Highlights: The combined availability and simulation study method obtains more realistic results for use in practical decision-making in supply chain management; The total costs of forest chips with intermodal composite container supply chains were lower than traditional options in all scenarios; The most advantageous way to expand the procurement area for forest chips is either to use composite container trucks or start using train transportation instead of trucks for procurement from longer distances.
Cost-efficient solutions of supply chains for energy wood are required as part of endeavors to reach targets for renewable energy utilization. Long-distance railway transportation is an interesting area of research, especially for high-volume sites where the forest-to-site distance is considerable and rail facilities already exist. The aim of the study was to compare the cost-efficiency of an intermodal container supply chain and traditional multi-modal supply chain with corresponding direct truck logistics for long-distance transportation of forest chips. In the study, site-dependent information for forest biomass transport was integrated into a simulation model to calculate the cost-efficiency of logistic operations related to forest chips transportation in central Finland. The model was tested with several truck and railway transportation scenarios for varying demand of forest chips at the case power plant. The total costs of traditional supply chains were found to be 5–19% more expensive than container supply chain scenarios. The total unit costs of forest chips varied between 15.3 and 20.0 €/MWh depending on the scenario. It is concluded on the basis of the scenario study that intermodal light-structure container logistics and railway transportation could be developed as a viable option for large-scale supply of forest chips.