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Nth-plant supply: corn stover supplies and costs in a fleet of biorefineries...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
Publication Date
Page Numbers
204 to 218

Feedstock cost and cost variability is expected to increase with the number of biorefineries. To quantify this effect, this spatial-economic analysis simulates feedstock cost and cost variability of an industry based on corn stover as a function of the number of biorefineries. Results are reported for nine scenarios (a base case and sensitivity analysis of four variables – harvest efficiency, sustainability constraints, opportunity cost, and corn grain yield) under deterministic and stochastic simulations, assuming biorefineries using 658 000 Mg (725 000 tons) year−1 of corn stover in 2019. The resulting supply curves are highly elastic (i.e. little change in cost) for the first 50 of the 121 biorefineries, with price increases in subsequent biorefineries depending on scenario. In the base-case deterministic scenario, weighted-average stover costs are $66 Mg−1 ($60 ton−1), $69 Mg−1 ($62 ton−1), and $156 Mg−1 ($142 ton−1), at the first, 60th, and 121st biorefineries, respectively. The stochastic simulations, subject to observed 30-year corn yield variability, follow a similar pattern, with price distributions that vary by scenario. The base-case stochastic simulations illustrate minimal cost variability for the first 60 biorefineries, but rapid increases in cost variability in the second half of potential biorefineries, with similar patterns observed in the other scenarios. Of the four variables explored, price was most sensitive to harvest efficiency, followed by sustainability constraints, corn yield, and opportunity cost. Results suggest that, under conventional logistics, about half of the US corn stover resource is reliably available with minimum cost increase and variability. Interactive visualization is available at