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Modeling Future Biofuel Supply Chains Using Spatially Explicit Infrastructure Optimization


Research Report

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Alumni Theses and Dissertations

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Suggested Citation:
Parker, Nathan C. (2011) Modeling Future Biofuel Supply Chains Using Spatially Explicit Infrastructure Optimization. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-11-04

Policies have been enacted that promote biofuels with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on petroleum and to spur rural economic growth. The supply of biofuels that can meet these three goals is limited. The cost of this supply is influenced by the geography of the biomass resource and demand for fuels. Existing studies projecting the future supply have not accounted for the spatial aspects of the biofuel supply in detail.  

This dissertation presents a spatially-explicit model of future biofuel supply chains in the United States, with the goal of providing supply curves of biofuels by resource-technology pathway with detailed accounting of the required infrastructure. The model is used to analyze the potential supply of biofuels for meeting the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) and analyze biofuels from waste and residue resources in California at high resolution with accounting for air pollutant emissions.  

The results of the national case study project that domestic biofuels can achieve the RFS2 mandates for 2022 at fuel prices of between $3.4 and $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent. The largest sources of variation are the cost of cellulosic biofuel technologies and the availability of low cost waste resources. Building the 200-250 cellulosic biorefineries needed to achieve the target requires a capital investment greater than $100 billion but less than $360 billion depending on technology development and choice of cellulosic technology.  

Waste and residue biomass can provide quantities of biofuels that assist with policy goals. Nationally, waste and residue resources are projected to provide between 35 and 64 percent of the RFS2 mandate in both 2018 and 2022. In California, biofuels from waste and residue resources have limited potential for petroleum displacement, but could contribute 40-70% of the LCFS emissions reductions with mixed and uncertain results on air quality.

Ph.D. Dissertation