Biomass Harvest and Logistics

Authored by: Tom L. Richard , Doug Brownell , Kusumal Ruamsook , Jude Liu , Evelyn Thomchick

Handbook of Bioenergy Crop Plants

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439816844
eBook ISBN: 9781315099255
Adobe ISBN:


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The harvest, handling, and transport of biomass feedstocks represents a massive materials handling challenge, requiring rapid innovation and investment if bioenergy systems as a whole are to achieve policy goals. The International Energy Agency estimates biomass will need to provide 23% of global primary energy by 2050 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% (IEA 2008). This target would require sufficient biomass to supply 150 EJ/year (1 EJ = 1018 J), which translates to 15 billion metric tons (Mg) annually (Richard 2010). This projected biomass tonnage is more than 7 times greater than the approximately 2 Mg of grains and oilseeds currently traded worldwide (World Agricultural Outlook Board 2011). Without effective densification, this biomass would exceed the current trade volumes of grain, oil, and coal combined by a factor of 4 assuming typical woodchip densities or a factor of 12 assuming typical herbaceous biomass densities respectively (Richard 2010). In the U.S. context, the 1.3 billion Mg of biomass expected to meet domestic biofuel targets by 2030 (Perlack et al. 2005) exceeds the 800 million Mg of total material flow of the U.S. food system (Heller and Keolian 2000) by a factor of 1.6. The material handing equipment and logistics needed to deliver this biomass to energy facilities represents a great opportunity for agricultural equipment and truck manufacturers, but an equally great challenge for rural business development and transportation infrastructure.

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