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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling Bioenergy Supply Chains: Feedstocks Pretreatment, Integrated System Design Under Uncertainty


Biofuels have been promoted by governmental policies for reducing fossil fuel dependency and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as facilitating regional economic growth. Comprehensive model analysis is needed to assess the economic and environmental impacts of developing bioenergy production systems. For cellulosic biofuel production and supply in particular, existing studies have not accounted for the inter-dependencies between multiple participating decision makers and simultaneously incorporated uncertainties and risks associated with the linked production systems.

This dissertation presents a methodology that incorporates uncertainty element to the existing integrated modeling framework specifically designed for advanced biofuel production systems using dedicated energy crops as feedstock resources. The goal of the framework is to support the bioenergy industry for infrastructure and supply chain development. The framework is flexible to adapt to different topological network structures and decision scopes based on the modeling requirements, such as on capturing the interactions between the agricultural production system and the multi-refinery bioenergy supply chain system with regards to land allocation and crop adoption patterns, which is critical for estimating feedstock supply potentials for the bioenergy industry. The methodology is also particularly designed to incorporate system uncertainties by using stochastic programming models to improve the resilience of the optimized system design.

The framework is used to construct model analyses in two case studies. The results of the California biomass supply model estimate that feedstock pretreatment via combined torrefaction and pelletization reduces delivered and transportation cost for long-distance biomass shipment by 5% and 15% respectively. The Pacific Northwest hardwood biofuels application integrates full-scaled supply chain infrastructure optimization with agricultural economic modeling and estimates that bio-jet fuels can be produced at costs between 4 to 5 dollars per gallon, and identifies areas suitable for simultaneously deploying a set of biorefineries using adopted poplar as the dedicated energy crop to produce biomass feedstocks. This application specifically incorporates system uncertainties in the crop market and provides an optimal system design solution with over 17% improvement in expected total profit compared to its corresponding deterministic model.

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