National-level infrastructure and economic effects of switchgrass co-firing with coal in existing power-plants for carbon mitigation. Environmental Science and Technology

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Journal Article




We update a previously presented Linear Programming (LP) methodology for estimating state level costs for reducing CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by cofiring switchgrass, a biomass energy crop, and coal. This paper presents national level results of applying the methodology to the entire portion of the United States in which switchgrass could be grown without irrigation. We present incremental switchgrass and coal cofiring carbon cost of mitigation curves along with a presentation of regionally specific cofiring economics and policy issues. The results show that cofiring 189 million dry short tons of switchgrass with coal in the existing U.S. coal-fired electricity generation fleet can mitigate approximately 256 million short tons of carbon-dioxide (CO2) per year, representing a 9% reduction of 2005 electricity sector CO2 emissions. Total marginal costs, including capital, labor, feedstock, and transportation, range from $20 to $86/ton CO2 mitigated, with average costs ranging from $20 to $45/ton. If some existing power plants upgrade to boilers designed for combusting switchgrass, an additional 54 million tons of switchgrass can be cofired. In this case, total marginal costs range from $26 to $100/ton CO2 mitigated, with average costs ranging from $20 to $60/ton. Costs for states east of the Mississippi River are largely unaffected by boiler replacement; Atlantic seaboard states represent the lowest cofiring cost of carbon mitigation. The central plains states west of the Mississippi River are most affected by the boiler replacement option and, in general, go from one of the lowest cofiring cost of carbon mitigation regions to the highest. We explain the variation in transportation expenses and highlight regional cost of mitigation variations as transportation overwhelms other cofiring costs.


Environmental Science & Technology



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