Analysis of Land for Biorefinery

4607 words (18 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

23/09/19 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Plant Location and Process Requirements

  • Raw materials and their sourcing:

An important aspect when electing a cellulosic biomass feedstock for an industrial-scale biorefinery is its quality and quantity. Taking into consideration the procedures required to pre-process it, means of transporting it, conditions vital for storing it, and for it to lie under an economic constraint. In the United States of America, the current dominant sources of cellulosic biomass are agricultural residues, energy crops and forestry wood with an annual yield of at least a billion ton. Once processed, they can produce 67 billion gallons of ethanol yearly replacing 30% of gasoline consumption (US Department of Energy, EERE 2012). However, these have not shown a successful capability of competing with the present petroleum fuels or first-generation biofuels because of how costly they are, in terms of money and energy. For this reason, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently working on developing technologies to make it more economically feasible to produce advanced biofuels (Jove.com, n.d.).

It was estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that 10 billion gallons of ethanol biofuel would be derived from crop residues and 4 billion gallons from forest resources (Anon, 2011). As a result, a closer comparison between agricultural residues and woody energy crops was made to select the most sustainable feedstock for this project. To be specific, the analogy was between corn stover, the most abundant agricultural residue in the U.S, and poplar trees, one of the promising energy crop feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production. To facilitate the selection process, a decision matrix, table 1, was used where 1 was given to the better feedstock in accordance to the subjected criteria. The allocation of each mark was done through intimate and core research for an accurate overall result. The total weighing of each suggests that corn stover will be the targeted feedstock for this project.

Corn stover is the waste, such as stalks and leaves, left in the fields after corn-grain harvest.  The United States is the largest corn producer in the world with a production volume of about 370.96 million metric tons in the year 2017/2018 (World corn production country 2017/18, 2017). As a result of this enormous production, corn stover is known to be very abundant with unlimited accessibility since it’s the waste product. The U.S. EPA has identified corn stover as the most economical agricultural feedstock and estimated that 7.8 billion gallons of ethanol would come from 82 million tons of corn stover by 2022 thus meeting the 16 billion gallon cellulosic biofuel requirement (Ars.usda.gov, 2014).  In addition to its vast abundancy, corn stover harvest benefits both farmers and crop fields. To elaborate, Its removal facilitates the tillage process by reducing the tillage trips, fuel and consequently saves money. It also eases the process of warming-up the soil and causing it to dry faster to aid prospective planting. Lastly, its elimination provides better plant health since it’s a source of disease accumulation.

On the other hand, there are many challenges on commercializing corn stover as a feedstock. Most of which are the collection, storage, and pretreatment costs since, unlike corn grain, it is very bulky and has high moisture content. Also, other drawbacks include; extreme removal of corn stover would result to soil erosion and loss of organic matter since it usually acts as protective layer for the soil under. Its nutrient rich and helps in soil fertility so its removal will force the need of fertilizers and result to extra costs. Due to the mentioned drawbacks, USDA is developing new technologies to  harvest corn stover in the most sustainable way. To explain, it states that only 10-50% of the above ground corn stover could be harvested to reduce erosion risks and maintain soil fertility.

  • Land and its suitability in terms of labour, market area, supporting services, climate and the process capacity. This last one means is the plot large enough.

A crucial factor in determining whether the advanced biofuel being processed is economically and environmentally sustainable, is the location in which the feedstock is cultivated and its abundancy relative to the biorefinery’s location. The corn belt region, Midwest USA, consists of the four largest corn-producing states: Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota where Iowa and Illinois are the top and account for about one third of the U.S. crop (Ers.usda.gov, 2018). As a result, the mentioned states have the highest yield of corn stover as it’s the waste left in the fields after corn-grain harvest. Moreover, According to a study done by Iowa State University (Core.ac.uk, 2012), the most favorable state for sustainable corn stover harvest is Iowa. The results were obtained after comparing the soil organic carbon, greenhouse gases, abundancy, economic assessment, soil quality, stover composition and energy content of the four largest corn-producing states in the U.S.. After settling on Iowa as the state of choice, deeper research had to be done in order to choose the most suitable county to site our cellulosic ethanol plant in. Considerations such as the abundancy of corn stover and it suppliers, market area, supporting services, labor, utilities, climate, and other major factors were used for comparison. This eliminated and narrowed down the choices to two counties, Ida county and Clay county.

Furthermore, the main confusion and hesitation was whether to site our second-generation ethanol plant next to a first-generation ethanol plant in Ida county or to not in Clay county. The former would benefit our plant since existing infrastructure could be shared along with utilities, storage, and the feedstock supply system ( their feedstock is corn and ours is the left-overs after harvest thus same suppliers could be used).  The latter reduces competition since both plants produce the same products and by products; ethanol and distillers dry grain soluble (DDGS). It can also help boost the local county’s economy by expanding its market area and introducing more job opportunities into the region. As a consequence of this confusion, a decision matrix, figure X, was used and the results approve of Clay county, Spencer city in specific, to be the best area to site our plant for the reasons described in detail below.

This is an aerial view of our chosen plot of land in spencer city:

Suppliers:

According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the biomass supply-chain in Iowa (Aimspress.com, 2016), the feedstock used by a biorefinery should be within a 50-mile radius to ensure profitability and economic feasibility in terms of transportation and other costs. The corn stover suppliers for this project are within the assigned 50-mile radius and guarantee a constant supply of an easily accessible feedstock.

Clay county produces a very high amount of corn with 29,272,000 bushels in 2017. Therefore, according to the Billion-ton study 2016 (Maps.nrel.gov, 2016), it is also a great corn stover supplier of an average of 505,058 dry tonnes/yr. The required corn stover, 27,000 tonnes/yr, will be annually supplied from the following Associations/Local farms : Clay county growers (Claycountygrowers.com, n.d.), which is an association that lies 8-miles away from the selected location. It works on harvesting corn grains from all the farms it owns leaving behind a vast amount of corn stover which will be later harvested and transported to our plant. Another supplier is the MGP farms LLC, which lies within a 7-mile radius and is specialized in using the best harvesting equipment to ensure a very sustainable way of harvesting corn stover. Finally, to maintain an abundant and a sustainable feedstock supply, corn stover could also be supplied from the surrounding counties such as Emmet and O’Brien which have high corn stover yields as well.

Labor:

In the U.S., renewable energy jobs increased 6 percent, while employment in oil and gas decreased 18 percent (Ethanolproducer.com, 2015). This proves that the biofuel economy is raising and offering more and more jobs to the people in different cities of the U.S.. Moreover, Spencer city has a population of 11,045 with a low unemployment rate of 3.5 % (Anon, 2016). This  low rate is a vital indicator of how healthy the economy is and results to making the city more vulnerable to attract retailers, industries, and skilled workers. In addition, Spencer is located in the Iowa Lakes corridor region which is popular for its important recreational opportunities and a workforce with robust work ethic and diversity of business and was also ranked 10th best place to live in the U.S..

The labor required to help construct and run this ethanol plant fall into various occupational sectors. The scientists and engineers ,who conduct a wide range of research and development to ensure the feasibility of this business. They design the whole facility whilst making sure of using the latest technologies to provide the highest yields at minimal costs. The construction workers, who take all the information and details required from the engineers to start building the plant and help in updating and enhancing infrastructure as years pass by. The agricultural workers, who harvest corn stover and present them as square bales to be transported to the facility. The plant workers, who process corn stover to ethanol and other by-products. Lastly, the sale workers, who will help make profit by selling both the ethanol and the by-products to the market. Graph X (City-data.com, 2016), represents the occupations present in spencer city and thus proves the availability of the above required labor occupations for our ethanol plant.

Market area:

The major product of our biorefinery is anhydrous ethanol which gets blended with gasoline to be used as a transportation fuel. Moreover, ethanol fuels are better than other petroleum-based fuels since they are environmentally friendly, boosts the farm economy, have lower emissions and toxins, and are the lowest-cost and cleanest-burning fuel for the majority of vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved E15 (15% ethanol and 85% gasoline) to 2001 or newer vehicles. And E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) for flex-fuel vehicles only. For the past years,  E15 was restricted during summer time because it produces ground-layer ozone, however, the U.S. current president, Donald Trump, promised to remove this summer restriction by next year. As a result, its believed that this will be a victory for ethanol producers, farmers and rural economies because of the subsequent increase in demand.

Clay county has a total of 19 petrol stations with only three E15 and two E85 fueling sites. Additionally, the ethanol used in these petrol stations is not locally produced and hence transported from surrounding counties. As a result,  having our ethanol plant built in Spencer city will help nourish the economy and allow local production of ethanol. Furthermore, the quality of the ethanol formed matches the regulations set by the U.S. government, where the anhydrous ethanol used as a transportation fuel should be 99% pure with a 2% of denaturant added (to be made unfit for human consumption). It will then be transported by railcar to the county’s petrol stations where existing or new blender pumps will be installed to help yield more ethanol-gasoline fuel.  These new installations will escalate ethanol demand and hence sales. Moreover, the initial targeted petrol stations for our project are: Main Spencer – Green Plains Energy petrol station, Dyno oil and Centex.

In addition, ethanol could be supplied to the Northwest Iowa Regional Airport, 1-mile away, and be used for internal transportation facilities and vehicles . Or to the surrounding manufacturing companies, such as Maurer Manufacturing company (which all lie within a 2-mile radius) where it could be used for their individual vehicle-transport means.

Distillers dry grain soluble (DDGs) is a by-product of our ethanol production process. They are an economically competitive sources of protein and energy which are very digestible and therefore act as a cost-effective, high quality ingredient, and nutrient rich feed to livestock. As a result, livestock producers in Iowa and around the world always seek buying and adding DDGs as part of their cattle’s (livestock) diets.

Supplying DDGs to the market would serve as a revenue source to our cellulosic ethanol plant. The market area of DDGs in clay county is quite big with several cattle farms lying within close proximity to us. These include: Tracy’s cattle farm, BitterSweet Acres, Little Sioux Kenyon cattle and dodge stock farms. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2), another by-product, could also be recognized as a revenue-making product for our plant. It is captured, processed to remove small impurities, and then sold to a wide variety of customers. Customers range from manufacturing companies of soft drinks and firefighting equipment to industrial companies where its used for pH reduction of municipal water and enhanced oil recovery. The produced CO2  will be sold to Bender&Moldin fire sprinkler, a fire protection equipment manufacturer in clay county as a source of revenue to the plant.

Supporting services:

Corn stover, anhydrous ethanol, and the by-products produced could be supplied/transported by either rail or road to and from our facility. In other words, the availability of surrounding infrastructure for the purpose of transportation is a key necessity. As a result, one of the major attractions to why we chose our location in that specific area in Spencer city was the availability of these major infrastructures. We are sited with close proximity, a mile-away, from major Highways 18 and 71 (a 4-lane highway) via the Spencer West Beltway. The location is also rail served and if by any means we needed transportation through airports then, Northwest Iowa Regional airport, is 4 miles away while Sioux City IA and Sioux falls SD, a commercial airport, is 100 miles away.

The transportation method used to supply corn stover from farms will be through roads since they are more accessible to the plant, of higher convenience and more cost effective as shown in Figure X.

Climate: (Seasonal availability)

Spencer city witnesses warm summers with temperatures reaching up to 30°C and cold winters of  5°C. Precipitation in the form of rain reaches an annual average of 39 inches and is evenly distributed throughout the year providing a better crop irrigation.  Since flooding is a major obstacle that faces many counties in Iowa, Clay county is not considered one of the counties declared as disaster areas making it better to site our ethanol plant within its borders. 

Process capacity:

The process of choosing a plot of land in the chosen county was a bit complex since many factors had to be measured and taken into account. Looking into the county’s laws, Zoning Ordinance law was considered since it states how property in specific geographical zones can be used. To elaborate, this law subdivides the county into industrial, commercial, agricultural, residential and other areas. The area of interest is clearly industrial which is also segmented into light and heavy industry. As per chapter 9A of Spencer city’s Ordinances (Sterlingcodifiers, n.d.), a fuel industry should be located in the E-1 heavy industrial district where it is away from residential areas and people to prevent noises and any potential causes of harm and pollution. Moreover, the legal code of 9-9A-3 (a section of chapter 9)  states that the minimum area lot should be 4000 m2 and that plant should be enclosed on all sides with fence not less than 2.5 meters in height.

The plot of land chosen in Spencer city is within the heavy industrial district with an available area of 288,000 m2 for sale. Current bioethanol plants, such as Crescentino, operate at an average area of 150,000 m2 which proves that the area of land found is sufficient.

Utilities:

The facility is located in Green Industrial Center in Spencer city with all major utilities available. Electricity will be supplied from Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, a consumer-owned electric cooperative. It works on providing reliable and competitively-priced energy for its customers within its 4 districts (which include Clay county). The electricity is generated from hydro-electric dams and coal-fired plants and then transferred to consumers.

Water will be supplied from Spencer Municipal Utilities which ensures a great quality of water for the Spencer city’s community by yearly updating its water-treatment facility. It also encourages customers to conserve water for environmental and future-generation purposes. Also, in addition to water supply, this company provides internet and telephone services which will be incorporated into our facility post-construction.

References:

  1. Jove.com. (n.d.). Biofuels: Producing Ethanol from Cellulosic Material | Protocol. [online] Available at: https://www.jove.com/science-education/10014/biofuels-producing-ethanol-from-cellulosic-material [Accessed 13 Oct. 2018].
  2. U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Biomass Program. 2012. “Feedstock Types.” Accessed December 12, 2012. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/feedstocks_supply.html.
  3. non, (2011). [online] Available at: https://www.nap.eduhttps://www.nap.edu/read/13105/chapter/5 [Accessed 13 Oct. 2018].
  4. World corn production country 2017/18 (in 1, 0. (2017). Corn production by country 2017/18 | Statista. [online] Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/254292/global-corn-production-by-country/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2018].
  5. Ars.usda.gov. (2014). Publication : USDA ARS. [online] Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=300579 [Accessed 13 Oct. 2018].
  6. Ers.usda.gov. (2018). USDA ERS – Background. [online] Available at: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn-and-other-feedgrains/background/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
  7. Core.ac.uk. (2012). [online] Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/38931902.pdf [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228736999_Current_and_Potential_US_Corn_Stover_Supplies [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
  9. Tax Foundation. (2018). State and Local Sales Tax Rates 2018 – Tax Foundation. [online] Available at: https://taxfoundation.org/state-and-local-sales-tax-rates-2018/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2018].
  10. Maps.nrel.gov. (2016). Biofuels Atlas. [online] Available at: https://maps.nrel.gov/biofuels-atlas/?aL=QlyQWg%255Bv%255D%3Dt&bL=clight&cE=0&lR=0&mC=42.50450285299051%2C-90.94482421875&zL=5 [Accessed 15 Oct. 2018].
  11. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Iowa/Publications/Rankings/index.php [Accessed 15 Oct. 2018].
  12. Aimspress.com. (2016). [online] Available at: http://www.aimspress.com/fileOther/PDF/energy/energy-04-00280.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  13. Claycountygrowers.com. (n.d.). Clay County Growers Association. [online] Available at: http://claycountygrowers.com/index.php [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  14. Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: https://livability.com/ia/spencer/business [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  15. City-data.com. (2016). Work and Jobs in Spencer, Iowa (IA) Detailed Stats: Occupations, Industries, Unemployment, Workers, Commute. [online] Available at: http://www.city-data.com/work/work-Spencer-Iowa.html [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  16. Ethanolproducer.com. (2015). Ethanol Producer Magazine – The Latest News and Data About Ethanol Production. [online] Available at: http://ethanolproducer.com/articles/13398/irena-global-renewable-energy-jobs-increased-in-2015 [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  17. Energy.gov. (2012). [online] Available at: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/03/f14/8_argyropoulos_roundtable.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
  18.  Sterlingcodifiers (n.d.). Sterling Codifiers, Inc.. [online] Available at: http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=416 [Accessed 30 Oct. 2018].

Decision Matrix

Aspects

Criteria

Corn Stover

Poplar trees

 

 

Economic

Cellulosic biomass yield

1

0

Production and harvesting

1

0

Transportation and storage

1

0

Conversion rate

1

1

Robustness to risk

1

0

Equipment and knowledge

1

0

 

Environmental

Soil quality impact

0

1

Carbon emissions

1

1

Water requirement

1

0

Need for pest control

0

0

 

Social

Technological development

1

0

Workforce requirement

1

0

Food Competition

0

0

    Total:

10

3

Table 1: Decision matrix of the two types of feedstock

Raw material supply

Market area

Transportation facilities

Availability of labor

Availability of utilities

Availability of suitable land

Environmental impact

Local community considerations

climate

Political considerations

Total

Raw material supply

1

1

1

1

1

1

0

0

0

6

Market area

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Transportation facilities

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

Availability of labor

0

1

1

0

0

1

0

1

1

5

Availability of utilities

0

1

0

1

0

1

1

1

1

6

Availability of suitable land

0

1

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

4

Environmental impact

0

1

1

0

0

1

1

1

0

5

Local community considerations

1

1

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

5

climate

1

1

1

0

0

1

0

1

0

5

Political considerations

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

1

1

7

Weight

Ida county

Clay county

Rank

Score

Rank

Score

Political considerations

7

1

7

2

14

Raw material supply

6

2

12

1

6

Availability of utilities

6

1

6

2

12

Availability of labor

5

1

5

2

10

Environmental impact

5

2

10

1

5

Local community considerations

5

1

5

2

10

climate

5

1

5

2

10

Availability of suitable land

4

1

4

2

8

Transportation facilities

2

1

2

2

4

Market area

0

1

0

2

0

Total

56

79

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