A joint feasibility study conducted by the US Departments of Agriculture
and Energy has concluded that the US has the potential to produce a billion
dry tons of biomass per year, while still continuing to meet the nation’s
food, feed and export demands.
According to a proposed strategy outlined in the report, biomass from
forest and agricultural lands could supply up to 15 per cent of energy
demand in the US by 2030.
Download the report, "Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts
Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply"
(April 2005; 78 pages) from either:
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Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical
Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply
The DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division,
the USDA Forest Service, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service recently
collaborated to generate the Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and
Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual
Supply study. In the Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee’s
Vision for Bioenergy and Biobased Products in the United States, far-reaching
goals are set for the contribution of biomass to meet future energy needs.
Authors of the feedstock study estimated that one-billion dry tons of
biomass resources would be needed to reach these goals. The purpose of
the feedstock study is to determine whether United States land resources
are capable of sustainably producing that level of biomass resources.
The study analyzed resources currently available on agricultural and forest
lands and concluded that the U.S. is capable of producing enough biomass
to generate the one billion annual dry tons needed to displace 30 percent
of the country’s petroleum consumption on a sustainable basis.
Forestlands account for an estimated 33 percent of the America’s
2,263 million acres1. DOE and USDA estimate that 367 million sustainable
dry tons of biomass feedstock are available annually from forestlands.
This tonnage includes: 52 million dry tons from harvesting for fuel wood,
144 million dry tons from wood processing and pulp and paper mills, 47
million dry tons from urban wood residues, 64 million dry tons from logging
and site clearing operations, and 60 million dry tons from forest fire
hazard reduction efforts2.
In evaluating the feedstock to be generated from logging and site clearing
and fire hazard thinning, the following assumptions were made: all forestland
not currently accessible by roadways were excluded; all environmentally
sensitive areas were excluded; equipment recovery limitations were considered;
and recoverable forest materials categorized as either conventional forest
products or biomass for bioenergy and biobased products3.
Agricultural lands are estimated to account for approximately 46 percent
of the entire U.S. land base with 26 percent consisting of grassland pasture
and range, and 20 percent consisting of cropland4. DOE and USDA estimate
that biomass feedstock available from agricultural lands, while still
meeting food, feed and export demands, can supply 998 million sustainable
dry tons of biomass feedstock annually. The 998 million dry tons includes
the following: 428 million dry tons from crop residues, 377 million dry
tons from perennial crops, 87 million dry tons of grains for biofuels,
and 106 million dry tons from animal manure, process residue, and miscellaneous
Assumptions made in the agricultural portion of the study include the
following: yields of corn, wheat, and other small grains were increased
by 50 percent; the residue-to-grain ratio for soybeans increased to two
to one; harvest technology was capable of taking 75 percent of annual
crop residues; all cropland was managed with no-till methods; 55 million
acres of cropland, idle cropland, and cropland pasture were dedicated
to the production of perennial bioenergy crops; all manure in excess of
that which can be applied on-farm for soil improvement under anticipated
EPA restrictions were used for biofuel; and all other available residues
Based on the amount of biomass feedstock available from both forest and
agricultural lands, the study concludes that at least 1.3 billion sustainable
dry tons are available annually to displace petroleum-based fuels and
products. This supply amount can, displacing 30 percent of the current
U.S. petroleum consumption, produce enough biofuels to meet more than
one-third of the current demand for transportation fuels. Achieving this
potential would result in a seven-fold increase in the production of biomass
currently used for bioenergy and biobased products, which is estimated
to be approximately 142 million dry tons.
Each of these activities illustrates the progress DOE and USDA are making
to increase collaboration related to biomass R&D in response to the
Biomass R&D Act of 2000.
1 Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US) [ORNL] and United States Forest
Service (US) [USFS] and Agricultural Research Service (US) [ARS]. Biomass
as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility
of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply. 2005. A feasibility study. Oak Ridge (TN):
Oak Ridge National Laboratory [ORNL]; 2005 April. 3 p. Available from:
ORNL, Oak Ridge, TN 37831; ORNL/TM - 2005/66
2ibid. xi p.
3ibid. xi-xii p.
4ibid. 3 p.
5ibid. xiii p.
6ibid. xii p.