DOE previews 2016 Billion-Ton Update in webinar

By Erin Voegele | May 28, 2015

A recent U.S. Department of Energy webinar included preview of the 2016 U.S. Billion-Ton Study update, which is currently scheduled for release in June 2016. The event, titled “A Changing Market for Biofuels and Bioproducts,” was presented by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

The DOE’s first version of the Billion-Ton Study was released in 2005, with an update published in 2011. During the webinar, Bryce Stokes of CNJV, discussed the history of the report, noting it was first completed to help answer the question of how much biomass might be available in the U.S. in the future. It also addressed the changes in resources and what the drivers of those changes would be. The 2011 update, he explained, added additional elements to the analysis, including certain metrics related to cost, supply and biomass location. That updated illustrated how much biomass is expected to be available through 2030, along with where it is located and how much it would cost to produce. Moving into the future, the report will expand to address issues related to sustainability and quality, Stokes said.

According to Stokes, the 2011 updated focused only on terrestrial biomass and did not include algae. The cost analysis was also limited, focusing on the cost from farm to gate, or from forest to roadside. As we move forward, we plan on addressing additional costs related to transportation, he said. Stokes also indicated that while the 2011 update did address raw material losses, those losses were only addressed through delivery to the gate.

During the webinar, Stokes also noted that although the 2011 update was able to model land use change and production of commodity crops in order to understand how much residues were available for agricultural waste, modeling of the forestry sector was less comprehensive. We’ve been working to develop a new forestry model that actually looks at land use change and some of the implications associated with demand of raw materials for housing, pulp and paper, and other wood uses, he added, noting that model is expected to be addressed in the 2016 update.

Laurence Eaton from Oak Ridge National Laboratory said the 2016 update would also look at an extended timeline, through 2040. He highlighted several other improvements planned for next year’s updated report, including the incorporation of feedstock transportation by region, and factors related to regional costs. The largest improvement, he said, focuses on sustainability, which will include air quality, greenhouse gases and water quality. While the 2011 update focused only on terrestrial biomass, the 2016 update will also include an algal resource assessment, Eaton added. In addition, Eaton said the updated Billion-Ton Study will include an analysis of the impact of climate change on the report’s scenarios, particularly related to agricultural resources.