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Large-scale bioenergy production from soybeans and switchgrass in Argentina: Part A: Potential and economic feasibility for national and international markets

By J. van Dam, A.P.C. Faaij, J. Hilbert, H. Petruzzi and W.C. Turkenburg


This study focuses on the economic feasibility for large-scale biomass production from soybeans or switchgrass from a region in Argentina. This is determined, firstly, by estimating whether the potential supply of biomass, when food and feed demand are met, is sufficient under different scenarios to 2030. On a national level, switchgrass has a biomass potential of 99 × 106 (1.9 EJ) to 243 × 106 tdm (4.5 EJ)/year depending on the scenario. Soybean (crude vegetable oil content) production for bioenergy has a potential of 7.1 × 106 (0.25 EJ) to 13.8 × 106 tdm (0.5 EJ)/year depending on the scenario. The most suitable region (La Pampa province) to cultivate energy crop production is selected based on a defined set of criteria (available land for biomass production, available potential for both crops, proximity of logistics and limited risk of land use competition). The available potential for bioenergy in La Pampa ranges from 1.2 × 105 to 1.8 × 105 tdm/year for soybean production (based on vegetable oil content) and from 6.3 × 106 to 18.2 × 106 tdm/year for switchgrass production, depending on the scenario. Bioenergy chains for large-scale biomass production for export or for local use are further defined to analyse the economic performance. In this study, switchgrass is converted to pellets for power generation in the Netherlands or for local heating in Argentina. Soybeans are used for biodiesel production for export or for local use. Switchgrass cultivation costs range from 33–91 US$/tdm (1€ = 1.47 US$ based on 19 February 2008). Pellet production costs are 58–143 US$/tdm for local use and 150–296 US$/tdm until delivery at the harbour of Rotterdam. Total conversion costs for electricity in the Netherlands from switchgrass pellets range from 0.06–0.08 US$/kWh. Heating costs in Argentina from switchgrass pellets range from 0.02–0.04 US$/kWh. Soybean cultivation costs range from 182–501 US$/tdm depending on the scenario. Biodiesel production costs are 0.3–1.2 US$/l for local use and 0.5–1.7 US$/l after export to the Netherlands. Key parameters for the economic performance of the bioenergy chains in La Pampa province are transport costs, cultivation costs, pre-processing and conversion costs and costs for fossil fuels and agricultural commodities

Year: 2009
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