Development of a Feedstock-to-Product Chain Model for Densified Biomass Pellets

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McPherrin, Daniel
techno-economics , life cycle analysis , biomass , wood pellets
The Q’Pellet is a spherical, torrefied biomass pellet currently under development. It aims to improve on the shortcomings of commercially available cylindrical white and torrefied pellets. A spreadsheet-based model was developed to allow for techno-economic analysis and simplified life cycle analysis of Q’Pellets, torrefied pellets and white pellets. A case study was developed to compare the production of white, torrefied and Q’Pellet production based on their internal rates of return and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. The case study was based on a commercial scale plant built in Williams Lake BC with product delivery in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Q’Pellets had the highest modelled internal rate of return, at 12.7%, with white pellets at 11.1% and torrefied pellets at 8.0%. The simplified life cycle analysis showed that Q’Pellets had the lowest life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the three products, 6.96 kgCO2eq/GJ, compared to 21.50 kgCO2eq/GJ for white pellets and 10.08 kgCO2eq/GJ for torrefied pellets. At these levels of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, white pellets are above the maximum life cycle emissions to be considered sustainable under EU regulations. Sensitivity analysis was performed on the model by modifying input variables, and showed that white pellets are more sensitive to uncontrollable market variables, especially pellet sale prices, raw biomass prices and transportation costs. Monte Carlo analysis was also performed, which showed that white pellet production is less predictable and more likely to lead to a negative internal rate of return compared to Q’Pellet production.
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