A GIS-based method for identifying the optimal location for a facility to convert forest biomass to biofuel

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There is growing interest in the production of biofuels from woody biomass. Critical to the financial success of producing biofuel is identifying the optimal location for the facility. The location decision is especially important for woody biomass feedstock owing to the distributed nature of biomass and the significant costs associated with transportation. This study introduces a two-stage methodology to identify the best location for biofuel production based on multiple attributes. Stage I uses a Geographic Information System approach to identify feasible biofuel facility locations. The approach employs county boundaries, a county-based pulpwood distribution, a population census, city and village distributions, and railroad and state/federal road transportation networks. In Stage II, the preferred location is selected using a total transportation cost model. The methodology is applied to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to locate a biofuel production facility. Through the application of the two-stage methodology, the best possible location for biofuel production was identified as the Village of L’anse in Baraga County. Also investigated are the sensitivity of transportation cost and the optimal site for biofuel production to changes in several key variables. These additional variables included fuel price, transportation distance, and pulpwood availability. By applying sensitivity analysis based on limited availability of feedstock, the City of Ishpeming emerged as another viable location for the production facility.

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© 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2011.06.006

Publication Title

Biomass and Bioenergy