Modes of Biomass Transport

Numerous factors influence the size and mode of transportation. A few of these factors that the authors believe are most important are listed as follows:

• The maximum rate of biomass supply to biorefinery (t/hour)

• Form and bulk density of biomass (t/m3)

• The distance biomass has to travel to reach to biorefinery (km)

• Transportation infrastructure (equipment, roadways, waterways, railways) available between the points of biomass dispatch and biorefinery

Transport Equipment

Transport equipment is primarily concerned with loading and unloading operations and transferring biomass from storage and preprocessing depots to a biorefinery. Transport modes include truck, train, barge, ship (ocean freighter) and pipeline. Moving feedstocks from one location to another might involve more than one of these modes of transport. The above factors determine which one of these modes or combinations of modes will suit a particular biorefinery. Truck transport and for a few cases train transport may be the only modes of transport. Barge, ship, and pipeline transport, and often train transport require truck transport as well. Trucks interface with trains at the loading and unloading facilities of a depot or processing facility. Barge, ship, and pipeline require interfacing with train and/or truck transport at major facilities either on land or at the shores.

Physical form and quality of biomass has the greatest influence on the selection of equip­ment for the lowest delivered cost possible. In many transport instances, the rates are fixed for a distance and for a size of container independent of mass to be transported. A higher bulk density will allow more mass of material to be transported per unit distance. Truck transport is generally well developed and is usually the cheapest mode of transport but it becomes expensive as travel distance increases.

Pipeline transport is the least known technology for transport of biomass feedstocks and may prove to be the cheapest and safest mode of transport—but perhaps in a distant future. It is envisioned that biomass could be transported by pipeline in the form of a slurry mixture. Upstream equipment includes receiving, slurry making, and initial pumping. The elements along the pipeline are the booster pumps and, at the end, the equipment for draining the biomass from the carrier liquid (Kumar et al. 2005). Unlike truck and train transport, there is an economy of scale for pipeline transport. A larger diameter pipe has a lower friction and thus lower pumping cost. It is also proposed to make dense granules of biomass impervious to water or other liquids for efficient loading and long-distance transport.

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