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Cost evaluation of alternative switchgrass producing, harvesting, storing, and transporting systems and their logistics in the Southeastern USA

Purpose - The US Department of Energy has a goal to make ethanol from biomass cost competitive with petroleum by 2012. Feedstock procurement is expected to represent a significant portion of the operating costs for a refinery that produces ethanol from biomass such as switchgrass. Thus, cost-effective feedstock logistics will be a key factor for the future development of a capital intensive cellulosic ethanol industry. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the cost of various logistic methods of switchgrass production, harvesting, storing, and transportation. Design/methodology/approach - This study applied enterprise budgeting and geographical information system (GIS) software to analyze the costs of three logistic methods of acquiring switchgrass feedstock for a 25 million gallon per year refinery. Procurement methods included traditional large round and rectangular bale harvest and storage systems and satellite preprocessing facilities using field-chopped material. The analysis evaluated tradeoffs in operating costs, dry matter losses during storage, and investment requirements among the three systems. Findings - Results suggest that the preprocessing system outperformed the conventional bale harvest methods in the delivered costs of switchgrass. Practical implications - The cost savings in harvest, transportation, and dry matter losses for the preprocessing system offset their extensive capital costs and generated cost advantages over the conventional methods. Social implications - The traditional round bale system has a higher overall investment cost, may not be the most cost-effective way to procure switchgrass feedstock for a refinery, and may limit farmer participation in the feedstock value chain. Originality/value - GIS methods combined with enterprise budgeting can be useful tools for evaluating investment in feedstock supply chain infrastructure.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Agricultural Finance Review.

Volume (Year): 70 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 184-200

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Handle: RePEc:eme:afrpps:v:70:y:2010:i:2:p:184-200
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  1. Jensen, Kimberly L. & Clark, Christopher D. & Ellis, Pamela & English, Burton C. & Menard, R. Jamey & Walsh, Marie E., 2006. "Farmer Willingness to Grow Switchgrass for Energy Production," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21355, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  2. Larson, James A. & Mooney, Daniel F. & English, Burton C. & Tyler, Donald D., 2010. "Cost Analysis of Alternative Harvest and Storage Methods for Switchgrass in the Southeastern U.S," 2010 Annual Meeting, February 6-9, 2010, Orlando, Florida 56518, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
  3. Lawrence D. Mapemba & Francis M. Epplin & Charles M. Taliaferro & Raymond L. Huhnke, 2007. "Biorefinery Feedstock Production on Conservation Reserve Program Land," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(2), pages 227-246.
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