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Optimization of Miscanthus Harvesting and Handling as an Energy Crop: BioFeed Model Application

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Biological Engineering Transactions. 3(1): 37-69. (doi: 10.13031/2013.35925) @2010
Authors:   Y. N. Shastri, A. C. Hansen, L. F. Rodriguez, K. C. Ting
Keywords:   BioFeed, Biomass feedstock, Illinois, Miscanthus, Optimization

The success of the bioenergy sector depends significantly on ensuring efficient and sustainable biomass feedstock production and provision, which requires a comprehensive systems theory based approach. BioFeed is a system-level model that has been proposed to optimize the feedstock production and provision activities. It has been applied in the past to study switchgrass production in Illinois. This work presents recent additions to the BioFeed model to enable a more accurate representation of various biomass production activities for energy crops. While maintaining the original model framework that focuses on farm-level design and operational issues in addition to storage and transportation logistics, new biomass packing and size reduction operations such as pelletization and grinding have been added. The selection and operation of biomass handling equipment such as loaders, unloaders, and in-field transportation equipment have also been incorporated. The addition of these new operations created the challenge of ensuring the logical validity of the operational sequence during model simulation. A superstructure of all possible operational sequences was developed, and the biomass form at the output of every piece of equipment was tracked to ensure appropriate equipment selection. The model was then applied to a case study of Miscanthus production as the energy crop in southern Illinois. The results showed that the optimized delivered cost based on existing technology was about $45 Mg-1. Biomass packing and storage were important components of the total cost distribution. The potential alternatives to reduce the delivered cost included using a single-pass mowing and baling operation, increasing the packing throughput capacity, and extending the harvesting window.