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..................... 20 TECHNOLOGY Syngas 101 Biomass Magazine highlights the different processes utilized to convert biomass into synthesis gas. By Jessica Ebert

26 POWER Niagara Falls for Wood Power With the hydroelectric generating power of New York’s Niagara Falls as a backdrop, U.S. Renewables Group is greening a coal-fed power plant to run on wood waste and chipped rubber from old tires. By Ron Kotrba

32 FEEDSTOCK Cow Pies to Clean Power Maintaining a well-compacted interfacial layer above the feedlot surface to prevent soil compaction is the key to harvesting clean manure. By Susanne Retka Schill


38 OUTLOOK Opportunities, Challenges Abound in 2008 Biomass industry representatives gaze into their crystal balls and tell Biomass Magazine what’s in store for the industry in 2008.



By Jerry W. Kram

44 PROCESS Densified Biomass for Cofired Energy Generation 06 Editor’s Note Biomass Magazine: Here to Help

07 Advertiser Index

Slough Heat & Power Ltd. has proven that cofiring biomass and nonrecyclable waste is an efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in a coal-powered energy plant. By Jim McMahon

09 Industry Events 12 Business Briefs 14 Industry News 55 In the Lab The Language of the Trees By Jerry W. Kram

57 EERC Update Engineering Analysis of Indirect Biomass Liquefaction By John Hurley


e d i to r ’s


Biomass Magazine:Here to Help


his publication is distributed to approximately 10,000 people per month, and it’s safe to assume most of our readership—a diverse group of professionals ranging from engineers and chemists to farmers and entrepreneurs—don’t have time to maintain an expert understanding of the assorted technologies behind each novel concept that makes headlines. Sure, most of them probably know what gasification is, but do they all know the difference between synthesis gas and producer gas? Do they all have a firm grasp on the end-product variation caused by direct heating versus indirect heating? Can they all explain the unique opportunities that hightemperature pyrolysis offers? The staff of Biomass Magazine understands that our readers, while experts in their own niches, can’t possibly be experts in every field within the vast arena of biomass utilization. They can try, however, and we can help. Our staff writers each focus on topics ranging from technology and logistics to project development and crop science. Like most of our readers, they work in niche fields. This allows our writers to develop core areas of expertise and crucial relationships with contacts, which bring depth and insight to the news and feature articles they write. In a way, their jobs are to make your job easier. In other words, they dig into the details so that you don’t have to. So don’t feel bad if you don’t know the difference between syngas and producer gas. It’s our job to inform and educate you, and that’s exactly what this month’s lead feature does. “Syngas 101” on page 20 serves as an introduction to syngas technologies and some of the latest endeavors in that field, including Frontline Bioenergy LLC’s installation of a wood waste gasification system at Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLLP, a 45 MMgy corn-to-ethanol plant in Benson, Minn. Frontline’s technology lends itself to retrofits—CVEC was built more than a decade ago—so working with an existing ethanol plant is a good partnership. The first phase of the project, which will be complete in early 2008, will process 75 tons of locally available wood waste, displacing one-fourth of the ethanol plant’s natural gas. Ultimately, enough syngas will be produced on-site to handle 90 percent of CVEC’s power needs. Staff Writer Jessica Ebert takes the story beyond mainstream gasification, delving into the relatively unexplored technology of high-temperature pyrolysis. She talks to the leaders of Canadian firm ThermoChem Recovery International Inc., which is working with a containerboard mill in Ontario to turn “black liquor”—leftover lignin from pulping—into syngas, and ultimately steam. Producing steam is pretty basic, of course, but companies like ThermoChem have their eyes set on the limitless possibilities that syngas offers. Power, liquid fuel, chemicals … virtually everything currently made by the petrochemical industry can be made from biomass via syngas. Gasification not only has the power to transform plant matter and waste, but perhaps whole industries.

Tom Bryan Editorial Director


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industryevents Ethanol Finance Americas

Power-Gen: Renewable Energy & Fuels

January 23-24, 2008

February 19-21, 2008

The Westin New York at Times Square New York City, New York Although this second annual event will focus mostly on corn- and sugar-based ethanol, two sessions will address cellulosic ethanol technology, financing and policy. A third session will discuss how corn-based, sugar-based and cellulosic ethanol can coexist. (212) 224-3789

Rio Casino & Resort Las Vegas, Nevada This fifth-annual event aims to address the most important trends and issues impacting the renewable energy and fuels industry. A sample of biomass-related topics includes the business, technology and financing of waste-to-energy facilities; new biomass crops available for power, fuels and biobased products; and international biomass combustion case studies. A specific Biopower session will address biomass cofiring, fluidized bed boilers and much more. (888) 299-8016

Agricultural Outlook Forum

13th Annual National Ethanol Conference

February 21-22, 2008

February 25-27, 2008

Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel Arlington, Virginia This 84th annual event, themed “Energizing Rural America in the Global Marketplace,” will address several issues facing today’s agriculture sector. Besides general ag and foreign trade outlooks, the agenda is broken down into five concurrent session tracks. The Energy & Technology track will discuss biofuels (specifically ethanol) and biomass for energy.

JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes Orlando, Florida This Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) event, themed “Changing the Climate,” will include RFA President Bob Dinneen’s annual State of the Industry Address, along with various panel discussions and concurrent breakout sessions. Breakout sessions topics will include cellulosic ethanol feedstocks and technology. A panel discussion will also offer attendees an update on the status of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol technology. (719) 539-0300

World Biofuels Markets Congress

International Biomass Conference & Trade Show

March 12-14, 2008

April 15-17, 2008

Brussels Expo Brussels, Belgium The sessions at this event will focus on ethanol and biodiesel on a local and global scale. More detailed topics of discussion will include biofuels feedstocks; heat, power and cogeneration; quality and distribution; and biorefineries, byproducts and bioproducts. Pre-congress conferences will address biofuels investment and finance, next-generation technology and science, certification and sustainability, policy and regulation, and bioplastics and biochemicals. +44 20 7801 6333

Minneapolis, Minnesota This inaugural event, which stemmed from the Energy and Environmental Research Center’s biomass conference last year in Grand Forks, N.D., aims to facilitate near-term and commercial-scale manufacturing of biomass-based power, fuels and chemicals. Topics include biorefining technologies for the production and advancement of biopower, bioproducts, biochemicals, biofuels, intermediate products and coproducts, which will be presented through general sessions, technical workshops and an industry trade show. (719) 539-0300

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing

24th Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

April 27-30, 2008 Hilton Chicago Chicago, Illinois This event’s program tracks will focus on biofuels and bioenergy, including cellulosic ethanol; feedstocks, including forestry residues and energy crops; and chemicals and biomaterials. A more detailed agenda will be available as the event approaches. (202) 962-6630

June 16-19, 2008 Opryland Hotel & Convention Center Nashville, Tennessee This conference will follow the record-breaking 2007 event, in which more than 500 exhibitors were on display and more than 5,300 people attended. More information will be available as this event approaches. (719) 539-0300


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Biopower Gasification Feedstock Processing Pretreatment for Cellulosic Ethanol Policy and Project Implementation Biopower: CHP Technologies International Perspectives on Biomass Utilization

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Permitting and Lifecycle Assessment Alternative Bio-syngas Production Water Issues for Biomass Utilization Feedstock Alternatives Alternative Biofuels: Biobutanol, Green Diesel, and Jet Fuel

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Syntec finalizes catalyst technology transaction

RED teams with Denham on waste energy projects

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Syntec Biofuel Inc. has accepted a $3 million private placement offering from Wood Energy Resources LLC, in which Syntec acquired the intellectual property and ethanol catalyst technology assets to convert biogas and syngas into ethanol, biobutanol, methanol and propanol. Syntec, a leader in ethanol catalyst conversion technologies, began to commercialize its processes in November, according to Syntec President Michael Jackson. The company has devoted its research and development efforts to catalysts since 2001, and has further refined efficiencies inhouse. BIO

Recycled Energy Development LLC, which develops, owns and operates industrial waste energy recycling projects that reduce power costs and greenhouse gas emissions for host companies, recently teamed with private equity firm Denham Capital Management. The two companies will build an investment platform to fund projects such as those implementing combined-heat-and-power technologies. “We believe recycling waste energy is one of the largest, most economically beneficial routes to a low-carbon future,” said RED Chief Executive Officer Sean Casten. BIO

Shell invests in Codexis enzymes development Royal Dutch Shell recently announced it would make an equity investment in Codexis Inc., a developer of biocatalytic process technologies. In addition, Shell will take a seat on the Codexis board. The collaboration will cover five years in the research and development of super enzymes capable of outperforming naturally occurring molecules to biofuels production. Codexis has applied its enzyme-development technology in the pharmaceutical industry and has been working with Shell since November 2006 to tailor its technology to the biofuels industry. BIO

Renegy sells subsidiary, acquires California biomass facility Tempe, Ariz.-based Renegy Holdings Inc. completed the sale of its wholly owned subsidiary SCR-Tech LLC to CoaLogix Inc. for $9.6 million. The net cash proceeds derived from the sale will be used toward the funding and refurbishment of the company’s newly acquired 13-megawatt biomass power plant in Susanville, Calif., according to Renegy spokeswoman Megan Meloni. Renegy currently has a 24-megawatt biomass-to-electricity plant under construction in Snowflake, Ariz., which is expected to be operational in the first quarter of this year, Meloni said. BIO

Geocycle acquires Vexor Technology facility Geocycle U.S. has acquired a processing facility in Dorchester, S.C., from Vexor Technology Inc. The facility will continue to produce Vexor-engineered fuel developed from more than 550 waste streams to replace coal or natural gas in industrial boilers. It is also marketed to cement manufacturers. Geocycle U.S., previously called Energis LLC, focuses on utilizing the coprocessing capabilities of manufacturing processes by substituting waste for fossil fuels and natural resources. BIO


Renova launches North American Biomass Exchange Renova Engineering PC has launched an electronic exchange to bring U.S. and Canadian biomass producers and consumers together. Sellers submit their locations, the type and amount of biomass they produce, and when it is available. Buyers can search for sellers by region and biomass type. The exchange is targeting buyers and sellers of wood-based biomass and energy crops. For more information, visit BIO




ADM forms Industrial Chemicals Group Capitalizing on the popularity of the “green chemistry” movement, Archer Daniels Midland Co. recently created the Industrial Chemicals Group to commercialize production of chemicals made from renewable feedstocks. Janet Mann, who previously worked for Chemtura Corp. and Dow Chemical Co., will lead the group as general manager. John Rice, an ADM executive vice president, said the company sees two major trends developing in the marketplace: improving a product’s environmental footprint and reducing the use of petroleum-based products. The company’s new group aims to accomplish both goals. BIO



MAGAZINE Biodiesel company invests in Community Power Allegro Biodiesel Corp. purchased a $1 million minority stake in Colorado-based Community Power Corp., a move that is intended to help commercialize Community Power’s modular biomass power system. Since 1995, the privately held company has used more than $12 million in USDA, U.S. DOE, Department of Defense and other funding to develop its gasification system for the on-site conversion of biomass residues. Its BioMax 50 model, for example, began processing walnut hulls to power and heat a California walnut farm this fall, and a Fischer-Tropsch unit will be added there in the spring to produce synthetic diesel fuel. BIO

Florida venture to turn horse muck into energy




Biofuels Australasia is the first trade journal of its kind to cover the developing ethanol and biodiesel industries of Australasia. The magazine covers ethanol and biodiesel project development, finance, policy, construction, engineering, research and development, marketing, infrastructure development, transportation, use and more.


Global Green Solutions Inc. and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association are forming Florida Greensteam Equine Energy LLC to convert horse manure into energy that would be sold to the local power grid. According to Global Green Solutions, construction at a processing facility will begin in the second quarter of 2008 at a yet-to-be-determined site in Marion County, Fla. The company’s high-efficiency cyclonic burner and heat recovery steam generator will be designed specifically to handle horse muck. BIO



NEWS About 340 biotechnology and bioenergy leaders gathered in Honolulu to review the latest biomass developments at the second annual Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. One common thread through many presentations was the need to develop low-volume, high-margin niche products, such as resins derived from lignin, to smooth out the market swings of high-volume, low-margin products, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Presentations from the biofuels track of the summit addressed new practices being introduced into the marketplace and discoveries being made by academic researchers. Some novel processes for biofuels production include hot-water pretreatment for cellulosic feedstocks and the use of enzymes to degum vegetable oils. Attendees were interested in the use of alternative fermenters, such as species of Clostridium and Corynebacterium, in consolidated bioprocessing. Unique feedstocks, such as tropical sugar beets, sweet sorghum, coppiced eucalyptus and beetle-killed lodgepole pine, were also examined. “The Pacific Rim Summit showcased the latest biotech advances in feedstocks, production processes and novel biobased products,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Industrial and Environmental Section. “Building new business partnerships within the bioenergy industry, particularly along the Pacific Rim, was a primary objective of the summit.” The conference, which was hosted by BIO, the American Chemical Society and the state of Hawaii, featured more than 100 presentations from researchers and scientists. Plenary session speakers included Pat Gruber of Gevo Inc., who spoke on the development of next-generation biofuels; and Jiayang Li of the


Hawaii conference highlights biomass advances

An international panel discusses biofuels development in the Pacific Rim.

Chinese Academy of Sciences and Andy Karsner of the U.S. DOE, who presented the status of biofuels in the Pacific Rim. Neal Gutterson of Mendel Biotechnology, Richard Zalesky of Chevron Technology Ventures LLC and E. Alan Kennet of Gay & Robinson Inc. discussed sustainable biofuels. “As we heard from the plenary speakers, government policies that support development of the industry, which have been driven by concerns about the environment and future economic growth, have been vital in attracting the private investment needed to make this industry successful,” Erickson said. “Pacific Rim countries have been in the lead in implementing these policies.” -Jerry W. Kram

Biobased fertilizer gains attention for biofuels production For the past nine years, Michael Maffei, a U.S. Postal Service employee in Washington, has been growing pine trees on a patch of land using a biobased fertilizer of his own making. “November marked the 9th anniversary of the first time I fed the trees,” Maffei said. Since that time, the trees have averaged between three and four feet of growth per year. “For a Ponderosa Pine, that’s pretty fast,” he explained. In fact, the results from Maffei’s mini-forest, as well as applications on orchard soils and residential lawns, are piquing the interest of USDA forestry experts and representatives of Weyerhaeuser, American Wood Fibers, Chevron, Blue Fire Ethanol and Vulcan Energy, among others. The patent-pending fertilizer (the process for making it is also patent-pending) is a mixture of ash from the combustion of wood for electricity production, sawdust and several other tree-born ingredients.


By adjusting the ratio of these elements, Maffei has also produced an ice treatment compound used to coat ice and improve traction for human, as well as automobile, traffic. Several county Department of Transportation agencies in Washington are currently testing the compound, Maffei said. Maffei is now focusing his efforts on using the organic fertilizer for reforestation projects that yield sustainable biomass for the production of ethanol and pellets for fueling power plants. “I’m a mail carrier with no formal education of any sort,” he said. “People don’t know about me, but I do have a scientific mind and a broad vision. I want people to know that there is hope for the climate change crisis.” -Jessica Ebert




A Swiss Group of Companies employee constructs a biomass electromagnetic radiation oven dryer.

Brazil company develops biomass dryer technology Swiss Group of Companies in Brazil recently announced the development of biomass drying technology that uses electromagnetic radiation. Edda Silvestro, Italian entrepreneur and Swiss Group president, created the concept for the new device, and over the past two years, a team of Brazilian engineers and technicians have worked to construct the dryer, which Silvestro called a “revolutionary invention.” The dryer works by exposing biomass to electromagnetic rays, which disturb the molecular structure of the biomass, resulting in loss of water. “A dryer using electromagnetic radiation does not need high temperaSilvestro ture,” Silvestro explained. “It acts by simple molecular agitation, so the rays only remove water but not the inner hydrocarbons of the wood, which are extremely energetic.” In early 2008, Swiss Group will start to build its first plant devoted to the production of wood chips and pellets from eucalyptus and pine using its patented drying method. The plant will be located in Jambeiro, Brazil, about 56 miles from São Paulo and about 62 miles from the port of São Sebastião. It will consist of five modules producing 200 tons of wood chips per hour. The company has already agreed to supply this alternative power source to various European electric plants, Silvestro said. -Jessica Ebert

BioEnergy International to begin construction At press time, Pennsylvania’s first ethanol plant was slated to break ground in January at Clearfield Technology Park near Titusville, Pa., the same place where Edward Drake launched the first commercial oil well in the nation in the 1850s, according to Corinne Young, director of government affairs for BioEnergy International LLC. The 108 MMgy corn-based facility will also be used to demonstrate the conversion of a traditional ethanol plant into a cellulosic ethanol facility. The Norwell, Mass.-based company aims to be part of the next energy revolution by turning biomass into biofuels, biopolymers and specialty chemicals. Its new research laboratory in Woburn, Mass., was slated to be completed, fully staffed and in operation in January, as well, Young said. The 11,000-square-foot research laboratory will bring together a team to work on feedstock issues, process engineering, pretreatment, microbial platforms with microorganisms and biocatalysts, fermentation, hydrolysis, enzymology, and chemical engineering. Construction of a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant colocated with the corn-fed plant will begin after work on the commercial-scale, corn-based facility is underway. Both are expected to be completed in mid- to late 2009. A demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant is also under development at an undisclosed location, Young said. BioEnergy International has already partnered with ethanol distributor Lukoil Americas Corp. BioEnergy International is also developing a corn-based ethanol plant in Lake Providence, La. Although a groundbreaking date hasn’t been set, Young said permits are in place and preconstruction work is being completed. In August, the company received $61.6 million from an investment team comprised of Plainfield Asset Management, Camulos Capital, Itera Ethanol LLC and Context Capital Management. It was also awarded $17.4 million from the state of Pennsylvania. BioEnergy has research and license agreements with University of Florida researcher Lonnie Ingram to develop microorganisms capable of producing derivatives of lactic acid, pyruvic acid, acetate and xylitol. -Susanne Retka Schill 1|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 15


NEWS Dynamic Fuels selects renewable diesel site Dynamic Fuels LLC will build its first synthetic diesel plant in Geismer, La., on a site owned by Lion Copolymer LLC that once housed a methanol plant. Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Syntroleum Corp. and Tyson Foods Inc., is behind the $135 million, 75 MMgy facility that aims to start producing renewable diesel and jet fuel in 2010. The site is near two sources of hydrogen, a key ingredient of the production process, and includes rail Holmes access. Dynamic Fuels plans to construct additional renewable synthetic fuel facilities. Syntroleum would provide its Biofining technology to convert animal fat and vegetable oil feedstocks into middle distillate products, and Tyson would provide the feedstocks. The plans include adding Syntroleum’s Fischer-Tropsch technology to the front end of the production process in order to convert biomass into renewable synthetic fuels. A few days after announcing the Geismer site in November, Syntroleum announced that it had realigned its management team,

restructured the organization and secured a portion of the financing for the joint venture. In management changes, Chief Executive Officer Jack Holmes announced his retirement, effective Dec. 28, 2007. He was replaced by Edward Roth, who previously served as president and chief operating officer. Founder Ken Agee also announced his retirement from the company, where he served as chairman of the board and chief research officer. At press time, he was Agee negotiating to purchase certain research and laboratory facilities from the company. Board member Robert Rosene was elected nonexecutive chairman to replace Agee. In November, Syntroleum also announced an agreement with an affiliate of Fletcher Asset Management for $12 million in investments over two years. Wm Smith and Co., based in Denver, Colo., acted as placement agent. -Susanne Retka Schill

Poet Biorefining-Chancellor, an ethanol production facility in Chancellor, S.D., is currently expanding its capacity from 50 MMgy to 100 MMgy. As part of the expansion, the company is installing a solid waste fuel boiler that will burn woodchips to produce enough steam for up to 60 percent of the expanded plant’s power needs. Mueller Pallets LLC in Sioux Falls, S.D., will supply the 150 to 350 tons of woodchips that are estimated to be needed every day. Mueller Pallets is a zero-waste company. It currently serves customers within a 350-mile radius by providing pallets, custom crates and pallet services, such as stocking supply, remanufacturing and recycling. It also provides recycled wood products for livestock bedding, landscape mulch and woodchip fuel. “Our services relieve city landfills, tree services and construction companies from the waste wood problem,” said John Kirchner, sales and marketing director for Mueller Pallets. “Our process converts a former liability into an energy asset at less than a quarter of the cost of natural gas per [British thermal unit].” Mueller Pallets can produce 18 to 20 tons of processed wood per hour. It will be responsible for collecting the wood waste and transporting the processed wood to the Poet facility. Kirchner said his company would deliver between seven and 13 semi loads of woodchips per day, five days per week. Processing and transportation of the woodchips make up a majority of the cost of the woodchips, he added. The woodchips will be stored in two bins that can each hold a seven-day supply. A reclaiming system will pull them out of the silo and 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2008


Poet to power Chancellor facility with wood waste

The solid waste fuel boiler at Poet Biorefinery-Chancellor will look similar to this one, which was constructed by Factory Sales & Engineering Inc.

into the boiler, according to the ethanol plant’s General Manager Rick Serie. The boiler is being constructed by Covington, La.-based Factory Sales & Engineering Inc. It will be 20 feet wide, 70 feet tall and 15 feet deep. At press time, Poet said it had finished pouring the concrete for the solid waste fuel boiler. The expansion is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2008. -Anduin Kirkbride McElroy


NEWS China Holdings announces biomass energy projects China Holdings Inc., a global diversified asset holdings company, recently announced its intent to build three 50-megawatt biomass energy facilities. Its subsidiary China Power Inc. has signed contracts for the rights to develop and construct them. Two of the facilities will be located in China’s Anhui province, and the third will be located in the Hebei province. All three projects are expected to be in full production within three years, according to China Holdings. The company plans to use its CAPS-II pyrolysis system at the facilities. The technology is based on processing biomass, such as corn stalks, rice straw, cotton stalks, branches, and other biomass byproducts and waste material in two stages at temperatures sufficient to produce steam-generated electricity. China Holdings said its objective is to produce 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy from hydropower and biomass. The Chinese Central Government passed the Renewable Energy Law on Jan. 1, 2006, which set a series of tax incentives to

encourage the construction of renewable energy projects. The National Reform and Development Committee ensures full purchase and payment of electricity from biomass, and prioritizes renewable electricity in sales to the state grid and large thermal power companies. National Bio-Energy Co., another Chinese energy company, recently connected a 25-megawatt biomass power plant to the electric grid. The facility, located in the Henan province, is the first in China to utilize wheat straw, corn stalks and other socalled “yellow stalks” in direct-fired power generation. The company is a subsidiary of the State Grid Corp. of China, which launched the country’s first biomass plant in December 2006. It direct-fires “gray stalks” from cotton and wood. -Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

Researchers at the Iowa State University Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering are looking at ways to extend the longevity of Iowa’s road infrastructure by experimenting with lignin, a coproduct of lignocellulosic ethanol production, to see if it could be used as a viable soil stabilizing agent. “Lignin acts as a resin, and it’s a natural binding agent to soil,” said Halil Ceylan, the department’s assistant professor who is leading the project. “If we continue to increase the traffic volume, we need to improve our road system so that we can be competitive when carrying our goods from one location to another in a speedy and safe manner.” The research team conducted several soil tests with lignin supplied by Grain Processing Corp., a 10 MMgy corn-based ethanol plant in Muscatine, Iowa. The lignin was added to various oxidized and nonoxidized soils collected from soft clay and glacial till deposits that cover the state. Lignin also acts as an effective dust suppressant on the surface of roads, which alleviates health concerns in rural areas, according to Ceylan. The effort is partially supported by a $93,775 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state program that promotes economic development. The Iowa Highway Research Board, Grain Processing Corp. and ISU’s Office of Biorenewables Programs also supported the project. Research in this area isn’t new for the department. Studies for the pulp and paper industry in the 1950s showed lignin to be a natural cementing agent that could be of value for soil stabilization, Ceylan said. “County engineers are extremely excited about our research for


ISU researchers ‘pave road’for novel lignin applications

Left to right: ISU research team members Sunghwan Kim, a post-doctoral research associate; Ceylan; and Kasthurirangan Gopalakrishnan, a research scientist, are testing lignin's ability to strengthen soil for road construction.

soil stabilization purposes,” Ceylan said. “We will soon be doing some additional proposals on the utilization of lignin for dust control purposes, as well. We’re even more interested in that topic than soil stabilization, but they work hand-in-hand.” -Bryan Sims



NEWS Missouri ag-residue pellet plant to open in January At press time, Show Me Energy Co-op aimed to finish construction of its pellet manufacturing plant in Centerview, Mo., by Christmas, according to co-op President Steve Flick. By mid-January, the grinding of 98,000 round bales of various crop residues will begin, he said. Flick owns Flick Seed Co., through which an enormous amount of grass seed hulls raised disposal concerns, prompting Flick to consider pelleting the waste materials. The pellet plant will utilize up to 15 different agricultural residues—from such crops as tea, cotton, corn and wheat—to capitalize on the growing pellet-stove market by supplying an alternative fuel for burning. The pellets will be packaged in 40-pound plastic bags under the Show Me Energy brand name. Direct sales from the plant site to consumers, and bulk sales to utility companies, are expected. At full capacity, Show Me Energy’s pellet plant is designed to produce 100,000 tons of pellets annually by operating five days per week, three shifts per day. Local farmers will supply the waste feedstocks. “If producers don’t make money, they won’t deliver,” Flick said, referring to the need to incentivize farm waste harvesting. Show Me Energy contracted with Evergreen Biofuels Inc. to man-

age the new facility. Evergreen will act as the “owner’s representative” during the final stages of construction, operate and manage the pellet plant on a day-to-day basis, help to develop residential and utility markets for biomass pellets, and provide scientific and engineering knowledge to develop products on behalf of the co-op. Construction of the hay-grinding building began in September. Adelphi Construction and SeCon Concrete took advantage of Missouri’s warm fall days so that by October the hay-grinding building was complete, and equipment was arriving on-site. In November, the pellet cooler and finished pellet silos had been erected. At press time in early December, construction work was nearly complete, and equipment installation was in full force. The cost of the new plant is $6.6 million. “We raised a million dollars on the first day of the equity drive,” Flick said. Future plans at Show Me Energy include the development of a cellulosic ethanol plant. -Ron Kotrba

SRI Consulting explores chemicals derived from biomass Menlo Park, Calif.-based SRI Consulting, the world’s leading business research service for the global chemical industry, has released a report, titled “Chemicals from Biomass,” as a means to provide industry experts insight on how biomass could be a viable source of chemicals, both directly and as a byproduct of other manufacturing processes. SRI’s report identifies the chemicals that can be derived from biomass and compares that volume with chemicals derived from crude oil. The report also examines prospects for future growth and potential sources of competition, according to report author Bob Davenport. “It really takes a lot of effort to follow biomass and the chemicals derived from it because [biomass] changes more rapidly than almost any other chemical industry has changed in decades,” Davenport said. In the report, Davenport highlighted 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2008

six major contributing sources of chemicals from biomass: Increased biofuels production could yield increasing amounts of chemical byproducts. Partial decomposition of biomass fractions could yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacturing of various chemicals. Forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals. Evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will produce an increasing number of chemicals. Natural products obtained from

plant material have long been used to process difficult-to-synthesize products, such as lignin. Agriculture and food processing produce some chemicals, and more may be coming. “We really don’t know how many of these are going to sink or swim,” Davenport said. “My intent was to really define what the current position is in terms of the role of biomass as a source of chemicals versus petrochemicals, and then compare that with what might happen in the future if a number of these processes flourish,” Davenport said. For more information on SRI or how to order the report, visit www.sriconsulting .com. -Bryan Sims

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Pictured is TRI’s Norampac facility in Canada for the steam reforming of black liquor into syngas. PHOTO: THERMOCHEM RECOVERY INTERNATIONAL INC.



Interest in the thermochemical conversion of biomass into a synthesis gas that can be run through a turbine for the production of electricity, used to replace natural gas or converted into biofuel, is gaining ground. Biomass Magazine probes several experts for explanations to demystify the processes used to make syngas. By Jessica Ebert


he technologies for transforming biomass into energy, fuels, chemicals or other valueadded products come in one of two varieties. One is founded on the natural biological processes carried out by microbes, or they’re dependent on the calibrations of heat, pressure and/or oxygen that define various thermochemical reactions generally referred to as gasification. At the moment, the former is the glitzy star at the center of the renewable fuels stage, while the latter— the understudy to these microbial wonders—is gaining a reputation for robust consistency and efficiency. “Syngas production is sort of an orphan,” says

Alexander Koukoulas, senior technology consultant for ANL Consultants LLC, which services the pulp and paper, packaging, chemicals and bioenergy industries. “It hasn’t really seen much in the way of publicity even though it’s a much more mature technology that has been used at commercial scale for quite sometime.” To harness the energy stored in the chemical bonds of agricultural waste, forest residues or any other of the profusion of carbohydrate-containing leftovers that can serve as renewable energy feedstocks, engineers tinker with the deforming powers of heat and pressure with the aim of breaking the linkages that hold these molecules together and capturing the chemical energy released in the process. 1|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 21

Frontline BioEnergy partners from left to right: John Reardon, research and development manager; Jerod Smeenk, engineering manager; and Norman Reese, general manager

gasifier developer and process engineering firm. A contrasting approach uses various means of indirect heat transfer to achieve high operating temperatures, including hot sand circulation and exotic alloy heat exchangers, Smeenk says. “It comes down to an


This chemical energy is contained in a mixture of molecules collectively called synthesis gas because it’s suitable for the synthesis of various fuels and chemicals. The principal components of syngas are carbon monoxide and hydrogen but the concentrations of these and the presence of other minor molecules can be tailored by using different thermochemical reaction conditions. Koukoulas The main method of producing syngas from biomass feedstocks is called gasification. Although gasification reactions can take many forms, these processes are defined by cranking up the temperature to between 650 and 1,400 degrees Celsius (1,202-2,552 Fahrenheit). There are two approaches to achieving these elevated temperatures: direct heating and indirect heating. In direct heating, a relatively small amount of oxygen is added to the reactor. If this gas is made up of more than 90 percent oxygen, the resulting syngas will be rich in carbon monoxide and hydrogen, explains Jerod Smeenk, engineering manager for Frontline BioEnergy LLC, a biomass



This star diagram shows the multitude of biobased products that can be produced from syngas.


technology burners at the boilers and dryers will be replaced with special multi-fuel burners that can run on producer gas, natural gas or a combination of both. “Whereas some other biomass systems require a complete overhaul, our technology lends itself to doing a retrofit of an existing facility,” Smeenk says. The first phase of the CVEC project, which is expected to be complete in February, will process 75 tons of locally available wood waste thereby displacing 25 percent of the natural gas consumed by the plant. “Ultimately our objective is to displace more than 90 percent of the plant’s natural gas requirement.” But what if the goal of the ethanol producer or pulp and paper mill owner is to produce a rich syngas for the production of electricity? The method of choice in this case is a thermochemical reaction called steam reforming. It’s a type of indirect gasification that is also referred to as high-temperature pyrolysis. In pyrolysis, biomass is heated to temperatures ranging from 400 to 800 C (752 to 1,472 F) in an oxygen-starved reactor. In fast pyrolysis, the reaction is run in the middle of this


economic consideration,” he says. “One must consider many factors including simplicity of design, upfront costs, operating costs, scale-up potential and the potential replacement costs for exotic alloy heat exchange components.” The least expensive approach to biomass gasification is the direct approach, which adds air—not pure oxygen—to the system with simple blower technology. The gas released from this approach is called producer gas because although this method is a money saver, nitrogen from the air becomes a major component of the gas. Although producer gas doesn’t have as high a concentration of carbon monoxide and hydrogen as syngas, it can be made very clean with appropriate gas conditioning and as such it can be used as a replacement for natural gas and burned to fuel equipment like fired boilers and direct-fired dryers, Smeenk explains. This is the type of system that Frontline is in the process of installing at Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLC in Benson, Minn. The gasification system will be constructed as an island so as not to disrupt the primary workings of the facility. The

Frontline BioEnergy’s facility at Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.



Jet Fuel From

Biomass Solena Group, a global bioenergy production company and Rentech Inc., a coal-to-liquid production company, have teamed to develop the first large-scale biomass-to-jet fuel plant in the United States. The plant will employ Solena’s plasma gasification technology to super-heat biomass thereby converting the organic components into syngas and the inorganic particles into a solid that can be used in road construction. The syngas will be further processed to a clean diesel liquid fuel and ultimately upgraded to a jet fuel using Rentech’s iron-catalyzed FischerTropsch technology. “Because plasma gasification is such a robust way to treat these materials you don’t have a lot of the downtime that you see with other kinds of technologies,” says Dennis Miller, Solena’s vice president of project development for North America. Solena is in the process of signing contracts for feedstocks and zeroing in on a site for its first plant in the Sacramento, Calif., area. “Once we have the site and we have the guarantees on the delivery of feedstock, we’ll look for contracts on delivery of the fuel,” Miller explains. The company also recently signed an agreement to build a similar plant in Argentina and is in talks with folks in Mississippi to build a plant there, Miller says.

temperature range and the amount of time that the biomass is exposed to heat is limited. These conditions maximize the production of a liquid product called pyrolysis oil or py-oil, “which can be used in much the same way as a crude oil can be used,” Koukoulas says. In high-temperature pyrolysis, steam is used to heat the biomass. “We put energy in but convert all the biomass to syngas,” explains Dan Burciaga, president of ThermoChem Recovery International Inc., a biomass-to-energy company that commercializes gasification technologies. “This makes it a very thermally efficient process.” TRI’s steam reformer technology is currently being used at the Norampac Inc. containerboard mill in Trenton, Ontario. The feedstock for the steam reformer is black liquor, which is essentially the lignin left over from the pulping process. The syngas that’s made is combusted in a boiler to produce steam, which offsets some natural gas requirements. The system started up in September 2003 and transitioned from commissioning to full commercial operation in October 2006. The use of syngas as a natural gas replacement is just the start. “Once you have syngas you have optionality,” says Chris Doherty, vice president of contracts for TRI. “Syngas has the building blocks to create all the products and chemicals currently generated in the petrochemical industry.” Perhaps the ultimate and most demanding application of syngas is as a precursor for liquid fuel. Producing this liquid fuel is the goal of a new partnership between TRI, Flambeau River Papers LLC of Park Falls, Wis., and Syntroleum Corp. of Tulsa, Okla. TRI and Syntroleum will serve as technology partners for Flambeau’s planned 37 MMgy wood-to-syngas-to-liquid fuel plant colocated with the company’s paper mill. TRI will provide the gasification technology for

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technology the project while Syntroleum will provide the gas-to-liquids technology. The latter converts syngas into a low-sulfur replacement to crude oil through a cobalt catalyzed process called Fischer-Tropsch. “We’re very excited about this biofuels plant,” says Bob Byrne, president of Flambeau River Biofuels LLC. In mid-August, the company submitted a grant application to the U.S. DOE to help fund the construction of the plant. Byrne says they expect to hear from the agency this month. “If we get a government grant it will be a significant tail wind for us to put this project together and move quickly to funding, permitting, construction and startup,” he says. However, the development of the biofuels plant doesn’t hinge on this grant. “If we don’t get the grant, I still expect that we will put the project together but it may take us longer to get it funded.” Either way, Byrne expects to break ground this spring. “And that’s not the end all,” he says. “We’re hopefully establishing the model that helps make the North American pulp and paper industry that much more competitive with the global economy that we face,” says Bill Johnson, director of government affairs and public relations for Flambeau. BIO Jessica Ebert is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at or (701) 738-4962.

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Move over Niagara hydropower—there’s a new generation of power in town. By Ron Kotrba

In early 2007, U.S. Renewables Group bought the 48-megawatt Niagara Generating Facility in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and began converting the predominantly coal-fed power plant to make electricity from wood-waste and tire-derived fuel. The full conversion will have lasted a year once commissioning begins in February. The plant was operating on and off as a coal plant during much of the conversion work. Shown here under construction are the wood chip silos and the hydraulic discharger. PHOTO: USRG






he new owners of a 48megawatt power facility in Niagara Falls are changing the face of electrical generation in this western New York tourist town. For more than 150 years, man has harnessed immense power from the world’s most spectacular set of falls as the water’s graceful descent from Lake Erie jettisons maniacally to its destination in Lake Ontario. Hydropower plants dot both sides of this international city of romance, but one of the latest power projects in this enchanted land is owned by U.S. Renewables Group, which purchased the coal-fed Niagara Generating Facility for conversion to a green power plant run on wood waste and tirederived fuel (TDF)—or chipped rubber from old tires. Those involved with the project say New York state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and the anticipated sale of the renewable energy credits generated at the converted power plant have propelled this project forward. But USRG principal Scott Gardner tells Biomass Magazine of an even more compelling reason to convert this plant. “The big picture is that you can buy an existing resource and spend money to refurbish it, and the installed cost per kilowatt per installed capacity is less than the replacement costs, or the costs to build a new plant,” Gardner says. Paying $31 million for the plant and spending another $20 million on upgrades, USRG calculates it’s paying the net installed cost of $1,100 per kilowatt compared with the typical cost of $3,000 per kilowatt. “Getting biomass generating capability for a lower installed cost—that is the play here,” he reiterates. “On the other side, we qualify for renewable energy credits, which helps boost our revenue compared with what we would otherwise earn on the New York market.” Up to 15 percent of facility’s total revenue will come from the sale of renewable energy credits. In 2002, the New York state energy 28 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2008

‘It’s really like we have three fuels. We have tire chips, green wood and dry wood.’

planning board’s energy plan outlined a grim picture of dependence on imported fossil energy and an even darker image of the resulting environmental consequences, and warned of the eventual depletion of those supplies. Then Gov. George Pataki requested the exploration of developing an RPS. The state Public Service Commission agreed in 2004 to adopt such a standard, calling for a 25 percent increase in the percentage of renewable electricity consumed by New Yorkers by 2013. The 2004 base line already showed more than 19 percent of electricity consumed instate came from renewable resources— nuclear and hydro mostly. In adopting this RPS, the PSC designated the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as the central procurement administrator. USRG bought the facility in early 2007 and continued to operate the plant during the conversion. “It shut down for a month here and there, and in between those times it’s run as a coal and TDF plant,” Gardner says, adding that Feb. 1 is the target date for completion of the total conversion project.

Tweaking the Boiler Wisconsin Public Service sold the small power plant to USRG because of the higher costs of Pennsylvania coal, and because the company had trouble with efficiency as the equipment was not maintained sufficiently, Gardner says. The plant, however, was equipped with a circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler, which makes a great conversion candidate for this type of project. Biomass industry veteran Andrew Grant was contracted by USRG to be project manager of the Niagara conversion. “Whenever you switch fuels—coal to wood—you

affect the way the boiler runs,” Grant says. “Essentially you have to redesign the boiler, and that’s a major exercise.” The CFB is flexible compared with coal or stoker units and allows combustion of fuels with varying properties. High ashcontent fuels, even surpassing 60 percent, are routinely burned in CFBs, and the lower combustion temperatures associated with these boilers—1,600 degrees Fahrenheit compared with temperatures reaching 2,500 degrees in a coal or stoker unit—assists in keeping ash and alkalis from reaching their melting point. “This is vital,” Grant says. While the CFB offers this inherent feedstock flexibility, there are limits on how much flue gas it can handle. “This affects flue gas velocities throughout the furnace and convection sections, and through the bag house and [induced draft] fan,” Grant explains. “But we have addressed this by using a blend of waste wood and tire chips, keeping the resultant flue gas volume where we can handle it.” More accurate metering of TDF from the existing day bins to the boiler, and new programmable logic controllers for on line blending and sampling of the fuels, were critical upgrades to the plant. The boiler was also outfitted with improved side-by-side fuel feed control and bed temperature monitoring, as well as updated combustion control loops. It just isn’t feasible to burn 100 percent wood in the Niagara boiler. Because of wood’s high moisture content, more energy is used to burn off that water, which results in a reduction in total peak output. “That’s why TDF is used to enhance the [British thermal units] that go into the boiler,” Gardner says. Seventy percent of the facility’s feedstock by weight—an important caveat— is wood waste and 30 percent is TDF.

“It’s really like we have three fuels,” Gardner says. “We have tire chips, green wood and dry wood.” Dry wood is a better fuel than green wood, but it produces a lot more flue gas countered by the use of green wood and TDF. All three fuels are handled separately and blended at the point of use. Even though by weight 70 percent of the Niagara Generating Facility’s new feedstock will be biomass, TDF possesses more energy per equivalent mass basis than wood, which comes into play when the sale of renewable energy credits comes up. “To accurately account for the renewable portion of the power generation, we have to measure the mass flow of both fuel sources going in and then we have to do sampling and analysis of the samples in order to determine the Btu content over an average period,” Gardner explains. If 100 units of electricity are produced but only 47 percent of the Btus fed into the boiler was from wood, then only 47 percent of that electricity is considered renewable and therefore eligible for credit as such. Retrofitting the facility to accommodate the new fuel supply required new technical features on-site. Truck dumpers were added to receive the high volume of



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power ‘There is no new technology here. There are some major environmental benefits here and it’s all done with established technology.’

very congested,” Grant says. “It’s probably been the tightest site I’ve ever worked on.” The original site was five acres, but USRG is renting an acre from its neighbor. “We have replaced most of the original fuel-feed system,” Grant says. “In operation, the fuel yard staff manages the blending of fuels to the required composition while plant operators control the boiler operation to maximize the


delivered wood. Disc screening and a magnetic separator were added, and new silos were built with hydraulic dischargers to segregate and feed dry biomass into the plant. For green wood storage, an open wood yard was needed with a stack-out conveyor and reclaimer. “This coal plant was built on a handkerchiefsized site, and even though we rented a little land from [a neighboring chemical factory] for our fuel storage, it’s been

output.” A new continuous emissions monitoring system was installed and the bag house was rebuilt. Gardner says nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions won’t change much with the fuel switch—perhaps slight reductions in each—but sulfur dioxide reductions of 400 to 500 tons a year are expected. Some sulfur coming by way of the TDF will still be controlled with limestone in the boiler while selective noncatalytic reduction of nitrogen oxide will continue as before. Carbon dioxide emissions reductions will reach 160,000 tons per year with combustion of carbon-neutral wood.

USRG installed a new disc screen, foreground, and silos at its Niagara Generating Facility under conversion from coal and TDF to wood waste and TDF.


power Feedstock Arrangements Since the plant previously burned TDF, USRG walked into an established cache of rubber chip suppliers but has enhanced the “tenor” of those existing relationships, Gardner says. “We’ve reached out a little further to eastern New York and New Jersey, to access the tremendous amount of tires that are generated in that area.” Relationships with wood suppliers, however, were developed from scratch. “There are tremendous resources in western New York, in terms of wood and waste wood, so we knew going in that there were towns and municipalities, and utility companies that manage rights of way for their lines and roads, which involves a lot of cutting and clearing,” Gardner says. “They have to spend money to process and dispose of it, so for us to come in and take it off their hands for free allows them to realize a cost savings, and it provides us with a fuel that helps underpin our business.” The distance limit of feedstock affordability is 80 miles, and USRG is talking with more than 20 towns and municipalities to hash out procurement arrangements; but the crux of wood waste comes from about 10 local utilities and tree trimmers. The feedstock is free, but transportation and processing increases the per-ton cost of wood from $5 to $15 dollars. In October 2006, a big snow and ice storm wreaked havoc in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, knocking down 30 percent of the trees. “There’ve been huge efforts through [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and local contractors to dispose of that wood, which has been chipped and put into big piles that are just sitting around,” Grant says. It’s important to note that all of the wood consumed by the Niagara Generating Facility is “clean unadulterated waste wood,” so there are no contaminants, paint, chemicals or treatments, keeping emissions within permitted allowances.

Ultimately several ingredients make such a conversion project viable: a plant (and boiler) able to accommodate the new fuel; modified permits to allow the combustion of wood, which is typically a nonissue due to the benefits of wood power compared with coal; an RPS to require the purchase of renewable power; and feedstock suppliers. The dynamics of this conversion project represent a tremendous amount of work, not because of the technologies needed but rather the overlapping complexities. “At the same time, this was an acquisition project, a development project, a construction project and an operating project,” Gardner says, adding that the Niagara Generating Facility’s conversion demonstrates a viable business model for the introduction of biomass in the United States. “There is no new technology here,” Grant tells Biomass Magazine. “There are some major environmental benefits here and it’s all done with established technology. I’ve worked on cellulosic ethanol biomass plants before and, although this project was complex in the managing of different permitting, design, construction and operations, the technical risk is very low with this established technology compared with trying to use biomass for gasification into liquid fuels, or something of that nature. Those are very promising processes, but they’re still a long way out. What we have employed here today is based on 25-year-old technology and it works.” BIO



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Texas Panhandle feedlot operators clean out mountains of manure each time they ship a pen of beef cattle to market. Where some see a looming environmental problem, others envision a potential renewable energy source. By Susanne Retka Schill

To create the smooth surface shown on the right, a maintainer was used to peel back the manure pack. A box scraper behind the tractor picks up the manure and hauls it to the fence line where a loader tractor piles it into a waiting truck. PHOTO: TAES






The goal is to scrape the uncompacted manure off of a soil-surfaced feedlot, and to leave a couple of inches of highly compacted manure on top of the soil as a quasi pavement. Panda estimates its energy costs from manure will be $2.14 per million British thermal units, compared with the national average natural gas price of $7.04 per MMBtu in early December. “We’re not paying for the manure,” says Bill Pentak, director of communications. Panda will, however, pay the transportation costs to move the manure from the feedlot to the ethanol plant. That will result in a big savings for feedlot operators, considering that one large feedlot operator in the area spends $350,000 each year to haul manure away, he says. Panda’s Hereford plant is in the Texas Panhandle where, within a 200 mile radius of Amarillo, roughly 2.3 million

head, or one-third of the nation’s cattle, are fattened in feedlots annually. Each animal produces about a ton of manure a year. Now that’s a Texas-sized pile of biomass. Most of that manure is used on nearby irrigated corn fields to avoid using expensive fertilizer. That could change, though, if declining aquifer levels and high energy costs for pumping water reduce irrigated acres, which would reduce fertilizer requirements and manure applications. In the past, surplus manure created disposal problems and environmental concerns. A quarter century ago, Texas A&M University and Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers began examining manure


anure Power in Texas is poised to take a quantum leap. Dallas-based Panda Ethanol Inc. is nearing completion on a new ethanol plant that will gasify nearly 1 million tons of manure for process heat. Its manure-powered plant in Hereford, Texas, is one of four the company intends to build. The 115 MMgy ethanol plant will use natural gas for process heat when it starts up early this year, and switch to gasified manure once the project is fully operational. Panda is no stranger to energy production. Its parent corporation, Panda Energy International, has built 9,000 megawatts of power generating capacity around the world in places such as Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Nepal and China.

A maintainer can be used to harvest a manure pack that has grown 4 to 8 inches. The maintainer blade can be set to cut into the manure pack without disturbing the highly compacted interfacial layer, which forms a quasi pavement on the soil base.


feedstock on top of the soil as a quasi pavement. manure moisture “We have seen numbers in the order of content, says John 5,000 Btus per pound coming off a soil- Sweeten, resident surfaced feed yard, which is really very director of the good manure,” Auvermann says. TAES in Amarillo. Moisture control is another issue. Piling manure in The Texas Panhandle receives an average windrows for about of 19 inches of rainfall a year, mostly in six weeks can reduce the form of summer thunderstorms. moisture from 40 However, during the region’s infamous percent to 20 perSweeten hot summer days enough moisture is cent. Turning the evaporated to keep feedlots dry. pile once or twice during that time also Nonetheless, spring snows or rains can helps to break down chunk sizes. turn a feedlot into muck. “A good, conManure at 20 percent moisture and scientious manure harvest program helps 40 percent ash content will yield more you avoid that muck,” Auvermann says. than 4,000 Btus per pound, a value “If you leave behind a hard, smooth, researchers believe is achievable. Panda well-compacted surface, it will shed rain- has set a 2,758 Btu minimum content for fall readily. These management objec- the manure it will use in its power sysManure Management Proper management is required to tives that improve fuel quality also tem. “The threshold that Panda Ethanol has set is a fairly lenient standard,” keep moisture and ash levels low. Brent improve air quality and drainage.” Partial composting also reduces Auvermann says. Auvermann, Texas Cooperative Extension engineering specialist, says manure absorbs and releases moisture in a dynamic fashion, and can be dried. However, once ash is in the manure it’s difficult to remove. Some ash is unavoidable, but ash content can climb to 40 percent or even 60 percent when soil gets mixed into the manure. To prevent soils from contaminating manure, beef research pens at TAES were paved Process Engineer Positions Available with fly ash. Another option for Texas Denver and St. Louis Offices feedlots is to mix the fly ash with caliche, a calcium-based subsoil, which Abengoa Bioenergy, a leading technology company and producer of ethanol in North America, Europe and now has several exciting positions open in the New Technologies - Process Engineering Group. This group is packs hard and is used on unpaved back Brazil, responsible for developing and specifying the process for all of our new technologies including production of roads. Feedlot paving is unnecessary, ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks. We are seeking highly motivated individuals for the following positions: however, if operators take care when Senior Process Engineers for developing the process design package for new technologies being commercialized by Abengoa harvesting manure, Auvermann says. Responsible Bioenergy. This position will be responsible for the process model, material and energy balances, P&IDs and equipment specifications development. Minimum 10 years of experience in engineering in the process industries “The machinery and a BS in chemical or mechanical engineering is required. operation is where Process Engineers the action is,” he Work with a Senior Process Engineer to develop process models (Aspen Plus), material and energy balances, P&IDs and equipment specifications for novel new processes. Minimum 2 years of experience in engineering in says. The goal is to the process industries and a BS in chemical or mechanical engineering is required. scrape the uncom- R&D Engineer experiments related to biomass feedstock preparation, pretreatment, biomass fractionation, enzymatic pacted manure off Conduct hydrolysis, and hexose/xylose fermentation; process and plant design, plant start-up and operation. B.S. degree in chemical/biochemical or pulp and paper science plus experience in process or product of a soil-surfaced development; proficiency engineering in experimental design, data analysis, process design, and scale-up; start up and feedlot, and to chemical plant operation a plus. leave a couple of inches of highly Email: Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies, LLC compacted manure Fax: (636) 728-0585 1400 Elbridge Payne Road, Ste. 212 Auvermann combustion as one use for the abundant resource. Dry, ash-free manure contains about 8,500 Btus of energy per pound. In a feedlot, however, moisture and ash content can reduce the percentage of combustible organic matter per pound of manure. TAMU researchers established that the ideal, achievable energy content is 6,500 Btus per pound, which allows for a minimum practical moisture content of 10 percent and a base line ash content of 15 percent. At 6,500 Btus per pound, manure’s energy value is roughly equivalent to Texas lignite coal. The first step in optimizing its energy potential, however, is to harvest clean manure.

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Manure Conversion


When harvesting manure, a light box scraper like this will float over the highly compacted interfacial layer and collect the 2 to 3 inches of loose manure on top. This system will harvest high fuel-quality manure.

Panda will be using a fluidized bed gasifier from Energy Products of Idaho, to convert manure into energy. “Fluidized bed gasification is a forgiving process,� says Sweeten, who has worked on the manure power project since its inception. The gasification process can use manure with a moisture content of up to 40 percent, particle size is not as important as in some other applications and fuel quality can vary depending on the ash content. Because of its forgiving nature, gasification was the first technology Sweeten and Kalyan Annamalai, a TAMU professor of mechanical engineering, investigated when they began their studies in the 1980s. At that time, highly sophisticated gasification technologies were not cost effective because energy prices were low, Annamalai says. Discussions with

Researcher Kalyan Annamalai, left, and his graduate student Ben Lawrence, prepare a bench-scale unit for experiments cofiring manure with coal.


feedstock An economic analysis indicates manure can only be cost effective if it’s transported a maximum of 60 miles, but that could be extended to 200 miles if carbon credits could be sold on the Chicago Climate Exchange. electrical utilities led him to explore the potential for cofiring manure with coal in existing boiler units. Initially, the utilities were concerned that manure’s high nitrogen content would add to nitric oxide emissions at a coal-fired power plant. Annamalai’s laboratory tests, however, showed that cofiring manure with coal actually lowered nitric oxide levels. Manure is a natural urea source, he explains, which is used in some reburn processes, along with a catalyst, to reduce nitric oxide emissions. When manure burns it releases urea which combines with the nitric oxide formed by burning coal to create harmless nitrogen and water. Tests at a U.S. DOE pilot-scale facility confirmed his laboratory tests showing cofiring coal with 10 percent manure can reduce nitric oxide emissions by 80 percent, and when used in a reburn process reduce nitric oxide more than 90 percent under certain conditions. This spring, more experiments are scheduled to test manure’s performance in a large-scale boiler, which is more closely configured to commercial-scale power plants. Those tests will also measure whether manure helps to reduce mercury emissions. Manure contains a small amount of chlorine, which combines with mercury to form mercury chloride, a compound which can be removed in the power plant’s scrubbers to reduce emissions, Annamalai says. If these effects prove out in largescale tests, cofiring and/or reburning manure with coal may become a lowcost method of reducing power plant emissions. In addition, because manure is a renewable resource, it would contribute to a net reduction in carbon emissions. “Then the problem is, we

won’t have enough manure,” Annamalai says. If the Amarillo area’s power plants were cofired using 10 percent manure, they would use up all the manure in the area, he says. An economic analysis indicates manure can only be cost effective if it’s transported a maximum of 60 miles, but that could be extended to 200 miles if carbon credits could be sold on the Chicago Climate Exchange. Annamalai continues to push his manure power investigations further. He wants to see how 5 percent manure performs in cofiring and to test manure’s performance with the newer, low nitric oxide burners that are being developed.

He is also working on mathematical models to examine whether high-moisture manure could be used for power. This model would call for the utilization of manure gathered in high-moisture conditions or from dairy operations that use water for manure flushing. Such a process might also be used to extract power from municipal sewage sludge. BIO

Susanne Retka Schill is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at or (701) 738-4962.






Challenges Abound in


Gazing deeply into a crystal ball or dealing out tarot cards are ways to predict what will happen tomorrow. While it can be amusing, the results are generally less than satisfying. So instead of phoning the Psychic Friends Network, Biomass Magazine talked with people who know the industry to find out what the hot topics will be this year. By Jerry W. Kram




007 was a roller coaster ride with the U.S. DOE announcing $385 million in funding opportunities for multiple cellulosic ethanol pilot plants, balanced by the challenging economics of higher feedstock costs and lower biofuels prices. 2008 promises to be another exciting year, when many of the most basic questions about the nascent biomass industry may be answered.

Mandates and Incentives


Two bills currently moving through Congress will greatly impact the biomass industry. The Energy Bill and the Farm Bill will set much of the agenda for developing biomass industries for years to come. “In the Farm Bill, there will be substantial incentives for biofuels, not only for biodiesel but for ethanol [produced] from cellulose and noncorn starch feedstocks,” says John Urbanchuk, director of the consulting firm LECG LLC. “With the Energy Bill, the question will be what kind of a mandate we have. Is it going to be 36 billion [gallons of ethanol] or is it going to be 20.5 billion, and how is that going to help structure the marketplace?”



Biomass technology companies are following the Congressional debate with great interest. “In our area there is the biomass or biogas credit,” says Albert Cocci, vice president of marketing and sales, and a wastewater treatment and energy specialist for ADI Systems Inc. “If that goes through, it would clearly drive a lot more interest in biogas production and anaerobic digestion.” Among other things, ADI Systems manufactures anaerobic digestion systems for water treatment and biogas production. No matter what the outcome of the congressional debate, the DOE will continue to be a major booster of fuel production from biomass. At BBI International’s Biofuels Workshop & Trade Show Eastern Region held recently in Philadelphia, Melissa Klembara of the DOE’s Office of Biomass Program described the current and future solicitations to encourage development of the biomass industry. She describes the agency’s plan for assisting the development of a biomass industry as a five-step process with declining federal involvement and increasing private investment. The first two stages, basic research and development, and technology development, are largely underway or complete. In 2008, the biomass industry will be entering the third stage of the program; building proof-of-conception pilot production plants. The final two stages are construction of commercially viable demonstration plants, and permitting, construction and operation of fully commercial plants. Klembara says of the six projects selected by the DOE to build cellulosic biorefineries, Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, Bluefire Ethanol Inc. and Poet LLC have received their first phase cooperative agreement awards for planning, design and permitting. Range Fuels has received its second phase award, which allowed the company to break ground for construction. Alico Inc. and Iogen Biorefinery Partners LLC were still negotiating their phase one agreements at press time. The DOE also funded five groups in 2007—Cargill Inc., Celunol Corp., DuPont, Mascoma Corp. and Purdue University—to the tune of $37 million to develop new ethanol fermenting organisms that can utilize both C5 and C6 sugars and have a tolerance for higher levels of alcohol than existing organisms. In 2008, the DOE will award grants for demonstration-scale plants, which will be about 10 percent of the size of commercial scale plants. These grants will be for up to $200 million over five years. “In a couple of weeks we hope to make an announcement of about eight to 10 facilities,” Klembara says. Announcements are also pending for a joint $18 million DOE/USDA grant for biobased product development, a $7.75 million grant for thermochemical conversion of biomass and a cost-sharing program for a new generation of cellulase enzymes. The DOE has requested $179 million for biomass programs in 2008, less than what was provided in a continuing funding resolution in 2007, but still more than double any of the funding

outlook amounts in the preceding years since 2000. If funding permits, the DOE plans to solicit proposals in 2008 for research and development into feedstocks, pretreatment reactor designs and pyrolysis oil refining.

could be one. There is a lot of attention given to algae as a source of biodiesel. In warmer climates jatropha is getting a lot of attention. Philosophically, I think we are looking at regional crops. I don’t think there is one favored crop for the whole United States.” Regional feedstocks for producing ethanol are also being considered. “A number of my colleagues are looking at barley for ethanol,” Marmer says. “Barley is a good alternative for the East and Northeast, which are not major corn producers. Getting a regional crop that can be converted to ethanol is a good catch.” Michael Haas, a research biochemist with the ARS, thinks a lot this research will come to fruition in 2008, especially for one highly promising feedstock. “It seems to me that in 2008, we will find out a whole lot more about the feasibility of algae as a fuel feedstock,” he says. “Not much has been published to date, but I have reason to believe that there will be some major developments in the next year and a half.” Feedstocks may not be as important however, if technology can be developed that is flexible enough to handle a wide range of biomass and convert it into the appropriate fuel. Then it becomes a question of who can get the job done for the best price, says Michael Cooper, president of Biofuels Brokers LLC.

Finding Fuel




Many of the people Biomass Magazine spoke with mentioned feedstocks as an issue that needs to be addressed, especially in the biodiesel industry. Soy and other oils have become so expensive that they are pricing many biodiesel producers out of the market. “I think there is going to be more and more demand for alternative feedstocks for biodiesel just because there is so much demand for soy right now,” says William Marmer, a research leader with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “There are plenty of other alternatives that should be taken advantage of. Biodiesel is feedstock neutral. If you meet ASTM standards, you have good biodiesel.” Marmer thinks the biomass industry will be more flexible in 2008 regarding feedstocks. A great deal of research is going into developing biofuels from regionally appropriate feedstocks. “I think in the longer term there will be attention to newer crops—higher yielding crops,” he says. “Peanuts



outlook “Regarding the future of biomass, it’s all about economics,” he says. “The one thing that we have all decided is that we don’t necessarily know what the future holds. The term that has been coined is XTL, which is X-to-liquid. Instead of biomass to liquid or waste to liquid, I prefer X because X is my new variable.” The X could be anything, from jatropha to sewage sludge to compost. “I do know that if it has an energy value and we can gasify it, and turn that gas into a liquid we can put in a fuel tank, that is the future of biomass today,” Cooper says. “We don’t know what X will be, but the technology better be able to handle all the Xs we have coming down the road.”

Looking Ahead There will be other challenges ahead for the biomass industry including environmental and permitting concerns, and finance and investment in the industry. “2008 will see a continuation of the two issues we have now,” says Mick Durham, a project principal with Stanley Consultants Inc. “One is the environmental concerns with water, especially with corn-based ethanol. The second is that the cost of feedstocks is probably going to be high, and that new plants are going to be up against a greater economic challenge than the plants that are now in place. For ethanol, I see a slowdown for at least another year, but it will pick up after that.” The price of energy is another area of concern for biomass although this is both a challenge and an opportunity. With the

specter of $100 a barrel oil and similar increases in other fossil fuels, biomass becomes a competitive choice for new and retrofitted heat and power systems. “I think in 2008, the ethanol producer will have to strive to become the low-cost producer,” says Brian Hare, director of business development for AE&E Von Roll Inc. “This can only be done by kicking the natural gas habit and moving on to biomass fuels and waste fuels, some which [biomass companies] already produce such as syrup from the evaporators. If they wait too long, they may be out of business because the cost of natural gas will go up again.” Incorporating biomass as an alternative fuel source could make some projects more attractive to investors in 2008, says David Quinby a partner with Stoel Rives LLP. “I think in 2008 we are likely to see more biomass applications applied in the biofuels and ethanol areas, as well as in other commercial or industrial projects. Biomass used as an energy source, be it an open-orclosed loop project, will likely be more ‘financable’ with the current market, as there is more interest being shown by debt and equity sources in such projects. While maybe not as robust as we saw in biofuels projects a year or two ago, projects involving biomass are likely to receive a better reception from investors and lenders.” One of the most often mentioned challenges for the biomass industry in 2008 is infrastructure and transportation. By their nature, biomass resources are concentrated in rural areas, and low-density feedstocks are expensive to transport. Without




pipelines, cellulosic ethanol producers must depend on a road and rail system that is already being challenged by the corn ethanol industry. Moving the feedstocks to the factories and the finished products to customers may possibly be the biggest hurdle for the biomass industry to conquer in 2008, says Tom Richard, director of the Biomass Energy Center at Penn State University. “The challenge is going to be infrastructure, moving both fuels and feedstocks,” he says. “In grain ethanol we are already running into some challenges and I don’t know what this year will look like with new plants coming on line. These first generation cellulosic plants are going to start facing the questions about how we are going to get the feedstocks and how we are going to move the fuel. I think the technology is really ready for prime time. It’s the feedstocks and logistics and the fuel distribution system that are going to be the biggest technical and societal challenges.” Rudy Pruszko, from Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service thinks one answer is to convert the biomass into a denser form at the farm gate. “I think the hottest topic is going to be how to convert biomass into a transportable substance that doesn’t take up a lot of space in the truck,” he says. “Either you will have to have very local facilities or convert it into a denser product that can then be transported at a lower cost.” BIO Jerry W. Kram is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at or (701) 738-4962.



Densified Biomass for Cofired Energy Generation The U.K.’s leading “green” power utility, Slough Heat & Power Ltd., features state-of-the-art densification equipment for cubing nonrecyclable commercial and industrial waste for use in its cofired energy plant. By Jim McMahon


he cofiring of biomass and nonrecyclable commercial, municipal and industrial waste with coal represents one of the nearest-term and lowest-cost options for carbon dioxide reduction in the electrical power sector. Compared to burning coal by itself, it has proven to be a low-capital investment for utilities, using existing coal-fired plants to burn biomass and nonrecyclables that are more environmentally friendly with lowered pollutant emissions. Cofiring has been demonstrated successfully in more than 150 installations worldwide. With its plant numbers continuing to increase, the trend could soon evolve into the preferred and most standard practice for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in power facilities. Biomass, in the energy production industry, refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It is grown from a number of plants, including Miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, wheat straw, corn, poplar, willow and sugarcane tops.

Biomass is part of the carbon cycle, where carbon from the atmosphere is converted into biological matter by photosynthesis. Upon decay or combustion, the carbon goes back into the atmosphere or soil. This happens over a relatively short timescale, and plant matter used as a fuel can be constantly replaced by planting for new growth. Therefore, a reasonably stable level of atmospheric carbon results from its use as a fuel. Industrial, municipal and commercial nonrecyclable (low market value) waste includes paper, cardboard, packaging, industrial fiber materials and wood processing waste. When these carbonbased materials are co-fired with coal, carbon dioxide emissions from coalfired power stations can be reduced in direct proportion to the quantity of biomass consumed.

Fueling the Growth of Biomass The main reason utilities are burning biomass and nonrecyclable waste is to generate electricity from renewable energy. Biomass and nonrecyclables compete with saltwater, hydroelectricity, wind and other forms of renewable energy. For example, one dry ton of bio-

The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).


mass will generate approximately one megawatt of electricity. Cofiring with coal reaches a higher temperature and is more efficient, generating about 1.4 megawatts of electricity per ton of biomass. “The cost per ton of biomass and nonrecyclables is still higher than coal, however,” says Tom Miles, President of TR Miles Technical Consultants Inc., an engineering firm specializing in power plant co-firing. “The final kilowatt cost is the fuel, what is actually delivered to the boiler. Most biomass is on the order of $70 per ton by the time it is delivered to the burner. That is 7 cents per kilowatt-hour fuel cost. Coal is at roughly 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and cheaper energy than biomass. Coal prices have been steadily rising, however, gradually closing the gap, which is making co-firing with biomass and non-recyclables more attractive to plants. “Comparatively, natural gas is more expensive than coal-generated power,” Miles explains. “It is about the same cost per kilowatt-hour as biomass. Wind, which at one time was in the vicinity of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour is now in the range of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour



Warren & Baerg cubers process biomass at the Fibre Fuels plant in the U.K.

because many of the ideal sites have now been acquired. All of a sudden, cofiring coal with switchgrass, corn stalks, wood or nonrecyclable waste looks pretty interesting to the utilities from an economic point of view. “Dedicated biomass and nonrecyclable waste plants are not the most cost-efficient option,” Miles says. “If a utility wants to generate electricity from a renewable resource, it should look at coburning that resource with coal, in an existing plant, as opposed to building a new plant that generates power entirely from biomass.”

The Switch to Biomass One power facility that has seriously

embraced cofiring is Slough Heat & Power Ltd., located in the United Kingdom about 15 miles southeast of London. The power plant is a textbook example of the efficiencies attainable by introducing cofiring biomass and nonrecyclable waste into an existing coalfired facility. Slough Heat & Power was a dedicated coal-fired power station up until 2001, when it began cofiring coal with biomass and nonrecyclable waste. This change was prompted by increases in the price of coal and the desire to burn a sustainable fuel in the facility. The plant decided at the time to move forward toward becoming more of a green power station. Today, Slough Heat &

Power is recognized as being the greenest power station in the U.K. Slough Heat & Power supplies electricity, hot water and steam to local businesses, and electricity to local residents. The company is one of the U.K.’s longest-serving and most flexible energy facilities, and a pioneer in renewable energy. The plant is the U.K.’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility with six boilers and six turbines that can operate on a variety of fuels. Wood and fiber fuel are the main fuels but it can also burn natural gas, coal and distillates. Natural gas and coal are now used in small amounts for boiler control. The facility includes two fluidized bed boilers that drive a 35-megawatt




pass-out steam turbine. These are now fueled with wood, having been converted from coal in 2001. One multi-fueled vibrating grate boiler drives a 12megawatt pass-out steam turbine and is also fueled with wood and fiber fuel. “We burn about 1,000 tons of coal a month, primarily for the chemistry,” says John Watson, fuel manager with Slough Heat & Power. “It assists us with corrosion properties. The plant uses about 35,000 tons a month of wood chip fuel, which is both wood and biomass, used for the main part of the power station. We are at the moment about 87 percent green energy. “Slough Heat & Power uses only clean, uncontaminated wood chips,” Watson says. “Much of our wood is from local landscape companies and tree trimmers who perform work on woodlands, forests, parks and roadsides. We purchase chips made from branches, stems and other material which has few, if any, other economic uses. The plant also sources uncontaminated wood from local sawmills, where chips are a byproduct from sawing timber, according to Watson. “Wood chips are also made from clean pallets, demolition wood, off-cuts etc. and these are delivered to us,” he says. The burning of the biomass and wood chips produces less sulfur and ash, and significantly less carbon dioxide. Most of the plant’s ash is recycled and blended into road aggregates, or used as fillers, as opposed to being put into a landfill.

The Fibre Fuel plant processes nonrecyclable waste into fuel cubes.


Turning Nonrecyclable Waste into Fuel Slough Heat & Power also operates an onsite subsidiary, Fibre Fuel Ltd., which processes nonrecyclable commercial and industrial waste into fuel cubes. Waste material is shredded and densified into small, odorless energy cubes that are then combusted to generate electricity for local businesses and residents. In

Biomass togo...



Fibre Fuel Ltd's U.K. plant

essence, waste material is turned into a renewable fuel to generate electricity. These waste materials include mixed papers, magazines, junk mail, coated papers, laminates, adhesive labels, photographic paper, hygiene product rejects and pre-consumer packaging. There is also 15 percent plastic (excluding PVC) in the mix, which is added to improve the caloric content. The company processes approximately 8,000 tons of waste per month and 260 tons of fuel cubes are produced each day. The fuel cubes are approximately two-thirds the calorific value of coal. Thirteen tons of the energy product produces 12,000 kilowatts of electricity and 20,000 kilowatts of heat. “We shred all of this waste material to a fraction the size, down to two to three inches,” Watson says. “We then run it through high-speed densification equipment to make fuel cubes. In size the cubes are either 1.25 by 1.25 by 3 inches long, or 2.5 by 1.25 by

3 inches long. These then go directly to the boilers.” At the heart of Fibre Fuel’s cubing is Warren Baerg Manufacturing’s state-of-the-art Model 250 cubers, which can produce six to eight tons of cubes per hour per machine, depending on the material and die selection. They can process a wide range of forage and other nonrecyclable materials, including biomass and municipal or industrial waste. The resulting fuel cubes, trademarked Cubed Energy, are 1.25 by 1 inch square, and break off in lengths of 1 to 3 inches, depending on the materials used and the components and adjustments selected. Since the characteristics of the fuel cubes are similar to those of coal or hog fuel, they can be used in most industrial boilers along with their other fuels. The range of cubing systems the company manufactures can convert many loose, low-density materials into a dense alternative fuel that is economical to transport and efficient to

we deliver.

Call us today at 870/367-9751 x112 to place your order.



Nonrecyclable waste is converted into fuel at Fibre Fuel Ltd.

burn. Nonrecyclable papers, newsprint, poly coated or waxed cardboard, preconsumer industrial fiber wastes, wood processing and manufacturing wastes, and post consumer combustible fiber wastes can all be processed through the Model 250 Cubers. Secondary additives, such as paper mill short fibers (sludge), coal fines, and petroleum coke can be added to form a blended fuel. “We are currently running six Warren & Baerg cubers, but have the ability to site eight,” Watson says. “We don’t just feed the raw paper or cardboard directly into the boiler because of two reasons: it needs to be decontaminated, because it is a waste product. It contains undesirables that have to be removed before it can be cubed. Second, because the material cannot go in to the boiler in its raw form, it has to be made to a specific specification of cubing for optimized burning. “The contaminants are removed with two systems,” Watson explains.

process “First, metals, ceramics, aggregates and glass are removed with an air-knife, which introduces an air flow onto the material, blowing the light material forward and allowing the heavy materials to fall out as a reject. Second, with the ferrous metals we have a whole series of electromagnets. On the non-ferrous metals we have Eddy-Current separators, which work opposite to a magnet, repelling metals like aluminum and brass.” The plant then uses a series of conveyors and screw augers to feed the processed waste into the cubing equipment. Fibre Fuel exercises different options for the fuel once it has been cubed. First, the cubes can be fed directly into the boiler. Second, the cubes can be put into a storage bunker, where 300 tons of cubes can be stored. Third, the cubes can be feed into a truck and transported around the site for alternative use or additional storage.

Streamlined Biomass Grinding “We got interested in grinding our straw for cofiring,” Miles says. “We put into place a unique system built by Warren & Baerg that handles any size bale, even 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet long. The equipment takes the bales, automatically removes the twine by running it through a de-stringer, and then grinds it down to a 2-inch vertical size. Then we take it down to about one-quarter-inch size, and blow it 1,500 feet over to a boiler, where it is burned with the coal. It is a very efficient system.” Aside from the automatic destringer, the grinder feeds horizontally, allowing large round bales to be processed without delay. The system also has an air-takeaway system, greatly reducing dust. For Slough Heat & Power, converting to co-firing diverts roughly 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted to the atmosphere annually. Also, 100,000 tons of waste material are kept from

being deposited in waste dumps. The first tests with co-firing wood and coal were conducted in 1979. In the early 1980s, co-firing became popular, then waned. It regained popularity in the early 1990s and again waned. Now, it appears cofiring is back again, and has achieved a new level of popularity with power utilities. Recent technology upgrades for handling biomass and nonrecyclable wastes can only add to this momentum, and will help provide the needed efficiencies to prove co-firing methodology sustainable. BIO Jim McMahon writes on energy and industrial technology. To reach Slough Heat and Power Ltd. and Fibre Fuel Ltd., contact Fuel Manager John Watson at johnwatson To reach Warren & Baerg Manufacturing Inc., contact Mary Villarreal at


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LAB The Language of the Trees



erald Tuskan, a lead researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is teaching people how to “speak to the trees.” He, along with hundreds of other researchers, is doing so by using the complete genome of Populus, also known as black cottonwood or poplar. Tuskan helped to lead a consortium of more than 250 scientists in 34 countries to publish the Populus genome in September 2006. In the little more than a year since the genome was published in Science, the poplar has been talking, and scientists have been listening. One of the most basic questions that scientists have been trying to answer is: What makes a tree a tree? “We are learning a lot of things that make woody plants woody and perennial plants perennial,” Tuskan says. “What we learn in poplar is the basics of cell wall development, which is really the basis for biomass power or liquid fuels for transportation. We can study these things directly in poplar, and then take that information and apply it to other species like eucalyptus, switchgrass or miscanthus.” A genome gives scientists a road map to the valuable and interesting traits in an organism. “The genome allows us access to the genes that control development and function of the organism,” Tuskan says. “So if you have a phenotype or a trait you are interested in—whether it is hemicellulose in the cell wall, or its growth rate or disease resistance—you used to have to isolate the part of the genome where that trait was controlled. Then you would have to spend time trying to sequence the gene involved. Both of those processes would take years.” Once the genes are identified, researchers can then inhibit or “overexpress” them to see what impact that has on trees. Several of these studies could have profound impacts on the use of poplar in the biomass industry. Using a tool called a microarray, researchers can examine how thousands of genes are turned on and off as the poplar grows and experiences changes in the environment, Tuskan says. “So, instead of studying one gene or one enzyme, we are studying the entire organism,” he says. Some interesting discoveries have already been made. One ORNL research team led by Tongming Yin discovered the genes that determine whether a tree is male or female. This is important because male trees accumulate more biomass under stressed conditions, Tuskan says. “We could never isolate the biological mechanism that controls gender,” he says. “We’ve been able to determine that chromosome 19 has a region that controls gender. Just from a

Kalluri uses the genome of the poplar to discover which genes regulate auxin, a plant hormone, and how manipulating one of those genes could lead to a tree that is less expensive to harvest for biomass.

biological point of view, this is a wonderful discovery, but from an applied point of view, it allows breeders and geneticists to select male and female genotypes when the seeds germinate.” Another ORNL study, led by Udaya Kalluri, has been looking at the plant hormone auxin, which among other things controls the amount of biomass that the trees accumulate above and below ground. A study of the dozens of genes that regulate auxin showed that reducing the activity of one of those genes made the trees add more biomass to their trunks. “So if you want a tree that is economically better, short and stout is better than tall and thin in terms of harvesting costs,” Tuskan says. “We were able to do that in an amazingly short amount of time. If we had done this through conventional genetics, it would have taken five to 10 years to get this far.” In 2008, the U.S. DOE Bioenergy Science Center at ORNL will be using the genome to study poplar’s recalcitrance, or the difficulty of extracting fermentable sugars from plant tissues with microbes or enzymes. “We’ve taken the whole genome microarray, the metabolic profile, the transcript profile, the DNA annotation sequence and assembly, and we are bringing all of those resources to bear on the issue of recalcitrance,” Tuskan says. BIO —Jerry W. Kram




Engineering Analysis of Indirect Biomass Liquefaction


ydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles may be several years away with respect to viable market penetration, but other fuel cell applications are more viable in the near-term. In fact, fuel cells may be a near-term solution to power production in remote areas. Most remote power systems or generators run on diesel fuel or gasoline. Future remote power systems may run on indigenous biomass residues such as forest or agricultural wastes that power fuel cells with a completely “green� footprint. As oil prices continue to climb, advanced biomass-powered energy systems will continue to gain market acceptance. The Energy & Environmental Research Center has partnered with IdaTech LLC and completed a study to determine the feasibility and process economics for production and operation of a truck-mounted biomass gasification plant that would produce synthetic gas, or syngas. The syngas would be converted to methanol as a liquid hydrogen carrier for use in remote fuel cell power systems. Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil sources, but this project touts renewable biomass-derived hydrogen using wood residue as the primary feedstock. Methanol would be produced and converted to hydrogen at Hurley remote sites. The hydrogen would then be used to make electricity in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell system. A detailed study was completed to identify the most appropriate method for biomass gasification relative to methanol production and to identify potential methanol production systems that can handle various compositions of syngas. The goal is to demonstrate wood-based gasification and methanol production at approximately 200,000 gallons per year. The EERC investigated several air, oxygen, steam and thermally integrated gasification systems and decided a thermally integrated downdraft gasification system is the most economical system for methanol synthesis in a portable system. Key features include its ease of operation and efficient use of heat. A significant advantage is that the biomass does not need to be predried because the heat integration assists in maintaining the uniform gasification temperatures required for complete conversion of green biomass. Moisture is utilized in the simplified air gasification process. Also, a comparison of oxygen gasification versus air gasification (oxygen blown versus air blown) showed that the complexity of oxygen gasification is not warranted. Methanol synthesis options were also analyzed. A literature review indicated that the integrated gasifier should be able to meet the requirements for methanol synthesis without significant gas conditioning or drying of the feedstock. The economic analysis reveals that the cost to produce methanol using thermally integrated gasification is 79 cents per gallon, assuming a 20-year life with an estimated capital cost of $665,844 financed at 6.5 percent. The economics assume an 85 percent annual availability for a plant powered with grid electricity producing 176,967 gallons of methanol per year. The performance is favorable compared to other gasification approaches and minimizes equipment components and labor. Methanol pricing, provided by Methanex, was $1.80 per gallon at the time of the January 2007 study. John Hurley is a senior research advisor at the EERC in Grand Forks, N.D. He can be reached at or (701) 777-5159.


BBI International’s

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International Biomass ‘08 Conference & Trade Show is to act as a catalyst for the sustainable advancement of biomass utilization on a global scale.

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Biopower Gasification Feedstock Processing Pretreatment for Cellulosic Ethanol Policy and Project Implementation Biopower: CHP Technologies International Perspectives on Biomass Utilization

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Permitting and Lifecycle Assessment Alternative Bio-syngas Production Water Issues for Biomass Utilization Feedstock Alternatives Alternative Biofuels: Biobutanol, Green Diesel, and Jet Fuel

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Feedstock Supply Commercial Applications Anaerobic Digestion Project Finance Bioproducts Biorefining

ing of 24" k c e o Sto rang 1 /2" t ull x in f a ple Du 5 0



Construction Delays With In-Stock Stainless Pipe, Fittings and Flanges in sizes up to 36"


Whether you are building a brand new processing plant or expanding an existing one, Robert-James Sales has the stainless PVF you need in-stock and ready to deliver. Robert-James Sales is one of the largest stainless distributors in the US with the largest inventory east of the Mississippi ready to help your plant avoid costly shutdowns. Our business is built on the tight deadlines and tight quick turnarounds the bio-fuel processing industry demands.

Free Product CD


Buffalo, NY Cleveland, OH Cincinnati, OH Chicago, IL Indianapolis, IN Minneapolis, MN South Plainfield, NJ Raleigh, NC Tavernier, FL

800-666-0088 800-777-0820 800-777-2260 800-777-2008 800-777-0510 800-777-1355 800-777-1858 866-493-8834 305-852-1694

Contact the Robert-James Sales location nearest you and ask for a free copy of our comprehensive, up-to-date CD. It outlines our stainless product line including reference charts, graphs and tables to help you calculate what your 1|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 60 processing plant needs.

Biomass Magazine - January 2008