Positioning Innovation Researchers, Developers Share Their New Equipment Want Lists Page 30
Biogas System Suppliers Exporting Today Page 18
And: Can Wood Pellets Ease Energy Costs in the North? Page 24
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INSIDE ¦ ADVERTISER INDEX¦ AUGUST 2012 | VOLUME 6 | ISSUE 8 2012 Algae Biomass Summit
2012 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo
2013 International Biomass Conference & Expo
Algae Biomass Organization
B&W Mechanical Handling, Ltd. BBI Consulting Services Biomass Magazine
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18 BIOGAS Enabling Exports to Benefit Business U.S. Ex-Im Bank and Brazilian biogas ally in a waste-to-fuels landfill revitalization. By Erin Voegele
04 EDITOR’S NOTE Biomass' Own Silver Buckshot By Tim Portz
06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 07 POWER PLATFORM Tax Incentives for Renewable Baseload Power By Bob Cleaves
24 PELLETS Northern Exposure Biomass thermal applications could reduce energy costs in remote, northern communities. By Anna Simet
30 EQUIPMENT Bioenergy Equipment Essentials
08 THERMAL DYNAMICS Thermal Energy can Reduce the Next Big Fire By Joseph Seymour & Rob Davis
09 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE EPA Uncertain of Biogenic Fuels’ Role By Todd Palmer and Anna Wildeman
Researchers and project veterans map out future technology needs. By Luke Geiver
10 FEEDSTOCK FOOTNOTES Forget Not the Feedstock By Todd Atkinson
12 BUSINESS BRIEFS
40 POWER The Cruciality of Combustion Technology The upsides and downfalls of biomass power generation options. By Brandon Bell
14 FIRED UP 41 MARKETPLACE
Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) August 2012, Vol. 6, Issue 8. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/ Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.
Positioning Innovation Researchers, Developers Share Their New Equipment Want Lists Page 30
Biogas System Suppliers Exporting Today Page 18
And: Can Wood Pellets Ease Energy Costs in the North? Page 24
ON THE COVER: Biomass-based boiler systems housed in confined containers and designed for small spaces are the new trend in biopower. PHOTO: MARCUS KAUFFMAN
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3
Biomass’ Own Silver Buckshot
TIM PORTZ VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT & EXECUTIVE EDITOR
At the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual biomass conference earlier this summer in Washington, D.C., agency personnel opined about the various obstacles facing the biomass industry and limiting or slowing its growth trajectory. Acting Biomass Program Director Valerie Reed suggested that the cost of conversion technologies was the largest obstacle while Secretary of Energy Steven Chu suggested that ultimately a lack of market stability was the industry’s most significant bottleneck. While a cynic might draw attention to this divergence in thought from within the same department, I think it is more likely due to the wide interpretation of what biomass-derived energy actually is. Clearly, Reed held emerging advanced biofuels technologies in her mind when she made that remark. Anaerobic digesters, landfill gas capture and combustion operations, pellet stoves, district energy systems and biomass boilers for electric power production are all relatively mature and proven technologies that have been and are currently being deployed and operated worldwide. At the same event, retired Vice Adm. of the Navy Dennis V. McGinn noted that the means to this country’s clean, secure and domestic energy goals lie not in one elusive silver bullet, but instead in a collection of solutions he referred to as “silver buckshot”. While I have heard the buckshot metaphor before, it had never resonated to the degree that it did after I read this month’s issue of Biomass Magazine. Within just 10 pages, our coverage examines biomass utilization in one of the world’s most densely populated cities (Erin Voegele’s piece on a landfill gas project outside of Rio de Janeiro) and the potential for biomass-derived heat in some of the most remote reaches of the United States (Anna Simet’s exploration of the challenge to provide thermal energy in rural Alaska). These projects are being explored and commissioned not in spite of conversion technologies that bear price tags that hamstring their development, but because of technologies that offer cost-effective energy capture and production solutions. Of course Reed and Chu were both right with their assertion that our industry can and will benefit from lower-cost conversion technologies and greater market stability. However, I identify most readily with Vice Adm. McGinn’s comments and know he would see the projects outlined in this issue of Biomass Magazine as testimony that some of the pellets in our industry’s own brand of “silver buckshot” are finding their mark.
4 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
EDITORIAL PRESIDENT & EDITOR IN CHIEF Tom Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT & EXECUTIVE EDITOR Tim Portz email@example.com CONTRIBUTIONS EDITOR Anna Simet firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURES EDITOR Luke Geiver email@example.com NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann email@example.com
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AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 5
¦INDUSTRY EVENTS Algae Biomass Summit September 24-27, 2012 Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel Denver, Colorado Advancing Technologies and Markets Derived from Algae 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 policy makers. Early bird registration rates expire August 13. (866)746-8385 www.algaebiomasssummit.org
You deserve consistency and quality through your entire biomass pelleting process —from chips to load-out. Get it with CPM. U Equipment for your total biomass process U Integrated biomass expertise U Engineered for quality, durability and consistency U Energy efficient Look to your Partner in Productivity—CPM—for your biomass pelleting solutions.
National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo November 27-29, 2012 Hilton Americas - Houston Houston, Texas Next Generation Fuels and Chemicals Produced by BBI International, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleumderived products (866)746-8385 www.advancedbiofuelsconference.com
International Biomass Conference & Expo April 8-10, 2013 Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Building on Innovation Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, the International Biomass Conference & Expo program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to pyrolysis and combined heat and power. This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. (866)746-8385 www.biomassconference.com
International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 10-13, 2013
800-428-0846 6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri Where Producers Meet Now in its 29th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world—and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. (866)746-8385 www.fuelethanolworkshop.com
Tax Incentives for Renewable Baseload Power BY BOB CLEAVES
Washington, D.C., is busy with debate over the proposed extension of the Section 45 production tax credit (PTC), a benefit currently available almost exclusively to wind power, but it could easily benefit baseload renewable sources like biomass. Industry leaders claim that failure to extend the “placed-in-service date,” a deadline by which a facility must begin providing power if they are to receive the credit, would be harmful to U.S. turbine manufacturing facilities and stall the growth of the U.S. renewable energy fleet. Opponents claim that the credit is nothing more than a handout to a mature technology that should be able to stand on its own two feet after decades of support. Although wind-powered electricity generation facilities were made eligible for the PTC back in 1992, the entire renewable energy market—including wind—is still largely unstable. The fact of the matter is that until the country develops a national renewable energy standard (RES), government support such as the PTC is necessary for virtually all forms of renewable energy. That being said, it is important that we understand Section 45, and ask ‘is Section 45 working and for whom?’ First, we must look at one of the most prominent recipients of PTC: wind power. We know that in recent years, federal tax incentives have spurred tremendous growth of wind power. Since 2007, the U.S. wind capacity has more than tripled in size, and the PTC is the driving force behind the rapid growth of the industry. These credits allow wind investors to build and expand the considerable infrastructure needed to capture large-scale power from wind. However, wind powered facilities are incapable of providing predictable baseload power, especially during critical high demand times. Predictable baseload power is necessary for U.S. communities, especially as they endure these hot summer days. It is important that we consider baseload energy sources such as geothermal, biomass or waste energy. These sources can provide predictable power to the energy grid regardless of severe weather or other uncontrollable circumstances. However, in
comparison with the wind industry boom, there has been meager growth in these sectors since 2007. Overall, these sources have grown by about 10 percent. While they technically qualify for Section 45 credits, it is very difficult for baseload energy developers to take advantage of them. Due to the longer lead-time required to complete facility construction for these energy sources, combined with the very short congressional extensions of the placed-inservice deadline, the incentive power of Section 45 PTCs remains just out of their grasp. For as long as the U.S. works to decrease its fossil fuel dependency without a federal RES, federal energy tax policy decisions will continue to have a major influence on renewable energy development. For example, if tax policy continues to disfavor baseload renewable energy resources, periods of high energy demand could cause areas that rely heavily on intermittent energy sources to resort to fossil fuels peaking facilities, or worse, to lose power altogether. There is an easy solution that would allow for continued support of wind and solar power while ensuring that baseload sources are able to grow. By adjusting the section 45 placed-in-service date to allow more baseload power facilities to qualify, Congress could enhance the incentive value of the renewable incentives to baseload power developers, stimulating additional build-out and significantly broadening the portfolio of generation available to the grid. In the coming months, Congress is expected to look at extending Section 45 credits. While considering this legislation, Congress should enact the changes necessary to make Section 45 accessible to baseload developers. The government has the potential to better support biomass, geothermal and waste energy. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association www.USABiomass.org email@example.com
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7
Thermal Energy can Reduce the Next Big Fire BY JOSEPH SEYMOUR & ROB DAVIS
High Park. Waldo Canyon. Shingle. Those are three of the reported 29,151 U.S. forest fires that have burned nearly 2.4 million acres from January 2012 through Independence Day, according to the National Interagency Forest Center. The increasing number and size of our nation’s wildfires indicates that our forests need further, more effective management, and there is agreement that fuels reduction, fire hazard mitigation within the Wildland Urban Interface, and restoration should occur in larger volumes and more rapidly. When forests are better managed, the surrounding communities and biomass markets mutually benefit. Eastern Arizona’s 2011 Wallow Fire demonstrated the undeniable value of fuels reduction measures. Witnesses on the scene and a report from the U.S. Forest Service attest to how these treatments saved communities from destruction, and enabled firefighters to gain control of wildfires. In one picture, the fuels treatment line clearly separates charred destruction from intact trees and homes. However, not any treatment will do. A plan must be carefully agreed upon by scientists, foresters, and other stakeholders. When such a fuels reduction and treatment plan is instituted, there are multiple benefits to the affected forestland, community and regional economy. These include reduced fire hazards, safer communities, more resilient forests, improved watersheds and wildlife habitat, improved recreation opportunities, additional and sustainable source of biomass, as well as access to local resources for wood product manufacturing and energy production. If fuel treatments are so valuable, why aren’t they more widely employed? The reason is a combination of the high cost of fuels reduction and the low value of the residuals removal. While conventional wood products industries can access
the higher-value wood, the majority of the removed materials consist of small trees unsuitable for those products. This challenge provides biomass market opportunities. In rural locations with high fossil fuel costs, these residues can be and are used to produce energy fuels such as chips, pellets or cordwood for thermal and electrical energy, as well as biofuels for transportation. Forest restoration efforts like those in the White Mountain Stewardship Project area can be funded in part by markets for low-value residual materials. And, when residues go toward highefficiency end uses such as thermal energy, the resource becomes more valuable and can receive a higher price. The obvious—but overlooked— benefits from heating with local biomass include affordable heat for homes, schools, hospitals and communities, new and permanent local jobs from forest utilization, and reduced export of local wealth while importing energy and forest products. Simply stated, biomass thermal applications mean more money for forest restoration efforts and more self-sustaining rural communities. BTEC encourages the ongoing management of our nation’s forests through appropriate forest prescriptions and utilization of residues. Together, these efforts benefit the forest, forest communities and our nation’s energy portfolio. Thermal energy is an efficient solution for achieving this forest work and provides solutions that our rural communities so desperately need: economic and physical security. Authors: Joseph Seymour Executive Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council www.biomassthermal.org Rob Davis President, Forest Energy Corp.
EPA Uncertain of Biogenic Fuels’ Role BY TODD PALMER AND ANNA WILDEMAN
Recent air permitting actions highlight the U.S. EPA’s struggle—and continued uncertainty—in determining the most appropriate Best Available Control Technology emission limits for bioenergy facilities. The agency actions described further below suggest that EPA will not consider the use of biogenic fuel, in and of itself, as sufficient to meet a source’s BACT obligations for the control of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Rather, bioenergy facilities are expected to consider the use of additional GHG control equipment or more energy-efficient technologies, such as combined-cycle turbines or combined heat and power (CHP) to limit GHG emissions. This development could unintentionally hinder the development of bioenergy facilities by adding more costs and regulatory uncertainty. By way of background, EPA requires larger sources of GHG emissions to obtain preconstruction prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permits.These PSD permits must contain emission limits that are developed on a case-by-case basis to reflect the emission rates that can be achieved by employing the best available control technology. In November 2010, EPA released its PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases, in an effort to assist states in developing BACT limits for GHG emissions. This guidance acknowledged that various federal and state policies are specifically designed to facilitate and expand the use of biogenic fuels—biomass and biogas— as a way to reduce ambient GHG emission concentrations and thereby address climate change. To that end, the EPA guidance suggested that state permitting authorities consider the use of “certain types of biomass by themselves” as satisfying BACT obligations for controlling GHG emissions. In March 2012, EPA released a second policy document entitled Guidance for Determining Best Available Control Technology for Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Bio-Energy Production. This second guidance provided illustrations of how a state might support a conclusion that the combustion of biogenic fuels, without any other emission control techniques, was sufficient to satisfy BACT emission control requirements for GHG emissions. With these two guidance documents in place, EPA appeared to be signaling that the use of biomass as a fuel would in and of itself meet BACT obligations.
However, on March 15, 2012, EPA Region V provided comments on a draft PSD permit that had been issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for five new combustion turbines that were proposed to burn biogas. In the draft permit determination, WDNR concluded that the proposed facility’s GHG BACT requirements were satisfied by the turbines burning biogas and using good combustion practices. Yet, in its March 2012 letter, EPA asked WDNR to explain why it did not require the permittee to evaluate the feasibility of reconfiguring the project to utilize combined-cycle turbines or CHP to meet GHG BACT requirements, both of which utilize thermal energy in a more efficient manner and thereby lower overall GHG emissions. Implicit in EPA’s comment is that the permittee’s proposed use of biogas, in and of itself, was not sufficient to satisfy the source’s GHG BACT obligations. In a letter dated May 25, 2012, WDNR rejected EPA’s comment, reasoning that combined-cycle and CHP technology cannot be implemented at the proposed facility due to the lack of available space. WDNR’s response avoids the broader policy issue of whether regulators have the authority to force a permit applicant to utilize ancillary GHG emission reduction techniques on bioenergy facilities, or whether they can force a project developer to switch its chosen power generation technology from simple-cycle to combined-cycle or CHP. It remains to be seen whether EPA or others challenge the WDNR’s decision. The renewable energy industry—particularly biomass and biogas project developers—should closely scrutinize PSD permits currently being issued to bioenergy facilities, as they can provide insight into costs associated with biogenic fuel uses. Permits requiring the utilization of combined-cycle or CHP technology will add additional regulatory burden and expense which could make bioenergy facilities less competitive. Authors: Anna Wildeman Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (608) 283-0109 firstname.lastname@example.org Todd Palmer Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (608) 283-4432 email@example.com
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 9
Forget Not the Feedstock BY TODD ATKINSON
There are no short-term solutions to fuel prices. That’s why five years ago the leadership of the 110th Congress began long-term investments by enacting the Renewable Fuels Standard II, which requires 36 billion gallons of biofuels in our national pool by 2022. With 140 billion gallons of gasoline used each year, biofuels give Americans more choices at the pump, injecting competition into a petroleum marketplace known for squeezing household wallets and corporate spreadsheets. Already there are more than 14 billion gallons of corn starch ethanol with more on the way. But ethanol had a 30-year head start. Half of today’s volumes were reached by 2007, and ethanol is made with distillation principles used since the dawn of time, from a crop cultivated by mankind for 10,000 years. Because the RFS caps ethanol at 15 billion gallons, we’ve got 10 years to make another 20 billion gallons, but we can’t use corn starch. Therein lies the challenge. Despite billions of dollars invested in research and development, whitepapers and conferences, capital grants and construction loans for next-generation biofuels, little by comparison has been invested in actually growing the crops in the field, in the quantities we need, in time for when we’ll need it. America has the capacity to grow these crops—the U.S. DOE’s Billion Ton Study says so. It’s also why the 110th Congress created the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in the 2008 Farm Bill. To date, Agriculture Secretary Tom
10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Vilsack has set aside $65 million for producers to grow crops like sterile miscanthus, poplar, camelina, switchgrass and willow on more than 60,000 acres—and that’s only the beginning of what we need to grow so that plenty of nonfood feedstocks will exist for new biorefineries to use. It won’t be flawless at first. For farmers willing to take the risk, we must have their back. Growing successful yields of unconventional cultivars is a complex equation of economics, behavior, weather, markets and timing. Many energy crops are perennial and take several seasons to mature for harvest, plus trial and error to get it right. There’s no millennium of experience. There are no major trade associations, no widespread best practices, nor plentiful data to create crop insurance, prepare faultless business plans, or calculate farm loans. Pull the plug on BCAP, and there never will be. We’ll begin again, in the 2017 Farm Bill, in time for the 2019 crop year, from precisely the same point as today. We’ll never cross the canyon on gas prices this decade because the crops won’t be grown and the bridge won’t be built. BCAP could create 700,000 jobs by 2022. These aren’t shovel-ready jobs; they’re plow-ready. So let’s keep growing the crops, because when it comes to biofuels, the feedstocks are the sine qua non―without them, there is nothing. Author: Todd Atkinson Senior Energy Advisor, USDA Undersecretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. 202-720-2797 firstname.lastname@example.org
Algae The first wonder of the world
In addition to creating most of the planetâ€™s oxygen, algae are now creating tremendous opportunities in markets for sustainable fuel, food and other products.
If you are in the algae business, or plan to be, there is no better place than the Algae Biomass Organization to gain access to new markets, a voice on policy, and new connections for business opportunities.
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Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
a renewable energy source. Komptech’s product line features a wide range of shredding, composing and separation equipment. Kompetch expands distribution network Komptech USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Komptech Group, has added Foreman Equipment Ltd. as an authorized Komptech equipment distributor for the Canadian markets of British Columbia and Yukon. Foreman Equipment will offer local sales, parts and service support for the complete Komptech product line at its locations throughout British Columbia. Komptech is an international supplier of machinery and systems for the mechanical and mechanical-biological treatment of solid waste and the treatment of biomass as
12 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Mitsubishi subsidiary supplies biomass boiler to pulp maker CBC Industrias Pesadas S.A., a Brazilian subsidiary of Japan-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is supplying a highcapacity, high-performance, biomass-fired boiler to Suzano Papel e Celulose, Brazil’s largest pulp maker. The boiler will be installed at Suzano’s plant in Mucuri, Behia, where it will provide heat and power for pulp production. The boiler supplied to Suzano has an evaporation capacity of 120 tons of steam per hour and will feature CBC’s propriety bubbling fluidized bed technology. The boiler is scheduled for delivery in early 2014.
Sapphire Energy adds members to advisory board Sapphire Energy Inc. has named new members to its Scientific Advisory Board. The new board members will play an active role in advising the company as it refines its developmental process and technologies for making algae-based crude oil. New members include Leroy Hood, president and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle; Roger Y. Tsien, investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Center and professor of pharmacology and chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego; Matthew Croughan, George B. and Joy Rathmann professor and director and founder of the Amgen Bioprocessing Center at Keck Graduate Institute; and H. Scott Fogler, Ame and Catherine Vennema professor of chemical engeineering and Arthur F.
Thurnau professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Clean World Partners wins grant for biogas project The California Energy Commission has selected Clean World Energy Partners LLC to receive a $6 million grant to support the expansion of a biogas and bioenergy project. The initial scope of the project called for Clean World Partners’ Organic Waste Recycling Center at the Sacramento-based South Area Transfer Station to convert 25 tons of food waste per day into biogas in a high solids anaerobic digestion system. The grant will allow the facility to expand to take in 100 tons per day. The project broke ground on June 7. The first phase is scheduled to be complete this summer, with the expansion complete by early next year.
Elevance wins EPA award Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc., a producer of high-performance, renewable specialty chemicals, has been named a recipient of the U.S. EPA’s 2012 Presidential Green Chemistry Award for its work using metathesis catalysis to convert renewable oils into biobased chemicals. The award recognizes and promotes innovative chemical technologies that prevent pollution and have broad applicability in industry. Elevance’s technology uses Nobel Prizewinning innovations in metathesis catalysis, which consumes significantly less energy than petrochemical technologies while
reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. Elevance is building an 180,000 metric ton biorefinery in Indonesia with Wilmar International and is repurposing a 280,000 metric ton biodiesel plant in Natchez, Miss.
SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Industry Briefs, Biomass Power Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.
BiomassNews H2Bioil technology is cost-competitive with oil An economic analH2Bioil biofuel price based on ysis of Purdue Univercurrent hydrogen extraction costs sityâ€™s H2Bioil technolBiofuel price per barrel Hydrogen source ogy demonstrates that it could produce biofuels $103-$116 Natural gas, coal, nuclear power that are economi$150 Wind power cally competitive with $200 Solar power petroleum-based fuels when oil prices are as to a standard fast pyrolysis process. low as $103 per barrel. The thermochemical technology involves the rapid The economic analysis has shown that when hydrogen used in the process is heating of biomass in the presence sourced from natural gas or coal, or of pressurized hydrogen followed by catalytic conversion into gasoline-like generated from water using nuclear power, the resulting biofuel is costmolecules. The addition of hydrogen competitive with petroleum-based into the gas stream enables more of fuels. The price of the resulting fuel the carbon contained within the bioincreases when wind or solar energy is mass feedstock to be converted into fuel, increasing yields when compared used to generate hydrogen from water.
14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Federal entities collaborate on biofuels The USDA, U.S. DOE and U.S. Navy are engaging in a multifaceted plan to expedite development of the advanced drop-in biofuel industry that includes more than $130 million in new funding opportunities. As part of the effort, the DOE announced a $20 million in funding for earlier-stage research and development projects to support pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries that will convert a variety of nonfood biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials and algae into biofuels that meet military fuel specifications. An addition $12 million in DOE funding will support up to eight projects that focus on synthetic biological processing. The strategy parallels a two-phase program spearheaded by the Navy. The first phase makes $30 million available in matching funds, with the second offering $70 million from the Defense Production Act to move into actual production. The USDA will use Commodity Credit Corp. resources to ensure fuel purchased from the biorefineries will be costcompetitive.
New Hampshire grants RPS credit to biomass thermal
Myriant wins $25 million USDA loan guarantee
New Hampshire is New Hampshire the first state to grant full credit to renewable RPS requirements thermal projects under 2010 7.50% a renewable portfolio 2015 13.80% standard (RPS). The 23.80% 2025 state’s RPS requires electricity providers to deliver 23.8 percent renewable electricity to customers by 2025, and grants renewable energy credits (RECs) on a four-category classification system. Under a new state law, thermal renewable is granted RECs up to $29 per megawatt-hour of usable thermal energy produced by qualifying projects. Some examples of qualifying projects include wood or wood pellet boilers heating commercial or institutional buildings. Washington, D.C., and 28 states have developed RPS programs, but only eight currently have limited thermal provisions, which are generally narrowly restricted. More states, such as Vermont, Maryland and Massachusetts, are considering expanding their RPS programs to include thermal.
Myriant Corp. closed a $25 million private bond placement in June for the construction of its flagship commercial biobased succinic acid plant in Lake Providence, La. The placement utilized the USDA’s Business and Industry Rural Development Loan Guarantee program. Myriant is the first biochemical company to receive funding through the program, which is designed to improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities by supporting the development of high-quality local industry. According to Myriant, $15 million of the $25 million in bonds sold are guaranteed by the USDA under the B&I program. Once complete, Myriant’s facility will produce 30 million pounds of biobased succinic acid per year, and will create 40 to 50 direct highly-skilled jobs along with approximately 250 construction jobs. Succinic acid is used to manufacture a variety of products, including polymers, fibers, surfactants, detergents and flavors The Lake Providence facility is scheduled to begin operations during the first quarter of 2013. Myriant is also planning a 140 million pound capacity expansion in the U.S.
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¦BIOMASSNEWS Natural gas prices could exceed wood pellet prices soon
French officials visit Enginuity Energy
A report issued by FutureMetrics LLC finds that the price of natural gas is expected to be higher than that of wood pellet fuel within the next three to eight years. The report, titled “An Analysis of the Future of Natural Gas Prices and Wood Pellet Prices: Natural gas will become more costly than wood pellets,” projects that cheap natural gas prices will end before 2020 due to rapidly increasing global demand in the transportation and power sectors and other market factors. Domestic natural gas producers are interested in exporting natural gas, in much the same way crude oil is shipped today, the report says, which could increase prices. The analysis also notes that exporting influences also have the potential to impact pellet prices, but that current economics show that wood pellets generate more profit when used domestically, which is likely to mitigate interest in exporting the fuel.
Gasification technology designed by Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Enginuity Energy could be destined for France after two French agriculture officials toured the company’s headquarters and witnessed Enginuity Energy’s Ecoremedy technology convert poultry litter and other waste products into renewable power. The process features advanced conveyor systems, an automated touchscreen control interface and a four-stage gasification process. An Ecoremedy pilot plant has been in operation since 2008 at a Tyson Foods Georgia facility, where the gasification technology converts more than 500 tons of poultry litter into 110 pounds per square inch of process steam. Enginuity Energy has partnered with Cyclone Power Technologies to build a small-scale modular unit and is in talks to form partnerships in Australia, Northern Ireland, Maryland, West Virginia and regions in the U.S.
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BIOMASSNEWSÂŚ BCAP funding awarded to 3 project areas Project Area 1
grasses and forbs
Project Area 2
Project Area 3
Project Area 4
Project Area 5
Project Area 6
Project Area 7
grasses and forbs
Project Area 8
California, Washington, Montana camelina
Project Area 9
Project Area 10 New York
Project Area 11 North Carolina
switchgrass and giant miscanthus
The USDA has announced two new Biomass Crop Assistance Program areas, and the expansion of one existing project area through a $9.6 million round of funding. In New York, ReEnergy Holding LLC will enroll 3,500 acres in a fastgrowing shrub willow that will help the biomass power developer generate 100 MW of power. Chemtex International, a division of Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi, has been awarded approximately $4 million to develop 4,000 acres of miscanthus and switchgrass in North Carolina. The energy crop project areas will be spread throughout 11 counties, with the resulting crops used, in part, to feed a 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant that will produce onsite biogas for power. Finally, an existing project area in northeast Arkansas will expand giant miscanthus grown throughout three counties to nearly 8,000 acres.
Biomass plant benefits from community outreach A community outreach program spearheaded by Weston Solutions, an environmental consulting company, has brought a proposed biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) project one step closer to reality in Springfield, Vermont. Dan Ingold, Weston Solutionsâ€™ senior technical director, has spent nearly three months stationed at the site of the proposed North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project site, answering questions from local citizens and city officials for several hours twice a week. Over the course of 10 weeks, more than 100 people have visited the site. As a result of the outreach effort, local support for the project has improved greatly. Public concerns focused primarily on the impact the project would have on water availability. Those concerns have been addressed by altering the project plans to use a dry cooling system. The facility is expected to begin operations in mid-2014.
EQUIPMENT EXPORTS: FirmGreen shipped the final load of equipment for the Novo Gramacho project to Brazil in May. PHOTO: FIRMGREEN INC.
18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Enabling Exports to Benefit Business A biogas opportunity at a shuttered Brazilian landfill reveals U.S. Ex-Im Bank’s potential, and how U.S. equipment providers can expand into the global marketplace. BY ERIN VOEGELE
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 19
20 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
ne of the world’s largest solidwaste landfills is located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The Jardim Gramacho landfill, a 140-acre site, received approximately 7,000 tons of garbage per day before the Brazilian government took action to close it in June, just weeks before the country hosted the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The downtime of the site will be short-lived, however. After nearly 35 years of operation as a solid-waste landfill, the site has attracted a new international collaboration of Brazilian developers and U.S.based equipment suppliers. The new leadership team, with some help from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, has a new vision: biogas production. Brazilian developer Gás Verde S.A. PREPARING FOR TRANSPORT: FirmGreen prepares equipment for shipment from its operations in Dublin, Ohio to Brazil. will own and operate the plant, now referred to as the Novo Gramacho biogas In addition to reducing passive landfill emissions, the biogas project project. The project will feature technolwill allow the Petrobras refinery to replace approximately 10 percent of ogy and equipment supplied by California-based FirmGreen Inc. The Export-Import Bank of the United States has supplied Gás Verde with the fossil-based natural gas it consumes with the fuel-grade biogas produced at the Novo Gramacho site. The project is estimated to reduce a 12-year, $48.6 million loan to help finance the project. The revamped facility will convert raw methane produced in the greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million metric tons per year. According to FirmGreen CEO Steve Wilburn, his company has landfill into clean, usable biogas. Once complete, FirmGreen says the project will capture and treat 20,000 normal cubic meters per hour (nM3/ been working with Gás Verde for three years to develop the project. The hr) of landfill gas, resulting in 9,000 nM3/hr of fuel-grade, biobased biogas plant is scheduled to be operational during the second half of this methane. The resulting gas will be transferred via pipeline to a refinery year, most likely in late fall, he adds. owned by Brazil’s national oil and gas company, Petrobras S.A.
BIOGAS¦ FirmGreen’s Contributions FirmGreen has been working in the biogas space since 2004, when the company acquired patents and proprietary technology related to biogas production. The company has also developed several of its own patents over time, Wilburn says. FirmGreen has developed several biogas demonstration projects, one of which received a U.S. EPA Project of the Year award in 2009, as well as awards from the U.S. DOE and the Solid Waste Association of North America. The company has since scaled up to commercial-scale applications. The contract for the Novo Gramacho project was announced in May 2010. According to Wilburn, Gás Verde completed extensive vetting of FirmGreen’s technology prior to finalizing the agreement. “They followed us very closely and we shared our data results from [our demonstration] projects in the U.S.,” Wilburn says. Despite steep competition from other biogas developers, FirmGreen’s technology won out. Wilburn attributes his company’s selection to the fact that FirmGreen’s technology is reliable, robust and capable of producing a biobased dropin replacement for fossil-based natural gas. FirmGreen’s proprietary biogas cleaning equipment is one of the company’s technologies being installed as part of the Novo Gramacho project. According to Wilburn, the project will include a cleaning technique that uses CO2 to purify raw biogas. “In our process, we use a CO2 wash, where we take the carbon dioxide and partially liquefy it in a column,” he says. “The CO2 washes down the column by gravity flow and, meets the uprising [raw biogas], and washes contaminants out, leaving a very pure stream of methane, the balance of CO2, nitrogen and oxygen—all with the volatile organic compounds removed.” When compared to pressure swing adsorption (PSA) techniques for gas purification, Wilburn says a primary benefit of FirmGreen’s process is that it doesn’t produce waste absorbent material that needs to be disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill. “We don’t have to do that,” he says. “We are a closed loop system. Within the United States [we gener-
ally don’t] require EPA permits from an air quality standpoint, because we meet or exceed all of the EPA standards.” Wilburn also notes the carbon dioxide wash technique is most appropriate for projects that aim to produce high-quality biogas fuels, such as those used in transportation or refining applications. “We also use PSA if a high-quality fuel is not required,” he continues. For example, PSA technology would sufficiently purify biogas to a quality appropriate for use in some electrical generation and fuel cell applications. The Nova Gramacho project will also feature FirmGreen’s patented VerdeControls operating software. The package was designed to control large manufacturing facilities, such as automotive assembly line operations, Wilburn says. With the software, FirmGreen is able to control every motor, device, valve or other piece of equipment found at a project site. The software can also generate management reports and maintenance logs, implement inventory control activities, and perform a wide range of other tasks. When installed at electrical generation sites, it is also designed to work with utility software for the smart grid. While the VerdeControls system might not be appropriate for smaller biogas applications, the software will be an important component of the Nova Gramacho project. The package will allow Gás Verde to remote monitor the plant and produce sophisticated management reports that will help manage costs to keep the operation economical. It will also integrate and control plant operations, including onsite power production. Once fully operational, the equipment will capture 90 percent of the raw methane that normally goes to the landfill flare. “In the case of CO2, only 12 percent would go to the existing flare, so we are sequestering the balance of that in the form of liquid CO2,” Wilburn says. That component of the project is expected to be operational next spring. Gás Verde intends to generate carbon credits with the sequestered carbon dioxide. “It is also possible that carbon dioxide could be used to create energy value in the future,” Wilburn says. FirmGreen is developing a patented process to use liquid carbon dioxide as a media to cool data centers, which are extremely energy intensive operations, he continues.
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 21
¦BIOGAS The Nova Gramacho biogas site will also feature other renewable energy production methods, including 2 MW of solar power generation. In addition, power generation equipment will take a portion of the tail gas that would normally be flared, for use to produce electricity. Together, the two electrical generation techniques are expected to produce 7 MW of energy, which will be used to offset the load of the biogas plant.
To complete the project, FirmGreen is working with nearly 70 U.S. subcontractors. Overall, the company estimates the project has generated 165 direct jobs and supported the continuance of numerous other positions. The Novo Gramacho biogas project was a good fit for Ex-Im Bank's financing because the strong job creation is in accord with the bank's mission to support employ- BRAZILIAN BIOGAS: Once complete, the Novo Gramacho project will produce 9,000 normal cubic meters per hour of fuel-grade biogas. ment in the United States. The bank is an agency of the U.S. government that was established in 1934 to finance export sales of U.S. goods financing is provided in accord with the arrangement on official export and services, says Craig O’Connor, director of Ex-Im Bank’s office of credit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developrenewable energy and environmental exports. O’Connor’s office was es- ment, which includes biogas as a renewable-energy source. The Ex-Im Bank provides direct loans and loan guarantees to tablished in 2008 to increase support for environmentally beneficial exports. Obviously, that includes renewable energy, he says. Ex-Im Bank's creditworthy foreign buyers for the purchase of U.S. goods, technology,
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PHOTO: FirmGreen Inc.
Multi-nation Economic Development
BIOGAS¦ equipment or services. The Bank also provides export credit insurance that enables U.S. exporters to offer financing to their international customers, and provides working capital guarantees to support the working capital needs of U.S. exporters. According to O’Connor, the bank is able to offer loan guarantees in either U.S. dollars or foreign currencies. “In terms of our environmental exports enhancement, we are able to offer the maximum allowable OECD terms of up to 18 years for renewable energy,” he says. “We are able to support local costs—in-country costs— of up to 30 percent of the U.S. export contract. We are also able to capitalize the interest during construction.” “Our mission isn’t to make a profit,” O’Connor says. “But, we do look for a reasonable assurance of repayment.” In the case of the Nova Gramacho project, the Ex-Im Bank awarded Gás Verde with fixed rate U.S. dollar financing. “They decided to go with a direct loan,” O’Connor continues, that features a fixed interest rate of 2.21 percent and a 12-year repayment period. “We also charge a one time, flat, country-exposure fee that can be financed as part of the loan package,” he says. “The all-in cost was very attractive, and that enabled this project to really reach commercial viability.” O’Connor notes that renewable energy projects are capital intensive and generally require longer repayment term loans at attractive interest rates to be economically viable. “We’re not here to compete with the private sector, but really to supplement the private sector and provide long-term lending where private sector lending might not be available,” O’Connor stresses. The hope is that private sector lenders might be more willing to take on these types of projects once they see success with ExIm Bank financing, he adds. The bank also brings private sector lending into a project. According to O’Connor, loan guarantees are an effective way to do this. “The Ex-Im Bank can provide loan guarantees that represent the full faith and credit of the U.S. government for loans that commercial banks would make to finance these projects,” he says. “That means that [commercial banks] can basically preserve their capital. It enables them to offer longer terms at lower rates than they otherwise would.” O’Connor describes the Ex-Im Bank as one of the best-kept secrets in international renewable energy project financing. “I think there is no question that with the Ex-Im Bank, foreign customers will get the most cost-effective source of financing for U.S. business services in the world, period,” he says. As a result of the banks direct loan and loan guarantee products, more foreign project developers should find it feasible to employ U.S. technology and equipment providers. O’Connor adds that the Ex-Im Bank’s programs essentially support the creation and continuance of high-wage, high-skilled jobs in the U.S. “[The loans and loan guarantees] have a direct and tangible benefit to U.S. employment and U.S. competitiveness,” he says. The Novo Gramacho biogas project is a clear example of the sentiment O’Connor holds for the Ex-Im Bank’s ability, and for equipment providers and project developers based in the U.S. hoping to find their own version of the Jardim Gramacho landfill biogas project.
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Author: Erin Voegele News Editor, Biomass Magazine (701) 751-2756 email@example.com
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 23
DESPERATE COMMUNITIES: Places such as Canada’s eastern territory of Nunavut are in need of cheaper, more accessible heat sources. PHOTO: ALASKA DISPATCH
24 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Many remote northern communities face energy challenges due to their location, weather and high fuel costs, but wood pellets offer an affordable source of reliable, on-demand heat. BY ANNA SIMET
iving in the Arctic—or close to it— isn’t for the weakwilled. Temperatures during the seven-month-plus winters can occasionally drop to 40 below zero, the sun’s appearance is sporadic for months at a time, road access can be severely limited, and for most towns, the closest neighboring community could be hundreds of miles away. These are challenges that natives of northern communities have learned to deal with, but rising fuel costs are prompting them to find alternatives to their traditionally-used fossil fuels and methods of accessing them. In rural Alaska, which Thomas Deerfield, CEO of Dalson Energy Inc., describes as a completely different state than southeast Alaska, communities are at a point where paying $400 per ton of pellets is now competitive with heating oil, the most commonly used heating fuel. “Outside of the Anchorage bowl, natural gas isn’t available,” Deerfield says. “All of the rest of Alaska uses heating oil for thermal purposes, backed up by wood.”
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 25
ÂŚPELLETS Arctic Assistance
PHOTO: THOMAS DEERFIELD, DALSON ENERGY
The nonprofit Arctic Energy Alliance completes original research and surveys on energy in the North, including regular wood pellet testing on various types of pellets sold in the Northwest Territories to compare their heating value, ash and moisture content. It also offers an online fuel cost library that provides current costs of residential and commercial On the Web: electricity, oil, propane, natural gas, pelCheck out AEA lets and other wood fuel. All information research at http://www. aea.nt.ca/research is free and available to the public.
FISHING FOR FUEL: One of the principal biomass harvest methods in the north is "river logging," or catching river-drift trees in the spring and summer. River loggers hook floating trees and drag them into shore, and as water levels drop, the logs dry out and are cut up for firewood.
A very limited road system throughout the Alaskan interior means most communities are located along rivers, and heating oil comes in once a year on barges. â€œThere are big tank farms in most of these places, and thereâ€™s been an enormous amount of money put into these farms to upgrade them, because the old ones that were 2030 years old were pretty decrepit,â€? Deerfield says. Fuel shipments are made in the middle of the summer after spring run-off, and thereâ€™s a narrow window of time for delivery. â€œDuring spring run-off thereâ€™s too much ice and debris in the river, but it also has to be done before the riverâ€™s dropped too low in the summer, because then the barges canâ€™t get through,â€? Deerfield explains. If the delivery window is missed, emergency shipments must be sent in at a high price. â€œLast January, it [a heating oil shortage]
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26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
happened, and they had to send in a shipment in by Russian tanker, accompanied by a U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker.” That occurred in the town of Nome, Alaska, where 1.3 million gallons of diesel and gasoline were delivered after the last scheduled barge shipment of fuel supplies was cancelled due to bad weather. It took the delivery team an entire month to get there in the winter. In the worst cases, the fuel has to be flown in via cargo plane, which adds 50 cents to a dollar per gallon of fuel, according to Deerfield. The prospect of shipping pellets upriver faces some of the aforementioned challenges, but is cost competitive—potentially cheaper—if certain parameters are right. It hasn’t yet, however, been done to any great degree. “A few communities closer to the coast by rivers have gotten some pellet deliveries, and it’s an emerging market because of its cost-competitiveness, especially with Canadian pellet production [expanding],” Deerfield says, adding that it’s initially only a couple hundred dollars a ton, but roughly doubles that by the time it reaches the interior. There is a commercial pellet mill in the interior near Fairbanks, but it’s only producing at one-third of its 30,000-ton annual capacity, according to Deerfield. “The market wasn’t developed very well before the mill was built,” he says. “There are some residential markets for pellet stoves, but very little for institutional or commercial thermal systems or community-scale pellet mills.” While shipping residential pellet stove equipment may be cost prohibitive in far northern areas, other attractive options include building minisize pellet mills or community-scale biomass energy
PHOTO: ARCTIC GREEN ENERGY
HAULING HEAT: Arctic Green Energy delivers a load of pellets to the North Slave Correctional Facility, where it installed a biomass heating system.
¦PELLETS systems in these towns, all of which could lower the cost in part by avoiding transportation challenges.
Surveying Potential There are people who are interested in those concepts, but almost everything in Alaska is state or federally funded, according to Deerfield, and very few renewable energy projects are privately funded. “There’s a lot of interest in developing small pellet mills, but it’s been nothing more than talk for three or four years. That’s primarily be-
cause the state hasn’t stepped up to fund it, and no entrepreneurs are willing to do a cost share, which the state would likely be inclined to do.” Along with a University of Alaska Southeast researcher and a colleague from Dalson Energy, Deerfield recently embarked on a 100-mile boat trip to visit communities up and down the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers. The team is working on feasibility studies for biomass thermal energy systems in the communities of Galena, Koyukuk, Nulato and Kalthe, and on the trip were assessing
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28 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
the accuracy of satellite and aerial maps of forestry resources in and near these communities. Certain factors are carefully evaluated in these towns when the potential of a biomass thermal project exists, the main two being availability of resources and whether there is an existing forest industry. “Generally, the answer is not really,” Deerfield says. “There are a lot of these small, module mills that have been around for 30-40 years and people make house logs out of them, but that’s usually the extent of the timber or milling industry.” The vast majority of potential projects in the north are thermal only, because electricity loads aren’t big enough in smaller communities. Most aren’t even 1 MW, often ranging from 300-500 kilowatts. “One place where we’re working on a feasibility study is the town of Tok, Alaska, for a combinedheat-and-power facility that is 2 to 4 MW scale,” Deerfield says. “The reason it might very well work there is because even though Tok is on the road system it’s not connected to any grid so all of its power comes from diesel and depending on a premium for that, they’re paying over $4 per gallon.” That equates to about 50 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the highest price amongst towns along the Alaska road system. In some rural villages, it is nearly double that, up to 90 cents. “You turn on a light bulb and you can practically count the dimes being spent,” Deerfield jokes. And that’s largely because of the piping, refining and shipping rigmarole Alaskan oil goes through to get to these communities—which includes being shipped to California or Washington, back up to Anchorage and then to its destination from one of three main ports on the south side of Alaska. In an effort to further develop the use of biomass-based power and thermal, Deerfield and a committee are working with the state to develop a biomass energy policy that would follow the model of what New Hampshire has done: add a thermal element to a renewable portfolio standard. “We don’t have any biomass energy policy at all,” he says. “Alaska has been focused on oil, coal and gas forever; it’s what drives the economy here and the political horsepower in the state.”
PELLETS¦ Though the state has had a renewable energy fund for the past several years, only about 10 percent has gone toward biomass projects, according to Deerfield. “There’s a surprising amount of solar, and that’s because in the winter there may be less sun but there is enough reflection off the snow and ice to where you achieve greater returns than anyone expected.” Though solar and wind are great addition’s to Alaska’s energy portfolio, Deerfield points out that they aren’t energy sources for on-demand power. “Certainly not demand heat, and biomass is the only thing that will meet that need,” he says, predicting that within the next two years, the state will see many more small and community or regional-scale pellet and briquette mills, as well as the development of transportation corridors up and down the rivers to carry densified wood products. To the east of Alaska in Canada's Northwest Territories, the use of wood pellets has, however, been growing steadily in both residential and industrial applications. Green Arctic Energy, a company that serves Yellowknife and other communities in the Northwest Territories, got into the business early and has not only made a name for itself in the region, the company has provided a glimpse of how and why wood pellets make sense in Alaska.
for the company. Soon after, it partnered up with the local jail to install a biomass heating system, which it has been operating and selling heat from for the past seven years. “We were basically one of the first companies in North America to do this; the whole [pellet boiler] industry in the north has expanded from that original idea,” he says. Now installing boilers, doing energy contracting and delivering pellets, Arctic Green Energy has put in a proposal to the government to convert some Northwest Territory communities to local biomass. “It’s very isolat-
ed up here,” he says. “For a lot of these communities, just shipping oil to generate power can cost $1.47 per kWh. We could take the money saved and create a new industry from it.” To further validate the economic sensibility of utilizing wood pellets for heat and power, Bruce adds that he isn’t on an environmental mission. “I’m not a tree hugger; pellets just make financial sense.” Author: Anna Simet Contributions Editor, Biomass Magazine firstname.lastname@example.org (701) 751-2756
Leading the Way Arctic Green Energy had been operating as a fiberglass company for 20 years when owner Bruce Elliot realized the cost of energy was getting too high. “We were paying about $44,000 a year for heat, and for a small company, that’s just too much,” he says. After trying a number of different solutions that didn’t work out, Elliot contacted a nearby saw mill that was using a coal boiler for heat to see if he could initiate something similar at his company. “When I called, they asked me why I didn’t want to use wood pellets,” he says. “I bought a Canadian-made boiler and ran it for a year, but it wasn’t quite good enough because the efficiencies weren’t there and it was cheaply made,” he says. Knowing he was on the right track, however, Elliot purchased a better-quality, Austrian-made boiler, and things turned around AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 29
TALKING SHOP: NREL’s Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility hosts some of the nations's best bioenergy researchers to discuss new technology trends happening today. PHOTO: DENNIS SCHROEDER
30 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
Bioenergy Equipment Essentials Top lab researchers and proven project developers speak about trends and needed tweaks to bioenergy hardware. BY LUKE GEIVER
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31
F • Bulk material transport • Coal-fired power plants • Biomass energy systems • Waste to energy plants • Waste incineration
or most people, the word cool as it relates to devices conjures up images of a new cardboard-thin computer, or the latest smartphone. For Mike Lilga, a research chemist on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Chemical and Biological Process Development Group, cool correlates more to the equipment his team custom designs and fabricates when the goods they need to convert biomass can't be, or haven't been, made by vendors in the advanced biofuels, biobased chemicals or other biomass-based industries. The ability of researchers working in major facilities like Lilga at PNNL, or others in places such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to produce that cool equipment and one-off technology might
benefit individual projects and research. For the private sector, though, trying to understand what the best researchers know about bioenergy equipment and technology, unique hardware that never hits the market doesn’t mean much or allow suppliers and vendors to tweak or upgrade their existing offerings to match the best. Fortunately, Lilga and others are willing to share their perspectives on the technology and equipment in the biomass industry, giving their take on what works, where improvements can be made, and of course, what’s cool.
Lab Coat Conjectures Lilga’s work focuses on biomass conversion. The team uses multiple reactor systems from the micro- and lab-scale to
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PHOTO: PACIFIC NORTHWEST NATIONAL LABORATORY
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near-pilot scale for biomass conversion and upgrading hydrocarbon fuel blend stock. In general, his work involves the use of continuous flow systems that are similar to those destined for commercial scale. With the reactors they typically use, he says, efficient biomass conversion is achieved by having reactors capable of both high pressure and high temperatures, features the majority of off-the-shelf equipment don’t have. For equipment suppliers, Lilga has a few thoughts, or areas he wishes were addressed. First, he would like to see electrical certification of all equipment prior to arrival at the lab. “Electrical certification is important for any equipment going into our research facilities,” he says, “and third-party certification on site can be costly and cause significant schedule delays.” Next, he’d like to see equipment that comes with more baseline research. Equipment providers would help “if they could provide a set of calibration gas/liquid curves to help the researcher anticipate the order and response factor for most expected hydrocarbons and oxygenates,” he says. And last, Lilga wants more equipment. “It would be nice if there was a laboratory scale compressor for compressing CO (or even other gases) to greater than psig and safely storing a reasonable amount of the gas at pressure inside a hood or walk-in enclosure,” he adds. Robert Hettich, a staff researcher for the Chemical Sciences Division at ORNL, leads the lab’s efforts on proteome research, which focuses on characterizing the range of protein “machinery” that microbes, in particular bacteria or yeast, use to solubilize cellulosic material. The main piece of equipment he uses is anything in the mass spectrometry class (tools to measure the mass of a particle). For proteomics research, he says, mass spectrometry is the lynchpin technology. High-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) interfaced with tandem-mass spectrometers “has become the workhorse for bioenergy proteomics,” he says. For that work-horse equipment to provide the answers the team is looking for,
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Hettich says key features of the technology need to be present. The system needs to provide a clear spatial separation of the protein mixtures the team is analyzing. The equipment needs to be able to do so by particle size, charge or hydrophobicity (tendency to avoid water) he says, “so that they are presented…in a more simplistic fashion.” For that, the team uses an LTQ-Orbitrap-Velos MS (mass spectrometer instrumentation system) for high-mass accuracy and high-resolution mass measurements, all he adds, to help the team see those super bugs used for bioenergy in “unambiguous identifications.” In the mass spectrometry equipment world, Rettich sees vendors focused on improving speed of analysis and the performance of instrumentation by creating better methods of protein separations prior to mass spectrometry measurements. Reduced cost is another improvement his proteome team would like to see. “At present, high performance mass spectrometry instrumentation is quite expensive.” As for the “coolest” equipment his team has worked with, Rettich points to an experimental mass spectrometer set-up that lets his team view entire microbial communities, allowing them to measure how microbes relate and even, compete with each other in natural environmental systems.
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Specialized researchers aren’t the only ones willing or able to comment on equipment and technology trends in a semi-nonbiased fashion. Francois Guay, project manager for Bio-Methatec, a Canadian-based biogas systems provider is now an equipment provider pitching his company’s LIPP biogas technology, but that wasn’t always the case. Before Guay and his team formed their Montreal-based firm, they were sifting through all of the available biogas technology around the world in an effort to bring the best, via licensing, to North America. Eventually, his team decided on a German design that has more than 700 installations globally. Although he would pitch his own brand of biogas technology over others, he does have a few thoughts on why over 700 biogas projects include his system. For
EQUIPMENT¦ Guay, his technology, like others, features automation controls that allow users to run the equipment more efficiently. The bottom of the large digestion tanks also have a drain that allows for the disposal of larger particles that pass through the digester. “We never have to go into the digesters to remove the large particles,” he says. In addition to the drain feature, many have chosen his system because it offers a gas storage tank at the top of the digester tank all in one unit. Overall, in the biogas industry, he adds, most digestion systems are in little need of improvement, it is the accompanying pieces that need to be better-integrated with the digesters. The idea of integration is something Marcus Kauffman, biomass resource specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, can certainly speak to. In collaboration with the Oregon DOE, Kauffman helped perform five biomass-based installations throughout the state, detailing through case studies what each installation revealed, including information about equipment and technology and how to fit and integrate everything from boilers to silos to wood chip facilities into places like Sisters High School, Blue Mountain Hospital and others. In the biomass boiler industry, Kauffman points out that although U.S.-based boiler providers are more than capable of distributing a reliable, efficient boiler, the European offerings are still superior in quality and technology. From his perspective gained from the installation projects, however, biomass power applications aren’t just about finding the right boiler technology, they are also about catering the ability of the equipment to, in essence, fit inside the box. The majority of the installations utilized what Kauffman calls the most popular equipment package in the industry today, the boiler-in-the box. Viessman offers such a product, one that allows a user to contain the boiler and other equipment in a standard shipping container-esque box. The strategy is currently popular because public project developers might not always have the space or the money to construct a separate biomass storage facility. With the box
setup, Kauffman says, many of the projects simply had to “pour a slab and lay it down.” If one compares the total cost of the box system versus a chip system, he adds, the chips building can account for nearly half of the total project costs. In addition to equipment offerings that use a smaller footprint, Kauffman believes remote access to biomass-thermal systems is a must. Using remote access, a provider can have a fleet of boilers spread throughout a region, and still maintain and service the units without training individuals for each site. Doing so, he said, will not only make installations more appealing, but it will create a more efficient system. The actual boilers may also benefit from a precombustion chamber that essentially superheats biomass before it enters the main chamber, a practice he says, that will create a more efficient burn rate.
In the end, although each researcher or industry expert has their own thoughts about specific equipment, technology or systematic approachs that work or can be improved, all note the need for one thing: flexibility. Whether it’s a commercial-scale reactor, farm-based biogas cleanup process, or a district heating pellet storage facility, each expert notes that vendors and providers need to provide equipment that is adaptable, can be easily tweaked to match certain conditions or equipment packages. And, the hardware of tomorrow needs to offer higher pressure ratings while withstanding the higher temperatures needed for many of the bioenergy processes almost ready for roll-out. Author: Luke Geiver Features Editor, Biomass Magazine (701) 738-4944 firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 35
The Cruciality of Combustion Technology Proper selection of combustion technology is critical to biomass power. An expert reviews current options, along with pros and cons. BY BRANDON BELL
ith increasing pressure from the U.S. EPA to reduce emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, and states requiring an increasing amount of renewable capacity, biomass power generation has evolved into a more viable power option. According to U.S. Energy Information Administrationâ€™s Annual Report released in November 2011, a total of 147 new biomass sources are expected to be built between 2011 and 2013. Planned generating capacity additions for wood and other biomass sources are pre-
dicted to reach 377 MW by 2013, compared to 290 MW from coal and 224 MW from hydroelectric. With these increases in biomass capacity, proper selection of combustion technology is critical for plant performance and economics.
Stoker Boilers One of the oldest forms of combustion technology available, stoker firing has proven to be reliable and rugged under a wide range of fuels and operating condi-
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).
36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
tions. In a stoker boiler, fuel is introduced onto a grate where the combustion process occurs. This grate and the fuel feed system are the defining factors of a stoker boiler, with many variations being designed over the years. From fixed hearths to traveling grates and now vibrating grates and mass feed to spreader stokers, each type has been developed to accommodate a multitude of fuels. Stoker-fired boilers typically benefit from low auxiliary power requirements and compared to other combustion technologies, generally exhibit reduced capital ex-
penditure costs. A major drawback to the stoker boiler, however, is an unfavorable emission profile. Due to the design of a stoker, they have an inherent problem of generating high amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOX).
Fluid Bed Combustors Another popular combustion technology for biomass power generation is a fluid bed combustor. In a fluid bed combustor, an inert medium such as sand, commonly referred to as the bed, is heated to a temperature greater than the combustion temperature of the biomass fuel. Underneath the bed, high pressure combustion air is introduced at a rate that reduces the contact forces between particles created by gravity. As more combustion air is introduced and higher velocities are achieved, drag forces on the particles will counteract gravity. At this point, the particles are suspended in an upward stream, the bed increases in height, and due to the non-uniform formations, the bed exhibits liquid-like properties, or fluidization. There are two popular types of fluid bed combustors used for biomass combustion. The first is referred to as a Bubbling Fluidized Bed boiler. In a BFB boiler, the
velocity and volume Planned Generating Capacity Additions (MW) of air in the bed in2011 2012 2013 creases to the point Wood and Wood Derived Fuel 155 485 206 of bubble formaOther Biomass Sources 128 86 171 tion below the bed. 283 571 377 With the bed of the Total Biomass Capacity Additions SOURCE: U.S. EIA boiler fluidized and the bubble formations approaching Planned Generating Capacity Additions (MW) for 2013 the surface, the appearance of a liquid Total Biomass 377 boiling is observed. Coal 290 Air velocities are Hydroelectric 224 controlled such that Geothermal 185 suspended particles SOURCE: U.S. EIA retain fluid-like properties without leaving the bed. pearance of a constant stream of particles The second style of fluid bed com- circulating in the boiler. bustors is referred to as a circulating fluA major benefit to a fluid bed comidized bed boiler. In a CFB boiler, the air bustor is the ability to precisely control the velocities and volume are increased to even bed temperature to inhibit the formation greater velocities than that of a BFB boiler of thermal NOX. High turbulence also to promote solid elutriation from the bed. reduces the formation of carbon monoxTo recover solids lost from elutriation, the ide. A fluid bed combustor may also utilize gas stream passes through a solids separa- a bed medium such as limestone in order tion device after leaving the furnace. The to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. The bed collected solids are returned to the bed is typically drained on a continuous basis for reuse in the combustion process. This to remove bed ash and foreign material in elutriation and return process gives the ap- order to optimize performance. Fluid bed
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¦POWER combustors are also able to burn a wide range of fuels for the combustion process, however, all of these benefits are at the expense of higher auxiliary loads and capital cost.
Suspension Boilers More than 40 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from the combustion of coal. By far, the most common coal combustion technique used by utilities is suspension firing. As states mandate more renewable energy sources, existing coal boiler operators are modifying their equipment to handle mixtures of biomass and coal. In suspension firing, fuel is ground to the consistency of flour. This finely-sized material is conveyed pneumatically to a set of burners located in the furnace walls of the boiler, and once the fuel is introduced into the furnace, the combustion process takes place where solid particles are passing through the high temperature region, or flame basket. Cofiring biomass in an existing coal unit can be attractive as the modification and capital costs associated may be relatively modest. In most coal boilers, emission control systems are typically already in place to clean up pollutants generated in the combustion process. Some drawbacks
38 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2012
to utilizing suspension firing of biomass are the limited range of fuels suitable for this application, and potential for unit de-rating. Additionally, fuel constituents—particularly chlorine—can accelerate boiler tube corrosion and promote slag formation.
Gasification Gasification has been used for producing synthetic natural gas, or syngas, since the 1800s. In biomass gasification, an organic solid feedstock is heated in a substoichiometric environment to convert the solid feedstock into a combustible gas. This combustible gas is then burned either in a boiler to generate steam or in a reciprocating engine or combustion turbine. The primary advantage of gasification is the ability to achieve higher temperatures and thus greater thermal efficiency than direct combustion of the biomass feedstock.
Digester In an anaerobic digester, biomass is converted from a solid waste to a usable gas that is then used to produce power. Typically this process occurs in three steps. The first is the hydrolysis of biomass into usable molecules such as sugar. Next, the decomposed matter converts into various organic acids, which are then converted into a meth-
ane gas. This methane gas is captured and combusted in a boiler to generate steam and produce power. A drawback to this process is its sensitivity to lower temperatures, and a key benefit to a digester is that almost any biological material may be used to produce the methane gas. The feedstock’s digestibility, however, will determine the amount of gas yielded. Combustion technology selection depends on biomass fuel type, availability and selection, desired facility performance envelope, and underlying project economics. For upcoming biomass power projects, selection will be critical for maximizing return while maintaining a low emission profile. As environmental regulations evolve for fossil fuel power generation and utilities are mandated to increase their renewables portfolio, biomass power generation will use existing combustion technologies while continuing to develop new methods to convert biomass into electricity. Author: Brandon Bell Principle Mechanical Engineer, KBR Power & Industrial Brandon.email@example.com 312-846-7492
AUGUST 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 39
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