A new online tool for providing a view of raw materials and economic potential of biogas in Iowa has gone live. The tool is a collaboration between Iowa State University and EcoEngineers, an engineering/software firm headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. It was funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The Iowa Biogas Assessment Model (IBAM) is an economic analysis tool integrated with a geographical information system (GIS). The tool is made for use by entrepreneurs, policy makers, and the general public.
“The overall goal of this project is to generate interest in biogas production by increasing awareness of the availability of waste streams, of federal and state incentive programs, and of the economic value of biogas,” said Shashi Menon, Managing Partner of EcoEngineers. “New EPA regulations that allow biogas from municipal waste water plants, landfills and agricultural digesters to generate renewable fuel credits are driving investments towards biogas production across the country.”
Combining Map Data with Cost Estimates
Mark Mba Wright, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an affiliate of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State, led the university’s portion of the project. “What’s unique about our tool is that it combines mapping data with an economic spreadsheet that makes it very easy to not only capture the facility location but also to get a first approximation of what the cost of that facility might be,” he said.
Here’s how it works: the user picks a location on the map, and selects a collection radius. Based on that site and area, the system estimates the potential biogas resources of the type selected by the user, represented in cubic meters per year. The facility is then sized according to the biogas collected, and its capital and operating costs are estimated. The tool contains more than 20 layers of data for biogas resources, including agriculture residue, feedlots waste/manure, and human activity.
The data on which the system is built is all publicly available, although Wright said the developers added some missing data and combined data to adjust it to improve the estimate of biogas potential. The sources of the data include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources, among others.
In addition to Menon and Wright, the development team included Boyan Li, a graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering at Iowa State, a well as Shannon Thol, a GIS consultant at EcoEngineers.
The team is continuing to work to improve the system. More information about the tool can be found on the EcoEngineers Website, including a video tutorial and an overview of its economic analysis capabilities.
Learn More about Biogas
The generation of biogas from waste streams will be the subject of a panel discussion at EcoEngineers’ upcoming RIN Academy. Attendees of this one-day conference can learn how the latest federal and state policy incentives are impacting the renewable fuels market. RIN Academy will be held on Sept. 16, 2014, at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines.