Applied Energy, Vol.235, 578-590, 2019
Techno-economic analysis of producing solid biofuels and biochar from forest residues using portable systems
Wildfires are getting extreme and more frequent because of increased fuel loads in the forest and extended dry conditions. Prevention of wildfire by fuel treatment methods will generate forest residues in large volumes, which in addition to available logging residues, can be used to produce biofuels and bioproducts. In this study, the techno-economic assessment of three portable systems to produce woodchips briquettes (WCB), torrefied-woodchips briquettes (TWCB) and biochar from forest residues were evaluated using pilot-scale experimental data. A discounted cash flow rate of return method was used to estimate minimum selling prices (MSPs) for each product, to conduct sensitivity analyses, and to identify potential cost-reduction strategies. Using a before-finance -and-tax 16.5% nominal required return on investment, and a mean transport distance of 200 km, the estimated delivered MSPs per oven-dry metric ton (ODMT) of WCB, TWCB, and biochar were $162, $274, and $1044 respectively. The capital investment (16-30%), labor cost (23-28%), and feedstock cost (10-13%) without stumpage cost were the major factors influencing the MSP of solid biofuels and biochar. However, the MSPs of WCB, TWCB, and biochar could be reduced to $65, $145, and $470/ODMT respectively with technologically improved portable systems. In addition, the MSPs of solid biofuels and biochar could be further reduced by renewable energy and carbon credits, if the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potentials are quantified and remunerated. In conclusion, portable systems could be economically feasible to use forest residues and make useful products at current market prices while simultaneously reducing potential wildfires and GHG emissions.