Financing Bioeconomy Ventures, Pt. 9: Site Selection – Landscape Risk Analysis for Biomass Acquisition
by Thomas W. Robb, Daniel Lane and John Diecker (Lee Enterprises Consulting/Biofuels Digest) In the cascade of the decision-making process for site selection of a biomass project, the first two things that must be determined are the availability of infrastructure to support the project AND the availability of feedstock to feed the process. Infrastructure availability is a straightforward process and is the established procedure of ticking things off the list of identified needs. Feedstock availability, however, can be somewhat difficult especially if the project is to utilize crop residues. Using published “book” values (tons biomass per acre related to grain yields) will not always give you the right answer. One must take it further and apply local sustainability criteria, such as competing uses (e.g.: erosion prevention), to arrive at the amount that will be reliably available year after year to support the feedstock needs of the facility. For annual energy crop feedstocks, sustainability criteria may also need to be applied: for these it’s not to modify yield projections, but to take into account any extra agronomic practices that must be applied and account for them in the acquisition pricing structure. The next factor to overlay on the feedstock availability side of this equation is how far out from the project site will you need to go to obtain the necessary quantities for the project. Lastly, the pricing of the feedstock needs to be determined. The premise of the rest of this article is that the biomass pricing will be competitive in the market. Obviously this will change depending on whether the feedstock is a dedicated energy crop, or a crop residue.
For many biomass based projects, product developers tend to stop at this point. Unfortunately, the work has only just begun to truly assess the validity of individual sites.
Components of Biomass Acquisition
Correct site selection evaluation must then go on to identify all the individual components in the landscape that can have an impact on the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation (CHST) of the feedstock. Then each of these components must be assessed for the risk (or benefit) associated with them, and if deemed significant, mitigation procedures must be developed and evaluated for not only effectiveness, but cost as well.
Weather – The Most Critical Issue
Within the landscape of CHST, there are several issues that impact all acquisition and logistical issues and weather is probably the biggest one. There is a lot of data on annual rainfall. However the correct assessment of weather impact will also address unusual weather patterns and how often they can be expected. READ MORE