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JUNE 2007




..................... 18 FUEL Self-Preservation and Tactical Advantage A North Dakota research and development hub is helping the U.S. military kick its dependence on foreign oil. The Energy and Environmental Research Center landed a $5 million award to develop a renewable fuel that can be utilized by all military vehicles from Humvees to fighter jets. By Ron Kotrba

24 POWER A New Day for Biogas: Germany Leads the Way in Europe Germany aims to increase electrical generation from biogas 12-fold by 2020 as part of its ambitious plan to encourage the use of renewable energy sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. By Jerry W. Kram

30 PROCESS Converting Waste to Diesel Takes Guts, Tires, Plastic … Changing World Technologies Inc. uses extreme pressure and heat to transform waste into energy. The company intends to commercialize its thermal conversion process to produce diesel from the plastic and rubber left over after automobiles and appliances are shredded. By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy TECHNOLOGY | PAGE 44



38 INNOVATION Building Better Plastics To keep up with the world’s demand for environmentally friendly products and to carve out a larger slice of the huge plastics market, bioplastics manufacturers are continually improving their products. By Susanne Retka Schill

04 Editor’s Note 05 Advertiser Index

44 TECHNOLOGY Thermochemical Versus Biochemical

07 Industry Events

Canadian-based Dynamotive Energy Systems Corp. is betting that its pyrolysis technology to convert biomass to bio-oil has applications for the budding cellulosic

09 Business Briefs 10 Industry News

ethanol industry. The company is expanding its plant in Ontario where bio-oil is made from waste sawdust, and is commissioning a second plant. By Nicholas Zeman

17 EERC Update Biomass Technology: Beyond the Laboratory By Gerald H. Groenewold

49 In the Lab Engineering Evolution: Accelerating Adaptations for Biorefining By Jerry W. Kram


editor’s NOTE

We’re biomass believers


ike any business start-up, launching a magazine requires a solid business plan, adequate operating capital, talented personnel and, without a doubt, faith. I say faith (i.e., complete trust in an idea) because any magazine—especially a trade journal—must exist on the fringe of mainstream to have value. And when you’re operating in the realm of the new, the novel, the

fledgling and the experimental—as we sometimes are—it’s crucial to believe in what you’re doing. Our publisher BBI International understands this, and I believe it’s the reason we’ve achieved success with our existing titles: Ethanol Producer Magazine, Biodiesel Magazine and other publications. Of course, we’re not the only player in the biofuels/biomass publishing game, but we’re a leader in the business because we have dared to lead. In fact, BBI has pretty much tossed out the old adage, “Be not the first by whom the new are tried nor the last to cast the old aside,” and replaced it with something more akin to the early bird getting the worm. Good businesses, like good ideas, are sometimes based as much on gut feelings as market research. When BBI launched Ethanol Producer Magazine in 2002, people asked, “What in the world will they write about?” Today, with a magazine that’s approaching 200 pages per month, a better question might be, “What in the world aren’t we writing about?” Likewise, when we launched Biodiesel Magazine in 2004, people said, “The biodiesel industry is barely an industry at all. There’s less than 30 million gallons of the renewable fuel being produced in the United States.” We moved ahead anyway, partnering with the National Biodiesel Board and, I think, playing a significant part in helping the industry get where it is today with more than 110 plants in operation capable of producing 1 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually. In business, it’s not luck, but rather good timing and a willingness to take on risk, that differentiates leaders and followers. In the publishing world, that equates to launching trade magazines before others recognize a demand for them, and at times even creating that demand by helping an industry define itself. In many ways, the biomass utilization industry—defined predominantly by companies that produce power, fuels and chemicals from waste material and/or dedicated energy crops—is a perfect match for BBI. Like our firm, many of the companies we will cover in these pages have jumped into a novel venture because someone’s gut instinct told them the time was right. Of course, there are concrete reasons to utilize biomass, too—economic development, energy security and emissions reduction strategies, to name a few. The fascinating thing about this industry is that there is no single pathway to achieving those goals. In the first 14 pages of this issue of Biomass Magazine alone, you’ll be introduced to companies involved with the production of biomass fuel pellets, biosolids-based fuel and power, turkey-litter- and biomethane-based electricity, fiberboard made from the byproducts of anaerobic digestion, and more. Read further, and you’ll find features on biogas, thermal conversion, bioplastics and pyrolysis oil. Plus, our lead feature this month focuses on the Energy and Environmental Research Center’s (EERC) quest to develop a biofuel that could be used in all military engines—from Humvees to fighter jets. It’s exciting stuff. Speaking of the EERC, the North Dakota-based research, development and demonstration center has partnered with BBI, collaborating on not only this magazine but the Biomass ’07: Power, Fuels and Chemicals Workshop and future biomass conferences. We could not be more pleased to be moving forward on these endeavors with their support. Enjoy the reading.

Tom Bryan Editorial Director


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Continental Biomass Industries Inc.


Dynamotive USA Inc.


Energy & Environmental Research Center


Ethanol Producer Magazine



Freesen & Partner GmbH


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Harris Group Inc.


Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc.


2007 International Distillers Grains Conference


Laidig Systems Inc.


National Renewable Energy Laboratory


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Jaci Satterlund ART DIRECTOR








Nicholas Zeman STAFF WRITER


Anduin Kirkbride McElroy STAFF WRITER


Lindsey Irwin STAFF WRITER




Craig A. Johnson STAFF WRITER

Jennifer Robinson ACCOUNT MANAGER





Michael Shirek STAFF WRITER


Susanne Retka Schill STAFF WRITER

Subscriptions Subscriptions to Biomass Magazine are available for just $24.95 per year within the United States, $39.95 for Canada and Mexico, and $49.95 for any country outside North America. Subscription forms are available online (, by mail or by fax. If you have questions, please contact Jessica Beaudry at (701) 746-8385 or

Back Issues & Reprints Back issues will be made available to subscribers, if available. All costs of shipping and/or reproduction will be paid by the subscriber. To avoid a reprint situation, please notify us of any extra issues you or your organization may need prior to our print date. Please contact us about reprint charges.

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 or to receive our Editorial Calendar & Rate Card, please contact Matthew Spoor at (701) 746-8385 or

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Cutting edge technical workshops focusing on the latest industry developments –including new production technologies, innovative feedstocks, better product yields, new energy resources, plant safety, and much more Expo featuring nearly a quarter million square feet of exhibit space, and over 550 exhibitors FEW ethanol-powered private air show and hangar party Thursday evening –featuring the aerobatics of the Vanguard Squad Friday’s optional industry tours –Monsanto and Anheuser Busch or the Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center

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industryevents 10th Annual International Congress on Biotechnology in the Pulp and Paper Industry

June 10-14, 2007

4th Annual Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street

June 20-21, 2007

Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center Madison, Wisconsin In addition to its traditional emphasis on enzyme technology, lignin, degradation, molecular biology and fiber modification, this year’s event will include sessions concerning biorefining, bioconversions, plant biotechnology and functional genomics. Attendees will hear presentations from the industry’s leading experts and attend several networking events. (608) 265-2955

Waldorf Astoria Hotel New York City, New York Co-organized by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), this event is part of a series also taking place in London, Berlin and Beijing. The forum, which sold out in 2006, is designed to be a one-stop shop for discussing all financing opportunities for renewable energy technologies. It provides delegates from the industry a chance to meet and network with high-level financiers. This year’s event will feature a biofuels and biomass session moderated by Bill Holmberg, ACORE chairman of the biomass coordinating council. U.S.: (800) 437-9997 U.K.: +44 20 7779 8914

23rd Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

2007 Farm to Fuel Summit

June 26-30, 2007

July 18-20, 2007

St. Louis Convention Center St. Louis, Missouri Interest in the world's largest ethanol conference is growing. More exhibit space has been added to include emerging markets and companies in 2007. Nearly 500 booths have already been reserved in anticipation of this event. While attendance has been increasing exponentially with the growth of the industry, the goal of this event is to continue improving the quality and effectiveness of the program. You will not want to miss the exciting new developments revealed here! (719) 539-0300

Marriot Renaissance Vinoy Resort St. Petersburg, Florida This unique conference provides industry leaders with an excellent opportunity to learn, network and strategize with peers in order to meet Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson’s goal to promote the production and distribution of renewable energy from Florida-grown crops, agricultural wastes and other biomass sources. The 2006 event drew nearly 400 participants. (850) 922-5432

Energy from Biomass and Waste Expo 2007

Biofuels Workshop & Trade Show-Western Region

September 25-27, 2007

October 9-12, 2007

David L. Lawrence Convention Center Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania This event aims to educate attendees about the benefits of conversion technologies. It will give them hands-on information for their daily businesses. Companies representing municipal solid waste, farm waste, landfill gas, wood waste, energy crops, waste coal and other biomass industries are encouraged to attend the expo, as well as an educational forum and networking opportunities. (207) 236-6196

Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront Portland, Oregon This year’s event, themed “Building a Biofuels Industry,” will address the current status and the future challenges of the biofuels industry in the western United States. Last year’s event in San Diego featured a biomass session that examined the current research, use and development of biomass in the western states, and provided information and expertise that specifically targeted regional opportunities to further advance the biofuels industry. (719) 539-0300

Biofuels Workshop & Trade Show-Eastern Region

November 27-30, 2007 Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel Philadelphia, Pennsylvania This year’s event, themed “Building a Biofuels Industry,” will address the current status and the future challenges of the biofuels industry in the eastern United States. Last year’s event in Nashville covered biomass topics in depth, offering several breakout sessions on topics including uses (thermal, electric, power, biogas, etc.) and new biobased product developments. In addition, the event provided information and expertise that specifically targeted regional opportunities to further advance the biofuels industry. (719) 539-0300


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BRIEFS Black & Veatch launches Clean Energy Technologies LLC

Global Green Solutions completes merger, signs MOU Global Green Solutions Inc., a developer of eco-technology solutions for greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy, has completed its merger agreement with biomass-to-energy specialist Greensteam Development Inc. The new business, Global Greensteam LLC, is a joint venture with steam generator manufacturing company ITS Engineered Systems and combustion equipment manufacturer The Onix Corp. The new company will convert various waste biomass sources into low-cost steam for industrial applications. Global Greensteam also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Aera Energy LLC, one of California’s largest oil and gas producers. Under the terms of the MOU, Global Greensteam will negotiate contracts with Aera for the purchase of the steam generated by Global Greensteam’s renewable energy technology. The steam will be utilized in Aera’s enhanced oil recovery operations, replacing steam currently being generated by natural-gas-fired units. “We’re currently in the permitting process, and we hope to break ground this summer,” said Craig Harting, chief operating officer of Global Green Solutions. BIO

Lynd receives $100,000 award Lee Lynd was named the first winner of the $100,000 LemelsonMIT Award for Sustainability. Lynd, a professor of engineering and adjunct professor of biology at Dartmouth College, is a cofounder of Mascoma Corp., which aims to produce cellulosic ethanol using its consolidated "one pot" bioprocessing technology. Lynd was recognized by the Lemelson-MIT Program for his groundbreaking research and long-time advocacy of biofuels as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. “For decades when biofuels were not popular, I thought the topic was exciting and important,” Lynd said. Lynd’s research group has focused on the one-step, consolidated bioprocessing method for cellulosic ethanol production, engineering organisms that grow well on biomass and then modifying them to and organisms that produce ethanol better. He co-led a multi-institutional research project that produced the seminal report, “Growing Energy: How Biofuels Can Help End America’s Oil Dependence,” published in 2004 by the Natural Resources Defense Council. BIO

Global engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch Corp. recently announced the creation of Clean Energy Technologies LLC (CET), which will utilize a new, earlystage biogasification process technology for the production of renewable fuel. Derived from a biogasification technology initially developed in the early 1990s to create synthesis gas (syngas) as a power source, the CET process uses biomass materials such as corn stover, switchgrass, wood waste and plant waste materials as feedstocks to produce syngas that is catalytically converted to ethanol, methanol, synthetic diesel, aviation gas or other fuels, as well as chemicals, such as hydrogen and ammonia. CET, which has experience in building dry-grind ethanol plants, plans to kick off the project by building its first biogasification plant in the third quarter of 2007, and construction is expected to last 16 to 18 months. According to CET, the company is actively pursuing grant money and is evaluating third-party investor and partner interest in the project. BIO

Johnson Controls Inc. to expand renewable energy service Citing the increased global demand for renewable energy, Johnson Controls Inc. announced plans to further its business interests in the areas of designing, installing and servicing biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and other renewable energy supply sources for its customers. Johnson Controls is currently installing four industrial-grade biomass boilers and fuel delivery systems for the Indiana Department of Corrections. The boilers will use an estimated 1.3 million bushels of local corn each year. Johnson Controls expects the new systems to save 6.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. In addition, the company plans to build a digester gas cogeneration plant for the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore. The three-megawatt, combined-heat-and-power plant will generate more than 2.4 megawatts of electricity per year, steam to offset process heating requirements and hot water for use in the boiler. Johnson Controls’ expansion is part of the company’s greater commitment to environmental and social sustainability. BIO



NEWS Biomass co-op to produce fuel pellets Go Show Me Energy Cooperative hopes to hold a grand opening ceremony in July at its Centerview, Mo., plant that will produce fuel pellets. Under construction since the fall of 2006, it is the nation’s first farmer-owned biomass facility, said board President Steve Flick. Organizers hope the cooperative will become a model for other groups producing homegrown energy that would be utilized by nearby urban centers. Phase one, to be completed this summer, is the pelleting plant with a capacity of 100,000 tons per year. The plant will use a mix of biomass sources: corn stover, annual rye grass, wheat straw and native grass-seed hulls. It will also use industrial biomass, Flick said, including ground coffee. The fuel pellets will be used by a local utility and packaged for pellet stoves. Modeled after farmer-owned ethanol plants, the cooperative began selling equity

of shares purchased in the cooperative. Additional equity will be raised for the project’s second phase—an adjacent 8 MMgy to 10 MMgy plant that will convert biomass to fuel. The choices at press time were diesel, butanol or ethanol, according to Flick. Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2008 with start-up to begin the following year. Flick said the fuel production plant will aim to supply local markets. “We want to do this so it’s replicable, economical and at Construction workers pave the road for Go Show Me economies of scale that producers can manage Energy Co-op’s pelleting plant near Centerview, Mo. The second phase of the project will include an adjacent bio- with their energy partners,” he said. “Our mass-to-fuel production plant. cooperative doesn’t extend beyond 100 miles because of transportation issues.” shares in January and completed 90 percent of In the future, Go Show Me Energy the $7 million drive within five weeks, Flick Cooperative also hopes to generate electricity said. The members, from 22 counties in westfrom biomass at its Centerview facility. ern Missouri and eastern Kansas, have bio-Staff Report mass delivery rights dependent on the number

EnerTech Environmental opens first commercial biomass-to-energy facility in California Atlanta-based EnerTech Environmental is currently in the construction phase of the first commercial biomass-to-energy plant in Rialto, Calif. The trademarked SlurryCarb facility will convert 675 wet tons of biosolids (processed municipal sewage sludge) per day from five municipalities in the Los Angeles region into approximately 145 tons of renewable fuel per day. The residual ash from the renewable fuel, trademarked E-Fuel, will be incorporated into a local cement kiln as an alternative to coal. The facility’s customers include the Orange County Sanitation District, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County and the cities of Rialto, Riverside and San Bernardino, Calif. The $150 million project was financed through private equity and a combination of tax-exempt and taxable bonds. Deutsche Bank has purchased all of the bonds. A formal groundbreaking for the project was held in May. “We are excited to have reached this milestone,” said EnerTech President Kevin Bolin. “We believe, along with all of our stakeholders, that this is the first of many SlurryCarb facilities.” EnerTech’s advanced process technology equipment is what sets this project apart from other waste-to-biomass conversion projects,


according to Brian Dooley, manager of marketing and special projects for EnerTech. Since biosolids are typically 80 percent water, EnerTech’s processing technology uses heat and pressure to initiate a molecular rearrangement, which breaks down the cell wall of the biosolids, making the material less hydrolytic. “Without evaporating the water, we’re able to ‘dewater’ the biosolids to around 50 percent solids prior to drying, which greatly reduces the required energy consumption,” Dooley said. Although the SlurryCarb facility will be powered by natural gas, the E-Fuel could also serve as an energy feedstock. “Because we are a net energy producer, even if we consume our own E-Fuel to fire the process, we’re still left with excess E-Fuel at the end,” Dooley said. -Staff Report


NEWS Turkey litter will soon become the predominant energy source fueling a 55 megawatt (MW) power plant, producing enough electricity to supply 50,000 homes in the town of Benson, Minn. Fibrominn, a subsidiary of Philadelphiabased Fibrowatt LLC, is the developer and owner of the first-of-its-kind facility in the United States. The plant will process approximately 700,000 tons of turkey litter annually into electricity. The company will then supply the electricity to a transmission substation near Benson, which will indirectly make its way to the city grid. Construction began in early 2005 and the facility is expected to start up in June. “Benson has always been a pretty forward-looking community,” said Terry Walmsley, vice president for environmental and public affairs for Fibrominn. “In a sense, by reaching out and providing an opportunity for [a company] like Fibrominn to come in to an area like this, [the people of Benson] are indirectly securing the future of that area. They put all the pieces together.” In addition to poultry litter, Walmsley said

PHOTO: Fibrominn LLC

Minnesota power plant to burn poultry litter

An aerial view of Fibrominn’s facility in Benson, Minn., shows construction progressing.

Fibrominn will process other biomass materials, which will allow the company to store, convey and relocate biomass more efficiently into the furnace. “We typically are in the neighborhood of 90 percent poultry litter and 10 percent secondary biomass material,” Walmsley said. As an added service to the poultry owners, Fibrominn will provide a complimentary transportation service to surrounding poultry owners for timely pickup of the litter, a convenience mutually agreed upon by the rural

poultry community. “We’re working in a sense with the entire poultry industry to meet their needs,” Walmsley said. “We have to design a flexible process that can meet those demands and provide that valuable service to them.” Fibrowatt LLC has similar projects underway in North Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas and Mississippi. -Staff Report

Purdue researchers propose highly efficient conversion process Researchers at Purdue University have proposed a novel approach to biomass conversion that its developers said produces nearly three times the fuel from the same amount of biomass. To look at it another way, this approach could theoretically produce the same amount of fuel with 60 percent less feedstock, helping to responsibly grow industries focused on biomass utilization. Led by Purdue University chemical engineering professor Rakesh Agrawal, a team of two professors—Fabio Ribeiro and Nicholas Delgass—and a doctoral student—Navneet Singh—drafted a proposal describing the benefits of this method. It works using hydrogenation, whereby supplemental hydrogen is added to a gasification process. Hydrogen extracted from electrolyzed water would bond with carbons released during gasification that would otherwise connect with added process oxygen and get released as carbon dioxide. Power for electrolysis could come from wind, solar or nuclear sources, all of which are carbonfree. This technique, named H2-CAR, converts all of the carbon discharged from the synthesized feedstock to liquid hydrocarbon fuel either through suppression of carbon dioxide formation or recycling of the carbon dioxide back into the gasifier. Either way, all of the carbon is used

with the addition of hydrogen to produce a theoretical maximum amount of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. “We suggest a … pathway where neither coal nor biomass is treated as a sole source of energy to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuel,” the proposal stated. Biomass is carbon-neutral, so if some carbon is lost as carbon dioxide during gasification, it’s not contributing to net greenhouse gases—but it still leads to efficiency losses. Coal isn’t considered biomass; nevertheless, the suppression or recycling of carbon dioxide from coal processing is significant since its carbon emissions are said to heavily contribute to the greenhouse effect. Secondary and tertiary benefits were also noted by the research team. One of the hurdles that a “hydrogen economy” has is onboard storage. “By providing open-loop [hydrogen] storage, this solution addresses one of the grand challenges of the [hydrogen] economy,” the proposal said. “The addition of [hydrogen] atoms to carbon atoms from coal or biomass provides a high-density method for storage of massive quantities of [hydrogen]. … Clearly, the proposed concepts de-emphasize research in carbon dioxide sequestration, as well as on-board [hydrogen] storage.” -Staff Report 6|2007 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 11


NEWS New Hampshire fires up clean fuel power plant Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is now producing power for tens of thousands of homes through the burning of clean wood chips at its Portsmouth, N.H., plant. The $75 million project began operation in December 2006 and has replaced a 50megawatt coal boiler. The new, state-of-the-art wood boiler is the same size as the previously used coal boiler but eliminates 380,000 tons per year of dangerous emissions. In addition, the plant will consume 400,000 tons of wood supplied by Wood chips are being sent to processing at PSNH’s biomass boiler facility in Portsmouth. abundant forests in New Hampshire. “We are Significant emission reductions will help able to make this improvement while still maintaining some of the lowest energy rates in PSNH meet the requirements of New the region,” said Gary Long, PSNH president Hampshire’s Clean Power Act. In addition to the low cost of energy production, PSNH will and COO.

also produce an estimated 300,000 renewable energy certificates annually, which can then be sold to other regional energy suppliers that are faced with the strict requirements. PSNH and the New Hampshire Timberland Owner’s Association cite the state’s abundant wood supply as a central motivation for the project, highlighting the expected boost in the state’s economy and the advance of good forestry practices. The plant in Portsmouth is one of the nation’s largest renewable energy projects. PSNH currently owns and operates energyproducing facilities that generate 1,100 megawatts of power annually. -Staff Report

Pacific Gas and Electric to expand renewable power supply Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) recently received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to provide up to 387 megawatts of power derived from renewable energy sources. The decision will clear the way for PG&E to provide power to more than 350,000 homes in California. PG&E will supply energy from its seven renewable energy plants in order to meet the requirements of California’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. The mandates require an energy company to increase its annual retail sales by 1 percent per year until eligible renewable resources account for 20 percent of the company’s sales by 2017. PG&E has five plants planned with three of them scheduled to be on line in 2007. “Over the last year, biomass and waste have been our biggest grouping,” said Keely Wachs, a spokesman for PG&E. Qualifying renewable sources in the company’s portfolio include biomass, solar, wind, geothermal and small-scale hydroelectric, which represent 12 percent of the company’s current power supply.

California is the nation’s largest dairy supplier, and PG&E plans to use animal waste at two more proposed plants and intends to convert it to biomethane. In October 2006, the company announced that it had signed an agreement with Micrology Inc. to deliver 8,000 million cubic feet of renewable gas. PG&E also signed an agreement in February with BioEnergy Solutions, a Central Valley, Calif., waste-to-energy company, to deliver up to 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The agreement will provide enough electricity for approximately 50,000 customers. “We’re taking that methane out of the atmosphere, and we’re generating a new source of revenue for dairy farmers in the valley—on top of the fact that we’re producing clean energy for our customers,” Wachs said. -Staff Report

PG&E’s Planned Facilities Facility


Construction time frame (in years)

MW Capacity

On Line Date







Newbury, Ore.

Geothermal IAE Truckhaven




Truckhaven, Calif.

Geysers Power Co. Geothermal




Sept. 30, 2007

Fresno, Calif.

Global Common




Dec. 31, 2007

Fresno, Calif.

Global Common




January 2007

Sonoma/Lake County, Calif.



NEWS Fiberboard manufacturing could be a solution to manure woes The solid material left over after the anaerobic digestion of cattle manure can be used as a manufacturing component in fiberboard, according to Tim Zauche, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In some cases, he said, it even performs better than sawdust, which has been traditionally used to make the product. The market for fiberboard, which is used in a vast array of building and construction applications, could be a pool of opportunity for dairy and beef cattle farmers, Zauche said. Farmers with digestion remnants on their hands have tried to sell it to their neighbors as fertilizer or have spread it on their own fields. However, because of animal concentration and

French-U.S. partners to produce succinic acid

not enough land to spread the material, utilizing anaerobic digestion remnants as a feedstock for fiberboard manufacturing could financially benefit dairy and beef cattle farmers. “Farmers will also be able to sell this material at a greater value than in the past,” Zauche said. Farms that have anaerobic digesters usually have over 600 head of cattle, so the operations that could benefit from entering this new market would have to be fairly large. The USDA, which has been leading the research that Zauche is a part of, said that 1.5 trillion to 2 trillion pounds of manure is produced every year in the United States. -Staff Report

USDA, DOE name biomass R&D committee members Six new members were appointed to the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee, a group of 30 individuals from industry, academia and state governments that is responsible for providing guidance on the technical focus of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. The initiative, established in 2000, is a multi-agency, cabinet-level effort and is administered by the U.S. DOE and USDA. The advisory committee holds quarterly public meetings; the first meeting with the new members was held May 15. The new committee members, whose terms expire in November

2009, include: Bob Ames of Tyson Foods Inc.; William Berg of Dairyland Power Association; Scott Faber with the Environmental Defense Group; Timothy Maker from the Biomass Energy Resource Center; Mary McBride of Communications and Energy Banking Group, CoBank; and W. Henson Moore of the American Forest and Paper Association, who was nominated as cochairman. Additionally, Ralph Cavalieri from the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at Washington State University was reappointed to the committee. -Staff Report

According to Paul Jacobson, CEO of Diversified Natural Products Inc. (DNP), succinic acid, which has pharmaceutical and industrial uses, will be produced at the company’s biorefinery currently under construction in France. Production is slated for mid-2008, and it will operate alongside an ethanol plant operated by its partner, Agro Industries Recherche et Developpement (ARD). BioAmber, the trademarked name for the venture, will use carbon dioxide from the ethanol plant for its fermentation process, according to the company. The plant will have an annual capacity of 5,000 metric tons, producing succinic acid, ethanol and biodiesel. Succinic acid is a dicarboxylic acid, also called butanedioic acid. Currently produced from petrochemicals, it was historically derived from tree resins and called spirit of amber, or amber acid. It has a number of pharmaceutical uses dating back to the Middle Ages. Industrial applications will use BioAmber as a petrochemical replacement in polymers, coatings, biodegradable solvents and lubricants. With the big chemical companies focusing on the plastics market, Jacobson said BioAmber will initially focus on smaller markets, such as solvents to replace acetone, which is being banned in many places. French President Jacques Chirac helped announce the joint venture in February. ARD is the research and development company for several sugar beet, cereal and alfalfa cooperatives. Its aim is to develop new products and processes from plants. It operates one of France’s largest ethanol plants, producing the fuel from wheat and sugar beets. DNP got its start in Michigan with scientists from Michigan State University using organisms originally developed by the U.S. DOE. Many of DNP’s patents are jointly held with Michigan State University. DNP has research facilities in Scottville, Mich., and corporate offices in New York City. “DNP is aggressively looking for U.S. partners,” Jacobson said. “We’d like to get a plant going in the United States.” -Staff Report



NEWS Renewafuel receives EPA funding to study pelletized wood fuel Rosemount, Minn.-based Renewafuel LLC has produced what it hopes will prove to be a similar fuel to coal, but with far fewer environmental impacts, according to company President James Mennell. Testing on a new pelletized wood fuel was conducted at the University of Iowa power plant in March and was funded by the U.S. EPA. The government agency provided $200,000 for the study, which seeks to verify the benefits of blending wood-based fuel with coal for use in coal-fired facilities. A final report detailing all the results and a full environmental lifecycle analysis from third-party contractor The Greenhouse Gas Technology Center should be completed this summer. Renewafuel’s initial research on the fuel found that it reduces creditable greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 90 percent and mercury emissions by more than 50 percent. Mennell

Renewafuel’s new technology process can turn wood chips into a fuel similar to coal but without the negative environmental impacts.

said the testing went “very well” from an operational standpoint. “I believe that we are going to produce on a large-scale a fuel that can replace fossil fuels that would be equivalent in its energy value to coal with a fraction of the emissions,” Mennell said. “I also like the idea of it being locally produced.”

Renewafuel currently owns and operates a production-scale research and development facility in Battle Creek, Mich. Mennell said the wood fuel, supplied by local feedstocks, can be immediately substituted in existing coal-fired equipment without any alterations. Renewafuel’s technology process allows for various feedstocks and not just wood, making it attractive to anyone who is a large-scale institutional user of solid fuels, he said. Renewafuel, founded in 2005 by Mennell and CEO Leon Endres, has already received a lot of feedback and is in various agreements with several U.S.-based companies for large-scale projects, Mennell said. Because location and transportation influence cost, Renewafuel’s future plan is to locate facilities near the feedstock source and the customer, he said. -Staff Report

Wheat growers adopt biomass platform The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) broadened its base by adopting energy crop producers. In January, its members affirmed an October 2006 decision by the board of directors to expand the organization’s mandate to include farmers who grow switchgrass, wheat straw, corn stover and other crops for cellulosic ethanol production. Mark Gaede, director of governmental affairs for the NAWG, said the genesis of the new biomass policy came from some of the partners that the organization works with through its development committee, including Iogen Corp. and Ceres Inc. These companies are involved in projects to make cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw and other crops. “They said there is no organization out there that represents potential biomass growers and [that it] seems like a natural fit for the wheat growers to do this,” Gaede said. “ So we put the question to our officers, and the board agreed. It came down to, are you going to get run over by the train or are you going to drive the train?” The NAWG’s initial goal for biomass growers is to create a program to assist farmers in transitioning from growing grain crops to pro14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 6|2007

ducing energy crops, Gaede said. “We would like a payment similar to a [conservation reserve program] payment for growers that are growing any kind of alternative energy crop,” Gaede said. “We’re not going to discriminate against any feedstock.” Many of the details of the new program remain to be worked out, such as the role of the NAWG’s state-level member associations, representation in states without wheat associations and whether the organization will approach state legislatures for a checkoff to support its work with energy crops. “That’s kind of an open question,” Gaede said. “I do know that our states are actively engaged in educating their members on what we are trying to do. We are also talking about how states that aren’t represented by a wheat association can establish their own alternative energy crop association.” For more information on the NAWG, visit -Staff Report



Biomass Technology: Beyond the Laboratory elcome to the inaugural issue of Biomass Magazine a publication dedicated to the development of biomass-based power, fuels and chemicals. The Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) is extremely proud to be a part of this exciting endeavor. I am honored to write the first of the EERC’s monthly columns, which will explore the many tremendous opportunities in renewable energy and biomass utilization. The biomass industry is still in its infancy compared with other energy markets, but it must play a major role in the world’s energy picture. Biomass is a critical domestic resource in the United States for meeting future electricity and transportation fuel demands, reducing dependence on foreign oil, stimulating agriculture, achieving carbon-neutral and toxic-free air emissions, and meeting the demands from public and political groups for green energy. Biofuels are gaining popularity and prominence around the world as an economical solution for the future. In Europe and now more so throughout North America, the use of methyl esters for diesel fuel has achieved widespread acceptance. In the United States, the demand for ethanol is forcing a rapid progression of technology development to make ethanol from lignocellulosics. Other biomass technologies that are attracting large financial investment include using wood and agricultural wastes for remote power generation, hydrogen from biomass, and biofuels for the military. Right now, the EERC is playing a major role in developing, demonstrating and ultimately commercializing biomass technologies and working with an extensive network of corporate partners to bring technology innovations out of the laboratory and into the commercial marketplace. The EERC’s Centers for Renewable Energy and Biomass Utilization are leading the nation in addressing technical barriers to the increased utilization of biomass in energy production. Within the past five years, the EERC has conducted more than 60 major projects involving biomass—coal cofiring, biomass combustion and gasification for power, value-added byproducts from existing biomass industries, grain and lignocellulosic ethanol production, innovative production and use of biodiesel, and the production of hydrogen from biomass and wind. The EERC recently received a $5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to produce a fully renewable domestic biomass-derived jet fuel for the U.S. military utilizing EERC-developed technology, which is highlighted in this month’s magazine (page 18). This project involves partnerships with numerous private-sector entities. These projects exemplify the EERC’s successful business model of developing partnerships with private industry, government and the research community in order to improve the quality of life globally. The EERC is a nonprofit business within the University of North Dakota (UND), which provides entrepreneurial, market-driven solutions to today’s most critical energy and environmental issues. It began in 1951 as the Robertson Lignite Research Laboratory under the Federal Bureau of Mines and became a federal energy technology center under the U.S. DOE in 1977. The center was de-federalized in 1983, at which time it became part of UND. Since its de-federalization, the EERC has evolved to conduct research in a wide variety of areas, including clean coal technologies, emission control, oil and gas, climate change and carbon sequestration, hydrogen technologies, water management, biomass, wind energy, and alternative fuels. It has become a world Groenewold leader in the field of pollution prevention and environmental cleanup technologies. Today, the EERC serves as a national leader in advancing technologies to the marketplace by bringing together private industry and federal government funding. Although the EERC is a state entity, we do not accept state-appropriated dollars and have never requested any. With more than 300 employees, the EERC has 970 clients in all 50 states and in 49 countries, and our research portfolio totals over $122 million. In the months to come, I encourage you to follow along as several members of our research staff write this column providing a deeper analysis of some of the pressing issues facing the biomass industry, exploring its vast opportunities and discussing some of the EERC’s own research projects. BIO


Dr. Gerald H. Groenewold is director of the EERC in Grand Forks, N.D. He can be reached at or (701) 777-5131.




rojections from the U.S. Department of Defense estimate fuel losses during combat— not what is actually used to fight—will amount to $86.8 million in 2008. In-theater fuel supplies suffer losses from extreme desert heat where tactical “bag-farm” storage sites aren’t equipped with vapor recovery systems. Vehicles of war hit by enemy fire and those suffering from mechanical breakdowns, which are subsequently destroyed, also contribute to the loss of fuel in battle. Not only is actual fuel lost, but it also costs millions to transport and store multiple grades of fuels that can be accessed for effective tactical operations, especially in politically unstable regions. “The cost is anywhere from $100 to $400 to get one gallon of fuel to the battlefield,” says Ted Aulich, research leader with the Grand Forks, N.D.-based Energy and Environmental Research Center


(EERC), the recent recipient of a $5 million contract from the defense department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The U.S. military is working on producing solutions to mitigate these and many other economic losses associated with fuel use in war. “The military has this ‘single battlefield-fuel’ concept,” Aulich says. “They are trying to use a single fuel for aircraft, Humvees, tanks and everything in between.” While this may not sound economical—burning highquality jet fuel in Humvees—what’s another dollar or two per gallon when the transportation costs are already so high? Furthermore, national security naturally comes into play. Domestic rhetoric pushing for the proliferation of renewable fuels frequently hinges on national security, which is ultimately about preserving a way of life and proactively avoiding interruption if foreign oil shipments should cease.

‘The primary driver for the U.S. military is developing a domestically produced and ideally renewable fuel— a non-oil, nonpetroleum resource—so we aren’t in any way dependent on foreign oil for our military fuel requirements.’




Tactical Advantage A research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense awarded $5 million to a North Dakota research and development facility to create a surrogate for military-grade jet fuel, JP-8. In a span of just 18 months, researchers plan to deliver a domestically produced, renewable fuel that’s virtually indistinguishable from its petroleum-based counterpart. By Ron Kotrba



The EERC in Grand Forks, N.D., was awarded $5 million to develop a renewable fuel for the U.S. military that can be used in everything from fighter jets to Humvees.

“The primary driver for the U.S. military is developing a domestically produced and ideally renewable fuel—a nonoil, nonpetroleum resource—so we aren’t in any way dependent on foreign oil for our military fuel requirements,” Aulich says. Four years ago, the EERC and U.S. military began working together to develop a biobased aviation fuel. The motivation behind this research was to reduce particulate emissions. “When the aircraft is sitting on the tarmac idling—where the guys are breathing in all of this stuff, and then during take off when they are really putting the pedal to the metal and blowing out emissions like crazy—they wanted to eliminate a lot of that,” says Chris Zygarlicke, EERC deputy associate director of research. “Adding biodiesel was helping to reduce emissions, but cold flow



was definitely a problem.” There’s no room for errors when powering a fighter jet traveling five miles above the Earth’s surface at a speed that’s faster than sound. “If you’re flying at 30,000 feet of altitude, you need to have fuel that will flow at 50 degrees below [zero] Fahrenheit,” he says. Another technical problem prohibiting biodiesel in aviation is that the renewable fuel’s methyl ester chain lengths commonly run 18 to 23 carbons long, which works against its operability in the cold— conventional biodiesel will turn wax solid at minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, jet fuel typically has a carThe EERC was tasked to reevalu- bon count between C9 and C15, with ate how to produce a renewable emphasis on C12. Also, the presence of oxygen in biodiesel means its fuel that would pass military energy density is compromised. muster—and one that’s ‘drop-in DARPA data shows biodiesel concompatible’ for the propulsion of tains 25 percent less energy density per mass basis than JP-8 military jet everything from Humvees to jets. fuel. “In order to meet the military requirements for energy density in our jet fuel (as dictated by the MIL-


fuel DTL-83133 specification), we have to remove the oxygen,” Aulich says. Therefore, the EERC was tasked to reevaluate how to produce a renewable fuel that would pass military muster—and one that’s “drop-in compatible” for the propulsion of everything from Humvees to jets.

The EERC anticipates that its renewable jet fuel currently under development, and the production process behind it, will not only satisfy the U.S. military’s drop-in compatibility, single battlefield-fuel and fit for purpose requirements, but it will eventually penetrate diesel fuel markets for commercial and civilian on-road diesel vehicles.

Bids, Awards, Deliverables In July 2006, DARPA issued a solicitation under its Biofuels Program for alternative fuels and efficiency options “to reduce the military’s reliance on traditional fuel for aircraft,” the agency said. The EERC was able to put a funding package together and have a project in place with assistance from soybean grower groups and North Dakota’s State Board of Agricultural Research and Education, Zygarlicke says. In December 2006, the EERC announced it was awarded $5 million to develop this renewable JP-8 surrogate. “There were 30 proposals and we were one of three awards,” Aulich says. Thomas Erickson, associate director of research at the EERC, says, “I would guess the other two are very near to entering agreements with DARPA.” One of the two is General Electric Global Research, according to DARPA. At press time, a third recipient hadn’t been named. In order to win the bid process, the EERC sufficiently demonstrated its abilities to meet the challenge. “We’ve demonstrated the initial concept viability already,” Aulich says. The center has the necessary lab equipment to process vegetable oils into anaerobic, short-chained and energy-dense renewable aviation fuel. The base feedstocks—virtually any source of triglycerides, free fatty acids and phospholipids—could come from a wide variety of vegetable oils, animal fats or aquaculture crops. Concerns over future feedstock supplies aren’t arbitrary, and

demands on supply chains from the mushrooming biodiesel sector have been recognized. Serious efforts to replace the U.S. military’s 5 billion- to 6 billion-gallon-annual fuel consumption puts even more pressure on an already limited supply. “That’s part of Erickson the new project, and the team being put together by [DARPA] is partially dedicated to looking at feedstocks,” Zygarlicke tells Biomass Magazine, adding that EERC researchers are looking at more than one feedstock. “We’re not ready to share what those are now, but the military has a very progressive mindset on this.” Aulich says the combination of feedstock availability and the production process are critical to making this whole approach viable. The project deliverables are “200 liters of our best fuel for the military to test,” he says, even though DARPA only requires 100 liters for testing. “The military is really going to put this thing through a rough set of standards, and they are really going to look it over from a lot of different angles.”

Fit for Purpose The EERC anticipates that its renewable jet fuel currently under development, and the production process behind it, will not only satisfy the U.S.

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fuel military’s drop-in com- Just as the defense department’s patibility, single battleprogram is slated for fast-track field fuel and fit for purpose requirements, but it delivery, the speed and efficiency of a will eventually penetrate renewable, multipurpose jet fuel for diesel fuel markets for in-theater distribution creates an commercial and civilian on-road diesel vehicles. inherent tactical advantage on the Economically, this could battleground. only be done if production costs were comparable to either biodiesel or energy content in the finished fuel must No. 2 diesel—although a superior-quality represent 60 percent of all the energy needfuel could command a reasonably higher ed to make the fuel,” says Chad Wocken, price at the pump. “Really, there’s no rearesearch manager at the EERC. “All of your son why our approach would have to be inputs, divided by your fuel out, must be 60 more expensive than what’s being done percent. There’s not a lot of room to waste now with biodiesel,” Aulich says. “It energy in byproducts.” Aulich says the doesn’t have to be.” objective is to “minimize the heck out of ” The precise technology behind the any ancillary coproducts. “We’re focused on production of this aviation biofuel—the fuel here—the maximum conversion to EERC has designated this fuel “RDJP-8,” fuel,” he tells Biomass Magazine. which stands for renewable domestic JP-8— It’s all about developing a process and isn’t up for discussion yet. “We’re really not resultant fuel for the U.S. military’s tactical in the position to talk about the technologies, operations, which could function as JP-8 or or we’d be subject to public disclosure,” a No. 2 substitute, and minimizing costs Erickson says. “That’s what we’re focused on while maximizing production volume. The right now—the technology side.” fuel also must be renewable. The current There’s no transesterification of the oils 18-month contract involves the EERC supwith alcohol for the production of RDJP-8 plying the fuel, and if military tests show as there is for biodiesel. “There’s a lot of that the product meets MIL-DTL-83133 what’s called ‘cracking’ involved, getting us to specs, the EERC may be eligible for further the level where we could be considered JPdevelopmental work on this project with 8,” Aulich says. This involves heat, pressure DARPA. “There will certainly be another and catalysis to shorten chain lengths and scale necessary prior to commercial strip the oxygen from the triglyceride base application—a demonstration scale, a material, producing a fuel that flows in the larger-scaled production,” Erickson says. cold and is more energy-dense. “We are DARPA wants to move this into the maroptimizing catalytic technologies to do what ket as quickly and efficiently as possible. we need to do, but the basic structure of Just as the defense department’s program is the reactor systems that are utilized in these slated for fast-track delivery, the speed and catalytic technologies, they’re out there— efficiency of a renewable, multipurpose jet they’re commercially available,” he says. The fuel for in-theater distribution creates an EERC is partnering with a major internainherent tactical advantage on the battletional catalyst developer to make this hapground. BIO pen. One important criterion that DARPA Ron Kotrba is a Biomass Magazine staff established was requiring the demonstra- writer. Reach him at rkotrba@bbibiofuels tion of at least 60 percent conversion effi- .com or (701) 746-8385. ciency “by energy content,” with a solid plan to increase that to 90 percent. “The


A New Day for Biogas: Germany Leads the Way in Europe Biogas has a long history as a renewable resource that seemed to have more potential than practicality. However, government policies that promise stable revenues for producers and more opportunities for farmers have led to a biogas boom in Germany. By Jerry W. Kram

t seems so simple. Fill a tank with some manure, stover, straw, rotten vegetables—just about any kind of biomass—cover it to keep out air and let countless trillions of methane-producing bacteria convert worthless waste into valuable fuel and fertilizer. That’s easy right? The answer is yes, but the dilemma has always been finding ways to economically use the biogas that’s been created. Biogas has a relatively low energy content. As it comes out of an anaerobic digester, biogas is only one-half to three-fourths methane. Most of the remainder is carbon dioxide and biogas often contains a significant amount of water and sulfur-containing compounds. These compounds have to be removed before biogas can be blended with natural gas and transported via pipeline. These limitations have made it difficult for biogas to become an important energy resource in industrialized countries. Europe, however, is committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and is increasing its use of wind, solar and biomass technologies. Biogas is a small but rapidly expanding part of the continent’s renewable energy portfolio. Sweden, Austria and Denmark are leaders in the development of biogas, but nowhere is the potential of this industry




The German Biogas Association projects that biogas will provide 17 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020.


power being realized like it is in Germany. The German Biogas Association (GBA) projects that biogas will provide 17 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020, according to GBA Secretary General Claudius da Costa Gomez.

Biogas in Germany Number of plants





Installed electrical generation capacity

1,100 MW

9,500 MW

Leaps and Bounds

Annual electricity production

5 billion kWh

76 billion kWh

Biogas production grew slowly but steadily in Germany in the 1990s, but there were still fewer than 1,000 farmbased production facilities in 2000. Few of the facilities were combined-heat-andpower (CHP) plants that increase efficiency by generating electricity, and providing heat to businesses, industries and residences. Then Germany changed its laws to allow renewable energy providers access to the electrical grid at an attractive

Production equipment costs

1 billion Euros

7.6 billion Euros




Source: German Biogas Association

long-term price. That caused the number of biogas plants to mushroom to 3,500 in 2006. CHP production expanded even faster. The capacity of biogas CHP plants was less than 100 megawatts (MW) in

2000 but reached 200 MW in 2001, 400 MW in 2004, 650 MW in 2005 and 1,100 MW in 2006. The GBA projects the growth of the industry will continue. Many of Germany’s biogas plants are small, says GBA Public Relations Director Andrea Horbelt. Most are owned by a few farmers working together. Horbelt says the plants cost about €1.5 million (US$2 million). The government doesn’t supply any funding for the construction of the

More than 400 companies perform engineering, components manufacturing, construction, and technical and laboratory services for the biogas industry. Energy crops, crop residues and manure from livestock facilities are the major feedstocks for biogas in Germany.

Germany adopted a renewable energy policy that set premiums for using agricultural products, including energy crops and manure.


power plants, but because the revenue that these plants earn is guaranteed for 20 years, it’s fairly easy to get loans at a low-interest rate from commercial banks. “Most of the plants are privately owned by the farmers,” she adds. “Three or four farmers will grow crops for the plant because one farmer won’t have enough money to build it.” A technical assessment conducted in 2002 of the potential for electricity generation from biogas in Germany indicated the country could generate about 136 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. About 85 percent of the potential feedstocks identified were from agricultural production. Energy crops showed the most potential at 65.6 million MWh, followed by manure at 26.8 million MWh and crop residue at 24.7 million MWh. Nearly all biogas plants in Germany incorporate electrical generation and heat capture in facilities on the farm or near a business. The gas coming off the digesters needs only light cleaning for this purpose. However, some entrepreneurs in Munich and Aachen are going the extra mile to remove the carbon dioxide from the bio-

A2002 study indicated 85 percent of biogas potential for the country came from energy crops, crop residues and manure. 6|2007 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 27


Guaranteed power prices for biogas-generated electricity (Cents (hundredths of a Euro) per kWh)

large CHP facility is being built near the city’s sewage treatment facility. The plant would be fed by a 20-kilometer, dedicated biogas pipeline connected to small biogas producers. The plant would use biogas made from about 10 square kilometers (2,471 acres) of corn and would provide heat to about 7,000 homes.


Base price for waste material

Bonus for using agricultural crops (includes manure and energy crops)

Bonus for heat usage

< 150 kW




150-500 kW




Friendly Policy

500-5,000 kW




> 5,000 kW




Germany adopted its renewable energy policy in 2001 and renewed the law in 2004. That law guaranteed renewable energy producers access to the electrical grid and also set attractive prices for electricity generated from biogas. The bill also set premiums for using agricultural products, including energy crops and manure. There is also a bonus for capturing waste heat for residential or business use. The energy crop provision, which was added in the 2004 revision of the law, was

Source: German Biogas Association

gas and then compress it so that it can be fed into existing natural gas pipelines. “There are two plants in Germany that put their gas directly in the pipeline,” Horbelt says. “I think it will be the future of biogas. If you can put it directly in the pipeline, you make the electricity where you need the

heat, as well. That is actually a big problem because there is a lot of heat generated in these plants, and it’s difficult to use that heat where the plants are.” Another approach is being taken by the city of Braunschweig. According to the newspaper Braunshweiger Zietung, a

Most of the 3,500 biogas plants in Germany are farmer-owned. 28 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 6|2007

power important for German farmers. European policy imposes acreage restrictions on farmers as part of a supply management program. Farmers, however, are allowed to grow energy crops on the set-aside land. In 2004, just 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) were devoted to energy crops. German farmers expanded that to 90,000 hectares (222,400 acres) in 2005 and 189,000 hectares (467,000 acres) in 2006. Up to 4.5 million hectares (11.1 million acres) could be used for energy crops in Germany by 2030. According to Horbelt, corn is the most commonly planted energy crop. Sunflowers, Sudan grass and sugar beets are among the other crops currently being used or considered for biogas feedstocks. “For the farmers, it’s very important because they have had some economic bad times,” Horbelt says. “If they have a possibility to build a biogas plant, it’s a very good chance for them to survive.” The biogas boom has also been a boon for the German economy. More than €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) were invested in biogas plants in 2006. By 2020, that is expected to increase to €7.6 billion (US$10.2 billion), according to the GBA. That investment has resulted in more job opportunities and the promise of even greater opportunities as the industry continues to expand. Horbelt believes that about 10,000 jobs have already been created by the biogas industry. “We think that maybe there will be about 85,000 jobs in the industry by 2020,” she says. “So it has been very good for the economy in Germany. It’s also a job with a future.” German expertise in biogas production could become a marketable commodity. More than 400 companies perform engineering, components manufacturing, construction, and technical and laboratory services for the biogas industry. The GBA estimates that 30 percent of the country’s biogas engineering services could be exported by 2020. At the present time, manufacturers have to work hard just to keep up with the German demand. “Our manufacturers have enough experience (to

exploit the export market), but they don’t have enough workers,” Horbelt says. “The demand for biogas plants in Germany is very high, and they aren’t able to build enough plants for the German market before they go to foreign lands.” There has been little controversy over the biogas production boom beyond some siting issues, Horbelt says. “It’s very important to inform the neighbors if you’re going to build a biogas plant,” she says. “There was some concern about odors from biogas plants, but it wasn’t too much. We have to take care that it doesn’t become a bigger problem in the future.” BIO Jerry W. Kram is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at or (701) 746-8385. More than 400 companies and 10,000 workers provide services and components for the biogas industry in Germany.

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Changing World Technologies Inc. commercialized a process that mimics the way nature creates fuels through extreme pressure and heat without hazardous emissions. The company is currently selling renewable diesel produced from turkey processing scraps, and soon plans to deploy its municipal solid waste process technology. By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy



he concept of turning wasted material into useful products is what makes the biomass world revolve. The obvious benefits and opportunities have inspired thousands of ideas and theories on how to turn various wastes into energy, including electricity, natural gas, steam, fuel cells and fuel. Yet few of these technologies have actually resulted in the building of a pilot facility, much less a commercial demonstration plant.


Takes Guts, Tires, Plastic…

“There’s a big difference between a pilot plant and a commercial demonstration facility,” says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of New York-based Changing World Technologies Inc. (CWT). CWT has developed one of the few waste-to-energy technologies to reach the commercial level, but commercialization is just one of many factors that distinguish this company. The company was named to Scientific American’s 50 in 2003 in the energy category for its work to devise a method of turning solid waste into oil.

CWT’s process sets the company apart from the rest of the pack. Many waste-to-energy technologies successfully produce electricity and methane by using a form of combustion. CWT’s thermal conversion process (TCP), patented in 1993, is unique because it successfully recaptures the hydrocarbons and converts it into a renewable fuel without producing emissions. In the process, organic waste material is converted into renewable diesel, solids and specialty chemicals. The renewable

diesel is different from biodiesel because it doesn’t contain alcohol. The process applies indirect heat and high pressure to emulate the Earth’s geothermal process of converting organic matter into fuel. Thus, instead of changing the chemical composition through incineration, it simplifies the existing complex polymers into their smallest units, which can then be converted into new fuels. Here’s how the TCP works. The feedstock is first prepared with water and ground into slurry. The slurry is preheated


process to reaction temperature using high-pressure steam energy. Appel says the use of pressure makes the process efficient, with a net energy balance greater than seven. The heat comes from a boiler, which is powered by renewable diesel produced at the plant. The boiler heats water, which is contained in large pressure vessels. The process is efficient because the water isn’t allowed to vaporize. “It doesn’t take a lot of energy to heat water up to the boiling point,” Appel says. “It takes all the energy to cross that threshold from the liquid to the vapor phase, where you’re constantly losing that energy to that vapor phase when you make steam. Instead of spending all that energy evaporating the water, we use it as part of the process.” Keeping the water under pressure enables the boiler to heat the water up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates 600 to 700 pounds of pressure. “Once you’re done cooking the material— when you let that pressure down—you get all of that energy released in the form of steam, which is used to preheat the incoming material,” Appel says. “So not only are you not wasting energy evaporating off water that’s in everything, but you’re also then using that high-value steam as an energy source.“ From the preheating treatment, the slurry is placed into a depolymerization reactor, where high pressure and heat separate out the bulk of the inorganic material. That organic material is then subjected to even higher temperatures and pressures in the The tall stack scrubs odor compounds from the air in the processing building. All of the air in the buildings is treated with an oxidizing chemical.



hydrolysis reactor. Here, the water acts as a hydrogen donor to further break down complex molecules into shorter, useful and similar hydrocarbon molecules. Finally, the molecules are separated into gases, renewable diesel, water and remaining solids. “After you go through the hydrolysis reactor, you then go through a series of polishing steps

that are filters, dehydrators and normal steps that would be at a typical refinery to meet final product specification,” Appel says. Because the TCP doesn’t incinerate or combust the waste, it doesn’t produce harmful emissions. “Whatever is in the material is going to come out in its elemental form as a hydrocarbon,” Appel says. “The typical bad actors we associate emissions regu-


process latory policy around usually are from incineration- or combustion-type technologies.” Chlorine, for example, isn’t bad in itself, but when it’s exposed to an open flame, toxic complex chlorine compounds are formed. Because nothing hits an open flame in the TCP, no such emissions are created. The process is currently being used at CWT’s commercial demonstration facility, Renewable Environmental Solutions LLC (RES) in Carthage, Mo. The facility, developed in partnership with ConAgra Foods and commissioned in 2004, processes agricultural waste—mostly turkey fat, bones and feathers. It has a nameplate capacity of 8 MMgy but is currently producing at approximately 70 percent capacity. Though Appel says the fuel has performed well in blendability tests, the company isn’t selling to the blend market at this time. RES diesel is used unblended in commercial industrial boilers within 100 miles of the facility. “We don’t need a lot of cusIn this separator tank, the depolymerization reaction takes place, and the organic material is separated from the inorganic.


process tomers because these are large boilers,” Appel says. A customer with a 1,500horsepower boiler uses more than 2 million gallons of fuel per year to make steam. The industrial boiler market has been a good fit for the company. Local distribution has freed RES from high-distribution infrastructure costs. Additionally, boilers typically can accept less-refined fuels, giving the company more flexibility to refine its technology. The only downfall of marketing to fixed-engine markets is that the fuel sells for less than it would in the transportation market. To make up for the lower revenue, CWT produces a fertilizer coproduct from animal and agricultural waste that is registered for use in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The TCP technology was first developed in CWT’s research and development, and engineering support facility in Philadelphia. The test facility was opened at its site in the Philadelphia Naval Yard in

The characterization of waste continually changes as recycling technologies and policies change what gets thrown away. ‘You get surges and spikes of these different shapes, sizes and density of materials, and it becomes an operational issue.’ December 1999 and served as a pilot facility for the thermo-depolymerization process technology (later renamed thermal conversion process). Today, testing at this facility is focused on adapting the technology for new feedstocks, such as mixed agricultural wastes, municipal solid wastes, mixed plastics and tires. Specifically, it involves working with shredded residue waste, which is the plastic and rubber left

over from shredded automobiles and appliances. This mixed waste has a low value, and needs to be separated and prepared. “Those products are going to be a bit different than what you have from animal and agricultural waste,” Appel says, describing the challenges associated with this new feedstock. “You’re starting with different material and there’s a lot more material that doesn’t have the value of fertilizer.” When processing municipal solid waste, the leftover material is metal, both ferrous (containing iron) and nonferrous, which go to local metal recyclers. These metals leave the process in the form of oxides, and Appel says they would pass leeching tests to calculate levels of groundwater contaminants. “Nothing is hitting an open flame, and nothing is really going to any extreme temperatures and pressures—nothing that could melt any metals,” Appel says. “The only solids that


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process actually break down in the reactor at those temperatures are proteins.” CWT hopes to complete the pilot work by this summer and proceed into design for a commercial demonstration facility that would process up to 200 tons per day. “We’re hoping to complete the design for the commercial demonstration plant by next summer and then have that plant operational two years from now,” Appel says. He says the company is working with the county of Los Angeles to site a commercial demonstration facility there. “I would also suspect that there certainly would be interest in putting one in Michigan, due to the presence of the Vehicle Recycling Partnership, which has been cofunding us on the development of the technology for the application of the shredded residue,” Appel says. The Vehicle Recycling Partnership involves automobile manufacturers DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, and is under the United States Council for Automotive Research. It conducts and funds research into recycling various automotive components. CWT was founded in 1997 to determine a cost-effective way to eliminate waste, with energy production as the sec-


ondary goal. “Interestingly enough, the secondary became the primary,” Appel says, as the nation became increasingly focused on domestic energy production and decreasing carbon emissions. During this time, Appel says they’ve “learned an awful lot.” “We still have work to do,” he says. “This was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be because of all the different factors that come into play, but we’ve gotten over a lot of different hurdles.” One of the highest hurdles to overcome was that virtually everything about this process was new. Early on, adjustments had to be made to fuel delivery systems and other customer requirements. The company also found that it was difficult to train and hire personnel. “We didn’t have any analogous-type industry, where we could pull resources from,” Appel says. “The training had a lot longer lead time because this all was new.” The biggest issue that the company still has to contend with is waste management. It takes a lot of material to create one barrel of oil. The company estimates that only 10 percent of agricultural waste can be fully converted to oil. With that in mind, the company requires very cheap feedstocks, a lot of storage space and a

coproduct that is either valuable or can be disposed of affordably. Additionally, Appel says the characterization of waste continually changes as recycling technologies and policies change what gets thrown away. “You get surges and spikes of these different shapes, sizes and density of materials, and it becomes an operational issue,” he notes. “We had to build in much more flexibility than we had envisioned.” These are problems common throughout the biomass industry. Despite some of the difficulties, Appel is optimistic about the future for his company and confident in the value of his product. Recently, CWT got a boost from legislation that broadened the definition of renewable diesel eligible for tax credits. The legislation also included uses other than transportation. “At the end of the day, it’s displacing fossil fuels,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s moving across the road or sits in the basement.” BIO Anduin Kirkbride McElroy is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at amcelroy@bbibiofuels .com or (701) 746-8385.



:(67 ($67








Building Better Bioplastics To capture a larger segment of the trillion-pound-a-year plastics market, manufacturers are developing starch-based bioplastics that can be used in more applications and are environmentally friendly. Biomass Magazine reviews four companies that have different approaches to manufacturing bioplastics. By Susanne Retka Schill

orty years ago, moviegoers laughed at the scene in “The Graduate” where a well-meaning family friend takes actor Dustin Hoffman, who plays aimless college graduate Ben Braddock, aside and declares, “I just want to say one word to you, Ben, one word—plastics.” Today that word would be bioplastics. While 40 years ago plastics symbolized all things phony and superficial in American life, bioplastics symbolize all things green. The worldwide manufacturing capacity of bioplastics is growing rapidly. The chart on page 40 shows recent and future growth trends tracked by the industry organization European Bioplastics, based in Germany.


‘The United States offers a fine environment to invest in material development and upscaling due to [companies’] greater willingness to take risks in financing.’


innovation New technologies are bringing the price of bioplastics down, just as high oil prices are boosting the price of petrochemicals. Harold Kaeb, chairman of European Bioplastics says several other factors are driving the growth. Company and governmental policies are becoming greener, and the performance of biobased plastics is improving. He predicts the market will grow 20 percent to 30 percent a year. The European market is perhaps twice the size of the U.S. market right now, he says. However, “the United States offers a fine environment to invest in material development and upscaling due to [companies’] greater willingness to take risks in financing,” he says. He points to NatureWorks LLC, DuPont-Tate and Lyle BioProducts LLC, and Metabolix Inc./Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) as examples. “The biggest investments are made in the United States,” he says. Those three aforementioned companies are joined by one European company. Each company has a different approach to turning starch into the base components of plastic in an effort to capture a piece of the growing bioplastic share of the trillion-pound-a-year plastics market.

Transforming Corn to Bio-PDO Joe Kurian, DuPont’s manager of technology and business development, describes the company’s new polymers made with trademarked Bio-PDO (corn-based 1,3-propanediol) as one of the company’s most exciting developments in the past 12 years. “Polymers made with Bio-PDO offer unique and enhanced properties compared to existing biobased polymers available today,” he says. The joint venture—DuPont-Tate and Lyle BioProducts LLC— produces Bio-PDO in Loudon, Tenn., alongside Tate and Lyle’s 60 MMgy ethanol plant. The $100 million project came on line last October and reached commercial-scale production levels last winter. The process derives Bio-PDO from corn sugar using a patented

and proprietary fermentation process involving engineered organisms. Bio-PDO has direct industrial and consumer product applications for use in deicing fluids, antifreeze, heat transfer fluids and solvents. This fall, DuPont will be rolling out a new family of high-performance thermoplastic resins and elastomer products made with the renewable resin. Kurian says they are higher-performing bioplastics than most in the market today, with temperature and solvent resistance, durability and other desirable properties. DuPont expects its trademarked Sorona polymer to be used in automotive parts, and electrical and electronics components, as well as in industrial and consumer products. Spun into a fiber, Sorona has stain

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DuPont-Tate and Lyle Bio Products’ Bio-PDO plant in Loudon, Tenn.

resistance and durability that’s ideal for making long-wearing carpets while its softness, stretch and recovery properties are well-suited for use in clothing. DuPont will also use Bio-PDO to manufacture its trademarked Hytrel used for extruded hose and tubing for automotive and other industrial uses.

The PHA Polymer Bioplastics are also on ADM’s agenda. Construction started last winter on a plant adjacent to the company’s corn wet mill in Clinton,

Iowa, to manufacture biobased polyhydroxybutyric acid (PHA) polymers. Massachusetts-based Metabolix Inc. entered into a strategic alliance with ADM in 2004 to commercialize the polymer. Currently available for product development from a pilot plant, the Iowa plant is due to begin producing commercial quantities in 2008. The Metabolix plastics are produced in a proprietary fermentation process using genetically engineered microbes. Much of the core technology is owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and licensed to Metabolix.


innovation Like all plastics, PHA can be used in a wide variety of applications, including coated paper, film or bags, along with thermoformed and molded goods. Metabolix says the natural plastics can be formed into a range of structures from rigid thermoplastics to thermoplastic elastomers and grades useful in waxes, adhesives and binders. Metabolix can also convert its natural plastics into building blocks or monomers, which have applications as solvents and chemical intermediates.

Europeans Growing Greener Novamont has been a leader in the European bioplastics industry, manufacturing its trademarked Mater-Bi from corn, potato and other plant starches at its plant in Terni, Italy. The process doesn’t use fermentation, but rather a destructuring of the starch proteins, amorphous amylase and amylopectine, which are then complexed with polyester through hydrogen bonding. The amount of petrochemical-based polyester used varies with the end-product use. For instance, peanut packaging would contain 100 percent starch resins while bags, films, cutlery and other injection-grade products have more polyester. Committed to increasing renewable resource content, Novamont recently introduced another biobased product to the market this past year Origo-Bi, a vegetable-oil-based polyester to replace its petroleumbased polyester. Novamont is building a second production plant in Terni to manufacture Origo-Bi, which is expected to reach full production in 2008. Novamont calls this expanded biorefinery a new model of sustainable industrial development. The company is collaborating with a farmerowned cooperative to supply feedstocks for the plant. The company hopes to build similar plants around the world, partnering agricultural producers with biodegradable plastics manufacturers. The plastics can be composted and returned to the soil once the product’s lifecycle is completed. Biodegradability is a big thrust behind Novamont’s product development. Mater-Bi is used for creating agricultural mulching film, for instance, which can be incorporated into the soil after the growing season. The biggest application is for plastic bags that can be composted in food waste and yard waste recycling, says Tony Gioffre, Novamont’s North American representative. “Much of Europe is going this way,” he says. Organic waste is separated to be composted and returned to the soil rather than buried in landfills. Landfill gases are far more powerful greenhouse warming gases than carbon dioxide, he says. In North America, cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Toronto are promoting the recycling of organic waste. “A household collection system has a small bin on the counter with a biodegradable bag, which is placed in a green bin outside, and that’s picked up once a week,” Gioffre says.

Corn to Lactic Acid to PLA The story of PLA—a polylactic polymer made from corn—illustrates the time and networking that go into the development of bioplastics. The National Corn Growers Association, the Advance Technology Program (ATP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Cargill and Dow Chemical Co. are among those that have 42 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 6|2007

PLA plastic pellets

contributed to the development of PLA. In 1989, corn plastics had been around for 20 years but were too expensive until Patrick Gruber, then a Cargill chemist, invented a way to more efficiently make the polymer. In 1994, Cargill received an ATP award to develop the methodology to control the crystallinity of PLA, which resulted in improving the heat resistance of the PLA needed for many manufacturing processes. Cargill partnered with Dow Chemical in a 50-50 joint venture in late 1997 to continue development. Cargill bought out Dow Chemical’s interest in 2005 and organized NatureWorks LLC as a wholly owned subsidiary. It manufactures PLA in a new facility built alongside Cargill’s corn wet mill in Blair, Neb. PLA is used in the trademarked NatureWorks PLA resins and the trademarked Ingeo fiber. Besides Nebraska, PLA is manufactured in Japan and in the Netherlands. NatureWorks and two other companies make PLA-based bioplastic resins that meet biodegradable standards and are listed on the Biodegradable Products Institute’s Web site. California-based Cereplast Inc. combines PLA with other resins to create a bioplastic to supply plastics manufacturers, as well as makers of food service disposable packaging and utensils. Georgia-based DaniMer Scientific LLC uses PLA combined with other materials to form polymer alloys that can be composted and are biodegradable. The polymer alloys are used by other companies to make plastic films and coatings for paper, fabric and paperboard, injection-molded and thermoformed plastic articles, and fiber. In January, for example, Indianapolis-based Engro LLC introduced clothing made from Ingeo at the Promotional Products Association International in Las Vegas. With new capacities coming on line and new innovations, the bioplastics market is poised for growth. Big players like Cargill, DuPont and ADM have the resources to invest and boost the work of the partnerships built with smaller innovators. NatureWorks and Novamont were first off the block. DuPont-Tate and Lyle and Metabolix/ADM will soon be full participants. The race for market share is on. BIO Susanne Retka Schill is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at or (701) 746-8385.


Thermochemical Versus Biochemical Dynamotive Energy Systems Corp. has been turning biomass into bio-oil for several years for use in power generation and other low-grade fuel applications. Bio-oil, a densified form of biomass, also has significant potential as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. As an alternative to the enzymatic or biochemical approach to making cellulosic ethanol, this pyrolysis model could solve some of the logistical and processing obstacles associated with commercializing non-grain ethanol. By Nicholas Zeman

Dynamotive's bio-oil and intermediate bio-oil products are price-competitive replacements for No. 2 and No. 6 heating oils, which are widely used in industrial boilers and furnaces.




technology hile the technology to produce cellulosic ethanol on a large scale is being perfected, researchers are still grappling with the particulars involved in the collection, transportation and storage of millions of tons of biomass. Canadian-based Dynamotive Energy Systems Corp. has developed a business model that capitalizes on the decentralization of biomass. “This is a distributed approach to biomass,” says Andrew Kingston, CEO of Dynamotive, which is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company also has a different approach to the production of energy and ethanol from biomass. Although burning biomass alone produces energy, Dynamotive’s platform focuses on the principle that converting biomass to bio-oil multiplies the energy yield 12 to 15 times. The company's bio-oil and intermediate bio-oil products are price-competitive replacements for No. 2 and No. 6 heating oils, which are widely used in industrial boilers and furnaces. Even more importantly, bio-oil is priced at $25 to $35 a barrel, nearly half of the current price for crude oil. Furthermore, it’s a form of biomass that’s easier to transport and has considerable advantages in terms of storage, Kingston says. D y n a m o t i v e ’s Kingston foundation plant in West Lorne, Ontario, is collocated next to the Erie Flooring and Wood Products factory and uses the waste sawdust to make bio-oil. The plant is currently being expanded, which will allow it to increase the amount of sawdust it uses from 100 metric tons per day to 130 metric tons. At press time, the upgraded reactor and burner systems were ready for shipment and the plant was expected to be operational by the end of the summer. Dynamotive is also constructing a plant in Guelph, Ontario, that’s designed to



Dynamotive Energy Systems Corp. is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has a plant in West Lorne, Ontario, and one under construction in Guelph, Ontario.

process 200 tons of cellulosic biomass per day and produce 12.2 MMgy of bio-oil, with the equivalent energy content of 550 barrels of conventional oil.

Bio-Oil to Ethanol Bio-oil can be further refined in various ways, according to Desmond Radlein, lead scientist for Dynamotive. With the known technologies to convert biomass to synthetic gases—specifically FischerTropsch—bio-oil can be made into ethanol. That could solve some of the problems involved in efficiently transporting biomass to ethanol plants. In order to be competitive, plants that could convert biomass to ethanol need to be able to process 3,000 to 5,000 tons of biomass per day. Plants of this nature are being built in Holland and Germany, and there is Radlein a potential market for biomass in Europe, but the raw materials couldn’t be exported from U.S. shores, Radlein says. By converting the biomass into bio-oil, transportation opportunities are created. “You can ship bio-oil in a tanker,” he says. “You can’t do that with biomass.” If that is the case, then pyrolysis might have been overlooked as a feasible process for cellulosic ethanol production. Some studies have shown that producing ethanol from corn can only provide a small fraction of U.S. fuel needs, Radlein

says. However, those same studies report that if all the country’s biomass was utilized, then renewable fuels could supply a very large fraction of the transportation fuels demand. One way to do this is with bio-oil, Kingston says. Kingston and others believe that it might be more feasible for a would-be cellulosic ethanol, producer to contract with Dynamotive for bio-oil and use it to make ethanol instead of attempting to harvest and collect woody biomass on its own. “For the conversion of woody materials, I certainly think bio-oil has a lot of potential,” says Bruce Dale, a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University. According to Kingston, it’s just simpler to process bio-oil into cellulosic ethanol than it is to deal with raw biomass. Producers wouldn’t have to harvest and transport raw materials like agricultural residues or cultivate dedicated energy crops. Through pyrolysis, bio-oil can also be made from corn stover, which is left behind in a field after the corn is harvested. “There’s a synergy there,” Radlein says. “You can utilize the waste stream, reduce the cost and become more environmentally friendly.” Not only could bio-oil be a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol producers, but it could also complement the use of natural gas as a power source for ethanol plants. Conversely, one central bio-oil plant could supply several energy users in distributed locations, or several plants could supply numerous end-users, just as in the petroleum industry. If it’s easier to transport bio-oil instead of biomass, a pyrolysis plant could locate near the biomass source and ship bio-oil to the ethanol plant. That could eliminate some of the logistical problems that have dogged the development of the cellulosic ethanol industry. “We want to develop partnerships and find areas where we can collocate these plants,” Kingston says. A bio-oil system also requires 95 percent less land area to store the same amount of energy in the form of biomass. George Huber, a professor of chemi-

technology cal engineering at the University of Dynamotive’s efforts in Darwin should be of interest to many other Massachusetts-Amherst, agrees with cities that wish to avoid disposing of large amounts of green waste Radlein that economy-of-scale analyses indicate that a cellulosic ethanol refinery that create methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas. has to be very large to be viable, and needs to have a close and dependable source of biomass. “Really, outside of a Politically, the support for cellulosic ethanol has been 50-mile radius, it begins to become very expensive to transport biomass,” Huber says. The pyrolitic method, in which ethanol is focused on biochemical conversion processes, says a source at a made from bio-oil instead of biomass, is a way to solve this prob- U.S. laboratory who asked to remain anonymous. Enzyme companies have lobbied for federal funding to be funneled toward lem, Huber says. Perfecting a heat-integration system is also important for the biochemical research efforts, while thermochemical approaches development of cellulosic biorefineries. “The idea is that you appear to have been overlooked. Focusing on enzyme developpower the processes that require heat from other processes in the ment may have been logical but perhaps mistaken, says the plant that generate heat,” Huber says. Because distillation is the source, adding that it wasn’t until recently that pyrolysis began to most energy-intensive, expensive aspect of ethanol production, receive attention and support in the cellulosic ethanol realm. “There’s been a lot invested in enzymatic technologies,” Brown producers are constantly looking for ways to minimize its cost. Fast pyrolysis also stands as an alternative to the enzymatic says. Those investors have a lot to lose if an alternative technolor biochemical approach to the biomass-to-ethanol conversion. ogy draws the attention of producers. “In my opinion, I don’t think companies focusing on celluSo the big question is: What’s the advantage of pyrolysis over the losic ethanol are trying to stop bio-oils from being commercially enzymatic approach in the production of cellulosic ethanol? viable,” Huber says. “I think the bio-oil industry is behind in pro“There’s been 30 years of work done on enzymatic pretreatment moting itself, and I think this will change in the future. The real technologies,” says Robert Brown, professor of thermal engicompetitor is petroleum-derived feedstocks versus biomassneering at Iowa State University in Ames. “At the same time, there has been very little done with pyrolysis in terms of truly optimiz- derived feedstocks, not bio-oils versus ethanol. In fact, I think a ing the process, so in my opinion that is a significant economic case could be made that if you can make one type of fuel from advantage over some of the other approaches to making cellu- cellulosic biomass you can make another type of fuel as well.” losic ethanol. There are all kinds of possibilities, and virtually Huber believes it’s important that economics—not governmental policies—should decide which are the best processes for making none of them have been explored.” biofuels.

Becoming part of the drive for energy independence . . . turning waste biomass into renewable, industrial liquid fuel for heating and green electricity.

For information on Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, please contact: Corporate Communications Tel: (604)267-6000 Toll Free (in North America): 1-877-863-2268 Fax: (604) 267-6005 E-mail: Website: 6|2007 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 47


Dynamotive executives believe it’s easier and more efficient to transport bio-oil to an ethanol facility, than it would be to move the raw biomass.

Across Continents Dynamotive’s pyrolysis can be used to turn a variety of materials into bio-oil including sugarcane bagasse. The burning of sugarcane fields in Latin America after harvesting is a practice that’s being phased out, Kingston says. This could make an abundant source of biomass available. There are many opportunities around the world for refining biomass, like those that exist for Dynamotive in South America, but opportunity doesn’t always alleviate risk. “There’s a lot of interest and a lot of plans in the works, but we need to see how the facility at Guelph performs before we put further millions at risk,” Kingston says. Miscanthus has also been identified as a feedstock. Dynamotive and Consensus Business Group, also headquartered in Vancouver, started a biomass joint venture last year. Consensus Business Group will secure long-term project opportunities for Dynamotive to produce bio-oil. Also, Dynamotive and Rika Biofuels, a European biodiesel company, studied the feasibility of producing bioenergy crops in the Ukraine. The companies are planting enough miscanthus at a 5,000-acre energy park to replace the energy produced by 250,000 barrels of crude oil. Dynamotive is also involved in a project in Australia to turn


the city of Darwin’s green waste into a biofuel for electric generation. Excess green energy generated in parallel with the pyrolysis plant would be fed into the Darwin electric grid. Bio-oil produces substantially less nitrogen oxide emissions than conventional oil, as well as little or no sulfur oxide gases, a cause of acid rain, the company says. Dynamotive’s efforts in Darwin should be of interest to many other cities that wish to avoid disposing of large amounts of green waste that create methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas. It’s especially important in countries like China, which has a high level of coal smoke. “China will have to implement a variety of solutions [to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol],” Kingston says. “Dynamotive is part of that mix.” Kingston, a former oil company executive, believes biobased fuel is a way to promote waste reduction and meet clean air standards like those outlined in the Kyoto Protocol, which is being implemented internationally. BIO Nicholas Zeman is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at or (701) 746-8385.


LAB Engineering Evolution: Accelerating Adaptations for Biorefining aking ethanol from corn has a lot going for it. It’s a process that’s simple, well-understood and efficient. As the industry begins to reach the limit of the amount of fuel that can be made from grains and moves to cellulosic feedstocks, becomes more complex and expensive. The starch from grains can be converted into a single fermentable sugar without much difficulty. Cellulose and hemicellulose, on the other hand, require a complex brew of enzymes to break them into sugars, and even then the resulting wort is a blend of sugars, which presents a challenge to ferment. To top it off, different feedstocks, such as wood, corn stover and bagasse, are composed of somewhat different hemicelluloses, so the yeast or bacteria adapted for use on one feedstock may not do as well on another feedstock. On the bright side, with new challenges come new tools. While researchers continue to look for organisms that nature has adapted to digest cellulose, genetic engineers have taken a different tack, adding new capabilities to microbes that already produce ethanol. While the technology to transform organisms is maturing, it can still take dozens or even hundreds of attempts to add the precise genes and regulators to create a well-adapted organism. Screening hundreds or sometimes thousands of clones to identify the best adapted organism can be a major bottleneck in the process. Stephen Hughes of the USDA’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Ill., has been working to automate this time-consuming process. The platform includes automated liquid handling, incubation, stacking and sealing operations. It contains a built-in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) instrument, so it can handle the entire process from the initial replication of genes to inserting them in yeast or bacteria to analyzing resulting protein. The system has two tracks and can perform several operations simultaneously. The system can also be used for in-vitro testing to compare enzymes from many different clones, and to test for protein solubility and activity under different pH and temperature conditions. Although producing yeast optimized for cellulosic ethanol production is a goal of the NCAUR, the pilot project for the system involves moving a protein from the wolf spider into yeast. The protein is being considered as a natural insecticide for corn earworms and fall army worms. The gene for the protein was mutated into thousands of variations. Hughes and his team then used the system to add all those versions of the gene to a variety of brewer’s yeast, and screen the resulting strains for production of the spider protein and its ability to kill corn ear worms. Hughes used the system to perform a high throughput screen of yeast clones to find optimized cellulase F genes with improved pH and higher temperature stability. Each plate in the system has 96 wells, and Hughes grew eight clones of the yeast in each well. He says this first test was a “brute force” test that analyzed more than 23,000 variations in the cellulase F protein. The tests found several varieties that showed a higher activity cellulase F variation of the desired protein that was active at a lower pH (valuable because industrial fermentation is usually done below a pH of five) than strains they identified by manual methods. Hughes says future screenings will be more strategic so as not to waste reagents. “It was a learning process,” he says. “We found that often you can just run one plate and find out if an avenue is worth pursuing.” With the automated system, Hughes can process 400 samples to completion from the PCR assembly of mutated clone to optimized strain in six days. A technician could manually process about 10 samples. Hughes believes the potential of the automated system for the cellulosic ethanol industry is two-fold. Not only will it enable researchers to create yeast strains optimized for different feedstocks, but it will also allow them to insert genes to produce valuable byproducts, including enzymes and chemical feedstocks. In some cases, the byproducts could be more valuable than the ethanol. BIO


—Jerry W. Kram


Thank you To all the participants, exhibitors, and sponsors of the Biomass ’07: Power, Fuels, and Chemicals Workshop. Backed by more than 60 years of experience in gasification technologies and more than a decade in biomass energy, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is leading North Dakota and the nation in renewable energy technologies. This workshop addresses cutting-edge research and technology advancements in renewable fuels, chemicals, and power. As organizing sponsor of the Biomass ’07 Workshop, we sincerely thank you for helping make this year’s workshop an outstanding success.

With more than 300 employees, the EERC is a worldwide leader in developing cleaner, more efficient energy technologies as well as environmental technologies to protect and clean our air, water, and soil. At the EERC, sound science evolves into true innovation. Find out more about how the EERC can innovate for you. EERC Technology … Putting Research into Practice

University of North Dakota Grand Forks

Biomass Magazine - June 2007  
Biomass Magazine - June 2007  

June 2007 Biomass Magazine