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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Optimizing the Design of Biomass Hydrogen Supply ChainsUsing Real-World Spatial Distributions: A Case Study Using California Rice Straw


The cost of hydrogen from biomass is not well understood due to the trade-offs betweeneconomies of scale at the production facility and diseconomies of scale in the feedstock collection and hydrogen delivery. The hydrogen delivery portion of the cost is particularly hard to understand because three modes of delivery exist with very different cost functions. In order to estimate the cost of hydrogen from biomass, it is necessary to develop an understanding of how these three stages of the supply chain will interact in an optimal system.

This paper develops a methodology to optimize full supply chains for producing hydrogen from dispersed biomass resources and delivering it to the drivers of hydrogen vehicles at refueling stations. A profit maximizing model of the supply chain for use with real-world geographic information is formulated in a mixed integer-non-linear program. The model chooses the optimal number, location, and size of conversion facilities along with the fields

that supply each facility and which demands are served by which facilities. In the process the optimal mode of hydrogen delivery is chosen. Engineering-economic models of the cost of each part of the supply chain were developed from literature during model development. A case study using rice straw to produce hydrogen in northern California is presented as a demonstration of the method.

The rice straw case study demonstrated that hydrogen from biomass could be competitive with the projected costs of the distributed production of hydrogen by steam methane reformation (SMR). All cases fell below or within the range of projected costs for onsite SMR with current technology. Cases with high demand density (25% nd 50% vehicles using hydrogen for fuel) that can take advantage of lower cost hydrogen delivery are competitive with the future technology case of onsite SMR.

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