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Feasibility Studies

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FEASIBILITY STUDIES: WHY AND WHAT SHOULD THEY ENTAIL?
P. Ries
Asset Resource Management LLC
I have been asked to present a paper addressing feasibility studies, as they relate to consideration of a digester project for large dairies.
I am hoping to answer the following questions, so that you, as a dairy producer, can properly address whether or not a digester project fits within your overall business model, that is, successfully managing and operating a large scale dairy operation. As I said, the questions I hope to answer for you are as follows:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

What is a feasibility study?
Why is a feasibility study important?
What should be included?
Who should do a feasibility study?
How much should they cost?

1. What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is an analysis and evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it is
a. technically feasible;
b. is feasible within the estimated cost; and
c. will be profitable.
I am focusing my presentation on feasibility studies of digester projects, because that is why I’ve been asked to make this presentation. However, one should be able to use these same concepts when considering any opportunity your farm might consider, especially where large sums of money are at stake.
With respect to digester projects, the technical concepts of collecting the cow manure, pumping it into a digester, producing methane gas, and using this methane gas to power turbines, which in turn produce electricity, is a proven technology, and no further evaluation of the technical feasibility of this concept is necessary. However, there are always some twists that a producer might want to consider, especially if the amount of electricity a project can generate cannot all be used on the farm, or if there is no capacity in the local electric grid to accept the power being generated from the project. Another alternative one might want to consider is to convert the methane to a usable fuel for truck fleets, or for powering the equipment on the farm. This too requires an understanding of the power unit conversion costs, storage, distribution, and other local considerations. Other issues that are addressed include will the farm own and operate the “digester project”; or will it be owned and operated by a developer? This may seem like a pretty simple question to answer, but you will find that as vendors propose their systems to you, the promise of making a 15% return on your investment is pretty hard to turn down.
That is why you, as the individual farmer, should conduct a feasibility study.
Do you have the capital to devote to a digester project?
Do you have the time to develop a digester project?
Do you have the manpower resources to own and operate a digester project?
And probably many other questions requiring answers before you pursue this type of project. 2. Why is a feasibility study important?
It is my understanding that these types of projects typically involve a milking herd size of 1,000 cows, or more. Frequently, the farmer will indicate that they intend to grow their dairy herd over the lifetime of a digester project. Let’s assume that they say they will increase the number of cows they are milking, from 1,000 head, to 1,300 head over the next five years. That is a 30% increase in your business over a 5 year period. Even if you break this down to an annual growth rate, a 6% increase in your business would be considered pretty aggressive in any business environment. If you are going to use your capital reserves to develop the digester project, where will the money come from to increase the capacity of your milking parlor, free stall barns, calf care, raising out replacement heifers, additional land required for feed and manure application, labor, and additional or bigger equipment? What impact will these capital requirements have on your profit/loss and balance sheets? Do you have a lending institution that is willing to partner with you on a project of this scale?
The questions asked in the previous paragraph show why a feasibility study is important. It forces you to look at the “big picture”. While addressing the issues above should not scare you away from considering an energy project, it will have you consider where your farm business has been and where it will be 5, 10 or 15 years from now. By answering the questions posed, you might find that you have to adjust your accounting methods of your farm operation, to make them conform to normal business practices and what banks or investors are looking for when considering financing a business expansion. 3. What should be included?
I find that developing a narrative about the farm and its’ operation is very useful. By actually writing this down, this allows the farmer to see how the farm operation has developed over the past 5, 10, or even 25 years. This narrative should include how the farm started. Usually this is a family operation. It is important to document the origins of the farm, who started it, how long ago, original size, both in acreage and numbers of livestock. Getting into the current operations, the qualifications of the family members and/or key employees should be discussed. Backgrounds in farming, education, and other attributes of the “key” members should be presented.
Another element of what should be included is a presentation of past financial performance. This will include three to five years of profit/loss statements and balance sheets. Not only will this be some of the first questions asked by the bank/investor, it should also help you in deciding if you are ready to take the next step into the growth of your business.
While you think that this might not be necessary, you will find that when you approach your lending institution and/or an investment group, these will be some of the first questions they will ask. By having this done beforehand, you will accelerate the financial borrowing/investment process and you will impress the bank/investors on your organization skills. This will be one aspect in demonstrating that you are ready to take on more growth in your business.
The next part of your business plan (like it or not, this is actually what you are doing) you will describe the expansion you are considering. For purposes of this presentation, we are talking about a digester project, producing energy from manure. Before you identify the requirements of your energy project, you need to address the items I have previously identified. Besides the energy project, what components of your existing operation are going to have to change to accommodate this project? Will you need to increase: i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi. vii.

The capacity of your milking parlor?
The capacity of your free stall barns?
Calf care?
The capacity to raise out replacement heifers?
Additional land required for feed and manure application?
Labor? and
Additional or bigger equipment?

The capital requirements to address these items will probably not come from your cash flow. If it can, you probably don’t need to consider an energy project. Once you make it past these considerations, and decide that you have the financial ability to address this growth, you are now ready to study the feasibility of your energy project.
Are you going to own and operate the energy project or will you have a vendor own and operate the energy project? Your background is raising and milking cows, planting and harvesting crops, and probably some minor maintenance on your power units.
Operating large capacity pumps, managing the proper environment for your biologic microorganisms, measuring feedstocks, methane production, operating turbines to produce electricity, and making sure this biologic reactor produces energy 24/7 is probably not something you thought you would be doing next year. Of course, there are

individuals who can perform these functions, and are ready to move their family to your remote location to work for you.
Vendors will come and begin to study your dairy operation. They will evaluate all of the components that will be the waste stream to be considered for the energy project.
They will know how much wash water is used, what your bedding is comprised of, and how the manure is moved from the barns to a point where it can be directed into a digester. The first thing they will tell you that your project will have an internal rate of return of over 20% and that you will have a project payback of 4 to 6 years. Who wouldn’t jump at this opportunity?
Then you start reviewing their spreadsheets. You know that you have 1,000 milking cows, and you plan on expanding to 1,300 within the next 5 years. You see that in the pro formas presented by the vendors, they have assumed 1,500 milking cows and
1,000 heifers contributing to the energy project, from day one. If this isn’t your operation, you cannot count on the rate of return or the projected payback.
You will be approached by many vendors who want to develop your energy project.
Typically, they will want to perform a feasibility study on your operation to determine if the proposed energy project will successful. I was retained by a local dairy to assist them in the evaluation of the feasibility studies provided by the vendors, perform detailed evaluations of the pro forma’s from the vendors, evaluate the impact to cash flow to the dairy, and assist in evaluating financing options.
Due to confidentiality claims made by the vendors for my project, I cannot provide copies of their feasibility studies on which I made comments. However, I will provide excerpts from their feasibility studies on which some of my comments were based.
For example, the vendor provided an estimated cost to construct the energy project.
Table 1 presents their construction estimate. This is the exact table the vendor provided for their cost estimate. My comments are shown in red. You will see this same presentation in Table 2 and 3 as well.
You can see that I felt more detail was needed in evaluating this vendor’s proposal.
The vendor then showed the inputs they used in developing the financial model for their proposal. Table 2 presents those inputs and my comments.

Table 1. Construction Estimate

Table 2. Inputs

The vendor then presented a financial analysis, which showed the project would generate sufficient revenues to cover operating costs, pay the debt service on the loan and generate profits for the operation. Table 3 presents the financial analysis.

Table 3. Financial Analysis

Table 4 presents my comments on one of the feasibility studies I reviewed for the local dairy. Some of my comments may seem rather insignificant, and I’m sure I didn’t capture all of the issues that others may raise if it were to reviewed by others.
Table 4. Comments on Review of XXXX Feasibility Study, dated XXX, XX, 2010
1. Cannot read captions in the process flow diagram.
2. The “Financial Feasibility” section does not provide any details as to what is included in the various cost components. For example, new air permits will need to be prepared. There is no cost for the interconnect fee with Utility.
3. The cost analysis uses 1350 cows. This is not the starting point for the Dairy. The
Dairy has 1100 cows, with a planned growth of 10% per year.
4. There is no reference on how the basis for electric generation was made. It all starts with manure production per animal, percent (%) solids in manure, conversion to total solids of the manure, percent volatile solids in manure on a dry basis, etc. Additional water flow to the system needs to be provided.
Basically, a mass balance needs to be shown to support the calculations for electric generation and gas generation. In addition, assumptions for converting the methane gas to electricity needs to be shown. Without this information, the
Dairy cannot evaluate the pro forma.

5. There is no basis for the $500,000 State Grant. Is this a flat grant amount, or is there a specific method in determining the amount of the grant?
6. This pro forma assumes the Dairy will provide $251,223 in capital for this project.
7. Financing period is shown over a 15 year period, while the depreciation is over a
10 year period.
8. Pro forma shows sales of electricity to the dairy operation as income. This will still be an expense to the Dairy.
9. Pro forma shows sales of electricity increasing at rate of 2% per year. Based on our meeting with the Utility, it was my understanding that the rate is fixed every two years. According to the Utility, the Utility has excess capacity, and the likelihood of these rates increasing for the next time interval are very slim.
10. Income from Greenhouse Gas credits should not be included. There is no basis for this income.
11. Thermal savings. I believe this is a “cost avoidance” on the dairy side of the operations. Again, there is no calculation provided demonstrating that there is excess thermal energy to be used by the dairy.
12. Bedding savings. I believe this is a “cost avoidance” on the dairy side of the operations. I’m assuming this is the cost of trucking only to bring bedding into the dairy at it’s current rate. This also is increasing at a rate of 2% per year. No justification is provided for these numbers.
13. Fiber sales. I am assuming this includes fiber sales to the dairy operation. No support for the amount of fiber produced, fiber used by the dairy, and therefore excess fiber available for off-farm sale is provided.
Comments on Electric Generation: Using Vendor’s pro forma, I was able to construct a spreadsheet that addressed assumptions necessary to determine the amount of energy produced from the digester project. Based on the 1100 head herd currently in use, and based on the current electric needs of the dairy, there is not enough electricity produced to sell 200 kWh to the Utility. I arrive at approximately 130 kWh that is available to the
Utility. All of the assumptions that are included in calculating manure generation to methane production to electric generation need to be understood before moving forward. Comments on Fiber Generation: Using Vendor’s pro forma, I was able to construct a spreadsheet that addressed assumptions necessary to determine the amount of fiber produced from the digester project. I calculated a similar number to what is provided in the feasibility study. I am concerned that fiber sales might decrease over time as more becomes available from other dairies.
As my comments in Table 4 reflect, it is necessary to know the components that are necessary to conduct a mass balance. This will provide a picture of the volumes of materials you will be dealing with. Components of the mass balance are found in Table
5.

Table 5. Components of the Mass Balance

Unit
Total Number of Cows - Scrape
Manure per animal
Manure per animal
Milk Production per cow per day
Manure correction factor
Corrected Manure per animal
Correction Factor for Thickened Flush Manure
Corrected Manure per animal - Flush
Total Manure produced
Total Manure as liquid (8.34 lbs/gal)
Parlor Water added
Total Water Volume
Total diluted manure volume
Solids as Bedding
Percent Total Solids in Manure
Solids in Manure Dry Basis
Percent Volatile Solids in Manure
Volatile Solids Available
Total Solids
Total Volume to Digester
Total Volume to Digester (8.34 lbs/gal)
Total Solids to Digester
Total Volatile Solids available to Digester

Per
Cow

gallons lbs lbs

lbs lbs gallons gallons gallons gallons lbs lbs lbs lbs gallons lbs lbs lbs Many of the components of the mass balance are “book” values or “rules of thumb” values. Table 6 presents the same information as shown in Table 5, however, I have included information that can be used by the Dairy in determining the inputs. I have highlighted in yellow the values that are specific to the Dairy or values that should be properly sourced. Table 6 also shows the amount of biogas available for electrical generation and thermal generation.

Table 6. Mass Balance

After you develop the information found in Table 6, you can then begin projecting what your cash flow might look like. Table 7 presents a pro forma, using information presented in the tables above to estimate the net income to the dairy. I have presented the first year in this pro forma, which includes the current cow population. The fourth year is result of growing 10% per year, until 1500 cows are realized (in this case, 1597).
The fifteenth year is presented because that is the last year of the loan. In year 15, the
“Net Income after Dairy Electric Savings” is over ($48,012). The story doesn’t end here however. There should be savings to the dairy because of the bedding the digester process creates. In this case, the Dairy was trucking into the operation bedding. This trucking expense will disappear when the digester is up and running. There also is projected to be excess bedding material produced, that will be able to be marketed. I did not participate in this portion of the pro forma, but was told that the net income to the Dairy for bedding was estimated to be $20,000 per year.
The other component not discussed here is the concrete lined manure pit this Dairy was required to install. This pit cost over $400,000.00. This pit was also necessary for holding effluent from the digester.
The dairy also did not calculate what the savings would be in land application of the effluent from the digester. Because they were currently limited by the phosphorus in their manure, the amount of acres required for disposal of manure was assumed to be greater than the acreage needed for manure application using the effluent from the digester. Bottom line is that this paper presents the cost feasibility of a digester project up to a certain point. As mentioned earlier, the entire farming process needs to considered when evaluating an energy project.
In this dairy’s case, the project was put off for about 18 months. This allowed the dairy to get some of the it’s finances in order. This dairy ultimately chose a vendor who would own and operate the digester, and the manure pit. In order to make this a more feasible project, the vendor will size the project to produce more energy than what this dairy could produce on its’ own and will import additional substrate to the digester. The additional substrate will probably have more volatile solids, thereby having the potential of creating more methane.

Table 7. Projected Cash Flow

4. Who Should Do A Feasibility Study?
The dairy farmer could certainly do many of the components of the feasibility study, assuming they have the time and knowledge to collect, analyze, and perform the analysis required. I am a civil engineer by training. Many local civil engineering firms perform feasibility analyses on a routine basis. Most engineering projects require a feasibility analysis to be performed for the same reason we are discussing a feasibility study for an energy project. Typically, the owners who the engineer works for want to make sure their project will make money for them. Your accountant may also have a role in developing the total cost savings (or losses) by considering other aspects of the dairy operation.
Performing a feasibility study for an energy project may require some knowledge of the dairy operations and what components are necessary to address in the digester project. Obviously, the best team to perform the feasibility study would include the farmer, your engineer or business consultant, your accountant, and the vendors who would build the energy project. Once a project can be defined, other decisions have to made, that is does the dairy own and operate the energy project or will the vendor own and operate the energy project? The dairy then would be an energy customer to the vendor. 5. How Much Should They Cost?
Typically, the vendors who might compete for your energy project will provide much of the information on costs for their process, what their land requirements will be, operating costs, and any costs related to connections to the grid. They will provide proposals to you, which in turn you have to evaluate, perhaps using some of the tools
I’ve provided in this paper.
I would propose that my role in evaluating the feasibility of the digester project would be under $10,000.00. However, you can see that the complete feasibility of the project went beyond my role, in that the farmer took it upon himself to determine the other costs/benefits when considering this project.
If a vendor is proposing to own/operate the energy themselves, there might not be a need to conduct a feasibility study. However, even if the vendor will be the owner/operator, they will be contracting with your dairy for certain volumes of manure
(substrate). You will still need to make sure that what they are requiring from you, you will be able to provide. In this case, your other partner might be your attorney.

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...1. DESCRIPTION OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES The IT department requires a system that will alert users when their desktop computer is no longer in compliance with current security standards; customer would be instructed to call the IT Help Desk for assistance before their service is cut off. System would need to be expandable to multiple networks and be compatible with Windows and Linux operating systems. There are no proposed changes to the current baseline of the network. 2. ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS Upgraded technological capability may be required for the IT department to move toward a product which will automatically notify customers to contact the IT Service Desk if their systems are found to be non-compliant with the current security baseline. However, it should be feasible to take the existing technology and modify functionality or add a pug-in module in order to obtain the desired effect. This technology does exist and is in use in other organizations with similar network structures and components which mean this solution should not be a totally new concept and a variety of options should be available. The automation of this process will save thousands of man-hours per year for both technicians and customers. 3. TECHNOLOGY CONSIDERATIONS IT managers desire a simple and easy way to ensure system meet intended security requirements while minimizing customer service interruption to the extent possible. While the IT department maintains the current set of network......

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Feasibility Study

...Feasibility Study Name University of Phoenix System Analysis and Development CMGT/555 Instructor January 9, 2015 Feasibility Study A feasibility study is an essential part of any software development project. The feasibility study can, and should, help answer the question “Should we even attempt this project and why?” Completing an effective feasibility study can prevent unnecessary commitments of valuable company resources by determining the potential success rate of any project. This project, designing and implementing a bulletin board type forum for wireless technical support representatives, is no different and a proper feasibility study will determine whether this is a worthwhile, cost effective project. According to Tim Bryce from the Project Smart Company, a good feasibility study will address the following issues (Bryce, 2008): 1) Project Scope 2) Current Analysis 3) Requirements 4) Approach 5) Evaluation 6) Review The first section determines the scope of the project. This is where the current problem or improvement is clearly stated. A well-defined scope will keep the project on target and help prevent “scope creep” where the project loses sight of the intended goal. Stake-holders, end users, project participants, and the project owner or sponsor is also clearly stated in this section. The current analysis is an outline of how the process is done now. Without a clear outline and analysis of the current method, it is hard to...

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...THE FEASIBILITY OF A NEW SIT-DOWN RESTAURANT IN VENTURA Presented to the Faculty of the Agribusiness Department California Polytechnic State University In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Bachelor of Science by John Wassil Winter 2011 Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Fast food chains have grown at an incredible rate over the past couple of decades. There seems to be a McDonald's or Burger King on every street corner. Fast food offers people in a rush an inexpensive way to grab food whenever they want. In the United States, fast food restaurants accounts for 46.7% of the total food service industry while sit-down restaurants have 39.3% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). This forces sit-down restaurants to target a different market, people that are looking for pleasure and a relaxing experience. The food services industry is considered to be the most known industry in the world. Sitdown restaurants typically offer full menus, which include appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts, and all types of beverages including alcohol. Most restaurants will have a host or hostess that will greet a person as they walk in and show them to the table that they will be sitting at for the duration of their meal. Sit-down restaurants typically will have trained chefs to cook and prepare the meals and servers that will completely take care of any needs that there will be while eating at the restaurant (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). It is important to have honest......

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Feasibility Study

...FAR EASTERN POLYTECHNIC COLLEGE College of Business Administration Dasmariñas, Cavite A Feasibility Study Presented to The Faculty of College of Business Administration In Partial Fulfillment in the Requirements in Introduction to Business. By DEL SOCORRO, Patrick GOROSPE, Karen DOCTO, Reniel C. RECIDO, Princess DOMETITA, Joemar REDOBLADO, Levy-lu 23 March 2012 CHAPTER I MARKETING ASPECT INTRODUCTION Nowadays, it’s really hard to think what business to establish because it seems that everything is being already offered in the market by different entrepreneurs. Though it’s hard to think of what business to introduce, the group realized that creating a business is not about creating a new product but it can also be finding of what supply doesn’t equate its demand, and make an answer for it. T-shirt printing has a high consumer demand in the market but there is no sufficient numbers of printing shops that can accommodate the number of consumers that causes delays of the production. Therefore the group decided to establish a printing business to catch that market. The group named the business, “Mass Print”, which means “quantity” or “volume”, since this business aims to reach the demands of the mass (the people), in terms of printing demand. OBJECTIVES The group aims: * To be recognized as premier business in providing sublimation/printing service. * To provide the clients/consumers......

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