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Quantifying Feedstock Availability Using a Geographical Information System

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

Citation:  Biological Engineering Transactions. 4(3): 133-146. (doi: 10.13031/2013.39814) @2011
Authors:   A. Martinez, D. E. Maier
Keywords:   Biomass, Corn stover, Feedstock, GIS, Transportation models

The feasibility of utilizing cellulosic biomass such as corn stover as an energy feedstock is dominated by factors such as facility location, feedstock availability, and transportation logistics. This study compares two methods to quantify feedstock availability given a facility's location using a geographical information system (GIS). The purpose is to highlight the advantages of using the proposed method (method 2) compared to a previously developed method (method 1). Method 1 is a straightforward approach in which the distance from the facility to the farm fields is first estimated and then hectare availability per service area is calculated using USDA-NASS statistics. Method 2 determines hectare availability by using geospatial images from which a service area is created based on a detailed road network dataset and a crop data layer. This method proved to be more accurate because it calculates the distance from the facility to the farm fields using a real road network and uses hectares of crop-specific fields in a given service area based on crop season-specific satellite images. Method 1 overestimated hectare availability per service area by 14,374 ha (35,518 ac; a factor of 1.45) on average, giving the false impression that a facility's annual feedstock requirement can be met within a shorter distance and with presumably lower transportation costs. The proposed GIS-based methodology will allow more reliable prediction of a feedstock supply area for existing or planned biomass-based processing facilities.

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