The cost of transportation is important to plant input costs and marketing costs. With regard to marketing costs, an initial market assessment conducted during a pre-feasibility or feasibility study phase should identify primary markets for the plant. Depending on proximity of the plant to population centers, marketing costs may be based on a variety of transportation modes. Ethanol has historically been shipped to markets via truck, rail and barge. The location of the plant should take into consideration the modes of transportation by which the bulk of finished products will move to market. Rail access is often viewed as an essential requirement for large scale ethanol plants.
The cost of transportation varies considerably depending on mode and shipment volume. The marketing assessment should help identify primary markets where netback to the plant is greatest, based on transportation cost and value of products in target markets. Access to reliable, cost competitive transportation is an important site factor. Project developers evaluate the modes of transportation necessary to supply materials to the plant and determine the availability and cost of these modes at prospective sites. Ethanol marketing companies can assist with this analysis and with identification of target markets.
Transportation related factors for consideration should include:
- Major highway and interstate access to target markets
- Potential for disruption of travel on these routes based on projected construction and historic weather patterns
- Proximity of mainline rail to site and estimated cost of related rail siding and switching services
- Orientation of highway and rail access in relationship to the plant location on site
- Number of transportation providers in each sector
- Options for competitive transportation services
- Proximity and access to petroleum distribution terminals in the region