Page 1

February 2014

Having a Field Day Miscanthus Momentum Grows Page 14

Plus: Genera Energy

Tackles Supply Chain Integration Page 36


Penn State Perfects Energy Crop Pellets Page 22

INSIDE ¦ ADVERTISER INDEX¦ 2014 International Biomass Conference & Expo 2014 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo


39 7

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo


AGCO Corporation


Amandus Kahl GmbH & Co. KG


CNH New Holland North America


Continential Biomass Industries, Inc.






Fagen Inc.


Parr Instrument Company


Pellet Mill Magazine




Vecoplan LLC


West Salem Machinery


06 EDITOR’S NOTE Kudos to Our Ag Innovators By Tim Portz


POWER 10 NEWS 11 COLUMN A Fresh Take on Clean Energy Incentives By Bob Cleaves

12 COLUMN Green Light Requisites for Biopower By Chris Zygarlicke

COPYRIGHT © 2014 by BBI International

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) February 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 2. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

14 FEATURE Masterminding Miscanthus

Researchers and companies are paving the way for commercial growth of miscanthus for pellets, liquid fuel and other uses. By Anna Simet



Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling

Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for any country outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico. 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 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 Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Managing Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.


A CLAAS harvester is used in Georgia during early January to produce a consistent, high-quality biomass product. Repreve Renewables' ACCU YIELD system was used to establish this strong, fast-growing miscanthus stand for commercial production. PHOTO: Repreve Renewables





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21 COLUMN Winter Brings Industry Boost

29 COLUMN Biogas Can Help Establish Energy Crops

22 DEPARTMENT From Recipe to Scientific Formula

30 FEATURE A Tale of Two Industries

By Bill Bell

By Amanda Bilek

Penn State researchers are focused on integrating more science into energy crop pellet production processes. By Chris Hanson

The U.S. and German biogas industries are at significantly different stages of maturity. By Anna Simet




34 NEWS 35 COLUMN Algae Growth Fuels New Markets

25 COLUMN The EPA’s Myopia on Wood Heat

By Margaret McCormick

By John Ackerly

36 DEPARTMENT Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation

26 DEPARTMENT Catalyzing Energy Crops

The U.K.’s Renewable Heating Incentive allows energy crops as a boiler fuel, but it hasn’t caught on just yet. By Chris Hanson


Genera Energy’s contract and farm management skills will be essential in the advanced biofuel marketplace. By Susanne Retka Schill



Kudos to Our Ag Innovators Readers paying close attention to the monthly editorial themes of Biomass Magazine might notice that we have focused this issue’s content on energy crops again, just five months after covering this topic in the September issue. This was deliberate, and entirely driven by Biomass TIM PORTZ Magazine’s decision to attend, exhibit VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT and distribute this issue at the 2014 & EXECUTIVE EDITOR Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. The Commodity Classic bills itself as “America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show” and is one of agriculture’s landmark annual events. Upon completing last year’s energy crop issue, we realized that the trajectory of the development of energy crop projection hinges on farmer interest, acceptance and innovation. Farmers plant and grow commodities because there are strong, healthy markets waiting for them. While prices rise and fall, producers can be assured that there will be buyers for these crops come harvest time. For now, growers of energy crops do not have that same market surety. This dilemma is underscored in Chris Hanson’s page26 article on legislation in the U.K. aimed at giving growers more assurance. Kevin Lindegaard, the founder of Crops for Energy Ltd., notes, “Unfortunately, the majority of farmers aren’t likely to go out and create the market themselves. It needs to be done through policy mechanisms and there needs to be a pull from the market, not a push from the farmers, and, unfortunately, that's what is missing at the moment.” While Lindegaard was commenting on British policy and British farmers, his words ring true with farmers around the world. Still, farmers have a penchant for and a long history of innovation, and this is clearly evident in nearly every story in this issue. Anna Simet’s page-14 feature about the establishment of miscanthus in the Corn Belt clearly articulates the challenges farmers face when learning a new cropping system, while also highlighting the resilience and cando demeanor of the local farming community. Lindegaard’s comments and Simet’s story demonstrate both the struggle and innovation of farmers who are deservingly celebrated in our culture and in these pages. This month, Biomass Magazine makes it clear that the success of energy crops will be driven largely by the men and women who make it their life’s work to tease from their land not only the crops our world needs today, but also those crops we will need tomorrow.





EXTERNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS Timothy Cesarek, Enerkem Inc. Shane Chrapko, Himark Biogas Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Benjamin Anderson, University of Iowa Gene Zebley, Hurst Boiler Andrew Held, Virent Inc. Kyle Goerhing, Eisenmann Corp.

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Deinove appoints chair of scientific advisory board Deinove has announced Jacqueline Lecourtier will chair and lead the deliberations of its scientific advisory board. She is an engineer Lecourtier with Ă&#x2030;cole Nationale SupĂŠrieure des Industries Chimiques (French Higher National Institute of Chemical Engineering). Lecourtier spent 25 years with the French Institute of Petroleumâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;New Energies, serving as scientific director from 2006-'11. Lecourtier led the the Agence Nationale de la Recherche from 2006-'12.

Superior Tank Co. earns FM Approvals designation Superior Tank Co. Inc.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bolted steel water tanks for fire protection were awarded certification from FM Approvals. The designation ensures the product meets or exceeds seismic standards, wind loads, FM property standards, municipal water utility requirements, ISO compliance, engineering specifications, material quality and National Fire Protection Agency standards. Superior Tank offers a variety of custom-sized tanks for storage of water used in fire suppression and municipal potable water distribution.

German bridge scraper meets European regulations Schade Lagertechnik GmbH announced PGF Biofuels becomes RSB certified its engineers have constructed a bridge scraper that has been configured in accordance PGF Biofuels has received Roundtable with European standard regulations, fulfills on Sustainable Biomaterials certification for the ATEX-directive 95/5 and is therefore Resonance carinata, an oilseed crop adapted approved for use in Zone 22 areas with a dust to production in semi-arid regions with an oil profile suited for use in the renewable aviation explosion hazard. The order was placed in May 2010 and the machine has been operating and biofuel industries. PGF Biofuels is the fourth feedstock provider globally to obtain the failure-free for more than a year. certification.

Bioplastic company forms subsidiary in India Northern Technologies International Corp. has formed Natur-Tec India Private Ltd., a majority-owned (90 percent) subsidiary based in Chennai, India, to capitalize on the increasing market demand for its NaturTec bioplastic products in India and the surrounding South Asian region. The general manager of the new subsidiary will be Sunder Balakrishnan, a graduate of the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai. Bioplastic alloy developed Toyota Boshoku Corp. and Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. have announced the development of an original technique to manufacture a biobased plastic alloy with top-class impact strength. The bio-alloy is made from polyamide 11, a 100 percent biobased resin originating from plants and synthesized from castor oil extracted from Ricinus communis as a raw material, and polypropylene derived from petroleum-based resin. The performance of the resulting bioalloy surpasses polycarbonate alloys.








business development representative at Cambridge EntTech; Paul Lewandowski, business development specialist at AFS Energy Systems; and Jay Van Roekel, biomass business unit manager at Vermeer. Reelected directors are Dan Arnett, biomass coordinator at Ernst Conservation Seeds and David Dungate, president of Bioenergy Project Partners.



BTEC elects board members The Biomass Thermal Energy Council has elected five new directors and reelected two directors to its 2014 board. New directors include Dennis Becker, associate professor of environment and natural resource policy at the University of Minnesota; Marcus Kauffman, biomass resource specialist at the Oregon Department of Forestry; Michael Larrimore,

Baker Tilly attorney appointed Wisconsin Bioenergy Council Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP has announced Thomas Unke, team Unke Viridis appoints chairman leader of the energy Viridis Energy Inc. has appointed Robert and utilities practice, was appointed to the Aaron as chairman of its board of directors. Wisconsin Bioenergy Council, which advises He currently serves as CEO of Gilwern the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Department of Agriculture, Trade Associates, an advisor to Viridis Energyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest and Consumer Protection on practices for shareholder, Cornwall Investments LLC. Aaron sustainable biomass and bioenergy production. also serves as vice-chairman of HedgeServ Corp. and vice-chairman of Investor Analytics UK CHP plant receives planning consent LLC. Imperative Energy Ltd. has announced German Pellets earns that the Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council ENplus certification has granted the company planning consent to German Pellets facility in Woodville, build a 17.75 megawatt (MW) biomass-fired Texas, has received ENplus certification. The combined-heat-and-power plant at Pendigo certification confirms the high quality of Way, Solihull, in England. product from the facility, which commenced SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send operations in mid-2013. The plant has the information (including photos and logos, if available) to Business Briefs, capacity to produce 578,000 metric tons of Biomass Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to wood pellets annually. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.


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4 biomass projects make DECC cut The U.K Department of Energy and Climate Change has published a list of provisionally affordable projects that are likely to receive funding under the Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewables. While 16 projects were initially identified, in December only 10 were told they were provisionally affordable under budget caps announced that month. Of the 10 projects identified, four are biomass power projects, including the conversion of two additional Drax units. The

remaining projects consist of onshore and offshore wind. A fifth biomass project, the Eggborough Power Ltd. biomass conversion, was included in the original 16 projects, but was later dropped and not included on the list of provisionally affordable projects. An Eggborough spokeswoman confirmed that the conversion is unlikely to move forward without subsidies. As such, the plant will likely be unable to operate past 2015.


Baucus proposes tax incentive overhaul In mid-December, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., released a discussion draft of legislation that aims to replace the nation’s complex set of energy tax incentives with a dramatically simpler set of credits. One incentive for clean electricity would be available to renewable resources, fossil resources and anything in-between. The cleaner the facility, the larger the credit. The incentive would be available as either a production tax credit of up to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour or an investment tax credit of up to 20 percent. A similar incentive would be established for clean transportation fuels, with a production tax credit of up to $1 per gallon or an investment tax credit of up to 20 percent. The U.S. EPA would be tasked with determining how clean the fuels and power sources are. The Biomass Power Association called the proposal interesting. "With respect to biomass, it’s important that Chairman Baucus has recognized its enormous greenhouse gas benefits when compared to fossil fuel sources like natural gas and coal,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the BPA. “At the same time, we are concerned that the proposal creates regulatory uncertainty. The use of waste wood and forest residues for energy is undeniably beneficial from a carbon perspective, and we don’t need another, separate proceeding at EPA to reach that conclusion.”


A Fresh Take on Clean Energy Incentives BY BOB CLEAVES

December was a busy month for the senior senator from Montana. Just hours before announcing his early departure from the Senate to become the U.S. Ambassador to China, Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released a so-called discussion draft of possible reforms to existing energy tax provisions. While opinions vary about the viability of the proposal, and whether Congress actually has the appetite for undertaking tax reform in 2014, Baucus’s proposal is the first serious effort to reform energy tax in many years, and it’s likely to receive much attention this year. The proposal extends existing tax provisions, but, more importantly, establishes tax credit rates based on carbon benefits. The plan attempts to create order from what is now chaos, where technologies receive different tax credits of varying duration and value, and where shortterm extensions result in more generation by solar and wind at the expense of base load resources with longer development lead times. For readers looking to wade into the details, you can find bill language, a summary of the proposal and an analysis at For the rest of you, here’s what the proposal means in a nutshell (with a huge thanks to Washington council Ernst Young for providing a helpful analysis): The proposal extends many currently expired credits (including the biomass open-loop credit) through Dec. 31, 2016. Importantly, the "beginning of construction" rule under Section 45, enacted earlier this year in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, would return to a "placed-in-service" requirement for facilities placed in service between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016. Thereafter, it’s a whole new world, with the creation of two broad categories—one for production of clean electricity, and the other for the production of clean transportation fuels. In both cases, eligible taxpayers would be allowed to elect between either 10 years of production tax credits (PTCs), or an investment tax credit (ITC) for a new facility. The value of the PTCs or ITC would be calculated using a formula that represents the various environmental attributes associated with the technologies. When the nation achieves certain environmental objectives, the proposal would phase down the value of the production and investment credits. For electricity, any facility producing power that is 25 percent cleaner than the average for all electricity production in 2013 will receive a tax credit. The cleaner the facility,

the larger the credit. Cleanliness is defined by the ratio of the carbon dioxide emissions of a facility per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated, as determined by the U.S. EPA. In the case of electricity produced from biomass, the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions per kWh is calculated based on net emissions, with Congress deferring to EPA and the Internal Revenue Service on how to make that calculation. A careful analysis of the staff summary seems to suggest that different biomass feedstocks may have different credit rates. For example, landfill gas receives full value similar to wind and solar, with solid wood waste and agricultural byproducts receiving partial credits. Unlike the existing ITC of 30 percent, the maximum ITC for a zero-emissions facility is 20 percent of the cost of the investment. Generally, the clean electricity ITC cannot be claimed for facilities that begin to operate before Jan. 1, 2017. However, after 2016, a 20 percent ITC can be claimed for existing facilities that undertake a carbon capture and sequestration retrofit that captures at least 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Regarding how the credits might be monetized, going forward from January 2017, the incentives would take the form of nonrefundable general business credits, with a one-year carryback and a 20-year carryforward. Also important to note, the current rule limiting PTC eligibility to electricity sold to a third party would be eliminated, and electricity consumed on site could potentially generate production credits if the amounts are appropriately metered. On the fuel side, the proposal attempts to consolidate the numerous current fuel provisions into one PTC/ITC mechanism that mirrors the electricity generation regime. The Biomass Power Association is preparing written comments, which are due Jan. 31. We applaud Sen. Baucus and his staff for taking an important first step in correcting the deficiencies of existing law, and proposing a solution that clearly recognizes the carbon benefits of biomass while creating long-term certainty. But as always, the “devil is in the details.” Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association



Green Light Requisites for Biopower BY CHRIS J. ZYGARLICKE

I hail from Wisconsin, so whenever I hear of a biomass power project being developed there, my interest is piqued. On a recent family trip back to my old stomping grounds of central Wisconsin, I heard coffee shop talk of a new biopower plant being built near the city of Rothschild. So I did a little investigating, because I’m always amazed at the circumstances that allow or deny the development of a successful biomass power project. Through the years, I have devised some simple requisite conditions for success. In the current U.S. power environment, here are my proposed requisites: 1) competitive biomass feedstock cost, 2) brokerable biomass feedstock supply, 3) financial incentives, 4) reliable conversion technology, and 5) a committed utility and supportive community. The Wisconsin biopower plant is a model example of a project that I consider to have all the correct pieces of the biopower success puzzle in place. First of all, the cost and supply of biomass feedstocks (requisites 1 and 2) that can be brokered and guaranteed go hand in hand. For many business scenarios involving biomass, the resource is discovered at seemingly the right cost and the nearby community gets excited about consuming a few megawatts of green power. But then the reality of harvesting, transporting and processing that biomass from field or forest to fuel silo at the power plant kills the entire venture. Sometimes, even though the feedstock reliability and cost look good, once the utility announces a higher electricity cost relative to established fossil-based electricity, the customer cries foul and the project never starts. In the case of the Wisconsin power plant, the biomass will consist of residues from sawmills and pulp mills, which usually implies lower cost. It will be facilitated by a paper mill’s infrastructure that has decades of operation and experience in this region, which usually implies sustainability. This power plant is connected to an industry that has been buying and selling forest wood for over a century, which usually implies a greater ability for this biomass resource to be brokered. I remember the smell of paper mills as a kid, and my father once owned a tract of northern Wisconsin forest that he had “pulped out,” one summer, as he would say. That was slang for having the timber harvested as pulpwood for paper production. This infrastructure goes back decades and provides 12 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2014

assurances to banks, communities and power providers so they are more apt to get behind a biopower project. This type of infrastructure, or the ability to create it at a reasonable cost, is essential for success. I think some of these principles can apply to other feedstocks. That covers requisites 1 to 3 and part of 5. For requisite 4 (reliable conversion technology), the $268 million 50-MW plant is being spearheaded by Domtar Corp. This company already operates 15 pulp and paper mills in North America, with the majority of the process steam and heat requirements fueled by renewable fuels such as biomass and black liquor, a product of papermaking. The power plant will use conventional small stream boiler combustion and emission-control technologies that have been around for decades. Finally, I need to delve into incentives, since they are almost always necessary to make biopower projects work (requisite 5). Since 2005, Wisconsin has required investor-owned electric utilities, municipal electric utilities and rural electric cooperatives (electric providers) to meet a gradually increasing percentage of their retail sales with qualified renewable resources. The current state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) establishes the goal that by the end of 2015, 10 percent of all electric energy consumed in the state will be renewable energy. We Energies and Domtar announced this project more than five years ago as a step toward this RPS goal. Another incentive that is aiding this project and others like it is the U.S. federal 1.1 cent-per-kilowatt-hour production tax credit, which has been around in some shape or form since the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The recent fiscal cliff deal of early 2013 has essentially extended this credit through 2014. In my opinion, this project should end as a renewable power success story since it has all of my prescribed requisite conditions. It might seem nerdy to my family, but on my next visit back to the homeland, I just might stop by to get a tour. Author: Chris J. Zygarlicke Deputy Associate Director for Research 701-777-5123

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MAKE WAY FOR MISCANTHUS: A rhizome planter and tractor are used to plant 16 acres of giant miscanthus for the University of Iowa. PHOTO: FERMAN MILSTER





Researchers and companies are crafting custom recipes for planting and managing miscanthus. BY ANNA SIMET


sterile hybrid, warm-season grass native to Asia, giant miscanthus is known for its high yields—up to 15 tons of dry matter per acre—and its ability to grow in cool temperatures on marginal land. It has been extensively researched in Europe since the early 1980s, and today the crop is commonly used there for energy. In contrast, the miscanthus market is just beyond its infancy in the U.S., but researchers and companies are making steady advancements to provide farmers with the tools and knowledge they need to grow the crop on a commercial scale.

Plugs vs Rhizomes

Similar to switchgrass, giant miscanthus uses soil nutrients very efficiently, as most of the nutrients used to produce stems and leaves are recycled back down to the plant’s rhizome system after the growing season for use in subsequent crops. Rhizomes—horizontal-growing roots—can be used for propagation by dividing the root and replanting to grow new stands, one of two methods for establishment. The other means is through of live plants, or plugs, and both methods demonstrate advantages and disadvantages over the other. “Both [methods] are fine for bioenergy, but the big difference is the cost of each type of propagation,” says Tom Voigt, feedstock production and agronomy program leader at the University of Illinois’ Energy Biosciences Institute. “We’ve propagated using both methods, but for the last several years we’ve been using plugs. We tend to have fewer skips with plugs than we do with rhizomes, and therefore have a more uniform field the first year, but the cost is much higher.”


¦POWER That work—which includes plot establishment in multiple states including Illinois, Nebraska, Kentucky, New Jersey and Virginia—has been done with mechanical planters similar to tobacco setters or vegetable transplanters, Voigt says, and thus has been fairly labor intensive and expensive. “We’ve had good success with rhizomes though, provided they are in good shape and fresh, and there are mechanical planters out there that get a lot more acres done with a lot less labor. I don’t know that anybody’s developed a mechanical planter for plugs, but if there were one, that could reduce the labor involved.” The cost of rhizomes is generally less than the cost of plugs, Voigt adds, but he reiterates that there are many more skips or holes in the field, due to nonsprouting rhizomes. “That’s not a big problem long-term, but if a farmer is accustomed to growing row crops where every seedling comes up and looks the same, using rhizomes might be a little off-putting, especially if they’re comparing it to corn or soybean seedlings where

every plant pretty much looks the same as it emerges,” he says. Rather than plugs, the University of Iowa has chosen rhizomes as its propagation method, and has established its first of several miscanthus plots to use as one of several cofired coal replacements to help meet the university’s goal of 40 percent renewable energy by 2020. The work UI is doing has garnered a lot of interest, according to Ferman Milster, principle engineer of renewables, which began with the planting of 16 acres of miscanthus last June.

Digging In

“We picked miscanthus because of its relatively high yields of dry-matter tons per acre, its proven track record in Europe, and the knowledge and expertise we have here in miscanthus agronomy,” Milster says. UI purchased rhizomes from Leamington, Ontario-based New Energy Farms, which were lifted in April from a farm in Georgia where they are grown for propaga-

tion. The rhizomes were cleaned, transferred into two super sacks and transported to the university, where they were kept in a refrigerated trailer, Milster says. “We wanted to get them in the ground mid-May or so, but it would not quit raining, so the rhizomes— about 15,000 per sack—sat in the trailer for six weeks.” Periodically watering the rhizomes kept them in optimum condition. When the sacks were opened, some had sprouted, but overall were in very good shape, according to Milster. “As long as you keep that material cool and wet, they’ll store okay,” he says. June 22 ended up being planting day, and a NEF-supplied, European rhizome planter was used. On the planting process, Milster admits that it was time-consuming, mainly because it was the first time the contracted farmer had used the planter. “There was a learning curve calibrating the planter and figuring out how to use it,” he says. “It took almost all day to get the 16 acres planted, but once one has

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MISCANTHUS MULTIPLICATION: Rhizomes are horizontal roots that may be split and replanted to grow new miscanthus stands. PHOTO: FERMAN MILSTER

the experience behind him, he could probably easily plant 40 to 50 acres a day.” The cost for the 16 acres topped out at about $2,000 an acre, but Milster says that’s twice the cost of what UI hopes to do in the future. “This is a pilot field, and we’re doing

this to learn,” he says. “It’s going to allow us to experiment with different technologies, especially when it comes to harvest.” The university is planning several larger plantings in the future, aiming for 1,000 acres in 2015 and 1,500 more in 2016. “It’s really

the third year before you get into production yields,” Milster says, “so it’s a long-term investment for us. The university is willing to take the initial risk to establish the fields, but we have long-term contracts to own the crop for a significant period of time.” Communication with the agricultural community is really important, Milster adds, and therefore the university has held several grower meetings to answer questions and concerns of interested farmers, while seeking to fill in all of the informational gaps surrounding the idea of miscanthus as a commercial energy crop. “We really can’t launch into [commercial] production until we understand more of the cost information, what works and what doesn’t, and be able to show it all to farmers and interested growers.” Repreve Renewables LLC is one company that works directly with farmers to alleviate any concerns or doubt they may have when contemplating growing miscanthus, via a suite of services that includes appropriate machinery and connection with an end market.

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MARCH 24, 2014

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Co-located with the 2014 International Biomass Conference & Expo, being held in Orlando, Florida, the Pellet Supply Chain Summit will provide attendees with an overview of the latest information on how wood pellet exports are achieving record levels. In addition, attendees will hear firsthand from industry experts on how new production capacities are coming online and conversions overseas are accelerating. This summit will investigate the contributions of each stakeholder group along the supply chain and the challenges they’ll have to overcome as production and export capacity ramps up.






Challenges and Education

Repreve Renewables currently has giant miscanthus rhizomes of its patented, sterile variety, Freedom, as well as public varieties for purchase. For the past three years, the company has been developing what it has dubbed Accu Yield, a proprietary system designed to achieve maximum yields and returns. “One of the biggest challenges [with giant miscanthus] has been propagating rhizomes on a commercial scale, and that’s what we’ve been able to master,” says CEO Jeff Wheeler. “Our method lifts rhizomes up [out of the ground] with our Accu Lifter, and then takes them through processors that clean, size and package them into bulk containers.” In addition to the rhizomes, the company offers a proprietary precision planter to control the number of plants per acre. On crop management, Wheeler says miscanthus is very easy to manage, and can provide good returns on marginal and underutilized land that isn’t growing food crops today. “It doesn’t require a lot of [grower’s] time, and it can provide a consistent and more predictable return.” Aside from those assurances and miscanthus’ other favorable characteristics, there are still challenges with and questions about the crop. “The biggest is determining what the downstream market is,” Wheeler says. “Farmers want to make sure they have an avenue to sell it. We try to take all of the doubts

ACTION SHOT: A Repreve Renewables miscanthus rhizome planter combs the field. PHOTO: REPREVE RENEWABLES

and concerns away from farmers by working with them on a case-by-case basis to make sure they get a return off the land so there’s no fear of going into the unknown of planting a new crop.” Another issue is growers adjusting to the crop and how it is managed. “Farmers usually think on an annual basis and make decisions based on just one year,” Wheeler says. “This is a perennial crop, so a stand can last over 15 years. It is much different than what farmers are typically dealing with for the majority of crops they plant today.”

Miscanthus Planting Fast Facts

Voigt says the University of Illinois’ oldest stand was planted in 1988 and is still very productive. “We’ve actually propagated many acres from it. It can be very long-lived, I’d be very surprised if a farmer didn’t get 12 to 15 years out of a planting of it.” Miscanthus’ productivity and consequent unique harvesting requirements are different from what many farmers have ever experienced. “We’ve had success with a variety of forage harvesters and mowers, conditioners and balers, but generally it’s a slower process than a hay crop or even switchgrass,”

• Miscanthus is best suited to locations receiving at least 30 inches per year of annual rainfall. • Yields as high as 15 tons dry matter per acre have been produced, but average yields under natural rainfall are expected to range between 10 and 12 tons dry matter per acre. • Rhizomes should be planted 2 to 4 inches deep. • Planting rates should average 6,000 to 7,000 rhizomes per acre. • Weed control is critical during the establishment year and should include a combination of avoidance, cultivation and both pre- and post-emergence herbicide application. • Optimum harvest time for giant miscanthus is when it contains less than 20 percent moisture. • When harvesting, 2 to 4 inch stubble should be left to maximize harvest yield, yet avoid picking up leaf litter, which may reduce biomass quality. • At this time, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends planting only sterile giant miscanthus lines propagated from rhizomes or plugs to reduce the potential of spread. 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2014


SPROUTING SUCCESS: The University of Iowa’s miscanthus crop, planted mid-June, demonstrates robust growth in October. PHOTO: FERMAN MILSTER

Voigt says. “It’s not really a challenge, but a farmer may have to harvest slower than they’d like to.” Wheeler notes that Repreve is developing new markets that don’t need government support, but he says there are new markets that require government support to attract investments. "BCAP is one program that is critical to developing new markets," he says. "The key to BCAP working is stability, and that is what we are working on with policymakers." Miscanthus may come in handy for Iowan farmers combating soil erosion and mitigating nutrient management issues that the state currently faces. “There’s a general awareness throughout Iowa that there are severe soil erosion and nutrient management issues—it’s a huge deal—and dedicated, perennial energy crops are one way to help mitigate those issues,” Ferman says. “It’s an exciting way, a way agriculture can generate new revenue streams not dependent on corn and bean production.” Ferman adds that UI and others doing similar work are creating a market where one does not exist. “That’s been the significant barrier to energy crop production… we’re working on establishing a significant market, and hopefully others will take interest and see that it’s growing.” Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


PelletNews Largest pellet exporters Country

Export quantity in million metric tons

Export value



$208.31 million



$207.19 million



$149.37 million



$176.50 million


FAO begins reporting pellet data The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is now tracking international trade statistics for pellets. The FAO’s “2012 Global Forest Products Facts and Figures” report, published in late 2013, is the first to include pellet data. First proposed in 2008, the specific code for wood pellets has been added to the harmonized system for international trade statistics, with 2012 being the first year in use. According to the FAO, the addition of the code will allow wood pellet data to be clearly and precisely recorded in international trade statistics.

The FAO reports that wood pellet production has increased dramatically in recent years, mainly due to demand in Europe. In 2012, global pellet production was 19 million metric tons, with 9.3 million metric tons being traded internationally. Europe accounted for 66 percent of production and North America accounted for 31 percent. Europe and North America were also the largest consumers of pellets, with a respective 80 percent and 17 percent of global consumption.

Bonds authorized to finance export facility The Port of Pascagoula in Mississippi is one step closer to constructing a pellet export facility for the proposed Green Circle Bio Energy Inc. pellet plant. Jackson County supervisors recently authorized a bond issue for up to $24 million to support construction of the export facility. Construction on the $30 million export facility is expected to start in early 2014, with completion scheduled for next year. The state has committed $10 million to the project and the terminal operators will invest $5 million. Design and engineering details are not yet final. Once complete, the facility will serve a 500,000-ton-per-year facility under development by Florida-based Green Circle Bio Energy. The $115 million wood pellet manufacturing facility is expected to be built at the George County Industrial Park in Lucedale, Miss., approximately 40 miles north of the port.



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BBI INTERNATIONAL Project Development


Winter Brings Industry Boosts BY BILL BELL

Old Man Winter is creator of the best incentives. Nothing drives pellet sales like weekly snow dumps, an ice storm and now a record cold snap (minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit as I write). Visits to big box retailers show bagged pellets moving out the doors as quickly as possible, on the shoulders of big men or in carts pushed by strong women, being dropped into pickup boxes and car trunks. At Walmart, bags of pellets are $3.90! Can’t beat it with a stick. Our members are happily reciting the “be careful what you wish for” maxim. A pellet manufacturer in northern Maine said, “After making pellets all summer, back in October I thought I had overdone it. Now I wish I had made even more.” A fuel distributor who added pellets to his product line stated, “Last year, I was only running my new pellet truck part of the time, and wondering. Now my driver’s out straight-scheduling deliveries to keep up with my customers—a major challenge.” To top it off, our multiyear investment of time at the state capitol just came home. In September, our state’s energy agency, Efficiency Maine, had funded 50 grants of $5,000 each to homeowners installing pellet-fueled or geothermal central heating. As previously reported, our customers grabbed all but three of the slots within 48 hours of the announcement. Now, having surveyed program results, Efficiency Maine has just lifted the $250,000 total cap. Now all homeowners who qualify—and most do—can obtain the same $5,000 rebate for installation of a bulk-delivered pellet boiler system. The incentive is to last “until the Home Energy Savings Program funds are exhausted,” in the words of the Efficiency Maine announcement. It now becomes our association’s job to work with Maine’s governor and legislature to see that the funding stream is maintained, at least until financial incentives are no longer needed to introduce our proven technology to homeowners. We’re not yet at the promised land. Not hardly. We’re not even doing as well as neighboring New

Hampshire, where thermal heat is being added to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and where incentives for putting pellet boilers into commercial locations were just announced, adding to the state’s well-established incentives for residential pellet heat. Maine’s paper industry continues to consume huge amounts of forest fiber—which is a good thing—making sourcing pellet wood a continued challenge. In fact, it is unofficially reported that one of Maine’s four pellet mills is changing ownership to a large logging firm which, like the successful Maine Woods Pellet Co./Linkletter logging firm in Athens, Maine, will have the advantage of having its own fiber. Regulatory issues are always there, of course. The Maine Fuel Board has now reversed its earlier refusal to extend its pilot program which allows one firm some considerable flexibility in meeting the licensure requirement for pellet boiler installers. In addition, the board has created a broad-based pellet boiler group to review the entire set of regulations, which were written before our industry was even on the map. The recent first meeting of this pellet boiler group quickly reached consensus that the existing regulations and installer licensing provisions are almost totally irrelevant. To quote the official meeting summary, “The group members discussed the contents of the board’s rules, which …have very little to do with the installation of pellet boilers.” A major and time-consuming rewrite appears necessary. In the meantime, let it snow! Author: Bill Bell Executive Director, Maine Pellet Fuels Association 207-752-1392




From Recipe to Scientific Formula A solid understanding of energy crops and their densification behavior could remove much of the guesswork in creating a quality pellet. BY CHRIS HANSON


reating a pellet or briquette from energy crops may seem more like a secret family recipe than an exact process. Begin with a selected feedstock, dry accordingly, add binders if necessary and compress generously. Sometimes, even if the recipe is dead-on, the end product may turn out differently than expected. Densifying energy crops presents unique challenges to producers seeking to use grassy feedstocks, such as miscanthus and switchgrass, for pellet production. Moisture, binder and energy requirements are just a few of the issues inherent in creating a pellet or briquette made from energy crops, says Emily Heaton, assistant professor of biomass crop production at Iowa State University. “Sometimes there is not enough moisture or enough binder, depending on the pelleting process and getting it to stick together, and then the energy that is required to get it to stick together,” Heaton says. “You can always get it to stick together, but what does it take to do that?” Heaton says she believes the challenge involved in densifying dedicated energy crops is simply gaining enough experience 22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2014

and know-how—making more kinds of pellets more often, and having a reason to begin producing them at scale to evaluate in more detail. Researchers at Penn State University are working to do just that, by engaging in a continuous study of pelletizing biomass energy crops in small-scale pellet machines. “The project is working from two directions,” says Daniel Ciolkosz, research associate at Penn State. “One direction starts at the fundamental science of particulate materials and how they behave during the densification process.” Heading up the fundamental side of the project, researchers Apoorva Karamchandani, Hojae Yi and Virendra Puri apply their particulate compaction background to investigate solutions for problems including pelletizer clogging and crumble-prone pellets. “What we envision is to have more consistent throughput in terms of the process, and less issues during pelletization,” says Yi, research associate of powder mechanics at Penn State. By bringing more science into the equation, the user will have greater control and insight over feedstock selection, and pro-


FROM A to Z: Economically growing and harvesting energy crops such as switchgrass is just the beginning of the work involved in producing a quality pellet.

duce a better pellet with less production issues, he adds. The second front of the project sprang from efforts to encourage use of cottage-industry level pelletizers. Penn State researchers saw the small-scale pelletizer as an entry-level opportunity to engage people who are excited about bioenergy. The available equipment and processes, however, caused frustrations among users, prompting them to abandon their efforts. “The equipment and processes are very picky and very finicky,” Ciolkosz says. “So often, people get excited about the idea of becoming the next great pellet mogul, they purchase a small machine, they work with it for a little while and then give up in frustration. We wanted to come up with some practical recommendations for how they can have better chances at success when they’re trying to densify biomass.” In addition to clogging issues, the feedstock’s physical properties can cause problems within the pelletizing process. Compared to woody biomass, energy crops like switchgrass, contain less lignin and tend to have more issues, such as clogging pelletizing machines, and sometimes require additional materials to create a pellet, Yi says. Grass-derived pellets have a tendency to spring back and puff up after leaving the pelletizer, Ciolkosz explains. “The bonds that are formed during the extrusion process are broken before the pellet can firm up,” he adds. “Switchgrass is a real challenge to pelletize.” After two and a half years, the research team nearly has switchgrass feedstock issues sorted out. “It’s a very interesting material that poses some unique challenges in terms of being

effectively pelletized,” Ciolkosz says. Pellet producers may experience difficulties in creating a uniform product, even if it seems they are handling the material with the same methods every day. “It’s not really clear why that happens all the time,” he says. Slight differences, such as particle size distribution, could be affecting particle properties, he explains. Particle orientation inside the pelletizer is another major issue that has to be addressed when working with switchgrass. By controlling the way the switchgrass particles enter the pelletizer, researchers are able to produce a better quality pellet. Mixing in dried distillers grains (DDGs) with the ground switchgrass changes the alignment of the grassy particles. Researchers initially place a small amount of switchgrass mixed with DDGs into the pelletizer, followed by pure switchgrass. The mixture acts as a dynamic plug to provide back pressure to the material while keeping the dye clear and unplugged. Gaining an intimate understanding of energy crops and how they behave in the densification process could help producers remove some of the guesswork in creating a quality pellet or briquette. Adds Yi, “There’s no written equation or formula to produce optimal quality pellets.”

Author: Chris Hanson Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4970


ThermalNews Projected number of households using primary space heating fuels during the 2013-2014 winter (in millions) Natural gas

Heating oil




























Total U.S.







Report: A switch to pellet heat in NW would drop cost, create jobs

An analysis completed by FutureMetrics Inc. determined that if the 6 million homes in the rural areas of the Northeast that currently use fuel oil or propane as heating fuel convert to pellets, the resulting economic impact would create approximately 1.34 million jobs. In the report, titled “How the Northern States can Heat with Renewable Energy and Create Jobs and Economic Growth while Significantly Lowering Carbon Emissions,” author William Strauss points out that only

about 19 percent heating oil refined in the U.S. for Northeast markets is made from oil extracted in the U.S. As a result, much of the money spent on heating oil leaves the country. Locally produced pellet fuel, however, keeps almost 100 percent of every dollar spent circulating locally. The report also stresses that pellet fuel is about half the price of heating oil for the same heating energy and the supply chain for harvesting sustainable biomass and manufacturing and distributing pellets creates U.S. jobs.


UK company prepares for domestic heating incentive IXUS Energy, a U.K.-based biomass boiler distributor, has opened a state-of-theart training center to help meet demand for quality biomass installers that has been created due to the Domestic Renewable Heating Incentive. The Northumberland-based training center is equipped with boilers supplied by leading European brands. The training program includes two courses. One is an introduction to biomass and addresses boilers types, fuel storage, combustion and site surveys. The second addresses system dimensioning, hydraulics, electrics and flueing. “Tens of thousands of biomass boiler installations are expected over the next few years as a result of the government's domestic RHI, which will be introduced in April 2014. We already have installation partners across the country but we want to build on this. We’re aiming for national coverage by the time April comes around—there’s huge opportunity,” said Mike Bleakley, IXUS Energy biomass specialist.


The EPA’s Myopia on Wood Heat BY JOHN ACKERLY

In the recently proposed U.S. EPA regulations for residential wood heaters, one word is noticeably absent: “renewable.” Nowhere in this 364page document is there any hint that this form of energy has potential for displacing fossil fuels. These new regulations are shaping up to be a battle between industry and air quality agencies, when it could be a major step for the EPA to support a far cleaner renewable energy sector. This country needs stricter emissions regulations for residential wood heaters, and these regulations will accomplish that. But we also need policies and programs to help us get there, and to support the cleanest and most efficient wood heaters. The EPA team members working on these regulations are quick to say that is not their job. They are air quality regulators. They should not forget that their division, the office of Air and Radiation, does a lot to promote renewable energy, not just regulate pollution from energy. A prime example is the Green Power Program, which partners with businesses and encourages them to reduce their energy needs and switch to renewable energy. One problem is that the head of the Office of Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, is still only an acting head and has not been confirmed. In late December, President Obama said he would formally nominate her to head the Office, and she may face a tough confirmation hearing. McCabe’s foremost challenge will be regulating coal-fired power plants,

but she should not deal with wood as if it’s coal. She should use her leadership to oversee the process of developing strict emission standards, while also acknowledging and supporting the role biomass plays in providing a renewable, and more affordable source heat than fossil fuels. Acting Administrator Janet McCabe should also hold high-level meetings with the U.S. DOE and USDA to find how those agencies can help industry to achieve these proposed strict emission limits. There may be existing programs or discreet new ones that can help advance this sector, such as loan guarantees or grant programs for research and development and testing. A green label for wood heaters is the other vehicle that is crucial to this movement. The EPA should be providing far more leadership and resources to help establish such a label. There are good reasons why the label does not fit under the Energy Star program, but if the EPA and others had worked to develop a label years ago, the industry would have had a reason to develop and market far cleaner and more efficient appliances. No one knows better than the EPA that requiring minimum standards is only half the battle. The other half is promoting the top end of the appliance spectrum that helps consumers and the environment. The EPA needs to be a leader in promoting this renewable energy to show rural America that it is not just concerned with technologies that wealthy families can afford, but also willing to support the mostly widely

deployed residential renewable energy equipment popular with low-and middle-income families. In the absence of federal leadership, states are stepping in to incentivize and support wood heat. Compare the stark difference between the EPA that rarely mentions the positive benefits of wood heat with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in early January: “Biomass fuel combines economic and environmental benefits. It is considerably cheaper than heating oil—pellets are half the price of oil and locally sourced fuel keeps New York’s energy dollars circulating in the local economy. Many New Yorkers will see significant savings in their heating bills using these efficient, low-emission technologies.” Although the EPA did not use the word “renewable” once in its 364-page proposed rule, it did mention it in the 222-page Regulatory Impact Statement. Unfortunately, it used the word incorrectly, referring to a “renewable energy tax rebate” for wood heaters (there has never been a federal renewable energy tax rebate). It was probably a reference to the now-expired Energy Efficiency tax credit under section 25C of the tax code. Author: John Ackerly President, Alliance for Green Heat 301-841-7755



HOMEGROWN FUEL: Use of energy crops for thermal applications is encouraged with incentives in the U.K., but economics still need improvement. PHOTO: CROPS FOR ENERGY LTD

Catalyzing Energy Crops

The United Kingdom’s Renewable Heating Incentive encourages use of energy crops for thermal applications, but economics still need improvement. BY CHRIS HANSON


he United Kingdom’s Renewable Heating Incentive, which helps businesses and homeowners cover the cost of installing renewable heating technologies, is one of the vehicles the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change uses to help meet its 2020 renewable energy targets. The RHI has been especially effective in spurring interest in small biomass boiler applications—as of November, 78 percent of the applications under the RHI were for small, solid biomass boilers less than 200 kilowatts. While energy crops are eligible boiler fuels under the RHI, it appears as though they are not currently a fuel of choice.


Utilizing energy crops for heat is not a very common practice in the U.K., says Kevin Lindegaard, founder of Crops for Energy Ltd. The practice is more common in Ireland, but even there, wood chips are still the most common biomass heating fuel. “It’s something that obviously needs to be bolstered, but both of the two main crops—miscanthus and short-rotation coppice—have slight issues that need inputs and infrastructure support to turn what are difficult fuels into usable and hassle-free [fuels],” Lindegaard says. Some farmers raise energy crops for their own purposes as a way to protect themselves from imported oil and biomass costs.


Current and Proposed Nondomestic RHI Tariff Levels

Those producers are finding it more lucrative to grow and use REVIEWED TARIFFS CURRENT TARIFFS TECHNOLOGY (penance per kilowatt hour) (proposed for 2014/15) their own fuel rather than to store, process and transport the biomass to an end customer. In southern England, there are farmers Small Tier 1:8.6, Tier 2: 2.2 (up to 200kW) who are digging up their short-rotation willow crops due to the NO CHANGE lack of proper facilities and low market prices, Lindegaard says. Biomass Medium Boilers Tier 1:5.3, Tier 2: 2.2 (200 to 1MV) “With willow in particular, you have one shot every three years to get rid of it. If you decide that next time is going to be better and Large 1.0 2.0 it’s not, then you have a problem of harvesting it again and still (1MV and above) not getting a suitable return. So people are tending toward cutting Technology breakdown for central view of deployment in 2020 their losses at the moment,” he adds. Central Range for 2020 Although the current situation might seem challenging, Lin(Terawatt hours) Onshore Wind 24-32 degaard is helping develop policy initiatives to improve the ecoOffshore Wind 22-58 nomics, infrastructure and feasibility of growing energy crops Biomass Electricity 32-50 for heat. In order to reach the bioenergy goals of the European Marine 1 Biomass Heat (nondomestic) 36-50 Union, locally-grown energy crops will have to play a role, LinAir-Source and Ground-Source Heat Pumps (nondomestic) 16-22 degaard says. “We can’t import the whole lot from the U.S. or Renewable Transport Up to 48TWh 14 Finland. We need to start thinking about growing some of it on Others (Including Hydro, Geothermal, Solar and Domestic Heat) Estimated 15% Target 234 our own doorstep because otherwise we’ll be going from the fossil fuel frying pan into the biomass fryer, and just going import to ‘we’re not going to do that,’ ” Lindegaard explains. “You kind of import,” he adds. need that middle company in order to allow people to sell their A few reports suggest that by 2050, the U.K. will need roughfuel, get a good price, have it processed and go to the end user.” ly 2 million hectares (5 million acres) of energy crops, but the lack “What we kind of need is for people to start asking the same of strategy or policy mechanisms prevent greater development questions about fuel as they do food,” Lindegaard says. In the of the market, Lindegaard says. During the 1990s, a large demand past few years, people have been paying premium prices at restaufor energy crops was negatively affected by business blunders that rants and farmers markets for locally grown produce, he explains. left farmers searching for markets for their energy crops. “The “I think that similarly we need to ask the same sort of questions RHI has been a godsend in a way because it does enable some about where our fuel comes from and start thinking about workfarmers to use their own [energy crops] and make money,” Lining with the local community.” degaard says. “In certain circumstances, it can be a really good When it comes to developing the energy crop market, policy money spinner and turn short-rotation coppice and miscanthus mechanisms are going be some of the most influential drivers, into a bonafide cash crop.” Lindegaard says. “Unfortunately, the majority of farmers aren’t The RHI hasn't packed a big enough punch for energy crops, likely to go out and create the market themselves. It needs to be however, as evidenced by a grower questionnaire completed by done through policy mechanisms, and there needs to be a pull Crops for Energy as part of a project for the Energy Technolofrom the market, not a push from the farmers. That's what, ungies Institute. So far, 45 out of 57 growers believe the RHI is fortunately, is missing at the moment.” having little to no effect on increasing uptake of energy crops, according to questionnaire results. Although the RHI helps assure imported biomass is from sustainable, international sources, the Author: Chris Hanson Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine incentive makes local accreditation a hassle for individual growers. 701-738-4970 Having a more robust, local infrastructure would allow growers to collectively have their energy crops processed and stored at centralized locations, Lindegaard says. Additionally, collaborating farmers might have more incentive to become qualified under the RHI to sell their fuel to local markets by demonstrating sustainable practices. “In order to be able to sell your fuel, you have to show it is sustainable and go through a bureaucratic process in order to get accredited, and most farmers are going to think,


BiogasNews Canadian biogas energy production by potential source Agriculture


Large AD facility under development in California

Landfill gas




Commerical SSO


Residential SSO


CR&R Environmental Services is building what it believes to be the largest organics conversion facility in North America at its Perris, Calif., location. The Perris anaerobic digestion facility is permitted to process more than 80,000 tons of organic waste per year in its first phase. The facility could expand to process nearly four times that volume of waste during future phases. The plant will feature Eisenmann’s highsolids anaerobic digestion technology. Materials received will include both green and food waste. According to Kyle Goehring, regional sales manager for Eisenmann, construction of phase one should be complete in June, with commissioning completed by October. "The unique location, size, feedstock recipe and partner make the CR&R project unprecedented for Eisenmann as well as the industry,” he said. “Eisenmann is excited by the transformative nature of this project for both the refuse and biogas industries."


Report uncovers Canadian biogas potential In Canada, the Biogas Association has published a report that finds domestic biogas sources have the potential to contribute 810 megawatts of electricity to the Canadian energy supply, equating to approximately 1.3 percent of electricity demand. Alternatively, the same biogas sources could be used to generate 2.42 billion cubic meters of renewable natural gas (RNG) per year, which is enough to meet 3 percent of Canada’s natural gas demand.

The report, titled “Canadian Biogas Study: Benefits to the Economy, Environment, and Energy,” lists agriculture as the most significant source of biogas, capable of generating 550 MW of power or 1.65 billion cubic meters of RNG. Landfill gas also has great potential, with enough resources to generate 95 MW of power or 0.29 billion cubic meters of RNG. Agricultural digesters represent 68 percent of Canada’s biogas opportunity, followed by landfill gas projects at 12 percent.


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Biogas Projects Can Help Establish Energy Crop Supply BY AMANDA BILEK

The U.S. biogas sector has done an outstanding job developing projects using livestock manure, landfill gas and municipal biosolids to generate clean energy. Although there is still a large amount of untapped potential to use these three feedstock sources, the use of crop residues and energy crops are completely underutilized in the U.S. biogas market. International biogas project development experience has demonstrated that the use of crop residues and energy crops are valuable feedstocks to produce increased levels of biogas and project stability. Energy crops such as perennial grasses can boost biogas production, but also provide additional wildlife habitat and environmental benefits. Over the summer, the opportunity of developing grassland feedstocks for anaerobic digestion projects was discussed by a panel at the Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grasslands Conference hosted by the National Wildlife Federation. Attendees heard from University of Wisconsin researchers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and a private project developer, each of whom presented information on current efforts to establish grassland production for bioenergy opportunities, especially biogas energy systems. One of presenters, Roeslein Alternative Energy LLC, announced a partnership agreement with Murphy-Brown of Missouri LLC at the end of 2013 to move forward on a $100 million biogas project in northern Missouri. The project aims to anaerobically digest manure from area hog farms to produce upgraded biogas for the transportation fuel market, but also has a vision to establish 15,000 acres of native grassland as additional feedstock for the biogas project. It is an exciting project with an ambitious sustainability vision. Once successful, it could shift the paradigm for U.S. biogas projects. Another presenter described a public-private partnership in southern Wisconsin that is also aiming to shift the project paradigm and create monetary value in grassland feedstocks

for bioenergy projects. Current waterfowl production areas managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are not suitable for the preferred fire management method. Instead, harvest of grasslands is being explored as an alternative habitat management tool. A special task force made up of private and public partners from different disciplines is working closely to leverage the experimental harvest to develop an anaerobic digestion project that would combine the harvested habitat residues, dedicated energy crops and dairy manure to produce biogas. The task force is aiming to develop this project relying on a mix of available financial incentives and market mechanisms. The task force acknowledges that there are still several obstacles to overcome, but members are committed to making it work. Once successful, it could provide a compelling and profitable model for future biogas energy projects. Each of these projects holds tremendous promise for overcoming the chicken-and-egg situation that has eluded the establishment of biomass energy crops. How do you convince land owners to plant biomass energy crops without a market? An advantage biogas energy systems might have over liquid renewable fuel projects is scale. Including grasslands, a feedstock mix for a biogas project would not require nearly as large of biomass supply as a liquid biofuel project. As the number of biogas projects increases in a local area, the establishment of energy crops could also scale up, since the biogas projects would provide an immediate and local market for biomass supplies. Biogas energy systems could play a critical role in creating a market and supply chain for new biomass supplies, benefiting future bioenergy projects. Author: Amanda Bilek Government Affairs Manager, Great Plains Institute 612-278-7118





A Tale of Two Industries Germany’s biogas industry has set a high bar for the U.S. BY ANNA SIMET


t was the best of times for Germany’s biogas industry when the country passed its Renewable Energy Resources Act (EEG) in 2000. The act set the stage for the huge success of the country’s biogas industry, which today has more than 8,000 installations. Other countries—including the U.S.—are now looking at Germany as a role model while they work to take advantage of the many, versatile advantages that biogas offers. The EEG established a distributed energy generation model that fixed a purchase price for each type of renewable energy generation, and guaranteed a connection to the electrical grid. “This really ambitious policy framework has really transformed its energy system from one that has been more centralized—electricity generated by four main power companies—to a distributed generation model where individual home owners and businesses are creating their own energy and also selling it,” says Amanda Bilek, energy policy specialist with the Great Plains Institute.

Policy Impact

At the turn of the 21st century, Germany had approximately 850 facilities, a number that grew to approximately 2,700 by 2005 and 6,000 by 2010. This explosive growth can be attributed to a few factors, but chiefly the EEG, points out Kyle Goehring of Eisenmann Corp. “[The EEG] incentivized small- to mediumsize systems, and as a result, most of the early installations were quite small,” Goehring says. “The incentive structure, based on electrical power output (kilowatts) changed over time, and conFEBRUARY 2014 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31

¦BIOGAS struction of larger installations began. The incentives were rated on the kilowatt output of the connected generators, but paid on the kilowatt hours delivered to the grid. The incentive structure also favored specific feedstock combinations. This is why a majority of the biogas systems in Germany operate on a blend of maize and manure.” Currently, there are manure and small systems bonuses, and a biowaste bonus if done with composting, adds Eberhard Viet of Eisenmann. “There is a requirement that thermal energy must be used, and the latest is a bonus if systems can be used for peak power, which requires a large biogas storage capacity so that the power companies can turn your combined heat and power (CHP) on and off, based on power demand.” In essence, the EEG is responsible for the growth of the biogas industry, Goehring emphasizes. “It led to investment in the biogas space from engineering companies, financial institutions and prompted innovative individuals to research and develop new technologies,” he says. “Without this act, Germany would not have nearly the number of installations.” The EEG is has undergone several revisions, the most recent in December 2012 which extended the share of renewable energy. “The EEG is updated every three years, and it rocks the industry every time,” Veit says. “It shifts the incentives or lowers them, and some vendors benefit from it, while others hurt. Companies have to adapt to it. Some incentives go away and others are created, and this impacts various technology suppliers differently.” The EEG has also uniquely shaped the ownership model of the biogas industry, Bilek points out, as it has created an environment in which the cooperative ownership model is taking off. “Individual persons are partnering with neighbors in order to own renewable energy resources they are producing,” Bilek says. “In the northern part of the country, there are a lot more centralized systems ranging from 10 to 20 MW, owned by several farmers or local citizens. In the southern part of the country, the industry is a little bit more slanted toward individual operation models, but overall it’s pretty split between both.” 32 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2014

The feedstock of choice for digesters has historically been purpose-grown maize, or corn, which still dominates today—but its widespread and abundant use has had some unintended consequences and has thus become an issue of contention, ironically similar to the use of corn for ethanol production in the U.S.

German Trends

“The whole plant, stalk to kernel, is chopped up into silage,” Bilek explains. “It’s used in digesters for the same reasons it’s used for liquid fuel—it is very energy dense. Germany figured out early on that manure alone is not a very good feedstock because you don’t get a lot of biogas, as it’s already gone through digestion. Adding in maize became so profitable with the feed-in tariffs outlined in the EEG that the industry began to transition away from manure or residual food waste and more toward a feedstock mix with 80 to 100 percent maize.” Maize silage is an appealing feedstock, as German farmers are traditionally experienced with maize and make maize silage for animal feed, Veit points out. “They are very familiar with it, have the equipment to harvest and make silage, and all they had to do was add a biogas system,” he says. “In conjunction with the high solids bonus, this was a very good proposition.” However, that bonus has since been removed. “In northern Germany where there are those larger biogas plants in the 10 to 20 MW range, they ran into the problem of being transported to plants from locations ranging greater than 200 kilometers (125 miles) away, and it has had some [negative] indirect land use changes,” Bilek says. With larger plants that have a harvest radius of more than 30 miles, transport costs play a big role and traffic is also an issue, Eberhard adds. “Also, as the farmers expanded maize production and could sell it at a good price to the biogas systems, the price for land leases went up and the farmers of other crops got shortchanged.” In addition, there’s been controversy in regard to maize being grown for energy, rather than that land being used for food crops. “It’s similar to the issues we have in this country, putting more of the corn crop

into the ethanol market,” Bilek says. “There’s the question of whether food prices are being raised. In the U.S., there’s this perception that corn isn’t going back into the feed market, and similar constraints are being brought up in Germany. But in the U.S., you have a distillers grains product that goes back into the livestock market. In Germany, you don’t have that livestock byproduct, but you do end up with a great fertilizer.” To encourage diversified feedstocks, German policy amendments now require a percentage of residual materials such as food waste be used in digesters. While the current situation in Germany has needed some adjustments, Bilek says that biogas projects in the U.S. shouldn’t be scared off corn or other energy crops. “I do think it should be part of the feedstock mix—it produces a lot of energy and biogas, but trying to get more residual materials or waste materials in the digester in the U.S. should be an initial focus.” On purpose-grown energy crops in general, Bilek says use in German digesters isn’t happening at any significant level yet, but a bonus payment is available to digesters using native grasses. Outside of a slight movement away from sole reliance on maize, the German biogas industry is seeing other trends, one being biomethane upgrades, as most are set up for electricity generation. “A bonus payment has been put into place for biomethane upgrades, and there have been some specific goals set for biomethane,” Bilek says. While the upgrading trend isn’t super strong yet, according to Veit, it is also based on the fact that biogas can be upgraded and stored in the natural gas grid and existing large storage systems, and then called upon from the grid during peak gas-to-electricity demands. “Gas can be stored,” he points out, “and electricity is hard to store. Germany lacks storage capacity, and does not have the natural gas reserves of North America, so this has been a promising development.” Beyond trends within the country, due to a decline in domestic market conditions in 2012, German businesses have been focused more strongly on exporting technologies, particularly to the U.S. “German biogas companies are looking toward the U.S., due to the size of the country, agriculture roots,

BIOGAS¦ industry, population density, number of large cities, and the strength of the economy,” Goehring says. “They are also looking toward other European countries that have modeled renewable energy policies off the German system. Some are looking toward the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations while others are not looking to develop there yet.” Veit says Italy is a hot country for development, due to a very high guaranteed green power price of 0.28 euros (38 cents) per kilowatt hour. “England is a prospective market, France and some eastern European countries,” he adds. As German companies eye the U.S. market, which has just a few hundred operating biogas energy projects, what can the U.S. do to grease the tracks for domestic developers? One move may be simplification and consistency of project permitting nationwide, as opposed to piecemeal, state-by-state regulation.

Moving the US Forward

“Transparent permitting of projects is another contributing factor [to Germany’s

success],” Goehring says. “German legislation has sought to simplify the permitting process for biogas installations. Unlike in the U.S., where each state, county and environmental districts—air, water, solid waste, etcetera—have their own regulations and the permitting process is time-consuming and costly, the German method allows for a project to become permitted quickly as it is prescriptive.” Consistency across the states could help drive the U.S. biogas industry, according Veit, Goehring and Bilek. “If a consistant permitting process could be developed for biogas projects, more financial institutions would be willing to finance biogas projects,” Goehring says. Public policy is incredibly important, Bilek adds. “If it wasn’t for the EEG policy support or the broader energy framework, there wouldn’t be 8,000 biogas plants in Germany. It’s really up to policymakers to set the vision for the country. It doesn’t have to be a feed-in tariff. Maybe a policy instrument focused on cleaning up the gas to get it into the natural gas network might be a better approach the U.S. could take.”

Last but not least, the German public is generally supportive of renewable energy, seeks to conserve fossil fuels, and generally opposes nuclear power. “This is opposite of the U.S., where we only want our power to be inexpensive and reliable,” Goehring says. It may take many years before the U.S. finds itself mirroring anything close to what Germany has accomplished through its renewable policies. Its success has another dimension as well, Goehring points out. “Germany has a built a reputation as a country of brilliant engineers who have achieved remarkable success in multiple industries,” he adds. “The attributes which led to this commendation are clearly visible in the biogas industry as well.” Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961

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AdvancedBiofuelNews DOE funded projects University of North Carolina University of Georgia

Functional Manipulation of Root Endophyte Populations for Feedstock Improvement


Unraveling the Genetics of Two Key Biomass Traits that Differentiate Upland and Lowland Tetraploid Switchgrass Ecotypes, Colonization by Mycorrhizal Fungi, and Frost Tolerance


Purdue University

Genetic Control of Flowering in Switchgrass

Colorado State University


Global Analysis of Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression in Response to Drought Stress in Sorghum

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Pyramiding Genes and Alleles for Improving Energy Cane Biomass Yield


USDA funded projects University of Florida Oregon State University

Accelerated Development of Optimal Pine Feedstocks for Bioenergy and Renewable Chemicals Using Genome-Wide Selection


Structural Polymorphisms as Causes of Heterosis in Populus


USDA, DOE fund feedstock genomics research The USDA and U.S. DOE have awarded $8 million in research grants to seven projects focused on biomass genomics research. The research aims to improve biomass feedstocks grown for biofuels by increasing their yields, quality and ability to adapt to extreme environments. The funding will support research conducted on switchgrass, polar, pine and other plants. Researchers will use the most advanced techniques of modern genomics to


develop breeding strategies to improve these crops. According to the USDA, the benefits of this research program range from decreasing oil exports to increasing options for American farmers. The DOE’s Office of Science has provided $6.1 million over the next three years to support five projects. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will contribute $2 million to two projects.



Gevo announces military fuel testing, UL approval milestones Gevo Inc. has announced the U.S. Army successfully flew a Sikorsky UH60 Black Hawk helicopter on a 50/50 blend of its ATJ-8 renewable isobutnaol. The testing is being performed as part of a previously announced contract under which Gevo is supplying more than 16,000 gallons of fuel to the Army. Flight testing is being conducted at Aviation Flight Test Directorate on Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and is expected to be complete in March. The company also confirmed that Underwriter Laboratories has approved the generic use of up to 16 percent isobutnaol in UL 87A pumps by any manufacturer meeting ASTM specifications. The approval provides service stations across the U.S. with assurance that isobutanol-blended gasoline can be supplied through current gasoline pumps without the need to purchase new equipment.


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Algae Growth Fuels New Markets


The pages of Biomass Magazine are filled with stories about a variety of valuable biomass feedstocks being used for energy. These feedstocks are attracting investors looking to take advantage of the economic, environmental and regulatory advantages that come with clean, renewable fuels. In the algae industry, however, we are seeing a very different investment pattern. The pursuit of algae-derived fuels such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and ethanol is extremely attractive to private investors and governments, but it is the potential of algae in many other markets far from fuels that is also attracting attention. Those investments are laying the groundwork for a new phase of growth in the algae industry. Algae cultivation has historically been a small-scale affair, usually for food and nutritional supplement markets. Today, new investments in technologies that are proving themselves at commercial scales are heralding a very different industry. The high margins available from specialty chemicals, human health products, feeds and fertilizers are bringing in some of the first large revenue streams for companies deploying a new generation of technology. Algae will become big business, and not just in energy markets. In January, Dan Simon, CEO of Arizona-based algae company Heliae Development LLC, announced that he had booked $4.2 million in sales for 2014, a number that will increase. Instead of fuels, these sales were for the algae-based nutraceuticals, personal care and other products that Heliae is producing at its first commercial facility that recently opened in Gilbert, Ariz. BioProcess Algae’s LLC cultivation operation in Iowa is using the carbon dioxide from an ethanol plant to produce algae-derived nutraceuticals, fish meal, fish oil replacement and, eventually, fuels. Iowa's legislature was impressed enough to pass legislation that supports algae agriculture but doesn’t discriminate between products; it only provides the algae cultivators a measure of equal footing with other farmers.

In Hawaii, legislators have not acted on similar regulations, but that hasn’t stopped Cellana Inc. from developing a range of algae-derived products for feed, human health and biofuels. In Georgia, Algix LLC is harvesting algae 24/7 to produce a variety of bioplastic products for automotive markets, as well as others. Those are just a few examples. The list of companies that are keeping their eye on fuel markets while taking advantage of algae’s potential elsewhere is growing. And they are attracting significant investment. With this growth, we can expect a louder voice on policy from algae companies that are working in feed, food or biomaterials. The renewable fuel standard and the U.S. Department of Defense programs that promote biofuels will remain a focus, but we can expect the Farm Bill and efforts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA to be part of the industry discussion as well. A new type of agriculture is creating a range of products derived from algae. We will be hearing about biomass energy products quite a bit, but I think we can expect more news about how biomass is also impacting how we source our food, our feed, even how we fight cancer, malaria and capture carbon. Author: Margaret McCormick Chair of Board of Directors, Algae Biomass Organization 877-531-5512



EXPERTISE FROM EXPERIENCE: Best management practices for planting, growing, harvesting and handling have been worked out for switchgrass, as well as multiple other energy crops. PHOTO: GENERA ENERGY

Tennessee’s Biomass Innovation Genera Energy is applying a systems approach to developing customized energy crop supply chains. BY SUSANNE RETKA SCHILL


t is often said finding the right answer is predicated on asking the right question. The tongue-in-cheek answers to key questions on Genera Energy’s website summarize well the challenge of building the new biomass energy economy: Which feedstock is best? Well, it depends. Where is the optimal location for a biorefinery? Well, it depends. What’s the best method for collecting, harvesting, storing, transporting biomass? Well, it depends. How much does a ton of feedstock cost at the farm gate? At the biorefinery gate? Well, it depends. Genera Energy aims to help clients answer those questions using a systems approach to developing customized supply chain solutions. As it wrapped up a five-year biomass supply chain research grant for the U.S. DOE this fall, the Tennessee-based company has begun working on projects large and small across the country. Sam Jackson, vice president of business development, declined specifics, but says it is more than three projects, more than one 36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2014

feedstock, and includes projects focused on cellulosic ethanol, biopower and biobased products. There have been a number of twists in Genera Energy’s development path. There had been ongoing research for several years on switchgrass as an alternative crop, when, in 2007, the state committed $70.5 million to demonstrate an integrated bioeconomy. A switchgrass demonstration program offered incentives to farmers to grow the new crop, ultimately recruiting more than 60 farmers within 50 miles of Vonore, Tenn. Research on best agronomic, harvest, storage and handling practices was expanded. Addressing the chicken-and-egg challenge of developing a feedstock and conversion technology simultaneously, the university began looking for an industry partner to build a demonstrationscale plant at Vonore to convert switchgrass to cellulosic ethanol. When initial negotiations with Mascoma Corp. stalled, the university changed course and signed a joint venture agreement with DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, which later became DuPont

ADVANCED BIOFUEL¦ Cellulolsic Ethanol LLC when DuPont acquired its joint venture partner. DuPont was willing to work with switchgrass but was also interested in using corn stover, so the Tennessee project expanded to encompass a broader range of feedstocks. Indeed, the researchers have now worked with most of the feedstocks being proposed for cellulosic conversion, including miscanthus, biomass sorghum, sorghum sudan, sweet sorghum, hybrid poplar, arundo donax and sugarcane bagasse.

LLC to C Corp

As the programs developed early on, Jackson explains, “It became evident that the university needed a business arm to manage the initiative.” Genera Energy LLC was formed in 2008 by the university’s research foundation to take on that role. “As we moved forward with the switchgrass supply chain and other activities, it became evident that the contract and farm management skills that Genera developed over time were going to be needed in the marketplace.” In 2012, Genera Energy Inc. was spun out as an independent C corporation, and the original business was renamed TennEra LLC. TennEra owns the 250,000-gallon-per-year demonstration plant in Vonore, operated exclusively by DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol, and has taken on Genera’s academic functions, moving promising academic research forward to the precommercial demonstration stage. Genera Energy continues to operate the Biomass Innovation Park on 22 acres alongside the demonstration plant, built with the help of the five-year, $5 million DOE grant. “It helped us learn a tremendous amount about bulk handling of switchgrass and other herbaceous feedstocks,” Jackson says. Using existing equipment in new, efficient ways was important to reducing costs, he says, as well as optimizing “the dance of logistics in the field with trucks and equipment.” No new equipment was developed as part of the project, he adds. “What is unique here is the way we’ve put all of that equipment together.” One example is the use of the compaction technology developed for urban trash handling to double the bulk density of field-chopped switchgrass, cutting trucking costs in half. On the receiving end, Genera experimented with eight to 10 different feedstocks. “We’ve learned about the handling of those feedstocks and how to adjust to prevent problems,” Jackson says. For instance, there is a big difference between a feedstock that’s been field-chopped using forage equipment with cutting knives that leave clean-cut edges versus the same feedstock that is reduced to similar particle sizes using a hammermill-type grinder with a shredding action that leaves furry edges. With proper adjustments, both flow through the system efficiently, Jackson says, adding that each feedstock has its own handling characteristics. The realization that this knowledge base is both unique and needed in the emerging marketplace is a big reason Genera Energy went commercial. Jackson explains Genera is now focused on working with clients to choose from all available feedstock and equipment options to customize a supply chain system, starting with land acquisition, farmer contracts, agronomic management, harvesting logistics and preprocessing. “We’ll get [the feedstock] to a spec product at a plant gate because we feel the most efficient way to manage the supply

Genera Energy’s Biomass Innovation Park is a fully equipped commercialscale facility where preprocessing parameters for various feedstocks can be developed.

chain is to have it integrated all the way through. Multiple contractors doing multiple pieces is not necessarily the most efficient way of doing this,” he explains. Genera has developed and trademarked Supply ASSURE, software that incorporates financial accounting, labor management and data from the field through preprocessing. It also offers a proprietary and trademarked BIN-SPEC material handling and milling system.

Switchgrass Succeeds

Switchgrass, where the Tennessee initiative began, is still likely to be the feedstock of choice in the state, Jackson adds. While energy crops like miscanthus and biomass sorghum offer impressive yields and real advantages in certain situations, switchgrass will have its place. In the Tennessee evaluations, yields in the best soils and locations have met the 8-dry-ton-per-acre target, he says. More importantly, the perennial grass has been demonstrated to do well on less productive land that typically is not in row-crop production, yielding 6- to 7-dry-tons per acre. “Then, when you couple that yield with management costs, which tend to be fairly low because it’s a seeded feedstock like sorghum but perennial, plus low fertilizer needs on an annual basis and fairly low intensity in terms of management, it comes out to be a fairly low-priced feedstock,” Jackson explains. “In this area, this region, switchgrass will be the fit.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Senior Editor, BBI International 701-738-4922


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