2021 Biomass Issue 4

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Issue 4, 2021

MATERIAL

MATTERS Feedstock Variation and Bulk Conveying PAGE 28

Innovations in Fiber Sizing Equipment PAGE 12

PLUS:

Industry Leaders’ Biogas, RNG Market Outlook

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Advanced Biofuels & Biochemicals

Pellet Mill Operations

Biogas, Landfill Gas & RNG Biomass Power & Thermal

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MARCH 14-16, 2022

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2021 ISSUE 4 | VOLUME 15

12

18

FEATURES 12 EQUIPMENT Size Reduction Solutions

Equipment manufacturers talk fiber sizing equipment improvements, innovation and demand. By Keith Loria

COLUMNS

04 EDITOR’S NOTE

Winter is Coming (And For Many, Much Higher Heating Bills) By Anna Simet

06 Celebrating National Bioenergy Day By Carrie Annand

07 Avoiding Failure, Extending Life of System-Critical Electrical Bus Ducts By Mohsen Tarassoly

DEPARTMENTS

05 EVENTS 08 30

BUSINESS BRIEFS MARKETPLACE

18 BIOGAS/RNG Biogas Now and Beyond

Industry stakeholders discussed state-of-the-industry, market potential, drivers and more at the virtual Biogas Americas event. By Anna Simet

CONTRIBUTIONS 24 PROJECT DEVELOPMENT Project Talk

Recognizing the crucial role project managers play is paramount to successful project execution. By Sven Swenson

26 FIBER Forisk Wood Fiber Review: Weather and Trucking Impacts

Wet ground and constrained trucking capacity have impacted southern hardwood roundwood prices in Q3 2021. By Brooks Mendell and Shawn Baker

SPONSOR SPOTLIGHTS 28 BIOMASS ENGINEERING & EQUIPMENT Material Characteristics and Bulk Handling Design By Joel Dulin

ON THE COVER

A drag-chain conveyor transports green biomass at a mill in South Carolina. A galvanized finish protects the conveyor from corrosive acids in the biomass and effectively reduces maintenance. PHOTO: BIOMASS ENGINEERING & EQUIPMENT

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. Four 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.

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¦EDITOR’S NOTE

Winter is Coming (And for Many, Much Higher Heating Bills)

EDITORIAL EDITOR Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com

One of the big headlines right now is how much more natural-gas using homeowners will have to pay to heat their homes this upcoming winter. Many utilities across the country are warning customers that, due to several reasons including lower natural gas production and inventory, their bills could double from last year, translating to hundreds of dollars more. One energy analyst is quoted in numerous media outlets saying that all types of heating fuels—including propane and heating oil—will likely substantially climb. For oil, we’re talking negaANNA SIMET EDITOR tive per barrel prices nearly a year and a half ago, to a 3% jump in asimet@bbiinternational.com just one day in early October (up more than 60% for 2021). But the price of wood pellets (or wood chips) just does not see these price swings. This price stability is one of the benefits the industry has been touting since the beginning, but I think people often have a difficult time seeing things from a long-run point-of-view, which is why it hasn’t gained as much traction as it warrants. Will rocketing energy bills create a a tidal wave of heating system changeouts? Probably not. Some? Likely. But in any case, what this does do for sure is get people thinking about and looking at alternatives. So, right now is an optimal time for renewable, modern wood heat to shine and draw some attention to itself. Moving onto content in this issue, we have a good balance of topics related to our overall theme of material preparation and handling, and our bonus theme, which is renewable natural gas (RNG). “Size Reduction Solutions,” page 12, includes some equipment manufacturers discussing what’s new, and how they respond to market demand and consumer feedback. Our spotlight article on page 28, “Material Characteristics and Bulk Handling Design,” goes into detail about how feedstock variation affects material handling systems, and how to combat these issues. As for RNG, I covered some panels at the virtual Biogas Americas conference, and you’ll find a review, “Biogas Now and Beyond,” on page 18. The biogas/RNG industry has so much momentum—and potential—and that was surely make evident by the conversations had by industry stakeholders, who discussed what they’re doing, trends they’re seeing, and what must happen to order to further drive the market. RNG is not without some challenges, and it seems right now, the biggest hurdle is the rate at which states adopt clean energy and low-carbon policies. Said Sean Wine, vice president of renewable operations at Clean Energy Renewable Fuels, about eight states currently have programs in the works, and the industry would greatly benefit from more of this type of state-enacted regulatory framework that will really give the compliance market a boost. On the note of RNG, I want to end with a plug for our annual North American Renewable Natural Gas map, which is currently being updated for 2022. This joint project with the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas is now in its third year, and includes operating and under construction RNG projects in the U.S. and Canada. According to RNG Coalition numbers, there are 194 projects online as of mid-October (excluding under construction/development). For some context, at the same time last year, there were roughly 115 operating projects—an increase of about 68%. If you’re in the biogas and RNG space, you’ll want to check out this opportunity—reach out to us to learn more.

4 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele evoegele@bbiinternational.com

ART VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCTION & DESIGN Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com PRESIDENT Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com VICE PRESIDENT, OPERATIONS/ MARKETING & SALES John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER/ BIOENERGY TEAM LEADER Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Andrea Anderson aanderson@bbiinternational.com SR. ACCOUNT MANAGER Marty Steen msteen@bbiinternational.com ACCOUNT MANAGER Bob Brown bbrown@bbiinternational.com CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING COORDINATOR Dayna Bastian dbastian@bbiinternational.com 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.


INDUSTRY EVENTS¦

2022 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo MARCH 14-16, 2022

¦ADVERTISER INDEX

Jacksonville, FL

The International Biomass Conference & Expo is where future and existing producers of biobased power, fuels and thermal energy products go to network with waste generators and other industry suppliers and technology providers. It’s where project developers converse with utility executives; where researchers and technology developers rub elbows with venture capitalists; and where Fortune 500 executives and influential policy makers sit side-by-side with American farmers and foresters. 866.746.8385 | BiomassConference.com

2

2022 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo

11

Airoflex Equipment

29

Biomass Engineering & Equipment

32

Biomass Magazine’s Industry Directory

31

Biomass Magazine’s Webinar Series

16

Cleveland Vibrator Company

10

Delta Energy Services, LLC

8

Evergreen Engineering

17

Hermann Sewering GmbH

9

Hunterwood Technologies

23

IEP Technologies

15

KEITH Manufacturing Company

27

Kenco Engineering Inc.

20

Martin Engineering

21

Mid-South Engineering Company

25

Timber Products Inspection/Biomass Energy Laboratories

Carbon Capture & Storage Summit JUNE 13, 2022

Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN Capturing and storing carbon dioxide in underground wells has the potential to become the most consequential technological deployment in the history of the broader biofuels industry. Deploying effective carbon capture and storage at biofuels plants will cement ethanol and biodiesel as the lowest carbon liquid fuels commercially available in the marketplace. The Carbon Capture & Storage Summit will offer attendees a comprehensive look at the economics of carbon capture and storage, the infrastructure required to make it possible and the financial and marketplace impacts to participating producers. 866.746.8385 | FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

2022 Int’l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JUNE 13-15, 2022

Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN 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

Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit JUNE 13-15, 2022

Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN

Please check our website for upcoming webinars

www.biomassmagazine.com/pages/webinar

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 | FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

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Celebrating National Bioenergy Day BY CARRIE ANNAND

The 9th National Bioenergy Day was celebrated on Oct. 20th. The week kicked off with a wonderful surprise—a proclamation from President Joe Biden recognizing National Forest Products Week. This statement spotlighted energy as a “valuable” forest product, and outlined the administration’s support for “biofuels, biochar, heat and power” from forest materials. He also noted the jobs and extensive supply chain tied to the forestry sector. This statement closely followed a letter he sent to the American Loggers Council for their annual meeting just a few weeks earlier. The letter noted that “healthy forests are an invaluable part of our economy” and that “forest products touch nearly every part of our daily lives.” Taken together, these two presidential statements signal a strong interest in forestry and the entire supply chain that surrounds forest products, including biomass power. It’s exciting that we’ve been able to perpetuate Bioenergy Day for nearly a decade, even when we’re on year two of a global pandemic. Because of the challenges of planning in-person events, we teamed up with the California Biomass Energy Alliance to schedule a series of virtual events during the week of Bioenergy Day. This year, we wanted to give our respective members an overview of where our policy objectives stand, as well as the latest developments we are monitoring. Our Bioenergy Day events consisted of several virtual events spread out over the week. One panel looked at the latest in transportation credits, with Bob Cleaves updating participants on the latest developments on incorporating

6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

electricity into the Renewable Fuel Standard. Graham Noyes of Noyes Law Corp. detailed California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and Jack Barrow, BTR Energy, along with Val Tiangco, Sacramental Municipal Utility District, discussed the lessons we might learn from the implementation of that law. Another event examined the latest in biomass carbon management. Dan Sanchez from the University of California at Berkeley spoke about bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration and the U.S. DOE’s Lynn Brickett provided an overview of the agency’s work in carbon capture. Pacific Biochar CEO Josiah Hunt discussed his company’s ability to match biomass power producers with biochar customers, as well as exciting developments in the new frontier of selling biochar carbon credits. Additionally, the U.S. Space Force hosted a welltimed event on Bioenergy Day to explore using wood energy to power and heat its New Hampshire station. We look forward to the return of in-person events in the hopefully not-too-distant future. That said, we appreciated the virtual input and participation from stakeholders across the industry. Whether it’s the RFS or the expansion of biochar markets, 2022 will likely be a breakthrough year for the biomass power industry. Author: Carrie Annand Executive Director, Biomass Power Association www.usabiomass.org carrie@usabiomass.org


Avoiding Failure, Extending Life of System-Critical Electrical Bus Ducts BY MOHSEN TARASSOLY

Over the course of the past year, many power plants have shortened, postponed or rescheduled their maintenance outages due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has caused some critical maintenance activities to be put on the backburner. For many in the power generation industry, this has presented some uncertainties as the volume of unplanned outages caused by deferred maintenance is expected to rise. One component that is often overlooked as being system-critical is the electrical bus duct system. The bus system is a plant’s main vessel of power distribution, carrying large amperage currents from the generator to a step-up transformer. In other words, the bus system acts like a giant extension cord. Although the value of the electrical bus duct system may seem minimal when compared to that of the generator or the transformer, the bus duct system plays a vital role in the plant. Consider it the lifeline between both high-value components; if a failure occurs, there is a good chance the connected appendices will be impacted. Electrical bus duct systems do not have redundancy. Being custom-designed components for each plant, they also do not have a quick-fix or replacement solution readily available. To make matters worse, the pandemic has broadly impacted the global supply chain, introducing significantly longer lead times, especially for systems that have obsolete or difficult-to-procure replacement components. As such, the need for having an ironclad contingency and a proactive, preventative maintenance plan has never been more prevalent. Nevertheless, a growing number of plants have adapted a run-to-failure strategy, known as reactive maintenance. Although this strategy can cost less in the present, waiting until something fails is a big gamble. It is a risk that can significantly lower efficiency and further contribute to bottom-line profit losses if an unplanned outage or catastrophic failure occurs. In fact, studies have shown that running to failure costs an average of four times more than implementing a routine proactive, preventative maintenance schedule. Industry best practice recommends bus duct maintenance yearly, at every scheduled plant outage, or at a mini-

mum of every 18 to 24 months. However, over the past few years, online monitoring options have exploded in the marketplace, adding to the misconception that offline inspection maintenance can be postponed. Generally speaking, these diagnostic reports only provide provisional or nondefinitive findings that cannot be confirmed unless an offline inspection is performed. So, you are spreading your budget across two activities with partial results, versus one that provides certain results (offline inspection). Leading utilities are partnering with highly experienced and trained bus duct experts and relying on them to proactively manage these critical assets on their behalf. This approach results in less down time, increased operational efficiency and safety, and is the key in preventing a bus duct failure. A thorough offline inspection can identify, with certainty, many things, including but not limited to poor installation or system design; cracked insulators; localized overheating; corona/arcing; condensation and water intrusion; loose connections; loose, missing, or inappropriate hardware; dust and dirt build up; debris and foreign material; improper grounding; cracked weld joints; poor or inadequate insulation, lack of proper silver plating, and more. Once these abnormalities are discovered, proper repairs or upgrades can be performed to ensure the system is running in optimal condition. Routine preventative maintenance is not only a cost-effective way to extend the life of your electrical assets, but also a critical task in minimizing the risk of a forced outage and bodily harm to on-site personnel. In conclusion, incorporating a proactive, preventative maintenance program for electrical bus duct systems can increase operational efficiency, production and safety. Author: Mohsen Tarassoly Sales Engineer Director, Electrical Builders Inc. mtarassoly@electricalbuilders.com www.electricalbuilders.com

BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 7


Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS

Weltec, Bristola, partner for US RNG projects

German biogas plant manufacturer Weltec Biopower announced a U.S. service partnership with Bristola, based in Des Moines, Iowa, to build and service biogas plants. Both companies have over 20 years of experience in the industry. Weltec has designed and built over 350 biogas and RNG plants in 25 countries, entering the U.S. market in 2006 with the construction of two biogas plants in Wisconsin. Bristola personnel will have full training in the construction and operation of Weltec plants and will be able to call upon the full support and expertise of the company’s service and biology departments, and other in-house experts to assist U.S. clients.

Weltec has experience with RNG plants that fuel trucks directly on-site.

Vanguard Renewables names Smith CEO

Vanguard Renewables, a U.S. organics to renewable energy company, announced the appointment of Neil H. Smith as CEO. Smith is the former president and CEO of InterGen, an international energy company. Under his leadership, InterGen was transformed from a 20-person startup company into a 700-plus person global, multibillion dollar operating and development company specializing in the development, ownership and operation of power generation and related energy infrastructure assets spanning six continents and more than 20 countries. Prior to becoming InterGen CEO, Smith served as the company’s first chief operating officer.

Smith

Prodesa creates new pellet production division

Prodesa has formed a new division for the design, manufacture and aftermarket service of capital equipment for pellet production, ProGranul Equipment. The new division was developed from a design that has over 30 years of operations in more than 300 pellet mills installed around the world, and currently includes the ProGranul Toro Pellet Mill and ProGranul Thor Dry Hammer Mill.

8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021


BUSINESS BRIEFS¦

Xebec orders BGX Biostream units from Brightmark, Chevron RNG

Xebec Adsorption Inc. announced the signing of the first set of task orders under a previously announced master service agreement for 18 BGX-Biostream units with Brightmark RNG Holdings LLC. Brightmark RNG Holdings LLC is a joint venture between Brightmark and Chevron U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Chevron Corp., to own project companies across the U.S. to produce and market dairy renewable natural gas (RNG). The 18 units are expected to be deployed across 10 dairy RNG projects in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and South Dakota. Xebec’s BGX Biostream biogas upgrading units are modularized, skidded and fully containerized. IMAGE: XEBEC

Wisconsin county plans $10 million investment in RNG, CNG

Dane County, Wisconsin, is proposing to invest $10 million in clean fuel infrastructure that will help expand the use of renewable natural gas (RNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles in the county fleet. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi included the investment in his 2022 budget proposal. RNG is already injected into the pipeline at the Dane County Landfill, produced from both landfill gas and biogas from nearby manure digesters. The county fleet currently operates approximately 100 CNG vehicles, including nearly 30 highway snowplows. According to the county, $5 million of the proposed investment will support the purchase of CNG trailers to help fuel the Dane County Highway fleet in areas of the county where CNG filling stations are less available. Approximately $2 million will support the installation of a new CNG filling station at the Fish Hatchery Road Highway garage, while the remaining $3.2 million will be used to purchase eight additional CNG-powered snowplows.

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BUSINESS BRIEFS¦

Vermeer named top workplace

Vermeer Corp. has been awarded a Top Workplaces 2021 honor by the Des Moines Register’s annual Iowa Top Workplaces contest. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by employee engagement technology partner Energage LLC. The anonymous survey uniquely measures 15 culture drivers that are critical to the success of any organization including alignment, execution and connection. It asks questions about how companies are encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion through recruiting and hiring; compensation and benefits; professional development; employee involvement, and visible commitment.

Shell starts production at first US RNG facility

Shell Oil Products U.S., a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc, has successfully achieved startup and production of renewable natural gas (RNG) at its first U.S. biomethane facility, Shell New Energies Junction City in Oregon. The facility utilizes locally sourced cow manure and excess agricultural residues to produce an expected 736,000 MMBtu per year of RNG. Shell is developing additional RNG production facilities to be located directly within operating dairies, including Shell Downstream Galloway at the High Plains Ponderosa Dairy in Plains, Kansas, and Shell Downstream Bovarius at the Bettencourt Dairies in Wendell, Idaho. Production at the three locations is expected to help supply Shell R-CNG fueling sites planned at the company’s product distribution complexes in Carson, Van Nuys, Signal Hill and San Jose, California, and at a terminal in Portland, Oregon, owned by Shell Midstream Partners L.P.

Martin Engineering introduces online conveyor training content

New online content has been introduced by Martin Engineering, specifically designed to integrate with learning management systems so users can assign, monitor and certify progress of all participants. The new offering includes eight self-paced modules that address methods to identify, understand and correct common bulk conveying issues to improve safety while complying with regulations, maximizing production efficiency and achieving the lowest operating costs. The modules cover essential subjects that include an introduction to the concept of total material control, with content on transfer points, belting and splices, as well as belt cleaning, alignment and dust management.

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10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021


BUSINESS BRIEFS¦

Morbark introduces Vtection Vibration Detection System

The Vtection system allows operators to detect and remove ungrindable objects that could damage equipment.

Morbark has announced a new, patent-pending system that monitors rotor vibration in the company’s 6400X, 3400X and 3000X series of horizontal grinders. The Vtection is designed to reduce damage from contact with ungrindable objects or other causes of damaging vibration, such as an out-of-balance rotor, broken insert or defective bearing. To use the Vtection system, the operator sets an acceptable operating vibration level through the electronic controller, to match the grinding application. Once the Vtection system is triggered, Morbark’s Integrated Control System (MICS) initiates several actions to remove the tramp material out of the rotor area. The sequence of these actions includes reversing and stopping the infeed, bringing the engine speed to idle, disengaging the clutch, and a warning message displayed on the MICS screen. At this time, the operator can inspect the grinder and remove the object that caused the trip before resuming operation.

IMAGE: MORBARK

Skrobala joins Bathan as country manager France

Skrobala

High-performance ceramic lubricant company Bathan AG has added Alain Skrobala as country manager France. Prior to Bathan, Skrobala served as product and market manager at Carl Bechem for five years, and as commercial director for Bijur Delimon Interational. He brings experience in lubrication optimization to Bathan AG, where he will develop the French-speaking markets. Skrobala is a mechanical engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the automotive, sugar processing, cement production and rail industries.

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

TRUCK DUMPERS

TRAILER TIPPERS

RECEIVING HOPPERS BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 11


SIZE REDUC

SOLUTIO


CTION

ONS

EQUIPMENT¦

Biomass Magazine chats with manufacturers about improvements and innovation in fiber sizing equipment. BY KEITH LORIA

E

nergy efficiency, connectivity and reduced downtime are the pillars of fiber-sizing equipment today, and companies are striving to innovate and improve the metrics of each. From custom-designed, multidimensional grinding systems to hammermills, metal protection, screens, conveyors and bulk storage handling, the following includes some of the latest upgrades by a few of many equipment manufacturers that are largely inspired by market trends, customer demands and feedback.

Vecoplan

Vecoplan introduced its ESC (electronic slip control) drive train about five years ago, a variable frequency drive-controlled system that eliminates the need for a gearbox by electronically changing the speed of the cutting rotor. “The ESC drive provides operators tremendous flexibility with how they are able to process different materials because the system reacts accordingly with the resistance of the feedstock material,” says Yuri Chocholko, Vecoplan’s sales manager, wood and biomass. “The result is lower power consumption, a lower price tag and reduced long-term maintenance costs, since the gearbox, which is traditionally the most expensive part of the drivetrain, isn’t there to fail.” Vecoplan machines are designed to be flexible for many feedstocks. For example, the VIZ model shredder, which will be introduced in early 2022, can change the cutting speed at the touch of a button from 50 revolutions per minute (rpm) to 300 rpm. “Further, its unique rotor design allows the operator to change the cutter head size on the rotor instead being committed to just one size,” Chocholko says. “One VIZ rotor can accommodate cutters as small as 1x1-inch for an output of one-fourth-inch particle

Rawlings’ engineers have designed a hog case that allows customer maintenance teams easier access to the hog rotor, sizing grates and internal case liners. PHOTO: RAWLINGS

BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 13


Rawlings wood hogs are available in seven different sizes, in both vertical and horizontal models to fit any application. Pictured is a Rawlings vertical grinder. PHOTO: RAWLINGS

Designed for operational flexibility, the VIZ 1300 Rotary Shredder is a highly configurable industrial shredding machine. PHOTO: VECOPLAN

size, and as large as 3x3 inches for bulky item size reduction such as bale-breaking.” Whether incoming feedstock changes are seasonal or product-related, or when final material size requirements differ based upon a changing market, the VIZ model is a single machine that replaces the need for multiple machines, providing more flexibility and control to the operator, according to Chocholko. “Vecoplan product development is partially based on the customer experience,” he says. “Reviewing service and technical support logs provides insight to where improvements and changes should be made. Improving access for maintenance and making certain areas extra durable came from this insight.” So, over the last five years, Vecoplan has specifically concentrated on lowering and simplifying machine maintenance to drive down the cost of ownership. Many of its new equipment designs focus on ease of 14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

safely accessing the most common maintenance areas and improving the design and quality of consumable wear parts. “Examples of maximizing the life of wear parts are designing rotatable cutter heads, reversible bed knives and symmetrical sizing screens,” Chocholko says. “All of these help to extend the operational life two- to fourfold on the most commonly replaced consumables on size reduction equipment.” More recently, Vecoplan has increasingly received inquiries now about IoT (internet of things) and accessing machine controls remotely. The company prides itself in being an innovation leader regarding electrical controls—incorporating internet access and remote monitoring, diagnostics and reporting to equipment was an initiative that began over 10 years ago. “The demand for information from the operator has never been greater; customers want all of the information,

and they want it now,” Chocholko says. “This validates the importance for Vecoplan to continue developing and implementing new tools and software to provide greater access to equipment performance, enabling much improved process analytics.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that worldwide supply chain constraint is Vecoplan’s biggest challenge with manufacturing. As such, the company has been ordering more parts and materials than usual to maintain higher inventory levels in attempt to hedge against delivery delays and surcharges. Vecoplan’s goal continues to be growth, and the company will continue innovating to do so. “As energy and material costs increase, biofuels, bioenergy and biomass continue to offer a sustainable alternative to oil, plastics and traditional materials typically used for every day consumer products,” Chocholko adds. “This includes biobased jet fuels, com-


EQUIPMENT¦ postable paper plates, the rapidly expanding hemp market and woody biomass as an alternative fuel source for traditional coalfired power stations. It is a good time to be in this industry.”

Rawlings

The motto at Rawlings is “innovation not imitation,” and the company says it is constantly looking at ways to improve its equipment to make the machines more durable and easier to maintain. In response to recent trends, Rawlings is thinking outside the box and recommends systems that incorporate a combination of equipment. For example, utilizing horizontal high-speed and slow-speed grinders as the primary grinder for processing larger-size materials such as railroad ties, pallets, construction, demolition and hurricane debris, while using the vertical grinders and hammermills to produce a smaller, more consistent particle size. “By splitting the material loads through different grinders and incorporating product screening, it allows the equipment to

process the material more effectively while producing consistent feedstock,” says Judi Tyacke, Rawlings project manager. The company’s solid steel Super Hi Inertia Rotor TM is designed from rock crusher technology, making it extremely tolerant of contaminants, rocks and metal without catastrophic maintenance costs if metal enters the grinding chamber. The Rawlings rotor is also designed to maximize inertia while minimizing its weight. “With the increase of inertia, our machine runs at lower rpms than competitor machines and half the speed of conventional hammermills, resulting in overall savings of electricity and maintenance costs,” Tyacke says. “The cam profile of the Rawlings rotor prevents feed surges by keeping material closer to the cutting edge of the bits. This translates to better productivity as the in-feed conveyor is stalled less frequently, and less down time, as the increased energy reduces the number of motor drive stalls.” During its 45 years of designing wood grinding systems, the company has learned that most of its clients are asking for grind-

BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 15


Bruks Siwertell’s drop-fed, or Rotom hammer hog, units can process many different types of materials including bark, forest residues, industrial wood waste and sawmill waste. PHOTO: BRUKS SIWERTELL

ers to obtain the smallest finished product on a single pass or one-stage pass through the grinder. “We often suggest that this is not always the most economical option long term,” Tyacke says. “Running the grinder and related equipment at full surge capacity results in frequent equipment breakdowns, high consumption of spare parts and costly maintenance repairs. Incorporating several types of equipment into the system allows the customer to protect their investment while producing a high-quality, consistent end product.” For that reason, Rawlings’ engineers have made significant changes to the hog case that allow its customers’ maintenance teams easier access to the hog rotor, sizing grates and internal case liners. Over the years, several customers have wanted a Rawlings solid rotary hog but did not have the overhead clearance in their existing footprint to allow for a clam shell opening type of machine, Rawlings says. “Our engineering team took this feedback and did a redesign of the hog case. This new model opens hydraulically from the rear of the machine, allowing full access to the hog’s internal wear components and rotor for ease of maintenance.” More recently, a customer contacted the company looking for a 2-inch minus product, as his feedstock was 12-inch minus with approximately 40 percent of the material already sized to 2-inch minus. “Af16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

ter thoroughly looking over the project parameters, we suggested a vibratory shaker deck to screen off and separate the material, removing the 2-inch accepts prior to grinding it through a Rawlings vertical drop feed hog,” Tyacke says. “This is a common practice to reduce the amount of tonnage to the machine, resulting in cost savings of spare parts, maintenance and overall electricity costs. Simply put, it’s less expensive to screen it than grind it.”

Bruks

Bruks Siwertell is continuously improving machines and optimizes its product portfolio to meet market requirements.“The market demands a high-quality end-product with high production rate at low investment and operating cost,” says Stefanie Müller, area sales manager of Bruks Klöckner GmbH, part of Bruks Siwertell Group. Some of the demanding markets are the charcoal industry, biomass power plants, the paper industry, chipboard industry and the pellet industry. Müller notes there are several trends to which the company is responding. “When producing wood chips for charcoal, it is important to produce compact, large wood chips of up to 250 millimeters,” she says. “When chipping, the wood chips should not be compressed and there shouldn’t be too many cracks or fractures. We have developed a 1-knife rotor with a special design, allowing


EQUIPMENT¦

the oversized chips to freely flow out of the chipper without getting impacted by the chipper’s outlet.” For biomass power plants, fuel sizes according to G or P standards are mostly required, and the company’s chipping machines are designed accordingly. “Feed material of poor quality can also be processed to the appropriate fuel size using our machines—the sophisticated infeed work of the machine is particularly advantageous for this,” Müller says. “This consists of several upper and lower infeed rollers that are arranged a way that the cradle (upper infeed unit) climbs over the intake material and is lifted. Depending on the size of the machine, the lifting of the intake is supported by a hydraulic system. The roller arrangement, as well as the function of the supporting hydraulics, are continuously optimized and adapted to the respective requirements of our customers.” For the pellet industry, great importance is attached to producing a uniform chip that can be easily dried. The chipping can be done either in one or two steps depending on which product the dryer or overall concept requires. Bruks is continuously improving its machines, based on experience with customers and references, according to Müller. “New raw materials for knives, rollers and cladding sheets are tested and further developed for a wide variety of requirements in order to increase service life and minimize maintenance costs,” she says. “We focus on sustainability. The longer the service life, the fewer new materials need to be used. And wherever possible, we work with easy-exchange wear plates. This enables material optimization, since only the parts that are in direct and constant contact with the material are exchanged without having to change the entire rotor or rotor casing, for example.” The most frequently asked questions from Bruks Siwertell’s customers relate to throughput, knife service life, wood chip quality and power consumption. Service life and ease of use come next. For example, one customer wanted to replace their old disc chipper with a drum chipper. The reason for this was the infeed material—different, quite strong, and sometimes poor-quality logs that could not be processed with the disc chipper, according to Müller. “Based on customer experience with the disc chipper, a special drum chipper was designed being able to meet all the desired requirements,” she says. “After commissioning, some optimizations were necessary but, in the end, this resulted in a valuable new machine.” In another project, drum chippers were replaced by disc chippers to achieve higher revenues due to better wood chip quality with lower fines. This project was successful, and others quickly followed. “Bruks is continuously improving machines and optimizes products to meet market requirements,” Müller adds. “For us, sustainability means manufacturing machines that preserve resources over their whole service life, and thus, work extremely economically.” Author: Keith Loria Biomass Magazine freelance writer www.biomassmagazine.com

BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 17


¦BIOGAS/RNG

BIOGAS NOW

&Beyond

Market momentum, potential and policy were some of the main discussion topics at the virtual Biogas Americas conference. BY ANNA SIMET

The American Biogas Council’s interactive mapping tool tracks U.S. biogas and RNG projects, allowing users to filter by technology type, feedstock, operational status and state. SOURCE: AMERICAN BIOGAS COUNCIL

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ith 2,200-plus operating systems in all 50 states, the U.S. biogas market seems sizeable. According to the American Biogas Council’s tally, it currently consists of roughly 273 on-farm systems, 1,269 wastewater systems, 66 food scrap systems and 645 landfill systems. ABC Executive Director Patrick Serfass provided a snapshot of the industry during the Biogas Americas conference introduction, emphasizing the industry’s vast potential, which is not only based on the estimate that there is potential for more than 15,000 more systems among all categories, but renewable natural gas 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

(RNG) upgrading possibilities of existing electricity facilities as well. “178 of the operating projects are RNG,” he said. “It’s interesting to look at how many [RNG] projects we have this year—the number is changing by the day and increasing very quickly. There are electricity-generating projects across the country and many are being upgraded, but there are a lot of new projects as well.” Serfass’s industry overview was a fitting segue into a conversation with Brightmark CEO Bob Powell, a former director of ABC, who discussed the company’s tremendous momentum in the bio-

Serfass


Powell

gas space, as well as insights on project development, partnerships and how the industry should, in a united fashion, move forward. “Ultimately, our mission is to reimagine waste,” Powell said. “We’re trying to find solutions to our most fundamental environmental issues caused by waste.” Powell discussed Brightmark’s current work in plastic recycling, which is centered on a technology that he said was invented and patented nearly 20 years ago. From numbers 1 to 7 plastics to Styrofoam containers, Powell said the pyrolysis-based platform can convert materials back into useable products, including transportation fuels, motor oils,

paraffin waxes and more. Currently, Brightmark has a 100,000-ton-per-year (TYP) facility in Ashley, Indiana, and plans to build more in the future, Powell said. This includes a 400,000 TPY plant under development in Macon, Georgia, in partnership with the state, as well as projects in Europe in partnership with BP, with which the company recently signed an MOU. Moving on to the topic of RNG, Powell said the company has projects under construction from coast to coast of the U.S., a combination of new builds and upgrades of existing power projects. Operating projects, aside from a poultry litter-to-combined-heatBIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 19


¦BIOGAS/RNG

US Biogas Market Current

Potential

On-farm: 273 Wastewater: 1,269 Food scrap: 68 Landfills: 645

On-farm: 8,300 Wastewater: 4,000 Food scrap: 1,000 Landfills: 440

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and-power project in Sumter, South Carolina, are all dairy manure, Powell said, which are on-farm or in farming communities. “We recently announcing the closing of our third set of projects in a joint venture with Chevron,” Powell said. “Beginning last year, with Chevron, we agreed to jointly construct, develop, own and then sell RNG projects across the U.S. Last November, we closed our first tranche, earlier this year we closed our second, and very recently, we announced the closing of our third.” Brightmark and Chevron are in the process of completing construction of the three different groups of projects, Powell added, which total 28. When asked what has had the most significant impact on growth, Powell was quick to answer. “The people and the team,” he said. “When we started from ground zero five years ago, we had two to three people, and now we have over 100 strong. “What I wanted at founding was to create a mission-oriented company that was looking to solve a problem that didn’t yet have a solution … Without the mission, [Brightmark employees] wouldn’t have joined the team. We’re talking experts in every area ... engineers who had not worked on digester projects before but are really good at it, a financing team that is very passionate but could have done a lot of other things and been compensated very differently as we started the company ... we assembled a team that has done things like this in other areas and is excited to achieve the mission.” Outside of Brightmark, Powell said, the industry needs to focus on growing its collective team, meaning attracting people who are not already in the space. “We need a ton of new people to get this done,” he said, in regard to market growth and the substantial increase of RNG use. “Most [people] we need to get from outside, and we need to figure out how to train and educate them, and create processes for them to be successful. As we look at gaining workforce, I am very cognizant that if I were to get someone from another company simi-


lar to us, I’m pulling from the same smaller, finite resource.” The challenge in this, Powell reiterated, is having training framework in place for new people. He pointed to the American Biogas Council’s educational programs, which he said “are really awesome, in fact, a lot of our folks attended the operator trainings early on, and they were very valuable.” Finally, when asked about partnering with larger players like Brightmark has, Powell emphasized how critical it is to have a long-term—and backup—plan. “When you’re participating with larger players, in my history in the renewable sector, there may be big surprises if you haven’t played the chess pieces,” he said. “You need a plan to exit in some cases, and to know what your long-term economic sustainability is ... having a strategy where you simply undercut your competitors, without thinking about the chess moves, can really poison the well for us, and limit all of our abilities to successfully solve the GHG, land management and the water quality issues we have. You really need to have an end game and be thoughtful, but don’t be fearful of partnering with others.”

emissions reduction targets, large corporations and utilities, they are finally jumping in and learning about RNG, and how it can be used to decarbonize so many applications within their organizations.” As for Sean Wine, vice president of renewable operations at Clean Energy Renewable Fuels, he said he couldn’t pick one particular industry facet, but rather, “Anything that is low carbon intensity (CI) … I think the transportation space commands the highest value today. It will continue to drive a lot of this and a lot of the feedstock development … the low CI markets are going to influence carbon reduction goals in various state programs currently being developed.” John Dannan, managing director of Generate Capital, said his choice would be projects that obtain ultra-low CI scores. “I think that’s a really big differentiator in projects and their access to markets … profit-

ability is driven by the scores they get. Poultry and swine have the chance of getting amazing scores.” Dannan emphasized the potential of food waste projects at landfills. “CARB (California Air Resources Board) is trying to incentivize food waste at landfills and give them ultra-low CI scores, which normal food waste standalones don’t get,” he said, adding that two projects under construction in California both received scores between minus 150 and 200. “Regular ones usually get 0 to 50, or minus 20 to 40,” he said “Basically, CARB gave them credit for no extra trucking, because the trucks are already going there.” Paul Niznik, Argus senior biofuels consultant, said in the interest of diversifying the conversation, another appealing option might be some low CI projects that don’t necessarily go into the transportation fuel

RNG on the Horizon

The RNG market forecast panel was also led by Serfass, who initiated the conversation by asking participants which segment of the RNG industry they would choose if they had to put all their investment dollars for the next two years into one basket. Lauran Turner, vice president of renewable partnerships at Archaea Energy, pointed to partnering with downstream users of RNG—corporations, universities and utilities, to sell to under longterm, fixed-price agreements. “I’m really excited about the growth of the voluntary market,” she said, adding that she believes this will lead to growth of the compliance market as well. “Net zero and

BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 21


¦BIOGAS/RNG

Top: Patrick Serfass, John Dannan, Lauran Turner; bottom: Paul Niznik, Sean Wine PHOTO: RNG

market. “I might be interested in the development of swine effluent, low-capex biogas capture,” he said. “If there was a site with an open pond or lagoon, we might look at some retro-style electricity production that can also enter into some of these low CI markets … they get a lot of upcharge, extra credit generation through specifics of the rules. I would like to have that optionality if I had all my chips in one basket—not only to have the option of cleaning up the gas and getting it into the pipeline if convenient, but also go back to power generation.” Low- and ultra-low CI projects continued to be a topic of conversation. Turner discussed the potential of landfills and the fact that there are still many without

22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

gas collection systems, adding that her company is a proponent of sliding-scale CI scores. “We’re looking at all strategies to reduce CI, whether that’s incorporating onsite solar for electricity needs, or incorporating carbon capture and sequestration,” she said. “We have a team of geologists and we’re working with the EPA to permit projects that make sense to capture CO2 from the landfills and put it back in the ground. So that’s going to lower the CI.” As for other types of untapped or underutilized resources, Dannan said poultry litter is a more difficult feedstock to gather, manage and digest from a physical perspective, but it’s also tougher to acquire from a business model perspective. “That’s why it hasn’t taken off so much.”

Wine agreed, adding that swine projects also pose challenges. “What’s nice for dairy is that it’s a pretty steady cycle—they eat feed, manure is produced and then it goes into the capturing system ... it’s more of a seamless process and easier to manage than poultry and hog facilities. Hogs don’t produce as much—there is a lot more hog, but a lot less gas production. A cow does about 120, 150 gallons of RNG a year, and a hog is significantly lower than that, with generally lower volatile solids.” One of the final questions panelists were asked is about the possibility of a standard way of measuring CI outside of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard considering other states are working to develop programs, whether it will be a gener-


like RNG for heat or as feedstock for other types of products, that calculation changes,” she said. “But can we get to something that is covering all those different uses? I think we can, we’ve got lots of smart people in this industry working toward it, and everyone is moving toward carbon accounting. And with that, you need to measure it, have your data and know what it says, how it impacts your emissions and total CI ... there are a lot of different ways to model it.” Wine had a slightly different view, stating that he believes standardization won’t drive the market at this point. “We need regulatory programs to be adopted in other states,” he said. “The standardization will come, but it’s a long view to get there … In the grand scheme of things, as an indus-

try we need to develop more programs and regulatory framework outside of just California. Washington has got theirs, but we need New York to be successful with getting that adopted for next year, and we need the other states like Minnesota and New Mexico—there are probably eight states currently looking at adopting something in next 24 to 36 months—to do more of that, which will help continue to drive project development.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961 asimet@bbiinternational.com

PROTECTING YOUR PROCESS AGAINST EXPLOSIONS Isolation

ic measurement, and how it could impact the voluntary market. “Unfortunately, it is [currently] a very diversified market in terms of modeling,” said Niznik. He pointed to Canada’s CI programming model, and how it elected to implement a different accounting system than that of states like California or Oregon, and even different than British Columbia’s. “It does seem to be one of the problems, but it can be overcome …it is hard to get people to agree.” Turner agreed that it would be a good thing to adopt an industry standard, but reiterated how difficult it could be. “We have to remember the Greek calculator is a well-to-wheel analysis for transportation fuels, so when it goes into other uses

Suppression

Venting

Flameless Venting

+1-855-793-8407

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¦PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

PROJECT TALK Delta Energy Services’ Sven Swenson discusses successful project execution with industry professionals. BY SVEN SWENSON

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hether upgrading plant capacity or outfitting an outdated plant with current technology, the ability to accurately plan, forecast and execute a project is a key component of running a biomass business. With all the project management information, tools and training available, it seems as though that performance would be easier than ever. Yet, problems still arise. To understand the biggest obstacles to successful project execution, I set out to discover the issues and hot buttons that are most near and dear—perhaps painful—to the hearts of those in the biomass industry with respect to capital projects. I have been engaging with biomass professionals to have that conversation, and will share some key points in this article series in the hopes that some of this insight will result in a better reality for your capital projects. My first conversation was with Mick Papp, owner and principle of SusEnergy LLC. Mick has many years of successful project management in the nuclear and bioenergy fields, including several years as the regional manager of projects for Enviva. I have extracted some of the most actionable items from our conversation and summarized them below.

The Vital Role of Project Managers

From Papp’s perspective, recognizing the vital role that project managers play is paramount to successful project execution. This, coupled with providing project managers with necessary resources early enough in the project to achieve the level of accuracy in planning and financial forecasting required by the company. Project managers are not often looked upon as the important change agents that they are, even though they are potentially re-

Swenson

sponsible for losing the company a heck of a lot of money. The choice of project manager is therefore vitally important to ensuring the project will be successful. Finding the right person is only part of the solution, though, as project management is not a one-man show by any stretch of the imagination. A properly executed project should begin with a number of items in place that are the responsibility of the management team, in support of the project manager. These important elements include not only stakeholder identification and involvement (which cannot be stressed enough), but also an understanding of the financial and regulatory goals and limitations of the project. There are numerous reasons why a capital project may be undertaken, and the project manager must have a keen understanding of goals in order to establish the correct scope and project decision points.

At project initiation, there is always potential for cancellation prior to completion due to changing regulatory or financial situations, new technology or other scenarios. As such, there is always a reluctance to spend “capital” money early, as it may unfortunately end up in the overhead bucket if the project is scrapped. The project financing process may also make it difficult to release funds early, over and above some limited project manager manhours. Papp offers that failing to properly fund a potential capital project early directly contributes to schedule and cost overruns, as well as some project failures. Today, there all kinds of tools for project management, including some sophisticated software tools to help facilitate the effort. However, tools are just tools. The importance of software tools shouldn’t be downplayed, but if you don’t have reasonable,

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).

24 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021


competent people involved with the project manager at initiation, you will likely pay for it during project execution, regardless of any fancy tools that are in place. You can have the best P6 schedulers in the world, but you’re not going to get where you need to be unless the foundation work is in place.

Providing Support Early

Management must be prepared to provide support early on, which includes proper stakeholders to provide them with a complete understanding of what is needed, how and when. Early stakeholder engagement and resource allocation provides a foundation for the project to be built upon. The firmer this foundation is at the outset, the less chance there is of an upset down the road. The foundation should be built upon information that may or may not exist in some form or another. It is the project manager’s responsibility to bring it all together—again, with management support. At this point in the project, the most important resources management can provide are the time and money to allow the project manager to assemble the information. Consider the adage, “Time is money.” As important as manhours are, in this context, its relevance extends beyond simple manhours for the project manager. At project initiation, there may be a need for outside professional help in determining project direction or parameters, such as design engineering or environmental studies. Attempting to establish a credible project budget and schedule without the proper leg work up front is next to impossible. Pulling all the pieces together will take some time, so it is important to establish the “schedule to develop the schedule,” with adequate project manager manhours allocated to enable the necessary research. This research may involve third-party studies as previously mentioned, but even before those studies comes the need for all true stakeholders to step up to the plate and get involved. These stakeholders are typically operations and maintenance, but also of vital importance is the involvement of internal environmental, legal, procurement, engineering and financial parties. This may sound like a reference to the project team—which is accurate–but the

intention is to emphasize the personal relationships and engaged involvement that is required to develop a true project team. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of a project kickoff meeting, sponsored and attended by a well-respected senior manager. The team will support what management supports—conversely, they will likely put off requests for support from a project that is viewed as peripheral, simply because we all have more to do than time to do it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, all projects are all different to some degree, so there are no magic bullets. However, there are some guidelines to keep in mind—the following points summarize the above discussion. Pick the right project manager as your trusted change agent. Use someone with an established, successful track record.

Support your project manager. This includes three main components, which are as follows. Time: Provide adequate time for legwork up front (the schedule for the schedule). Money: Allow a path for some early funding, in addition to project manager manhours for preliminary engineering studies as required. Stakeholder and management involvement: Make your support of the project evident, and make it “popular” to support the project The ability to successfully implement capital projects continues to be a worthy and challenging endeavor, and the above has just scratched the surface when it comes to execution items to consider. Author: Sven Swenson Senior Vice President of Technical Services Delta Energy Services LLC Sven@workdelta.com 352-201-9848

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PHOTO: STOCK

FORISK WOOD FIBER REVIEW: WEATHER AND TRUCKING IMPACTS

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et ground from South Carolina to Texas affected harvesting operations and pushed third quarter southern pulpwood prices higher. Hardwood, often growing in wet (hydric) areas, suffered the greatest impact as loggers struggled to maintain production. Southern hardwood roundwood prices in the Q3 2021 Forisk Wood Fiber Review increased 7 to 8% for the quarter, up 12 to 14% year-over year (Figure 1). Constrained trucking capacity only added to the misery. “Mills are challenged to keep adequate supplies on hand due to the chaos in trucking,” says FWFR Editor Tim Gammell. Amidst a summer surge in COVID-19 cases, southern operations faced challenges on multiple fronts.

BY BROOKS MENDELL AND SHAWN BAKER

Outside the U.S. South, pulp-quality wood fiber prices remain low across much of North America. Robust sawmill production through the first half of 2021 generated abundant residual chip volumes that pushed prices lower in the Pacific Northwest, Lake States, Northeast and Eastern Canada. Pacific Northwest chip prices increased on the strength of growing wood chip export demand, but current prices remain near five-year lows across much of the region. In Western Canada, softwood chip prices are largely tied to market pulp prices for northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK) pulp. Shawn Baker, Forisk’s vice president of research, notes, “While pulp prices declined in Q3, they remain high.” Softwood residual chip prices in Western Canada are up 10%

year-over-year despite an 8% dip this quarter. Forest industry economics still drive decisions related to operating rates and downtime. Shifting chip flows and strong prices remind us how raw material economics influence the pulp sector, where another market watcher emphasizes how “you see a plastic to paper shift” as end markets for recyclable products incent innovation for fiber-based packaging. This move is supported by the reality that conversion costs are lower for OCC than they are for virgin fiber. “We have a glut of mixed paper, too,” the market watcher remarks. This is important because wood fiber costs account for over half of total pulp manufacturing cost worldwide. Recently, Forisk analyzed growth-todrain in the South and Pacific Northwest.

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).

26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021


FIBER¦

Figure 1. Southern hardwood, roundwood, pulpwood prices through Q3 2021. SOURCE: FORISK WOOD FIBER REVIEW

.HQFR (QJLQHHULQJ ,QF The average pine growth-to-drain for the South in 2020 was 1.31, indicating a general oversupply of timber in the region, reinforcing the continued growth of grade-using sawmill capacity, and the expectation of ample residual chip flow for years to come in the region. Looking forward to 2025, Forisk’s analysis for the region has an estimated average growth-to-drain of 1.04 (close to one). During this time, 10 sawmills and 11 pellet mills come online in the South. The above is data from the Forisk Wood Fiber Review, a quarterly publication tracking North America’s major wood fiber markets, and the Forisk Market Bulletin, which tracks forest industry investments. Author: Brooks Mendell and Shawn Baker Forisk Consulting LLC 770-725-8477 bmendell@forisk.com sbaker@forisk.com

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¦SPOTLIGHT

Biomass Engineering & Equipment

Material Characteristics and Bulk Handling Design By Joel Dulin

Pellet feedstocks are hardly uniform. The characteristics of a single feedstock will differ as it passes through processing equipment. Yet, despite the differences, processors often don’t consider how variations affect bulk handling equipment. They apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach only to discover that a machine that works well at one point in the process does not work as well in another. If pellet manufacturers aim for top performance and low expenses, they must equip their plants with conveyors and other machines designed for the materials they’ll actually handle at each stage of the process. Consider green biomass. Due to its high moisture content, acids in the biomass leach more readily from the material than from dry biomass. As a result, conveyors that handle green material corrode faster than those handling dry biomass. Thus, the divergent traits of the two materials—green and dry—affect equipment differently. If a manufacturer wants to reduce maintenance costs, they do well to understand this. Galvanizing their equipment may be one solution. The fact that green material is more acidic than dry does not mean galvanization is warranted in every situation. Equipment that isn’t inundated in material may not need a protective finish—for example, a receiving bin. Also, not all biomass species are equally corrosive. Biomass contains diverse acids in various quantities. White oak, for example, tends to be more acidic than red pine. In any case, protection is worth considering where it may reduce maintenance. Acidity is only one quality that affects biomass-handling machinery. Density is also preeminent among traits that affect equipment and handling characteristics. Say a pellet manufacturer receives wood chips but later decides to also accept shavings. Suddenly, material plugs the conveyor inlets and outlets even though the operations crew sped up the conveyors. What’s happening? While equipment often receives blame when trou-

28 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

bles like these occur, such problems aren’t due to bad equipment—rather, it’s because it isn’t designed for the material operations personnel run through it. To handle the same volume of low-density material as a higher-density material, everything in a conveyance system must grow larger. If you want to run wood chips with a density of 22 pounds per cubic foot (lbs/ ft3) though a conveyor at a rate of 5 tons per hour. The conveyor therefore needs to move 455 ft3 of material per hour. Later, you want to move shavings through the conveyor at the same rate. The density of the shavings is 12 lbs/ft3, which means the conveyor must move 833 ft3 of material per hour to get to five tons, almost twice the volume. Obviously, if the conveyor is sized for wood chips at five tons per hour, it’s undersized for an equivalent rate in shavings. In attempt to overcome such a deficiency, crews will sometimes increase a conveyor’s speed, but they may fail to consider the flow characteristics of the lighter material. With a belt conveyor, material may back up at the tail because the belt at first slides under it. In a paddle conveyor, material may collect in the head because it can’t fall through the discharge opening as quickly as denser material. For any conveyor, crews may also discover that chutes going to and from it are too narrow and now easily plug. And if enclosed, they may learn their conveyor needs a plenum to stabilize air pressure so the material can settle. Differences in density aren’t only attributable to changes in feedstock. The density of a single feedstock can vary. Green material is denser than dry material because it contains more water. If green wood chips have a moisture content of 40%, as they pass through a dryer, moisture drops to 12%. This lowers the chips’ density to 17.8 lbs/ ft3 from the former 22 lbs/ft3. Their volume, however, doesn’t change (they don’t shrink), so the same size conveyor may be used to

handle them as what handled them prior to the dryer. This post-dryer conveyor requires less power to operate, however, as the chips have less mass than before they entered the dryer. Characteristics of a material change drastically when it’s densified, too. Pellets, due to their smooth, cylindrical shape, flow freely like corn or soybeans. As a result, they can be handled with bucket elevators, which don’t work well for unpelleted biomass because of the material’s high friction and poor flow characteristics. Because pellets flow freely, they also cannot be elevated at steep angles without supports, such as paddles. Equipment specified for a material prior to densification is not be ideal for handling it after it’s been pressed. Temperature is a third trait that affects material and the equipment handling it. Pellets may exit a press at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and emit hot, acidic gasses. The combination of heat and gas makes them extremely corrosive. A standard paint or powder-coat finish does not protect a conveyor’s steel components in these conditions. We’ve known mild steel conveyors to rust beyond use after a few months handling hot pellets. Pellets call for stainless steel handling equipment after the press until they cool. A conveyor designed for material with different specifications won’t work well in this application—anything made of mild steel will quickly rust away. The reality is that one machine, a conveyor or otherwise, can’t accommodate much variance in the materials it handles. While it may seem convenient to repurpose a conveyor or to match conveyor specs to increase the number of common parts, much can go wrong when a conveyor isn’t designed for the job it’s given. Before making changes to your conveyor, consult the manufacturer for their recommendations. When your processes flow smoothly, you’ll be glad you did.


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4,972

3,000

1,737

1,773

4

4

0

0

30

29

1,771

1,806

2,372

910

1

1

403

63

276

50

e.

Total Nonrequested Distribution [Sum of 15d (1), (2), (3) and (4)]

2,776

994

4,547

2,800

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425

200

4,972

3,000

39%

65%

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BBI Project Development PS Form 3526-R, July 2014 (Page 2 of 4)

Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation (Requester Publications Only)

16. Electronic Copy Circulation

Heat Transfer Solutions Since 1972

Xchanger is a leading manufacturer of custom heat exchangers and blower aftercoolers, with over 25,000 units installed worldwide. We can optimize any of our 10 standard product models to control temperature and humidity in almost any application. By making simple changes to our standard models, our Mechanical Engineers are able to provide custom designs at a fraction of the cost. Xchanger 952-933-2559 xchanger.com David Wangensteen david.wangensteen@xchanger.com

30 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2021

BBI Project Development BBI’s technical experts provide feasibility studies and project development for new biomass power facilities as well as pellet mill facilities. In many countries power generation through anaerobic digestion addresses waste management and power needs and its application continues to expand. BBI’s experts are able to perform engineering studies, perform technology assessments and evaluate the economic impacts of these projects.

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