This series of posts focuses on four of the primary areas of risk in any biomass supply chain based on dedicated energy crops and the things that Genera is doing to reduce or remove these risks. Our first three posts focused on land recruitment, risks associated with successfully establishing the energy crops, and risk from climatic factors like temperature and precipitation. Today’s final post in the series will focus on the importance of feedstock quality.
Management and maintenance of the quality of the biomass is critical to the success of any downstream user. Regardless of the conversion technology employed, certain quality specifications must be maintained to ensure that the biomass exhibits the best performance through conversion. Common quality parameters of biomass include moisture, ash, particle size, chemical composition, and other attributes. Like other plants, energy crops of the same species can be grown across a region and exhibit different traits based upon soil type, microclimate, and management techniques that occurred in specific fields. Variation in these quality factors can significantly impact the downstream user.
As it continues to optimize its operations, Genera continuously evaluates tools and technologies related to energy crop production, harvesting, logistical, and quality management. Often, a customer will ask us to evaluate product yields from our biomass and how sensitive those yields are to certain quality spec variations. In one study, we assessed ethanol conversion yields from material supplied conventionally by multiple suppliers in multiple bale formats. These suppliers managed the production independently to meet two required specifications for moisture content and visible degradation. We compared the inherent variability in that system to product yields from a centrally managed collective supply chain.
In the high variation model, crops were harvested with different equipment and stored using different methods. In the integrated, centrally managed model, crops were all harvested by the same entity, using the same equipment, and all stored in the same manner. The results of multiple samples demonstrate that the distribution around ethanol yield in the baseline supplier-managed case ranged from 46 gallons per dry ton to 94 gallons per dry ton, with an average yield of 78 gallons per dry ton. The centrally managed supply system, also meeting the same required product specifications, resulted in a distribution around ethanol yield ranging from 84 to 97 gallons per dry ton, with an average of 94 gallons per ton. This reduction in variation through sound crop management and handling had significant positive impacts on the downstream biomass user. It allows the conversion process to operate more effectively and consistently, with less variation and higher productivity.
When you look at your biomass supply chain, do you see risk in feedstock quality and other areas? A supply chain partner with on-the-ground experience in energy crop management and logistics will reduce risk and increase efficiencies in the supply chain. Contact Genera Energy today to learn how we can make your project a success!
By Sam Jackson, VP of Business Development