Application of agent-based modeling and life cycle sustainability assessment to evaluate biorefinery placement

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Department of Social Sciences


Biofuels, such as those derived from woody biomass, are being developed as one part of a renewable energy portfolio; however, it remains unclear if they can be sustainably developed. This manuscript demonstrates that the use of agent-based modeling (ABM) and life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) as part of an integrated methodology allows for robust assessment of the possible impacts. A case study of a proposed biorefinery in Ontonagon, Michigan, USA is conducted. In the case study, ABM is used to project the harvest decision making of forest owners and loggers to determine if they were willing to harvest and supply woody biomass to the biorefinery under several different price points. The results from the ABM were used to inform inventory data for projections of environmental impacts, along with projected impacts for economic and social concerns. The results of the case study show that while Ontonagon is a promising site for a biorefinery, the quantity of woody biomass delivered is a concern along with potential impacts to wetlands in the region. Ultimately, this case study suggestions that the integration of ABM and LCSA may be effective the assessment of other biorefineries.

Publisher's Statement

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2020.105916

Publication Title

Biomass and Bioenergy