2021 Issue 2 - Biomass Magazine

Page 1

Issue 2, 2021

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE Advancing Plant Technologies PAGE 12


Choosing a Field Services Partner: Do’s and Don’ts PAGE 30

Minimum Wage Hike Effects on Logging, Fiber PAGE 28




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2021 ISSUE 2 | VOLUME 15



FEATURES 12 O&M Improving Plant Performance with Technological Innovation

Advancing technologies and associated expertise are improving reliability, optimizing operations and increasing competitiveness in new and existing plants. By Anna Simet



Changing (Improving) with the Times By Anna Simet

06 How to Talk Biomass to Politicians By Jeremy Kalin

07 Increasing Plant Efficiency with NIR Moisture Measuring By Adrian Fordham

08 A Game Changer for Clean Energy Projects By Mark Riedy


05 EVENTS 10 35


ON THE COVER Biomass plants like Koda Energy in Shakopee, Minnesota, are being built with, or transitioning to, new or improved technologies available to the power industry.

20 O&M From EPC to O&M

Pellet Mill Magazine discusses pellet plant performance with an operations and maintenance expert. By Anna Simet


Prodeman’s 10-MW power plant in Cordoba, Argentina, is fueled by peanut shells. By Holger Streetz

26 EMISSIONS Landfill GHG Emissions Vs. Measured Biogas

Some landfill regulatory frameworks are inefficient and outdated with respect to GHG emissions. By Toraj Ghofrani

28 FIBER Forisk Wood Fiber Review

Forisk Consulting evaluates delivered fiber prices, the logging industry and potential impacts of a $15 minimum wage. By Andrew Copley

30 O&M Teaming with a Trusted Field Services Partner

Hallmarks of a quality project partner include preparation, project definition and reporting. By Jeff Rice

SPONSOR SPOTLIGHTS 32 REBL Bridging the Gap: Refractory Technology and Expertise By REBL Refractories Evaluations Laboratory

34 DIGESTER DOC The Valkyrie: A Digester Health Game Changer By Biomass Magazine


Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336, ISSN 21690405) Copyright © 2021 by BBI International is published quarterly by BBI International, 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Six issues per year. Business and Editorial Offices: 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Accounting and Circulation Offices: BBI International 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Call (701) 746-8385 to subscribe. Periodicals postage paid at Grand Forks, ND and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203.



Changing (Improving) with the Times EDITORIAL Let’s talk innovation. At the top of my mind is the International Biomass Conference & Expo, which our team at Biomass Magazine and



ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele evoegele@bbiinternational.com

BBI International held via a virtual platform in mid-March. While I


was involved in the program development and live execution of our

VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCTION & DESIGN Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com

general session and panels, I simply wasn’t expecting the innovation

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

deployed by our tech and conference team at the event. These com-


EDITOR Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com

ponents include the live general session and Q&As with all speakers joining us from their homes or offices, virtually visiting exhibitor booths and chatting on live video, the overall production quality—I could go on, but you get the idea.

I am continually amazed at what technology is making possible, which brings me to our first feature arti-

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com PRESIDENT Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com VICE PRESIDENT, OPERATIONS/ MARKETING & SALES John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Howard Brockhouse hbrockhouse@bbiinternational.com

cle, “Improving Plant Performance with Technological Innovation,” on page 16. Particularly in North Ameri-

SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com

ca, biomass power and waste-to-energy plants are commonly thought of as “old guys,” as many of them were

JR. ACCOUNT MANAGER Josh Bergrud jbergrud@bbiinternational.com

built decades ago. While that’s largely true, advances in controls and automation (i.e., plant operations from a handheld device), boiler imaging, cleaning and inspection technologies, etcetera, are allowing these facilities to adapt, modernize and compete. Many newer plants in Europe and elsewhere have been constructed with or utilize the latest technologies, and these state-of-the-art facilities set a high bar when it comes to cleanliness,

CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING COORDINATOR Dayna Bastian dbastian@bbiinternational.com

efficiency and reliability. In a subsequent feature, “From EPC to O&M,” I had a conversation with pellet plant operations expert Forcus Martinez of Prodesa. In this Q&A-style story, we discuss common operator errors, the benefits of O&M contracts that Prodesa offers, and how crucial personnel training is, particularly its influence on an operations profitability—for example, recognizing when to replace a wear part. Says Martinez, “Trying to save money by expanding the lifetime of a component longer than you should, especially dies and rollers, goes against your plant performance. At first it seems like a savings, but in the long run, it’s not.” This issue of Biomass Magazine also includes a variety of expert contributions, on topics including peanut shells as a biomass power plant fuel, landfill gas emission modeling, how a minimum federal wage hike might affect the logging industry and delivered fiber prices, and much more—something for everyone. On that note, I am actively accepting contribution abstracts for upcoming issues, so if this might be in your wheelhouse, please reach out to me any time with an article proposal.


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


2021 National Biomass Summit


JULY 13-15, 2021

Iowa Event Center, Des Moines, Iowa


2021 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo


2021 National Biomass Summit & Expo


Air Burners, Inc.


Airoflex Equipment




Cleveland Vibrator Company


Delta Energy Services, LLC


Detroit Stoker Company


Digester Doc


Harry Davis & Company


Hermann Sewerin GmbH


IEP Technologies


IHI Power Services Corp.


KEITH Manufacturing Company


Kenco Engineering Inc.


Mid-South Engineering Company




REBL-Refractories Evaluations Lab LTD.


Uzelac Industries

Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this sister event to the renowned International Biomass Conference & Expo will bring U.S. producers of bioenergy and biobased fuels together with waste generators and biomass aggregators, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. Supported by the attendance of nearly 2,000 industry professionals at Bioenergy Week, the Summit is a can’t-miss summer networking junction for all biomass professionals. 866.746.8385 | NationalBiomasslSummit.com

2021 Int'l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JULY 13-15, 2021

Iowa Event Center, Des Moines, Iowa From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies. 866.746.8385 | FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

2021 Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit JULY 13-15, 2021

Iowa Event Center, Des Moines, Iowa The Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit is a forum designed for biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to learn about cutting-edge process technologies, new techniques and equipment to optimize existing production, and efficiencies to save money while increasing throughput and fuel quality. Produced by Biodiesel Magazine, this world-class event features premium content from technology providers, equipment vendors, consultants, engineers and producers to advance discussion and foster an environment of collaboration and networking through engaging presentations, fruitful discussion and compelling exhibitions with one purpose, to further the biomass-based diesel sector beyond its current limitations. 866.746.8385 | BiodieselSummit.com

Please check our website for upcoming webinars


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

COPYRIGHT © 2021 by BBI International


How to Talk Biomass to Politicians BY JEREMY KALIN

Almost unbelievably, it has been 18 years since I first jumped headfirst into the deep waters of electoral politics. I’ve run for office three times, served two terms as state representative and chaired a White House clean energy and climate task force. I’ve learned a few things about engaging politicians in everything from geeky energy efficiency policy to tangible solar and biomass projects. A few tidbits of my hard-won knowledge include the following. Relationships are the currency of politics. Elected officials operate on relationships. Some politicians deserve the cynic view that relationships are only used transactionally, whether for policy wins, reelection endorsements or campaign donations. In my experience, however, nearly every politician is in office to make a difference, and because they enjoy helping people. Most are very receptive to outreach from experts, especially from constituents or someone with a common interest. It’s worthwhile asking to connect over coffee, just to share your experience in biomass, renewable energy, engineering or whatever you think you have to share. Like most relationships, it’s a long-game focus on building connections first; pushing an agenda can come later. Elected officials are rarely experts themselves. Nearly every level of government faces diverse challenges from operating utilities to maintaining bond ratings and protecting constitutional rights. In most cases, even with fulltime staff support, elected officials are playing catch-up to substantive professionals. Most politicians and staff are hungry learners, eager to build their network of subject matter pros. Literally hundreds of thousands of American elected officials are part-timers—for example, 40 states have only part-time legislatures. No doubt, you are a biomass expert, regardless of your years or decades in the field. Biomass projects require complex system integration from feedstock and transportation to thermal and power issues. On the finance and legal front, we help manage utility agreements, site leases, permitting, tax credits and much more. Make yourself available as a resource and a sounding board to your local politicians. It could be fun—and fruitful. Nearly every politician wants to be reelected. The vast majority of politicians want to be reelected. Who wants to lose at any competition, especially one so public? Incumbents win reelection between 85 and 98% of the time. Reelection typically requires incumbents showing their integrity,


value and commitment to public service. In short, they want to look good, because looking good very likely means winning. As a biomass expert, you can help them look good. If they meet with you and listen, tell your neighbors. If they help make a project happen, tell your neighbors. And if they stand in the way? Well, you probably know what to do, too. You can’t spell biomass without “win-win.” Okay, that’s not true. But biomass and bioenergy projects are about as “win-win-win” as any solution. Landfill diversion? Check. Reduce loaded miles of waste? Check. Renewable power or low-carbon fuel? Check. Methane capture? Check. Politicians love solving multiple problems at the same time, and even more so when it comes to economic development projects. Almost everywhere, Democrats and Republicans fall over themselves to show they can work together if it means supporting a project that provides jobs with good wages, while also good for the environment. Simple terms. Easy words. I’m a lawyer, and I like words. Sometimes, I like big words. And sometimes, only a specific big word can capture an idea. But most of the time, I try to say we are “putting less junk in the air” rather than reducing emissions. “Food waste” or “waste oil from french fries” is easier to understand than “organic feedstock.” And specific images make it easier to understand, especially if you are a part-time county commissioner who just answered three emails from your day job before dashing over to your coffee meeting (or joining your Zoom room, these days). If you can’t explain an idea to a fourth-grader, it’s probably not simple enough yet. Always tell the truth. Finally, back to the relationship idea. Good relationships are built on trust. And trust is built on telling the truth. You can have impact. By building relationships, telling the truth, keeping biomass simple and helping politicians look good and get smarter, you can make the path to success for your biomass projects and technology much smoother. And maybe, you can somehow help me learn to spell biomass with “win-win.” Contract: Jeremy Kalin Impact Counsel, Avisen Legal jkalin@avisenlegal.com 612-584-3400

Increasing Plant Efficiency with NIR Moisture Measuring BY ADRIAN FORDHAM

Minimizing cost and increasing efficiency: both manufacturers and producers have this forefront of their agenda, especially in today’s economy. Knowing where improvements can be made and implementing increasingly lean operating procedures creates immediate process line results. Moisture and wood fuel biomass are vital to each other for minimizing cost, proper operation of biomass boilers and genuine fuel load assessment. Near-infrared (NIR) technology is a great noncontact way to measure moisture content, as well as improve the product and overall efficiency of the plant. Moisture control becomes crucial in wood and biomass products, as excess moisture has impacts that not only affect the product but also the equipment, energy usage, production efficiency downtime and more. Wood fuel boilers are optimally designed to operate with fuel of a limited moisture range content. Fuel outside of the tolerated moisture range of the boiler can lead to multiple inefficiencies, increased emissions and even control system error. Knowing and maintaining the moisture content is essential to production efficiency and provides multiple immediate benefits. Minimizing cost is a top priority for producers, and thoroughly evaluating methods of reducing waste can reduce wasted efforts, wasted product and wasted energy. Introducing lean manufacturing principles can allow the operating personnel to hone-in on best practices and top product quality. With implemented moisture monitoring, processing and manufacturing, plants can save significantly in little time. Wood fuel is purchased based off weight, which is very susceptible to moisture changes, making it critical in product energy savings. High moisture content of incoming fuel results in overpaying for wood fuel, as well as increased energy for dryer operation. Moisture control technology in pellet plant operations is a crucial component of proactive avoidance of quality control issues. Overdrying a product can cause a dusty, ambient environment, and potentially, a fire. Moisture control systems not only provide immediate cost savings and product quality, but positively impact the safety of the plant as well. Pellet plants often see dry conditions that can create sparks and other fire-causing issues; implementing a system to measure moisture in multiple points of the production process can greatly reduce this risk. Dry products create avoidable risk, as do products that are too wet. The pelletizer requires a tolerated moisture range to ensure the proper efficiency of the machine. Excess moisture can cause the pelletizer to malfunction, resulting in sig-

nificant product loss and downtime on the production line. Moisture control provides immediate results in reduced transportation costs stemming from excess water, less wear and tear on equipment from ash and dust buildup, and prevents blockages on the conveyor that could require a boiler shutdown. When it comes to challenges faced by plant operators, moisture detection and control are crucial steps. If there is no current method of moisture measurement in the production process, a big opportunity for increased efficiencies is being missed. Installing NIR moisture sensors throughout the process makes consistent moisture measurement easily achievable. Proactive, immediate adjustments are made to ensure optimal manufacturing by line personnel while monitoring the process anywhere in the facility. Each phase of the manufacturing process runs more efficiently with accurate moisture content. Identifying and using the best methods can lessen common problems, including warping, claims, checks and excessive transportation costs.

Why Near-Infrared?

Multiple moisture detection methods exist for industrial processing but not all technology is created the same. Radio frequency, weight loss and probe methods involve various factors for consideration, as they can sometimes provide more of an educated guess than a reliable measurement that can be repeated. NIR technology is different than others, as it does not require contact with the product at all—in fact, it is measured approximately 4 to 12 inches away from the product. Very simply, NIR spectroscopy and imaging provide fast, nondestructive analysis of the chemical and physical information in the product. When light hits a product, it interacts in various ways—transmitted light will pass through, while backscattered light will reflect from the product back to the sensor. Absorption is key to the NIR analysis. With implementing an NIR moisture sensor, wood and wood fuel product manufacturers can adjust moisture levels on real-time information, lowering raw material and fuel costs while achieving yields and more uniform products. NIR offers clear advantages over the traditional methods, the most important being ease-of-use, elimination of hazardous chemicals and increased efficiency of product testing. Contract: Adrian Fordham President, MoistTech Corp. afordham@moisttech.com www.moisttech.com


A Game Changer for Financing Clean Energy Projects BY MARK RIEDY

The Alternative Fuels & Chemicals Coalition, along with its general counsel, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, worked closely with policymakers and appropriators this year to provide key changes to the U.S. DOE Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, which were included in Section 9010 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, enacted on Dec. 27 by former President Trump. The Title XVII Program has the authority to disperse up to approximately $25.5 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects such as biofuels, renewable chemicals, biobased products, advanced fossil energy and chemicals, carbon capture and storage technologies, renewable power and nuclear energy. It focuses on providing the hard-to-find financing to commercialize innovative, first-of-a-kind technologies. The program was authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to support the deployment of large projects that avoid, reduce or sequester planet-warming emissions. In the 2009 Recovery Act, Congress temporarily expanded the program. Despite being well funded, the significant high costs of multiple borrower fees from application submission to financial closing in the Title XVII Program for Phase 1 and Phase 2, along with the excessive timeframe to financial closing, have been enormous deterrents for technology innovators and project developers, especially those in the early development stages of new technologies. AFCC and many of the Title XVII Program advocates felt there was a need to reform the Title XVII Program to make it accessible for a greater number of project developers by removing or reducing several applicant borrower fees payable to the government, moving any fees to financial closing and compressing the time to reach it. As AFCC stated in its fiscal year 2021 appropriation request to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, doing so would “enable more companies with innovative technologies to participate in the Title XVII Program’s loan guarantees.” To broaden participation, AFCC proposed that Congress “remove the cost and time barriers that prevent many small businesses from participating in the program,” by directing DOE to take action regarding the aforementioned borrower fee and financial closing barriers. Section 9010 of the Energy Act of 2020 represents the Title XVII Program changes, which amend and reform its Renewable Energy, Advanced Fossil Energy and Nuclear Energy subprograms. These changes include deferring 8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2, 2021

the collection of, or possibly reducing, multiple borrower fees, including credit subsidy payments and other government-initiated, third-party vendor underwriting expenses, from applicant borrowers until at least financial closing, compressing time to financial closing and expanding project eligibility. It also provides the possibility to borrowers to recover their borrower fees from loan proceeds, or potentially include them as project equity, and adds provisions regarding analysis by the secretary of the treasury, application status, outreach, coordination and reports to Congress. Section 9010 authorizes funding from fiscal year 2021‘25 for administrative and other expenses in the amount of $32 million for each fiscal year, and additional funding for FY 2021 in the amount of $25 million for administrative expenses to reduce borrower fees payable to DOE. The last new project approved under the Title XVII Program occurred in late 2016, a loan to a carbon capture and storage plant in Louisiana, which still awaits financial closing. The Trump administration had one financial closing for a nuclear reactor project in Georgia in 2019 (its second such closing in order to offset additional project costs), but the process began under the Obama administration where its initial loan was financially closed. In fact, the enactment of Section 9010 represents the most significant restructuring of a federal government funding program in U.S. history. It opens the door by freeing up otherwise stranded government funding to provide technology project developers the necessary federally guaranteed loans to successfully finance their first commercial energy and chemical projects. Such projects are the most difficult to finance. The DOE Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program represents one of the very few avenues to achieve such success and is accepting applications under these new statutory revisions. It stands to become the first comprehensive modernization of our nation’s energy policies in 13 years. As U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said, the Energy Act represents the first modernization of our nation’s energy policies in well over a decade, and will foster innovation across the board on a range of technologies that are critical to our energy and national security, our long-term economic competitiveness, and the protection of our environment. Contract: Mark Riedy Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP mriedy@kilpatricktownsend.com 202-508-5823


March 16:17, 2021


AGRA Industries, Inc. Alabama Power Test Lab Amandus Kahl USA Corp. Andritz Feed & Biofuel Babcock & Wilcox Bandit Industries, Inc. Benetech Biomass Magazine Bliss Industries, LLC Brightmark BRUKS SIWERTELL Clextral, Inc.



Crestmark CSE Bliss Manufacturing CV Technology, Inc. D3MAX, LLC DMT Clear Gas Solutions Geostock Sandia, LLC Hallam-ICS Hallco Industries, Inc. Hurst Boiler & Welding Co., Inc. IEP Technologies Interra Global Corporation Kalenborn Abresist


KEITH Manufacturing Co. KESCO, Inc. KraftPowercon Morbark, LLC RUF Briquetting Systems Schaeffer Manufacturing Company Shred-Tech Corporation SHW Storage & Handling Solutions Inc. Thomas & Muller Systems, Ltd. Warren & Baerg Manufacturing, Inc.



American Biogas Council Board re-elects officers, names fastestgrowing companies

Musser Biomass, Wood Products, bring online first US Dryer One installation

Musser Biomass and Wood Products LLC will bring online the first dryer in the U.S. from Belgium company Dryer One. President Ed Musser announced the opening of the new dryer and stated it will establish the Virginia company as one of the largest producers of dry wood fiber in the region. Musser Biomass and Wood Products is a sister company to Musser Lumber Co. The company plans to work in conjunction with its strong base of lumber mills to produce the most ecofriendly and consistent dry wood fiber on the market.

In late March, the American Biogas Council board of directors announced the re-election of its officers, including incumbent Chair Bernard Sheff of Montrose Environmental Group, who was elected to a fourth term. In addition to Sheff, re-elected members include: Bryan Sievers of Sievers Family Farms/AgriReNew and Randy Beck of Waste Management as co-vice chairs, Melissa VanOrnum of DVO Inc. as treasurer, Craig Frear of Regenis as secretary, and Patrick Serfass as executive director. Earlier in the month, ABC named the fastest-growing biogas companies in the U.S. as DMT, DVO Inc., Envitec Biogas, Evonik, Greenlane Biogas, Nacelle, Paques Environmental Technologies and PlanET Biogas. Results were determined by gross revenue growth from 2019 to 2020. Collectively, revenue from these companies grew by more than 300 percent.

Mendota California

Schlumberger, Chevron, Microsoft plan BECCS project in California

Schlumberger New Energy, Chevron Corp., Microsoft and Clean Energy Systems are developing a bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) project designed to produce carbon negative power in Mendota, California. The BECCS plant will convert agricultural waste biomass such as almond trees into electricity. More than 99% of the carbon from the process is expected to be captured for permanent storage by injecting carbon dioxide underground into nearby

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Amp Americas brings Minnesota RNG project online

Amp Americas, a renewable transportation fuel company, announced that its fourth biogas facility producing renewable natural gas (RNG) from dairy waste is operational and delivering RNG into the Alliance natural gas pipeline for use as transportation fuel. Located in Morris, Minnesota, near the state’s western border, the new plant is Amp Americas’ largest dairy RNG project to date and the state’s first on-farm biogas-to-vehicle fuel facility. With this project, Amp Americas has now developed dairy RNG production on 12 dairies with over 66,000 cows. Working with Riverview LLP, a dairy operation based in Minnesota, the project utilizes 700,000 gallons of manure per day from three different sites. Along with two RNG projects in Indiana and another in Arizona, Amp Americas is now operating four of the largest dairy biogas-to-transportation fuel projects in the U.S., producing a total of over 10 million gallons of RNG annually.

deep geologic formations. The companies involved expect to begin front-end engineering and design immediately, leading to a final investment decision in 2022.

Dansons to open grilling pellet mill in Arkansas

Dansons USA announced it will open the country’s largest barbecue wood pellet mill and distribution center in Hope, Arkansas. The facility, which is approximately 335,000 square feet and sits on 143 acres, will initially start with three pelletizers and a 100,000-ton capacity, but has the infrastructure for eventual expansion to 300,000 tons and nine pelletizers. The site will also serve as a distribution center for wood pellets and wood pellet barbecue grills.

Xebec appoints Driel to lead hydrogen group

Xebec Adsorption Inc., a global provider of clean energy solutions for renewable and low-carbon gases, announced in February that Marinus Van Driel, who joined Xebec through its recent acquisition of HyGear, has been appointed as the new president of Xebec’s global hydrogen group, in addition to his role as president for Xebec Europe.

BP, Aria energy announce California dairy RNG project

BP and Aria Energy announced in March that the companies will team for a project to capture methane from waste at three California dairy farms and process it into renewable natural gas (RNG), to be used as fuel in the U.S. transportation sector. The project, called RNG Moovers, combines the expertise of BP, Aria and digester constructor and operator Aligned Digesters. BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 11


Technological Innovation

From software to boiler cleaning, evolving technologies and associated expertise are enabling new and aging plants to improve reliability and optimize plant operations. BY ANNA SIMET



vast majority of biomass and waste-to-energy plants in service today—particularly in the U.S.—were built many decades ago, largely from the 1970s to the 1990s. Though many of them still have plenty of operating years left, some of the technologies deployed at these facilities need upgrading or replacement. For plants already equipped with modern control systems, hardware and software, O&M advancements are making troubleshooting, maintenance and repair work more efficient and effective, extending equipment lifespan and maximizing system output.

From Symptom to Diagnosis

When it comes to optimal biomass plant performance and combustion, RJM International takes a holistic approach, according to Larry Berg, vice president of engineering. “This means we take the entire plant performance into account, because oftentimes, our experience has been that problems or symptoms in one part of the plant can seem unrelated to the actual problem being seen,” he says. “We always try to understand each plant and its unique operating characteristics—you need to do that in order to determine the root cause of any real problem.” Berg refers to RJM as a small company of experts on all aspects of plant performance. “We diagnose problems, design solutions, fabricate hardware, install, commission and optimize,” he says. We all get our hands dirty and go out to make things work. Many large companies have lots of us, but rarely di you get to interact with them.” When a plant experiencing a problem engages RJM, the first step is a combustion audit, Berg says, during which an on-site evaluation is performed to diagnose the problem. “We



¦O&M may not tell them what the problem is then, but we come up with a preliminary hypothesis of what the root cause is,” he says. “We use CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis to verify our diagnosis, and then develop process design to solve the problem, including hardware design, fabrication, installation and optimization in a given plant.” As for the challenges of biomass and municipal solid waste (MSW) fuels—including woody biomass, pellets, raw MSW and pelletized MSW—Berg says RJM has seen it all, including poor design, operator error, material handling problems, high emissions, poor reliability, inconsistent boiler output and ash deposition and sliding. “One project had massive boulders inside the combustion chamber,” he says. Berg emphasizes that any given issue can cause another issue downstream, so the root issue isn’t easily understood or obvious, even though the symptom is viewed as the problem. “For instance, you can have an unreliable fuel source—grate nonuniformity—


and at the end of the day, it causes CO, so a plant calls us to say it has CO problems.” There are many more examples of the root cause not being obvious, Berg says. For example, the root cause of lower furnace slag may be large particles recycling to the bed. The root cause of reduced generation might be poor fuel distribution. The root cause of high selective noncatalytic reduction costs might be an inefficient over-fired air system. The root cause of economizer fouling might be similar—but different—fuel. The root cause of boiler tube corrosion might be that the storage location is near salt. “It’s important to gain a thorough understanding of the operations of the plant, because the problem doesn’t necessarily tell you what the root cause is—finding it out takes a little more study, evaluation, diagnostic and time on-site,” Berg says. A specific example Berg gives is an instance in which RJM was tasked with solving performance-related issues at Energy Works Hull, a U.K. biomass power plant. One of

the issues the plant was experiencing was difficulty meeting generation capacity. RJM recommended a combustion audit and plant review, and subsequently determined that inconsistent fuel flow and limited throughput was causing the issues. “In other words, the feeders weren’t working properly,” Berg says. “We proposed feeder modifications— there was a choke point we were able to relieve—and we also proposed a unique variable pitch auger that allowed the feed to go more uniformly across the bed. The redesign increased throughput by 40 percent and improved stability, restoring the loss generation capacity.” As biomass fuel has some characteristics unique to traditional fossil fuels, thermal imaging advances have allowed operators to gain a clear picture of what’s happening in the boiler—for instance, Ametek Land’s mid-infrared borescope imager.

Seeing Through the Smoke

Thermal imaging is an extremely use-

ful tool for gaining insight into the combustion process in a biomass boiler, whether it be a sloping grate, fluidized bed or pulverized fuel, according to Derek Stuart, global product manager at Ametek Land. “Biomass fuels have some specific problems that don’t apply to more traditional materials like coal and oil,” he says. “They’re often fibrous and sticky, which makes them difficult to feed to the furnace. They tend to have low ash fusion temperature—the

tial issues while the asset is in service. Simply put, it works by detecting the infrared radiation emitted by a warm or hot object, Stuart says. “The intensity of the infrared radiation correlates with the temperature of the object,” he explains. “Conventional thermography uses the infrared image to show which parts are cool and Infrared borescope and isotherm views of the inside of a boiler combusting olive which are hot. Radiometric thermal waste. imaging takes things a step further, IMAGES: AMETEK LAND and allows the sensor to make accurate measurements of the temtemperature at which fly ash softens and perature at each point. This can be becomes sticky—making it adhere to the especially valuable if there are limits to heat transfer surfaces in the boiler.” the allowable temperatures of parts of the Some biomass fuels such as straw con- object being imaged—for example, if the tain large amounts of chlorine, potassium steam tubes in a boiler can be damaged by and sulfur, which can lead to deposits on getting too hot.” the heat transfer surface causing efficienNonthermal imaging—i.e., using viscy reductions, and often, severe corrosion, ible images—is typically dominated by Stuart says. flames, making it difficult to see what’s goThermal imaging allows a view into ing on through the smoke and dust. The the boiler to observe any of these poten- IR image, however, uses special filtering to

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The Shock Pulse Generator is an online boiler cleaning device that generates automated shock pulses by burning gas mixtures under pressure. PHOTO: KEPS SPG INC.

reduce those observations. Ametek’s MWIR-b Imager has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and is available in two temperature-measuring ranges, with one covering from 500 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and the other from 932 to 3,272 F. Lengths are available in one, two and three feet, with automatic retraction functions if purge air or cooling water are lost. Stuart points to a real world example of thermal imaging solving a biomass plant boiler issue: a plant combusting olive pulp, the leftover material after oil is pressed out. “It looks a lot like sawdust and has a sticky texture,” he says. “The boiler is 15 MW and has two grates with two feed chutes. Fuel is fed into the boiler every 45 seconds with the feed alternating through the two chutes.” The boiler operator was having problems feeding fuel evenly, experiencing blockages. With thermal imaging, operators were able to see inside of the boiler and observe that the fuel was hotter on the left side of the boiler and cooler on the right side, Stuart says. “One of the key features of any thermal imaging system is the image processing software that allows information extraction. We can emphasize different aspects of the data and choose appropriate areas of interest, using isotherms to highlight areas of hot and cold temperatures.” The imager allowed a view of a large portion of the boiler interior with little interference from smoke and flames, including the fuel flow in the grate. “We were able to measure temperatures in different parts of the furnace and highlight different areas of hot and cool temperature,” Stuart adds. “And all of this done with minimal interference to the boiler’s operation.” As for boiler cleaning, KEPS SPG Inc.’s shock pulse generators are an ideal nondestructive option for boilers experiencing buildup and needing a simple solution that can be performed while the plant is online. Mitchell Pezzi, president, says there are 700 units installed worldwide, with about 12 percent at biomass plants, and 70 percent at waste-to-energy plants in Europe and the Far East. 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2, 2021

Shock Pulse Generators for Effective Boiler Cleaning

Plant operators deal with many things to achieve their ultimate goal of optimizing combustion and boiler efficiency, Pezzi says. “There are some hindrances that can prevent that. In the boiler, slag buildup can be a very detrimental to boiler efficiency. When it comes to clinkers and slag, the concern is that clinker will build up and fall, damaging the tubes at the bottom or the grates. Poor thermal transfer in general is also an issue. We want to keep the boiler tubes as clean as possible, because as we coat those tubes, the thermal transfer is dramatically reduced.” Sootblower erosion—caused by mechanical removal of material over time—is another potential issue that causes tube leaks. Pezzi says that shock pulse generator technology can effectively solve these issues without causing any potential damage to assets. These systems work by sending automatic, directed shocks or pulse waves derived from the controlled combustion of oxygen and methane, out of a valve and Venturi nozzle into the boiler. “In essence, what we’re doing is combusting oxygen and methane under pressure to create a high-pressure wave that cleans the boiler tubes,” Pezzi explains. “This pressure wave—the high peak is above atmospheric pressure—is followed by negative pressure back toward the source. We are trying to break that boundary area between the ash and the boiler tube. We’re not blowing it off or pushing it off—we want the pulse wave to fracture that ash. The wave travels in one direction and fractures it, and then comes back in the other direction and BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 17

¦O&M fractures it the secondary way. The key to this is that as we’re doing this, we’re moving the air to create a turbulent zone to bounce from tube to tube or wall to wall. The added part is that we get 360-degree cleaning.” The shock pulse generator is mounted to the outside of the boiler wall and is suspended by a hanger. “It’s a very straightforward, compact system,” Pezzi adds. “We wanted to ensure effective boiler cleaning, and not only do these devices clean deep and penetrate further than traditional methods, a single unit cleans a much larger area and there is no collateral damage—no air, steam or water, no nozzle, jet tube or tube damage.” As for inside of the plant, many facilities built decades ago have or will soon need control system overhauls for a number of reasons, and there are a couple of ways to approach it, according to Shawn

Coughlan, vice president of Applied Control Engineering.

Retrofits for Aging Control Systems

Drivers for control system retrofits are numerous and include hardware and software obsolescence, technical issues and improved operational characteristics, says Coughlan. “Many control systems in biomass plants were installed in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and have reached the end of their lives. The hardware cannot be repaired, principally because the components on the boards are no longer available—the resistors, capacitors, etcetera—cannot be purchased. The vendors are unable to manufacture or repair older control systems, and a lot of owners have resorted to buying spare parts off eBay.” As for technological drivers, processing power has exploded over the years, as




well as Ethernet, or connectivity in all components. The control systems built back then had dedicated, custom-built networks and data highway communications, Coughlan says, but today, all of that has been replaced by a standard Ethernet cable, enabling control systems from different platforms to connect.” Wireless technology has allowed operators to gather much more data from tanks, vessels and other equipment, without the need for extensive wiring. Cellphone processing power has increased immensely, allowing operators to connect to the control system and control it on their phones, Coughlan says. Security concerns have also changed over the past 20 years, with virus and intrusion protection necessitating new hardware and software platforms. “Older systems can’t be patched, as their operating systems are no longer being maintained,” Coughlan says. “There’s a notion that systems not connected to the internet—i.e., air-gapped—are safe from intrusions, but that’s not the case. At many of these sites, the technicians, engineers and operators bring laptops and connect to the system or plug into USB ports.” There is also an increased focus on process safety, and analysis of machine learning has allowed operators to predict equipment failure, rather than wait for catastrophic failure, Coughlan says. Finally, he adds, data integrity in the older systems isn’t well maintained, and new systems are greatly improved. “The traceability, storage and backing up of that data isn’t up to today’s standards. The need for data analytics and dashboarding, providing KPIs (key performance indicators) to the operator, supervisor and plant management—those needs are driving changes in the operating platform, requiring more data to be brought in. Many of the old systems can’t handle that influx of data.” Coughlan outlines three technical approaches to DCS retrofits—console

replacement, logic solver replacement, and I/O module replacement. Console replacement is the most frequently performed approach, principally driven by aging computers, the spare parts of which are extremely tough to come by for many systems, Coughlan says. This is either because the operating systems are not being updated or that the manufacturer has discontinued them and no longer provides support. “Much of the support for these systems comes from system integrators or retired personnel,” he says. “When a console replacement is executed, it may be a same-vendor upgrade with a straightforward migration path,” he says. “If you switch to a different vendor, you might have to convert graphics from vendor A to B. Fortunately, the console replacement cutover is very simple and can be done with no downtime.” Logic solver replacement can be done with or without replacing the I/O (input/output) modules. “As with the console replacement, the same or different vendor can be used. The same vendor can usually import the configuration from old system into the new, and will probably get about 90% of the logic without any changes. With a different vendor, you may still be able to import or convert the data, or you may need to reprogram and also replace the I/O. Coughlan notes that when replacing the logic solver, if the old system configuration is imported, it will bring along with it the old code and all its associated problems. “If you reprogram it, you’ll need a good definition of what’s existing and you may need to reverse engineer, which takes a lot of time,” he says. “You may not have anybody at plant who knows how to do it, so the systems integrator might need to spend a lot of time to decode it.” While reprogramming takes time, plants achieve the benefits of cleaning up their logic, and a fully documented system. “You’ll fix those nagging logic

issues, and you’ll get to use the best languages available today for your programming needs,” Coughlan says. I/O module replacement may be the most time-consuming part of the installation, according to Coughlan, due to rewiring requirements “Sometimes, we can provide you with an adaptive cable so you don’t have to rewire every point, but you’ll need to match I/O types and I/O counts to make this a seamless transfer. Any time you do I/O changes, you need to do loop checks. If you touch every wire, you’ll need to a loop check on every point. If you use adaptable cable, however, you can get away with testing one or two points on a cable.” Control system retrofits or replacements can be done using one of two approaches—phased or all at once, which Coughlan refers to as “rip and replace.” Phased implementation has the benefit of

spreading it out over time, he says. “The consult, logic solver and then I/O replacement enables cost spread out over several years, and allows you to work within the shutdowns you have.” Plants can expect a one- to five-year implementation plan for control system replacement processes, Coughlan adds. “There are a lot of technical challenges to both the all-at-once or rip-and-replace approach, so you will need to spend the time, and dedicate the manpower of O&M personnel along with the engineering staff, to achieve the goal.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Biomass Magazine asimet@bbiinternational.com 701-738-4961




Flameless Venting






Headquartered in Zarafoza, Spain, Prodesa acts as an industrial plant contractor, providing services ranging from project development, design and construction, to operations, maintenance and upgrading of industrial and domestic wood pellet plants. PHOTO:



rodesa has become an increasingly known name in the growing global wood pellet market, not only for executing projects from blueprint to nameplate capacity, but offering specialized operations and maintenance services unique to the industry. Forcus Martinez, an Alpharetta, Georgia-based Prodesa sales manager with 13 years of experience that includes participation in hundreds of pellet plant projects around the world, shares some perspective on O&M, personnel training and hitting production targets.

PMM: What is Prodesa’s role in the wood pellet industry?

FM: Prodesa is an engineering and manufacturing company that supplies wood pellet plants to our customers using a turnkey approach. We cover the full spectrum of the cycle—we’re normally engaged in the first stage of engineering, and then we work with the client throughout the process, defining the plant configuration, learning about the Forcus Martinez raw material and its characteristics like it’s hardwood or softwood, whether the pellets will be shipped—all aspects of the project—and we use all of that information in the engineering process. When the customer is ready to kick off construction, we take care of that also—we build the plant, we go through the startup with our team, perform commissioning, and once we finish, there is a ramp-up process during which we reach nominal capacity. That’s typically when we transfer to the client.

PMM: What kind of expertise does Prodesa and its personnel have?

FM: We have been in the business for many years, and we are solely focused on pellet plants— that’s what we do, no other products. From our experience building many plants in the U.S., Canada and around the world, we have worked with many different raw materials and wood species in many different temperatures, which is very relevant—for example, Canada is cold, quite different than in the U.S. Southeast—and so we know that every project has totally different particularities. We’ve developed a very good understanding of what goes on in the pelleting process—for example, the raw material as it evolves and changes throughout the pelleting process—and our people have extensive knowledge of not only the equipment itself, but what happens in each stage of the process. This is very important when making pellets.

PMM: Prodesa offers pellet facilities operations and maintenance contracts—for those that your company built, and for those it did not. How did Prodesa pivot to providing that service, and how can facilities benefit?

FM: Some years ago, we realized that when we delivered the plant to customers, it wasn’t uncommon that a team wasn’t quite ready to take care of the plant. Some like to hire locally, and in those cases, their people often don’t have the expertise. A lot of times, we would be asked to stay for some time and ensure production continued at nominal capacity, for many different reasons. After internal discussions, we decided to offer O&M contracts, which provided an opportunity for us and our customers to work together for a long period of time to ensure sustained nominal capacity of the plant. And so that was the beginning of this type of contract, which we have been doing for the better part of the past decade. Depending on the customer profile, they might want us there for support for three or four months, or even a year, having their own people and staff operating the plant, with ours playing more of an operations and maintenance supervising role to ensure things are going as they should. The client’s supervisors are being trained, but still doing the work. We have another option in which we have more intervention in operating the plant, and with this, we could be supplying the staff.

What are some of the most common reasons a pellet plant sees poor operational performance?

FM: This is a good question, but the answer is broad because it depends on what type of plant we’re talking about—first whether it’s a new plant or an old plant. There could be many different things preventing a plant from reaching nominal capacity from day one. It might be because of the process design—poorly done or not optimized—or it could be an equipment issue. There have been cases in the industry where new, large-scale plants have had to make major changes in equipment because they couldn’t reach nominal capacity. And it could also be raw material. You want to start building supply chains for raw material from day one to ensure its stable, and its quality is important. Another reason might be related to logistics, something preventing the plant from being able to get its pellets to the market. And finally, very relevant is the training of the people. If they aren’t well trained from the beginning, it could cause big problems when you get into operation, especially with new plants.



With older plants, we tend to see more operational performance issues, and a lot of times it’s because of poor maintenance or attempts to save money, causing the plant to lose capabilities that it had at the beginning. We see this more at plants that have been in business for six, seven or 10 years, when they ask us to come on-site and do an inspection. We’ll find that things have sometimes not been maintained properly, and other times, the design was not optimum from the beginning. It really depends on the plant.

Plant Capacity and Effects on Payback Over Time

In the case study pictured along with this interview, you outline some different scenarios in terms of reaching capacity and payback. What’s the most common scenario?

FM: This is often influenced by what type of company it is—whether it’s the first plant that it has built or if it has built many, and again, whether or not the team is well-trained or experienced people hired. If you are able to hire a good plant manager, sometimes that can totally change the situation. Normally, unless you get into an O&M


Based on plant capacity of 170,000 metric tons (MT) per year and raw material price of $45/MT 10,0 years 9,0 years 8,0 years 7,0 years 6,0 years 5,0 years 4,0 years

100% S1

75-100% S2

50-100% S3

50-75-100% S4

25-50-75-100% S5

agreement, you’re not going to hit 100 percent of capacity consistently in the first year. That’s a reality. There are some cases in the industry where big plants, after a few years, have announced they finally reached nominal capacity, and it’s a big deal. Having a plant reach nominal capacity after four years is something we see a lot. The last of the simulations, reaching 25 percent the

Scenario #1 100% of capacity is

achieved during year one.

Scenario #2 75% of the nameplate

capacity is achieved in year one, and during year two the plant reaches 100%.

Scenario #3 50% of the nameplate

capacity is achieved in year one, and 100% in year two.

Scenario #4 50% of nameplate capacity is achieved in year one, 75% in year two and 100% in year three.

Scenario #5 25% of nameplate capacity

is achieved in year one, 50% in year two, 75% in year three and 100% in year four.

first year, that isn’t so common—it means the plant design is bad, and it’s not something you normally see. The supplier likely hasn’t done the work properly.

So when it comes to training plant operators and personnel, what do you see as the biggest learning curve?

FM: To transfer the information, and effectively demonstrate and instill an understanding that pelleting is not just operating one equipment component after the other. Just because you know how to operate a pellet mill doesn’t mean you know how to produce pellets. The dryer, the hammer mill, these are very important, but only parts of it. There should be an understanding of what goes on throughout the process, and the raw material and its evolution. So while you might know very well how a pellet mill is

run and all the details of it, if your raw material arrives with high moisture or larger particle size than required, you still won’t be able to produce quality pellets. So again, you can learn about a pellet mill or hammer mill, but understanding the process takes time, experience and, at the plant, having conversations with everyone involved from maintenance people to wood yard operators and logistics. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts in how you operate and maintain your plant. Trying to save money by expanding the lifetime of a component longer than you should, especially dies and rollers, goes against your plant performance. At first it seems like a savings, but in the long run, it’s not. Author: Anna Simet Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961 asimet@bbiinternational.com






Peanut Shells to Power

Prodeman’s 10-MW power plant in Cordoba, Argentina, is fueled by peanut shells. BY HOLGER STREETZ


rgentina produces 1 million tons of peanuts on 1.2 million hectares (ha) (4,633 square miles), rotating use of the fields for peanut production every fourth year. The harvest of Argentina’s peanut fields largely depends on the amount of rainfall. On average, the yield is three tons per ha. Producing nearly 90%, Cordoba is the hotspot of Argentinian peanut production. In the heart of peanut plain, Prodeman, a vertically integrated peanut producer, built an electric power plant that generates 70 gigawatt-hours of electric power annually. I was able to interview Jorge Rubén Ciravegna, the engineer behind Prodeman’s 10-MW renewable power plant, which is solely burning agricultural waste from peanut production.

Energy Dense

The fuel for Prodeman’s power plant is abundant. Each hectare of peanuts leads to 1.1 tons of peanut shells. One cubic meter of peanut shells weighs 300 kilograms (kg), or 18.7 pounds per square foot. Peanut shells have a high calorific value of 17,570 kg. One ton of peanut shells produces 1.25 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. Farmers used to be glad to get the hardly putrescible agricultural waste off their fields. Now, prices for peanut shells range around $35 per ton. Prodeman’s power plant operates 24/7 with raw material stock from leased land that is farmed with its own equipment. Since the company’s approach is to add as few additional energies as necessary, baling the peanut shells is the only treatment. This improves transportability and storing, as harvesting and power generation are delayed. Baling densifies the material by a factor of 3.5 and enables Prodeman to source from a larger radius, storing the material more efficiently. The plant burns peanut shells in a water tube boiler to produce high-pressure steam.

The steam turbine operates with 480 degrees Celsius at 67 bar pressure (900 degrees Fahrenheit at 972 psi) and a constant throughput of 40 tons/hour. The peanut shell consumption is 0.8 tons/MW, equating to up to 200 tons for daily consumption. The steam turbine is capable of producing 80,000 MWh of

electric energy annually, which is supplied to the national electric grid. To further increase its utilization ratio, Prodeman uses the ash resulting from peanut shell combustion to produce bricks. The project complies with the provisions of the 2015 Paris Agreement and allows greater sus-

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


tainability in environmental, economic and social aspects. From an environmental point of view, it responds to several problems at the same time: Unlike fossil fuels, when combusted, biomass does not create an increase in the net amount of greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels are concealed in the earth and affect the atmosphere when extracted and burned. Without the project, certain CO2 emissions from the clinker kiln would be unavoidable. The project represents an eco-efficient and cost-effective way to solve the problem of final disposal of peanut shells that would otherwise be waste.

Prodeman, an Argentinian peanut producer, built a biomass power plant to utilize its abundant waste as fuel. IMAGE: PRODEMAN

Argentina Funding for Renewable Energy Projects

Argentina has a variety of funding for renewable energies. Prodeman won the tender mainly because the fuel is an abundant waste product. The low additional process energy, short distances to consumers and low logistic costs added to the decision. The equipment mainly comes from national manufacturers. The steam turbine, however, is from Brazil. The typical investment range for waste-to-energy and renewable energy projects in Argentina ranges between $1.8 million and $2.5 million/MW. Biogas projects reach $4 million/MW. Prodeman’s power

plant cost $1.9 million USD/MW, thus ranging along the bottom. Prodeman’s electricity contract is publicly accessible—the company is selling electricity from renewable energies to the grid for $150/MWh. Prodeman’s business model has proven to be successful. The company sells the renewable energy to the Interconnected Energy System, administered by Cammesa S.A, under the national tender offer program for renewable energies (Renovar Ronda 2). The program stipulates the annual volumes fed into the national energy grid, as well as payment. The contract has a duration of 20 years.

nancing a renewable energies concept using peanut shells is Jorge Rubén Ciravegna. He is a mechanical and electrical engineer with 30 years of experience. He began his career in the early 90s, commissioning peanut processing plants. He later became CEO of the public utility company of the city of Deheza, followed by a decade of work in project development and as technical director for several Argentinian blue chip companies. Ciravegna planned and commissioned the power plant for Prodeman S.A.

Densification: Not at all Costs

Prodeman attempted to pelletize the peanut shells, but the issues were numerous. The shells lack lignin or other binders that could stabilize the pellet. Therefore, their transportability is very constrained. Additionally, there is excessive sand and other residue mixed with the shells, causing extreme wear on roller shells, leading to shell life below 200 hours. Other than baling, Prodeman has no process of which the energy needed to refine and prepare the peanut shells is worth the benefits. The utilization concept is ongoing, however, and many resources have been allocated to finding new utilizations for peanut shells.

A Jack-of-All-Trades

The man who won the tender for fi-

Author: Holger Streetz Chief Operating Officer, Bathan AG h.streetz@bathan.ch



MAIN OFFICE Greendale, WI 414.529.0240 KANSAS OFFICE Neodesha, KS 620.325.2269


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¦EMISSIONS Figure 1. Methane Generation Modeled Using Equation HH1

the larger the assigned fugitive emission. To demonstrate this, two landfills (landfill A and landfill B) are compared to one another.

1965 Population=300,000 S=1965 T=2019 MCF=1 DOC=0.2 DOCF=0.5 F=0.5 k=0.057 Cumulative Methane Generation — U.S. Population Growth


% Population Growth




1.0% 15,000

0.8% 0.6%


0.4% 5,000


0 2019





























Methane in Metric Tons


Landfill GHG Emissions vs. Measured Biogas Some of the regulatory frameworks for landfills are inefficient and outdated with respect to GHG emissions.



ore than 1,100 municipal landfills in the U.S. account for the third largest anthropogenic source of GHG emissions, according to the U.S. EPA, primarily due to methane emission from biogas. Methane is the main constituent of landfill biogas (approximately 50%), 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). The majority of landfill GHG emissions are due to fugitive area source emissions that are difficult to control. Therefore, it is imperative for the methane to be fully captured and converted into renewable energy, rather than contributing to the global warming effect through flaring or fugitive emissions. The EPA prescribes the use of the following equations to estimate annual methane emissions from landfill biogas: • Equation HH1 models how many metric tons of methane a landfill should be generating each year based on the annual tonnage of depositing refuse. • Equation HH4 measures how many metric tons of methane is recovered at a landfill based on landfill biogas volume and methane concentration.

• Equation HH6 estimates methane emission from a landfill when modeled methane (HH1) is greater than measured methane (HH4). • Equation HH8 estimates methane emission from a landfill when modeled methane (HH1) is less than measured methane (HH4). We create predictive mathematical models in attempt to come up with answers when we do not understand the laws of the intricate mother nature. Such is the case for equation HH1 that predicts how many methanogenic microbes generate methane under landfill’s anaerobic conditions. Considering that there are three times more microbes in our intestine compared to the 30 trillion cells in our bodies, one can only imagine how many microbes are residing in a landfill and why a direct measurement of methane generation by microbes is impractical. In the GHG emission estimate, the result of equation HH1 is used as a yardstick to compare with the result of equation HH4. Whether HH4 is greater or smaller than HH1, landfills are assigned fugitive emissions by the EPA using equations HH6 and HH8. The larger the difference between HH4 and HH1,

Modeled Methane Generation (HH1) vs. Measured Recovered Methane (HH4)

Both landfills A and B are assumed to be identical, each serving a city of 300,000 population since 1965, growing at a rate identical to that of the national average and producing an average of 2 kilograms of refuse per day per capita. Assuming all other parameters to be identical for the equation HH1, the modeled methane generation for both landfills A and B were estimated to be equal to 22,865 metric tons (MT) for the year 2019 (Figure 1). To demonstrate the impact of HH4 deviation from HH1 on methane emission estimates, the measured methane (HH4) for landfill A is assumed to be 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50% greater than the modeled methane (HH1), while the HH4 for landfill B is assumed to be 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% less than the HH1. HH4 equaling HH1 (0% change) is also considered for both landfills A and B.

Methane Emissions Using Equations HH6 and HH8

Additional assumptions were made to set landfills A and B in equal settings. Both are assumed to flare 20% of the recovered methane with flare destruction efficiency of 99%, while the remaining 80% of the landfill biogas was assumed to be converted to renewable energy. Both landfills A and B were assumed to have identical surface cover systems, including 0.8 hectares (approx. 2 acres) of daily soil cover, 16 hectares of intermediate soil cover, and 65 hectares of final cover system. The methane emission results using equations HH6 and HH8 are presented in Figure 2, and are as follows. • When HH4 is equal to HH1 for both landfills A and B, equation HH6 estimates approximately 47 MT of methane emissions to represent the flare emissions only; the fugitive emission is rendered to be zero. Equation HH8, in contrast, estimates approxi-

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


mately 1,571 MT of emission, accounting for both fugitive emission and for flare emission. • When HH4 is greater than HH1 for landfill A, equation HH6 estimates the same constant emission of approximately 47 MT to represent the flare emissions, regardless of landfill A’s 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% increase in HH4. It is likely for this reason that EPA would not allow the use of equation HH6 when HH4 is greater than HH1. However, equation HH8 estimates methane emission in proportion to landfill A’s 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% increase in HH4, that is 1,723 MT, 1,876 MT, 2,028 MT, 2,181 MT, and 2,333 MT, respectively. • When HH4 is less than HH1 for landfill B, equation HH8 estimates methane emission in proportion to landfill B’s 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% and 50% decrease in HH4 as compared with the HH1—that is 1,418 MT, 1,266 MT, 1,113 MT, 961 MT, and 808 MT, respectively. This seems contrary to common sense, as the less methane is recovered, the more methane is expected to be lost to fugitive emission. It is perhaps for this reason that the EPA would not allow the use of equation HH8 when HH4 is less than HH1. However, when HH4 is less than HH1 for landfill B, the more HH4 decreases as compared to HH1, with the disproportionally larger methane emission estimated by equation HH6. As landfill B’s HH4 decreases to 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50%

Figure 2. Fugitive Methane Emission from Landfill A and Landfill B CE=0.9069 OX=0.35 DE=0.99 fDest=1.0 fREC=1.0 [A3]=2 [A4]=40 [A5]=160 - - Landfill A (HH4 > HH1) Using HH6 - - Landfill B (HH4 < HH1) Using HH6

— Landfill A (HH4 > HH1) Using HH8 — Landfill B (HH4< HH1) Using HH8

Methane Emission in metric tons

8,000 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0







%Landfill A recovers more methane than predicted model %Landfill B recovers less methane than predicted model

of HH1, the HH8 methane emission increases from 1,532 MT to 3,018 MT, 4,504 MT, 5,991 MT and 7,477 MT, respectively. The EPA’s reliance on HH1 as an absolute yardstick is particularly punishing for progressive landfills that proactively install additional landfill biogas collection wells in a tighter space, or those that may improve landfill cover systems to more effectively recover methane than the model can predict. The agency has always been the harbinger of technology that can better protect public safety and the environment. However, some of the regulatory frameworks that hover over landfills are inefficient with respect to GHG emissions. One example is the requirement for

tedious surface emission monitoring for methane leaks. A combination of drone and laser technology is already in use for methane leak detection in the oil and gas industries. These flyover technologies are much easier and faster in identifying real-time methane leaks from the surface of a landfill. With these technologies already within reach, the EPA equations HH6 and HH8 can be utilized more realistically to estimate the actual measured emissions, rather than relying solely on modeled emissions. Contact: Toraj Ghofrani Civil Engineer, King County Solid Waste Division Toraj.ghofrani@kingcounty.gov 206-477-5221

YOUR SOLUTION FOR BULK MATERIAL HANDLING Pellets Woodchips Hemp 563-264-8066 | airoflex.com




Proportion under $15/hr



Figure 1.

Proportion of Logging Industry Jobs Earning Under $15 Per Hour by Occupation



40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Admin

Truck Drivers


Road Crews Woods Workers


FORISK Wood Fiber Review:

Delivered Fiber Prices, the Logging Industry and $15 Minimum Wage



Geographically, the effects of a federal minimum wage hike are not uniform. In the Pacific Northwest, far fewer employees earn under $15 per hour than in Appalachia or the South. The average payroll increase for a western logging business would be $1,200 per year while an average Appalachian logging business would add nearly $10,000 per year (Figure 2). Again, these costs would not be felt uniformly within a region. Larger, well-capitalized businesses with higher average pay rates would have few increases, while smaller businesses would likely need to raise pay for a greater proportion of their staff. While it is difficult to determine how the logging industry might react to the wage hike, the last recession showed woods

US$/green ton

n forestry, the iron goes to the resource—firms build mills near trees. But what kinds of mills get built and when? This depends on consumer demand and the health of the economy. For mills to manufacture the building, paper and bioenergy products demanded by consumers, a functioning wood supply chain is needed—a steady, localized harvest and delivery of logs. This link in the supply chain relies on tens of thousands of hardworking loggers and truck drivers around the country. Recent proposals suggested raising the $7.25 federal minimum wage, which has not been changed since 2009, to $15 an hour. The impacts of such an increase on the supply chain and, ultimately, fiber prices vary by region. Nationally, the median hourly wage of logging busi50 ness employees was $20.46 in 2019. While logging jobs 45 are often associated with the men and women harvest40 ing the trees and delivering them to mills, there are many 35 other critical support jobs in the industry. It is these jobs 30 that are among the lowest paid (Figure 1). Of the 10,000 jobs in logging businesses earning less than $15 per hour, 25 roughly 7,000 are in-woods workers (equipment opera20 tors, timber fallers, etc.) or truck drivers. The remaining 15 3,000 are in other roles. Nearly half of the administrative 10 and office support jobs in logging earn less than $15 per 5 hour. Around 20% of the repair and maintenance staff, as 0 well as road-building crews, are also under the threshold.

Southeast Northeast South Central Lake States Northwest

Figure 2.

Average Payroll Increase Per Logging Business and Employee by Region SOURCE: FORISK CONSULTING











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



Authors: Shawn Baker, Andrew Copley Forisk Consulting LLC 770-725-8477 acopley@forisk.com


workers and truck drivers were least likely to lose their roles during financial crises. Loggers are more likely to fund higher wages by either cutting support jobs or raising their contracted rates. If the industry was to shoulder higher costs without cutting any staff, an unlikely outcome given the scale of the change, the total industry payroll would increase around $48 million, or roughly 10 cents per ton for every ton harvested in 2019. The average hourly wage for the entire industry would increase 50 cents per hour. At least 50% of the costs of a delivered softwood pulplog are from logging and hauling. While prices have been trending lower across the U.S. (Figure 3), a wage shift of this magnitude will impact prices, varying by exposure. In seven states—Alabama, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia—over one-quarter of the logging industry earns less than $15 per hour. While all these states are in the eastern U.S., they are dispersed across the Lake States, Mid-Atlantic, Appalachian, and southern regions of the country, highlighting the geographic extent of the industry and impact. The Pacific Northwest, which experienced the largest decline in delivered softwood pulplog pricing in the first quarter of 2021, down 24% year-over-year, is the least exposed. Increasing the minimum wage will increase the cost to harvest and deliver logs, and may reduce logging capacity. The impact will be felt across the wood supply chain and could result in increased delivered puplog prices for mills, lower stumpage prices for landowners, reduce logger’s profit margin—which is already razor thin—or some combination of the three.

50 45 40

Figure 3.

U.S. Delivered Softwood Pulplog Prices by Region SOURCE: FORISK CONSULTING


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Teaming with a Trusted Field Services Partner Selecting the right project team for your facility during upset conditions or outages is not to be taken lightly.



ndustrial maintenance is a well-developed concept. Your team likely has its established routines and an intimate understanding of the facility. They keep you running, and across the board, they are usually well-versed in priorities, predicting failure points and cost-to-value project work. But in upset conditions, outages and catastrophic failure, outside support can provide the additional planning, coordination and expertise to get your facility back up and running. Often, there is temptation to keep the extra work in-house, or simply hand it over to outside contractors and let it be “their problem.” Both of these options are less than ideal. I often counsel our clients to approach these situations with a hybrid solution. Our proposals routinely include interviewing staff

and operators before offering solutions, and we build in meeting time and facility walkthroughs to ensure our engineers, project managers and field services groups are in alignment with the people who work day-today on the equipment to provide workable solutions that get to the root of the issue and ensure a long-term solution is implemented. The difficulty many facility managers have with keeping the work in-house is the challenge of maintaining the overall workload their staff has on a daily basis while in the middle of an all-hands-on-deck emergency or outage. In today’s day and age of outsourcing, many facilities have divested themselves of the institutional knowledge their maintenance departments once had. As older workers transition to retirement and manufactur-

ing becomes leaner and more streamlined, from both an operation and employee count standpoint, it becomes more and more difficult to staff upset conditions while maintaining everyday tasks. In many cases, companies are simply no longer designed to handle outof-the-norm tasks. Additionally, that work is often outside the expertise of the operations staff and has to be learned as they go, costing time and potential shortcuts, thus delaying startups. Teaming with a trusted engineering and field services partner has the advantage of leaving the heavy lifting to your consulting professionals, while involving the maintenance and operations team you’ve relied on daily as they continue to ensure the rest of your operations continue smoothly. Selecting a partner is not to be taken lightly. Are they familiar with your industry? Do they know your facility? Do they interact well with your staff and contractors you use? This relationship is one that grows over time. Setting your expectations clearly and working with them ensures that goals are reasonable, valuable and achievable. One hallmark of a quality partner is their preparation, project definition and reporting. Every step of the project should be documented with both a clear and concise report of what has been done, and suggestions for further improvement. Reports should contain data on each installation contractor and reference engineering drawing numbers if applicable, as well as data regarding safety, timeliness and outcomes. These reports should also accurately reflect the work yet to be done and be generated at each shift handoff, especially in 24-hour coverage situations. This communication is vital to ensuring all project objectives are met, unforeseen difficulties are accounted for, and the project or repair concludes on time and on budget. So, catch the following three key elements, and your large maintenance outage or repair will be off to a good start. • Team your operations and maintenance staff with your consulting professional—don’t leave either of them to solve problems alone.

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


• Ensure your consultant is well-versed in the issue and your goals by encouraging communication and familiarity with your facility and staff. • Require quality reporting—and read those reports and provide quality feedback. During the course of an outage or maintenance project, a root cause or other bottleneck condition may often be revealed, requiring further optimization later. The relationship with your consulting engineer or field services professional is vital to developing a plan or platform for this “beyond maintenance” mindset. Many webinars, consultations, and publications are developed every year to assist maintenance personnel and facility managers in optimizing their processes. When opportunities arise to kill two birds with one stone, the approval process is often too slow to accommodate performing the work while the facility is in shutdown mode. This is why you should develop a plan to address targets of opportunity beforehand, and set up contingency allowances to expedite the approval process for discovery items. Including discovery allowances in the project budget provides opportunity for quick facility approval for these unforeseen tasks, while allowing the project team to maintain their focus on completing the work on time and not on getting funding approval. Discussions need to be held not only regarding the work to be accomplished, but also the potential to do more, should it present itself. In one particular case, a boiler outage revealed a significant potential issue that could have developed into a serious threat to the operation of the unit. With no preplanning, the issue would have been kicked down the road, and only the expected scope of work would have been completed. In this case, however, we were able to propose a solution for the repair of the suspect section of tubing, the boilermakers on-site made the additional repairs, and the facility manager was able to sign off on the additional work. This prevented a costly additional outage later. When the team is working together seamlessly, no one is uncomfortable making suggestions for the good of the overall project and the facility’s benefit. People give voice to safety concerns and potential improvements, and significant dollar or time savings can result. Finally, I want to emphasize first things last, so to speak. Once you have learned to team with a field services coordinator and project team you trust, involve them in the planning and budget development process, providing continuity from outage to outage. Their reporting from the last outage or project can serve as a road map for next year’s facility maintenance planning. From project charter to contractor selection, to material ordering to calendar development, your project can benefit from expertise and experience in your facility. Author: Jeff Rice Principal, Evergreen Engineering jrice@eeeug.com www.evergreenengineering.com



By REBL Refractories Evaluations Laboratory

Bridging the Gap: Refractory Technology and Expertise REBL Refractories Evaluations Laboratory Ltd. has gained considerable experience over its 25-plus year history with major industrial projects throughout Canada and the U.S. After recognizing that a client did not have access to refractory technical support and quality oversight within its own pool of resources, professional engineer Mary Windfield realized the need for such expertise was widespread amongst companies in western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. In response, she founded REBL Refractories Evaluations Laboratory Ltd. in 1992. Today, REBL has a documented record with long-term clients of improving the performance and service life of refractories for industrial applications. The company’s reputation for providing clients with highly valuable technical guidance on refractories expanded the markets served and geography to across North America.

Wood and Pellet Industry

The wood industry has been one of REBL’s key markets for longer than two decades. Some examples of segments served include biomass energy systems refractory linings in oriented strand board facilities and wood pellet manufacturing. REBL is comprised of a highly knowledgeable and experienced team of refractory engineers, consultants and inspectors in Canada and the U.S. The company is also proud to have three laboratories in Canada to provide physical property testing of refractory materials with access to resources in the southern U.S., and other elaborate analytical testing methods. A few of the many services include: • Independent third-party refractory consultation • Maintenance planning and refractory failure analysis • Plant shutdown and capital project refractory quality assurance • On-site refractory quality assurance (QA) inspection services and oversight of contractors • Comprehensive reports and photos at all steps of a project to help with future planning


REBL’s services have benefited its clients by creating for them an expert comprehensive refractory service for new construction of energy systems, plant maintenance or any refractory-related project. REBL helps bridge the gap for clients on refractory technology by bringing essential knowledge of best practices, and is proud to maintain a reputation for avoiding a conflict of interest with refractory manufacturers, suppliers and refractory installation contractors.

Value to Clients

The value to clients includes asset risk mitigation, identification of opportunities for continuous improvement in service life, and assisting clients in gaining greater reliability in equipment operation. The first project done for clients is important, and even more critical are the subsequent future projects that allow for identification and implementation of improvements in refractory anchor systems, material selection and installation methods. Part of achieving this includes REBL personnel participating in meetings with facility engineering and maintenance management and stakeholders. All REBL personnel are American Petroleum Institute 936 Certified, with API 936 being a leading industrial standard in specifications on monolithic refractory installation quality guidelines and applicable to other industrial sectors. Safety is top priority for REBL, which has a proven history of personnel knowing and abiding by industry, government regulatory agencies and clients’ safety standards. REBL’s safety program includes being subscribed with ISNetworld, Avetta and ComplyWorks. REBL personnel provide oversight of proper quality control documentation, procedures and project execution by refractory contractors and the suppliers of the materials for a given project. Clients have one or more

experts at new construction and maintenance projects with the additional remote support of REBL’s team of subject matter experts.

Project Examples

Some specific examples of projects REBL has successfully completed with clients include the following. • Refractory installation inspection. REBL was a key factor in responding to the emergency shutdown of an OSB plant’s energy system. Work included assessing the repair scope, subsequent inspection of the installation to assure proper installation procedures, and aiding in assuring a planned budget. • Refractories repair. REBL inspected all refractory-lined units in the plant, including heaters, prepared all repair work scopes, liaised with the refractory contractor, monitored progress and documented all repairs. • Wood pellet manufacturing greenfield and OSB plant conversion projects. REBL has participated in projects for wood pellet producers involving new construction or relining existing energy systems at obsolete OSB plants. REBL’s active daily shift presence at the execution phase of construction enabled the implementation of sound design decisions for areas that were not predicted and addressed in the project specifications or construction drawings. REBL may have been able to anticipate these issues if part of the planning and development phases. REBL’s presence during construction helped avoid potential design weaknesses that later could result in possible unplanned downtime or increased repair scope in the future. REBL bridged the gap between the client’s needs and the work being performed by the refractory contractor. In summary, REBL can help owners and operators of biomass energy systems feel confident that they are making fully informed decisions on refractory linings to meet the service life goals for equipment.

Does the service integrity of the refractory lining in your energy system give cause for concern?

How confident are you that the refractory installation: • Followed industry best practices for material selection and installation quality? • Had your facility’s best interests as the priority? • Was it the best option or could there be a better path forward?

Let REBL be your Refractory Experts • Refractory technology and properly applied to your specific needs can help avoid unplanned downtime or start-up delays. • The condition of the energy system lining may require more extensive repairs than originally planned. • Your team may have questions on installation costs, methods and resources that best meet immediate and/or long term goals.

REBL’s team of independent third-party Refractory Engineers, Consultants and Inspectors combined with our Laboratories can help you be confident that you are making fully informed decisions on refractory linings in the energy system that meet the service life goals for your equipment.





By Biomass Magazine

The Valkyrie: A Digester Health Game Changer When Digester Doc was founded nine years ago, its main impetus—as the company name suggests—was to diagnose problems in anaerobic digesters and prescribe treatments to bring them back to a healthy state, says president Will Charlton. Armed with the knowledge and experience that every system is different, Charlton—who has a background in organic chemistry and microbiology—and his team set out to devise a system capable of meeting each individual digester’s needs. “At the same time, we were working to curb this ongoing myth that additives are bad—based on some negative experiences with some suppliers—and bring the science to the table,” he says. “Some problems don’t have a mechanical solution, which is when biology comes into play.” As for some examples of the biological problem-solving capabilities of Digester Doc, Charlton points to a dairy digester that was operating significantly below its electrical generating capacity. “We helped them go from 5 MW per day to 52 MW,” Charlton says. Anoth-

er digester using municipal waste was foaming nonstop for months. “It was like a wastewater geyser,” he says. “Not only did we put a Band-Aid on it, but we went down deep and found the core of the problem, which was that somebody was dumping waste oil down the sewer. Science was used to help solve those problems, because we know that if we look deep enough into the chemistry, at the trends and indicators, there are warning signs of an unhealthy digester.” This knowledge led to the development of Valkyrie, a digester monitoring system that provides real-time, 24/7 digester health data. Collecting more than 15 different parameters, the system is designed to accommodate the diverse range of digester types, from 0.5% solids to 40%. And being a small piece of equipment that becomes an in-line instrument which is attached to the pipe, the Valkyrie doesn’t take up any real estate in the digester. “That’s one of the beauties of this system,” Charlton says. “It’s simple and low-profile.” The Valkyrie’s capabilities are vast, ac-

cording to Charlton. “It has ability to test all through the process,” he explains. “For example, how well COD is being broken down before water discharge, to how efficient the separator is moving total solids. We’re able to predict and detect foaming events, whether there is a toxicity in nutrients, or which food waste or organic materials has higher energy value than others. We can relate and translate all this information to help clients determine which ones are better for their digester and perform predictive analysis based on the combination of different parameters.” Charlton highlights the 30-minute response time promised with installation. “Part of our M.O. is that we offer experienced professionals to provide friendly assistance to walk you through what’s going on and what changes need to be made,” he says. Digester Doc is on target to officially launch the Valkyrie system by June. “It’s very innovative,” Charlton adds. “We’re tipping the scales for anerobic digesters, taking them to a whole new level of operational efficiency.”

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www.asgco.com | 800.344.4000 | info@asgco.com 36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2, 2021

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