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Biomass Energy: A Crash Course. Peter Flynn Poole Chair in Management for Engineers Dept. of Mechanical Engineering University of Alberta. Opening Thoughts. Society will likely have limits on its willingness to spend given that the problem is in the future.

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Biomass energy a crash course

Biomass Energy: A Crash Course

Peter Flynn

Poole Chair in Management for Engineers

Dept. of Mechanical Engineering

University of Alberta


Opening thoughts
Opening Thoughts

  • Society will likely have limits on its willingness to spend given that the problem is in the future.

  • What we get for the dollar spent varies widely.

  • The head needs to help the heart get the most environmental benefit per dollar spent.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


1 biomass is carbon neutral
1. Biomass is Carbon Neutral

  • The carbon it emits is taken up in regrowth of the plant.

  • If the biomass was not converted, it would rot and make CO2 anyway.

  • Hence, it displaces coal or oil.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


2 alberta has lots of it
2. Alberta Has Lots of It

  • Straw and forest harvest residues are annual crops.

  • Straw alone could supply the next 25% of Alberta’s total power usage.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


2a and may have much more
2A. And May Have Much More

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


3 the technology exists today power at large scale
3. The Technology Exists Today: Power at Large Scale

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


3 the technology exists today ethanol at commercial scale
3. The Technology Exists Today: Ethanol at Commercial Scale

  • Grain to ethanol is long established:

    • Whiskey

    • Corn to fuel grade ethanol

    • Barley and wheat in Alberta

  • Six commercial scale lignocellulosic ethanol plants announced in the US, including Iogen

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


3a whole grain to ethanol is a poor choice
3A. Whole Grain to Ethanol is a Poor Choice

  • Competition between food and fuel impacts the whole world.

  • Poor energy yield, high impact on soil and water quality.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


3a lignocellulosic ethanol
3A. Lignocellulosic Ethanol

  • Lignocelluosic residues (straw/ stover and wood) are available waste products.

  • Purpose grown crops on marginal lands are also possible.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


4 research isn t the correct prime focus
4. Research Isn’t the Correct Prime Focus

  • Research can be misused as a tool to postpone difficult choices.

  • Technologies exist today.

  • Alberta has a particular need for action.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


5 renewable energy is not and never will be competitive
5. Renewable Energy is not and never will be “Competitive”

  • We have used fossil fuels because they are cheaper.

  • Competitiveness isn’t the key question: we are paying more for an environmental gain. Someone must pay.

The key objective is to buy the most greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere at the lowest extra cost.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


6 technologies are not equal
6. Technologies are Not Equal.. “Competitive”

  • The cost per unit of energy output and per tonne of avoided CO2eq varies widely with technology and plant size.

  • Power from straw: ~$75 per MWh

  • Power from manure: ~$200 per MWh

The minimum screen for any technology is “how much grant per tonne of CO2 avoided?

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


And can be studied in detail
And Can Be Studied in Detail “Competitive”

  • For each technology:

    • What is the appropriate size of plant?

    • How much CO2 equivalent is avoided?

      • Life cycle analysis need not be the complicated barrier it has morphed into.

    • How much extra does someone pay compared to a business as usual case.

Minimizing extra $ per tonne of avoided emission is the right metric.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


7 there is an optimum size it is large
7. There is an Optimum Size; it is Large “Competitive”

  • Three elements to producing useful energy from biomass:

    • Get the biomass

    • Move it to site

    • Process it

  • Processing cost decreases with size, transport cost increases.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Cost per unit output
Cost Per Unit Output “Competitive”

Cost per Unit Output, e.g. $/MWh

Can be positive (purchased) or negative (avoided cost)

First Cost of Biomass

Plant Size, e.g. MW

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Biomass transportation by truck
Biomass Transportation by Truck “Competitive”

  • Costs include:

    • Loading and unloading: distance fixed.

    • Shipping: distance (scale) variable.

  • Typical values are $5 per tonne (distance fixed) and $0.09 per tonne km (one way) (distance variable).

  • Increases ~ with (scale)1/2.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Distance fixed vs distance variable costs
Distance Fixed vs. Distance Variable Costs “Competitive”

Only DVC affects scale

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Cost per unit output1
Cost Per Unit Output “Competitive”

Cost per Unit Output, e.g. $/MWh

Total delivered cost of biomass

Transportation cost

Field cost of biomass

Plant Size, e.g. MW

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Other modes are available
Other Modes are Available: “Competitive”

  • Pipeline (for liquid based processing only): high economy of scale, economic at sizes greater than 1 M Dry T/yr.

  • Rail: fixed cost of trans-shipment requires minimum economic shipping distance.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Trans shipment the concept
Trans-Shipment: the Concept “Competitive”

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Trans shipment alberta based straw power plant
Trans-shipment: Alberta Based Straw Power Plant “Competitive”

Minimum economic rail shipping distance exceeds draw area: rail is not economic.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Biomass processing use it
Biomass Processing: Use It “Competitive”

  • Economy of scale in capital equipment and operating costs, typical scale factors in the range of 0.6 to 0.8.

  • All evidence is that scale factor is valid up to very large processing sizes (>500 MW); road congestion limit is the prior constraint if delivery by truck.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Scale factor for manure ad plants
Scale factor for Manure AD Plants “Competitive”

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Data consistency varies
Data Consistency Varies “Competitive”

Direct Combustion to power has been widely applied including very large scale plants.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Hence good fit for processing cost estimate direct combustion
Hence Good Fit for Processing Cost Estimate: Direct Combustion

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Wide scatter in other processes
Wide Scatter in Other Processes Combustion

Fischer Tropsch estimates show wide scatter only

partly due to configuration options

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Cost per unit output2
Cost Per Unit Output Combustion

Total plant processing cost

Operating cost

Cost per Unit Output, e.g. $/MWh

Total delivered cost of biomass

Capital cost

Transportation cost

Field cost of biomass

Plant Size, e.g. MW

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Cost per unit output3
Cost Per Unit Output Combustion

Total unit output cost

Total plant processing cost

Operating cost

Cost per Unit Output, e.g. $/MWh

Total delivered cost of biomass

Capital cost

Transportation cost

Field cost of biomass

Plant Size, e.g. MW

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Power from field sourced biomass in alberta
Power from Field Sourced Biomass in Alberta Combustion

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Optimum size
Optimum Size Combustion

  • Increases with increasing processing cost

  • Increases with increasing biomass availability

  • Is neutral to the field cost of biomass

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Optimum size depends on biomass gross yield and processing cost
Optimum Size Depends on Biomass Gross Yield and Processing Cost

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


The optimum is flat
The Optimum is “Flat” Cost

A 3% relaxation in the criterion of minimum cost drops plant size sharply.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


50 of optimum size has minimal impact but the cost climbs sharply thereafter
50% of Optimum Size Has Minimal Impact, But the Cost Climbs Sharply Thereafter

  • Power from straw in Alberta:

    • $75 per MWh at optimum (330 MW net)

    • $77 per MWh at 50% of optimum

    • $100 per MWh at 25% of optimum

    • $125 per MWh at 10% of optimum

    • $145 per MWh at 5% of optimum

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Power from field sourced biomass in alberta1
Power from Field Sourced Biomass in Alberta Sharply Thereafter

  • Straw to Power: >150 MW

  • FHR to Power: >100 MW

  • Lignocellulosic Ethanol: >3000 TPD

  • Power from Manure: county wide plant.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


8 life cycle analysis of emissions
8.Life Cycle Analysis of Emissions Sharply Thereafter

  • For most biomass plants the replacement of fossil fuel is the overwhelming contributor.

  • Processing related emissions tend to equalize.

  • Transport and refining are relatively small and estimates vary widely.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Lca values co 2 eq
LCA Values, CO Sharply Thereafter2eq

  • Base load power vs. coal: 830 g/hWh, 1350 g/dry tonne of biomass.

  • Ethanol or diesel: 2000 – 2400 g/l, 600 g/dry tonne of biomass.

  • Power from manure (methane avoidance a factor): 900 g/kWh.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


9 put cost and avoided emissions together
9. Put Cost and Avoided Emissions Together Sharply Thereafter

  • How much extra does someone (the consumer or taxpayer) pay?

  • How much emission is avoided.

  • Pick the most cost effective process.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Two key technology questions
Two key technology questions Sharply Thereafter

  • For a given end form of energy, e.g. power or transportation fuel, what is the most efficient technology. (This will depend on the abundance of biomass, since low availability = higher delivered cost).

  • Between two end forms of energy, what should I pick.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Gasification vs direct combustion
Gasification vs. Direct Combustion Sharply Thereafter

~ Current power price in Alberta

As straw availability drops, the required carbon credit increases faster for direct combustion than BIGCC. The crossover is beyond any point of real interest.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Ethanol vs ft diesel
Ethanol vs. FT Diesel Sharply Thereafter

Oil price range, 2008 to 2009

As straw availability drops, the required carbon credit increases faster for ethanol than FT diesel.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Picking the end energy form
Picking the End Energy Form Sharply Thereafter

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Some cautions
Some Cautions Sharply Thereafter

  • Some technologies are far better demonstrated than others, hence more confidence in cost.

  • All cost estimates rely on pre 2006 references, and hence miss the upswing in equipment and labor cost. The future of these costs is uncertain.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


10 policy comes in good and bad flavors
10. Policy Comes in Good and Bad Flavors Sharply Thereafter

  • Jurisdictions around the world are wrestling with how to integrate a more expensive form of energy into an existing energy economy.

  • Some do it better than others.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Bad policy
Bad Policy Sharply Thereafter

  • “Man on the moon” targets obscure social costs.

  • Short term “up front” payments.

  • Higher payment to small scale projects.

  • Doing everything with every source (makes as much sense as making electricity from gasoline).

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


Good policy
Good Policy Sharply Thereafter

  • Does not, for a global warming target, specify the end product of bioenergy.

  • Is long term

  • Allows competition between projects to meet a social goal at the lowest cost.

  • Identifies the cost per tonne of avoided CO2eq.

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


For biomass energy to grow
For Biomass Energy to Grow: Sharply Thereafter

Drayton Valley, AB: 12 MW

Alholmens, Finland: 240 MW

U of A Energy Club: February 2009


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