Open Access
Brownell, Douglas Kent
Graduate Program:
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 06, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Jude Liu, Thesis Advisor
  • Biomass
  • Switchgrass
  • Harvest
  • Handling
  • Modeling
Biomass materials are currently considered for use in direct combustion systems, and for value added products. The major roadblock associated with implementation of biomass into these new systems is the high cost of handling and transport. Herbaceous biomasses from crop residues and dedicated energy crops have a low bulk density, which leads to expensive handling and transportation costs. Densification of the herbaceous biomass is necessary to increase the efficiency of transport. The method of densification investigated is mechanical compression, without forming pellets. This method involves compressing the herbaceous biomass with a mechanism to hold it in the compressed form. This method differs from pelleting in the fact that the compressed dry herbaceous biomass can expand after released. A commercial hay compressor was used to compress switchgrass bales and evaluate the effectiveness of the compressor operating on herbaceous biomass. The compressor operated at 0.1104 hours per ton and .5435 gallons per ton to compress the material. Assuming labor costs are 15 dollars per hour and fuel is 3 dollars per gallon, the labor and fuel costs are 1.66 dollars per ton and 1.63 dollars per ton, respectively. Including the machinery costs and 2 laborers, the total price would be 16.44 dollars per ton to compress the biomass. The adoption of biomass into power generation and liquid fuel production requires optimized handling methods to move the biomass. This requires selecting the most economical systems from among various loose and baled handling systems. A model is used for optimization which selects the best handling method for every point in a given location. This model outputs a map which shows the optimized handling scenario for all handling systems reviewed.