THE OBJECT OF THIS STUDY IS TO ASSESS THE IMPLICATIONS FOR BOTH THE ENERGY AND AGRICULTURE SECTORS OF PRODUCING FUELS FROM AGRICULTURAL FEEDSTOCKS.
The possibilty of ethanol production from agricultural feedstocks in Ireland has been analysed. The 14 feedstocks considered vary considerably in terms of costs of production and transport, yield per hectare, alcohol extraction rate, seasonal production pattern and storability. A linear programming model has been developed to optimise production plant size and the choice of seasonal feedstocks. Spring barley has been found to be the first choice of feedstock, with sugar beet, fodder beet and winter wheat also entering the solution at various levels of annual throughput. Cereals are utilised during the harvest season and are also stored for use when other crops are unavailable. It is evident that the value of byproducts has a critical bearing on the viability of an ethanol plant. If the value of byproducts is included in the optimisation, the mix of feedstocks changes in favour of those which produce high byproducts revenue (eg grass). When land availability is limiting and transport costs become critical, the model solution locates the bulkier crops closest to the processing plant. Overall it is found that the results are very sensitive to changes in all costs and technical yields. However, the main conclusion to date is that even when production costs are on a minimum cost only basis, with no return to land, it is found that alcohol produced is expensive, making this fuel unlikely to be a serious contender in the energy market in Ireland in the near future.
THE PROJECT WILL CONCENTRATE ON THE POSSIBILITIES OF CONVERTING EXISTING CROPS (IE SRF, CONVENTIONAL WOOD, WHEAT, BARLEY, SUGAR BEET, POTATOES, OILSEED RAPE AND GRASS) BY EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES (EG GASIFICATION-SYNTHESIS, FERMENTATION, EXTRACTION ETC...) INTO METHANOL, ETHANOL AND HYDROCARBON-TYPE OILS.
THE WORK, DIVIDED INTO SIX SECTIONS, WILL BE EXECUTED OVER A PERIOD OF 2 YEARS AND HALF. IN SECTION 1 INFORMATION WILL BE GATHERED ON THE ENERGY AND AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS IN IRELAND AND ON THE TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONVERTING AGRICULTURAL RAW MATERIALS TO LIQUID FUELS.
IN SECTION 2 COSTS WILL BE ATTACHED TO THE INFORMATION GATHERED ON THE VARIOUS STAGES OF PRODUCTION FROM FARMING THROUGH DISTRIBUTION TO CONVERSION AND FURTHER DISTRIBUTION. THE STAGES OF PRODUCTION WILL BE MODELLED IN SECTION 3 SO AS TO PREDICT ENERGY BALANCES AND COSTS AND TO ENABLE SENSITIVITY ANALYSES TO CONSIDER QUESTIONS SUCH AS TRANSPORT COSTS IN TERMS OF CATCHMENT AREA AND CONVERSION COSTS IN TERMS OF PLANT SIZE.
IN SECTION 4 CONSIDERATION WILL BE GIVEN TO THE LIKELY IMPACT OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES ON THE IRISH NATIONAL ENERGY SYSTEM FOR DIFFERENT ENERGY PRICE AND DEMAND SCENARIOS. THE MODEL EFOM OF DGXII WILL BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.
IN SECTION 5 CONSIDERATION WILL BE GIVEN TO THE PARALLEL IMPACT OR NATIONAL FARM INCOME USING A SPREAD SHEET TYPE OF ANALYSES.
SECTION 6 WILL BE DEVOTED TO DRAWING OVERALL CONCLUSIONS FROM THE STUDY.
STATE OF ADVANCEMENT:
THREE PROGRESS REPORTS HAVE BEEN RECEIVED. GOOD PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE. THE DATA AND INFORMATION COLLECTION PHASE (SECTIONS 1 AND 2) ARE COMPLETED, THE MODEL BUILDING PHASE IS WELL ADVANCED AND THE EFOM SOFTWARE NEEDED FOR SECTION 4 IS NOW FULLY OPERATIONAL AND FINE TUNED.