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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Development of a quantitative risk analysis approach to evaluate the economic performance of an industrial-scale biorefinery Wang, Yu


The overall objective of this dissertation was to evaluate the economic performance of a commercial-scale biorefinery given the volatility in the market price of the final product and the variability in the biomass delivered cost. To this end, a risk analysis methodology comprised of five steps was developed: 1) construct the supply area geographical data base, 2) perform Monte Carlo simulation via the Integrated Biomass Supply Analysis and Logistics Multi-Crop model (IBSAL-MC) to produce the biomass delivered cost distribution, 3) conduct economic analysis by combining the biomass delivered cost distribution with the product market price to generate a ROI (return on investment) heat map, 4) repeat Steps 1 to 3 for an alternative scenario and 5) compare heat maps from different scenarios to quantify the effectiveness and incentive available for achieving an alternative scenario. The proposed methodology was applied to a cellulosic sugar plant under construction in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Three biorefinery scenarios were considered including small-scale (175 dry tonnes (dt)/day), medium-scale (520 dt/day) and large-scale (860 dt/day). Results showed that the magnitude of the required logistical resources and their associated upfront and administrative costs hindered the biorefinery’s economic performance as its scale increased. The risk analysis approach was then applied to the small-scale scenario. Potential economic incentives for participating biomass producers were quantified as the participation rate increased from 20% to 30%, 40% and 50. While increasing farm participation rate was economically beneficial to the biorefinery, there were more economic benefits if the sugar market price was in a favourable range. When a farmers’ co-operative was introduced to the supply system, if the biorefinery could secure a long-term consumer of the produced sugar in the price range of $425-575/tonne, the farmers’ co-operative and other investors of the biomass project were both more likely to achieve an acceptable annual ROI that exceeds 10%.

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