IFECO – Modelling the Agro-Fuel Chain for Energy Cogeneration

Policy makers are searching for viable strategies to produce alternative energies; the agricultural sector can become an important supplier of renewable energy. The paper will develop the IFECO (integrated farm energy cogeneration) approach, a conceptual model of farm though as it were an "island economy"a a net energy exporter as the energy output exceeds the direct energy (cultivation, cropping, plant protection, transport, harvesting, storage) and indirect energy (fertilizer, pesticide, machinery, plantationforce, others) used in sunflower cultivation. IFECO is based on the cogeneration that is the production of different energies from a single agricultural commodity to achieve the three targets that make this project sustainable: i) economic sustainability: profits realized by selling tangible and intangible marketable goods; ii) energy sustainability: positive energy balance; iii) ecological benefits: reduce the GHG (Green house gas). The sunflower is used to demonstrate the feasibility of IFECO project: the seeds produce oil that transformed in bio-diesel (and FAME – Fatty acid methyl ester); the co-product, the sunflower meal/cake, representing approximately the 50% of the seed weight is exploited in the dairy enterprise; the animal wastes and glycerine that is the co-product of the trans-esterification are used in biogas production that feeds an electricity generator; the residual compost is separated in solid and liquid phase, this last one recycled in the farm with fertirrigation; the solid residual is processed and delivered outside the farm. The paper is organized as it follows: 1) introduction to the problem of the energy shortage; 2) description of the IFECO model as a block matrix with four integrated modules: i) agricultural module; ii) oil and biodiesel module; iii) dairy module; iv) biogas module; these modules work sequentially with three chains respectively: biodiesel, dairy and biogas; 3) definition of state variables used for simulating changes of IFECO; 4) sensitive analysis to predict changes in economic and energetic balances and generate different scenarios according with the actors’ objectives or preferences; 5) use of the information of step 4 for a DSS to improve the farm decision making; 6) suggest farm organization and participations to adapt the IFECO to different farm characteristics, decisions, profit and risk distribution. Preliminary results have confirmed the validity of the IFECO approach: i) the results suggest the total amount of energy produced different energy chain higher than the energy spent; ii) the net cash flow generated in the diversification of activities has contributed to improve both the farm economic balance and the land value; iii) the profit and risks distribution are better predicted along the chain by simulating different scenarios; iv) the GHG savings from displacing the fossil fuel (reduction in CO, VOC, PM10, SOx, Nox) is a valuable contribution to ameliorate the quality of the environment.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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