Systems analysis of different value chains based on domestic forest biomass for the production of bio-SNG
Journal article, 2018
This study compares value chains based on domestic forest biomass for the production of bio–synthetic natural gas (SNG) with respect to economic performance, GHG emissions, and energy efficiency. Value chains in which raw material is upgraded to intermediate products before transportation to an SNG plant integrated with a district heating system for further upgrading are compared with a chain in which the raw material is transported directly to the SNG plant. The intermediates considered are either dried biomass from forest residues, or bark, upgraded at pulp mills, or pellets from sawdust upgraded at sawmills. The findings show that the difference in performance between the studied value chains is generally small. The highest cost and significantly lowest energy efficiency are associated with the value chain with pellets, which leads to the conclusion that more pretreatment than what is required by the SNG process, to lowe r transport costs, is not profitable. Drying forest residues at pulp mills before further transportation to and upgrading at an SNG plant leads to somewhat higher transportation costs because of the relatively high fixed costs associated with transportation. However, the benefit of drying the biomass using excess heat at pulp mills is that heat is “moved” from a location, where it can be hard to find profitable ways to use it, to the SNG plant, where the excess heat can be used for district heating. With these two factors working in opposition, the total cost is similar if forest residues are transported directly to the SNG plant or via a pulp mill. The lowest cost is achieved when falling bark from pulp mills is used because the first transportation step is avoided and no additional investment for biomass handling at the mill is required. However, there is a technical uncertainty regarding how much bark can be used in the SNG process.