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Purpose of Repository Database
The goal of this repository is to promote transparency and ease-of-access to the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) supported public studies involving techno-economic analysis (TEA). As such, this database summarizes the economic and technical parameters associated with the modeled biorefinery processes for the production of biofuels and bioproducts, as presented in a range of published reports and papers. The database serves as a quick reference tool by documenting and referencing the results of techno-economic analyses from the national laboratories and in peer-reviewed journals.
 
The analyses presented in this database may be distinguished in several regards, such as cost year, feedstock cost, and financial assumptions (tax rate, percent equity, project lifetime, etc.), and reflect details as they were provided in the original studies. Accordingly, the intent of this database is not to directly compare one technology pathway against another, and caution should be taken in interpreting the outputs as such.

Funding Acknowledgement
This work was authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Contract No. DE-AC36-08GO28308. Funding provided by  the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the DOE or the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the U.S. Government retains a nonexclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this work, or allow others to do so, for U.S. Government purposes.

Phone
Publication Year
Organization
Lab
Email
christopher.kinchin@nrel.gov
Contact Person
Christopher Kinchin
Contact Organization
Bioenergy Technologies Office, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author
Christopher Kinchin
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

NREL's energy-water modeling and analysis activities analyze the interactions and dependencies of water with the dynamics of the power sector and the transportation sector. A variety of models and tools are utilized to consider water as a critical resource for power sector development and operations as well as transportation fuels.

Specifically, the biomass feedstock water analysis focuses on characterizing the geospatial and temporal dynamics of biomass feedstock water requirements. Water requirements for biomass feedstocks can vary geographically and can require different types of water inputs (e.g., rainfall vs. irrigation), which can affect the suitability and sustainability of biomass pathways.

Lab
Email
ethan.warner@nrel.gov
Contact Person
Ethan Warner
Contact Organization
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The estimation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a change in land-use and management resulting from growing biofuel feedstocks has undergone extensive – and often contentious – scientific and policy debate. Emergent renewable fuel policies require life cycle GHG emission accounting that includes biofuel-induced global land-use change (LUC) GHG emissions. However, the science of LUC generally, and biofuels-induced LUC specifically, is nascent and underpinned with great uncertainty. We critically review modeling approaches employed to estimate biofuel-induced LUC and identify major challenges, important research gaps, and limitations of LUC studies for transportation fuels. We found LUC modeling philosophies and model structures and features (e.g. dynamic vs. static model) significantly differ among studies. Variations in estimated GHG emissions from biofuel-induced LUC are also driven by differences in scenarios assessed, varying assumptions, inconsistent definitions (e.g. LUC), subjective selection of reference scenarios against which (marginal) LUC is quantified, and disparities in data availability and quality. The lack of thorough sensitivity and uncertainty analysis hinders the evaluation of plausible ranges of estimates of GHG emissions from LUC. The relatively limited fuel coverage in the literature precludes a complete set of direct comparisons across alternative and conventional fuels sought by regulatory bodies and researchers.

Improved modeling approaches, consistent definitions and classifications, availability of high-resolution data on LUC over time, development of standardized reference and future scenarios, incorporation of non-economic drivers of LUC, and more rigorous treatment of uncertainty can help improve LUC estimates in effectively achieving policy goals.

 

Lab
Bioenergy Category

The U.S. biomass resource can be used several ways that provide domestic, renewable energy to users. Understanding the capacity of the biomass resource, its potential in energy markets, and the most economic utilization of biomass is important in policy development and project selection. This study analyzed the potential for biomass within markets and the competition between them. The study found that biomass has the potential to compete well in the jet fuel and gasoline markets, penetration of biomass in markets is likely to be limited by the size of the resource, and that biomass is most cost effectively used for fuels instead of power in mature markets unless carbon capture and sequestration is available and the cost of carbon is around $80/metric ton CO2e.
 
Biomass Utilization Issues
Biomass is a limited resource with many competing uses. Its allocation for fuel, power, and products depends upon characteristics of each of these markets, their interactions, and policies affecting these markets. In order to better understand competition for biomass among markets and the potential for biofuel as a market-scale alternative to petroleum-based fuels, the Transportation Energy Futures (TEF) study created a unique modeling tool to analyze the impact of these multiple demand areas.
 
There are compelling reasons for use of biomass in each of these three markets:
• Fuel: Biomass is the primary renewable resource that can be used to generate liquid fuels for today’s vehicles and infrastructure.
• Power: Technology is currently available to enable co-firing with coal, reducing the carbon intensity of baseload electricity and providing one of the few renewable dispatchable options.
• Products: Mixtures of chemicals with carbon-hydrogen-oxygen bonds such as those found in biomass are too valuable to burn.
 
Federal policy and activities have supported both biofuels and biopower. Relevant policies include the renewable fuels standard, the renewables portfolio standard, the clean energy standard, and many state and regional greenhouse gas (GHG) policies. Goals for biofuel policies include reduction in petroleum and, especially, petroleum imports to increase energy security. Other goals for biofuel policies focus on environmental and economic concerns, GHG emissions reduction, and diversification of agricultural products. Goals for biopower policies include displacement of coal for environmental concerns and GHG reduction. In the past two decades, the U.S. Department of Energy’s research and development (R&D)

Organization
Lab
Bioenergy Category

The petroleum-based transportation fuel system is complex and highly developed, in contrast to the nascent low-petroleum, low-carbon alternative fuel system. This report examines how expansion of the low-carbon transportation fuel infrastructure could contribute to deep reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the U.S. transportation sector. Three low-carbon scenarios, each using a different combination of low-carbon fuels, were developed to explore infrastructure expansion trends consistent with a study goal of reducing transportation sector GHG emissions to 80% less than 2005 levels by 2050.1 This goal was for analytic purposes only. These scenarios were compared to a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario and were evaluated with respect to four criteria: fuel cost estimates, resource availability, fuel production capacity expansion, and retail infrastructure expansion.
 
Initial evaluations of these four criteria enable consideration of screening-level questions about fuel infrastructure in the low-petroleum, low-carbon scenarios:
1. How do alternative fuel costs compare to conventional fuel costs?
2. Are low-carbon resources sufficient?
3. How does expansion of alternative fuel production capacity compare to conventional production capacity replacements, upgrades, and expansion?
4. How do costs of providing alternative fuel retail infrastructure compare to conventional retail infrastructure?
 
Although definitive comparisons are not possible in this screening study, results suggest that expansion of the retail infrastructure for alternative fuels may pose greater issues than fuel costs, resources, or production capacity. The study does not address market barriers and transition costs associated with the development of new advanced vehicle and low-carbon fuel markets, so fuel cost estimates do not reflect investment risks or projected fuel prices. However, an evaluation of each scenario suggests that the goal of a reduction of 80% in GHGs can be reached while maintaining total fuel costs that are ultimately lower than BAU fuel cost projections without imposing excessive demands on energy resources such as biomass, natural gas, or renewable electricity systems.
 
The amount of new fuel production capacity required [e.g., billions of gallons of gasoline equivalent energy (BGGE) per year] in the low-carbon scenarios is comparable to those for conventional fuels in the BAU scenario, despite the transition to different fuels, because fuel demand in the low-carbon scenarios is lower. Expansion of retail infrastructure, on the other hand, may prove challenging in terms of spatial coverage and sustainable business models for retail outlets. Suggestions in the study for further analysis call for improved cost estimates, an improved understanding of the influence of refueling infrastructure on consumer vehicle purchase decisions, exploration of the potential role of public-private partnerships in infrastructure planning and expansion, and spatial and temporal market and infrastructure expansion trends.

Lab

Land-use change (LUC) is a contentious policy issue because of its uncertain, yet potentially substantial, impact on bioenergy climate change benefits. Currently, the share of global GHG emissions from biofuels-induced LUC is small compared to that from LUC associated with food and feed production and other human-induced causes. However, increasing demand for biofuels derived from feedstocks grown on agricultural land could increase this contribution. No consensus has emerged on how to appropriately isolate and quantify LUC impacts of bioenergy from those of other LUC drivers. We reviewed the literature and illustrate some strategies to minimize bioenergy-related LUC, including ways to increase land’s total productivity and the design and implementation of effective land use policies. The best strategies to reduce LUC risk will vary geographically, requiring a balancing of the advantages and limitations of potential options within the local context together with other goals (social, environmental, economic, energy security, and diversification).

Lab
Bioenergy Category

Biomass power offers utilities a potential pathway to increase their renewable generation portfolios for compliance with renewable energy standards and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to current fossil-based technologies. To date, a large body of life-cycle assessment (LCA) literature assessing biopower’s life-cycle GHG emissions has been published.
 
Phase A of this project performed an exhaustive search of the biopower LCA literature yielding 117 references that passed quality and relevance screening criteria. Fifty-seven papers reported 280 life-cycle GHG emission estimates. Literature indicates that, excluding land use change (LUC), well-managed and well-designed biopower systems can deliver electricity with low life cycle GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels. The use of residues and organic wastes for biopower could result in significantly lower life-cycle GHG emissions if biomass is diverted from landfill or open-air burning. Using carbon mitigation technologies such as carbon capture and storage, rarely studied for biopower systems, could yield even deeper emission reductions.
 
Phase B of this project constructed a spreadsheet model of the biopower life cycle to conduct a sensitivity analysis using biomass supply chain parameters that were taken from applicable literature in the LCA literature review. The spreadsheet model, created from NREL’s Systems Advisor Model (SAM) structure, was expanded to evaluate GHG emissions from dedicated biomass crops. These capabilities were integrated into SAM.

 

Lab

Increasing demand for crop-based biofuels, in addition to other human drivers of land use, induces direct and indirect land use changes (LUC). Our system dynamics tool is intended to complement existing LUC modeling approaches and to improve the understanding of global LUC drivers and dynamics by allowing examination of global LUC under diverse scenarios and varying model assumptions. We report on a small subset of such analyses. This model provides insights into the drivers and dynamic interactions of LUC (e.g., dietary choices and biofuel policy) and is not intended to assert improvement in numerical results relative to other works.
 
Demand for food commodities are mostly met in high food and high crop-based biofuel demand scenarios, but cropland must expand substantially. Meeting roughly 25% of global transportation fuel demand by 2050 with biofuels requires >2 times the land used to meet food demands under a presumed 40% increase in per capita food demand. In comparison, the high food demand scenario requires greater pastureland for meat production, leading to larger overall expansion into forest and grassland. Our results indicate that, in all scenarios, there is a potential for supply shortfalls, and associated upward pressure on prices, of food commodities requiring higher land use intensity (e.g., beef) which biofuels could exacerbate.

Lab
Bioenergy Category

Use the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) station locator to find compressed natural gas stations across the U.S.

Associated Content in the KDF
Lab
Email
Kristi.Moriarty@nrel.gov
Contact Person
Kristi Moriarty
Bioenergy Category
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.
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