DOE updates Billion Ton Study

By Kris Bevill | August 09, 2011

The U.S. DOE has released an update to its 2005 Billion Ton Study, adding pricing estimates and supply curves for various feedstocks, a county-by-county inventory of primary feedstocks, and in-depth sustainability modeling to provide a comprehensive resource assessment to the bioenergy and bioproducts industry.

Authors of the 229-page “U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry” report state that the original study provided an important starting point for the evaluation of underlying data and methods surrounding the sustainable supply of biomass. The update changes the focus of the study from simply a strategic assessment to a comprehensive resource assessment, the authors stated. The scenario assumptions continue to show that 1 billion tons of biomass (enough to displace 30 percent of the nation’s current petroleum consumption) is available for use in the U.S.

One major criticism of the original Billion Ton Study was its lack of pricing restrictions when identifying potential biomass sources, the authors wrote. The updated study attempts to correct that issue by providing pricing estimates. However, the authors stressed that it does not attempt to offer an economic assessment of the potential impact of bioenergy feedstock operations on forestry and agriculture industries nor do the estimates provided in the report represent total cost or actual available tonnage to biorefineries. “There are additional costs to preprocess, handle, and transport the biomass. There may be storage costs for specific feedstocks. Although the estimates do includes losses to roadside, the estimates do not include losses due to continued handling, additional processing, storage, material degradation, and quality separation,” the authors stated.

The study, as well as supporting information and tools to present the information in tabular, graphic and spatial formats, is available on the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework. Users of the interactive website will be able to post comments and suggestions for further analysis and provide links to other sources of information. Authors of the update stated they hope that new data and modeling results, as well as analysis tools, will be made available on the site as they are developed.