Biomass Transportation Systems

Transporting biomass is one of the most expensive portions in the supply chain. The most efficient transportation system will include a coordinated combination of road, rail, and marine infrastructure.

Research question

We want to characterize all of the transportation networks in our study region that could be used to transport harvested logs to the processing plant in Kinross, MI. This includes roads, rail lines and loading facilities, and marine ports. In addition to this infrastructure knowledge, we also want to compile operational aspects of the different transportation modes, such as costs per ton-mile for each mode or seasonal weight restrictions of certain roads. This information will be used by supply chain modelers to determine what the ideal methods of transportation will be for wood harvested in different regions within our study area. This work will support overall goals to provide the ethanol plant with a consistent, low-cost stream of woody biomass for conversion into ethanol.



We collected road network information from county and state officials. Existing rail networks and rail loading sites were identified through interviews with prominent rail companies in the study area. Average transportation costs were aggregated from confidential surveys and discussions with transportation providers within our study area. Current use of different transportation modes by loggers was assessed through surveys, to assess the possibility for a more balanced utilization of rail or marine transportation by the forest products industry.


Progress and Results

Transportation infrastructure data for all modes was collected and organized into geographic information system (GIS) formats for use by supply chain modelers. See the publication below for more information on specific modes of transportation.


The Role of Railroads in Multimodal Woody Biomass Transportation in Michigan