Strategic Analysis

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BioFuels Atlas is an interactive map for comparing biomass feedstocks and biofuels by location. This tool helps users select from and apply biomass data layers to a map, as well as query and download biofuels and feedstock data.

Strategic Analysis helps determine the overall goals and priorities for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and covers issues that cut across all program areas. System-level analyses inform strategic direction and planning efforts; they also help BETO focus its technology development priorities and identify key drivers and hurdles for industry growth. Technology-specific analyses explore sensitivities and identify areas where investment may lead to the greatest impacts.

The Strategic Analysis program area plays four main roles in BETO’s decision-making process: 

  1. Provides the analytical basis for planning and assessing progress 
  2. Defines performance targets and strategy for validating biomass technologies and systems 
  3. Conducts integrated technology assessments and environmental analyses relevant to bioenergy 
  4. Reviews and evaluates external analyses and studies. 

Maintaining these capabilities at the cutting edge ensures that analysis activities provide the most efficient and complete answers to internal and external stakeholders. Coordinated multi-laboratory efforts and continued partnerships with the biomass industry and scientific community help ensure that BETO’s analysis results are peer-reviewed, transferable, and comparable.

Within the Strategic Analysis program, BETO undertakes three types of analysis activities: technology and resource assessment, bioenergy impact analysis, and model development and data compilation. More information on the Strategic Analysis program can be found under publications.

Technology and Resource Assessment

Techno-economic analysis assesses the technical and economic viability of new processes and technologies, identifies the potential for cost reduction, assesses cross-pathway and cross-technology progress, and provides input into portfolio development and technology validation. Ongoing analysis efforts apply learning rates from relevant, more- established industries to estimate the range of possible cost reductions as conversion technologies are commercialized and replicated.

Design Cases and State of Technology Assessments: BETO develops design cases to understand the current state of conversion technologies and to determine where improvements need to take place in the future. A design case is a techno-economic analysis that outlines a target case and provides preliminary identification of data gaps and research and development (R&D) needs. BETO uses design cases as a basis for setting technical targets and cost of production goals. A State of Technology (SOT) assessment is a periodic (usually annual) assessment of the status of technology development for a biomass to biofuels/products pathway. An SOT assesses progress within and across relevant technology areas based on actual experimental results relative to technical targets and cost goals from design cases and includes technical, economic, and environmental criteria as available. 

Resource Assessment: Feedstock supply resource assessments identify the geographic location, price, and environmental sustainability of accessing existing and potential future feedstock resources. For example, the 2016 Billion-Ton Report advances the existing analyses of biomass resources and expands upon previous studies to estimate the potential economic availability of biomass resources as delivered to biorefineries. Strategic Analysis activities utilize these data to understand price effects of competition from various biomass-utilization technologies (e.g., biofuel versus biopower), as well as to assess cross-technology impacts of feedstock cost, quantity, and quality. 

Supply Chain Sustainability Analysis: To support the evaluation of BETO research and development priorities, environmental modeling is used to conduct full life-cycle assessments, or supply chain sustainability analysis (SCSA), on representative biofuel technology pathways.

Bioenergy Impact Analysis

Understanding bioenergy industry and market dynamics helps BETO focus its research and development priorities. 

Scenario Analysis: Understanding the impacts of changes and development of various elements of the biomass-to-bioenergy supply chain is the key to informing technology portfolio planning and monitoring progress toward national goals. To help understand which supply chain modifications have the greatest potential to accelerate production of biofuels, BETO has supported development of the Biomass Scenario Model (BSM) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The BSM is a systems-dynamics model for conducting biofuels policy analysis through investigation of the systemic effects, linkages, and dependencies across the biomass-to-biofuels supply chain.

Benefits and Risk Analysis: Benefits analysis helps BETO quantify and communicate the potential benefits of growing the bioeconomy. The scenarios developed and the quantified costs and benefits are used to evaluate the most viable biomass utilization technologies and routes. Uncertainty and risk analysis helps BETO quantify the impact of investments on technology risk over time.

Model Development and Data Compilation

BETO supports the development of new analytical tools and methods, and it guides the selection of assumptions and methodologies to be used for all analyses to ensure consistency, transparency, and comparability of results.

Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF): The Bioenergy KDF is a web-based data repository, visualization geospatial analysis tool, and library that allows researchers, policymakers, and investors to explore and engage the latest bioenergy research.

The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC): BETO supports the biofuels-related pages of the AFDC. The AFDC provides data, documents, online tools, and other resources to enable implementation of alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies at the local and regional levels.

BioFuels Atlas: BioFuels Atlas is a first-pass visualization tool, created using the Google Maps application program interface, which allows users to explore the potential of biomass-to-biofuels conversions at various locations and scales. It includes the ability to download state-level data and analyze data for specific user-selected geographic areas.

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