Biofuels Production projects
Adding Biofuel Feedstock Options to Regional Forest Product Market Models
Since woody feedstocks have very similar characteristics to agricultural biofuel feedstocks and can be produced as a less expensive byproduct from currently managed forests, Gilless’s group is working to define how increased biofuel production would fit within an increasingly global market for all wood products. Gilless’s team will develop tools to more accurately predict the volumes of tree-based biofuel feedstocks that will be available for wood products that also have active international trade connections. The group plans to integrate a proven, regionally applicable joint-optimization forest biomass model (Daugherty and Fried 2007) with a global forest products model (Buongiorno 2003) to develop a more scalable and robust woody biomass feedstock model.
Large declines in the demand for paper products in North America and Europe are freeing up trees that had been planted and managed for pulp chips. Higher energy prices in regions without shale-based energy resources may further shift demand away from the energy intensive process of making virgin paper and towards using more recycled paper. These impacts are only beginning to show up in traded volumes of woody feedstocks that could be used for biofuels. Given the recent development of production-scale plants using woody feedstocks, we predict that a number of regional concentrations of woody feedstock biofuel plants could coexist with existing wood industries.
We completed the improvements to a global forest products model to endogenize the demand for wood bioenergy and fossil fuel competitors using price-driven market clearing mechanisms. Our analysis reveals how high gasoline prices will be the most important driver behind increasing price-driven demand of cellulosic ethanol. Economic growth or advances in manufacturing techniques will be of lesser influence. On the supply side of woody feedstocks for cellulosic biofuels, we have documented the large and growing inventory of “stranded” pulpwood resources in the United States due to a sustained contraction of demand from pulp and paper mills. While the RFS was designed to not compete with existing fiber-using industries, forest landowners are increasingly holding on to inventories as overall pulp and paper demand is declining. Forest inventory is growing more rapidly in the relatively higher-cost Northern U.S. regions, and is beginning to increase in the South U.S. as well. As commercial biofuel plants using wood chips come on line in 2013, we are recalibrating the regional components of our global forest products model to account for this immediately available but moderate-cost feedstock that is a by-product of sawlog-oriented forestry and does not require any additional land or inputs.
To develop a more realistic view of global production and trade of potential woody biofuel feedstocks, Gilless is integrating endogenous drivers into an existing dynamic, spatial, partial-equilibrium model rather than using fixed assumptions to project future demand and supply. Gilless’s group collected and estimated all the input data and key parameters in order to run scenarios, including but not limited to, the GDP and gas price projections, the price and income elasticities of ethanol, the biomass-to-ethanol yield and manufacturing cost, and cost of the biomass feedstock.
Published in 2013
Modeling Price-Driven Interactions between Wood Bioenergy and Global Wood Product Markets, Sijia Zhang, J. Keith Gilless, William Stewart, Biomass and Bioenergy, doi: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2013.10.027, November 25, 2013.