Miscanthus Marketing Guide
Current markets for miscanthus are complicated and evolving. The following potential markets that may use miscanthus as a feedstock could develop in Missouri.
Miscanthus in a shredded or densified (pellets, bricks, etc.) form could be co-fired along with coal to generate electricity at power plants. Coal-fired generators produce more than 80 percent of the residential and commercial electricity generated in Missouri. Currently, 23 coal-fired electrical generation plants operate in Missouri. Investor-owned utilities are the most likely buyers of biomass fuel in the near future. Missouri is one of 32 states with a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires investor-owned utilities to increase renewable energy sources to 2 percent by 2011, 4 percent by 2012, 8 percent by 2015, 11 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2021. Eleven investor-owned coal-fired generators in Missouri must meet those standards. Bonus credits are awarded whenever the renewable sources are produced within the state. Investor-owned electric utilities in Missouri that would need to comply with this standard include Ameren, Kansas City Power & Light and Empire District Electric Company. Additionally, the University of Missouri built a biomass generator in 2012 to transition toward renewable energy. City- or county-level renewable energy standards also exist throughout Missouri and could lead to a new market. Lastly, export markets for pelletized biomass exist. Western Europe needs biomass for the area’s power and heat plants. However, these plants have been primarily focused on U.S. wood pellet exports to date.
In this evolving power plant market, a key driver is plants wanting a credible market biomass aggregator to handle procurement, storage, transportation and quality control of the biomass product. To minimize risk, they will seek to establish a long-term contract. Additionally, biomass co-firing is not a common practice in Missouri plants, and site-specific, empirical testing will be needed by each plant to test the usage of any new feedstock.
Other potential markets for a miscanthus or mixed biomass pellet are residential, commercial and industrial customers. Examples of applications would include poultry operations, swine operations, greenhouses, retail spaces and warehouses. These end-users have the potential to reduce heating costs by retrofitting or implementing a new heating system to burn biomass pellets instead of propane as fuel.
Miscanthus can be used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol or other advanced biofuel. The federal government passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and established a yearly mandate for cellulosic ethanol production, which is set at 16 billion gallons by 2022. In recent years, cellulosic ethanol production has not met the yearly production level targets despite efforts by the ethanol industry and the federal government. One cellulosic ethanol plant (ICM) in Missouri is operating in a pilot phase. Plants could utilize miscanthus as a feedstock if it is economical. Other processes (gasification, pyrolysis, etc.) could evolve to use miscanthus in creating other advanced biofuels, including biodiesel, jet fuel or other niche products.
The biofuel industry’s challenges include reducing high operating and capital costs and establishing reliable feedstock supply networks. A number of companies are pursuing various cellulosic or other biofuel technologies that will affect agriculture in the future. Most likely, these industries are still several years away from being commercially viable.
Other markets for miscanthus could evolve in the future. Some biomass feedstock has historically found uses in the industrial sector. Examples would include fiberboard, pulp and paper and chemicals. In the agriculture sector, areas such as animal bedding and feed are other potential applications. These tend to be considered low-value opportunities due to existing bedding alternatives and the poor feed quality of miscanthus. Most researchers agree that miscanthus is not a forage crop. However, some reports share that cattle eat it. Also, no extensive studies have researched its nutritional quality, so nothing conclusive can be said regarding the crop’s feed value.
While there are limited direct buyers of biomass crops, there are biomass power facilities located throughout the United States. These power plants require the biomass crops to produce energy. Below are both private companies, biomass power facilities, and biomass energy cooperatives that could be potential markets for biomass products.
The available markets presented on this website are meant to assist producers with marketing decisions. Please contact the specified business location prior to production of miscanthus to verify marketing capability.
Biomass Power Facilities
|University of Missouri||Columbia, MOfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Eastern Illinois University||Charleston, IL||217-581-8395|
|BFC Gas and Electric||Cedar Rapids, IA||515-294-8819|
|DTE Stoneman||Cassville, WI||608-788-4000|
|Warren – Potlach||Warren, AR||870-226-2611|
|Bayport – Alan King||Bayport, MNemail@example.com|
|Fibrominn Biomass Power Plant||Benson, MN|
|St. Paul District Heating||St. Paul, MNfirstname.lastname@example.org|
Available Biomass Energy Cooperatives
|Show Me Energy Cooperative||102 SW MO Hwy 58 Centerview, MO 64019||660-656-3780|
|Renew Biomass||2520 N Airport Plaza Springfield, MO 65803||417-720-1216|
Ryan Milhollin and Joseph Dolginow
University of Missouri Extension
Page last updated: January 14, 2014