August 2011 Biomass Power & Thermal

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August 2011

Powerful Waste How Missouri Can Optimize Its Biogas Resources Page 38


Why Europe Leads the U.S. in Organic Waste to Power Page 20

What Makes the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Biodigester Unique Page 26

Why Massachusetts Dairy Farmers are Building AD Plants Page 32


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FEATURES 20 PROJECT DEVELOPMENT Industrial-Strength Waste to Energy A company that recently commissioned the largest food waste-to-energy plant in Europe says incentives play a significant role in developing industrial-scale anaerobic digestion plants. By Anna Austin

26 INNOVATION Living, Learning Lab The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s dry anaerobic digestion project will produce energy, green the campus, and benefit students through financial aid and educational opportunities. By Lisa Gibson

26 DEPARTMENTS 04 EDITOR’S NOTE Supporting Biogas Production Just Makes Sense By Rona Johnson

06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 08 POWER PLATFORM BPA Hosts Successful Washington Fly-In By Bob Cleaves

09 THERMAL DYNAMICS Legislative Support for Biomass Thermal Continues to Grow By Joseph Seymour


32 BUSINESS Dairy Diversification Massachusetts dairy farmers are banding together to build anaerobic digesters to produce their own power and heat, and to diversify their incomes. By Anna Austin

38 ANAEROBIC DIGESTION Methanation in Missouri Although Missouri, with its ample supply of cattle and hog operations, is fertile ground for developing on-farm anaerobic digesters, the state’s first project is just now preparing to start up. By Lisa Gibson

CONTRIBUTIONS 44 SUPPLY Reading Between the Tree Rows The U.S. South could be facing a shortage of pine pulpwood as indicated by a decrease in planted acreage, low seeding production numbers and nursery closures. By Dean McCraw

50 QUALITY CONTROL The Critical Analysis of Biomass Increased use of biomass could require governing standards agencies to devise more specific quality control procedures. By Stan Houser and Scott Blakely

Significant Biomass Power Generation: Still Waiting in the Wings By Chris Zygarlicke

11 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE AD: Promoting Health and Quality of Life in Developing Countries By Kate Bechen and Jordan Hemaidan

CORRECTION: In the “Full Steam Ahead” feature in the July 2011 issue of Biomass Power & Thermal, it was incorrectly stated that ICM Inc.’s commercial gasifier has amassed more than 220 hours of operation. It has actually achieved more than 2,220 hours.



Supporting Biogas Production Just Makes Sense


Although not a particularly pleasant or exciting process, anaerobic digestion is such an excellent way to use waste material to produce power, whether it’s at a processing plant or on a farm in rural America. Despite its simplicity and obvious benefits, however, anaerobic digestion still hasn’t caught on as rapidly as it should mainly because of its upfront capital costs and, in some places where it’s needed most, running a digester just isn’t as easy as it seems. It may seem obvious to many of us that livestock producers should just do it because it makes sense not just for them but also for their neighbors. But, again, it’s not that easy. That’s why I was excited to read Associate Editor Anna Austin’s feature “Dairy Diversification” about a project to build digesters on five farms in Massachusetts as a way to supplement their income when the price of milk and other crops drop. The great thing about this project is that it involves a group of farmers getting together with a developer to form a company, and bringing in experts to construct the facilities and to operate them as well (see page 32). You see, most livestock operators get the anaerobic digestion thing and most like the idea, they just don’t have the money or the time to do it. Whether the dairy operators will reap the anticipated benefits of these digesters remains to be seen, so we will be checking in on them periodically to see how it’s working. Missouri will soon have its first operating on-farm anaerobic digestion facility on a cattle feedlot in the north central part of the state. The project has received a lot of help from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Anaerobic digestion proponents in the state are hoping this project will spur others. For more information about Missouri’s biogas production potential see Associate Editor Lisa Gibson’s feature “Methanation in Missouri” on page 38. Food processing facilities also hold great opportunities for anaerobic digesters, as has already been proven in Europe. To read about how the U.S. could follow their lead, see Austin’s “IndustrialStrength Waste to Energy” feature on page 20. You can also read about a unique biodigester on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus in the “Living, Learning Lab” feature starting on page 26.

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Chris Zygarlicke, deputy associate director for research at the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., writes in the Energy Review column about how significant advances in biomass power in the U.S. will most likely be driven by carbon regulations, carbon trading, renewable portfolios or economic incentives.



In this month’s Thermal Dynamics column, Joseph Seymour, acting executive director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, takes stock of the progress thermal energy proponents have made in educating state and federal lawmakers about thermal energy and the important role it can play in the nation’s energy portfolio.


ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie


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¦INDUSTRY EVENTS International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show September 14-16, 2011 Hilton Americas – Houston Houston, Texas The International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste and petrochemical professionals to explore the value-added opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. (866) 746-8385

Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show

Building Up Biomass in the Northeast


Attendees at this year’s Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show, being held Oct. 11-13 at the Westin Place Hotel in Pittsburgh will be visiting a part of the country that is rife with biomass projects

and supporters. In Montgomery, N.Y., Jim Taylor is building the first large-scale gasification facility in the U.S. Taylor Biomass Energy, now under construction, will convert construction and demolition debris, wood waste and municipal solid waste into 20 megawatts of electricity. In June, Montpelier, Vt., citizens approved a bond issue for a biomass district heating system to be installed in their downtown district. The vote gave the city the goahead to borrow $2.75 million for the $20 million project that will replace its old oil-fired district heating plant, which was upgraded to an oil-biomass blend in the 1970s. The project will also include an expansion of the distribution system to allow heat delivery to city government buildings, schools and other downtown structures. In Massachusetts, AGreen Energy LLC is preparing to build a second on-farm digester at Barway Farm a dairy operation in Deerfield. Barway Farm is one of five dairy operations where anaerobic digesters are being built to help farmers diversify their incomes and to strengthen the dairy industry in the state (see “Dairy Diversification” on page 32). Although the woody biomass industry is struggling in Massachusetts, a group of supporters has organized to convince Gov. Deval Patrick and the state legislature that biomass should be used in-state to produce energy. The Coalition for Biomass Energy for MASS was organized in response to the renewable portfolio standard developed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources that effectively eliminates biomass from being eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates, putting many biomass projects in the commonwealth at a disadvantage. The Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show program will feature more than 60 speakers, including technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to combined heat and power and large-scale biomass combustion, within the structured framework of general session panels and four customized tracks: electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and project development and finance. The event is designed to help biomass industry stakeholders identify and evaluate solutions that fit their operations. It's time to improve operational efficiencies and tap into the revenue-generating potential of sustainable biomass resources in the Northeastern U.S. For more information about the conference, visit northeast.


October 11-13, 2011 Westin Place Hotel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast—from Maryland to Maine—the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utilities, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. Register by August 30th and save $200. (866) 746-8385

Algae Biomass Summit October 24-27, 2011 Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Minneapolis, Minnesota Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policymakers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all algae industries. (866) 746-8385

Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show November 1-3, 2011 Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Southeast—from the Virginias to the Gulf Coast—the Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect the area’s current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. (866) 746-8385


BPA Hosts Successful Washington Fly-In BY BOB CLEAVES

Remember that Frank Sinatra song “Come Fly with Me?” Well, that’s what Biomass Power Association members did in June, descending on Washington, D.C., from points all around the nation. In June, the BPA held its annual Washington fly-in, where members of the biomass community traveled to the capitol to remind elected officials about the many ways that our industry benefits the nation—and, thus, why we should benefit from the same support that Congress provides other renewable energy sources. This particular fly-in was one of the most successful in memory. In dozens of meetings with members of Congress—both old and new friends—we made real progress toward setting forth our agenda. Boiler, commercial industrial solid waste incinerator and the nonhazardous secondary material rules continue to be on everyone’s minds. We reported to Congress that in recent months, the U.S. EPA has made real progress in understanding our industry and listening to our concerns, chief among them being that classifying traditional biomass fuels as “wastes” will only create more financial burdens without any public health benefits. To correct these fundamental problems, we need the EPA to take a “regulatory timeout” and make sure that the rules avoid unintended consequences. We believe that can only happen through legislation. During our fly-in, H.R. 2250 or the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, was introduced by Reps. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine,—representing a state with many biomass facilities—captured the importance of the legislation and the need for the EPA to adopt a common sense regulation when he said, “In much of rural America, and especially in Maine, any hope of economic recovery is dependent upon the preservation of the kinds of high-quality jobs that are supported by biomass, such as those in our forest products industry.


With U.S. unemployment remaining stubbornly high, we must support regulations that strike a balance between environmental protection and job creation and retention.” EPA regulations were not our only focus while in Washington. Working with Michael Brower, a longtime friend and advocate of biomass, we secured a meeting with Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., who is making a concerted effort to raise the importance of biomass in the overall national energy debate. Stay tuned for more exciting news on that effort in the near future. Our hill visits also encompassed tax parity. To date, biomass has received less than 2 percent of 1603 grants, and like hydro and waste to energy, our section 45 credits are 50 percent of the value of other renewables (and no credits for thermal), despite the fact that we produce 50 percent of the nation’s renewable supply. That could change with tax parity legislation now before the House Ways and Means Committee. A special thanks to Reps. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., for introducing H.R. 2286, or the Renewable Energy Parity Act, to ensure equal tax treatment for electricity produced from all renewable energy sources. There is a lot of positive momentum for biomass in Washington right now. With all eyes on the deficit, it appears that all other legislative business is taking a back seat. That said, to ensure that these efforts produce results, the BPA urges each of you to contact your members of Congress—either by phone, email or an in-person meeting while they are on August recess this month—and encourage them to join in supporting H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2286, and also reach out to Rep. Bass in support of his efforts. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association


Legislative Support for Biomass Thermal Continues to Build BY JOSEPH SEYMOUR

Summertime is a natural opportunity to take stock of the year's biomass progress and project toward the fall months and heating season. Looking back, it’s fair to assess the first half of 2011 as a time of growing recognition of biomass thermal energy. While biomass heating advocates may not be able to point to a single watershed legislative victory, there have been many smaller wins across the U.S. that are finally placing biomass thermal in the same conversation with other renewables. To begin, we can look to Washington, D.C., which is starting to take biomass thermal seriously. Aside from the regulatory deferrals and reconsideration of the U.S. EPA’s Tailoring Rule and Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards, respectively, biomass thermal received an uncommon call-out and reflection on its merits. In March, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unveiled its Clean Energy Standard white paper, and one provision stood apart from all the others; in an energy policy dominated by electricity, the paper asked if energy such as biomass thermal should be incorporated into a national clean energy program. While it’s true that a CES is unlikely to be passed this year or the next, the mention of biomass thermal will serve as the foundation for major energy bills in the future. In Vermont, several events are helping to promote biomass, whether it is to heat the capitol area or to warm the rest of the state. Gov. Peter Shumlin has led this effort, first with the extension of a residential credit for biomass heating appliances, and now interest in promoting biomass thermal in the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. The Northeast Biomass Thermal Working Group mobilized residents to submit biomass heating recommendations before the comment period closed in mid-July. The CEP, when finalized, will serve as an integrated plan across all energy sectors for Vermont’s energy future, and, thanks to their contributions, biomass thermal players are more likely to see recognition. Revisions to New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) have presented a similar opportunity to advance biomass heating in a program dominated by renewable electricity. When it was enacted in 2007, the New Hampshire legislature required the Public Utility Commission to review how well the RPS was meeting its public policy goals in 2011. That review is underway, and

the PUC has accepted public comments on key questions, including whether to include incentives for thermal renewable energy. Again, efforts from the NEBTWG and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council helped rally and submit comments. The final report is due this fall. Massachusetts’s turn toward biomass thermal is yet another example of progress across the nation. The state’s RPS revisions on "woody biomass eligibility," though focused on incentives for electric generation, were sent through public comment and the legislature's governing committee. Again, numerous comments from biomass thermal companies—coordinated in part by the NEBTWG—recommended a thermal component be included. In response, the legislative committee recognized the need for thermal incentives, indicating that thermally led projects represent "the most efficient use of finite woody biomass resources." Nevertheless, the committee indicated that the current RPS program was designed to promote new renewable sources of electric generation and suggested an "alternative energy portfolio standard be developed to promote thermal biomass development.” With this encouragement, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center issued a request for proposals to "characterize the opportunity for and the impacts of expanding adoption of renewable thermal technologies in the commonwealth of Massachusetts." An Opportunities and Impacts Study has to be completed by mid-September and an advisory on biomass thermal program opportunities by mid-October. How we measure and view the progress made thus far in 2011 will help guide our efforts into 2012. Escalating federal and state budget deficits may temporarily diminish legislators’ appetites for tax credits, but there are numerous measures available, that will place biomass thermal in policy conversations and state requirements equal to that of solar, wind, hydroelectric and biopower. Coordination between national groups such as the BTEC and regional and state organizations will capitalize and reinforce our advances at all levels, from rural communities to D.C. Author: Joseph Seymour Acting Executive Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council (202) 596-3974



Significant Biomass Power Generation: Still Waiting in the Wings BY CHRIS ZYGARLICKE

Over the past year, I have been in interesting meetings with a variety of national and international leaders of energy businesses and federal institutions regarding biomass- and fossil-based energy. The Energy & Environmental Research Center has a long legacy of working both in fossil energy and renewable energy. In the early formative years, between the 1950s and the 1980s, the focus was primarily on coal. As I see it right now, there is a real struggle to determine where biomass’s place is in the energy scheme worldwide. A simple yet germane assessment of biomass use in the world is that most of Europe has renewable energy mandates and carbon trading that has driven significant biomass use. North America has some state- or province-driven renewable portfolio standards that have stimulated some biomass use. South America is just now beginning to formulate federal mandates for biomass energy use. Most of Asia and Australia have been so busy trying to deal with expanded coal and gas use that biomass has generally been just an after-thought. The real drivers for biomass utilization continue to be competitive costs, reduction in carbon emissions and, to a lesser degree, the need to dispose of unwanted or hazardous waste. With respect to cost, the United States is a good example of power generators needing to see biomass as cost-competitive with coal or gas. State renewable portfolio standards have incentivized some biomass energy production in smaller 10- to 50-megawatt (MW) power plants, but cofiring of biomass in utility boilers greater than 100 MW is virtually a nonfactor in U.S. power generation. With respect to greenhouse gas reduction as a driver for biomass energy, we must look to Europe. Within the context of long-term planning, European electricity production is undergoing a significant transition.


Europe desperately wants to reduce carbon emissions, but in such a way that capital costs will not bankrupt European financial systems. Europe has opened a significant door to biomass-derived energy over the past 15 years with renewable energy mandates and salable carbon credits. Many European countries have renewable energy mandates of 20 percent total electricity. Coupled with payments for abated or traded carbon, biomass can, in some cases, be economically shipped over vast ocean expanses to Europe as wood pellets. This is occurring with some European countries that are constrained with respect to nonfood biomass supply. All that said, biomass may still find some struggles for expansion in Europe. What I’ve learned from our European clients and friends is that if overall carbon abatement is the goal for the next 50 to 100 years, many more gigatons of carbon will be kept from the environment by building more efficient supercritical coal boilers with carbon capture and storage, rather than burning 20 to 30 percent biomass across all European utilities. This scenario alarms some people, but it is a scenario that actually plays out, not only for much lower carbon emissions but, surprisingly, for much lower cost. At least with the United States, the bottom line, as we have all surmised over and over again, is that biomass will continue to be of great interest to augment fossil energy production. However, significant advances in biomass power generation are still waiting in the wings for drivers such as carbon regulations, carbon trading, renewable portfolios or economic incentives. Author: Chris Zygarlicke Deputy Associate Director for Research, Energy & Environmental Research Center (701) 777-5123


AD: Promoting Health and Quality of Life in Developing Countries BY KATE BECHEN AND JORDAN HEMAIDAN

Inadequate waste management leading to contaminated water supplies and human and cattle disease is a constant threat to the health, quality of life and productivity of people in developing countries. Rural populations also suffer from many pulmonary diseases as a result of poor indoor air quality due to heating and cooking without proper ventilation. Further, most of the developing world survives on subsistence farming and animal husbandry, both of which create significant organic waste. This organic waste is typically burned for cooking or heating. Burning unprocessed organic waste is inefficient, yet cooking and heating are the most energy intensive activities in developing countries. Small-scale, rural anaerobic digesters offer both a source of energy and a sanitary method of waste disposal which can help control disease. Digesters can improve rural sanitation, reduce labor (collecting fuel wood), and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve respiratory health and increase agricultural productivity through improvements in soil quality. Biogas is the result of the decomposition of organic waste under anaerobic conditions. In addition to methane gas, the decomposition process produces a slurry byproduct composed of phosphorus and nitrogen, which is typically used as a fertilizer. The process is relatively simple and is not as technologically intensive as ethanol and biodiesel production, which require more resources, advanced technology and investment, making it particularly suited for developing countries where organic wastes are abundant. A small-scale anaerobic digester can be made from a variety of common materials. Digesters are most economical when located near the feedstock source, which serves to control transportation costs and inefficiencies. The decomposition process typically takes between six and 25 days, depending on the feedstock and size of the digester. A small-scale household digester has a useful life of approximately 20 years, takes about one week to build and costs between $100 and $1,700, with the expectation that the digester pay for itself within four to five years. Biogas burns like liquefied petroleum gas, which means a digester’s output can be connected to a stove or a light with a gauze mantle. A small-scale, household digester can run on the waste from one or two cows, five to eight pigs or four humans.

This size digester would typically produce sufficient energy for cooking and some lighting (in addition to improved air quality and sanitary waste management, both of which significantly impact health in developing countries). Developing countries face significant health concerns resulting from the contamination of hand-dug wells from surface sources. Using an anaerobic digester, communities can locate toilet facilities in or next to a house because such facilities are odorless and do not attract insects. Developing countries utilize dried animal waste as a cheap energy source for cooking and heating, but burning animal waste is uneconomical and releases toxic emissions which cause pulmonary disease such as tuberculosis and lung cancer. At the same time, crop residues are often burned in an effort to reduce the cost of storage and handling, even though the result is reduced soil quality. Ineffective waste management systems lead to illness and disease. For example, it is estimated that worldwide there are nearly 80 million cases of dysentery, of which approximately 700,000 are fatal. A digester can kill the dysentery bacteria in 30 hours. Effective implementation of rural digesters requires a focus on farmer and community education. For example, many rural farmers do not realize that crop residue and animal waste can produce more energy after it is processed by a digester than by traditional drying methods. Further, costs or initial construction and lack of government support are barriers to the establishment of digesters in certain areas. Efficient utilization of digesters also requires interagency cooperation between utilities, municipalities and local agriculture. Countries such as China (with 50 million households using biogas) and India (4 million) have been particularly effective in establishing biogas as an energy source. Other countries, such as the U.S. with its low natural gas prices, have not been as successful. Authors: Kate Bechen Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (414) 225-4956 Jordan Hemaidan Partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (608) 283-4431



Recast Energy closes initial equity raise, acquires generation portfolio from former Intrinergy Recast Energy LLC announced it has closed its initial round of equity private placement, conducted by Cary Street Partners. Recast Energy commenced operations in October, when it acquired the renewable energy generation operations, personnel, and related project development pipeline from IN Group Companies LLC, formerly known as Intrinergy LLC. Intrinergy was founded in 2004 to build, own and operate renewable energy plants serving industrial clients. From 2004 to 2010, the company evolved into two distinct lines of business—biomass energy generation and biomass fuel aggregation and processing. In March 2010, the company spun-off its fuel supply business (now called Enviva LP), and in October it spun-off its energy generation business to Recast Energy. Recast Energy configures its energy facilities using proven technologies fueled with clean, cellulosic biomass such as energy crops and forestry/ agricultural residuals, with the ability to integrate conventional fossil fuels such as natural gas to optimize overall system efficiency and reliability. Hydro-Thermal receives export award Hydro-Thermal Corp. received the Wisconsin Governor’s Export Award at the 47th Annual Wisconsin International Trade Conference held in May in Milwaukee. According to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, this achievement is based on “criteria including the degree of exportrelated growth; innovative techniques and approaches that resulted in the company’s success; and demonstration of extra effort in capturing worldwide markets.” Accepting the award from Gov. Scott Walker was Gary Bymers, Hydro-Thermal’s international director. Earlier this year, Hydro-Thermal was

also recognized as one of the top Wisconsin manufacturers by the Wisconsin Manufacturers’ & Commerce, the accounting firm Baker & Tilly, and the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, as the grand award winner of the Manufacturer of the Year 2010 in the small business category. Ze-gen names Robertson CEO and Prendergast CFO Ze-gen announced the promotion of David Robertson to chief operating officer and Mark Prendergast to chief financial officer, replacing Neal Isaacson, who has served in David Robertson this role since August is chief operating 2009. Robertson joined officer at Ze-Gen and will lead Ze-gen in April 2010 the company's as the vice president of operations and technology, overseeing technology the company’s technol- development. ogy department and commercialization efforts. In his new role, he will lead the operations and technology development at Ze-gen as the company seeks to commercialize its technology. Prendergast has served as vice president, controller, managing Ze-gen’s corporate accounting activities. Prendergast will now oversee Ze-gen’s accounting activities as well as lead the company’s strategic financial planning. Martin Engineering India acquires Clean Cat Conveyors Martin Engineering has taken another step in its expansion into India with the acquisition of an Indian manufacturer of conveyor components and systems, Clean Cat Conveyors Pvt. Ltd., of Goa. The acquisition of Clean Cat Conveyors follows closely on the heels of Martin Engineering’s announcement in February of the opening of


a business unit, Martin Engineering Co. India Pvt. Ltd., in Pune, India. Martin Engineering India’s managing director Jibananda “JS” Samal, formerly of Larsen & Toubro Ltd., will lead combined operations. The acquisition was finalized April 5; purchase price was not disclosed. Clean Cat Conveyors is a manufacturer and supplier of steel conveyor idlers, belt cleaners, vulcanizing machines, sealing and skirtboard systems and other conveyor accessories. The Clean Cat Conveyors facility in Goa will operate as a branch of the Martin Engineering India operation, and continue to offer products through its existing sales channels. BDI-BioEnergy makes management board changes The supervisory board of BDIBioEnergy International AG has appointed Markus Dielacher and Edgar Ahn as new members of the management board. Both have been with the company for many years and have in-depth sales and technical experience. Dagmar Heiden-Gasteiner will remain in charge of the commercial operations of BDI-BioEnergy International AG as chief financial officer. Dielacher, who has been chief operating officer of BDIBioEnergy International AG since 2008, and his team will be responsible for the engineering and project management operations. Ahn and his team will be responsible for the sales and marketing and research and development operations. The founders of BDI-BioEnergy International, Wilhelm Hammer, CEO, and Helmut Gössler, chief technology officer, will be leaving the management board for personal reasons and will continue to be associated with the company as shareholders and consultants. DP Cleantech makes advances in straw-fired technology DP CleanTech has recently sold three more straw-fired power plants in China,


increasing its market dominance in the region. DP CleanTech’s success in China has driven further improvements to its core product and the company has plans to release a new straw boiler to meet the increasing demand. To date, DP CleanTech has completed 27 biomass power plants in China and has another 24 under development. The latest three boilers were sold to China Everbright International. The projects will be delivered in Linyi, Laiyang and Shuyang in Eastern China. The boilers have been designed specifically to convert Chinese soft straw into high-temperature, high-pressure steam. Each biomass power plant will deliver 30 megawatts of electricity to the China state grid. . Ziemba joins Michael Best Leah Hurtgen Ziemba has joined Michael Best & Friedrich LLP as an associate in its Madison, Wis., office. Ziemba will join the firm’s Energy and Sustainability Industry Leah Hurtgen Ziemba will focus Team, focusing her on siting and practice on the siting permitting new and permitting of new development and development, including counseling clients agricultural and energy on environmental matters. projects, and counseling clients on environmental matters. Ziemba has experience in environmental/natural resource law involving air, water, solid and hazardous waste. She has counseled project developers and utilities regarding permitting and environmental concerns related to nuclear power plants and energy, wind and biogas developments. Ziemba has assisted clients regarding greenhouse gas emission regulation, carbon credits and renewable portfolio standards, and regularly handles environmental matters arising under federal and state law.

TransGlobal Assets to expand biomass system TransGlobal Assets Inc.’s joint venture partner, Helios Inc. of India, has made engineering advancements to its biomass unit design, allowing the system to use virtually all forms of waste generated by humans and animals, and convert it into saleable electricity and byproducts. The advancements position TransGlobal Assets to supply a completely portable and modular all-waste management solution for commercial-scale use. By engineering the system to process a wider variety of waste inputs, the company can expand its business beyond landfill clean-up and management to a broader range of commercial industries that also generate and manage high volumes of waste, including medical waste, commercial poultry, swine and livestock production, human sewage, wood, plastic, glass, metal and rubber refuse (including tires), yard and garden debris and more. Nothmann appointed to biomass advisory committee David Nothmann, ArborGen Inc.’s vice president of business and product development, has been named by the U.S. secretaries of energy and agriculture to serve on the Biomass Research and Develop- ArborGen's David Nothmann has ment Technical Advibeen tapped sory Committee. Jointly to serve on the Biomass Research administered by U.S. and Development DOE and USDA, the Technical Advisory committee includes vol- Committee. unteers from industry, academia, nonprofit and local government entities. Nothmann’s appointment is until Nov. 30, 2013. As a committee member, he will advise the Biomass Research and Development Board, which coordinates re-

search and development activities related to biofuels. The committee offers expertise on strategic planning and the technical aspects of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, which is directed to address feedstock development, biofuels and biobased products development and biofuels development analysis. The committee will aid the DOE and USDA in building a sustainable biomass energy industry. SDSU VP appointed to national biomass team South Dakota State University Vice President for Research Kevin Kephart has been appointed to the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee Kevin Kephart's expertise in because of his experbiobased fuels and tise in biobased fuels products led to his and products. The U.S. appointment on the Biomass Research secretaries of energy and Development and agriculture jointly Technical Advisory appointed Kephart to Committee. the committee. Kephart will serve through November 2013. The biomass committee’s role is to offer advice and council to the two federal agencies to help meet important goals in federal legislation intended to improve national energy security. Biobased products are industrial products such as chemicals, materials and polymers produced from biomass. The definition in the federal legislation also includes commercial or industrial products, including animal feed and electric power.

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BIOMASS 101: The University of Montana in Missoula plans to build a CHP biomass gasification plant that will reduce its carbon footprint by about 22 percent.

University of Montana on a Mission The University of Montana in Missoula will forge through opposition of its biomass gasifier, confident in its benefits.

Dealing with project opponents has become a staple of biomass project development in the U.S., and a plan at the University of Montana in Missoula is no exception. The school’s combined-heatand-power (CHP) biomass gasification plant will reduce its carbon footprint by about 22 percent, or about 11,000 tons per year, but the Missoula County Air Quality Advisory Council doesn’t appear to be satisfied. The citizen group advises the more powerful county Air Pollution Control Board, which has the authority to set regulations and would hear any appeals to the project’s air permit that was granted in June, but is subject to administrative appeals. The council urged the board to take whatever measures are possible to prevent or control air pollution. The board, however, denied a request to discuss the project, citing its responsibility to remain impartial should the project come before it in the appellate process. “The advisory council wanted the pollution control board to oppose the project,” says Tom Javins, university associate director for utilities and

project manager. “But the Air Pollution Control Board cannot issue an opinion not backed by law or regulations.” In a letter, the council outlined three specific concerns: twice the production of nitrogen oxide compared with natural gas; the area’s already high particulate matter (PM) emissions; and the project undermining efforts Missoula citizens have made to improve air quality by complying with restrictions on wood-burning home appliances. “Their role is to improve the air quality in the Missoula County area,” Javins says of the advisory council. “So any change that doesn’t improve air quality, they don’t want to see.” But the dispersion models clearly show that while stack emissions will be larger in some areas than that of natural gas boilers, the effects to people on the ground are far less, he emphasizes. “There are two sides to the story and they, by and large, are only looking at one side.” The $16 million plant will employ a Nexterra Systems Corp. gasifier and will consume about 15,500 bone dry tons per year of woody biomass. It’s expected to


be operational in the second quarter of 2013, producing 700 kilowatts of power and 34,000 pounds of heat per hour. In addition, the university will incorporate the gasification system into the curriculum for the College of Technology’s energy technician and forestry programs. The university is undeterred by the opposition and Javins is confident the project will move ahead as planned. “In addition to the air permitting process, we’re doing an environmental assessment under the Montana Environmental Policy Act,” he says, adding that the advisory council’s comments will be considered. “If there are any significant impacts that we can mitigate in the design, we will do that.” The project is already designed to employ a noncatalytic nitrogen oxide reduction system and electrostatic precipitator to reduce PM, and Javins says the project would have met permitting requirements without either. “So we’re putting our best foot forward to have as clean a system as possible for the air shed in Missoula,” he says. “The appeals will probably not find much ground to stand on.” —Lisa Gibson


ABCs of C&D New construction and demolition wood fuel specs are designed to aid buyers, sellers and regulators.

The Construction Materials Recycling Association and the National Solid Wastes Management Association have developed new standards for construction and demolition (C&D) wood debris to promote it as a fuel source. The specifications will be a starting point in negotiations between potential buyers and sellers of C&D wood fuel, and will aid governmental regulators and legislators to better understand workable and proven specifications for the materials. Dan Costello, CMRA material standards committee chair and president of Costello Dismantling, says wood is a primary material generated at C&D sites. “In fact, we estimate that it can make up 30 percent of these materials,” he says. “The specs will help standardize wood chips processed at C&D processing facilities and expand markets for biomass fuel.” The specifications are based on industry experience, permit requirements for boilers using C&D wood as a fuel stock and regulatory requirements governing its use. The groups say that the specifications, which provide a guide of differing grades of C&D wood product, are needed to ensure the fuel is suitable to be burned in a particular combustion system.

The U.S. EPA reports that comprehensive information on the quantity of C&D materials combusted for energy recovery is currently unavailable. However, a combustor survey database developed by the agency for the 2009 proposal of the Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerator standards and the Industrial Boilers Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards indicates that the sources surveyed annually combust 4.7 million tons of material characterized as C&D debris and 6.5 million tons of secondary wood material per year that may be C&D debris. C&D waste is not lacking in the U.S. According to the EPA, in 2003 about 33 million to 40 million tons of C&D wood debris was generated, and only about half was of acceptable size, quality and condition to be refurbished. While some states such as California, Maine, Michigan and Florida allow the combustion of C&D wood with proper emission control technologies, others including New Hampshire ban its use as a fuel product, do not allow it to be eligible for renewable energy credits or limit the amount that can be used at facilities. The CMRA is fighting New Hampshire’s ban and is developing a life-cycle analysis for the use of C&D wood as a fuel product, which will

MOUNTAINS OF MATERIAL: The CMRA and NSWMA have developed new standards for construction and demolition wood debris so the material can safely and efficiently be used as a fuel source.

determine whether it is better to use it as a fuel or to landfill it. Using C&D waste as a fuel also saves money, according to the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, which estimates that C&D woody debris costs $10 to $20 less per ton to process as fuel than to send to a landfill. —Anna Austin

Tailoring the Tailoring Rule EPA finalizes its decision to defer biomass emissions regulation for three years. David Tenny, president of the National Alliance of Forest The U.S. EPA will maintain its proposal to defer biomass Owners, says that forest owners are pleased that the EPA has finalfrom the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule for three years while ized the rule, and that the original Tailoring Rule was flawed. it further studies the science and policy of regulating biomass Tenny says that as the review commences, it is important that energy. the EPA and key agencies, such as the USDA and the U.S. DOE, The final version of the Tailoring Rule regulated biomass, or biogenic emissions, in the same manner as fossil fuels. It went into conduct a review free of arbitrary assumptions or parameters that effect Jan. 2, but in response to multiple comments warning of its skew well-settled science. “For instance, the review should recognize that the forest carbon cycle is a dynamic, ongoing process that ocdetrimental effects, the EPA announced the three-year deferment curs across broad landscapes without a specific start and end date. for biomass, with a final rulemaking to be made in July. Arbitrarily limiting areas and time frames when accounting for bioIn the final deferment rule, the EPA says it will conduct a mass carbon emissions, inevitably skews the forest carbon picture.” detailed examination of the science associated with biogenic CO2 The final biogenic emissions deferment rule can be seen at emissions from stationary sources. The EPA will then send the —Anna Austin study to the Science Advisory Board for peer review. AUGUST 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 15


Cow Power in the Northwest Mt. Vernon, Wash.-based Farm Power is busy at work developing what will become its third operating multifarm anaerobic digestion project in the Pacific Northwest. While the region is the company’s current focus, founder Kevin Maas believes there is potential for these types of digester projects in other regions across the U.S., and that they can help dairy farmers stay profitable. Maas, a native to rural Mt. Vernon, says seeing dairy farms struggle and disappear over the years as a result of increasing economic challenges has been tough to watch. Maas and his brother started the company believing that it was one way to help farmers get involved in digester projects and prove that they are not only valuable to the farmers themselves, but the surrounding communities as well. Projects have already been completed in Rexville, Wash., near Mount Vernon and near Lynden, Wash. For the latest project in the works at Enumclaw, Wash., Farm Power has collaborated with three family farms—Ritter Dairy, Wallin Dairy and the DeGroot Brothers Dairy, which house a total of 1,200 cows. The Ritter farm will host the digester, which will be linked by pipe to the DeGroot farm across the road. The Wallin Dairy will deliver its manure by truck. Maas says that while piping manure is the ideal scenario, it doesn’t always work because sometimes there are private property or major roadways in the way. While none of the small-sized dairy farms can support digesters by themselves, collaborating allows the economics of the project to work, Maas says. And, the surrounding communities are positively affected as well. “The community has supported this project because


Multifarm digester projects are benefitting Pacific Northwest dairy farmers.

DAIRY SUPPORT: Farm Power is building multifarm digesters in Washington to help dairy farmers stay profitable, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the area's waterways.

everyone will benefit from it,” Maas says. “It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect the area’s sensitive rivers and streams and provide nutrient management and low-cost bedding for local farmers.” Maas estimates that each farmer will save about $100 per cow per year on bedding costs. And, they don’t have to worry about coming up with the capital costs—usually around $3 million— to build the digester, he says. According to Farm Power’s business model, the company pays for the project construction costs and will own and operate the digesters, as well as sell the generated electricity to local power utilities. Farm Power is also working with NativeEnergy Inc., which helped provide financing for the project and will work to sell carbon reductions resulting from the digester. Soon, Maas adds, Farm Power will expand its reach to dairy farms beyond Washington, as it is currently in permitting phases for two additional projects near Tillamook, Ore. —Anna Austin

Moving MACT Along The EPA has released its timeline for the MACT reconsideration period.

Although the U.S. EPA had already announced in February that it would allow a reconsideration period for certain aspects of the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules, on June 24 the agency released a deadline for that reconsideration of October. Subsequently, final standards must be issued by April. The final MACT rules were released in February, but EPA announced at that time it would have a reconsideration period in light of the overwhelming number of comments received pertaining to the April 2010 proposed rules, and the court’s denial of an extension for the EPA to issue the final rules. The agency had asked for either a sixor 15-month extension past its January final deadline, the latter allowing for a complete

reproposal and another comment period. Instead, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit allowed just one month. After the final standards were issued in February, multiple industry groups petitioned the agency to delay the effective date of standards for major source boiler and commercial industrial solid waste incinerators. In May, the EPA temporarily suspended those standards, but not standards for area source boilers. “The stay will remain in place until the proceedings for judicial review of these rules are completed or EPA completes its reconsideration of the standards, whichever is earlier,” an EPA spokesperson says. If the reconsideration illuminates new issues, the EPA can make changes. The bio-


mass power industry has had more than one contention with the rules, both proposed and final. While the final rules do eliminate numerical emission standards for some types of area source boilers, they decrease numeric emission standards in other areas, making them harder to comply with. In addition, the definition of solid waste is still concerning for some biomass developers, as falling under that category would mean much stricter standards. The rules have been a controversial topic since their initial proposal and especially after the final was released. Elsewhere, legislators in the House and Senate are working on bills that would allow the EPA more time to develop meaningful and effective rules. —Lisa Gibson


A Demand to Expand Los Angeles will build a new waste-to-energy plant to mitigate its trash load.

Every day, about 3,300 tons of postsource separated municipal solid waste is collected from Los Angeles city residents. While most is landfilled, about 1 percent is turned into electricity at the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility in Long Beach, Calif., a 36-megawatt waste-to-energy (WtE) plant operated by Covanta Energy Corp. In order to further reduce the amount of waste landfilled and keep up with increasing energy demands, Los Angeles is planning to build an additional WtE plant. It is part of a broader, long-term plan the city has adopted, calling for it to construct six more WtE plants in each of its waste sheds over the next 20 years. Although it’s still early in the planning process, one item can be checked off the city’s to-do list, and that is selecting a technology provider for the first facility. The city recently announced it has begun contract

negotiations with Rye, N.Y.-based Green Conversion Systems to design and build the plant. The decision was made after a great deal of research, as the city has been conducting an extensive search to evaluate different waste conversion technologies for the past four years, reviewing 13 different proposals. Evaluated vendors have offered a variety of solutions including pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc, anaerobic digestion and Green Conversion Systems’ Advanced Thermal Recycling (ATR) system. Based on the GCS technology, the new facility would be capable of processing nearly 1,100 tons per day of post-recycled residential waste using a two-step system of preprocessing and advanced thermal recycling. During preprocessing, all waste entering the facility is sorted to remove recyclable materials such as plastics, metals and paper. The nonrecyclable

waste is then sent to the ATR system, which converts 99 percent of it into electricity— enough to power more than 6,000 homes— and marketable byproducts. The ATR technology has been commonly used in Europe for the past two decades. During the summer of 2008, a Los Angeles city delegation visited several reference sites in Europe to evaluate and determine the applicability of the technology, according to the L.A. Department of Public Works. GCS will now come back to the city with a proposal, says L.A. Department of Public Works Public Affairs Director Cora JacksonFossett. A site for the facility has not yet been determined, she adds, and likely won’t be for a year or two. Where it will be located will be based on an external community input process. “We have a very involved, environmentally conscious community here,” she says. —Anna Austin

Studying Biomass up North A study in northern Maine will evaluate St. John Valley’s biomass potential.

In northern Maine, the winters are cold and long, the population is sparse and there are a lot of open spaces. Those three factors, among several others, make a good case for biomass in Maine’s St. John Valley. Located on the northern tip of Maine, the region has a history of using biomass, particularly wood products such as cut firewood, according to University of Maine-Fort Kent researcher Brian Kermath, director of the university’s Center for Rural Sustainable Development. “Nobody really knows what percentage of domestic heat it represents, but it’s significant,” he says. The region doesn’t have any natural gas so it’s reliant on fuel oil, prices of which are high and have spiked a few times in the past couple of years. “This is an area where the population is declining and the housing stock is fairly old and inefficient, so energy costs eat up a significant percentage of people’s incomes,” Kermath says. That’s where the real incentives for biomass heat come in. “It’s a logical way to go,” Kermath says. “I had been looking at the region wondering what a sustainably harvested biomass industry might look like here, and my initial thought was that we would need to look at a scenario in which the entire region meets its heating needs with locally sourced biomass, and then what might be left over could be exported out of the region.” Last year, a grant opportunity came up through the National Science Foundation’s federally funded Experimental Program to

Stimulate Competitive Research, and the University of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative was awarded funding. “They (SSI) are putting out increments of money each year to partners and we are one of them,” Kermath explains. “We’re just finishing up the first year right now, which was a planning phase with a smaller amount of money, and we’ll be submitting the year two grant proposal in the next week [July 18] or so. We have to apply for continued funding each year.” The basic idea, Kermath says, is to assess the potential to generate biomass from forest and agriculture, and to look at the theoretical maximum demand locally. “And in subsequent years, what the realistic scenario might be for those willing to produce biomass and those who are willing to switch over to biomass from oil or whatever they’re using,” he adds. The four-year study will involve collecting agricultural yield data, aerial photographs of forestlands to evaluate standing biomass, and forest modeling to look at regeneration and residuals. “It’ll get fairly complex as we get into the real sources; whether we will cut whole trees or simply rely on residues,” Kermath says. Currently, there are five other people on Kermath’s team, all working in different areas. The team hopes the study’s results will have meaningful consequences, and provide useful information for decision makers in the region. —Anna Austin AUGUST 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 17


A small Oregon town is the site for two biomass power proposals. A second biomass power proposal has emerged in Klamath Falls, Ore., following the announcement that Iberdrola Renewables will amend its power plant proposal for the community from natural gas to biomass feedstock. Klamath Falls Bioenergy has completed its application for site certification (ASC) with the Oregon Department of Energy for the Klamath Falls Bioenergy Facility, according to the company and its parent Northwest Energy Systems Co. LLC. “This is a major step forward,” says Bob Jones, CEO of Klamath Falls Bioenergy. “There’s more work to do, but this is a major milestone on the road to approval.” The 37-megawatt power plant will burn woody biomass on a 106-acre site southwest of the 20,000-person city of Klamath Falls on Highway 66, according to Klamath Falls Bioenergy. The facility will consume about 960 tons of wood per day, sourced through a contract with local landowner JWTR LLC. “They are a significant landowner and have several hundred thousand acres,” says Richard Milne, public affairs spokesperson for the project. Subsequent steps in the development process include a draft proposed order by the state DOE containing its findings and recommendations to the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council,

which will make the final decision on project approval. Depending on the time needed to make those decisions and the length of any possible appeals, construction could begin late this year, according to Klamath Falls Bioenergy. Iberdrola’s Klamath Falls-area biomass plant will also burn woody material to produce 35 megawatts of power, but has no feedstock contracts EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE: Iberdrola will build a biomass power in place. The company plant next to its existing natural gas already has a natural gas CHP facility. combined-heat-and-power plant in the area and will build its biomass facility next to it. No timeline for construction or operation is in place yet for the facility. —Lisa Gibson

Strange Bedfellows Pellet plant leases rooftop for solar energy system. A wood pellet plant under development in eastern Ontario is taking full advantage of its large, flat rooftop by leasing it to a company that will use it as the site for a 500-kilowatt solar energy system. BioSila Corp. purchased the facility, a former sawmill, in October of 2010, says Brian Gard, BioSila director of strategic planning. On-site demolition and removal of old equipment is nearly complete, and the company expects a March 2012 start-up. The solar project is a way to rake in some extra revenue, according to Gard. “It’s a really big, white roof and is in good shape, but there wasn’t much we could do with it,” he says. “It’s also facing the right direction, a southwest angle, so it makes sense to put solar panels on it.” The plant is surrounded by more than 16 acres of land that is currently unusable, he adds, so the company also looked at ground-mounted solar. That idea was ditched, however, when it was discovered that there were power line capacity issues. “We’d have to run power line extensions,” he says. “We evaluated putting four rankine turbines on the property for 4 megawatts of power, but we would have had to spend an additional $7 million to $7.5 million to run lines up to the local dam to the switch center, as well as buy a step-up transformer and boot, so it just didn’t make sense.” 18 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | AUGUST 2011

BioSila is still working on plans to incorporate a 10-megawatt cogeneration facility at the site, and has a 20-year contract in place with Atlantic Wind & Solar (AWSL) to lease the roof space. The solar energy system will generate enough electricity to power about 100 homes, and AWSL will sell the power to the Ontario Power Authority as part of the province’s feed-in tariff program. Under the roof, BioSila will produce about 54,000 tons of wood pellets during its first year. Initially, the company indicated that it planned to produce around 250,000 tons of biomass pellets, but it doesn’t currently have the raw material allocation. “When we bought the property, we were under the impression that we would acquire a 125,000-acre crown allocation, and we made another request to the government for an additional allocation of 125,000 acres,” Gard says. “We didn’t get it, so we’ve gone private and hope to be able to go up to about 75,000 tons the second year.” As for sales, Gard says the company is in negotiations with a U.S. company to purchase about 90 percent of BioSila’s product. “The balance might be domestic, but we’re looking at about 90 percent wholesale market, 10 percent distribution market,” he says. —Anna Austin


Oregon’s Biomass Oasis


Biomass Power with CCS Biomass power combined with carbon capture and storage could be the UK’s most effective tool in meeting its renewables goals. projects, hence it is too early to suggest what combinations with each other; a high-level Domestic biomass could provide up to form these shall take.” 10 percent of the U.K.’s energy needs by 2050, engineering study on five to eight technology The ETI has been tasked with developing and coupling biomass power with carbon cap- combinations of biomass with CCS, chosen mass-scale technologies that will help the U.K. ture and storage (CCS) may be the single-most from the first focus area; a modeling exercise meet its 2020 and 2050 targets. The region has for integration with the ETI’s biomass value important element in creating a cost-effective set a goal of 15 percent renewable energy by chain modeling project; and recommendaand sustainable U.K. energy system. So says Akira Kirton, technology strategy manager for tions in terms of highlighting the benefits and 2020 and a carbon emission reduction of 80 percent by 2050. Besides biomass energy with risks of progressing this technology area and the Energy Technologies Institute. CCS, the ETI’s multifaceted, £4.57 million The institute, a public private partnership, potential follow-up projects. research will also include an in-depth field Biomass technologies to be explored in is working with numerous partners on a multrial to study ecosystem and sustainability in combination with CCS systems include fixed tifaceted project that includes the exploration grate, bubbling fluidized bed, circulating fluid- energy crop growth, and the exploration of of cost-effectiveness, technology challenges key challenges in developing sustainable U.K. ized bed, dual fluidized bed, and entrainedand technology developments required for flow gasification dedicated through to cofiring bioenergy supply chains for heat, power and biomass power combined with CCS. The transportation fuels production. £455,000 ($734,000) biomass CCS project will with coal, Kirton says. The CCS technoloAll of the ETI’s biomass research holds gies span precombustion and oxy-firing, to provide clarity on what further developments post-combustion technologies such as solvent benefits to the global biomass industry, but are required to better understand the option it’s hard to ignore the unbridled potential of scrubbing, solid sorbents, ionic liquids, memand what opportunities it could generate for the U.K. Any advancement would undoubted- brane separation, chemical looping and others. coupling biomass power with CCS. “In terms of the industry, the potential value of ‘negative “Clearly, not all combinations will naturally ly benefit other regions of the world, as well, carbon’ in helping countries meet ambitious work together,” Kirton says. satisfying emissions complaints and convertclimate change targets could certainly be Subsequently, the ETI is looking to ing the carbon neutral source into one that there,” Kirton says. “In order to deliver this, develop one or two larger-scale technology achieves net reductions in carbon emissions. there would need to be an official mechanism The project is expected to last up to eight demonstration projects in the $20 million range, Kirton says. “At this stage, the feasibility put into place to value this.” —Lisa Gibson months and will include four focus areas: projects have been set up to help provide the a technology landscape review of biomass appropriate benefits case and shape to these and CCS technologies working in multiple

Polish Potential The biomass market in Poland is growing rapidly and offers enormous opportunity. 86 percent of that renewable energy production. Electricity producWith 92 percent of its energy still coming from coal and ambition from biomass, including cofiring, in 2008 amounted to almost 50 tious European Union targets to reach, Poland is on the lookout for percent of total production from renewable sources. renewable energy opportunities. That translates to opportunities for Carbon Friendly Solutions has been looking for a window into biomass companies, and Vancouver-based Carbon Friendly Solutions the Polish biomass market, Smulewicz says, even considering buildInc. is taking full advantage. ing a biomass plant of its own. “Finally, we found a company which The company has purchased 51 percent of pellet producer already has the existing [facilities].” Carbiopel Eco Stream S.A., Poland, therefore acquiring Carbiopel’s And not only does Carbiopel have the pellet plants, but it has a existing Polish pellet plants, projected to produce up to 20,000 metric supply contract with GDF Suez Energia Polska S.A., which is developtons (22,000 tons) in 2011 and 80,000 metric tons by the end of 2016. ing a 190-megawatt biomass boiler in Poland slated for completion in “In Poland, they’re looking to switch as much as they can to the clean sources, such as biomass for example,” says Slawomir Smulewicz, 2012. “They will need a lot of biomass,” Smulewicz says. “We would like to increase pellet production and be one of the major contractors vice president and director of Carbon Friendly Solutions. “There are for GDF Suez.” very rapidly growing markets in Poland.” The EU has a 20 percent Carbon Friendly Solutions would like to expand in Poland as renewable energy by 2020 mandate, and Poland has its own renewable well as out, including in other booming markets such as the Ukraine, electricity goal of 15 percent by 2020. In 2008, energy production from renewable energy sources in Po- Smulewicz says, where unused sunflower husks make excellent biomass feedstock. “We want to be one of the major producers of land reached 228,277 terajoules and amounted to 7.7 percent of total biomass.” —Lisa Gibson primary energy production, according to the EU’s 4biomass project. Solid biomass is clearly the dominant source, making up more than AUGUST 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 19




Industrial-Strength Waste to Energy While organic waste-to-biogas power technologies are common in Europe, they are first-of-a-kind in most U.S. states and need to prove themselves before they can become a trend. BY ANNA AUSTIN





hile project developers in the U.S. and Canada work diligently to get their first biogas plants financed and permitted, Spanish-owned Ros Roca Group recently commissioned the largest food waste-to-power plant in Europe. The 5-megawatt (MW) facility is now operating and will take in about 120,000 tons of a mixture of solid and liquid commercial food waste every year from supermarkets, restaurants and food processing plants. Over its lifetime, it will use 2 million tons of waste, according to Ian Handley, vice president of Ros Roca’s U.S. division. The plant was constructed for the largest waste management contractor in the U.K., Biffa Waste Services, which also built one of the first industrial-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the country. Ros Roca's origins are in the manufacture of garbage trucks, which eventually led the company to enter the waste treatment market. Because food organics are typically heavily contaminated—up to 15 percent— the plant employs a sophisticated pretreatment process ahead of the AD, which involves crushing the material and then dumping it into a mixing tank to introduce water. “It’s then put through a screening process to strip out what we call the light fractions or plastics, and then into a grit trap to take out the heavy fractions,” Handley explains. “A lot of the smart stuff is actually done on the front-end, in preparation for insertion into the digester.” The plant is in an urban area on the site of an existing landfill, and disproves the common assumption that these types of AD facilities must be sited far away from people and other businesses. “There’s a lot of misconception in the marketplace that these plants, because of odors, need to be well-removed from residential areas,” Handley says. “That’s not true, as today’s odor controls allow them to be built quite close.” The landfill site is within 200 meters (656 feet) of a prime retail development area, he adds. “Using this model, we’re try-

WASTE-TO-ENERGY EXPERTS: Ros Roca has built 25 anaerobic digestion plants in Europe and will be building a 180,000-ton plant in India.

ing to illustrate what’s possible in the U.S.; that you don’t have to have something that’s 50 or 60 miles away from a metropolitan area. You can build very close to the source of the feedstock.” In the past eight years, Ros Roca has built 25 of these AD plants throughout Europe, and was recently contracted to build a 180,000-ton plant in India. Handley says while things are beginning to move in the U.S., it’s at a much slower pace, and development is mostly in states where it is incentivized.

Project Challenges From Handley’s perspective, a country’s energy incentives play the most significant role in successfully implementing industrialscale AD projects. While Europe’s incentives are enticing, the U.S. in general offers little.


“We actually see more scope [in the U.S.] for slightly smaller plants—about 50,000 tons—that use the biogas for gas injection into the grid or to produce biomethane to fuel vehicles. That’s because electricity here is so cheap,” Handley says. Daniel Rickenmann, CEO of W2E Organic Power, says the biggest hurdle in developing its project in South Carolina was determining where it fit in current regulations. “Since we are really the first digester [of this kind] in the state, it’s a new concept,” he says. “We’re taking in solid waste, but also composting and recycling. Fitting under just recycling would speed up the permitting process, but when you’re bringing in food-related solid waste there are a lot more regulations.” Anand Gangadharan, CEO of Novi Energy, which is developing a 3-MW com-






FRONT-END HEAVY: Because food waste contains a lot of contaminants, the Ros Roca plant employs a sophisticated pretreatment process before the material can enter the digester.

munity digester project in Fremont, Mich., says it took the company more than five years to develop the project under construction right now. “The biggest [challenge] was financing, and making sure our equity partners all understood why this technology is proven, how it works, and that just because it is not popular in the U.S. does not mean that it isn’t worth the investment,” he says. Much like project financers, various state and local agencies have to be brought up to the learning curve as well. “It hasn’t been done before, so there was a bit of education,” Gangadharan says. He hopes that with the successful commissioning of this plant, financing and permitting will become a whole lot easier. “It’s taken us a long time to educate various financial intuitions, but we finally found one that supported this project,” he says.

So what is the actual cost to build an AD plant? For an 80,000-ton plant, the capital cost—including planning and permitting—typically approaches $30 million, according to Handley. “Once again, that depends on incentives, but that size of plant in the U.K., where incentives are very attractive, can get a seven-year payback with a 22 percent return on investment,” he says. “Over here, the American Biogas Council is trying to deliver those incentives to encourage further development of AD in the U.S. Permitting and financing are the biggest log jams, but financing often brings you back to incentives.” Paul Sellew, CEO of Harvest Power Inc., agrees that funding and incentives go hand-in-hand. Development is difficult in states that don’t have renewable portfolio standards (RPS), he says. “You’re up

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¦PROJECT DEVELOPMENT against the lowest-cost fossil fuel which is often coal, and it’s difficult to compete with that.” The good news is that more than half of U.S. states do have an RPS. While a few separate organics from waste, it is the exception to the rule, Sellew says. “More than 95 percent of society-generated food waste ends up in the landfills or incinerators, so we need to build-out the collection/separation infrastructure as we’ve done for the rest

of the recycling industry. Many parts of the country already separate out cans, papers, newspapers, cardboard and yard waste, but food waste is still mixed in.” These two components allow the economics of AD projects to work. “When we look at other countries such as Europe that have built-out this type of an industry, we see they’ve used both of those things,” Sellew says.

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U.S. Projects on the Build Harvest Power has two compost facilities in California and Pennsylvania, and is currently developing a 2.5-MW, two-stage batch, high-solids AD facility in Richmond, British Columbia, and a 5.5-MW low-solids AD project in London, Ontario. Sellew says he matches the technology—high solids or low solids—to the feedstocks available in a region. “If you have a lot of yard waste, you have a stackable organic waste stream and you mix the food waste in,” he says. “If you don’t, it is more of a slurry and that is pumpable.” Sellew expects the Richmond facility will be operating by the end of this year and the London facility to begin running in the first quarter of 2012. To get feedstock suppliers on board with a project, Sellew says it should be presented as a way for them to be cost competitive. “If a company has a particular focus on corporate sustainability, then they’ll be interested in making sure their organic wastes are dealt with in the appropriate manner,” he says. “Extracting the energy value, followed by utilization of the nutrient value in pelletized organic fertilizer or compost-based soil, are the best uses.” If a developer can’t get a handle on its feedstock source, then a project isn’t going to work, according to Handley. “Within the context of the U.S., things are really no different than anywhere in Europe,” he says. “Who has the waste is the prime focus of attention, and a lot of people are paying a gate fee to landfill it.” Novi Energy chose Fremont, Mich., as the site for its flagship organic waste-topower project because it is the headquarters of Gerber Baby Food, according to Gangadharan. “The area is also the fruit and vegetable belt of Michigan, and there are a substantial amount of food processing companies in the area,” he says. While this project is a first for the company, Novi Energy has been in the consulting and project development business for nearly a decade. “Five or six years ago we were in Michigan talking about energy efficiency improvements with some of our



MATCHMAKING: Harvest Power, which is developing an AD plant in Richmond, British Columbia, and in London, Ontario, matches the technology to the feedstocks available in a region.

industrial clients when we came upon this opportunity,” Gangadharan says. “A lot of companies were essentially at the limits of their nutrient management plans, and they were all talking about how to further improve.” High energy costs were another major topic at the time, so Novi came up with the plan to develop a community digester power project. “We showed them that if we were to process these organic wastes into biogas and use it to produce steam or electricity, then it would kill two birds with one stone.” The plan was based on a great deal of research, which included the evaluation of community digesters in Scandinavian countries, particularly Denmark. Novi found that they have a lot of appeal compared to single-waste digesters. “We chose a technology that allows us to process these types of sophisticated waste, including pharmaceutical alcohols, biofuel industry waste and byproducts, various food manufacturing wastes including meat, dairy and fruit and vegetable products, cheese whey, ice cream waste and sugar syrup.”

Some of the feedstock contracts, including the one with Gerber, last 20 to 30 years, according to Gangadharan. Rather than contract waste haulers to bring feedstock to the digester, Novi has its own truck fleet and, because of the wide range of feedstocks involved, it takes biohazards management seriously. “When one of our trucks goes to a farm to pick something up, unless the truck is going right back to the same farm, it is washed so that no hazards are spread from one facility to another,” he says. “The trucks are specially ordered and made; some have a unique coating on the bottom so mud and muck doesn’t cling to it. We have a structured waste transfer in our plant so it’s all done in negative air pressure, in closed facilities.” The digester, which will begin to take up to 100,000 tons of organic waste each year by next summer, has a PPA in place for the 3 MW of power it will produce. In South Carolina, W2E Organics has partnered with Eisenmann Corp.’s biogas division to build an AD plant that will take in pre- and post-consumer food waste and

grease trap waste. Eisenmann has been involved in more than 90 similar installations across Europe, and this will be the company’s first U.S. plant that will focus on this type of waste. Rickenmann says W2E is permitted to use 48,000 metric tons of waste and will build the project in two phases; the second phase will double its capacity. He notes that the plant will use only 7 percent of the organic waste available within a 20-mile radius of the facility. The 1.5 MW of electricity generated in phase one will be sold to power utility Santee Cooper under a long-term PPA. Contracts with waste haulers and feedstock providers are in order, and the fertilizer byproduct is nearly spoken for. “We have several large farmers in South Carolina who have sent letters of intent to take our fertilizer product,” Rickenmann says. “A lot of them have been studying European farming models that use a lot of liquid organic fertilizer, these studies are showing they’re getting higher yields and cutting back on— even being close to eliminating—the use of commercialized fertilizers.” Rickenmann says that while this wasteabundant location worked out for the project, the incentives were not the greatest from a profit standpoint, and that includes selling the power at a good rate and collecting tipping fees. He looks at that in a positive light, however. “The fact that we are going to be successful shows us that we can go pretty much anywhere else in the U.S. and make this work,” he says. “Though there are 152 digesters in the U.S., most are ag based. It’s not a new concept—it’s actually old—it’s just a matter of adapting the technology to a different waste stream that has more energy potential. It’s an exciting time, and I think we’re going to see a lot more creativity out there.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968





Living, Learning Lab Besides edging toward sustainability goals, a unique biodigester on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus will also provide learning opportunities, and eventually financial assistance, for students. BY LISA GIBSON PHOTOS BY UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN OSHKOSH


t’s the first of its kind on this side of the globe; an opportunity to train university students for renewable energy careers; and a potentially lucrative source for scholarship funds. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's dry fermentation anaerobic digester is the whole package. In the midst of finishing touches and final construction details, the plant will be operational in late summer or early fall. Described as a warehouse with steel garage doors, it isn’t a typical anaerobic digester. While the facility will employ the same biological process as tank digesters that are fed slurry, it will carry out its biological conversion on dryer, solid feedstock in enormous concrete chambers, hence the name “dry fermentation anaerobic digester.” It is the first commercial-scale system in the Americas, according to its developer BIOFerm Energy Systems. “They look to me like they’d be really fine parking garages for 18-wheel trucks,” says Mike Lizotte, UW Oshkosh director of sustainability, describing the concrete chambers. Inside each of the chambers is a floor drain and overhead nozzles to help recirculate the fluids, collecting and reusing what’s drained from the pile of feedstock on the floor, Lizotte explains. “That’s full of really great microbes and nutrients and that all recycles back,” he says. Solid steel doors on the chambers keep detrimental oxygen from seeping in and corrupting the process. But unlike the doors, which Lizotte calls “pretty fancy,” handling systems for the operation are surprisingly simple, due entirely to the solid nature of the feedstock.

Front-Loader Feeding No pumping mechanisms are required because the UW Oshkosh system will be fed by front-loaders, tasked with piling up the material inside the concrete chambers, directly after it’s delivered by truck, according to BIOFerm application engineer Caroline Chappell. “Instead AUGUST 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 27

¦INNOVATION of it being pumped through a series of tanks, it’s pretty low tech,” she says. The largest portion of the system’s feedstock, at least in the first year of its 20-year operation, will come from supermarkets, Lizotte says. The food will be delivered unpackaged and will consist of meat, dairy, bakery waste, fruits, vegetables and other outdated or otherwise unsalable products. The next largest fraction will consist of yard waste collected from the 66,000-person city of Oshkosh, followed by winter bedding waste from a local dairy farm. Lizotte is quick to point out that the material from the farm will not include wet manure. Finally, about 5 percent of the anaerobic digester’s feedstock will be food and yard waste from the university itself. “One unique aspect of this system, because it’s urban, is we promised the community we wouldn’t store anything outdoors,” Lizotte says. “So we have to operate with on-time delivery.” The plant will have a relatively small area for feedstock storage, but it will be strictly limited to use for yard waste and other feedstocks that come in dry and don’t break down. That leads Lizotte to his next point: some material will inevitably be too wet for the process, and since this specific installation of BIOFerm’s equipment includes no drying apparatus, the perfect balance can be tricky. “One of the challenges is you can find rich feedstocks but they can be too wet and

IN-DIGESTION: Guests who attended the UW Oshkosh AD facility dedication ceremony got to go inside the digester chamber.

they break down, therefore you end up with a soup rather than a pile,” he says. “The idea is to just have something to mix it with [to maintain the system’s integrity]. There’s some art and science to making the right mix of feedstocks.”


The plant is designed to handle 8,000 tons of feedstock per year, Chappell says, and will produce 2.32 million kilowatt hours of power annually. In addition, the plant’s combined-heat-and-power unit, developed by technology manufacturer 2G-Cenergy,


FILL 'ER UP: Front-loaders are used to fill the digester chambers with organic material at the UW Oshkosh AD plant.

will produce up to 7,900 million Btus of heat for at least one university building, and perhaps more down the line. “We’re hoping for more heat customers, but heat is still a foreign idea to purchase,” Lizotte says. While the hot water distribution system is

not yet in place, it will definitely be a component of the project. As for the electricity, options are open but for now, 100 percent of the power generated will be sold to the grid through a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Wis-

consin Public Service. The PPA, Lizotte says, was difficult to negotiate until WPS offered a biogas rate that was a little better than its standard rates. “They sat down and said, ‘This is the rate. Take it or leave it,’” he says. But debate over pricing swirled within the university, as well. Lizotte says the school was reluctant to lock in to one rate price for an entire decade in the face of so many ongoing changes. But as many project developers and owners learn, that signed output contract is crucial to getting monetary support. “Having this agreement worked out in our favor when it came to going out and getting financing,” he confirms. During a break from filling out financial paperwork for the project, Lizotte says the university is applying for $500,000 in U.S. DOE funds. In addition, the school will receive another $250,000 from the Wisconsin Focus on Energy program. Both funding sources, however, are reimbursement-based and therefore could not be used for the roughly $3.7 million construction. Enter: University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation.

Supporting Students As current owner of the facility, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation has funded the construction through bond debt and loans, according to foundation President Arthur Rathjen. Once that debt is


¦INNOVATION paid off, and Rathjen says he’ll have a better idea of that timeframe in about 18 months, the foundation will funnel revenue earned to a useful and meaningful cause: student financial support. “Through energy sales, we can not only cover the expenses of our bond debt and our yearly payment, but we also plan on spinning off income toward scholarships and financial aid help for the students,” he says. The university has an ambitious energy independence goal, Rathjen says, and the AD plant was a prime opportunity for the foundation to partner with it and boost progress toward its core sustainability goals, while assisting its students. “We had seen it as not just a chance to go ahead and help the university advance one of its goals or mission objectives, but also there was an opportunity to turn some of this income into a way to help students further their education.” Although financial aid may be benefit enough, the plant will supplement the education offered at the school through the Living Learning Laboratory program for both fac-

DIGESTER DEDICATION: A traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off the biodigester dedication ceremony and tour at UW Oshkosh.

INNOVATION¦ ulty and students. “They’re going to be doing a lot of research around this, building some curriculum around teaching students how to run the digester,” Chappell says. “That’ll be the future workforce.” Two of the strongest programs at the university are microbiology and chemistry, Lizotte says, and students in both programs have the potential to glean knowledge about the plant and renewable energy from on-site experience. “They got pretty excited about the opportunity this presents to do projects for these students and so the lab’s pretty full this summer,” he says, adding that projects include bench- and pilot-scale versions of the process that allow for testing feedstocks, looking at microbial communities, studying chemical amendments, and other aspects that could enhance the process. The plant will help the university give its students a future in working for firms geared toward renewable energy principles, Rathjen adds. In the future, Lizotte hopes the plant will be a training ground for similar operations, showing technicians how to run such facilities.

A German History In the meantime, UW Oshkosh remains the only location in the Americas to have a commercial-scale model, Chappell says. The most common country for siting BIOFerm’s facilities is Germany, she adds, attributable for the most part to electricity rates. “In Germany, it’s highly subsidized, so the payback looks a lot better,” she explains. In addition, the U.S. does not have a developed infrastructure for source separated organics. “It’s preferable if the material is as free as it can be of contaminants,” she says, adding that the feedstock delivered to the UW Oshkosh system will be presorted and completely usable. The university’s application has garnered attention for the process, however, in a variety of sectors including composting operations and municipalities, Chappell says. BIOFerm hopes the successful operation of its first installation here will attract even more interest and opportunities to reduce waste while producing energy.

The university is a perfect candidate for a premiere, she says, because of its sustainability and carbon reduction goals. “The university is really focused on sustainability across the board in a lot of different aspects,” Chappell says. There’s no question that the school has a challenge ahead of it to become energy independent, he adds, and he and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation are more than happy to play their role. The digester is a concrete example of the school’s commitment to establishing itself as one of the greenest universities in the country, Rathjen says, adding that it goes beyond just aiming to be the strongest and greenest university, but represents an evolution. “It demonstrates that if you’re serious about renewable energy programs and sustainability, you need to make investments in that infrastructure that will change the way people think.” Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952


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Dairy Diversification A five-farm digester venture in Massachusetts could be a game-changer for struggling dairy farmers. BY ANNA AUSTIN




n Massachusetts today, dairy farming circulates about $40 million through the state economy. While that is a hefty chunk of change, the number of dairy farms in the state has been rapidly declining. In the past 25 years, Massachusetts has experienced the closure of more than 600 dairy farms and is currently home to less than 200. Low farm milk prices combined with the rising costs of production and energy continue to force family farms out of business. Fourth-generation dairy farmer Peter Melnik of Deerfield, Mass., is determined to keep the family business profitable, and has joined a uniquely modeled project to build anaerobic digesters on five Massachusetts dairy farms. Along with his fellow dairy farmers, Melnik and long-time renewable energy consultant Bill Jorgensen have formed a new company, AGreen Energy LLC, and have partnered with biogas plant technology provider quasar energy and food waste management company Casella Waste Systems. “One of the biggest challenges for dairy farmers in Massachusetts is that we have limited land resources, so as the cost of living and the cost of doing business increases, we have to find other income sources on our dairy farms so we can survive,” Melnik says. He points out that the five farmers involved have diverse operations, but expanding to generate more income isn’t as easy as it sounds. “It’s not really possible to go from milking 500 cows and then buy the farm next to you to milk 1,000 instead,” he says. “There is too much development in the urban society where we live.” Instead, most farmers will try to grow different crops so that when dairy prices aren’t as profitable, they still have another source of income. Melnik says he and the other farmers involved looked at manure digestion as another income stream. “It’s something we


STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Five Massachusetts dairy farms are involved in AGreen Energy's business plan and will build digesters on their farms. SOURCE: AGREEN ENERGY LLC

have to deal with anyway,” he says. “A positive cash flow and longterm benefits just made sense.” Currently, Melnik is field-spreading the manure from his 250head farm. While this limits the purchasing of fertilizer, the new project will generate an organic fertilizer that Melnik and the other farmers will use, and it will likely eliminate the need to buy any additional fertilizer. The partnership also has ensured each farm a fixed electricity cost for 10 years, a stable supply of animal bedding and free heat generated by the digester. Melnik and the other farmers are also investors in the project and will gain some income from the electricity that will be generated and sold to the grid. “Once the digester is paid for, there should be a pretty good return on investment,” he says.



While AGreen Energy’s first anaerobic ‘For multigenerational farming families like the ones involved in AGreen, digester at Jordan Dairy Farm in Rutland is innovation and progressive thinking—as is required with a digester—is the complete and operating, work on the digester means in which they can position themselves for continued growth and prosat Melnik’s Barway Farm should begin by Sepperity in a changing environment.’ tember, with a four- to six-month development —Caroline Henry, marketing manager, quaser energy frame. The others involved are Barstow Long View Farm in Hadley, Hager Brothers Farm in Colrain and Rockwood Farm in Granville. Once the farmers were onboard, the group worked to solve Bill Jorgensen, who pulled together the pieces of the project puzzle and owns half of AGreen Energy, says the farmers involved the issues that have kept other U.S. digester projects from succeedwere not selected at random; rather, they were specifically sought ing. “The main reason for failure was that once they were built the farmer was given the keys, and since they are modestly complex, out as good potential candidates for involvement in the project. when something went wrong they didn’t know how to fix it,” Jorgenson explains. “Or, the farmer would be in the middle of harvest Developing the Project Jorgenson, who has owned an agribusiness and renewable en- and had to worry about other things.” To solve that problem, it was decided that the digesters would ergy consulting firm for the past 20 years, says the farmers involved in the AGreen Energy venture emerged out of a group that he put employ remote operating systems. “When we evaluated technolotogether using a list obtained from the Farm Credit Bank and a for- gies, if they said they didn’t have process controls, we moved on,” mer Massachusetts commissioner of agriculture. “I asked them for Jorgenson says. That’s where Ohio-based quasar energy entered the picture. some names of dairy farmers who they thought would be innovative—regardless of age—who were also good operators and multi- Quasar, the technology provider, designs and builds digesters, and generational farmers probably interested in passing their farms on also trains on-site operators, who are employees of Casella Waste to the next generation,” Jorgenson says. “It wasn’t random; it was a Systems division New England Organics. “By providing remote monitoring and maintenance, if there is a biological issue at one very specific plan.” of the digesters, quasar will be able to solve the problem at its laboratory in Ohio,” explains Caroline Henry, marketing manager for quaser. In fact, the company’s engineers have developed an application that allows a plant manager to monitor a digester from an iPhone, according to Henry. She says the company won’t build a project without monitoring agreements. One particular component that is monitored by quasar is the equalization or storage tank, a smaller tank into which the feedstock is pumped before the digestion process. “Because some of the feedstocks we accept are higher solids content and some lower solids content, we need to make sure a healthy recipe goes into the digester,” Henry says. “The equalization tank mixes and equalizes a variety of waste streams accepted during a three-day period, so that there is a consistent feeding going into SPECIAL DELIVERY: Quaser will remotely monitor and maintain the digesters and train Casella Waste the main digester.” Systems' New England Organics employees to operate the systems. Casella Waste Systems is responsible for procuring the feedstock from contracted companies, and making sure AUGUST 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 35

¦BUSINESS AGreen Energy's Digester Ecosystem

it’s prepared to meet digester specifications. The company, which is also an investor in the venture, has several other roles, according to Jay Kilbourne, Casella director of business development. “We provide dayto-day operations of the facilities,” he says. “We have an employee right there if there is ever a problem.”

Another role Casella plays, is to make sure that the feedstock complies with permits and regulations, mainly that it is separated from other waste and never comingled. “We audit the plants and customers to verify there’s a source separation system in place,” Kilbourne says. “What we take has to be a byproduct of whatever they do. For example, one customer makes mayonnaise and salad dressings and sometimes they’ll have a product that just doesn’t meet their standards, or they have fat and oil byproducts that are washed down from the equipment.” When delivered to the digester via an 8,000-gallon tanker truck—usually about one to one-and-a-half tanker loads per day from customers two hours away or less—

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the feedstock slurry must be of the right thickness—not too rich or too thin—for the microbes. Since Casella currently does not have a blending facility, although a plan for one is in the works, Kilbourne points out that it is essential to select just the right byproducts from the right customers. “It’s quite a trick,” he says. “The strategy of the whole venture is to diversify the materials we bring in over time, such as food scraps separated from the waste, but we’ll need to be able to pulp and liquefy the scraps before they’re delivered to the digester. We’re moving toward opening an organics recycling facility where we can do that.” While Casella, the dairy farmers/ AGreen Energy and quasar are the obvious project pillars, Jorgenson points out that there was also involvement from outside parties to get the project off the ground.

Strategic Planning “As it happens, Massachusetts has a long-term plan for solid waste management and eventually wants to eliminate organic waste in landfills,” Jorgenson says. “So what the state wants to do and what we want to do is aligned.” For optimal communication, all parties involved sat down with relevant state agencies and discussed how the venture would work, that’s when they found out that current regulations wouldn’t allow the project to happen. “The regulations were written 25 or 30 years ago when digesters weren’t a technology [in the state], so we asked if the regulations could be modified to permit the new technology, and they said yes. We found out what the issues and restrictions were, and were told that since we were composting, we wouldn’t be considered a solid waste hauler. That brings us back to the tanker trucks, which aren’t handling solid waste, but rather recycled material. This was the state teaching us; not us teaching the state.” The in-depth planning process for Jordan Dairy Farm fast-tracked permitting for the farms that followed. While it took four years to get the first digester permit-


Jordan Dairy Farm Anaerobic Digester Quick Facts • Construction of the Jordan Dairy Farm digester began in October 2010 and it began operating in April. • The Jordan Dairy Farm plant generates enough biogas to produce 3.7 million kilowatts of electricity per year—enough power for about 300 homes. • The Jordan Dairy Farm digester is the first plant of its kind in Massachusetts. • Four major food companies—HP Hood & Sons, Cabot Creamery, Kayem Foods and Cains Foods— have agreed to provide the farm with food scraps and byproducts instead of sending it to a landfill for disposal.

In addition, some of the farmers’ equity contributions came in the form of nutrient management incentives that they were eligible for. In total, the cost for each digester project is from $2.5 to $3 million. Although the project is environmentally friendly, it is definitely a money-making venture. “There are no two ways about it,” Jorgenson says. He also believes this type of venture will be applicable in other regions, and is working with the dairy checkoff (a dairy producer funded program that is designed to increase sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients) to be able to share information about how the project was implemented so farmers elsewhere can use it. “Methane digestion has been difficult for farmers to get into on their own,” Melnik says. “This unique collaboration between farmers and industry experts lets us do what we do instead of us trying to go out and collect waste and run a digester.

We’re smaller family businesses that have to worry about milking cows and growing crops, and to have to manage a complex process like methane digestion—a $3 million project in our backyards—would be overwhelming. The partnership is a good balance.” U.S. farmland is dwindling, Henry adds. “For multigenerational farming families like the ones involved in AGreen, innovation and progressive thinking—as is required with a digester—is the means in which they can position themselves for continued growth and prosperity in a changing environment.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968

• All the equipment and services used to build the digester facility were made in the U.S., keeping manufacturing and construction jobs here. • One cow produces enough electricity to power one average Massachusetts home and removes the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of two cars from the atmosphere.

ted, the process took only 60 days for the next two farms, Jorgenson says. Much like permitting, financing was another hurdle to clear, requiring cooperation amongst many different parties. “We were fortunate that we had a group of people from the USDA and the state who helped,” Jorgenson says. “There are a series of incentives out there and we used all of them, including loan guarantees. The Farm Credit System has banked this project, and it’s more or less 50 percent equity, 50 percent debt.”

Energy Recovery from Waste Treatment • reliable biogas collection • low maintenance • biogas utilization systems



COW POWER: Hampton Feedlot will host Missouri's first on-farm, electricity-generating anaerobic digester. PHOTO: HAMPTON FEEDLOT



Methanation in


Missouri has ample resources for a booming anaerobic digestion sector, but surprisingly few parties have taken advantage of the enormous opportunity. BY LISA GIBSON


ampton Feedlot Inc. in north central Missouri’s Chariton County is developing the state’s first electricity-generating, on-farm anaerobic digester. Surprising, considering Missouri is among the top five hogproducing states in the country, and has a typical cattle farm head count of around 5,000. Its roughly 200 hog operations alone are capable of producing 2.7 billion cubic feet of methane to generate 177,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year. “There’s ample ground [for energy production],” says Christopher Chung, CEO of the Missouri Partnership, an organization devoted to promoting the state for business investment in certain targeted sectors, including energy solutions.

Over the past year, the Missouri Partnership has focused a closer and more serious eye on biomass, biofuels and biogas opportunities in the state, biogas being the most recent. “We’ve started looking at ways to position Missouri’s wealth of assets to attract companies that generate energy using those systems,” Chung says. “We know we’ve got hog farms. We know we are generating a lot of animal waste that can be successfully converted to energy, but who is it we need to reach out to? Where are the primary targets? Who is in a position where they are expanding biogas-to-energy generation facilities, and can we get in front of them to talk about Missouri?”


¦ANAEROBIC DIGESTION But finding business investors and equipment manufacturers is only half the battle. Chung adds that educating farmers about the opportunities under their feet is a vital piece of the puzzle. “I think it was a while before farmers realized the potential for renewable energy generation through wind, for example, and realized they could be leasing out areas for wind turbines,” he says. “And I’m sure the same learning curve exists for lots of other applications for renewable energy, including biogas.”

Biogas Grants The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is navigating that curve with its biogas program, and hasn’t stopped there. The agency provided development funding through its Energize Missouri Renewable Energy Biogas Grants and awarded almost $500,000 each to two biogas projects. They were chosen in 2010 through an expert review process and will receive reimbursement payments from the department upon their completion and successful demonstration. The grant funds were dedicated to support agricultural or industrial projects that use anaerobic digestion-to-energy and landfill biogas-to-energy systems. Eligible projects in the running for the $2.25 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds allocated to the grant opportunity included those that produce biopower, bioheat or other forms of bioenergy. Eight in-depth applications were submitted for the competitive grants and five were chosen, according Ming Xu, Missouri DNR biogas program manager and energy specialist for the state DNR’s Division of Energy. Among the eight applicants considered were five landfill operations, one industrial wastewater project and just two on-farm digester projects. Although five were chosen, a project completion deadline of March 2012 weeded out three, leaving a farm digester and a landfill gas project the sole awardees. While at least one of the other projects—a $13 million digester on Johnson County Egg Farm—will still be developed with the help

‘I think it was a while before farmers realized the potential for renewable energy generation through wind, for example, and realized they could be leasing out areas for wind turbines. And I’m sure the same learning curve exists for lots of other applications for renewable energy, including biogas.’ —Christopher Chung, CEO, Missouri Partnership

of the DNR, any progress made will be achieved sans a biogas program grant. Xu doesn’t mask his enthusiasm when describing the remaining grant recipients. “After they signed the agreement with us, they worked very diligently on their projects,” he says. Investor-owned utility Kansas City Power & Light Greater Missouri Operations Co. is in the process of installing a $6 million, 1.6 MW landfill gas-to-electricity plant in the St. Joseph city landfill in Buchanan County, northwest Missouri. The resulting power will be distributed to the utility’s existing customers. The landfill gas collection and control system expansion aspects of the project are nearing completion, Xu says, and the genset is slated for installation this month. Just like its fellow grant recipient, Hampton Feedlot, the landfill project will receive $450,000 and is on track for completion in October or November. Although small, the Hampton Feedlot anaerobic digester does have the unique classification as the first farm digester-to-electricity project in the state of Missouri, even though it is not a typical farm, but a custom feedlot permitted for 5,200 head of cattle. Its 300 kilowatts will be used on-site, with the possibility of any excess sold to the grid, according to Terry Smith, independent consultant for the feedlot. “DNR has been very good about helping us with this,” she says. “They have an interest in seeing us accomplish what we’re doing.” The $4 million project’s Induced Blanket Reactor digester, developed by equipment provider Andigen, is designed to create a rich concentration of digesting bacteria inside the tanks. The influent en Continued on page 42

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Continued from page 40

TOWERING TANKS: Six giant tanks at Hampton Feedlot will digest the manure from 2,400 cattle.


ters the lower part of the tank and gradually moves upward through the rich bacteria blanket where digestion and gas production occurs, according to Andigen. The size of the system is based on the amount of manure that will be used, Smith says, and Hampton will use six tanks. The giant white digester tanks have been set and construction of the surrounding structure is currently underway. The feedlot will collect about 52 pounds of manure and urine per head annually from the 2,400 cattle, narrowing collection exclusively to animals in feeding stalls with concrete slats. “Right now, there’s no way for us to capture the manure coming off the dirt lot,” Smith says. The concrete floors will be scraped daily with a Bobcat and pumped to the digesters, according to Jimmy Daniels, secretary/treasurer for the feedlot. Currently, he adds, that waste is disposed of into a lagoon equipped with four irrigators. Expansion is most likely in the future for the 20-year project, pending its anticipated success. “We are a group of out-of-the-box thinkers and plan on moving in new directions,” he says. Those new directions include an assessment of the added use of substrates in the process. “Right now, we’re just evaluating our demand and trying to structure the use so we can sell as much electricity as possible,” Smith says. With the addition of substrates to the digester’s feedstock, the plant could double its output. “The building will be ready for another genset whenever we decide to [install one],” Daniels adds. “We just have to slide one in.” The family-owned feedlot began exploring similar renewable energy ideas about four years ago, initially focusing on ethanol

ANAEROBIC DIGESTION¦ production. Plans started and stopped, volleyed up and down, but Daniels and Smith agree that the DNR biogas grant program was a pivotal development in the project’s potential. “The grants definitely made it more feasible,” Smith says. The project also received a grant and loan guarantee from the USDA, as well as tax credits from other agencies for current and future project plans, including a possible composting component. A grateful Smith made sure to acknowledge the partnership between Hampton and small-business assisting nonprofit Missouri Enterprise during work on the multiple-page application for the DNR grant. “We submitted a lot of information,” she says. Now that the deal is sealed, the project is finally a reality and fits in perfectly with the company’s goals. “We feel like the ‘green’ will come back and we wanted to be out in front and try to do what we could do,” Daniels says.

Setting an Example Hampton Feedlot is indeed out in front, but could be joined in the near future if interest in anaerobic digestion picks up. Chung says plenty of incentives are in place that could spur development in the agricultural state. Like most states, Missouri tends to look at capital investment, and more importantly job creation, to advance its standing in a variety of sectors. With a countrywide emphasis on renewable energy, anaerobic digestion applications should be in a prime position to take advantage of that. “As long as you’re creating jobs and typically, as long as you’re making some kind of significant capi-

tal investment somewhere in Missouri, you’re likely to be eligible for things like tax credits,” Chung says. It’s important to provide money and incentives for biogas projects not only because of the potential Missouri holds, Smith says, but also to allow diversification of the state’s portfolio as it strives to meet its 15 percent by 2021 renewable energy standard. “Missouri is pretty blessed to have the ability to play in all areas of the renewable energy sector,” Chung says. AD projects would be eligible for Missouri’s renewable energy standards program and could create a shift away from the trend of Missouri utilities purchasing wind power from out of state to meet their goals. But there’s one glaring problem: Missouri has incredibly low electricity rates, so power purchase agreements with investor-owned utilities will be hard to come by, Smith explains. The state has the eighth lowest commercial electrical rate in the nation. Still, interest in AD-to-electricity projects is picking up and installation of the first may be the biggest hurdle to clear. “Over the past three years, we’ve received inquiries from people expressing interest in digester projects, but there’s a lot of risk to be the first one,” Xu says. Hampton Feedlot is a typical size for such a project and a great model that, he hopes, others will follow. “We hope we’re a good example,” Daniels says. Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952



Reading Between the Tree Rows Are we headed for a pine pulpwood shortage in the U.S. South? BY DEAN MCCRAW


hen my oldest daughter graduated from college in 2005, she moved to Atlanta to begin work with the largest subprime lender in the Southern U.S. After completing a six-month training program, she was transferred to their Orlando office. In February of 2007, while in Orlando for a business meeting, my daughter and I went out to dinner. During small talk conversation, I asked her what she had worked on that day. She said she had worked on a $850,000 mortgage for a single lady and

a second note that would cover her down payment. I asked her how much money this lady made, to which she replied, “We don’t verify income.” With a shocked look on my face, I informed her that her business was going to “crash and burn.” It was no surprise when later that year, she called me in tears early one morning as her office had just been shut down, putting her out of work. Within a month of her office closure, the entire company closed and filed for bankruptcy putting more than 1,200 people out of work.

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


I tell this story not to illustrate any ability on my part to predict the future but to illustrate an ability to grasp the obvious.

The Issue What I am concerned about is the low level to which tree planting has dropped in the U.S. South. From the table of tree planting acres (see table on page 45) you can see that planting acres last winter were at the lowest level since 1969. If this trend continues, we may face shortages of pine pulpwood in the future. According to the folks at the Auburn University Nursery Co-op, these acres are


an average of 97 percent pine. Most planting acreage of pine as hardwood is naturally regenerated unless it is old bottomland agricultural sites, which accounts for almost all of the hardwood planting. There has been some questioning of these acreage numbers. Each state has a different system for collecting their planting acreage numbers. I contributed to these numbers for several years and I can attest that some states do a good job of collecting data but I am not sure how others get their numbers. Another indicator of this decline, however, can be found in seedling production numbers. In 2001, the largest seedling producer in the nation at that time, International Paper, said in its annual report that it shipped 425 million seedlings that year. In 2010, this same nursery group, now part of ArborGen Inc., reported that it shipped 218 million seedlings. This is a decline of 49 percent in seedlings shipped, which corresponds to the decline in planting acreage. Also supporting these numbers is my personal experience. In 2000, in my former position, I was responsible for the production and planting of 45 million seedlings. That same company will plant 18 million seedlings this year, a decline of 60 percent. There have also been a number of nursery closures across the South. While an exact number is difficult to determine, it has been estimated that at least 20 seedling nurseries have closed in the past 10 years. In addition, many of the nurseries in operation today have curtailed production over the past 10 years.

Where Did This Begin? We hear a lot about unintended consequences and our current situation has its origin in this as well. In the late ’80s our federal government executed one of the largest Conservation Reserve Programs ever attempted. This led to the largest amount of planting acreage ever carried out in the U.S. South. In 1988, more than

2.5 million acres were planted. This was more than double what was planted just one decade earlier in 1978. In total, the CRP added an estimated 3 million acres of additional pine plantations. During this period and on into the ’90s, pine pulpwood shortages, especially during periods of wet weather, were not uncommon and overcutting of pine timber growing stock was common. In January of 1995, as the timber sales forester for the second-largest timberland owner in Georgia, we sold a tract of pine pulpwood just outside of Waycross for more than $35 per ton. Adjusted for inflation, this price would now be more than $50 per ton, or more than $100 per dry ton on the stump. Delivered price in today’s dollars would easily be more than $140 a dry ton. How many energy operations could pay this level of prices for their delivered feedstocks? The increase in planting acreage helped to push pulpwood prices to new lows starting in the late ’90s as these stands had to be thinned to continue CRP payments. There were cases of landowners in Georgia having to pay loggers to thin

their CRP stands. This glut of pulpwood also coincided with major changes in timberland ownership as many integrated forest products companies disposed of their timberlands. Today many of these stands remain, as their high levels of small sawtimber make them difficult to sell in a market depressed by the downturn in housing.

The Current State of Affairs At present, there are strong markets for pulpwood in many markets across the South. With the decrease in clean chips from sawmills due to the reduced operating hours, many pulp/paper mills are relying on roundwood to make up the shortage. To be able to supply this level of roundwood in a market with minimal need for sawtimber, many timberland owners have used thinning as their main form of harvest. This approach is creating larger inventories of sawtimber that are being carried forward for harvesting later and further reducing the demand for seedlings. Planting densities have continued to decrease across the South. Most timber-


¦SUPPLY land investment management organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) have decreased their seedlings planted per acre, with some reducing them to less than 300 seedlings per acre. They are also planting control mass pollinated and somatic embryogenesis (SE) seedlings. These high-priced seedlings are being grown strictly for the sawtimber market. While our government has maintained a CRP program in recent years, the program has changed its focus from timber production to ecosystem restoration. This has resulted in a planting regime that promotes planting longleaf at no more than 500 stems per acre.

Accuracy of Forest Service FIA data New energy startups have relied on U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory & Analysis data for site placement. Having reliable data on forest inventories and removals is important in light of the major capital investments in these facilities. John Morris, vice president of Foley Timber and Land Co., has examined FIA data in his recent report “Florida’s Pine Plantation Resource, Short of Sustainability.” Morris examined the pine resource in Florida by looking at both the plantation and natural pine stands. He found that FIA data is not giving a current picture of removals from plantations. The FIA data uses an average of removals over a survey period of 12 years. Using this average FIA shows removals for 2007 of 14.9 million tons but a private source that tracks mill usage shows 2007 removals of 17.1 million tons. This is a difference of 2.8 million tons. He also found a discrepancy in the removals from plantations versus natural stands. FIA estimates that 55 percent of pine removals in 2007 were from plantations, again using the 12-year average. However, an analysis of current removals from the Master Logger survey shows that 2007 removals from pine plantations were actually 90 percent of removals. Based on his analysis, Morris estimates that Florida plantations were overharvest-

ed in 2007 by 3.8 million tons. He further forecast that this number would increase in the future as regeneration acreage continues to decline. Adding increased usage from bioenergy and biofuels operations “will further negate sustainability.”

What Might the Future Hold? If the solid wood markets do not recover soon and planting acreage continues its decline, what will be the result? There are a number of possible scenarios. There would be a continued decline in sawtimber pricing while pulpwood pricing increases. In spot markets recently, we have seen pine pulpwood prices near those of small sawtimber and in one case exceeding it. This is especially prevalent during periods of wet ground conditions. The specifications that differentiate pulpwood from small sawtimber will probably change with the smallest of this sawtimber moving into pulpwood. We are already seeing this occur in some areas. The volumes of forest residue will increase, as we all know that larger trees have larger limbs and tops. In addition, the current push to low planting densities will increase the amount of residue hardwood that invades these pine stands. These are both pluses for users of forest residue. With the continued glut of sawtimber on the market, many in the forest products industry believe that we may see increased sales of timberlands by the TIMOs and REITs in an effort to prop up returns within these organizations. This could lead to further fragmentation of forestland ownership in the South. Additional dangers to forest plantation acreage may be in our current commodity pricing. With corn and cotton at all time highs, we may see acreage revert from timberland back to farmland. It is possible that we have seen the bottom of the pulp/paper mill closures in the South. In addition, almost all the new development in the energy markets is occurring in the pulpwood area. There have been no new developments in the solid wood markets.


What Can Pine Pulpwood Users Do? All of the evidence points to a coming shortage of pine pulpwood. Users can wait until pricing and availability become a problem, or they can start to work on minimizing the impact. There are a number of approaches a user can implement to overcome this impending problem. The first and most important thing a new user of pine pulpwood can do is to assure that their due diligence is exhaustively complete on their potential feedstocks. Looking at more than one source of inventory numbers should be a necessity. If one is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars constructing an energy facility, then having a good understanding of the feedstocks now and in the future should be a requirement for construction and financing. One of the more dramatic approaches would be the purchase of timberland. Just as the integrated forest products companies owned timberland, energy facilities could do the same. The advantages of this approach are the ability to harvest whenever needed and stands can be planted and managed to maximize pulpwood production. However, a company would face the same tax implication that contributed to the sale of timberland by these integrated forest products companies. A less costly approach would be to work with the major holders of timberland. Private landowners hold 71 percent of the timberland in the South, so working with these owners to supply feedstocks is key. In the ’80s and ’90s, many of the forest products companies had landowner assistance programs. These programs had many different forms but most included the right of first refusal on all timber sold by the landowner. These programs offered seedlings and planting assistance at no- or reducedcost to the landowner. Providing seedlings to landowners has another benefit. Seedlings can be selected that maximize fiber production. Most tree improvement programs have focused on selecting trees for the production of sawtimber. Attempting to identify seedlings that maximize fiber production should be an objective of all pulpwood users.

SUPPLYÂŚ www.ethanol-jobs.c www.ethanol-jo

Author: Dean McCraw President, McCraw Energy LLC


While we hear many economic development people referring to areas of the South as the Saudi Arabia of pine trees, this is not necessary the case. This future shortage will affect all users of pine pulpwood, the existing pulp/paper industry and the new energy start-ups. However, the pulp/paper industry can afford to pay more for feedstocks than the energy industry. All is not lost, however. Users of pine pulpwood can become proactive and begin to plan for the feedstock market changes. If not, they face increased cost or possibly shortages of pine pulpwood. The bright side is that forest residue users will see an increase in available feedstocks. www.ethanol-jobs.c


om www.ethanol-j


The Biomass Crop Assistance Program may be an aid in this. One would need an understanding of the species and management regimes that will work. However, future funding of this program is a real question. Energy grasses may be needed to fill the gaps that are sure to occur. These can give full productivity in as little as three years. Eucalyptus and fast-growing hardwoods may also work to fill the gap but they take a longer time, a minimum of seven years to begin harvest. Eucalyptus can only be used in the Deep South, usually defined as south of Interstate 10. If the landowner’s objective were growing sawtimber, then promoting an intercropping approach would be beneficial. An example of this would be the planting of high-end seedlings such as mass control pollinated or SE on 20-foot rows and then planting between these rows with good quality open pollinated seedlings. This would give the landowner a harvestable crop of pulpwood in 10 to 14 years while still producing the sawtimber at a future time.


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The Critical Analysis of Biomass Biomass standards are variations of coal and petroleum coke standards, but as the use of biomass increases governing standards agencies may have to come up with more specific procedures. BY STAN HOUSER AND SCOTT BLAKELY


iomass is mankind’s oldest and most reliable source of energy. It is comprised of biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. Even fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass. Until recently, man has been relegated to simply burning wood for cooking and to generate heat. Today’s biomass is obtained from both plant and animal derived materials. It can be utilized for home heating, electrical generation and industrial applications. Most importantly, biomass is a renewable energy source. The use of biomass as a renewable fuel in North America has experienced an increase over the past several years. It amounts to just over 2 percent of North

American production for home heating or electrical generation. This can be compared to the worldwide usage, which is just over 15 percent. Government mandates and material cost incentives have increased the demand for biomass to a level where many North American utility companies are now actively soliciting bids for the supply of raw materials to augment their primary solid fuels, which are mainly coal and petroleum coke. Those that are considering using biomass must be in close proximity to a long-term supply such as a forested area usually within 50 miles of the user. Beyond this range, the use of biomass becomes less cost effective as compared to other fuels due primarily to transportation costs. Exceptions are utilities

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


or other users having water or rail access, accommodating the receipt of bulk quantities delivered via vessel or barge. Many engineering and construction firms are addressing the increased use of biomass by building material handling components into new and existing facilities for this particular material stream. Pelletized biomass is gaining popularity for home heating. There are several types of high-efficiency home heating units readily available to the general public that can accommodate biomass in various forms as the primary fuel. Fuel pellets for home use are typically sold in bags of 18 to 20 kilograms (40 to 44 pounds) thus transportation becomes less of an issue. Quality control and laboratory analysis of the biomass material are essential to both the home heat generator and large industrial users. Combustion systems—


whether they are the simple home heating appliances or the multimillion dollar power plant consuming hundreds of thousands of tons of material annually—are designed and built to exacting specifications which require a consistent fuel source. Users must know basic information about the quality in order to operate the combustion system at peak efficiency. Plant engineers require material quality information to accurately predict the energy content that will be yielded, maintain material handling systems needed for both the raw materials and the ash produced after combustion, and to determine the economics of using biomass. Biomass also may be used as a blend component with a primary fuel source for economic reasons, to comply with government mandates, and potentially receive tax credits.

Testing Procedures Samples for quality control are collected in much the same fashion as other solid fuels. Regular and systematic increments of the material to be tested are collected over an agreed-upon lot size. This may be an hourly, daily, or weekly sample or over a fixed tonnage such as a barge or vessel load. Global standards organizations, such as the American Society for Testing and Materials, International Organization for Standardization and European Committee for Standardization (CEN), have developed exact procedures specifying the size and number of increments to be collected, the sample handling procedures and the sample preparation techniques. Prior to laboratory analysis, samples require special preparation. The first step is to dry the samples before further processing can take place. Raw wood chips, for example, can contain up to 50 percent moisture content; whereas, a pelletized product may have only 1 to 3 percent moisture. Samples are generally dried at just above ambient temperatures. After drying, the biomass sample requires preparation or grinding to a consistent size, creating a homogeneous product to be tested. This is accomplished by specialized mills, usually a

knife mill consisting of fixed and rotating blades. The material is literally cut by the knives, creating a product which will have a nominal top size of approximately 20 mesh or roughly 1 millimeter. After grinding, the sample is mixed and then reduced in size by riffle dividers, much the same as coal or coke samples. Depending upon the tests required, 200 pounds of biomass may be prepared down to a simple, dry powder of a 100 gram size, which is delivered to the laboratory. The laboratory test equipment used for biomass is much the same as those used for other solid fuels analysis. The typical suite of testing includes moisture, ash, sulfur, calorific value and physical characteristics such as size distribution and pellet strength. Samples also may be tested for additional parameters such as ash fusion, temperature of ash, chlorine, fluorine and elemental oxides in the ash. Moisture content is a critical value for obvious reasons. Most buyers typically will not pay to buy the water. Contract pricing can be affected by water content. Premium penalties can be written into agreements. Material handling can also be affected by water content. Calorific value is probably the most important result. It gives the heat content of the biomass as a fuel and allows the user to affix a cost per Btu. Ash content of the material allows the user to anticipate the amount of inorganic material left over after the biomass is combusted. Ash fusion temperature is not a major issue in pure biomass as it is generally much lower than coal and other solid fuels. There are typically no fouling or slagging issues. Ash elemental oxides composition is determined from the material’s ash and is important to know for disposal purposes. Sulfur content, while generally very low in biomass, is a critical emissions value. Chloride and fluorine content are regulated by the clean air initiative. High values can cause fouling and corrosion in boilers.

Size distribution and pellet strength are critical traits for material handling systems. Pellet strength can predict material degradation during transportation and handling.

Potential Problems Biomass, much like coal, will see consistency within a particular product family. Wood chips created from pine will all have similar ash, sulfur, and calorific value. Biomass in pellet form can have variations in product quality. This can be due to the manufacturer potentially blending in other forms or grades of biomass such as refuse-derived fuel. Often times the use of a binder is required to help the pellets retain their size and shape throughout manufacturing, transportation and handling phases. Depending on the binder used, this can have dramatic effects on the overall quality of the end product. Global standards organizations have developed specific procedures for the analysis of biomass. Most of these are simple variations of coal and petroleum coke standards that have been in use for many years; however, these address only the most basic analysis. Where no definitive biomass test procedures exist, it may be required to utilize a specific coal or coke test method, such as in the case of the fusion temperature of ash or trace metals content. As industry and homeowners increase the use of biomass as a primary or secondary fuel source, it is expected that ASTM, ISO, CEN and other governing standards agencies will introduce more specific procedures for testing biomass in its individual forms. These will all most certainly be fashioned after coal and coke standard methodologies in use today. Authors: Stan Houser Minerals and Biomass Specialist, Intertek (815) 221-5002 Scott Blakely Laboratory Technical Services Manager, Intertek (815) 221-5002



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