To better understand the economic feasibility of converting poplar into biofuels, the results from conversion process models are used in our economic modeling. This helps us to estimate the yearly operating costs and capital expenses required for the biorefineries. These results are used in the conversion system optimization research.
The models allow us to make cost estimates for different sizes of biorefineries. Like any chemical process plant, biorefineries will have significant economies of scale. The following table shows preliminary capitol cost estimates for five different capacity plants that can produce from 25 to 150 million gallons of jet fuel per year:
It is also possible to develop year by year cash flow projections, as in the graph at right. Construction and startup costs in the beginning of the project result in a negative value. Selling jet fuel at, for example, $4 per gallon returns profit after about eight years.