers can choose from selling biomass to the power station or to use it for other purposes (e.g. straw markets). A power station can also accumulate excedents during some months depending on storage systems.
#4. LOWER RISK FROM OPTIMIZED LOGISTICS WITH DIFFERENT FUEL SYSTEMS
Having more than one feedstock makes companies to choose from several alternatives and deal with different feedstock. This implies to have well established logistic systems. For example, using cereal straw and woody crops as short rotation coppice for chips, will determine several advantages.
Having more than one only feedstock will determine a lower risk and eventually lower costs when supplying biomass:
- Dedicated plantations gives an alternative with high “space” density. In few miles a power station can have considerable reductions in logistic costs and distances.
- If straw from agricultural residues are used, same platorms, trailers and trucks can be easily integrated with collection systems forms used for biomass from energy plantations.
- Handling biomass residues often implies several loads and trips with an atomized production system and supply chain. If a plantation with energy grasses is integrated, same equipment and handling could eventually collect more biomass with lower fuel consumption.
- Additionally, harvesting dates of energy crops can be defined by the demand (e.g. a power station, a gasifier or biofuel facilities). Here below we suggest you to watch a short video on harvest dates of switchgrass in US.
#5 ENVIRONMENT PREFERS BIODIVERSITY
Having more than one single feedstock will determine a better way to have a more stable and sustainable supply chain with great advantages and environmental benefits.
There is momentum, globally, to increase the use of plant biomass for the production of heat, power and liquid transport fuels. This review assesses the evidence base for potential impacts of large-scale bioenergy crop deployment principally within the UK context, but with wider implications for Europe, the USA and elsewhere.
Some good publications on biodiverdity impacts from lignocellulosic energy crops can found here:
- Is energy cropping in Europe compatible with biodiversity? – Opportunities and threats to biodiversity from land-based production of biomass for bioenergy purposes
- Integrating crop productivity and biodiversity conservation pilot initiatives developed by Bayer CropScience
- Crop genetic diversity benefits farmland biodiversity in cultivated fields
- Identifying potential environmental impacts of large-scale deployment of dedicated bioenergy crops in the UK
- Biofuels and Biodiversity, Wildlife Habitat Restoration
- Environmental effects of energy crop cultivation in Sweden—I: Identification and quantification
- Use of short-rotation coppice willow crops by birds and small mammals in central New York