Economic viability and energy efficiency of ethanol production from switchgrass and Miscanthus in Tennessee

Ankit Bansal, Tennessee State University


Transformation of the renewable and abundant biomass resources into a cost competitive, high performance biofuel can reduce Tennessee's dependence on fossil fuel and enhance energy security. However, there is limited understanding of the potential of biofuel resources, their utilization, energy efficiency and economic potential. This study evaluates the economic feasibility and net energy value of selected bioenergy crops for Tennessee and compares their cost and energy competitiveness. The selected lignocellulosic feedstock consists of switchgrass and Miscanthus. Financial analysis was used to select feasible feedstock for biofuel production. For each feedstock, net return, feedstock cost per gallon of ethanol, breakeven price of feedstock, breakeven price of ethanol and feedstock cost per 1000 Btu were calculated. The analysis focused feedstock for biofuel production over 25 year project period. Results generated showed that under current conversion rate, the annual equivalent net revenue from ethanol production from switchgrass and Miscanthus was $363/acre and $752/ acre respectively. Sensitivity analysis showed that the feedstock cost for a gallon of ethanol from switchgrass and Miscanthus ranges from $0.52-$0.78 and $0.44-$0.66/gallon respectively. The estimated breakeven price of ethanol from switchgrass ranges from $1.53 to $1.79/gallon and for Miscanthus $1.41-1.67/gallon. To determine economic viability of project, Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) and Payback period were calculated. Miscanthus resulted in a higher BCR (0.81-1.41) in compared to switchgrass (0.70-1.35). However, value of payback period was slightly lower for Miscanthus (3.35 years) than switchgrass (3.23 years). In order to determine the energy benefits from producing these feedstocks, net energy analysis was performed. The analysis showed positive Net Energy Value (NEV) for both switchgrass and Miscanthus. NEV for Miscanthus (14.78 MJ/L of ethanol) was higher in compared to the switchgrass (13.13 MJ/L of ethanol). Results from this research show both switchgrass and Miscanthus as potential biomass feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production in Tennessee.

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Recommended Citation

Ankit Bansal, "Economic viability and energy efficiency of ethanol production from switchgrass and Miscanthus in Tennessee" (2014). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1557637.