October 5, 2008

BioMass Business Model Update

So we now have a reasonably good idea on when torrefied wood is economically viable:  When it can replace coal priced above $ 80 per short ton.

Now we have to compare the cost of torrefied wood against the cost of wood pellets, because a power plant could always just decide to buy pellets or wood chips.

From prior research, we know that biomass from wood chips is "transportation sensitive" -- the economics start degrading pretty quickly after about 25 Miles of transportation because you're moving a lot of water in those chips. And the higher the price of oil, the worse the economics become. (we want the inverse)

But wood pellets get rid of between 85 to 93% of the moisture and are more compact thus driving up the all important energy density and BTU/mile of transportation metrics.

We're going to run models on where pellets make sense, and where torrefaction makes sense.

But also of keen interest to us is blended pellets.  Torrefied wood is hydrophobic which means it repels moisture.  Moisture is the enemy of wood pellets.  Perhaps a hybrid pellet (50% wood, 20% torrefied wood, 30% switchgrass) or something like that will optimize the enconomics of long haul biomass.