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Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

First Advisor

Dana Johnson

Abstract

A range of societal issues have been caused by fossil fuel consumption in the transportation sector in the United States (U.S.), including health related air pollution, climate change, the dependence on imported oil, and other oil related national security concerns. Biofuels production from various lignocellulosic biomass types such as wood, forest residues, and agriculture residues have the potential to replace a substantial portion of the total fossil fuel consumption. This research focuses on locating biofuel facilities and designing the biofuel supply chain to minimize the overall cost. For this purpose an integrated methodology was proposed by combining the GIS technology with simulation and optimization modeling methods. The GIS based methodology was used as a precursor for selecting biofuel facility locations by employing a series of decision factors. The resulted candidate sites for biofuel production served as inputs for simulation and optimization modeling.

As a precursor to simulation or optimization modeling, the GIS-based methodology was used to preselect potential biofuel facility locations for biofuel production from forest biomass. Candidate locations were selected based on a set of evaluation criteria, including: county boundaries, a railroad transportation network, a state/federal road transportation network, water body (rivers, lakes, etc.) dispersion, city and village dispersion, a population census, biomass production, and no co-location with co-fired power plants.

The simulation and optimization models were built around key supply activities including biomass harvesting/forwarding, transportation and storage. The built onsite storage served for spring breakup period where road restrictions were in place and truck transportation on certain roads was limited. Both models were evaluated using multiple performance indicators, including cost (consisting of the delivered feedstock cost, and inventory holding cost), energy consumption, and GHG emissions. The impact of energy consumption and GHG emissions were expressed in monetary terms to keep consistent with cost.

Compared with the optimization model, the simulation model represents a more dynamic look at a 20-year operation by considering the impacts associated with building inventory at the biorefinery to address the limited availability of biomass feedstock during the spring breakup period. The number of trucks required per day was estimated and the inventory level all year around was tracked. Through the exchange of information across different procedures (harvesting, transportation, and biomass feedstock processing procedures), a smooth flow of biomass from harvesting areas to a biofuel facility was implemented.

The optimization model was developed to address issues related to locating multiple biofuel facilities simultaneously. The size of the potential biofuel facility is set up with an upper bound of 50 MGY and a lower bound of 30 MGY. The optimization model is a static, Mathematical Programming Language (MPL)-based application which allows for sensitivity analysis by changing inputs to evaluate different scenarios. It was found that annual biofuel demand and biomass availability impacts the optimal results of biofuel facility locations and sizes.

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