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Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

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

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

First Advisor

John W. Sutherland

Abstract

Bioenergy and biobased products offer new opportunities for strengthening rural economies, enhancing environmental health, and providing a secure energy future. Realizing these benefits will require the development of many different biobased products and biobased production systems. The biomass feedstocks that will enable such development must be sustainable, widely available across many different regions, and compatible with industry requirements.

The purpose of this research is to develop an economic model that will help decision makers identify the optimal size of a forest resource based biofuel production facility. The model must be applicable to decision makers anywhere, though the modeled case analysis will focus on a specific region; the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan. This work will illustrate that several factors influence the optimal facility size. Further, this effort will reveal that the location of the facility does affect size.

The results of the research show that an optimal facility size can be determined for a given location and are based on variables including forest biomass availability, transportation cost rate, and economy of scale factors. These variables acting alone and interacting together can influence the optimal size and the decision of where to locate the biofuel production facility. Further, adjustments to model variables like biomass resource and storage costs have no effect on facility size, but do affect the unit cost of the biofuel produced.

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