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Systems Analysis of Ten Supply Chains for Whole Tree Chips

Belbo, Helmer, Talbot, Bruce
Forests 2014 v.5 no.9 pp. 2084-2105
biomass, boreal forests, bundling, combustion, energy, feedstocks, felling, field experimentation, fuels (fire ecology), markets, prices, roadsides, standard deviation, supply chain, systems analysis, trees, whole tree chips
Whole trees from energy thinnings constitute one of many forest fuel sources, yet ten widely applied supply chains could be defined for this feedstock alone. These ten represent only a subset of the real possibilities, as felling method was held constant and only a single market (combustion of whole tree chips) was considered. Stages included in-field, roadside landing, terminal, and conversion plant, and biomass states at each of these included loose whole trees, bundled whole trees or chipped material. Assumptions on prices, performances, and conversion rates were based on field trials and published literature in similar boreal forest conditions. The economic outcome was calculated on the basis of production, handling, treatment and storage costs and losses. Outcomes were tested for robustness on a range of object volumes (50–350 m3ₛₒₗᵢd), extraction distances (50–550 m) and transport distances (10–70 km) using simulation across a set of discrete values. Transport was calculated for both a standard 19.5 m and an extended 24 m timber truck. Results showed that the most expensive chain (roadside bundling, roadside storage, terminal storage and delivery using a 19.5 m timber truck) at 158 € td−1 was 23% more costly than the cheapest chain (roadside chipping and direct transport to conversion plant with container truck), at 128 € td−1. Outcomes vary at specific object volumes and transport distances, highlighting the need to verify assumptions, although standard deviations around mean supply costs for each chain were small (6%–9%). Losses at all stages were modelled, with the largest losses (23 € td−1) occurring in the chains including bundles. The study makes all methods and assumptions explicit and can assist the procurement manager in understanding the mechanisms at work.