Use of agricultural biomass (switchgrass, prairie grasses) through Fischer-Tropsch (FT) conversion to liquid fuels is compared with biomass utilization via (IGCC) integrated gasification combined cycle electrical production. In the IGCC scenario, biomass is co-fired with coal, with biomass comprising 10% of the fuel input by energy content. In this case, the displaced coal is processed via FT methods so that liquid fuels are produced in both scenarios. Overall performance of the two options is compared on the basis of total energy yield (electricity, liquid fuels), carbon dioxide emissions, and total cost. Total energy yield is almost identical whether biomass is used for electrical power generation or liquid fuels synthesis. Carbon dioxide emissions are also approximately equal for the two pathways. Capital costs are more difficult to compare since scaling factors cause considerable uncertainty. With IGCC costs roughly equivalent for either scenario, cost differences between the pathways appear based on FT plant construction cost. Coal FT facility capital cost estimates for the plant scale in this study (721 MWt LHV input) are estimated to be 410 (MUSD) million US Dollars while the similar scale biomass-only FT plant costs range from 430 MUSD to 590 MUSD.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded in part by the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment . We also acknowledge helpful insights provided by Jason Hill and Professor Stephen Polasky and Douglas Tiffany of the Applied Economics Department at the University of Minnesota.
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- Combined cycle