Biomass Rules Energy Value Basics

I collect biomass data (news and prices) to make Biomass Rules, LLC the top of it’s game as a biomass economic consultant. These are the prices I collect each week and convert to a $/MMBTU (million BTU) basis. This new measure is not perfect, but it allows comparisons that are not possible between barrels and bushels.

The price table various fossil and biofuels, as well as some other biomass feedstocks. The commodities are listed with the date of the most recent price, the dollar amount and traditional market units. The last column represents the energy value, $/MMBTU, based on tabled energy content values.

Prices in terms of $/MMBTU are not something we are used to looking at. The thing to keep in mind is that if you are buying energy, a low $/MMBTU is the goal. If you are selling energy, a high $/MMBTU is not bad.

Also crude oil is a feedstock. We can’t burn it in our car or go down to the convenience store and pick up 10 gallons of crude oil. Vegetable oil is the primary feedstock for biodiesel fuel. As a feedstock, it has a similar $/MMBTU as fossil diesel fuel does. Once vegetable oil is processed into biodiesel fuel, it has an even higher $/MMBTU than vegetable oil.

The chart shows a 1-week shift in prices in $/MMBTU. These shifts represent a relative change in value for each million BTUs (MMBTU). There are times when a large drop in a valuable commodity will drop $2-$3 per MMBTU. In these cases the relative drop in on week’s time can be as great as or greater than the total value of coal, which as this is being written, is around $3 per MMBTU.