Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

Burton English

Committee Members

John Riley, Kim Jensen, Edward Yu

Abstract

Research suggests that biomass with high cellulose content like switchgrass is more efficient for producing ethanol than corn grain. The objective of this study is to evaluate factors influencing the economic feasibility of ethanol production from a biorefinery’s perspective using switchgrass as the only feedstock. The research conducted utilizes a model which considers switchgrass procurement costs, transportation costs, storage costs, dry matter loss, biorefinery construction costs, operating and maintenance costs, and ethanol production in determining the break-even price of ethanol. The break-even prices of ethanol estimated range from $2.02 to $2.45 per gallon. The sensitivity analysis demonstrated that when the conversion rate increases, the ethanol break-even price drops. Additionally, switchgrass price has a positive impact on the ethanol break-even price. However, it becomes less sensitive as the biorefinery size increases. Discount rate also has a positive impact on the ethanol break-even price. Using the ethanol market price data collected by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a small biorefinery would be profitable the majority of the time, if traditional round bales are used.

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