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Criteria for Locating a Lignocellulosic Ethanol Plant in Idaho

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

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009485.(doi:10.13031/2013.32044)
Authors:   Tushar Jain, Jon VanGerpen
Keywords:   Biofuel, Bioethanol, Lignocellulose, Biomass, Transportation

The most abundant bioenergy feedstock in the world is woody material. This material can be categorized based on three main sources: agricultural, forestry and recycled materials. Collectively, they are called lignocellulosic biomass and consist of two basic constituents: carbohydrate polymers (cellulose and hemicelluloses) and lignin. Out of the many available lignocellulosic feedstocks some have been considered to be less tractable because the pretreatment required to make them usable includes uncommon unit-operations. For example, some feedstocks require acid hydrolysis or steam explosion with an acid catalyst, which may lead to negative impacts on downstream processing and may lower biofuel yield or lower the value of the recoverable by-products. Another technology for converting woody biomass to biofuels is selective pyrolysis and gasification, followed by fermentation to ethanol using anaerobic bacteria. This eliminates the need for hydrolysis to break up the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions of the biomass. In this process, the lignin fraction can also be converted into ethanol. The choice of conversion method is based on the properties of feedstock. This study will categorize and compare the lignocellulosic feedstock options for a bioethanol plant in Idaho. A rubric is proposed that incorporates various parameters such as the availability of feedstock, distance from proposed bioethanol refinery (transportation model), difficulty of conversion to ethanol and cost of feedstock. Optimization of these four parameters indicates the best available feedstock for biofuel production from woody biomass. The designed rubric helps to locate the best location and the best feedstock for a bioethanol plant in Idaho and the general methodology can be applied in any state.

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