Estimating the variable cost for high-volume and long-haul transportation of densified biomass and biofuel

This article analyzes rail transportation costs of products that have similar physical properties as densified biomass and biofuel. The results of this cost analysis are useful to understand the relationship and quantify the impact of a number of factors on rail transportation costs of densified biomass and biofuel. These results will be beneficial and help evaluate the economic feasibility of high-volume and long-haul transportation of biomass and biofuel. High-volume and long-haul rail transportation of biomass is a viable transportation option for biofuel plants, and for coal plants which consider biomass co-firing. Using rail optimizes costs, and optimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to transportation. Increasing bioenergy production would consequently result in lower GHG emissions due to displacing fossil fuels. To estimate rail transportation costs the authors use the carload waybill data, provided by Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Board for products such as grain and liquid type commodities for 2009 and 2011. The authors used regression analysis to quantify the relationship between variable transportation unit cost ($/ton) and car type, shipment size, rail movement type, commodity type, etc. The results indicate that: (a) transportation costs for liquid is $2.26/ton–$5.45/ton higher than grain type commodity; (b) transportation costs in 2011 were $1.68/ton–$5.59/ton higher than 2009; (c) transportation costs for single car shipments are $3.6/ton–$6.68/ton higher than transportation costs for multiple car shipments of grains; (d) transportation costs for multiple car shipments are $8.9/ton and $17.15/ton higher than transportation costs for unit train shipments of grains.


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  • Accession Number: 01530762
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 17 2014 3:16PM