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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Biomass power plant feedstock procurement: Modeling transportation cost zones and the potential for competition


Transportation of comminuted (processed) woody biomass from the production site to a utilization point is one of the most costly operational components in feedstock procurement. This study identified potential sources of feedstock based on transportation cost from which three woody biomass power plants in Humboldt County, California, could economically obtain their supply. We conducted service area and location-allocation network analyses for timberlands and sawmills, respectively, and created inclusive and exclusive networks to model three transportation cost zones (TCZs). The area within the $20/bone dry ton TCZ had the highest potential supply of woody biomass in the county (709,565 acres). All sawmills in the county were within an economically viable distance of the power plants. Even though there was no competition for raw materials at the time of this study, a competition risk analysis suggested that this could change with shifts in the demand for biomass or the price of electricity. The methods we developed for this study could be adapted to other regions with managed timberlands and a strong forest products industry.

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