A big part of my shtick is that through a combination of conservation gains and offsetting load to electricity that it would be practical to produce and consume biofuels as our portable fuel of choice. Still I have to say to myself, "do the math stupid." Too many ideas attractive paper concepts don't stand up to rigorous analysis. As such I would like to do a systems analysis for an integrated biofuel farm setup. It would be run as a co-operative by many farmers who grow not just biodiesel but food and other cash crops.
An abstract diagram of the concept is below (click to enlarge):
Integrated Farm Biofuel Layout
For the moment I will use rapeseed (aka Canola) as my oil source, wheat as food, and clover as a nitrogen fixing rotation. Rapeseed appears to be the best crop for biodiesel production in Northern climates (ignoring algae schemes for now). Its yields are significantly below that of tropical palm kernel oil although that does not necessarily mean anything on an energy return basis.
By integrating the production locally I hope to realize higher well-to-tank efficiency for the farm machinery. A local biodiesel plant will reduce the cost of distribution for the farm tractors. Similarly the trucks that transship the farm producst to to a pipeline or train depot could fuel up literally at the well. The transesterification of biodiesel will require either ethanol (derived from seedcake) or methanol (derived from the biogas).
The seedcake and other farm waste goes into a set of solar ponds (not the salt gradient variety). Filled with methane farting bateria they mangent away on pretty much any organic material thrown their way. The biomass is slowly converted to methane gas which is then captured, compressed to a high pressure and stored on-site in tanks. The biogas can fill a number of local uses. It can be burned to provide energy inputs for biodiesel production. It can be used locally for home heating, irrigation pumps, etc. Or it can be shipped off in compressed natural gas tanker trucks. By being a net producer of natural gas the farm co-op should be insulated from variations in the price of fertilizer production. Ammonia and potash production are particularly dependant on natural gas.
Electricity is produced locally as well. Wind turbines are sited when viable, and linked to a local substation that does voltage regulation. A electricity storage system may be located on site to make the electricity production more reliable. A solid oxide fuel cell or steam turbine operates as a combined heat and power plant for the biodiesel production facility.
Writing the entire analysis in one sitting is totally infeasible. I have too much material to explore and learn. I would like to take a blog-style approach to the problem and break it up into its constituents and post them in turn.