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A spatially explicit whole-system model of the lignocellulosic bioethanol supply chain: an assessment of decentralised processing potential

DOI: 10.1186/1754-6834-1-13

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Ethanol production costs for current technologies decrease significantly from $0.71 to $0.58 per litre with increasing economies of scale, up to a maximum single-plant capacity of 550 × 106 l year-1. The development of high-yielding energy crops and consolidated bio-processing realises significant cost reductions, with production costs ranging from $0.33 to $0.36 per litre. Increased feedstock yields result in systems of eight fully integrated plants operating within a 500 × 500 km2 region, each producing between 1.24 and 2.38 × 109 l year-1 of pure ethanol. A limited potential for distributed processing and centralised purification systems is identified, requiring developments in modular, ambient pretreatment and fermentation technologies and the pipeline transport of pure ethanol.The conceptual and mathematical modelling framework developed provides a valuable tool for the assessment and optimisation of the lignocellulosic bioethanol supply chain. In particular, it can provide insight into the optimal configuration of multiple plant systems. This information is invaluable in ensuring (near-)cost-optimal strategic development within the sector at the regional and national scale. The framework is flexible and can thus accommodate a range of processing tasks, logistical modes, by-product markets and impacting policy constraints. Significant scope for application to real-world case studies through dynamic extensions of the formulation has been identified.The penetration of biomass-derived ethanol (bioethanol) into the road transport fuels market has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve fuel security, stimulate the agricultural sector and provide new markets for technology development and application. The 2006 global market for bioethanol was 20.2 million tonnes oil equivalent (mtoe), and was dominated by US and Brazilian production and consumption (45.4% and 43.9% of the total, respectively). Global growth (averaging 10.9% since 2001) has be


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