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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Biomass for bioenergy and/or transportation biofuels : exploration of key drivers influencing biomass allocation Cadham, William James


Biomass is the world’s largest source of renewable energy and it is likely to remain so until at least 2035 (IEA, 2013a). Globally, there should be enough biomass available to meet growing demand. However, biomass is predisposed to being used locally possibly resulting in limited domestic supply in countries where biomass is already used extensively (IEA, 2009). This could potentially result in competition between bioenergy or biofuels applications. The work described here explored the current and potential bioenergy/biofuel uses of biomass both globally as well as regionally, with a focus on Brazil, Denmark, Sweden and the United States. In each of these countries, biofuels or bioenergy are already important parts of their energy mix. For all of the countries studied the major drivers to use biomass for energy/fuels were: energy security; the desire to mitigate climate change; prevailing regional economic interests, and; the potential that bioenergy/biofuels are cheaper than fossil derived alternatives. Government support policies for bioenergy and biofuels are examined within the context of each of the four drivers. It was apparent that there is limited competition for biomass between bioenergy and transportation biofuel applications. This situation is likely to continue until advanced biofuels technologies become much more commercially established. In each of the four countries biomass is predominantly used to produce bioenergy (heat and power), even in those regions where biofuels are significant component of their transportation sector (United States, Brazil and Sweden). The vast majority of biofuel production continues to be based on conventional sugar, starch and oil rich feedstocks, while bioenergy (heat, power, residential, industrial) is produced almost exclusively from forest biomass with agricultural biomass playing a small, but increasing, secondary role. As current and proposed commercial scale biomass-to-ethanol facilities almost exclusively use agriculture derived residues (corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse), it is likely that, if there is ever to be competition for biomass feedstock’s for bioenergy/biofuel applications, it will be for agricultural based biomass with co-product lignin and other residues used to concomitantly produce heat-and-electricity on site at biofuel production facilities.

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