Energy Value & Density

Just as I track biomass projects, policies, and technologies; I also track prices of traditionals fuels, biofuels and other biomass materials. I use published weekly data when it is available. Some of the materials I track, do not have public exchanges. Some of the fuels have seasonal prices and some are voluntarily reported.

When one begins to ‘meddle’ with non-market economic values like $/MMBTU, important boundaries get crossed. There is a physical and cultural world of difference between grass hay and crude oil. Moisture contents must be removed. The size and weight of the bale has to be assumed (assigned). Even with great care important information does not make the transition.

Two key components of these calculations are 1) the tabled HHV that were used and 2) the densities of the materials. These densities may not enter directly into the energy value itself, but add significant value to the interpretation.

Coal, for instance, is a great bargain in the $/MMBTU metric. The agricultural biomiass like hay and straw are right behind coal as a fuel bargain, but coal is very dense and hay and straw are light and fluffy. The added transportation costs of moving a ton of ‘light and fluffy’ changes the value, but not the $/MMBTU. To supplement the information contained in the $/MMBTU metric, I am posting the Higher Heating Values (HHV) and the material densities.