4 Economic Hurdles To Cellulosic-Based Biofuels

Apart from the basic problem of market size potential, there is a more fundamental problem in the development of cellulosic-based biofuels. It is simple economics.

In the November CropLife issue, Sano Shimoda, founder and president of BioScience Securities, discussed the four economic ag-related hurdles to the development of a sustainable/commercially viable cellulosics biofuel industry. They are:

•  Feedstock Costs. Despite the large quantity of ag residues, feedstock prices will be high. Ag residue has significant economic value to the grower: soil fertility, reduced erosion, maintaining fertility and structure, and retaining moisture. In addition, the amount of ag residue that can be safely removed, without impairing the above factors, could vary quite dramatically from field to field. Early commercial development will require sizable subsidy payments to growers, beyond a typical $20 to $30 per ton price for baled ag residue. It is quite possible that ag residue such as corn stover might be priced at costs greater than $50 to $75 per ton.

In addition, market competition from the recognition that ag residue is to be valued as a co-product could result in much higher prices. Value could also be influenced by competition from new developing uses such as BioPower (biomass-fired power plants).

•  Harvesting, Transportation, Supply Logistics. It has long been recognized that the harvesting and supply logistics of dealing with high volume and bulky ag residues will be costly, whether the biorefinery system is centralized or not. While many companies are working on prototypes, new harvesting equipment has to be commercialized and new transportation/supply/storage logistics/facilities will have to be built. It is clear that growers will look at incremental net revenues (less any costs incurred) derived from the sale of ag residues. However, given the weather dependent uncertainty over the fall harvest window, growers will not want to slow down for ag residue removal. Also, ag residue removal could increase soil compaction — a negative for crop growth and yields in the following growing season.

•  Supply Risks. Some biomass sources such as municipal solid waste negate the need for large volume storage facilities. On the other hand, ag residues are produced once a year (energy crops, which are perennials, have the advantage of potential multiple harvests during the years). In contrast to corn, there is need to develop a massive broad area storage infrastructure for ag residues, whose storage conditions have to be controlled to minimize deterioration in quality. What is underestimated is the need for additional emergency supply reserves to ensure availability should adverse weather conditions reduce local supply availability.

•  New Business Models. Unlike major row crops, there is the question as to whether futures markets for major ag residues can be developed to reduce financial risks. Otherwise, new business models, possibly multi-year contracts, will have to be developed to provide revenue/profit visibility for the grower and cellulosic biofuels producer, as well as security of supply for commercial operations.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

Ryan Bartlett
Crop InputsCompass Minerals Appoints Vice President, Innovation And Product Development
December 8, 2016
Ryan Bartlett, Ph.D., has joined Compass Minerals as vice president, innovation and product development. Dr. Bartlett will be responsible for Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2017: New Cropping Systems Set For Debut
December 7, 2016
Herbicide-resistant weed are inching ever-closer to a potentially frightening saturation point here in the U.S. Heading into 2016, USDA planting Read More
Winter wheat
HerbicidesTalinor Herbicide Approved For Wheat And Barley
December 7, 2016
Talinor herbicide from Syngenta has received federal registration from the U.S. EPA, giving wheat and barley growers a new option Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longevity
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Trending Articles
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Latest News
ManagementARA 2016 Report and Crop Mix for 2017
December 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting and the projected acreage mix for Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In …
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Ryan Bartlett
Crop InputsCompass Minerals Appoints Vice President, Innovation An…
December 8, 2016
Ryan Bartlett, Ph.D., has joined Compass Minerals as vice president, innovation and product development. Dr. Bartlett will be responsible for Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2017: New Cropping Systems Set For Debut
December 7, 2016
Herbicide-resistant weed are inching ever-closer to a potentially frightening saturation point here in the U.S. Heading into 2016, USDA planting Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
December 7, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
Fertilizer storage The Andersons
CropLife 1002016 Fertilizer Report: Another Really Rough Year For A…
December 7, 2016
In many ways, the fertilizer category cannot seem to catch a break. During the early part of the 2010s decade, Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Winter wheat
HerbicidesTalinor Herbicide Approved For Wheat And Barley
December 7, 2016
Talinor herbicide from Syngenta has received federal registration from the U.S. EPA, giving wheat and barley growers a new option Read More
Forage Sorghum
UncategorizedMilestone Achievement Continues For Dow AgroSciences, A…
December 7, 2016
New and innovative forage products are on the horizon driven by continued collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longev…
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More