Kimberly Samaha

Abstracts

3 Bio-Hub Ecosystems: Profitability through Circularity for Sustainable Forestry, Energy, Agriculture and Aquaculture

Authors: Kimberly Samaha

Abstract:

The Bio-Hub Ecosystem model was developed to address a critical area of concern within the global energy market regarding biomass as a feedstock for power plants. Yet the lack of an economically-viable business model for bioenergy facilities has resulted in the continuation of idled and decommissioned plants. This study analyzed data and submittals to the Born Global Maine Innovation Challenge. The Innovation Challenge was a global innovation challenge to identify process innovations that could address a ‘whole-tree’ approach of maximizing the products, byproducts, energy value and process slip-streams into a circular zero-waste design. Participating companies were at various stages of developing bioproducts and included biofuels, lignin-based products, carbon capture platforms and biochar used as both a filtration medium and as a soil amendment product. This case study shows the QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) methodology of the prequalification process and the resulting techno-economic model that was developed for the maximizing profitability of the Bio-Hub Ecosystem through continuous expansion of system waste streams into valuable process inputs for co-hosts. A full site plan for the integration of co-hosts (biorefinery, land-based shrimp and salmon aquaculture farms, a tomato green-house and a hops farm) at an operating forestry-based biomass to energy plant in West Enfield, Maine USA. This model and process for evaluating the profitability not only proposes models for integration of forestry, aquaculture and agriculture in cradle-to-cradle linkages of what have typically been linear systems, but the proposal also allows for the early measurement of the circularity and impact of resource use and investment risk mitigation, for these systems. In this particular study, profitability is assessed at two levels CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) and in OPEX (Operating Expenditures). Given that these projects start with repurposing facilities where the industrial level infrastructure is already built, permitted and interconnected to the grid, the addition of co-hosts first realizes a dramatic reduction in permitting, development times and costs. In addition, using the biomass energy plant’s waste streams such as heat, hot water, CO₂ and fly ash as valuable inputs to their operations and a significant decrease in the OPEX costs, increasing overall profitability to each of the co-hosts bottom line. This case study utilizes a proprietary techno-economic model to demonstrate how utilizing waste streams of a biomass energy plant and/or biorefinery, results in significant reduction in OPEX for both the biomass plants and the agriculture and aquaculture co-hosts. Economically viable Bio-Hubs with favorable environmental and community impacts may prove critical in garnering local and federal government support for pilot programs and more wide-scale adoption, especially for those living in severely economically depressed rural areas where aging industrial sites have been shuttered and local economies devastated.

Keywords: Financing, Biomass Energy, bio-economy, zero-waste

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2 Bio-Hub Ecosystems: Expansion of Traditional Life Cycle Analysis Metrics to Include Zero-Waste Circularity Measures

Authors: Kimberly Samaha

Abstract:

In order to attract new types of investors into the emerging Bio-Economy, a new set of metrics and measurement system is needed to better quantify the environmental, social and economic impacts of circular zero-waste design. The Bio-Hub Ecosystem model was developed to address a critical area of concern within the global energy market regarding the use of biomass as a feedstock for power plants. Lack of an economically-viable business model for bioenergy facilities has resulted in the continuation of idled and decommissioned plants. In particular, the forestry-based plants which have been an invaluable outlet for woody biomass surplus, forest health improvement, timber production enhancement, and especially reduction of wildfire risk. This study looked at repurposing existing biomass-energy plants into Circular Zero-Waste Bio-Hub Ecosystems. A Bio-Hub model that first targets a ‘whole-tree’ approach and then looks at the circular economics of co-hosting diverse industries (wood processing, aquaculture, agriculture) in the vicinity of the Biomass Power Plants facilities. It proposes not only models for integration of forestry, aquaculture, and agriculture in cradle-to-cradle linkages of what have typically been linear systems, but the proposal also allows for the early measurement of the circularity and impact of resource use and investment risk mitigation, for these systems. Typically, life cycle analyses measure environmental impacts of different industrial production stages and are not integrated with indicators of material use circularity. This concept paper proposes the further development of a new set of metrics that would illustrate not only the typical life-cycle analysis (LCA), which shows the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also the zero-waste circularity measures of mass balance of the full value chain of the raw material and energy content/caloric value. These new measures quantify key impacts in making hyper-efficient use of natural resources and eliminating waste to landfills. The project utilized traditional LCA using the GREET model where the standalone biomass energy plant case was contrasted with the integration of a jet-fuel biorefinery. The methodology was then expanded to include combinations of co-hosts that optimize the life cycle of woody biomass from tree to energy, CO₂, heat and wood ash both from an energy/caloric value and for mass balance to include reuse of waste streams which are typically landfilled. The major findings of both a formal LCA study resulted in the masterplan for the first Bio-Hub to be built in West Enfield, Maine. Bioenergy facilities are currently at a critical juncture where they have an opportunity to be repurposed into efficient, profitable and socially responsible investments, or be idled and scrapped. If proven as a model, the expedited roll-out of these innovative scenarios can set a new standard for circular zero-waste projects that advance the critical transition from the current ‘take-make-dispose’ paradigm inherent in the energy, forestry and food industries to a more sustainable bio-economy paradigm where waste streams become valuable inputs, supporting local and rural communities in simple, sustainable ways.

Keywords: Metrics, Financing, Biomass Energy, bio-economy

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1 Bio-Hub Ecosystems: Investment Risk Analysis Using Monte Carlo Techno-Economic Analysis

Authors: Kimberly Samaha

Abstract:

In order to attract new types of investors into the emerging Bio-Economy, new methodologies to analyze investment risk are needed. The Bio-Hub Ecosystem model was developed to address a critical area of concern within the global energy market regarding the use of biomass as a feedstock for power plants. This study looked at repurposing existing biomass-energy plants into Circular Zero-Waste Bio-Hub Ecosystems. A Bio-Hub model that first targets a ‘whole-tree’ approach and then looks at the circular economics of co-hosting diverse industries (wood processing, aquaculture, agriculture) in the vicinity of the Biomass Power Plants facilities. This study modeled the economics and risk strategies of cradle-to-cradle linkages to incorporate the value-chain effects on capital/operational expenditures and investment risk reductions using a proprietary techno-economic model that incorporates investment risk scenarios utilizing the Monte Carlo methodology. The study calculated the sequential increases in profitability for each additional co-host on an operating forestry-based biomass energy plant in West Enfield, Maine. Phase I starts with the base-line of forestry biomass to electricity only and was built up in stages to include co-hosts of a greenhouse and a land-based shrimp farm. Phase I incorporates CO2 and heat waste streams from the operating power plant in an analysis of lowering and stabilizing the operating costs of the agriculture and aquaculture co-hosts. Phase II analysis incorporated a jet-fuel biorefinery and its secondary slip-stream of biochar which would be developed into two additional bio-products: 1) A soil amendment compost for agriculture and 2) A biochar effluent filter for the aquaculture. The second part of the study applied the Monte Carlo risk methodology to illustrate how co-location derisks investment in an integrated Bio-Hub versus individual investments in stand-alone projects of energy, agriculture or aquaculture. The analyzed scenarios compared reductions in both Capital and Operating Expenditures, which stabilizes profits and reduces the investment risk associated with projects in energy, agriculture, and aquaculture. The major findings of this techno-economic modeling using the Monte Carlo technique resulted in the masterplan for the first Bio-Hub to be built in West Enfield, Maine. In 2018, the site was designated as an economic opportunity zone as part of a Federal Program, which allows for Capital Gains tax benefits for investments on the site. Bioenergy facilities are currently at a critical juncture where they have an opportunity to be repurposed into efficient, profitable and socially responsible investments, or be idled and scrapped. The Bio-hub Ecosystems techno-economic analysis model is a critical model to expedite new standards for investments in circular zero-waste projects. Profitable projects will expedite adoption and advance the critical transition from the current ‘take-make-dispose’ paradigm inherent in the energy, forestry and food industries to a more sustainable Bio-Economy paradigm that supports local and rural communities.

Keywords: Economic Modelling, bio-economy, investment risk, circular design

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