Faculty & Research -A production planning model for biorefineries with biomass perishability and biofuel transformation

A production planning model for biorefineries with biomass perishability and biofuel transformation

What if it becomes possible to store bioenergy? What if biomass is no more wasted and is rather used at its full potential? These are some of the biggest challenges facing bioenergy and biofuel production. We propose a framework where perishable biomass can be transformed into either bioenergy or biofuel. Unlike bioenergy, biofuel can be stored which enables to match energy supply with demand variations. Operations research techniques are used to make the best use of perishable biomass, reduce waste, and generate green energy.

Use agricultural waste forest residues to generate energy and fuel

There is no doubt about the usefulness of transforming biomass to biofuel and bioenergy. By exploiting biomass, it is possible to generate revenue, protect the environment and diversify sources of energy. Biomass can be found under several forms including agricultural bi-products such as corn stover, wheat straw, switchgrass in addition to forest residues, and sawmill wastes.

How to efficiently use biomass?

However, managing biomass is a big challenge due to its quick deterioration. With time, stored biomass loses its yield and not much energy of fuel can be extracted from it. Hence, classical inventory control models cannot be used to manage such biomass. Combined with this challenge is the planning of transformation operations from biomass to bioenergy and biofuel. The planning process should consider constraints related to the fluctuation of biomass availability of biomass over time, processing capacity of the refinery, in addition to storage capacity for bioenergy.

Storage of energy, the biggest challenge…

The biggest challenges in bioenergy and green energy production are the fluctuations in their availability and the difficulty to sore them. Wind energy, for example, is often abandonly available when it is not needed and where it is less needed. Being able to efficiently store such energies under a form or another can be a big step forward. In hydroelectricity generation, for example, some companies use pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) by storing energy in the form of gravitational potential energy of water. Water is pumped from a lower elevation location (ex. a reservoir) to a higher elevation point such as a dam. Then, when needed, this water is used to generate electricity.

A new form of energy storage…

Bioenergy is generated by transforming biomass into heat or electricity. If less energy is needed in a certain period, we propose to redirect all biomass transformation to biofuel production. Such biofuel can be sold in the market or used as fuel for heat and/or electricity generation. The main difficulty with such a system is that it requires complex planning tools to properly decide on timing and quantities to be transformed from biomass to bioenergy, from biomass to biofuel, and from biofuel to bioenergy.


To tackle to production planning problem associated with the process of generating biofuel and bioenergy from perishable biomass, we use mixed integer linear programming techniques to model the optimization problem and solve it. The problem is highly combinatorial and challenging to solve. Though we can solve it efficiently over a short period of 12 months, we are proposing to use different heuristic techniques to solve it over a longer planning horizon. Heuristics can also be used to solve the problem when the time periods are disaggregated into weeks for the same period of one year. Realistic data are then used to test the applicability of the model and perform sensitivity analyses to derive managerial insights.

Applications and beneficiaries

Biorefineries have flourished in several countries. They can use the proposed model to plan their production of biofuel and bioenergy in addition to a better management of their stock of biomass over time. The simplicity of the proposed approach makes it easy for such companies to implement our models and adapt them to their particular situations.

(Explain what the implications of this research are and who can benefit from it and how.)

Reference to the research

Razm, S., Brahimi, N., Hammami, R., & Dolgui, A. (2023). A production planning model for biorefineries with biomass perishability and biofuel transformation. International Journal of Production Economics, 258, 108773.

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