IDX students and mentors touring Weyerhaeuser’s Longview facility
IDX students and mentors touring Weyerhaeuser’s Longview facility

NARA is tasked with helping U.S. Northwest stakeholders identify depot and biorefinery site locations suitable for a developing industry that uses forest residuals to produce bio-jet fuel and valued co-products. To do this, undergraduate/graduate students in the Integrated Design Experience (IDX) course at Washington State University rank prospective sites based on information generated through NARA research and from open sources.

The approach has been to focus the analysis on sub-regions with NARA’s four state region of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and conclude with a supply chain analysis for the entire region available in 2016. Sub-regional analyses have been completed for the Clearwater Basin and the western Montana Corridor (which includes portions of eastern Washington and northern Idaho).

The IDX team recently posted a facility site analysis for the Mid-Cascade-to Pacific (MC2P) region that includes northern Oregon and southern Washington.

View Mid-Cascade to Pacific Corridor| Analysis here

Solids and Liquids Depots

The IDX course considered multiple facility types for the MC2P analysis report that could support a centralized integrated biorefinery. These facility types include solids and liquids depots plus distillation and distribution centers. Whereas an integrated biorefinery can be designed to accommodate all of the processing steps from receiving forest residuals through to biojet production, a distributed production model using strategically located depots may prove more economical by lowering overall transportation costs, improving access to feedstocks, and potentially allowing the use of existing yet underutilized facilities.

A solids depot would receive raw slash from logging and thinning operations, and/or construction and demolition waste biomass, and mechanically processes the feedstock for economical transport by rail or highway truck.

A liquids depot receives ground forest residuals directly from nearby forests, or from a solids depot, and processes it to make a sugar-rich syrup. The syrup is then shipped to an integrated biorefinery or distillation and distribution operation for further refining into biojet fuel or other chemicals.

A distillation and distribution facility receives liquid sugars from a liquids depot and produces biojet fuel with fermentation, blending and distribution operations.

Facility sites identified and ranked

The IDX course identified existing facilities in the MC2P region that could potentially accommodate the role of one or more facility type. These existing facilities included active and decommissioned saw and chip mills, pulp and paper mills and surface mines. The facilities were provided a rank score based upon how well they satisfied certain criteria for a specific facility type (solids depot, liquid depot, distillation and distribution, and integrated biorefinery). For instance, the criteria assigned for solids depots included the average distance to forest residuals, rail option, river access and electrical cost. Fourteen active sites and nine non-active sites were ranked for solid depots with Sierra Pacific Industries identified as the best positioned active facility to participate as a solids depot based on the analysis. A more extensive criteria list was applied to potential liquids, distillation and distribution, and integrated biorefinery sites.

Stakeholder and educational benefits

The analysis introduces a method used to rank facilities for various production roles within the wood-residual-to-biojet supply chain. The IDX course is working with some of these high-ranking facilities to provide conceptual master plans and building designs. These results will be posted on the NARA MC2P webpage soon. The IDX students recently shared their work with stakeholders in a webinar format.

The IDX course is composed of graduate and undergraduate students focused on varied academic disciplines ranging form chemical engineering to law. The work they are doing to provide site analyses and describe the assets with the Northwest U.S provides valuable data to stakeholders and valuable experience to prepare them to contribute to developing a bioenergy economy.