Page 1

August 2015

Equipped for Efficiency Densifiers Add to Pellet Plants' Bottom Line Page 16

Plus: Biogas Storage Methods Page 38


Wood Chip Drying Techniques Page 26




When you use the Cornrower™ attachment with your New Holland CR combine and chopping corn head, you windrow corn stover at the same time you harvest, eliminating extra trips through the field and associated labor and fuel costs. That’s SMART for your bottom line. The Cornrower™ attachment “catchesâ€? stalk material under the chopping corn head, creating a uniform windrow, then the CR combine drops high-energy chopped cobs and husks on top—without dirt or rocks that spoil your corn stover, and without hindering combine performance or maneuverability. Find out how you can save with the New Holland Cornrower.


Š 2015 CNH Industrial America LLC. All rights reserved. New Holland Agriculture is a trademark registered in the United States and many other countries, owned by or licensed to CNH Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates. New Holland Construction is a trademark in the United States and many other countries, owned by or licensed to CNH Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates.



Equipment such as the pictured compressed log machine from Di-Piu allows producers to introduce new products to the marketplace. PHOTO: DI-PIU

06 EDITOR’S NOTE Well-Equipped By Tim Portz


12 POWER 10 NEWS 11 COLUMN Opportunity to Showcase Biomass By Carrie Annand

12 DEPARTMENT Advancing Alongside Ag New Holland stays ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting needs of the rapidly evolving biomass industry. By Anna Simet

PELLETS Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 701-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational. com. Advertising Biomass Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biomass Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 701-746-8385 or service@ Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Managing Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to asimet@bbiinternational. com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

14 NEWS 15 COLUMN Debunking Wood Pellet Myths By William Strauss

16 FEATURE Densifying Dynamos Fuel log and briquetting machines offer real advantages to operations seeking to add value to their biomass streams. By Tim Portz




AUGUST 2015 | VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 8 2015 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo


2015 Biomass Power Map


AFS Energy Systems




Agra Industries AgriPower


Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S


Astec, Inc.


Bandit Industries, Inc.

32 8

Basic Machinery Co., Inc. CPM Beta Raven


CPM Wolverine Proctor, LLC


Detroit Stoker Comany



34 9

EBM Manufacturing Elliott Group


Geomembrane Technologies Inc.


Hermann Sewerin GmbH


Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc.


IEP Technologies


JDV Equipment Corporation


KEITH Manufacturing Company


Les Aciers J.P. Inc


Monitor Tech Coporation


Morbark, Inc.


New Holland Agriculture


Retsch, Inc.


TerraSource Global (Jeffrey Rader)


Tramco, Inc.




Vecoplan LLC


Vermeer Corporation


West Salem Machinery Co.


Williams Crusher


WorldWide Electric Corp.


24 NEWS 25 COLUMN Wood Waste Recycling Program Benefits By Jim Donaldson

26 FEATURE Watching Wood Dry Wood chip drying methods and associated equipment vary widely, and are constantly evolving to maximize operation efficiency. By Keith Loria

BIOGAS 34 NEWS 47 COLUMN Public Policy Helps, Hinders Projects By Amanda Bilek

36 DEPARTMENT Getting More Gas

A new landfill gas wellhead technology could get energy project developers and owners a bigger bang for their buck. By Anna Simet

38 FEATURE Biogas Buffer The variety of storage systems on the market ensures a steady flow for biogas distribution. By Katie Fletcher

ADVANCED BIOFUELS & CHEMICALS 46 NEWS 47 COLUMN The Real Bioeconomy Builders By Matt Carr COPYRIGHT © 2015 by BBI International

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) August 2015, Vol. 9, Issue 8. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

48 FEATURE State-of-the-Art Algae PBRs Photobioreactor designs have dramatically advanced over time, and offer advantages over other methods of growing algae. By Ron Kotrba

Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling TM



Well-Equipped While bioenergy facilities are not built to optimize development of their components, this issue of Biomass Magazine makes clear that they are great incubators of innovation. While the endgame of this industry is the production of energy products from biomass inputs, it is being built upon a rocksolid foundation of equipment that meets a steady stream of ever-changing operational TIM PORTZ VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT requirements. & EXECUTIVE EDITOR In Katie Fletcher’s page-38 feature, “Biogas Buffer,” she dives into biogas storage innovation. In a perfect world, every biogas project would be able to exactly match biogas generation and consumption. Biogas operators are well aware that this is an impossibility, and thus demand for storage has driven innovation in that sector. Not only do various storage approaches allow biogas facilities to deliver steady volumes of gas to power-producing engines, they also allow for routine maintenance of power units, without throttling back or shutting down a facility’s bioreactor. Similarly, in Anna Simet’s page-36 story about landfill gas optimization, “Getting More Gas,” wellhead monitors alone were responsible for improving gas production enough to bring a fourth genset, idled until then, online and into production. Ron Kotrba’s “State-of-the-Art Algae PBRs” on page 49 is arguably the issue’s most forward-looking story. In it, he details the central role that optimization of photobioreactors is playing in that sector’s commercialization velocity. In his conversation with Algenol CEO Paul Woods, he learned that, initially, maximum light distribution drove R&D efforts, but his team is now using PBR design to affect a broad range of operational variables, including temperature, pH, salinity, oxygen and nutrient levels. Regardless of your level of involvement in the algae industry, the story offers a must-read look at the future of agricultural cultivation. While writing my own page-16 feature, “Densifying Dynamos,” on nonpelletizing biomass densification equipment, I was surprised by the operational flexibility this equipment affords existing producers. The deployment of a compressed log machine at Superior Pellet Fuels is making a real difference in the facility’s ability to make total use of installed handling and drying infrastructure, as well as the plant’s available labor. Chad Schumacher, the plant’s general manager, credits the equipment with unlocking nearly 90 percent his local marketplace who are unable to use the wood pellets his plant had previously been producing exclusively. This issue of Biomass Magazine makes clear that each gain in output, efficiency and greater marketplace access can ultimately be traced back to a single piece of equipment, a strong foundation indeed.




EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS Chris Sharron, West Oregon Wood Products Amanda Bilek, Great Plains Institute Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Ben Anderson, University of Iowa Justin Price, Evergreen Engineering Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center



National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo



OCTOBER 26-28, 2015

Hilton Omaha Omaha, Nebraska Produced by BBI International, this national event will feature the world of advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals—technology scale-up, project finance, policy, national markets and more—with a core focus on the industrial, petroleum and agribusiness alliances defining the national advanced biofuels industry. With a vertically integrated program and audience, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. 866-746-8385 |

International Biomass Conference & Expo



APRIL 11-14, 2016

Charlotte Convention Center Charlotte, North Carolina Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a true one-stop shopâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. 866-746-8385 |

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo


JUNE 20-22, 2016

Wisconsin Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin The FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest running ethanol conference in the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. 866-746-8385 |


$*5$+$6&86720'(6,*1(' %,20$6662/87,216)25<28  :::$*5$,1'&20



NREL recognizes researcher The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently recognized the professionals behind the lab’s greatest achievements for the past year. Min Zhang Zhang was named distinguished innovator for her work to support the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technology Program by engineering advanced microbes to further the adoption of cellulosic biofuels. Zhang has contributed 80 peer-reviewed papers, numerous meeting abstracts, and 21 issued patents. She helped transfer foundational biotechnologies to companies with three commercial licenses incorporating her innovations, including DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa. Corbion Purac’s PLA resin awarded certification Corbion Purac’s PLA resin has been certified as compostable by Vincotte of Vilvoorde, Belgium. The PLA resins have been awarded the OK Compost logo and the European Bioplastics Association’s Seedling logo. SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Business Briefs, Biomass Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.


CH2M adds team member SCH2M has added David Parry, an anaerobic digestion (AD), codigestion and thermal hydrolysis process specialist, to its Parry wastewater and residuals resource recovery team. In his new role, Parry will primarily serve as a senior technology consultant and project manager on projects that include AD, codigestion, cogeneration, and thermal hydrolysis technologies. He has more than 35 years of experience in planning and design experience providing program management, and construction and operational assistance for wastewater treatment, solids processing and energy projects. He also brings expertise in effluent heat recovery, pyrolysis, gasification and combustion to CH2M’s consulting services. Most recently, Parry served as senior vice president and technical strategy leader at CDM Smith, where he was responsible for the company’s biosolids and energy recovery practice.

global pioneer in renewable fuels. The name change will not concern the company’s service stations at this time. The decision on the schedule of changing the name of the station chain will be made at a later date so that it can be scheduled and implemented reasonably and cost-efficiently.

Amyris adds board member, executives Amryis Inc. has announced the planned resignation of Nam-Hai Chua and the designation of Bram Klaeijsen to serve as a member Klaeijsen of the company’s board of directors. Klaeijsen is a business leader from Cargill Inc. and has served in various roles with affiliates of Temasek Holding. The company has also announced the appointments of Caroline Hadfield as senior vice president of personal care and Cynthia Bryant as senior vice president of corporate development and collaborations. Hadfield previously served as global product director for Bodyshop International and as senior Neste Oil announces name change vice president at Sephora. Bryant previously served as senior director of marketing Effective June 1, Neste Oil has and business development for Novozymes, changed its name to Neste Oyj in Finnish, where she developed and managed the comNeste Abp in Swedish and Neste Corp. in pany’s global household care business. English. The decision to drop Oil from the name reflects the company’s transformation from a traditional oil refiner to a


LanzaTech adds team member LanzaTech has announced the appointment of Jean Paul Michel as executive vice president of strategy, finance and operations. Michel will Michel lead a new team that will coordinate all core support functions of the company as it enters the commercialization phase, including safety, finance, human resources, information technology and procurement. Michel previously served as global chief operating officer and group head of operations at OSRAM for its traditional lighting business unit. RSB approves low ILUC risk standard The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials kicked off its annual General Assembly meeting with a delegation vote on the new â&#x20AC;&#x153;Low ILUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators.â&#x20AC;? The standard was approved by consensus and will be an optional module for operations undergoing RSB certification. Waste to Wisdom project launches new website Waste to Wisdom (W2W) has launched a new website that highlights the three-year effort and its objective to make better use

of forest residues from timber harvests and thinning. W2W is funded by the $5.88 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and is led by Humboldt State University with assistance from 15 regional partners. The grant is part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a collaborative effort between the DOE and the USDA that supports renewable energy research in the rural U.S. Solegear announces management, board changes Solegear Bioplastic Technologies Inc. has announced the resignation of Toby Reid, the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s CEO and Antoniadis member of the board. Paul Antoniadis, director of the company, has been appointed to serve as interim CEO. As a Solegear director, investor and advisor to the management team, Antoniadis has played an integral role in building the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commercial activities, strategic partnerships and supply chain capabilities. He is a former CEO of Best Buy Europe, a joint venture between U.S.-based Best Buy and FTSE 100 The Carphone Warehouse.

Reverdia appoints business manager for Europe Reverdia, a joint venture between Royal DSM and Roquette Frères, has appointed Pascal Moritz as new business development Mortiz manager for Europe. Moritz previously served as business manager at the biobased polymers division of Roquette Frères. Jamerson joins Ensynâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board of directors Bruce Jamerson has joined Ensyn Corp.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board of directors. He will represent Ensynâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Preferred A shareholders, replacJamerson ing Bill Weld, who will continue to serve on the board, having been elected to do so by Ensynâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shareholders in the last annual general meeting. Jamerson has served as chairman and CEO of Mascoma Corp. and was president and a board member of VeraSun Energy Corp. He is currently president of Conifer Investments LLC and holds board positions with Benson Hill Biosystems and Novita LLC.

7KH%LRPDVV6FUHHQLQJ6ROXWLRQ SScreen wood pellets and a other material with non-vibrating n screening technology. t Easy installation and a low maintenance.



PowerNews ElectraTherm commissions whole-log bioenergy plant

Hawaii net electricity generation by source: March 2015 Category

Hawaii net electricity generation (in GWh)








Hawaii requires 100 percent renewables Hawaii has become the first state in the U.S. to require 100 percent renewable energy. A bill signed by Hawaii Gov. David Ige on June 8 will require the state’s utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045. Prior to the passage and signing of the new law, Hawaii had a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in place requiring electric utilities to achieve 40 percent renewable energy. That standard increased from 10 percent in 2010,

to 15 percent in 2015, 25 percent in 2020 and 40 percent in 2030. The new RPS program implemented through HB 623 will also step up incrementally. Utilities will now be required to achieve 15 percent renewable energy this year, 30 percent in 2020, 40 percent in 2030, 70 percent in 2040 and 100 percent in 2045. Information published by the Hawaii legislature indicates the state is currently ahead of its timeline in reaching the goal of 40 percent renewables by 2030.

ElectraTherm has partnered with Air Burners to develop the first whole-log wood waste burner utilizing ElectraTherm’s organic Rankine cycle (ORC) power generating technology. The product, called the PGFireBox, eliminates large amounts of wood waste without preprocessing. The first PGFireBox was commissioned in Jacksonville, Florida. ElectraTherm’s Powerplus Generator feeds off the heat from the Air Burner technology to generate up to 110 kW of electricity. Through the ORC process, hot water heats a working

fluid into pressurized vapor. As the vapor expands, it drives ElectraTherm’s patented twin screw power block, which spins an electric generator and produces power. According to ElectraTherm, the self-contained unit generates electricity from vegetative waste, consuming 6 to 8 tons, or 30 cubic yards, per hour. The PGFireBox is portable and can be deployed near sites where woody biomass is collected, including landfills and sites related to forest maintenance, fire prevention, and natural disaster clean up.






Opportunity to Showcase Bioenergy BY CARRIE ANNAND

Oct. 21 will mark the third annual National Bioenergy Day. On this day, organizations all over the country—businesses, nonprofits, universities, and state and local governments—will showcase the many ways they benefit from bioenergy, an energy resource that needs increased understanding and public awareness. National Bioenergy Day helps those involved in bioenergy educate their communities on the need to support energy—power, heating, cooling and fuels— from organic materials. Because our sector is diverse and serves many different roles, it is sometimes overlooked during discussions about renewable energy and forestry. Starting on the local level, we want to build broader understanding and support for bioenergy and its jobs, carbon reduction, and contributions to the forestry market. Led by Biomass Power Association in partnership with U.S. Forest Service, and with generous support from Pellet Fuels Institute, Biomass Thermal Energy Council and U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, National Bioenergy Day facilitates interaction between bioenergy projects and their local communities, raising awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of bioenergy. We highly encourage participants to collaborate with other local bioenergy groups and supporters to showcase the full offerings of bioenergy in the community. Participation may come in many forms, from conducting facility tours to hosting local school groups for career days, to simply promoting the event through social media and signs. National Bioenergy Day events are scalable to meet the needs of your organization and stakeholders.

In 2015, National Bioenergy Day will highlight the many economic benefits of bioenergy, focusing on creating local jobs and supporting a highly skilled workforce. The tens of thousands of men and women who work in the forestry, agriculture, biomass, wood pellet, lumber, energy or similar sectors, as well as those interested in pursuing jobs in these fields, will be showcased. Additionally, we will be emphasizing the connectedness of healthy forests, forest products and bioenergy, as they are all closely related to one another. In its first two years, National Bioenergy Day participants earned dozens of media headlines and widespread recognition from across all levels of government. From the first to second year, National Bioenergy Day doubled in size, with 50 events held in 23 states. We expect even more growth in 2015. We hope to grow participation from the pellet sector this year. Please visit to read news about last year’s events, and download our 2015 participation guide to help you brainstorm ways to mark the day. Our regular planning calls will provide you with extra support and help you connect with other local participants. Author: Carrie Annand Vice President of External Affairs



BETTER FOR BIOMASS: Specialty Crop Roll-Belt 560 is designed to handle tough conditions and high-volume crops like cornstalks or large windrows of heavy grasses like sudan or straw. PHOTO: NEW HOLLAND

Advancing Alongside Ag Cognizant of rapidly evolving farming and biomass sectors, New Holland aims to stay ahead of the game. BY ANNA SIMET


n example of sheer innovation over time, farmers today grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s, on 20 percent less land. As science and farming continue to evolve, agriculture machinery manufacturer New Holland is sure of one thing: It too, must continue to advance in order to understand and meet modern ag needs. The company’s forward-thinking Innovations Group is charged with taking a step beyond simple advancement. “We have normal product development processes, but our innovations group is a little more wild and crazy, and puts together these outside-ofthe-box concepts,” explains Mark Hooper, senior marketing director of North America. “A lot of our work in the biomass area has come out of the Innovations Group.” Some examples are New Holland’s recently unveiled NH2 tractor, a hydrogen-powered machine in early stages of development, and the Methane Power tractor, which is already taking to a field at La Bellotta farm just outside of Turin, Italy. There, a 1-MW biogas plant generates power for the farm and grid, and a portion of the


methane is converted into liquid fuel for use in the tractor. Not only is a fuel cost savings achieved, but the machines are cleaner and quieter. “They have a spark generating system and don’t have that heavy diesel engine noise,” says Gary Wojcik, brand marketing for midrange tractors. “In addition to cost savings, we expect to see cab noise levels reduced by 3 to 4 decibels—that’s what we’ve experienced in our testing.” The NH2 is nearing the end of the innovations stage, Hooper says. “At that point, we decide if the machine is commercially viable, and it’s moved into a normal product development cycle. If the concept proves out, we go into design and build real prototypes. It’s a great product that makes it clear the direction we’re going.” Other products specific to the biomass energy sector that New Holland is especially excited about include its forage harvester with specialized heads, Cornrower, and a new line of round balers. “We’ve been working on the coppice header for years,” says Jarod Angstadt, manager of growth initiatives, biomass and specialty products. “We’ve got it out in production facilities around the

POWER¦ world, that are using it to chop up willow and poplar for coburning at power plants, or other projects using the material as biofuel feedstock.” The Cornrower, which New Holland put on the market a couple years ago, provides a unique system that works by catching stover under the stalk rolls, preventing stover from falling back into the soil, while chopping it into small pieces. Labor to windrow the stover is eliminated, since the Cornrower makes the windrow on the same pass as corn is harvested. In addition to enhancing stover quality, the Cornrower reduces fuel use, labor costs and equipment capital requirements, compared to existing corn stover harvest systems. “The benefit of that is, from a sustainability standpoint, you don’t have to take every row of stover, you can take what is needed and desired, and that’s a big benefit to the farmer as well as the biofuels plant,” says Hooper. The aforementioned machines are examples of aspired innovation, but also required, if New Holland wishes to keep with or outpace modern farming.

In the Field

“Today, a lot more biomass is being produced—corn stover, for example,” Hooper says. “Corn yields are going up, and there’s only so much that can be incorporated back into the soil.” Adjusting the company’s products to handle more or new crops hasn’t been exceedingly difficult. “It’s been a natural process for us, using our hay tools to package these products—switchgrass, miscanthus and corn stover,” Hooper says. And working with the new or soon-to-be-operating cellulosic ethanol plants has further embedded New Holland in the emerging ag-based energy sector. “We have been working with Poet-DSM now for several years, as well as the other second-generation ethanol producers,” says Angstadt. “We’ve been doing so to understand their needs—what type of equipment they have to have, the crop coming into the plant, what they’re looking for. Balers are a big piece of those projects, but tractors also come into play, as does other equipment used for material handling and getting the crop to the plant.” “The first thing they said was they needed reduced ash content in the biomass, reduced moisture, and they needed to figure out a way to store and transport stover, because once running, the plant would need a constant supply of material—high quality, at a consistent rate,” Hooper adds. “All of the biomass gets harvested at the same time, so we worked on a plan, provided equipment and assisted in their testing in preparation to launch these facilities. It was an interesting process, and it taught us more about how to help us meet their needs.” And the needs of bioethanol producers like Poet-DSM, other biofuel producers and farmers vary across the country, and even more so by continent.

Current and Future Landscape

“It looks very different,” Hooper says, on the North America biomass market compared to others. “We’re involved in lots of projects around the world, but biomass for us in North America is more targeted toward corn stover and grass crops. The [U.S.] market is continuing to emerge, so we’re gearing up for that.

ON THE JOB: New Holland's FR Forage Harvester with short rotation coppice header in action. PHOTO: NEW HOLLAND

In other parts of the world, corn stover isn’t as significant. “Sugarcane is big, short-rotation crops, and oil crops. There are all kinds of ways different countries are looking, based on existing crops grown and what’s there,” Hooper says. “It all looks different, and that’s one of our challenges. When we look at biomass in a global setting, it [biomass] means different things to different people.” The biggest challenge New Holland faces is staying ahead of things as the markets continue to take off and evolve, Hooper, Angstadt and Wojcik agree. “As the ag industry prepares to produce food and fuel for 9 billion people, there will be a lot of changes and advancements in plant technology,” Hooper says. “We have to figure out how to keep up and determine where our equipment needs to be—how do we harvest 300 bushel-an-acre corn and deal with all of the biomass related to that? That’s an important part of the whole process. Our products have to be progressing at the same rate as changes in plant technology.” What’s brought New Holland so far, and what will propel the company into the future, is its closeness to the customer, he adds. “Being able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the field with them, rolling up our sleeves and understanding what challenges they have, where they’re headed, and the efficiencies they need to get in their operations. That’s what’s driven a lot of our product development and overall strategies.” Authors: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


PelletNews 1 billion dry tons of biomass has the potential to produce Emissions reductions of

500 million tons per year

1.5 million jobs 50


billion kWh of electricity

billion pounds of biobased chemicals and bioproducts


billion gallons of biofuels

DOE previews 2016 Billion-Ton Study update A recent U.S. Department of Energy webinar, titled “A Changing Market for Biofuels and Bioproducts,” included preview of the 2016 U.S. Billion-Ton Study update, which is currently scheduled for release in June 2016. The event was presented by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. The DOE’s first version of the BillionTon Study was released in 2005 and aimed to determine how much biomass might be available in the U.S. in the future. It also addressed changes in resources and what the drivers of those changes might be. During the webinar, Bryce Stokes of CNJV explained that the initial update, published in 2011, added additional elements to the

analysis, including certain metrics related to cost, supply and biomass location. The next update, scheduled for release next year, will expand to address issues related to sustainability, quality, costs and raw material losses. It will also address algae. The updated report is expected to feature a new forestry model that looks at land use change and some of the implications associated with demand of raw materials for housing, pulp and paper, and other wood uses. Laurence Eaton of Oak Ridge National Laboratory said the 2016 update would also look at an extended timeline, through 2040.

New biomass terminal at Port of Liverpoolto supply pellets to Drax power station In June, U.K.-based Peel Ports Group announced plans for a new £100 million ($158.29 million) biomass terminal at the Port of Liverpool. The facility will supply pellets to the Drax power station in Selby. The terminal will be owned and operated by Ligna Biomass Ltd., a company owned by the shareholders of Peel Ports Group Ltd. U.K.-based Graham will build the facility. The project is scheduled to be fully operational by July 2016. Once complete, the terminal will have the capacity to handle up to 3 million metric


tons of wood pellets per year. Pellets that arrive at the port will be shipped via rail from Liverpool to Selby. Peel Ports Group estimates the terminal will have the ability to facilitate up to 10 trains loads of pellets per day, accounting for up to 40 percent of the total wood pellets consumed by Drax each year. In addition to rail loading capability, the port facility will also feature 100,000 metric tons of pellet storage capacity.


Debunking So-Called Wood Pellet Facts BY WILLIAM STRAUSS

Two highly inaccurate statements are often made about using wood pellets as a substitute for coal in power generation: CO2 released from wood pellet combustion is greater than CO2 released from coal combustion, and using wood pellets for heat or power creates a carbon debt that takes decades to repay. The Manomet study, released in June 2010, codified both of those so-called facts about using wood for fuel. Since then, both the “pellets are worse than coal” and the “carbon debt” arguments have become engrained in antibiomass literature. Below are reasons why those statements, often presented as facts, are inaccurate. Pellets do not release more CO2 in combustion than coal. Coal started its life a very long time ago, as biomass. As it turns out, on a dry basis, coal and wood yield similar results in terms of CO2 produced (kilograms of CO2 per unit of potential energy). But wood and coal do not have zero moisture content (MC). It is water in the solid fuel that causes CO2 emissions to increase over the dry weight basis. It takes energy to evaporate water in wood or coal and convert it to vapor (steam). All of that energy is sent into the atmosphere in the form of water vapor and is lost. To get a million Btus of useful energy from solid fuel, a larger mass is necessary to compensate for the losses. More wood or coal per unit of useful energy means more CO2 per unit of useful energy. The analysis of carbon emissions from wood and coal will vary, depending on the grade and MC of the coal. At 45 percent MC for wood—the level used by the Manomet study and a common MC for green wood chips—and 15 percent MC for subbitunimous coal, the combustion of wood yields about 34 percent more CO2 per unit of useful energy than power generated from sub-bituminous coal. But green wood chips are not suitable for use in most coal power plants. Most power generated from coal in the U.S. is at power plants that pulverize and send it to burners on the boiler sidewalls. Wood pellets pulverize easily, and millions of tons annually are used as coal substitute in pulverized coal power plants around the world. The correct wood fuel for comparison with coal is wood pellets. At lower moisture contents, CO2 released by combustion is less, because more energy is available to do useful work. Wood pellets at 6 percent MC result in less CO2 emissions from combustion than all grades of coal under otherwise equal circumstances. Wood pellets release less CO2 per

unit of useful energy than coal. Furthermore, even green wood chips that release more CO2 in combustion than coal have no carbon debt. There is no carbon debt. If wood used for pellets comes from working forests in which the aggregated stock of wood held in the forests is not shrinking, then the carbon stock in those forests is not being depleted. If that constraint is met, every ton of carbon emitted from chip or pellet combustion is absorbed contemporaneously. For example, a working forest is harvested annually, and each harvested plot is replanted. The tree farmer harvests one plot per year—the forty-year-old, mature plot. The carbon sequestration rate is 10,000 tons the first year. There are 40 separate plots at 40 stages of growth, from seedling to mature, and each plot sequesters carbon every year at a declining rate, as the trees mature. The entire forest sequesters 152,640 tons per year, every year. The accumulated carbon in the mature, 40-year-old stand exactly equals the carbon accumulated every year by all the younger stands. Although 152,640 tons of carbon are released from the 40-year-oldplot when used as fuel pellets, 152,640 tons of carbon are sequestered in the same year by each of the other plots, including the replanted plot on the site of the most recent harvest. Demand for forest products are continuous. Harvesting, replanting, and regrowth happens daily, not annually. Carbon released by the continuous use of pellets consumed daily for power generation is sequestered immediately by the continuous regrowth that occurs in balance with the harvest. Working forests can renew forever, if they are managed properly. Some of each harvest, the larger-diameter, straight logs, will be used to produce lumber. So the amount of carbon released by pellet combustion is less than the amount sequestered. The anti-biomass literature is wrong on wood pellets. Wood pellet combustion releases less CO2 than coal combustion, and as long as there are sustainability criteria that ensure the aggregate stock of carbon in the working forests is never lowered, there is no carbon debt. Author: William Strauss President, FutureMetrics Inc.



STACKING UP PROFITS: Recognizing that the vast majority of wood-burning appliances in North America cannot handle wood pellets, producers of are increasingly introducing briquette and log products into their production environment. PHOTO: RUF BRIQUETTING SYSTEMS



Densifying Dynamos Fuel log, puck and briquette production equipment manufacturers are expanding customers’ feedstock options and extending their market reach. BY TIM PORTZ


wo years ago, Chad Schumacher, general manager at Superior Pellet Fuels in Fairbanks, Alaska, came to the conclusion that he had built a woody biomass densification facility that produced a product that only 10 percent of the market could utilize. “Studies in the Fairbanks area show that of the wood-burning appliances in the Fairbanks market, somewhere around 87 percent, are nonpellet-burning systems,” says Schumacher. The facility, built in 2010, had unutilized capacity that Schumacher and his team were anxious to capitalize on. With fuel receiving, drying and size-reducing equipment already deployed and operational, the team at Superior Pellet Fuels opted to invest in a fuel log machine. “By expanding and adding the compressed log line, we are now able to address the needs, in theory, of the entire wood-burning market in our area,” Schumacher says. In the most basic sense, fuel log and briquetting machines do the same work as their pelletizing cousins. Using pressure, these machines compress woody biomass and other feedstocks into fuel products for use in industrial and residential applications. A closer inspection of these machines reveals significant operational differences that their manufacturers say offer real advantages to operations seeking to add value to any number of biomass streams.

Renew Energy Systems

Renew Energy Systems in St. Ansgar, Iowa, is the North American and Central American distributor of Danish briquetting press manufacturer C.F. Nielsen. The company was established in 2007, when Dan Freeman was presented with a fuel puck and asked if he knew of a machine that could manufacture something similar. A welder and fabricator by trade, Freeman headed to Europe, to investigate European OEMs with deep experience manufacturing this type of equipment. Impressed by C.F. Nielsen’s commitment to performing all of its own machine fabrication, Freeman purchased a model and began building robust experience densifying the wide variety of agricultural residues in the region. C.F. Nielsen manufactures briquetting machines in a variety of sizes, differentiated largely by final product size and hourly throughput. The smallest machine, the


NINE IS NICE: In an effort to satisfy customer requests for increased throughput, C.F. Nielsen designed the SBP-9, named for the nine throats it compresses biomass through. The machine will produce 4 to 6 tons of product per hour. PHOTO: C.F. NIELSEN

BP 1000, produces a 50-millimeter (mm) briquette at a rate of 385 pounds of finished product an hour. The largest, the BP 6510, can produce a 90-mm briquette at nearly 4,000 pounds per hour. Additionally, C.F. Nielsen is introducing a new model into the marketplace, the SBP-9, which compresses material through nine different throats achieving throughput rates between 4 and 6 tons per hour. C.F. Nielsen manufactures both hydraulic and mechanical compression machines, but sells only the mechanical machines in North and Central America. The mechanical machines use flywheels to transfer the energy from a motor to a hammer or piston that forces material through a heated die. The piston generates nearly 30,000 psi of pressure, and together with temperatures above the boiling point of water, activates the naturally occurring lignin within the feedstock, which acts as a binder for the material. New material is driven into the die once per second by the piston, through the die and into a tightener that contributes back-pressure into the die. As the material exits the tightener, it is delivered to a cooling line, where the newly formed, compressed log cools and hardens before it is cut to the desired length. Steve Smith, manager at Renew Energy Systems, says that prospective clients usually find them after they’ve concluded that pelletizing won’t work for their operation or feedstocks. “Nearly everyone we work with is familiar with pelletizing and have investigated that approach for their feedstock,” he says. “Either they have a feedstock that won’t quite pelletize because of the feedstock characteristics, or they simply do not want to invest in the equipment required to take the material down to the particle size required to make pellets.” When prospective clients approach Smith, he first asks them which markets they intend to serve. “Everyone has a different reason 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2015


for why they want their feedstock densified,” Smith says. “Our job is not to dissuade someone from briquetting something, but we do share our experience with our clients and prospective clients.” That experience is robust, as Smith and his team have densified everything from dewatered manure streams to corn stover to energy grasses, most recently for the University of Iowa as it works to transition away from coal in its campus power station. While the machines offer incredible flexibility relative to feedstock, Smith is quick to remind his clients that thorough attention must be given to feedstock preparation. “Feedstock preparation is viewed as the most common Achilles heel to any project,” Smith says. “We spend an inordinate amount of time telling people they really need to think things through. What happens is, people tend to overestimate the capability of their incoming processing equipment. Particle size reduction and drying is integral to every project, and if you fail to fully consider this aspect of your production line, you’ll likely end up with a product that doesn’t work right.” Pricing for these machines varies, but a 90-mm machine capable of making 1 to 1.5 tons per hour with all of the options requires an investment between $350,000 and $400,000. The SBP-9, the new 9-throated 50-mm press will cost around $550,000. The price increase, Smith says, is offset by the new machine’s greater throughput. “You can see where the economies of scale kick in, and suddenly you are looking at something that can produce 2 to 2.5 times the production per hour and you are basically paying $150,000 more.”

RUF Briquetting Systems

While the bulk of Smith’s prospective clients have discovered that pelletizing won’t work in their situation, other briquetting OEMs see briquette manufacturing as a great complement to existing pellet production assets. “They already have the feedstock handling infrastructure there,” says Greg Tucholski, president of RUF Briquetting Systems. “It is very easy to add a briquetter.” Cases like Schumacher’s continue to drive interest in machines that can diversify the types of densified biomass products a producer makes, including the fuel briquettes made by RUF’s hydraulic machines. “If you look at the domestic market, there are far more woodburning stoves than there are pellet stoves out there,” says Tucholski. “I’ve seen reports of as many as 10 to 20 times more wood-burning stoves than pellet stoves in this country. The opportunity for expanding your market, your sales, with briquettes is far greater because the potential is so much greater.” RUF’s technology utilizes hydraulics, instead of flywheels, to generate the intense compression required to make their briquettes. A screw conveyor moves material from a hopper into a precharger chamber. The precharger compresses the material into the pressing chamber, and the main press piston pushes material into one of two dies in a pressing mold. Once the required compression is achieved, ejectors move the finished briquette out of the mold and the cycle begins again. Like C.F. Nielsen, RUF offers a variety of models, differentiated by the size of their final product and throughput. The RUF 4 produces smaller briquettes (2.4 to 3 inches) at a rate of 120 to 220 pounds per hour, and the largest machine, the RUF 1500, produces a 10-inch by AUGUST 2015 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 19

HYDRAULIC WORKHORSE: The RUF 500 utilizes hydraulic energy to compress biomass into neat briquettes. It produces over eight briquettes a minute, or nearly 1,000 pounds of finished product per hour.

4-inch briquette at a rate of 3,000 pounds per hour. The ease of deploying briquette machines surprises RUFâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pellet customers, who likely remember spending days commissioning new pellet presses, tweaking settings repeatedly until they were efficiently spitting out product. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Briquetting is a much simpler practice than pelletizing,â&#x20AC;? says Tucholski. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got stories of customers that have a briquette machine delivered in the morning, achieving full production that afternoon. You wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do that with a pellet mill.â&#x20AC;? For Tucholski, the biggest bottleneck for the greater production of briquettes is public awareness that the product even exists. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The wood briquette market is 20 to 25 years behind where the wood pellet market was,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still in the early stages, but my customers sell out in November and December every year.â&#x20AC;? Tucholski continues, saying that many of the units he sells each year are to existing customers looking to increase their briquette capacity. RUF briquetting systems can be installed for less than $200,000, and once deployed, require very little labor to keep them up and op-


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erational. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A great number of my customers run these with nobody even on site on second and third shift,â&#x20AC;? says Tucholski. While RUF briquette machines can and do densify a variety of biomass streams, Tucholski says that the majority of his inquiries still come from parties with wood waste streams. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The other biomass materials are still in their early stages, but we still have so much wood waste available in this country.â&#x20AC;?

DiPiu of Italy

Once committed to expanding his product offering and adding briquetting to his operation, Schumacher ultimately decided upon a BRIK MB80, manufactured by DiPiu, an Italian OEM. Giordano Checchi, president of Sunomi, a distributor of DiPiu briquette machines, personally installed the new machine at Superior Pellet Fuels, and is perhaps the most vocal proponent of the technology. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In terms of densification, this approach reaches the highest density,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The heat value per pound is the same, whether the wood is loose or densified. However, the amount of energy by volume is directly proportional to the density you are achieving.â&#x20AC;? While density varies by species, seasoned cord wood weighs around 30 pounds per cubic foot, notes Checchi, while compressed briquettes or fuel logs manufactured by mechanical compression on DiPiu machines can achieve densities of 80 pounds per cubic foot. For comparison, pellets can be expect-

ENERGY BY VOLUME: Schumacher and his team ultimately decided the DiPiu MB80 was the right fit to bring compressed log manufacturing to Superior Pellet Fuels. Schumacher says the machine is currently yielding around 1 ton per hour of production. PHOTO: SUPERIOR PELLET FUELS






ed to weigh around 50 pounds per cubic foot. The result is a product with far more energy by volume. Checchi notes that a cordwood log placed on a fire can be expected to burn for 30 minutes, while a manufactured compressed log is likely to burn for three or even three and a half hours. Like his colleagues, Checchi underscores how much more forgiving the production of fuel logs is than the manufacture of wood pellets. Additionally, the combination of intense pressure and temperature inside of DiPiu maRPDVV0DJD]LQH chines makes it possible to densify species that simply cannot be pelletized. “These machines H´'HVLJQLQJ,QQRYDWLRQµ allow you to use cheap fibers like aspen,” says Checchi. “You cannot pelletize aspen. If you use mechanical compression, you can make a fire log or a briquette from aspen. It will stay formed, because it is a compression system, not extrusion.” Checchi asserts that DiPiu machines, transferring energy from a motor to the ram by a crankshaft, achieve the highest pressures

in biomass densification, nearly 36,000 psi. The design, he says, is highly efficient with nearly 98 percent of the energy from the main motor being harnessed for compression. “There is no intermediate,” he adds. DiPiu offers a range of machines, starting with the MB50, which is capable of producing 650 pounds of finished product per hour, all the way up to an MB120, capable of producing over 3 tons per hour.

Just in Time

For Schumacher, Checchi's deployment of the Di-Piu machine was perfectly timed. In addition to helping him and his team fully utilize the facility they built, the fuel logs are contributing mightily to Superior’s growth strategy. While the compressed log machine has only been operational for 18 months, the timing for its deployment could not have been better. In winter, Fairbanks, Alaska, has some of the poorest air quality in the country. Virtually


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every energy product is difficult to get to Alaska and, as a result, is expensive. Many residents in Fairbanks and throughout Alaska heat their homes each winter with cordwood. Often, cordwood that is not properly seasoned gets burned and emissions levels are very high. To counteract this problem, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality Division rolled out a Split, Stack, Store & Save public awareness campaign to reduce the amount of under seasoned wood burned each year. For Schumacher, this seemed imperfect. “We wanted to take that one step further, and take that education piece out of the customer’s hands by offering a dry product to them,” he says. “With a compressed log with low moisture content and a high energy factor, we were able to provide a product that the customer simply couldn't burn too early or too late.” The state of Alaska has since tested Superior’s products and the results were surprising, even to Schumacher. When burned with seasoned firewood, the compressed logs reduced emissions by 40 percent, and when burned with unseasoned wood, the emissions reductions were even higher, at 60 percent. “The best part for us is that people didn’t have to move their home heating system away from wood fuels,” says Schumacher. “They could use their existing wood stove and still greatly reduce those emissions.” While Schumacher reports steady growth in sales since he introduced compressed log manufacturing, he is looking forward to even greater market response in the upcoming heating season. “I fully anticipate that we will see tremendous growth in this product line in the coming year.” For Schumacher, the product flexibility he gained with the introduction of a compressed log machine was not just a matter of incremental growth, it may well end up delivering Superior Pellet Fuels to the kind of asset utilization he and his team have been working toward since 2010. Author: Tim Portz Executive Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4969

ThermalNews UK college benefits from biomass boiler Leicestershire, U.K.-based John Cleveland College saved £30,000 ($46,080) in only four months, thanks to a woodchip boiler supplied and installed by Rural Energy. The 800 kW Herz BioFire boiler is expected to save up to £45,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs, compared to the £200,000 bill the college faced for its previous oil-fueled boilers. The installation will also be eligible to claim a quarterly income from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive over the next 20 years. Combined with the energy cost savings, the RHI incentive will be used to establish a local community fund to support initiatives at the college and in the wider community.

Rural Energy was responsible for the project, from the initial system design to the installation and commissioning of the new biomass heating system. This included developing an effective fuel storage and delivery system, consisting of a prefabricated octagonal wood fuel hopper located outside the plant room with an auger to transport fuel into the boiler. A vertical elevator fuel delivery system was also installed, with a trough for tipped wood chip deliveries. Finally, a private access road was constructed.

WARMING UP TO SAVINGS: U.K.-based John Cleveland College is has significantly cut its heating costs with the installation of a new biomass boiler. PHOTO: RURAL ENERGY

UMF breaks ground on combination heating plant, learning facility The University of Maine at Farmington broke ground on a 5,885-square-foot biomass central heating plant in late May. The plant is expected to replace 390,000 gallons of heating oil now used to heat the buildings through individual systems and is projected to reduce the university’s carbon emissions by 3,000 tons a year. In addition to providing heat to the campus, the new biomass plant will also serve as a learning facility. It will actively engage

students in understanding biomass energy, associated systems and processes and will be embedded in several courses as a mandatory learning facet of several curricula and fields of study. The plant control room will be open to students and visitors to view the internal operations as well as several exterior viewing areas. The central energy plant and campus conversion project was developed by Trane U.S. Inc. working closely with the UMF fa-

cilities department and administration. Trane was supported by Apex Engineering of Falmouth Maine and by CES Inc. of Brewer Maine in the development of this complex project. The $11 million project was approved by the University of Maine System board of trustees early in 2015. Energy savings are estimated to cover all costs and provide a payback in less than 10 years.

The mobile continuous-feed and batch rotary debarker are from 10 to 30 feet long modules and are designed with a three-rotor system and remote control panel. Each rotor is driven independently by hydraulic motors coupled to heavy-duty speed reducers. The hydraulic system is powered by electric motors or diesel engine. The speed of all three rotors can be adjusted for the desired production. Stationary models of different length are also available.


Wood Waste Recycling Program Benefits BY JIM DONALDSON

In various forms, hundreds of thousands of metric tons of recyclable wood waste shows up at Alberta landfills every day. Solutions are available to recycle this renewable resource, including renewable energy production, one initiative of the Alberta Wood Waste Recycling Association. AWWRA, a nonprofit association established in 2012, promotes sustainable, environmentally and economically sound, closed-loop wood waste recycling practices and reuse initiatives through its industry membership and resource tools. We are aiding government and private landfill, transfer station, and material recovery facility operators in understanding the beneficial business opportunities in the wood waste recycling industry. The wood waste recycling industry is gaining momentum throughout Alberta, largely because of the AWWR and its dynamic membership, partnerships and stakeholders. As of June, stakeholders have assisted the AWWRA in establishing membership at 16 operational wood waste recycling facilities in Alberta and northeastern British Columbia, truly supporting the growth of the wood waste recycling industry. Toso Bozic, agroforester with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says the provincial government wants to see counties and municipalities consider developing wood waste recycling and bioenergy systems by utilizing the vast amount of wood waste they collect in landfills. Local farmers could benefit by growing and marketing woody biomass to a municipality to supplement any shortfalls they could experience from processing their landfilled wood waste material, and could also partner with the municipality as bioenergy investors. While many municipalities and landfill managers are keen to make better use of the high volume of renewable wood waste left on their doorsteps, Bozic says the most common question asked by the municipalities and landfill managers is: “How do we develop a total and economically viable wood waste recycling program and bioenergy project from raw wood waste material?” That’s where AWWRA fits into the picture, as an industry resource facilitator that works with individual municipalities and landfill owners directly and indirectly through their membership, partnerships and stakeholders. Options are plentiful for recycled wood waste. It can be used for daily landfill cover, waste-to-energy fuel, drilling waste absorbent, emergency spillage cleanup absorbent, oil and gas lease-site amendment, reclamation product, soil amendment in reforestation and regenerative agriculture, base for provisional roads, parks, trails, pathways, specialized landscaping and composting, and remanufactured into energy briquettes, fire logs and pucks.

But not all landfilled wood waste and biomass can be used as waste-to-energy fuel. Part of AWWRA’s education resource service is to help landfill operators, the environmental stakeholders, identify what are acceptable wood and biomass waste materials for potential reuse. Most landfills already have some method of material sorting, but to implement a recycling program and bioenergy project, wood waste sorting must be taken a step further to set aside acceptable materials from unacceptable materials. Acceptable wood waste materials at most AWWRA recycling facilities are trees, branches, stumps, rig mats, bridge mats, access mats, wooden reels, wooden cable spools, stumps, painted wood, pallets and crates, dunnage, wooden blocks, untreated wooden beams, ties and posts, plywood, OSB particleboard and lumber, wood slabs, wooden furniture and construction demolition wood waste. Current unacceptable wood waste materials in Alberta are creosote-treated wood products like railway ties and utility poles. Although American-based AWWRA member company AgriPower has conducted necessary tests using creosotetreated wood waste material for use in its proprietary wasteto-energy system and has been approved in some U.S. states, application approval from the Alberta government is under review. In terms of financial support for developing potential wood waste recycling and biomass management systems, Bozic says that the Canadian government has endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with $550 million to create the Green Municipal Fund. It offers funding and knowledge to municipal governments and their partners for municipal environmental projects. Because of the forward-thinking actions of AWWRA members, partnerships and stakeholders are making great progress with massive positive results—economic and environmental business benefits to all, through new technologies, services and voluntary wood waste recycling stewardship practices. As recognized throughout Alberta, after weighing the pros and cons of creating a viable wood waste recycling program, one can wisely take the crucial steps involved in this commodity-driven process of implementing a cost-efficient, environmentally sound, closed-loop program. Authors: Jim Donaldson Chairman and Founder, Alberta Wood Waste Recycling Association (780) 239-5445



MAXIMIZING EFFICIENCY: Wood chip rotary drum dryers have typically low maintenance costs and high capacity. PHOTO: AZEUS PELLET MILL



Watching Wood Dry Adequately drying wood chip fuel is an important component of maximizing heat and power production, and techniques vary widely. BY KEITH LORIA


oisture content in wood chips used for energy can significantly influence system performance. Consequently, equipment and methods used to dry wood chip fuel are constantly evolving, as companies strive to perfect their respective processes, meet the needs of system operators and maximize plant efficiency. Drying methods today include simple, passive drying techniques to the advanced and energy-intensive methods. Adam Sherman, executive director of the Vermontbased Biomass Energy Resource Center, says that moisture content in wood fuels is a universal problem, and over the past couple of years, the trend has been importing European boilers to help with the job. “In order to meet the efficiency and emissions standards that get more stringent each year, fuel quality becomes more important, and moisture content is really a big deal for efficiency because of latent heat loss, and also because the moisture vapor is often times a carrier for ultrafine particulates from an emissions standpoint,” he says. “We’re seeing some producers of wood chips realize there is an emerging market where a drier chip is desired and has value.” Sophia Ren, a wood pellet plant consultant for Azeus Pellet Mill, manufacturer of pellet machines for biomass, says drying methods can run the gamut from using forced ambient air and residual heat from electricity generation to using larger-scale dryers. “Drying is done through various methods, including passive evaporation from airflow and from active heating,” she says. “Air drying will occur if the ambient air passing through has a lower relative humidity than the wood chips. Evaporation of water can also

be achieved through heating, generally with forced hot air. Wood chip piles can also self-dry, where compacted piles reach temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) through microbial action.”

Why Dry?

Drying wood increases combustion value and lowers storage costs, as wood chips have less sensitivity to natural harmful effects such as microbiological degradation. “Dried wood chips will perform better,” Ren says. “If the chips are too wet, it may be impossible to even keep the flame lit. With dry chips, the flame burns hotter and more evenly. Also, a smaller quantity of ash is produced, reducing the cost of ash disposal.” For wood chips with a moisture content (MC) of 45 percent, the maximum boiler efficiency with standard equipment is about 74 percent. If the same stand and equipment is burning dry wood (10 to 15 percent MC), the efficiency can be as high as 80 percent. The BioMax 15, one of the latest projects made by TMU, the USDA Forest Product Laboratory Technology Marking Unit, is a unique example of a system that uses residual heat to dry fuel. The prototype combined-heat-and-power system was developed by the Community Power Corp. and operates by feeding wood chips with MC up to 25 percent from a hopper to a conveyor belt. “The conveyor belt moves the chips though a dryer, which is heated by excess heat from the internal combustion engine,” Ren says. “After the chips dry to 15 percent moisture content, they are fed into the gasification hopper. The chips flow downward through the gasifer (operating at 1,472 F). Airflow through the wood


DISSECTING AIR-DRYING: Innovative Natural Resource Solutionsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s researched different stacking methods to determine effects on drying. Pictured is a softwood stack. PHOTO: CHARLES LEVESQUE, INRS

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chips is limited, so they are combusted under starved-oxygen conditions.” Mark Froling, president of Froling Energy, says the company dries its screened chips in a batch process utilizing a custom kiln that circulates hot air through the green wood chip pile until the moisture is removed. The company installed nearly a dozen biomass boilers capable of reaching a half million Btu or more, which have been engineered to accommodate burning either wood pellets (5 to 10 percent moisture) or PDCs (20 to 30 percent moisture). “We can dry about 40 tons of green material from 50 percent down to 25 percent in about 48 hours,” he says. “Others utilize a continuous process with a rotary drum dryer, fluidized bed dryer or belt dryer.” This drying process raises the net usable energy content of the material from about 8 MMBtu to about 12 MMBtu per ton. It also provides a longer storage life for the material as degradation comes into play—for green chips, after about four months, rot and mildew issues are concerns. “Furthermore, removal of the wa-

ter makes transportation a bit easier during cold weather, as the chips won’t freeze as quickly to the truck body during long transport, or when trucks need to be parked overnight,” Froling says. “The same is true for the chip storage. The drier the chips, the less clumping will occur during chip storage (freezing of chips in uninsulated bins) and the better the fuel will flow through the material handling systems.” In recent years, Froling says he has noticed that some of the larger boilers utilized for wood pellets are also able to burn dry wood chip materials. After exploring various ways of manufacturing these dry chips, the company settled on its current process and started production of such chips. “The economics are in favor of the dry chips by almost 30 percent once you get to a certain scale, but in some cases, the existing infrastructure or logistics still point to using pellet boilers,” he says. “It is very convenient that these boilers are dual fuel boilers. It gives our customers some sense of security from a supply chain standpoint.”

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For larger-scale wood chip dryers, different from the simple and traditional ways of drying, Ren says industrial production tends to choose newer dryers that make the production process more mechanized and efficient. “Larger-scale dryers are expensive and commonly run using waster or byproduct heat in larger installations,” she says. “Dryer types used in drying biomass fuels include rotary, conveyor, cascade and flash dryers.” Rotary dryers have been used for a long time in drying biomass fuels and are the most common dryer type in the existing large-scale bioenergy plants. “The advantages of rotary dryers are they are less sensitive to particle size and can accept the hottest flue gas of any type of dryer,” Ren explains. “They also have low maintenance costs and the greatest capacity of any type of dryer. However, the material moisture is hard to control in rotary dryers, due to the long lag time for material in the dryer.” Conveyor dryers can handle a wide range of materials, making them attractive for biomass feedstocks. “The uniformity of drying using this method is strong, due to the shallow depth of material on the belt,” Ren says. “The advantages are that they are better suited to take advantage of waste heat recovery opportunities, since they operate at lower temperatures than rotary dryers. The lower temperature also implies less of a fire hazard and lower emission of volatile organic compounds. Flash dryers, usually combined with a cyclone, are normally used for small particles, and its gas stream velocity must be higher than the free fall velocity, according to Ren “For wet or sticky materials, some of the dry material can be recycled back and mixed with the incoming wet material to improve handling. Meanwhile, the recirculation of the materials can also shorten the drying time. The main advantages are that it can dry thermolabile materials, due to the short contact time and parallel flow, and that the capital and maintenance costs are low.” Cascade or sprouted dryers are used extensively in Nordic countries. “This method operates at intermediate temperatures between those of rotary and conveyor dryers and have a smaller coverage area,” Ren continues. Bertil Stromberg, vice president of biofuels at Andritz Inc., which touts its belt drying system, says by reducing the biomass water content to 10 to 15 percent, its calorific value is increased from 2 kilowatt hours (kWh) per kilogram (kg) to approximately 4.5 kWh/kg. This cuts transport and storage costs and creates ideal conditions for direct firing or optimum pelletizing properties, both for industrial and high-grade wood pellets. As a result of the drying process, less fuel input is required to generate energy, which also reduces the pollutant emissions caused by the combustion system. Other examples of larger-scale dryers on the market include Saimatec’s vertical silo type dryer, and STELA Laxhuber GmbH’s low-temperature belt dryer.

Passive Methods

Sherman says that a number of U.S. firms are looking at more passive drying methods, such as letting wood sit outside and dry before itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chipped. Some places in Europe use a grapple head and pincher, so as the wood is loaded off a truck, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s split lengthwise so thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more surface for drying. While this method can be used in the western U.S. and in states like Montana where sitting outdoors for a month or two is no problem, it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work in the Northeast. Charles A. Levesque, president of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC in Antrim, New Hampshire, says the company did research for a number of years on the best drying solutions and determined that the cost of some of the high-tech rotary and conveyor dryers couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be justified, so they are now air-drying feedstock before its chipped. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have researched the best stacking methods and species to understand what it takes to get something down to the moisture content we are looking forâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which is sub-30 percent,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We do thousands of tons and it takes a lot of preplanning, but it can be done, and done well. We know if we ever get to the point of working with tens of thousands of tons, we will need some conventional drying, but this helps us reduce cost per unit of wood on a Btu basis.â&#x20AC;? Sherman says thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also been an increase in demand around kiln-dried firewood, especially in the Northeast U.S.

Going Solar

Austrian company Cona-Solar is being championed for a low-tech method of predrying chips, Sherman notes. It works by blowing warm air to the Trocknungsbox, where the wood chips are dried on pitched and flat grates that have a drying capacity approximately 10,000 cubic meters. Through the construction of an underground heat storage stone, solar energy can also be used when the sun is not shining. Cona-Solarâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s solar method currently have 49 chip-drying systems in Austria, with a total solar area of 4000m² and can dry approximately 80,000 cubic meters of wood chips per year, removing nearly 14 million liters of water from wood chips. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They have installations all around the world (in 17 countries), none in the U.S., but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a simple solution that people could deploy here,â&#x20AC;? Sherman says. He adds that the years ahead should bring out plenty more wood drying innovation for the wood chip and pellet industry. Author: Keith Loria Freelance writer, Biomass Magazine


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Wastech opens landfill gas-to-energy project in British Columbia Wastech has commenced operations of a landfill gas-toenergy plant at the Cache Creek Landfill in British Columbia, Canada, which serves the Vancouver metro area. FIRING UP PRODUCTION: A Wastech employee works Construction of the 4.8- on-site at the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new landfill gas capture facility in MW project began last summer, Cache Creek, British Columbia. in anticipation of new provincial PHOTO: JEFF BASSETT gas collection regulations comin the province, according to Wastech, which ing into effect in 2016. According Wastech, highlighted its local investments for the projgas capture targets at the Cache Creek facilect, including construction of transmission ity have been preemptively met years ahead lines. of schedule with the project capturing even Wastech has entered into an initial 20more methane than the regulations will manyear contract to provide all electricity generdate. ated from the project to BC Hydro under the The main generating equipment of Standing Offer Program, which encourages the Landfill Gas Utilization Plant, funded the development of new smallâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;under 15 by Wastech, was purchased from Caterpillar MWâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and clean or renewable energy projdealer Finning, headquartered in Vancouver. ects throughout British Columbia. Most of the technology was purchased with-

Bluesphere breaks ground on Rhode Island waste-to-energy AD project Bluesphere Corp. recently broke ground on its 3.2-MW waste-to-energy (WTE) project in Johnston, Rhode Island. Once operational, the facility will sell the electricity it generates from food waste to the national grid. The facility is expected to begin operations later this year. Bluesphere has signed two feedstock supply contracts for enough food waste to satisfy the 250-ton-per-day capacity of the facility. One was signed with the waste hauler EL Harvey and Sons, and the other with an organic waste company.

Austep is the projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and is the entity providing the digester technology. Bluesphere has also made arrangements for the inclusion of two Orbit Energy Inc. high-solid anaerobic digester (AD) units to work in parallel with Austepâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s technology, subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions. The amount of electricity produced from the AD units will be enough to provide power to approximately 3,000 households.


Public Policy Helps, Hinders Projects BY AMANDA BILEK

Successful biomass-based projects, including biogas projects, require several project pieces to come together and hold, with some adjustments over the operational life of a project. Some of those pieces include project financing, public policy, feedstock supply, logistics, infrastructure, permitting and end-use markets. At both state and federal levels, public policy is a crucial piece of project puzzle and helps enable initial project success and long-term viability. Public policy can help bring new production processes and technology to market, foster long-term innovation through public-private research and development efforts, ensure streamlined regulatory methods without sacrificing needed oversight, and provide long-term certainty. Achieving all of these desired outcomes from public policy at the state or federal level can be a challenge. Currently, the biomass industry, including biogas projects, is facing several critical policy junctures. Implementation of the U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan could have significant impacts on biomass-based electricity projects. Biomass utilization to help meet state carbon reduction goals will be dependent on an evaluation framework for biogenic carbon emissions and the sustainable sourcing of agricultural and forestry feedstocks. EPA is expected to issue the final rule for the Clean Power Plan later this summer. In May, EPA proposed volumetric obligations for the renewable fuel standard (RFS) covering calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016. The proposed volumes are a significant reduction from the volumes required by law. When originally passed by Congress, the RFS was designed to give the biomass-based renewable fuels industry long-term market certainty through an increasing obligation for blending renewable fuels into our existing fuel supply. RFS implementation, which has reduced volumetric requirements, has eroded the certainty originally provided for in law. The draft EPA RFS volumetric requirements are disappointing, and, ironically, come at a time when biogas-based gallons of renewable fuel are increasing. About a year ago, EPA modified the RFS rules to allow biogas generated from landfill, wastewater, or agricultural feedstocks to certify cellulosic renewable information numbers (RINs). The slight modification in regulatory compliance was successful, and in 2014, over 32 million cellulosic RINs were generated, nearly all from biogas-based sources. As of May, over 9 million cellulosic RINs have been reported, again nearly all from

biogas-based sources. In most instances, biogas-based fuel is replacing fossil fuel in the heavy-duty vehicle market, a market that doesn’t have many low-carbon or renewable options. The EPA proposal for renewable fuel volume obligations may also have an impact on state and local policies aiming to help commercialize advanced and cellulosic fuels. As I wrote in February, the Minnesota legislature was considering establishing a production incentive program for the commercial deployment of advanced biofuel, renewable chemical, and biomass heat using Minnesota agricultural and forestry feedstocks. I am pleased to report that the new bioeconomy production incentive program became law on July 1, and over the next three years, $2 million will be appropriated to the program. Projects have until 2025 to come online in Minnesota, and once a project begins operating, it is eligible for an annual payment— based on production volumes—for 10 years. The statutory language allows up to 18 projects to receive financing assistance. As the program grows and more projects are commercialized, the Minnesota legislature may need to designate more money for the program. The definition of an advanced biofuel in the Minnesota program is based on the EPA determination of advanced and cellulosic fuels under the RFS program. Biogas-based transportation fuel projects built in Minnesota and receiving RFS credit would also qualify for the new incentive program. The newly authorized program in Minnesota sends a strong signal that the state wants to continue leading in the development of a strong biofuels industry, while also capturing new biomass-based project opportunities, like biobased chemicals, to utilize the abundant agricultural and forestry feedstock supply. In order to ensure that Minnesota is able to take full advantage of the advanced and cellulosic renewable fuel opportunity, EPA RFS program certainty will be critical. Project investors and developers in Minnesota and around the country will continue to utilize state and federal programs and other public policies to put their project pieces together to build new technology and bring low-carbon cellulosic fuels to market. Authors: Amanda Bilek Government Affairs Manager, Great Plains Institute 612-278-7118



MEASURING METHANE: Loci Controls’ WellWatcher device is mounted onto gas collection wellheads to monitor gas for everything from temperature and flow rate to oxygen content. PHOTO: LOCI CONTROLS

Getting More Gas Optimizing gas collection at landfills is the core component of Loci Controls’ new technology. BY ANNA SIMET


hen a landfill owner who had recently installed a landfill gas-to-energy system was not getting the volume of gas he initially expected, he asked MIT graduate student Melinda Sims to help him solve the problem. After hatching the idea of automated wellheads in 2012, Sims and fellow graduate student Andy Campanella found themselves launching a startup company, that, in just a few years, has been able to prototype, raise adequate seed money, hire on engineers and additional staff and complete two pilot installations. The future looks bright for Loci Controls, which believes that its technology appeals to not only those collecting and utilizing the gas for a variety of purposes, but landfill owners, as well. Sean Bamforth, director of business development, explains that the continuous monitoring WellWatcher device is mounted onto the gas-collection wellhead, and monitors collected gas for temperature, flow rate, and pressure, as well as methane content, carbon dioxide content and oxygen content, all parameters typical for landfill gas measurement devices on the market today. What 36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2015

differentiates the device, however, is that the automatic control WellWatcher has a remotely actuated valve along with those measurement capabilities. “The valves control the extraction pressure on an individual well,” Bamforth explains. “The idea is to adjust extraction pressure to maximize the energy content of the gas being produced from the well. We use distributed feedback loops from the WellWatchers, and are able to make frequent changes to the collection system to match the landfill-gas collection rate with the rate at which it is being produced.” This allows a gas collector to increase collection efficiency and get more gas by taking more frequent readings and making adjustments. How It Works Under current practices, a landfill technician uses a handheld meter to test every well on-site once or twice a month. Reasons for testing include ensuring a negative pressure in each well, making sure oxygen doesn’t go above a certain percent—typically 4 or 5

BIOGAS¦ percent—and that the temperature isn’t over a certain threshold. Elevated temperatures can indicate a fire, and higher oxygen is undesired, as it fuels the fire and can stifle methane generation. Typically, a technician analyzes data and makes changes to, or “tunes” the well field, in hopes of increasing output. “However, wells are highly correlated and whenever a change is made to one well, the entire system changes,” Bamforth says. “When you suck harder from an individual well, more methane isn’t being generated—it’s the same volume of gas produced, which is the function of environmental conditions, the waste in landfill, how much moisture and water are in the landfills, lots of things we have no control over—but rather, the goal is to try to exactly match the collection rate with generation rate.” If a technician measures one well and makes a change, and then measures another and makes a change, the latter change could undo the previous change. “So when a technician pulls harder on one well, it changes the dynamic of the entire landfill, and it might be a detriment to other wells,” Bamforth says. With Loci Controls’ technology, a series of changes can be made and evaluated in real time. “We can continue doing that until we find an optimized state that a technician might happen upon, but would be impossible with only one or two meters going at the same time,” Bamsforth says. He compares the automated system as possessing the same capabilities as 20 technicians on-site, taking readings every hour and communicating with each other to maximize output. “We do this by running the measurements taken on site through a custom control algorithm that is designed to maximize energy output,” he says. While meters, or handheld valves, aren’t placed on all of the wells—it is currently cost-prohibitive—Loci takes advantage of a phenomenon commonly seen in landfills: the 80-20 rule. “That means 80 percent of the gas comes from 20 percent of the wells,” Bamforth says. “Wells collapse over time, get flooded out and aren’t as effective, so a certain small percentage produce the majority of the gas, and those are the wells we want to be on.” The company’s first installation was at the Crapo Hill Landfill in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which was funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. More Gas, More Power Crapo’s landfill gas-to-energy system is equipped with four 0.8MW gensets, but the landfill operators were only getting enough gas to run three of them. “Essentially, they had a multimillion dollar engine going unused,” Bamforth says. “We installed, and they were able to turn on the fourth engine because of the additional gas we were able to get them.” Gas production at Crapo was increased by 25 percent, resulting in a 10 percent increase in electricity sales. Bamsforth notes that the gas is 50 percent methane, so although gas flow went up 25 percent, the energy content only rose 12.5 percent. “Due to some efficiency losses in the engines, the result was a 10 percent increase in power production, but that was significant for them. With all four running at 80 percent capacity, they’re a little less efficient—at full capacity is where they’re the most efficient. It could have been as been as much as a 14 percent increase in additional electricity

sales, it just so happens we got the short end of the stick with the efficiency curve.” Most power plants are oversized and have excess capacity, and Bamforth says the technology will help them utilize that capacity, increasing revenues and lessening payback time on equipment. In addition, at Crapo, the system cut fugitive gases by 25 percent. “That’s what causes odors—and odor complaints, Bamforth says. “It’s something landfill owners care about, so even if with unused capacity it can still be a benefit. Because we’re checking every hour versus once a month, we can find out if there is one or more flooded wells right away. They can send a worker to pump out plugged wells so they can produce gas again. If three wells are plugged and it goes on for three weeks, you’ll get some local emissions in that area, whereas if you identify that issue immediately, you can avoid it. The No. 1 reason landfills are shut down early is because citizens band together because they’re annoyed with the odors.” A second installation at Pine Tree Landfill in Maine was recently completed, and other sites are interested in trying out the technology, but haven’t yet signed up, according to Bamforth. “We recently revised our pricing to basically breakeven to help incentivize people to use our service,” he says. “Our biggest challenge right now is getting people to be an early adaptor of our technology.” Bamforth says he is unaware of any others in the world with a technology exactly like Loci Controls.’ “There are companies that make monitoring devices that can measure all the same things we can, but they are either handheld and must be charged on a daily basis, or they must be hardwired into the electrical system. Our units are fully wireless, they work off a battery, and are charged via solar. Each unit also has its own cellular modem, and these last two points are really what differentiates our product.” The technology might also appeal to high-Btu projects— in particular, the monitoring component. “For them, there’s a very high cost to remove nitrogen, for example,” Bamforth says. “They’re more excited about using the monitoring unit to discover where the better gas is coming from—the purer gas with less ambient air and less nitrogen. For them, it’s more of a quality thing. Our current algorithm, which we designed at Crapo, is designed to maximize energy, which is a function of methane content and gas flow rate. There’s a peak we’re trying to find for the entire landfill. The problem is, particularly for nitrogen, you can’t measure with an optical sensor like you can carbon dioxide, methane or oxygen, and it’s very expensive to take those readings.” Bamforth adds that Loci Controls’ units won’t possess those capabilities in the near future, but that the company has no reason to believe it won’t be able to provide a solution for people looking for better gas quality. “The information, the data, there’s been no way to get that, and we’ve built a tool that can.” Authors: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


DUAL MEMBRANE: VSO Biogas Technologies’ double-membrane gas holders consist of a polyester composite and a PVC coating. The inner membrane has chemical resistance to biogas elements, and the outer has mechanical characteristics resistant to climatic conditions. Gasholders range in volume from 50 to 5,000 cubic meters and heights of 13 to 60 feet. PHOTO: VSO BIOGAS TECHNOLOGIES

Biogas Buffer

Storage at biogas plants, although usually short-term, can ensure generating systems receive a steady gas flow at desired volume and pressure. BY KATIE FLETCHER


t restaurants, people often order food based on how hungry they feel. The eyes are often larger than the stomach, so to get the biggest bang per buck, leftovers are boxed up and brought home for later consumption. While that takeout box serves as the buffer between overeating and a loss on already purchased food, the same concept applies to biogas storage options, which help balance the amount of gas generated versus used. “In the biogas plant industry, if you’re trying to generate electricity, you often need to equalize the biogas flow to the generating system,” says Darin Evans, vice president of product management with Geomembrane Technologies Inc. “They need to keep the engines running at a


constant speed, so if there are variances in the digestion and creation of biogas, they need a way to attenuate the flow because the generator wants a steady, constant feed of biogas.” Biogas is mainly stored for later on-site usage, or stored before or after transport to off-site distribution points or systems. Still, in practice, biogas is used as it is produced, making the need for biogas storage—like leftovers—usually temporary, at times when production exceeds consumption or during maintenance of digester equipment. “Long-term biogas storage from a biogas plant is just not realistic,” says Pat Howell, global business development director of bioenergy with CST Industries Inc. “You want to move that gas as


TANK-MOUNTED: This gasholder is mounted right on the tank and has a PVC-coated dual membrane for methane gas storage at Harvest Power’s biogas facility in Orlando, Florida, which accepts 250 tons of organic waste per day from Disney World and other waste generators. PHOTO: HARVEST POWER

fast as you can, because it will go bad. You also want to move it to receive the revenues. It’s really, produce it, move it on and get paid for what you produce.” The added storage component at biogas plants can save producers, in the case of operational flux. “Gas storage tanks are designed to compensate for fluctuations in production and consumption—for volume changes due to varying temperatures and, for example, stagnating consumption,” says Patrick Johnson, business development manager for Sattler AG. “For example, if the gas motor was not pulling as much gas as it would be under full power, then you need to store the extra gas that is being produced, rather than flaring it off. All of this money would just be burned up and turned into CO2 in the air, if the gas was flared. Whereas, when you have a variablevolume gasholder, you are able to store this extra gas and use it in the future when there is not as much being produced.” Capacity to compensate for generation inconsistencies can make a significant contribution to the efficiency and safety of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant’s operation. Biogas storage options—whether integrated onto the digester itself or as a standalone unit—are making their way onto biogas project blueprints in North America. Sup-

pliers of equipment, such as biogas holders, roofs and covers, made for biogas storage or to compensate for some storage, are working with project developers across the globe to help manage production and consumption variability.

Dually Loaded

Ideal gas storage volume varies based on each biogas installation design, substrate mixture and plant management. AD storage equipment design was transformed in the early 1980s with the invention of the dual-membrane concept. Austrian-based Sattler AG began developing the double-membrane gas storage (DMGS) tank in the form of a three-quarter sphere over 30 years ago. Sattler teamed up with its sister company Ceno Tec, a textile structure builder, to provide storage for biogas, substrates and fermentation residue. “Over the years, we developed the concept from the three-quarter sphere type of layout into several different types of products,” Johnson says. The traditional stand-alone, external biogas storage system Sattler provides is the DMGS tank. The general concept the company invented over 30 years ago is still the design standard used today, AUGUST 2015 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 39


GROUND-MOUNTED: Commonly used in conjunction with other storage vessels to store and regulate gas from the process, these gasholders have a PVC-coated membrane for methane gas storage that can hold up to 15,000 cubic meters of gas. PHOTO: TECON TEXTILE CONSTRUCTIONS GMBH


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according to Johnson. “It has an outer membrane, which is basically the protection against the elements,” he says. “Inside this external air-inflated shell, there is an inner membrane: and a bottom membrane. These two components are combined to form the gas space of the gasholder.” Johnson adds that the same concept is carried on to the tank-mounted option with the exception of the bottom membrane. “Tank-mounted units allow the gas to come off the substrate directly, and to be collected by the inner membrane on top of the tank itself,” he says. Each of the membranes are anchored to the crown or to the outer wall of the steel or concrete tank using clamping rails. Both storage system configurations are air-supported. There is a supporting air blower that is constantly running, which keeps the outer membrane in shape to allow it to be resistant to wind and snow loading,” he says. At the same time, the supporting air blower keeps the gas contained in the inner membrane under constant pressure, called the operating pressure, which serves to recirculate the biogas stored in the plant. GTI, another company in the biogas storage space, is now an exclusive supplier of dual-membrane systems provided by

VSO Biogas Technologies of France. The company supplies floating gas-collection covers to recover biogas from lagoons and tanks, and inflated cover systems, both single- and dual-membrane. If storage is the goal, dual-membrane applications work best. “The floating style covers are used over areas too large for dual-membrane systems,” Evans says. “They lay on the water surface and operate under a negative pressure. Therefore, there is no storage. Inflated single-membrane covers rely on stored biogas to remain stable, which means the biogas is not available to attenuate flows like the dual-membrane systems.” The dual membrane cover’s initial purpose is to regulate the pressure of the digester, Evans adds, and it also has the ability to store some volume of biogas based on a customer’s needs. CST is a third storage solution company that supplies aluminum domes, coated-steel roofs, membrane covers, storage tanks and more. Howell says in the past few years, the company has keyed in on large projects, like one with Harvest Power near Disney World and another at the University of California Davis. “That’s where our business has been, and that has really been driven by the market, not by our choice,” he says.

BIOGAS¦ Tank-mounted roofs and covers, and standalone biogas holders and tanks available for storage at small- and large-scale plants, can vary in how long they store gas. Sattler has received inquiries requiring stored gas for eight to 10 hours. “I think that is mainly because plant operators need to have a certain amount of time for maintenance, for example, on a boiler or CHP combined-heat-and-power to change oil and things like this,” Johnson says. He adds that Sattler has seen some plant designs requiring storage for the whole weekend because no gas-consuming equipment will be running. Johnson says some producers will also want to store gas during low feed-in tariff (FIT) times and supply electricity or upgraded renewable natural gas to the grid during peak-FIT times. Evans considers the ability to accumulate a volume of biogas for burning at times of peak energy demand a storage advantage, but not all plants benefit from peak energy generation; it depends on the rate agreement with the power utility. Storage also provides an assurance in meeting offtake agreements with electricity providers. Howell says long-term biogas storage, maybe four or five days at the max, may be needed. “Long-term is more of an insurance policy, in case they are down and need to do some repairs,” he says.

State of Storage

Whereas dual-membrane designs are inflated, offering a variable amount of gas storage, single-layer biogas roofs have only a static volume of gas available inside, Johnson says. Operational pressure is available for dual-membrane roofs because an air-supported system is added. Gas bags have no operational pressure inside, and although they can have variable volume, they will most likely need to be emptied via gassuction pumps. Johnson adds that singlelayer gas roofs and gas bags can serve as a buffer or means to collect gas, but they do not provide operational pressure. The operational pressure of the gasholder can be adjusted to meet wind and snow-loading requirements, according to Johnson. “Let’s just say, for example, there is a higher wind load requirement for a project that is on an island, then you need to have higher pressures to operate at to resist the wind loading,” he says. Sattler op-

erates at pressures up to 50 millibar (mbar). CST’s roof and membrane options range from 10 mbar for tank-mounted, dual-membrane foil covers to 60 mbar for its pressure dome and external-supportedfixed roof. “Whether you’re doing storage on top of a tank or on a ground-mounted storage system, whether it’s a dual membrane or a tank just storing methane, the most economical design for anybody’s tank or storage system will always be the lowerpressure range just from a structural-design standpoint,” Howell says. Biogas storage systems can store biogas in its raw state. Another way to store biogas, especially in larger volumes at higher pressures, is to treat the gas by cleaning and compressing it. Low-pressure systems, usually below 2 pounds per square inch (psi), can store raw biogas, and tend to be the least expensive and easiest to use for intermediate storage and later on-site applications. Medium- (2 to 200 psi) and highpressure storage systems, usually stored as compressed biomethane (CBM) or liquefied biomethane (LBM) (2,000 to 5,000 psi) require some treatment of the biogas, making them costly and high-maintenance options for noncommercial use. In some instances, to prevent corrosion of the tank components and to ensure safe operation, the biogas must first be cleaned by removing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and then slightly compressed prior to storage. “Storage is problematic unless you get all of the water and all of the H2S and, if possible, all of the CO2 out of the biogas before you compress it,” says Bernard Sheff, chairman of the board of the American Biogas Council. Biogas that has been upgraded to biomethane by removing the H2S, moisture and CO2 can be used as transportation fuel. This fuel typically exceeds immediate on-site demand, so it must be stored, in most cases, as CBM or LBM. LBM can be transported relatively easily and dispensed to either liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas vehicles. Biomethane can be stored as CBM to save space, stored in steel cylinders. In the case of the stand-alone, foundation-mounted units, the removal of H2S is typically done before the gasholder, Johnson says. “We have built into the design of our tank-mounted units some supporting AUGUST 2015 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 41

ÂŚBIOGAS belts,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;On top of these belts, we call it a sulphur net that can be installed. What happens is that hydrogen-sulfide-consuming bacteria grow in colonies. Basically, it looks like a fish net; these hydrogen-sulfideconsuming bacteria grow there on the net, and they substantially lower the amount of H2S in the biogas.â&#x20AC;? While Howell believes the H2S level is something to carefully monitor, he says storing raw biogas is usually not an issue. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whether on top of a tank or on the ground, you design the coatings of the materials that you build the storage structure out of to handle that H2S level or that methane gas mix level,â&#x20AC;? he says.

Secret is in the Sauce

BEER TO BIOGAS: Makers of the amber ale Fat Tire, New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colorado, process all of the brewery production wastewater through a series of aerobic and anaerobic basins. As part of this system, JDV Equipment supplied two Sattler biogas holders, shown above, to store the biogas, which is piped back to the brewery to power two combined-heat-and-power engines. PHOTO: JDV EQUIPMENT CORP., SATTLER AG PARTNER

Nearly 75 percent of digesters built worldwide are sectional-bolted tanks either in an epoxy, stainless steel or glass coating, Howell says. He attributes this to speed of construction. To Howell, one of the most important details for a tank manufacturer or a membrane or gas holder supplier is selecting the right coating. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What I have seen in biogas plants that have had tank or mem-



















BIOGAS¦ brane failures, is really attributed to whoever sold it to them originally didn’t select the right material, the right coating, to give them the longevity that they should get out of that piece of equipment,” Howell says. CST offers glass, stainless steel, epoxy, aluminum and PVC-coated polyester coating materials for its biogas roofs. The company has manufacturing plants in Illinois and Kansas that together create the panels in all options. Sattler’s membranes are produced inhouse. “We start by weaving the individual threads into a foundation fabric and determine the best type of coating to put on the fabric-base mat, and then apply the various specialized layers of coatings, so it has the qualities that we need in order to resist biogas effects and have good UV protection/ resistance, flexibility and things like this,” Johnson says. “The secret is in the sauce with all of the components that make up the membrane.” If the right coating is chosen as a storage solution, suppliers agree minimal maintenance is needed and longevity will remain. “The longest one we’ve had in service is 23 years on the original membranes itself,”


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Johnson says. “Different gases have different effects on gasholders, so some aggressive gases can cause a shortened life span and some very inert gases can cause a very long life span on the gas holder.” GTI, CST, Sattler and others team up with project developers to seek the best biogas storage solution for the unique array of AD installations. “Our standard for going into the biogas market is to build a relationship with the process companies, the engineers who are actually developing the project and the customer, and help them size and choose tank roofs, whether they want a dual membrane for biogas storage or a fixed cover to put mixers in,” Howell says. “We want to help them find the most economical tank design that will give them the longevity they want out of their biogas plant.” Evans believes that, ultimately, it is better to not rely on storage and try to size the generating system to match the amount of gas produced. “That is really the first step, in my mind, for any developer, to try to match the two systems—the amount you are going to generate versus the amount you are going to consume—and that these products

Author: Katie Fletcher Associate Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4920


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are just meant to make the operation of the system a bit smoother.” In the end, equipment used for biogas storage is in place to improve a plant’s efficiency, and the ultimate goal for equipment providers is to help the customer make sure their baseload is covered. Johnson says, “It’s nice to have a gas buffer in place to ensure that a constant supply of gas is available to run the engine at a constant speed all of the time, while simultaneously having the capacity to store extra gas instead of flaring it.”

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AdvancedBiofuels News Proposed RVOs (in million gallons / proposed percentage standards) 2014




Cellulosic biofuel

33 / 0.019%

106 / 0.059%

206 / 0.114%


Biomass-based diesel

1,630 / 1.42%

1,700 / 1.41%

1,800 / 1.49%


Advanced biofuel

2,680 / 1.52%

2,900 / 1.61%

3,400 / 1.88%


Total renewable fuel

15,930 / 9.02%

16,300 / 9.04%

17.400 / 9.63%



EPA issues long-awaited RFS proposal On May 29, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule containing 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable volume requirements (RVOs) under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), along with a proposed 2017 RVO for biomass-based diesel ahead of its June 1 judicial deadline. According to the EPA, the proposed 2016 RVO for cellulosic biofuel is six times higher than actual 2014 volumes, while the 2016 RVO for total renewable fuel is approximately 9 percent higher than actual 2014 volumes. The agency also pointed out the proposed 2016 RVO for advanced biofuel is about 27 percent higher than actual 2014 volumes, with the 2017 biomass-based diesel RVO 17 percent higher than 2014 volumes. The proposal has been criticized by members of the biofuel industry for its use of its “blend wall” methodology, which prevents the RVOs from accounting for more than 10 percent of transportation fuel. A final rule is expected to be released by Nov. 30.

USDA study: biobased industry adds 4M jobs, $369B to economy The USDA has released a report that shows the U.S. biobased industry is generating substantial economic activity and American jobs. “This report is the first to examine and quantify the effect of the U.S. biobased products industry from an economics and jobs perspective. Before, we could only speculate at the incredible economic impact of the biobased products industry,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Now, we know that in 2013 alone, America’s biobased industry contributed 4 million jobs and $369 billion to our economy.” The report indicates that each job in the biobased products industry generates 1.64 jobs in other sectors of the economy. In 2013, 1.5 million jobs directly supported the biobased products industry, resulting in 1.1 million indirect jobs and 1.4 million induced jobs. According to the USDA, the report shows that the seven major overarching sectors that represent the U.S. biobased products industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy are agriculture and forestry, biorefining, biobased chemicals, enzymes, bioplastic bottles and packaging, forest products, and textiles. 46 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2015


The Real Bioeconomy Builders BY MATT CARR

This fall, the algae industry’s leading entrepreneurs, scientists and advocates will be taking their ideas and products to Washington, D.C., the headquarters of much of the policy that guides the bioeconomy. The Algae Biomass Summit, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, will be the largest algae conference in the world, and you might think the focus for an event like this in the nation’s capitol would be on the members of Congress, agency staff and other government officials implementing the policy incentives that are helping get these new technologies off the ground. It is true that, now more than ever before, more elected officials are noticing algae companies in their own districts, and that federal agencies are beginning to adjust their programs to support entirely new technologies made possible by commercial algae cultivation. But we all must keep in mind that these incredibly helpful policies only play a supporting role. The real leading-edge discussions at the Algae Biomass Summit will be focused on something that nearly everyone in the bioeconomy is watching: investments in commercial success. We all know it takes a significant lift to get a new idea off the ground. Especially for bio-related companies, hiring the right team and obtaining the equipment needed for a new bio-endeavor can be a big lift. It only gets harder. The funds needed for the first commercialscale operations can often seem insurmountable. While dozens of entrepreneurs have indeed proven how to raise substantial funds from investors, strategic partners and others, the bio-segment is nonetheless a cutting-edge field that requires specialized knowledge that isn’t easily obtained. Newcomers are often surprised to find that there are very few investment firms with a specific mission to invest in the bioeconomy. Evaluating an investment opportunity in the space requires specialized knowledge

in sometimes disparate markets, specialized engineering knowledge, and the ability to evaluate scientific advances that sometimes are so exclusive only a few true experts exist in the world. We won’t always be facing these headwinds. Years ago, wind and solar investments, with only a few demonstrations or early commercial-scale facilities as proof points, were just as obscure as bioinvestments might seem today. Now, several of these investments are outperforming other fossil energy by leaps and bounds. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that an index that tracks companies focused on renewable energy, conservation and efficiency returned 50 percent from 2013 to last April. An index that tracks coal companies lost 50 percent, and S&P Oil and Gas Index didn’t change much at all. This is a great aspiration for those of us in the bioeconomy, but like the wind and solar industries, it won’t depend entirely on the policy community that we will have a chance to meet at the summit. It will require entrepreneurs building companies who have the ideas, people, the support needed for success. The work of the policy community in setting the stage will remain invaluable, but the bulk of our success will depend on those that have the expertise to prove the potential of their ideas. We’ll be bringing hundreds of them to Washington, D.C., this September, making the Algae Biomass Summit the perfect place to get a glimpse of where the next big industry is going. Author: Matt Carr Executive Director, Algae Biomass Organization 877-531-5512



SECOND-GEN: Algae Systems’ half-acre PBR system in Daphne, Alabama, floats in Mobile Bay. The 150-foot by 6-foot units are connected to the Daphne Utilities wastewater treatment plant. Algae consume nutrients and organic carbon in the water while providing a wastewater treatment service. The current secondgeneration PBRs are a complete redesign from the previous version. PHOTO: ALGAE SYSTEMS LLC




Algae PBRs Photobioreactor manufacturers detail their latest designs and performance metrics and provide project updates from around the globe. BY RON KOTRBA


hether through open ponds, raceways or closed photobioreactors (PBR), growing algae is both a science and an art. Just as there are numerous ways to grow algae, its uses are exponentially varied: high-end nutraceuticals, cosmetics, pharma ingredients, fine chemicals, food ingredients, proteins for livestock and aquaculture, and biofuels. In the biofuels category alone, some companies focus on lipids to manufacture biodiesel and renewable diesel, others target sugars to ferment into ethanol, and still others concentrate on general biomass production to produce bio-oil or green crude. While open ponds may be right for some applications, Miguel Olaizola, director of production science with Heliae Development LLC, says PBRs have certain advantages over open systems. PBRs can, for example, offer some protection from contamination, but they can’t eliminate it completely. “This means that the costs associated with taking down a culture, cleaning the system and reinoculating can be lower since the frequency of culture crashes is expectedly lower,” Olaizola tells Biomass Magazine. “PBRs can also be more efficient at utilizing the carbon dioxide provided to phototrophic cultures, again lowering costs.” He says PBRs can also save on water usage since evaporation is better controlled, noting that in warmer locales this may lead to higher cooling costs. “In places where windblown sand and dust persist, PBRs can keep the ash content of the crop low,” Olaizola adds. “Finally, cultures in PBRs can be more effective at harvesting sunlight while minimizing photo-inhibition, resulting in a higher photosynthetic efficiency.” The No. 1 reason closed PBRs may be better than open ponds for growing algae is light distribution, says Paul Woods, founder and CEO of Algenol LLC. “Getting a little light to the maximum number of cells is the key, and there is ample evidence now that vertical beats horizontal by at least two to one,” Woods says. “It’s also important to be able to manage passively or actively factors such as temperature, pH, salinity, oxygen, nutrient levels and contaminants.” Woods says the closed system allows for better passive, systematic and automated controls of the conditions necessary for optimum growth. “Our system also allows the entire culture to have sun exposure and doesn’t require expensive mixing,” he says. Ultimately, closed PBRs may be better than ponds for certain products but not for others, according to Olaizola. “Also, they may be better for some parts of the process, such as seed or inoculum production, but not for others, like very large-scale units,” he says, adding that in the end, one should judge a specific growth system on a very simple metric: money spent (capital expenses plus operating expenses) per ton of final product generated of a certain quality.



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Last August, Algae Systems LLC announced successful completion of a unique algae demonstration unit with Japanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s IHI Corp. located at a wastewater treatment plant in Daphne, Alabama. The PBRs take up about a half-acre of space but instead of using up precious land, they float in Mobile Bay. The setup is unique; not only is algae grown for biofuel conversion, but in doing so, Algae Systems provides a service to Daphne Utilities by treating 40,000 to 60,000 gallons of wastewater per day. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re connected to their sewer line, so we take dirty water from them and give clean water back to them,â&#x20AC;? says Eric Sundstrom, principal research engineer with Algae Systems. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The wastewater supplies all the nutrients the algae need, and a vast majority of the carbon.â&#x20AC;? The continuous batch system is totally enclosed, so nothing is taken from or dumped into the bay. Gravity feeds the wastewater into the PBRs and once algae blossom through photosynthesis while consuming nutrients and carbon, the raw, aqueous algae is pumped into the plant where it is dewatered. The treated water is then discharged through regular, permitted channels. Algae Systems grows entirely natural, ecological polycultured strains. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t actively control what we grow,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What happens is, different strains dominate at different times of the year due to environmental conditions and ecology predation. If one strain is taken out by a predator, many other strains are present to fill that need. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a stable system, and we need that because we cannot have crop failure. If we do, wastewater treatment goes down. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have culture crash, just variation in the dominant strain.â&#x20AC;? Mobile Bay is home to 24 of these floating bags. They are made of flexible plastic and are 150 feet long by 6 feet wide. They are durable too. Mobile Bay has alligators, and on occasion they like to get atop the PBRs and soak up the sun. The company is on its second-generation of PBRs. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We did a complete redesign,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We corrected everything we learned from the first generation.â&#x20AC;? For starters, the whole system is automated via PLC controls, so it can be easily run without anyone attending it. Durability was also improved. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We streamlined it and eliminated failure points,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says. Algae Systems works with famed shoe company Nike on the plastic material. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a better UVstabilized material,â&#x20AC;? he says. The second-gen units are also twice as big as their predecessors.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;We try to keep costs low because you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get much cheaper than two layers of plastic, flexible film,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;so weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re trying to drive the cost of plastic down, for which we pay a small premium now.â&#x20AC;? Another unique design component is the cooling and mixing effects of the water on which the PBRs float. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We can make use of any body of water for cultivation requiring no infrastructure and no leveled land,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Also, our design can run a system with no added carbon dioxideâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the wastewater provides ample organic carbon, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very nice gas exchange. The algae produce oxygen as they grow, and thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enough carbon in most wastewater to get full wastewater treatment in our system with no added carbon dioxide.â&#x20AC;? He says while there are some benefits to adding carbon dioxide to the PBRs, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not necessary. Algae Systemsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; conversion approach, in partnership with Auburn University, is a hydrothermal liquefaction process that utilizes wet algae, saving time and money on drying. Hydrothermal liquefaction can also extract oil from nonlipid portions of algae biomass. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important because weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not growing pure, high-lipid strains in our system,â&#x20AC;? Sundstrom says. The end result is bio-oil suitable asis for bunker fuel or further hydrotreating into renewable diesel or biojet fuel. Sundstrom says Algae Systems will continue refining its PBR system. â&#x20AC;&#x153;At this stage, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no longer about proof of concept, but mechanical reliability, performance and scale-up,â&#x20AC;? he tells Biomass Magazine.


Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Direct-to-Ethanol technology is a unique, two-step process that produces ethanol directly from the algae. Algenol then converts the spent algae biomass to biodiesel, green gasoline and biojet fuel. The company currently has two demonstration facilities, one in Ft. Myers, Florida, and another in India near Reliance Industries Ltd.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oil refinery, the largest in the world. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have approximately 7,000 [PBR] units in Florida at our demonstration facility, and a smaller unit in India,â&#x20AC;? says Woods. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are currently planning for the same size unit in India as in Florida.â&#x20AC;? Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 100-liter PBRs are constructed of a flexible plastic film with a proprietary design that best facilitates ethanol production and biomass collection. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The plastic used for PBR construction has been specifically engineered and enhanced to optimize a variety of performance metrics,â&#x20AC;? Woods says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Each individual PBR consists of ports for ethanol

DIRECT-TO-ETHANOL: Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 100-liter PBRs are plastic with a proprietary design that facilitates ethanol production and biomass collection.



and biomass collection and the introduction of carbon dioxide.â&#x20AC;? He says Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s PBRs are designed to maximize light exposure to all cells, to evenly dispense carbon dioxide throughout the culture, and to last many years in the field. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Once the PBRs are deployed, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important for everything to be automated to save time and money,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nutrient and carbon dioxide levels are monitored and adjusted in an automated fashion to allow for the most optimal growth conditions. After a batch of algae is harvested, the bag is cleaned in place and reinoculated with the next batch.â&#x20AC;? Annually, Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s PBRs produce 8,000 gallons of liquid fuels per acre. A majority of the liquid fuel is ethanol, with about 1,000 gallons of gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel refined from the green crude. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This compares favorably to corn at 420 gallons per acre per year,â&#x20AC;? Woods says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We use 5 percent of the land that corn ethanol uses to make the same amount of fuel, so our land use is much more efficient than other biofuels. In addition, we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need farmlandâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;we need marginal land. We also use saltwater, not freshwater, in our process.â&#x20AC;? Through the years, Algenol has experimented with several different plastics, orientations, sizes and spacing, and found that its current PBRs produce the best yields. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve evolved from horizontal to vertical design, from smaller sizes to larger sizes,â&#x20AC;? Woods says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Perhaps most significantly, we now manufacture our own PBRs, which allows us greater control over the product.â&#x20AC;? He says outdoor testing has proven Algenol PBRs are durable, lasting up to three years. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weather-ometer testing simulates eight years,â&#x20AC;? Woods says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So far, we target six years in the field.â&#x20AC;? Woods says the state of PBR art today is varied, and often changed to best suit the product being produced and its value. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We will

always continue to do R&D to further drive yield and reduce cap-ex,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;While we are happy with our ability now to produce fuel for $1.30 a gallon and to produce 8,000 gallons per acre per year, we are always seeking to do even better. Future improvements will come from enhancement to our PBRs and to our algae strain itself.â&#x20AC;? He adds that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important to emphasize PBRsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; ability to concentrate carbon dioxide uptake. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One metric ton of carbon dioxide fed into the Algenol process produces around 144 gallons of fuels,â&#x20AC;? he notes, adding that algae technologies such as Algenolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s are the only solution to mitigating climate change while monetizing carbon dioxide through utilization. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This drastically alters the current paradigm by turning an environmental and economic liability into a revenue-generating asset,â&#x20AC;? he says.

Heliae Development

Heliae Development manufactures a whole array of programmable PBRs of different sizes and capacities, depending on the purpose of a specific culture, Olaizola says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our PBRs are designed to provide optimal growth conditions for specific crops,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re designed to adjust, in real time, growth conditions such as pH, nutrient concentrations, temperature and more.â&#x20AC;? He explains that the effectiveness of control of growth parameters is, itself, dependent on a good understanding of turbulence within the reactor. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Depending on the unit, the PBRs may have a photic zone, a zone for gas exchange, a zone for temperature control, shade control,â&#x20AC;? he says. Different probes provide signals that are communicated to a PLC programmed to respond to those signals by adjusting, for example, valves that permit carbon dioxide to be bubbled into the culture or add nutrient components on de-




DESERT OASIS: Algatechnologies partnered with Schott in 2013 to construct a PBR system consisting of 10 miles of Duran thin-walled glass tubing for the Israel-based algae company. PHOTO: SCHOTT

mand. “This approach offers us the flexibility to use the same PBR for very different crops,” he says. The smallest-scale PBRs Heliae uses are standard lab units—flasks and carboys—up to 20 liters. The next step in scaling up includes the use of proprietary plastic PBRs with capacities of up to 400 liters. “Depending on the crop, we also use glass tubular reactors up to 550 liters,”


Olaizola says. The smaller units have two functions—product development and production of inoculum, or seed, for larger production units. The larger units consist of open-channel reactors protected by a greenhouse-type structure that provides the benefits of closed PBRs at a very large scale. “Our newest PBR has a capacity of 600,000 liters over a 4,000-squaremeter footprint,” Olaizola says. “We use some

of the smaller units in mixotrophic mode—the algae receive both sunlight and fixed carbon (e.g., acetate), which results in productivities of 1 to 1.5 grams per liter per day equivalent, in our system, to 1 to 1.5 kilograms per square meter per day.” Olaizola says what makes Heliae’s PBRs unique is harnessing not only phototrophic growth platforms, but also mixotrophic. “This is accomplished by combining the right vessel with the specific production mode,” he says. “We have PBRs from lab-scale to 130,000-liter capacity that can be used in mixotrophic mode. The ability to shift a culture between purely phototrophic and mixotrophic production modes sets us apart. It gives us the ability to modulate the production of certain cellular components, which results in a more valuable crop.” The company has two dozen PBRs of different designs and scale at its facilities in Gilbert, Arizona, along with one system at Arizona State University (also in Gilbert), and six systems in Japan. “We recently conducted a six-month demonstration test using some of our units colocated at an incinerator plant in the city of Saga in southwest Japan,” Olaizola says. The project in Japan [with Sincere Corp.] has now moved into the construction phase

ADVANCED BIOFUELS AND CHEMICALSÂŚ of a commercial facility using our proprietary technology and reactors.â&#x20AC;? Commissioning is expected early next year. Some of Heliaeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reactors have been in operation for several years, but proper preventive maintenance has maintained the systems, which Olaizola says have run nearly continuously. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Perhaps the most common repair needed every few months is a bad pH probe,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;On occasion, high winds have produced tears in our large PBR greenhouse covers.â&#x20AC;? This happened twice in the past year. Two drivers guide Heliaeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s PBR development efforts: increasing the flexibility of each system for different products and species, and lowering the cost of the unit itself and its operation. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In general, we have developed PBRs that permit better control of parameters such as pH, temperature, gas exchange and turbulence,â&#x20AC;? Olaizola says. The company is currently working on two aspects of PBR development, one of which is exploration of different construction materials that can lower the cost of larger units. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Some of these materials will be cheaper to purchaseâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;think polymer versus glass tubes, for exampleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and also cheaper to maintain,â&#x20AC;? Olaizola says. This allows greater longevity and easier cleaning. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Second, we are pushing automation of functions so that manpower costs can also be reduced,â&#x20AC;? Olaizola says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heliae has always been big on automation. Now we are pushing that functionality even further.â&#x20AC;? Heliae is in collaboration with several partners to continually improve not only its PBRs, but also other aspects of the production cycle. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working with Evodos on downstream processing, specifically using its separation equipment. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And more specifically, pertaining to the PBRs themselves, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been working with Schott, testing their new oval glass tubes in our Helix platform, a tubular PBR,â&#x20AC;? Olaizola says. Schott also collaborates with Algatechnologies Ltd. The two signed an R&D agreement following a successful one-year study of new glass tubes at Algatechnologiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; production facility in Israel. Schottâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s thin-walled Duran glass tubes significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatechâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s AstaPure natural astaxanthin, an antioxidant. The two firms partnered in 2013 to produce nearly 10 miles of thin-walled Duran glass tubes for testing in Algatechâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s PBR systems in Israel. In addition to Evodos and Schott, Heliae is also working with Philips Lighting for indoor and outdoor work, using newly developed LED units to decrease the heat load in indoor PBRs, and to augment natural sunlight in outdoor systems, Olaizola says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And considering

that strain development is an intrinsic part of success in our field, we are working with Triton Health and Nutrition to scale up the indoor and outdoor cultivation of algae designed to produce high-value therapeutic proteins.â&#x20AC;? Olaizola says the algae industry is â&#x20AC;&#x153;far from where we need to beâ&#x20AC;? regarding state of the art. He says algae can generate many products such as nutrition, energy and materials, along with services such as water reclamation, carbon capture and heavy metal remediation, but at a high cost. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A large part of the current cost relates to the cost of the growth units themselves,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We need to make those units a lot cheaper. Alternatively, we will limit

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ourselves to produce high-value products like astaxanthin or specialty proteins. But those markets are small.â&#x20AC;? He says to manufacture algae-derived products at a more competitive price, the emphasis should not only be on PBR designs, but also the protocols developed to optimize their operation, including ancillary support systems from the inoculum to downstream processing platforms. Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine 218-745-8347



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August 2015 Biomass Magazine  

The Equipment Issue

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