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Individual Highlight

Engineering and Economic Modeling of Biofuels Production

Photo of The process elements for the biomass gasification concept that are incorporated into the spreadsheet model. Edward M. (Ted) Bilek, Forest ServiceThe process elements for the biomass gasification concept that are incorporated into the spreadsheet model. Edward M. (Ted) Bilek, Forest ServiceSnapshot : FPL researchers developed a flexible and customizable computer model that allows users to do a preliminary evaluation of the feasibility of incorporating a biomass gasification plant into an existing pulp mill. The user can model the biomass gas production as if to replace purchased fuel, or convert it into biofuels feedstocks via a Fischer-Tropsch gas-to-liquid process. The model helps to highlight the engineering and financial assumptions that will be critical to the project's success.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Ince, Peter J.Dietenberger, Mark A.
Bilek, Ted 
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 303


Biomass, including overstocked and dead wood biomass from forestlands, can be used to produce energy that can directly replace fossil fuels and liquid fuels from food crops, thus simultaneously improving the nation's energy balance, food security, and the health of the nation's forests. One way to achieve this is through a thermochemical refining method called biomass gasification. Gasified biomass can be burned directly to replace natural gas, or it can be cleaned and refined to produce Fischer-Tropsch biofuels, including low-sulfur diesel and other synthetic hydrocarbons. By locating a gasifier at a pulp mill, existing infrastructure can be used to handle and transport the biomass, and by-product heat can be used to supply steam and energy for the pulp mill.

FPL researchers constructed a spreadsheet-based computer model to aid in the preliminary evaluation of the engineering and economic feasibility of such integrated systems. This model can be easily modified to consider different scales, engineering configurations, end products, and financial parameters, thus providing a way to easily explore a number of options.

If preliminary results look promising, much greater due diligence and more sophisticated engineering will be needed to support subsequent development and investment decisions. Results show that such systems may be worth considering depending on biomass costs, energy values, and capital equipment and operating costs.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. Flambeau River Biofuels LLCEmerging Fuels TechnologiesU.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy LaboratoryProfessor Ross Swaney, University of Wisconsin, Madison