INSIDE: BCAP RELAUNCH SHOULD UNCOVER NEW BIOMASS SUPPLIES
Growing Energy How Switchgrass and Miscanthus Can Add Value to Marginal Lands Page 20
Why a Greenhouse Vegetable Business Entered the Energy Market Page 26
Assessing the Worldâ€™s Energy Crop Potential Through 2050 Page 32
FEBRUARY 2011 | VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 2
FEATURES 20 PRODUCTION Energizing Marginal Land Landowners could optimize marginal lands by producing energy crops such as miscanthus or switchgrass. By Lisa Gibson
26 PROFILE Full-Service Energy Farm Ontario greenhouse vegetable grower uses miscanthus to solve its heating dilemma and start a new energy crop business. By Anna Austin
32 ENERGY CROPS Powerful Crops The potential for energy crops is great but barriers exist, and many countries could make growing such crops more economic by offering production incentives. By Lisa Gibson
04 EDITOR’S NOTE
38 POLICY BCAP Relaunch Should Bring New Biomass Producers Into the Supply Chain
Homegrown Energy By Rona Johnson
06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 09 THERMAL DYNAMICS
Renewable Heating: Lessons Learned from Europe By Kyle Gibeault
10 ENERGY REVIEW
The Reemergence of Gasification for Energy and Fuels By Phil Hutton
Changes to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program should improve the economics for new biomass suppliers. By Daniel Simon and Tom Kimmerer
42 WOODY BIOMASS Harvesting Forest Renewables Sustainably Removing excess biomass from forests leads to healthier tree stands, fewer catastrophic forest fires, less food for destructive insects and more jobs. By Mike Schmidt
11 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE
Happy Holidays From the NLRB—Now Post This By Karen G. Schanfield and Richard A. Ross
12 BUSINESS BRIEFS 14 FIRED UP 44 MARKETPLACE 45 ADVERTISER INDEX
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 3
RONA JOHNSON Editor email@example.com
Our theme this month was somewhat difficult to tackle because even though the potential for growing energy crops is great, there are virtually no commercial-scale planting sites yet. This will probably be the case until farmers start to see some economic benefit in planting energy crops. As we often note, the chicken and egg dilemma is at work here. Developers want to have a guaranteed fuel supply while growers need a rock-solid market before they will plant. This will only be solved by someone taking a leap of faith that the industry will develop and be successful. That’s where incentives such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program come into play. The way the program is set up for energy crops should make it more profitable for farmers to add energy crops into their rotations. But, a couple of issues with the BCAP need to be addressed before that will happen. One concern is the amount of money that will be available for the program and how many projects it will be able to support. Another issue is the duration of the program, as it is part of the 2008 Farm Bill, which must be reauthorized in 2012. There is much talk from lawmakers that the Farm Bill will need to be cut substantially to make it past deficit hawks. This could also affect the first concern, which is the amount of money appropriated to fund the program. For more information on this important federal program, see “BCAP Relaunch Should Bring New Biomass Producers into the Supply Chain” on page 38. While the questions posed above cannot be answered today, there are other issues involving energy crops that Biomass Power & Thermal associate editors were able to explore, including energy crop production on marginal lands, the potential for growth into 2050 and companies that are building up their businesses to supply energy crops. I should also mention that BBI International's 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo is coming up May 2-5 in St. Louis. If you haven't registered already, be sure to do so at www.biomassconference.com.
For more news, information and perspective, visit www.biomassmagazine.com
ANNA AUSTIN Associate Editor
Anna Austin delved into the details of a greenhouse vegetable business that evolved into an energy crop company to keep up with volatile energy costs. New Energy Farms Group through its subsidiaries produces new miscanthus cultivars and develops machinery and crop production technologies, provides farmers the means to grow the crop and helps end users create off-take agreements.
4 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
LISA GIBSON Associate Editor
Lisa Gibson’s “Energy from Marginal Lands” feature discusses research being conducted to grow energy crops on land that’s not fit for food crop production. While yields may be lower, the practice may be viable because of the reduced value of the land. Gibson also looked at the potential for energy crop production around the world in her “Powerful Crops” feature.
EDITORIAL EDITOR Rona Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin email@example.com Lisa Gibson firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann email@example.com
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Subscriptions Biomass Power & Thermal is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for any country outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico. To subscribe, visit www.BiomassMagazine.com or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Power & Thermal Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to (701) 746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at (701) 746-8385 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Advertising Biomass Power & Thermal 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 Power & Thermal advertising opportunities, please contact us at (701) 746-8385 or email@example.com. Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Power & Thermal Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.
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FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 5
¦INDUSTRY EVENTS International Biomass Conference & Expo May 2-5, 2011 America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri The largest, fastest growing biomass event was attended in 2010 by 1,700 industry professionals from 49 states and 25 nations representing nearly every geographical region and sector of the world’s biomass utilization industries―power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. Plan to join more than 2,500 attendees, 120 speakers and 400-plus exhibitors for the premier international biomass event of the year. (701) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com
Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo
Meet Biomass Industry Leaders in St. Louis The biomass industry is poised for significant growth this year as the regulatory climate in the U.S. is becoming more favorable to biomass-based industries and the world ramps up its efforts to shift from fossil fuels to renewables. The U.S. EPA’s three-year deferment of greenhouse gas permitting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from biogenic sources has many biomass developers plowing ahead with projects that were previously stymied by the impending regulations. Also, in the U.S. and other countries incentives to increase renewable energy production are helping the industry establish a strong foothold worldwide. Venture capitalists, lenders, technology developers, contractors, equipment manufacturers and construction companies looking to connect with project developers should find plenty of opportunities at BBI International’s 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo, which will be held May 2-5 at the America’s Center in St. Louis. In preparation for the event, BBI International has formed a committee to review hundreds of abstracts and will be coming out with a preliminary agenda shortly. “The diversity of the abstracts and abstract submitters is probably what excites me the most,” said Tim Portz, BBI International’s program director, adding that the speaker line-up for this year’s event will include representatives from every corner of the biomass industry. “I’m always excited to see new names in our abstract pool and this year there’s a healthy crop of new speakers. The show promises to be a fresh snapshot of the industry.” This year’s agenda will be a little different. “We’re working hard to create an agenda that is as accessible for feedstock producers as it is for technology providers and project developers,” Portz says. “The agenda will still be organized by feedstocks, but we’re working to bundle panels for attendees who are interested in a program that focuses on electricity production, heat and power, biorefining or project development.” To show appreciation for supporters of the International Biomass Conference & Expo, BBI International is hosting a special event May 4 at Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Florida Marlins. As always, the event will include a world-class expo where venders can showcase their equipment, technologies, services, programs and solutions for potential customers. This fourth annual conference will be coproduced by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine. For more information or to sponsor, exhibit and register, go to www.biomassconference.com.
6 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
June 27-30, 2011 Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana The FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world, and is renowned for its superb programming which focuses on commercial-scale ethanol production― both grain and cellulosic―operational efficiencies, plant management, energy use, and near-term research and development. Speaker abstracts are being accepted online through February 25. (701) 746-8385 www.fuelethanolworkshop.com
International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show September 14-16, 2011 Hilton Americas – Houston Houston, Texas This event will unite bioconversion technology providers and researchers from around the world with agriculture, forestry, and refining professionals to discuss and examine the scale-up and commercial establishment of advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals. (701) 746-8385 www.biorefiningconference.com
Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show October 11-13, 2011 Westin Place Hotel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast―from Maryland to Maine―the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utilities, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. (701) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com/northeast
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FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 7
Exhibit Space and Sponsorships
Now Available Donâ€™t miss this once-a-year opportunity to reach hundreds of people in the biomass industry in search of solutions. There is simply no other means of meeting with this many biomass-related decision makers, influencers and stakeholders in the Northeast. Be there, interact and do business with these key decision makers, influencers and stakeholders. Exhibiting at the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will deliver real value toward your bottom line. Contact an account representative today for more information, or to learn about exhibit space and sponsorship opportunities. 866-746-8385 firstname.lastname@example.org
Renewable Heating: Lessons from Europe BY KYLE GIBEAULT
With a new majority, new committee assignments and, in many instances, new senators and representatives, change is once again in the air in Washington. As in the last session of Congress, energy policy will continue to be a focal point for our elected officials in the 112th Congress. These members of Congress have the opportunity to make significant progress on accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in the United States. Our advice to them: Take a close look at thermal energy. Thermal energy, or heat, represents roughly one-third of total U.S. energy consumption. It is used daily by homes, businesses and industrial facilities across the country, most frequently for space heating, water heating or industrial processes. Using biomass for thermal energy is a highly efficient use of this renewable resource, but it is often forgotten in public policy. This is not unique to the U.S.; other countries have been in this position before: “We focus on the fact that in spite of more than one-third of primary energy being used for heat there has been a lack of recognition of the role of renewable heat in policy delivery. The approach could be characterized as—no targets; no concerted policy; no strategy; and, limited support for development … Biomass is unique as the only widespread source of high-grade renewable heat and this inevitably becomes the key pillar of our report.” That quote was from the executive summary of the 2005 report, “United Kingdom Biomass Task Force—Report to Government.” Since the publication of that report, the U.K. government has responded in many ways, including the creation of a successful capital grants scheme for biomass boilers and the pending launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive, a policy framework for providing incentive payments to generators of renewable heat. Speaking at the rollout of the U.K. annual spending review in October, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that the RHI will commence in June 2011. The federal state of Upper Austria may be the best example in the world of how strong, consistent public policy supportive of renewable
heat can change energy consumption in a region. Christiane Egger, deputy manager of the Upper Austrian Renewable Energy Agency, discussed her state’s renewable energy strategy as the keynote speaker at last year’s Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass conference (www.heatne.com). She spoke of the strategy’s three pillars: the carrot (grants and other incentives), the stick (legal and regulatory requirements), and the tambourine (outreach, education and training). It was a compelling presentation—and a compelling strategy. Through a combination of these measures, today more than 45 percent of Upper Austria’s heating needs are met with renewable sources of energy. As we continue to deliberate over renewable energy policy in the U.S., it's easy to forget that other countries have been here before. The U.K. and Austria are just two examples of countries that are recognizing the potential of renewable heating. Germany, Belgium, Sweden, France and others have also implemented policies to incentivize the use of biomass heating systems. There is a lesson here. Our economy, politics and resource base may differ, but our counterparts in Europe have the right idea when it comes to renewable heating. The 112th Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to put renewable heating in its rightful place in U.S. energy policy. BTEC will be working hard on a number of issues this year, including tax credits for biomass heating systems, biomass definition clarity and data-driven boiler emission limits from the U.S. EPA. I encourage you to keep updated via our website, but more importantly I ask that you do your own investigating on what’s happening abroad. Ideas can come from anywhere, and in many instances the energy issues we are tackling in the U.S. are not novel. When applicable, you can be certain that BTEC will incorporate the lessons from Europe into our thinking about policy and regulations. Author: Kyle Gibeault Deputy Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council (202) 596-3974 Kyle.Gibeault@biomassthermal.org
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 9
The Reemergence of Gasification for Energy and Fuels BY PHIL HUTTON
The de facto standard for converting biomass to heat and electricity is combustion in a high-pressure boiler system. From a thermal perspective, this is the simplest and most reliable technology. Biomass is simply combusted and the heat is used to boil water to high pressure through a heat exchanger. The air and biomass inputs to the boiler are easy to control and provide a wide tolerance range for flow deviations. A little too much or too little air flow affects peak combustion temperature but does little to the overall thermal energy transferred to steam. Environmental concerns and the desire to convert carbonaceous fuels to liquid fuels are refocusing research back to an old technology that was supplanted by boiler systems. Gasification was once used extensively to produce “town gas” from coal, to pipeline to homes and streetlamps for lighting and cooking in the 1800s. The technology was labor-intensive and dirty, but produced industrial quantities of tars and coke, around which whole industries revolved, converting these wastes into salable products. Electricity and natural gas, both cleaner and more economical, supplanted town gas in the 1900s. The resurgence of gasification technology is focusing on producing high-value chemicals and fuels, in addition to cleaner and more efficient power plants utilizing both gas turbines and steam turbines. The fundamentals of gasification have not changed, however. What has changed to make it a viable technology once again is advancements in economical gas-cleaning technologies. At the Energy & Environmental Research Center, industry is partnering with government to develop, test, and commercialize clean gasification technologies. The EERC has designed and constructed a wide range of gasifier technologies, including fixed-bed, fluidized-bed, and entrained flow-gasifiers, to meet the needs of different segments of the energy industry. Innovative fixed-bed and fluidized-bed gasifiers have been used to test and develop systems that operate on
10 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
wood, grasses, turkey litter and sewage pellets. Both fluidized and entrained-flow gasifiers have tested the viability of cogasifying biomass and coal for integrated gasification combined-cycle plants. The know-how in utilizing biomass fuels in gasifiers is constantly being improved. In addition, different system configurations and operating conditions are constantly being applied to employ alternative downstream gas cleanup and conversion technologies, such as ceramic filters, gas membranes, fuel cells, microturbines, ammonia catalyst and Fischer–Tropsch reactors. Each segment of the energy industry has a unique set of economic, environmental and operating constraints that dictate the type of gasifier used and system configuration. Biomass, in particular, poses challenging constraints that differentiate it from the more economical and developed coal gasification systems. The distributed nature of biomass and variable chemical and physical compositions of biomass require a much higher degree of outside-the-box thinking to develop not just the technology, but also a matching business model that gives value to potential customers. Systems are currently being developed and tested to utilize internal combustion engines, high-temperature fuel cells, and microturbines to produce power and heat from biomass. Since biomass is highly distributed by nature, the primary approach at the EERC is to develop sub-megawatt-sized systems and business models that can be economically employed at the source of biomass production, eliminating the high costs of transporting the biomass to a centralized power station. In the upcoming months, articles will be provided to Biomass Power & Thermal magazine summarizing some of the benefits and challenges of each of these systems tested at the EERC. Author: Phil Hutton Research Manager, Energy & Environmental Research Center (701) 777-5204 email@example.com
Happy Holidays from the NLRB—Now Post This BY KAREN G. SCHANFIELD AND RICHARD A. ROSS
Running a biomass business is hard work these days, between managing your feedstock and off-take, dealing with environmental issues and worrying about financing. But, now, thanks to an unexpected holiday gift from the National Labor Relations Board, you may get to post information on helping your work force unionize. On Dec. 22, the NLRB issued proposed regulations requiring employers to post notices informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, including the right to form and join labor unions. These proposed regulations are significant both procedurally and substantively and apply to union and nonunion employers. The proposed rule will apply to all private employers within the NLRB jurisdiction. This excludes airlines, railroads and other industries covered by the Railway Labor Act. Other than the traditional "mom and pop" stores, the proposed rules would cover most employers, regardless of the number of employees. The NLRB has been in existence for 75 years. Only once has the board issued substantive regulations. That was in 1974, when it enacted regulations establishing appropriate bargaining units in the health care industry. Today’s action, coupled with the recent issuance of a memorandum from the board’s Acting General Counsel indicating that the board will be more aggressive in enforcing employee and union rights during organizing campaigns, suggests that the board is likely to take additional steps to facilitate union organizing. Under the proposed regulations, private employers must post a notice which is “at least 11 inches by 17 inches,” with the color and type size and style as required by the board. The notice must be physically posted “in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted.” Employers that have significant numbers of employees who are not proficient in English, will also be required to post the notice in their native language. The posting will be provided by the NLRB.
Recognizing that many employers customarily communicate with their employees electronically (via email, posting on an intranet or Internet site), the proposed regulations also require the use of those methods to provide the notice to the employees. Even more astounding, the proposed regulations would require that the electronic notice include a link to the NLRB’s website. In addition, an employer that has a significant number of employees who are not proficient in English, will be required to provide the electronic notice in their native language (as provided by the board). Employers who fail to make the required posting either physically or electronically will be subject to sanctions. The proposed sanctions include finding the failure to post as an independent unfair labor practice, tolling the statute of limitations for filing unfair labor practice charges, and using the failure to post as evidence of anti-union animus in unrelated unfair practice charges. Currently, the statute of limitations under the National Labor Relations Act is six months. By “tolling” that period, the statute of limitations would be unlimited in duration. The NLRB is required to publish the proposed regulations for 60 days to accept comments before they can become permanent regulations. Given the political composition of the board and other actions that the board has recently taken, it is very likely that the final regulations will look similar to the proposed regulations. Additional information on the regulations can be found at www.nlrb.gov. Employment and labor problems can make life difficult and the NLRB has kindly just added another issue for you to be concerned about in the new year. Authors: Karen G. Schanfield and Richard A. Ross Shareholders, Fredrikson & Byron’s Employment & Labor Law Group firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 11
Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
12 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
dreds of renewable biomass fuels and many other traditional and nontraditional fuels, such as agricultural wastes, municipal wastes and cattle manure. Bandit’s Model 2290 adds mobility to land-clearing operations
PHOTO: BANDIT INDUSTRIES
years and is familiar with the energy market in Hunton & Williams adds partners Southeast Asia with more than 14 years of Hunton & Williams experience. CBIA will start out with four LLP expanded its energy and employees and add more as the business project finance practice with develops. the addition of Gregory F. Lang and Michael J. Madden Capstone Turbine releases as partners in the New York ultralow-emission office. The two have a divermicroturbine system sified transactional practice Gary F. Lang will Capstone Turbine Corp. has released focused on project finance, focus on developing, fi nancing and the CR200 low Btu microturbine product private equity mergers and acquisitions, project develop- acquisition of energy that meets challenging global emission reand infrastructure quirements, including California's stringent ment and leasing. They join projects. Waste Gas Emission Standard. Landfill Hunton & Williams from applications are a key market for the Edwards Angell Palmer & Capstone CR200 200 kilowatt renewable Dodge LLP. Lang focuses energy product. Waste gas typically refers on representing developto gas that is produced by the biological ers, institutional investors, breakdown of organic matter. Producing private equity funds and energy using gas from these applications, independent power producthat is otherwise flared, avoids the need to ers in connection with the use nonrenewable resources such as coal, development, financing, and oil or natural gas to produce an equivaacquisition of domestic and Michael J. Madden has experience lent amount of energy. Certification to international energy and infrastructure projects. Mad- working with complex the waste fuel emissions standard by the structures relating California Air Resources Board makes den’s experience includes a to construction, fi nancing and approved technologies such as the CR200 variety of complex structures acquiring, and easier to site in California—often avoiding relating to constructing, disposing of energy any local air permitting. financing, and acquiring and assets. disposing of power, natural EPI to provide renewable gas and other energy assets. energy system to Rollcast Energy Products of Idaho has been Clyde Bergemann opens selected to provide a state-of-the-art green Indonesian sales hub energy system for the Piedmont Green Power With the establishment of Clyde project in Barnesville, Ga. The EPI adBergemann Indonesia (CBIA) the company vanced staged gasification system is designed is increasing its business potential in Indoneto convert biomass materials into 480,000 sia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. pounds per hour of superheated steam at The Jakarta-based office is led by Managing 1,005 degrees Fahrenheit and 1,500 pounds Director Agustinus Tjhay, who has a degree per square inch for the 53.5 MWe net renewin mechanical engineering and a master’s of able energy application. Zachry Industrial business administration from universities in Inc., a subsidiary of Zachry Holdings Inc., is Taiwan and the U.S. Before joining Clyde Bergemann, he worked in the pulp and paper the engineering, procurement, construction contractor for the project. EPI’s fluidized bed industry. John Cannon, sales manager, has technology has been utilized to handle hunworked with Clyde Bergemann for many
TRACK CHAMPION: Bandit's Model 2290 whole tree chipper is compact but can cover a wide area.
Building on the success of its towable Model 2290 whole tree chipper, Bandit Industries announced the addition of the Model 2290 Track to its line of self-propelled whole tree chippers and grinders. Driving the 2290 Track is a Caterpillar 315L undercarriage, featuring a track shoe width of 600 millimeters and an approximate ground pressure of 6.3 pounds per square inch. A larger Caterpillar 320L undercarriage is optional. Despite its compact size, the Model 2290 Track offers a 20-inch diameter capacity with a 30-inch weld-on tray as standard equipment. The 2290 Track features a large 24.5 x 26.25-inch chipper opening, a high-capacity stationary discharge system, and a variety of engines. CW Mill Equipment carrying a new brand CW Mill Equipment Co. is offering ArmorHog screens, tips, hammers and other replacement parts for all brands and models of industrial grinders. ArmorHog provides custom-made hammer mill screens and grates for all brands, configurations, and models of grinders and for grinder tips, bits, strikers and replacement hammer heads. Armor-
Bonine joins BinMaster Level Controls as sales manager BinMaster Level Controls announced Scott Bonine has joined the company’s sales team as a sales manager for its line of point and continuous bin level sensing devices. Bonine Scott Bonine will support the expan- will develop new territories, recruit sion of BinMaster’s distributors and distributor network provide product both domestically and training for internationally by devel- BinMaster. oping new territories, recruiting distributors, providing product training, and customer sales call support. Bonine has almost 15 years of sales experience in the level controls industry, where he has been responsible for developing and supporting sales through a worldwide distributor network. AMC elects new officers The American Wood Council elected new officers during its annual meeting in Chicago in November. Serving for a oneyear term are Chairman Joe Patton of The Westervelt Co., First Vice Chairman Brian Luoma of LP, and Second Vice Chairman Fritz Mason of Georgia-Pacific LLC. Marc Brinkmeyer of the Idaho Forest Group is the immediate past chairman. The AWC board added one new member and retained several others. George Emmerson of Sierra Pacific was newly elected to serve on the board. Returning members include: Rob Taylor of
Weyerhaeuser, Andrew Miller of Stimson, Pat Patranella of Temple-Inland, Maureen Frisch of Green Diamond, James Rabe of Masonite, and Diana Blenkhorn, representing the Canadian Wood Council.
a low-cost solution for boiler MACT compliance, for low temperature NOx control, and for the efficient removal of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and dioxins.
Michigan entrepreneurs create renewable energy company Dan Kuipers and Kyle Denning recently formed Sustainable Energy Financing LLC to focus on promoting project financing and financial advisory services for renewable energy projects throughout the world. As part of the company launch, SEF will be acquiring grant-writing firm, Viability, based in Holland, Mich. The acquisition includes Nairobi, Kenya-based Viability Africa LLC, which Denning co-founded with Viability earlier this year. Currently the company is working on multiple renewable energy projects utilizing a wide variety of technologies, including wind, solar and biomass. These projects are aided by the wide array of SEF’s financing services such as grant and tax incentive acquisition, carbon credit development and market consulting, and environmental commodity aggregation and trading.
Martin Engineering introduces adaptor for OEM conveyors
Tri-Mer offers breakthrough catalyst filter technology Tri-Mer Corp. has announced a significant advancement in the control of nitrogen oxide (NOx) at temperatures as low as 350 degrees Fahrenheit. UltraCat Catalyst Filters provide up to 95 percent NOx removal at the operating temperatures of most industrial boilers. Dioxins are also destroyed by the catalyst at 97 to 99 percent efficiency. For carbon monoxide (CO), a successful strategy for meeting the boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology is to tune boiler combustion to lower the CO output. While this can increase NOx production, the additional NOx is easily removed by the UltraCat filters. UltraCat Catalyst Filters are
PHOTO: MARTIN ENGINEERING
Hog uses the highest quality parent metal in all of its forgings and has its own blend of carbide called NitroGrit, a proprietary blend of carbide found to best suited to grinding applications. NitroGrit can be applied in any custom pattern and is available in a variety of grit levels.
DOWN THE LINE: Martin Engineering's idler aligner improves safety and ensures proper alignment of conveyor systems.
A new conveyor idler aligner featuring a safe and effective method to manually finetune original equipment manufacturer-style self-adjusting idlers has been introduced by Martin Engineering. The Martin Idler Aligner ensures precise adjustment, using a handle and comb for course modification, with slots for finer tuning. Proper alignment is an important factor in a conveyor system, as a misaligned belt can cause uneven wear, belt/structure damage and material spillage. The aligner bracket mounts to most manufacturers’ self-aligning idlers, allowing for broad application. To improve safety, the design eliminates the need to tie off idlers to the surrounding structure, and the locking bar features a hole for padlock placement to restrict access and handle movement.
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FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 13
FiredUp Tailoring Triumph EPA seems to have listened to the concerns surrounding its Tailoring Rule, and has announced a three-year deferment of compliance for biogenic sources.
On the heels of multiple studies, statements and letters warning of the detrimental effects of the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule that went into effect Jan. 2, the agency has announced it will defer for three years the rule’s permitting requirements for biogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Implementation of the rule as written was likely to keep up to 30 states from realizing their renewables goals, according to “Economic Impact Analysis of EPA Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” a study released in December by Forisk Consulting and commissioned by the National Alliance of Forest Owners. According to the same study, the rule had already contributed to stalled investments in at least 23 near-term projects and would have put 134 at risk for cancellation or delays. By July 2011, the EPA will complete the deferment rulemaking and during the threeyear period, will continue to analyze the issue through independent studies. Subsequently, the agency will issue a second rulemaking that determines how biogenic emissions should be treated or counted under GHG permitting requirements. “With EPA's commitment to defer regulation of greenhouse gases from biomass combustion in federal air quality permitting programs for at least three years, larger new and existing biomass combustion projects will avoid significant portions of those programs,” says Brian Patterson, associate and senior consultant with Golder Associates Inc. “In most cases, this will reduce the capital and operating costs of these projects.” Without the exclusion of biogenic emissions, the Tailoring Rule would also have reduced renewable electricity generation in the country by 5,384 megawatts; removed 53.4 million tons of woody biomass from the renewable energy marketplace; cost between 11,844 and 26,380 renewable energy jobs; and reduced investment in renewable
electricity generation by $18 billion, according to the Forisk study. “For us, the biggest number there is the capital because everything else flows from that investment,” says Brooks Mendell, lead author of the study. “Eighteen billion dollars capital is a function of the cost associated with these projects that have been announced and have not yet been built.” Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, has pointed out many of the same concerns since the rule was initially released in June 2010. “The agency’s statement that certain biomass ‘such as waste materials whose inevitable decomposition will result in greenhouse gas emissions anyway’ confirms what we at BPA have known all along: the use of wood waste materials and agricultural residues for biomass energy have a beneficial carbon impact and should be embraced as a renewable energy source,” he says. American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Donna Harman also weighed in on the deferment immediately after its announcement, saying the treatment of biomass emissions like fossil fuel threatens beneficial investments in biomass energy upgrades at paper and wood products mills throughout the country. The Biomass Thermal Energy Council says it will be working with the EPA as it goes through the rulemaking process. "Over the next three years, BTEC will work to maintain an open dialogue with EPA and provide it with the information needed to meet its requirements responsibly and accurately under the law," said BTEC Executive Director Kyle Gibeault. "The EPA's most recent announcement on biomass—combined with its petition to reconfigure the Boiler MACT rule—is evidence that the agency is appreciating the critical role that biomass can play in addressing America's economic and energy challenges."
14 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
BIOGENIC BREAK: The EPA will defer permitting requirements of the Tailoring Rule for biogenic sources for three years.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says the agency will move forward with the Tailoring Rule in a way that is scientifically sound and manageable for both biomass producers and consumers. “At the end of the day, something has to get implemented and it has to be practical enough that these projects can move forward, if the goal is really to increase energy from renewable sources,” Mendell says. “If that’s the goal, then you need to ask yourself, ‘How do these rules affect that?’” —Lisa Gibson
Biogas Growth A Chilean water utility will install a GE Jenbacher biogas engine as part of a wastewater treatment plant expansion and effort to clean up the municipal water supply along the Mapocho River near the capital city of Santiago. Elsewhere, a leading waste-to-energy developer in the Philippines inaugurated the countryâ€™s first landfill gas power plant in December, also using a GE Jenbacher biogas engine. With such installations all over the world, GE has a unique view of the global biogas industry and can offer a snapshot of its trends and growth. The companyâ€™s global marketing leader, Michael Wagner, says wastewater treatment and landfill gas applications have been booming in Western Europe for the past 10 to 20 years. â€œMeanwhile, we see this trend that these applications become global, driven by trends to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to utilize renewable and alternative energy,â€? he says. Wagner sees significant growth in the 27 European Union member countries, driven by the regionâ€™s goal to reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent and increase renewable energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. Specifically, the number of biogas applications is increasing quickly in countries such as France and the U.K. In most European countries, the biogas boom stems from good incentives such as feed-in tariffs, and green certificates. â€œInvestors need incentives and a long- or mid-term guarantee that over the payback time the investment will be feasible,â€? he says, adding that the U.S. needs similar incentives before it can realize meaningful growth. Germany, for instance, has some of the best incentives in
GEâ€™s global reach gives it a birdâ€™s eye view of biogas industry trends.
GAS GUZZLERS: GE has sold biogas engines to companies all over the world, including this milk company in Ukraine.
place to spur biogas project development, and therefore sees bigger growth in the industry, he cites. The country has more than 5,000 biogas production plants in both rural and urban areas, creating tens of thousands of jobs, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. The industry flourishes there because of a carbon tax, carbon cap-and-trade-system and feed-in tariffs. Besides the EU, significant development is taking place in Southeast Asia, Wagner says, but not because of beneficial incentives. â€œThere, itâ€™s simply the availability of biomass,â€? he explains, citing a tremendous amount of organic waste streams. Because of the logistics of biomass feedstock, the applications GE has contributed toward are small and decentralized, around 1 megawatt, avoiding significant fuel transportation issues. Wagner expects the EU biogas industry to continue to grow, but also sees tremendous potential for anaerobic digestion systems in the U.S., as demand increases. â€œWe see a trend in the U.S. with increasing [interest] in decentralized power,â€? he says. â€”Lisa Gibson
Mapping it Out Wisconsin groups develop bioenergy atlas.
Developers looking at Wisconsin as a home for biomass projects now have an easier way to obtain information about the stateâ€™s current use and availability of resources. The Wisconsin Bioenergy Information and Outreach Network has launched an interactive online atlas to help utilities and municipalities assess forest biomass supply potential, give entrepreneurs access to supply and technology networks, and provide policymakers with statewide information on bioenergy and environmental resources. The mapping tool was developed by UW-Madison Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative and the Energy Center of Wisconsin. The atlas is free and users can select data useful to their interests and use mapping tools to zoom into an area to display and
query the results. Categories include existing On the Web biofuel producers (pellet, ethanol and biodiesel), agricultural and forest-based resources, To access the tool and a user guide, visit www. potential biomass cropland, political bound- wiscbioenergy.org. aries, and utilities and transportation methods such as landfills, roads, transmission lines, natural gas pipelines and railroads. Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, says funding for the atlas initially came from several state sources, but the groups are continuing to look for additional monies to improve and sustain the idea. If additional funding is achieved, planned future phases of the project would add an online marketplace for suppliers, aggregators, buyers and consultants to conduct business. â€”Anna Austin
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 15
Bagasse Power When burned by a sugar mill, bagasse, the fibrous material leftover after juice is extracted from sugarcane, usually produces enough electricity to power all of the mill’s operations and then some. For every 10 metric tons of sugarcane crushed, a sugar factory produces nearly 3 metric tons of wet bagasse. Many mills across the globe that take advantage of bagasse for power are making improvements to their plants to make the whole process more efficient. Mackay Sugar in Australia—the largest producer of sugar on the continent—is currently constructing a $120 million cogeneration power plant at its Racecourse Mill in Queensland that when complete in 2012 will be able to provide about one-third of the Mackay city region’s electricity requirements. The project, which Mackay has been working on for several years, involves the replacement of traditional boilers that are designed to incinerate bagasse, with a more efficient high-pressure boiler and a new steam turbine generator, capable of generating 36 megawatts (MW). While providing power and steam for the Racecourse Mill and refinery, it will also allow for the export of 27 MW to the grid. Mackay’s proposed energy model is similar to that of U.S.-based Florida Crystals, which has always used bagasse to power its sugar mills using internal boilers in its mills, says Gus Cepero, company vice president and head of its energy program. “In 1995, [we] took the process a step further when we built the New Hope Power Co. biomass cogeneration plant, which utilizes high-pressure boilers to produce steam for the sugar mill and refinery as well as electricity that the company supplies to the Florida power grid.” Cepero says that Florida Crystals’s biomass power plant, the largest in North America, uses 800,000 tons of sugarcane bagasse and 700,000 tons of urban wood waste each year. Since the sugarcane milling process does an excellent job of preparing the bagasse for combustion, not much else needs to be done to the bagasse so it is sent directly from the discharge of the milling plant to the boilers by conveyor belt. “Once at the power plant, the necessary volume of bagasse is fed
PHOTO: FLORIDA CRYSTALS
Sugar makers have a sweet power advantage.
SUGAR HIGH: Florida Crystal's biomass plant is the largest in North America, using 800,000 tons of sugarcane bagasse and 700,000 tons of wood waste annually.
to the boilers and the excess is conveyed to the fuel yard,” Cepero says. Because the New Hope power plant operates at a high level of thermal efficiency, a significant volume of bagasse is stored at the end of the sugarcane grinding season, typically from mid-October to mid-March, according to Cepero. “The New Hope power plant operates year round, therefore the stored bagasse is used the remainder of the year,” he says. Utilizing a slightly different business model, a California company is growing sugarcane not for the production of sugar, but for the sole purpose of creating fuel and energy. California Ethanol & Power is growing sugarcane in California’s Imperial Valley that it will harvest and convert into 66 million gallons per year of advanced biofuel, and utilize the bagasse to generate 50 MW of electricity, according to Dave Rubenstein, business development manager. Each facility will also house an anaerobic digester that will produce 880 million cubic feet of pipeline quality biogas, Rubenstein says. Right now, the company is growing a
16 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
few hundred acres of sugarcane that will be used for seed purposes. “Those will be harvested and replanted to increase our acreage to have enough for our first plant, for which we’ll need about 60,000 to 70,000 acres,” he says. Of the 8.8 tons of sugarcane required at each plant per day, about one-third will consist of bagasse that will be converted into power. “It’ll be more of a direct process, but we’ll have some storage available to make sure the plant is running on a continuous basis,” Rubenstein says. Although initial plans were delayed due to the financial crisis, plans for CE&P’s first plant are now underway. He says the company is currently working with a major national energy company for power off-take agreements, and hopes to have financials closed in 2011. While CE&P’s plan is to build three or four plants in California, Rubenstein says the company believes the process, technology and engineering could be transferred to other sugarcane growing states in the U.S. and other countries. —Anna Austin
Time is Not on EPA’s Side The agency is allowed only a one-month extension to rework the final boiler MACT rule.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has granted the U.S. EPA an extension of only one month for the final release of the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules, a thoroughly disappointing response to the agency’s request for a six- or 15-month extension. The agency asked the court for the extra time in December, citing an overwhelming number of public comments on the proposed rules, released in April. The agency made clear that it favored a 15-month extension past the Jan. 16, 2011 deadline, allowing for a reproposal and another comment period. The court first granted an extra five days to mull over EPA’s request, then came back with the final denial and a Feb. 21 deadline. The MACT rules include standards for area source and major source polluters, as well as commercial and institutional solid waste incinerators. The EPA has an obligation under the Clean Air Act to regulate hazardous air pollutants from those sources and promulgated a rule in 2004 that was later vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Now, in re-issuing the rules, the EPA has been feeling pressure from numerous industries and stalled energy projects waiting for boiler standards. “We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision to not grant EPA the 15-month extension they requested,” said Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. “The extension of one month falls well short of the time requested by the agency to allow a sound rule to be put forth. Regulations such as the Boiler MACT rule have far-reaching implications for communities, workers and businesses across the country. The overriding mission should be to produce a sound rule that keeps Americans healthy and employed, and today’s decision by the court fails to give the agency what it said it needed. [The] decision invites more litigation, and ultimately everyone loses as a result of this short-sighted decision.” Initially, the extension request brought hope for a new rule that would be less harmful to the biomass power industry. “What it indicates to us is EPA realized they
PRESSED FOR TIME: The courts give the EPA just a month to release the final boiler MACT rules, a disappointing outcome for the biomass industry.
didn’t understand our industry and that they want to take a step back and make sure they got the benefit of all the data that we have been sharing with them,” said Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association, after the EPA announced that it was asking for an extension and before the court ruling. “I think it’s a positive thing that they didn’t just ram a rule through that wasn’t based on what’s going on out there in the real world. That’s a significant thing for us. It’s not just a procedural matter.” The industry has been loud in its opposition to the proposed rule, which would recategorize a number of multifuel boilers as incinerators, subjecting them to strict standards limiting five hazardous air pollutants— mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin. The proposal prompted almost 5,000 comments, some upwards of 300 pages long, expressing discontent and highlighting errors in the fundamental data used to develop it. It sets limits equal to the bestcontrolled units, but flawed data essentially creates a fictitious super boiler that no one unit can match. “They have to set the limit equal to the best controlled unit that’s in existence,” explains Brian Patterson, associate and senior consultant for Oregon-based
Golder Associates Inc. “They don’t have a lot of flexibility on that, but if you’re using bad data, it’s based on half a detection limit instead of an actual detected value. There were just errors in the source tests and things like that.” Besides updates in the numerical values, other changes Patterson had hoped to see in the final rules included a single set of emission limits, instead of categorizations by boiler type. The system essentially penalizes boiler owners for operating the most efficient and cleanest technology, says Chard Darby, another senior consultant for Golder Associates. Patterson would liked to have seen a minimum size threshold for compliance for new boilers, much like the 10 million Btu threshold for existing boilers. “You could be a tiny water heater essentially and still be subject to these rules,” he says. “I will be amazed if EPA doesn’t consider that and say we really never intended to regulate these little, tiny boilers with these requirements.” As of press time, it was unclear what the court’s decision would mean for the final rules, but without enough time for a reproposal, the EPA is limited on the extent of the changes it can make to the currently proposed rules. —Lisa Gibson
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 17
Practice Makes Perfect Texas company embarks on second AD project.
Hoffland Environmental Inc. has operated a 1-megawatt (MW) hog waste-fuelled power generation facility on the Island of Cyprus in Europe for the past three years. Marking the company’s U.S. debut is a second anaerobic digestion (AD) project currently underway in Fremont, N.C., near Goldsboro at White Oaks Farm. Chemical Engineer Guy Weismantel says the 10-acre farm site hosts about 5,500 pigs, but manure from that operation alone will not be enough meet the electrical capacity goal of 2 MW without supplementary poultry waste or manure from nearby farms. Corn silage was originally considered as a partial feedstock, he adds, but is currently too expensive. Hoffland is now working to firm up the feedstock requirements of the project, which will be implemented in two phases— first producing 1 MW of electricity, the second doubling capacity to 2 MW. Weismantel says when evaluating feedstock requirements, it’s not only necessary to look at the number of animals in an operation, but also the kind and size of animals, such as farrow-to-wean. “Animal units are important to consider,” he says. A power line going through the project site belongs to an area power cooperative, with which the company is working to sell all of the electricity to the grid, Weismantel says. On incentives, the $15 million project is subject to receive renewable energy credits under the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard, but Weismantel says the main
driver is North Carolina’s Senate Bill 3, requiring 12.5 percent renewable electricity by 2021; 0.2 percent of that amount must be generated from swine waste by 2018, after rising each year prior. “For the whole state of North Carolina, that amounts to about 14 MW in 2011,” Weismantel says. Hoffland has also applied for Section 1603 funds, as the project qualifies as an open-loop biomass project. Weismantel says that what sets Hoffland’s AD process apart from others is that it’s a unique, three-step process that involves a certain amount of recycling of “seed bugs” that optimize the mesophillic reaction. “So we are getting more biogas off the digester,” he says. “This gas is methane in nature and is nominally 600 Btu per cubic foot in heating value.” There are a number of additional aspects that sets the process apart from other AD technologies, such as the sulfur removal system, which is undergoing patent writing, Weismantel says. “HEI fabricates much of the equipment in its own shop utilizing and maximizing clarifier performance, manure handling, manure measurement and key process control functions that interface simplified on-line measurements to optimize performance.” He adds that hardware and process performance complications have been ironed out during the three years of performance at the Cyprus plant. “It has provided an excellent learning curve,” he says. —Anna Austin
BCAP Recap It has been an eventful few months for BCAP.
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program has taken some major hits over the past couple of months, but the USDA Farm Service Agency has continued to release documents necessary to get the program rolling again. In mid-December, the federal omnibus spending bill proposed to cut all expenses to administer BCAP in 2011, which would have essentially ended the program. While the omnibus was withdrawn due to lack of support, BCAP’s fate in the amended omnibus is still up in the air, though many are hopeful that section will have been stripped. Meanwhile, at the request of the FSA, a report was released by the USDA Office of Inspector General that evaluated the initial pilot program version of BCAP's collection, harvest, storage and transport (CHST) matching payments program, which was terminated in February after $243 million was spent. OIG’s review focuses on the efficacy of processes and controls FSA used in implementing the program. Based on a review of 12 county office operations in four states, and overall administration of the program at the national office, OIG found wide-ranging problems in how the CHST program was operated. These included inconsistent application of program provisions across state and county offices, varying methods for measuring biomass moisture levels, inconsistent use of program forms and data errors. 18 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
OIG determined that the problems occurred because FSA, in an effort to quickly implement the program to comply with a deadline established by presidential directive, didn’t have adequate time to develop a handbook, specialized forms or a computer support system suited to the specific requirements of the CHST program. “Due to these problems, FSA implemented a program that encumbered the efforts of its field-level personnel and resulted in inequitable treatment of program participants, improper payments, and reduced scope for oversight and accountability,” the report says. To correct the problems, OIG recommends that FSA develop a program-specific handbook and forms, and a program-dedicated data system. OIG plans to provide a full report with greater scope and detail. If the omnibus doesn’t cut 2011 funding, the next hurdle BCAP will face is maintaining funding in the 2012 Farm Bill, and whether that will happen is unknown. Daniel Simon, partner in Ballard Spahr’s business and finance department and an energy and project finance group member, says it is a matter of whether the new Congress will view the program as a worthwhile investment that helps both renewable energy and agriculture, or as a subsidy program that should be cut to address the budget deficit. —Anna Austin
Eucalyptus Utopia Brazil has more than 100 years of experience with eucalyptus biomass fuel, but Dow Chemical Co. will be the first in the chemical/petrochemical industry there to utilize it. Dow has signed an 18-year supply agreement with Energias Renovaveis do Brazil, which will invest, install and operate a 13-megawatt plant next to Dow’s Aratu Complex in the Bahia State in northeast Brazil. The plant, which will replace natural gas-fired boilers, will supply 100 percent of steam requirements for the Aratu site’s propylene oxide and propylene glycol operations and 30 percent of the requirements for the chlor-alkali and hydrochloric acid production units. Dow and numerous other Brazilian companies chose eucalyptus because Brazil has enormous resources to grow and use the tree for bioenergy. It is the world’s largest producer of eucalyptus, and the Bahia State is one of its most productive areas. “Over the past four years, fuel prices have increased sharply in Brazil and biomass provides a proven, abundant and secure source of low-carbon energy,” says Doug May, vice president of Dow Energy & Climate Change. The use of eucalyptus is attractive not only in Brazil, but also in Latin America and other regions, he says. In addition, Energias Renovaveis do Brazil has three projects under development in the Bahia State, and ongoing studies into three more possible projects.
PHOTO: DOW CHEMICAL CO.
Dow will begin to use eucalyptus in Brazil, as the country continues to make meaningful use of the tree in its bioenergy sector.
BIOMASS IN BRAZIL: Dow's Aratu Complex will begin using eucalyptus feedstock in 2013, adding to a multitude of other Brazilian companies utilizing the resource.
For its Aratu Complex, ERB is establishing a 9,500-hectare (23,475 acres) eucalyptus plot about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the site, to be used for fuel purposes. ERB will be responsible for planting and managing the plantation, and harvesting, transporting and chipping the wood logs. ERB will invest about $90 million in the plant, which should begin operation in 2013. The cogeneration facility will reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the site by 180,000 metric tons annually, and save 200,000 cubic meters of natural gas per day, May cites. Not only does eucalyptus represent a massive bioenergy opportunity in Brazil, but experts say it also has potential in the Southern U.S. In fact, David Nothmann, vice president of business and product develop-
ment with ArborGen LLC, says eucalyptus represents the greatest potential of any hardwood tree to produce large amounts of biomass in the Southeast U.S. Eucalyptus is purpose grown on plantations for biomass in almost 100 countries because of its rapid growth rate and ability to withstand climate extremes, disease and insects, according to ArborGen. And the tree can hold its own against other renewable energy options, according to May. “Traditional alternative energy sources such as wind and solar cannot provide the necessary heat in the form of steam needed at Aratu,” he says. “With sufficient local supply, woody biomass is an ideal renewable solution.” —Lisa Gibson
A ‘Biomess’ in Massachusetts The commonwealth's final RPS qualification As Massachusetts develops new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) qualifications, the commonwealth could be positioning itself as the most unwelcoming to biomass projects in the country, leaving developers, foresters, laborers and biomass proponents concerned about the future of the industry. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources is months overdue on issuing its final draft of rule changes, determining which projects qualify for the state’s
standards are overdue. 20 percent by 2025 RPS and receive renewable energy certificates (RECs). Without RECs, biomass projects are not economical. The DOER previously released drafts of proposed rule changes, including a 60 percent efficiency standard and a limit on the amount of forest wood that can be used: 15 percent of the weight of all forest products. The changes stem from a push against state regulatory agencies by opposition groups trying to stop the use of biomass to produce renewable energy.
The proposed rules stipulate that if a biomass power plant can reach 40 percent efficiency it will receive half an REC, ratcheted up to one full REC upon reaching 60 percent efficiency. From a developer’s perspective, even 40 percent can be a daunting hurdle. Dwayne Breger, director of renewable and alternative energy development for the DOER, had expected the agency to file final rule regulation in January. —Lisa Gibson
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 19
20 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
Marginal Lands Planting energy crops on marginal lands could offer landowners a way to supplement current yields, and multiple ongoing tests seek to determine just how viable the practice could be. BY LISA GIBSON
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 21
hile it’s generally hypothesized that energy crop yields on marginal lands would be lower than if planted on prime agricultural lands, lower-value acres could still represent an opportunity to supplement biomass feedstock production. Current research by multiple organizations seeks to determine whether growing certain energy crops on marginal lands is productive, efficient and economic. First-year yields from miscanthus plots on reclaimed mining lands in eastern Ohio show less-than-stellar results, but researchers say they don’t indicate an inability to produce meaningful biomass on those acres. “The first year is really insignificant,” says Rasto Ivanic, senior director of business development for Mendel Biotechnology Inc. The company is working with Ohio-based coal mining company Oxford Resource Partners on a pilot project growing Mendel’s proprietary miscanthus varieties on Oxford’s reclaimed lands. The trial will establish a baseline performance to conduct studies into the potential of growing perennial grass in the nutrient-poor soil. Reclaimed lands are those where the soil has been disturbed and then reapplied, mixing up the layers with rocks, mud, clay and hollows. “It’s obvious that the performance of these plants early on in the disturbed lands is significantly lower than what we see in a
land,” he adds. But not all marmore typical agricultural setting,” ginal lands will be candidates for Ivanic says. “We would expect such planting. “If I could venture lower, more choppy performance a hypothesis, I would say there are in these areas.” Even so, he says certainly [marginal] lands that will the trial is performing quite well. be beyond reach.” “We certainly see a little bit less Growing energy crops on growth in these reclaimed lands, a little bit lower percentage of estab- Rasto Ivanic, senior rocky, inconsistent soil with hollished plants than what we would director of business lows and holes does represent new challenges and intricacies, observe in other situations but, by development for Mendel, is sometimes requiring manual and large, looking at the first year leading research planting, as was the case at anof the trial data, we are happy with into growing other of Mendel’s marginal plots the way those trials established,” he miscanthus on reclaimed mining in Indiana. “You either have a says. lands. puddle of mud or you have a The big question, Ivanic says, brick,” Ivanic says, adding that it is how does miscanthus grow bewill translate into an inconsistent low the surface on marginal lands? Does it establish a strong enough system stand. “It’s going to be much more varied to survive winter and accumulate nutrients than what you might expect on a traditional to develop a thicker, stronger stand in the agricultural rotation.” While those marginal lands may be spring? “We don’t know yet,” he answers. “In a year, we’ll be much smarter.” Data col- able to provide meaningful yields after furlected from past research shows miscanthus ther research and improvements, the focus might not need added nutrients to thrive, and initially needs to be on agricultural lands in some evidence suggests the plant can fix ni- order for energy crops to be a regular part trogen from the air like a legume, Ivanic says. of the agricultural rotation, Ivanic says. “Now that doesn’t mean that miscanthus “There certainly is a potential for marginal may perform better on distressed lands, but lands,” he says. “But I think we’d be shootfor those lands that are nutritionally poor— ing ourselves in the foot if we only focused either they’ve been overused or just don’t on marginal lands.” Mendel also has marginal land trials in have enough nutrients—there is a hypothesis that miscanthus can, over time, improve that West Virginia, but has a number of non-
22 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
PRODUCTION¦ marginal acres planted west of the Mississippi River. “Because the hypothesis is to make this energy crop system economical, you will likely not end up planting in marginal land at the start,” Ivanic says. “Our trials focus on areas where we feel the economics and performance of the crop is most likely to be successful.” The company is experimenting with land on the outside fringes of the most productive agricultural lands, as well as former cottonwood acres in the South. “Most of our trials are targeting those areas, and in most geographic areas you’ll find those acres that we would consider reasonable for an energy crop because they would represent marginal economics for corn or soy.”
Besides soil nutrient content and productivity, economics are indeed a crucial determining factor in categorizing marginal lands. But the term can be confusing, according to Richard Hamilton, president and CEO of energy crop company Ceres Inc. “I don’t like using the word marginal,” he says. “It’s marginal for what?” The word is often used generally to describe acres not used for producing food crops, he says. “I think that confuses the issue because at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a nonfood acre. If you show
PHOTO: OXFORD RESOURCE PARTNERS
The Meaning of Marginal
MINING MISCANTHUS: Mendel Biotechnology is satisfied with the first-year miscanthus growth on reclaimed mining lands.
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 23
ENERGY BY NRG: NRG Energy is growing a field of Ceres switchgrass at its New Roads, La., power generating station.
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me any acre in the world that can support photosynthetic life, I will grow you a humandigestible calorie.” Hamilton prefers the term low-rent land because all lands have a plethora of alternative uses, but factors such as drought, soil fertility and salt can make it difficult to get a high yield from traditional crops. “Economic rents determine what the highest and best value of the land will be,” he says, adding it’s unlikely that energy crops will be grown on high-yielding corn land because the economics dictate corn should be grown there. Ceres is forging ahead with research into a salt-tolerant trait that enables energy crops such as switchgrass to grow in saltdamaged soil. Researchers discovered the useful property while screening for other agronomic traits and began to experiment with it, increasing the salt levels. The trait was still tolerant at salt concentrations equivalent to those of seawater, which are four times higher than concentration capabilities of any other salt-tolerant trait reported in scientific literature, Hamilton says.
PRODUCTION¦ The research is moving from greenhouse to field scale and is using a United States Agency for Internal Development grant to experiment with the trait in rice in India. “If those field results are positive, then of course it holds great benefit for food crop production,” Hamilton says. “[The trait] is simply illustrative of the point that low-rent acres like salt-damaged acres in southern Texas or Louisiana can be put back into valuable production in a way that reduces greenhouse gas production.” Still, energy crop improvement is in its early stages and will undoubtedly grow exponentially, much like improvements to food crops such as corn, Hamilton says. “We cannot assume that yields will stay flat. We can’t look at it through the lens of what the yields are today, but we have to look at it through the potential of what we can accomplish with modern biology, and therefore, what might the yields be five and 10 years from now.”
Switchgrass and Sorghum
nual crop can also produce better yields in its first year than switchgrass can, at 15 dry tons per acre compared with switchgrass’s thirdyear maximum of 10, he says. Hardimon agrees that planting energy crops on marginal lands can help increase yields for more biomass use, and incentives such as USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which will issue matching payments to growers, will help spur farmer interest in planting on both nutrient-rich and -poor lands. Pilot tests by companies such as Ceres and Mendel will help determine if and how much marginal land can be used for energy crop production, as well as whether it’s economical. “We’re in the stage now where we’re trying to establish what those economics would look like on different types of land, marginal and nonmarginal, and then we’ll go from there,” Ivanic says.
Ceres has a number of plots on marginal lands testing the viability of its commercialized switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum varieties, with no trait modifications in most areas, according to Frank Hardimon, director of sales for the company. Switchgrass has the natural and unique ability to grow on marginal soils because of its tremendous root system, he says. It is also a low-input crop, requiring smaller amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous than most crops, which makes it appealing for many farmers. “We’ve got a tremendous ability in the U.S. to plant these crops,” Hardimon says. He adds that marginal lands don’t necessarily imply smaller yields of switchgrass because there are many different kinds of the crop. It generally fairs better, though, on southern marginal lands than northern because of the heat and moisture. Sorghum, however, tends to produce smaller yields on marginal acres than it would on prime Midwest lands, but the crop has the advantage of being drought tolerant. The an-
Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952 email@example.com
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FIELD OF DREAMS: Dean Tiessen, CEO of New Energy Farms Group, has built a business around producing, harvesting, storing and supplying miscanthus for bioenergy production. PHOTO: NEW ENERGY FARMS GROUP
26 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
Energy Farm Established by a family-owned greenhouse vegetable business, New Energy Farms plans to wear several hats in the global miscanthus energy market. BY ANNA AUSTIN
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 27
PHOTO: NEW ENERGY FARMS GROUP
ew Energy Farms Group CEO Dean Tiessen says his family-owned greenhouse vegetable production business, Pyramid Farms, has experienced dramatic changes over the past year. In response to those changes, he is switching from fossil fuels to biomass and has launched an energy crop company. For years, Pyramid Farms faced volatile heating costs. “We were switching from bunker No. 6 oil to natural gas, back and forth, depending on what was cheaper,” Tiessen says. In 2004, the company switched to woody biomass as a heat source, and finally saw some price stability. “Switching to biomass originally changed the way we did business and made us become profitable,” Tiessen says. “Going back to my father’s generation, he switched fuel all the time and each time had to invest in a different technology. In the greenhouse vegetable industry in Canada, about 40 percent of our operating budget is heat. So it can make a bad year really bad, or a good year with negative margins.” Unfortunately, woody biomass utilization was a temporary fix. Utilizing waste wood as a fuel source became a trend in the region and the added demand created volatility in that market as well. “In our region, a few greenhouse owners put in biomass combustion facilities to heat their houses and it dried up the market,” Tiessen says. “We were once in a position where we were getting paid to take the wood, and then all of a sudden there was a shortage.” Because the North American greenhouse vegetable business is exposed to competition from all over the world, including warmer regions in Mexico and Central America, a smart and competitive energy advantage is needed to stay afloat in the colder Canadian climate. That prompted Pyramid Farms to produce and use energy crops to heat its tomato growing operation. Pyramid Farms currently operates about 37 acres of greenhouses in Ontario, and heats them with about 30,000 tons of biomass annually. The company’s ultimate goal is to fully
COVERING ALL THE BASES: New Energy Farms Group has three subsidiaries: Solmass Ltd., New Energy Farms Ltd. and Profeedstock Ltd. that provide everything to produce miscanthus from plant genetics to machinery development to off-take agreements.
heat its operations with energy crops, and is focusing on miscanthus for now. “Even though natural gas is currently inexpensive, we can only assume those prices are going to go back up, and the key is finding a longterm solution,” Tiessen says. “Purposegrown crops were always in the backs of our minds, but the initial investment didn’t happen until 2007. We needed a long-term feedstock supply, and we couldn’t get a long-term supply contract for waste wood so we researched what the best crop to grow in our region would be and found that to be miscanthus.” Pyramid Farms currently owns about 400 acres of miscanthus, but will need about 3,000 acres to completely heat its operations. While continuing to increase that amount, Tiessen, along with co-founder Paul Carver, have launched a new company called New Energy Farms Group.
Lessons Learned Overseas The hardships Pyramid Farms faced were the driving force behind developing
28 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
NEFG, according to Tiessen. The broadened purpose of NEFG, which currently has eight full-time employees and 50 to 60 background staff, is to supply products and services across the complete supply chain, from farm to end use, Carver says, often serving as the middle man or missing link in energy crop grower-to-end-user equations. To cover all the bases, the company has three subsidiaries: Solmass Ltd., the research sector that works to provide new cultivars and collaborates with genetics companies such as Ceres Inc. and Mendel Biotechnology Inc., and develops machinery and crop production technology; New Energy Farms Ltd., which provides farmers with a scalable and cost-effective affiliate program; and Profeedstock Ltd., the off-take agreement developer that works with end users to gain long-term feedstock supplies. Carver, who has a doctorate in miscanthus physiology and production, works in NEFG’s European Union branch and
PROFILE¦ is seeing the bulk of activity. His location has earned him a great deal of experience over the past 15 years, as the EU is ahead of the U.S. and other countries in energy crop development and utilization. “In the U.K. there are a lot of dedicated power plants, and a lot of port projects are importing materials from Canada and the U.S.—plants that are 100 to 300 megawatts in size,” he says. The EU is leading the pack because the country has a good combination of incentives from strong power prices for renewables and an actual carbon price, Carver says. “In the U.K., and many countries in the EU, an obligation has been put on large power companies to reduce carbon emissions, and though they are quite strict, it’s up to them how they do it,” he adds. Carver says NEF is working to set up some of the first supply contracts with large coal plants that need to meet Renewables Obligations. “We’ve just had a heating obligation put into place but it’s taken many
Annualized net return in dollars per acre for different energy crops.
Crop System Corn and Stover Switchgrass Grass Mix Native Prairie Poplar Miscanthus - costly Rhizome Miscanthus - cheap Rhizome
$30/ton $83 $-63 $-32 $-76 $-147 $-1048 $-71
$60/ton $126 $34 $53 $-25 $-36 $-811 $166
$90/ton $169 $131 $138 $25 $75 $-574 $403
Michigan State University has recently carried out a study into the economics of different energy crops. The study has indicated that while Miscanthus is the most profitable crop, lower cost establishment is required. The NEF affiliate program is the most practical route to achieve this. SOURCE: NEW ENERGY FARMS GROUP
years to do that because it’s much harder to tell every company in the U.K. to reduce CO2 emissions from heating,” he says. “For electricity, if you tell 10 power companies they have to start putting out 10 percent renewable energy, it’s much easier to imple-
ment.” Policy in North America still isn’t in place, Tiessen points out. “As it relates to a primary producer and end user, the best incentive to get people to come off the fence is the [Biomass Crop Assistance Program],
but it’s flubbering around,” he says. “We feel that if it’s not successful, or were to fall apart, it will set the industry back.” While the U.S. is focused on green transportation fuels, the U.K. is more committed to renewable electricity, Carver says. That emphasis has enabled NEF to gain first-hand experience and identify the key components needed across the purpose-grown feedstock supply chain, and to identify the challenges.
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A common roadblock to growing energy crops is the high up-front establishment costs and delayed revenues. Tiessen and Carver say that NEF has found a way to remedy that. “We operate affiliate schemes through NEF and show farmers how to actually lift and replant their own crops, allowing them to cut establishment costs in half—50 to 60 percent of the cost that’s been published by academics,” Carver says. NEF’s affiliate model offers an agreement to supply growers with information they need to be successful. “A person buys a small volume of initial material from us, and we show them how to propagate that, and expand it,” Carver says. “Then through Profeedstock, we can work with them to secure off-take contracts.” NEF also provides advice about crop storage. “Typically, for long-term storage it will be baled, and we’ll help determine how to build these stacks and store them in the field,” Carver says. “Miscanthus can literally last for years outside once it’s baled. If it’s chipped, you may need to dry it down if you’re storing it in grain storage buildings, depending on the moisture content and the ambient air conditions. For compacted fuels, if it’s cubed, you’ve got to make sure it’s stored at the right temperature or it’ll fuse together.” An affiliate can also supply plant material to others. Central Illinois New Energy Farms affiliate Eric Rund grows miscanthus, but also supplies plants to others in Illinois. “If we’re given a new variety, we put it through our rapid propagation sites in Tipton (Georgia) for testing, and then send it out to all of our affiliates who will evaluate it to determine if they’re interested in distributing it,” Carver explains. “This way, our custom-
30 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
Miscanthus Plug Quantity 150-999 1,000-1,999 2,000-3,999 4,000-19,999 20,000-39,999 40,000-99,999 100,000-249,999 250,000-499,000 500,000+
Price $0.92 Each $0.75 Each $0.60 Each $0.53 Each $0.50 Each $0.47 Each $0.42 Each $0.40 Each $0.36 Each
Miscanthus Bare Root Quantity 400-999 1,000-1,999 2,000-3,999 4,000-19,999 20,000-39,999 40,000-99,999 100,000-249,999 250,000-499,000 500,000+
Price $0.55 Each $0.45 Each $0.35 Each $0.31 Each $0.29 Each $0.28 Each $0.27 Each $0.26 Each $0.25 Each
Miscanthus Rhizome Quantity 150-999 1,000-1,999 2,000-3,999 4,000-19,999 20,000-39,999 40,000-99,999 100,000-249,999 250,000-499,000 500,000+
Price $0.70 Each $0.65 Each $0.42 Each $0.37 Each $0.35 Each $0.33 Each $0.30 Each $0.28 Each $0.27 Each
COST OF PRODUCTION: The cost of planting miscanthus is higher when using plugs, but the plants multiply faster. SOURCE: NEW ENERGY FARMS GROUP
PROFILE¦ ers have access to lots of good varieties fast.” Historically, it takes five to seven years to bring new miscanthus varieties to market, but with rapid propagation techniques developed by subsidiary Solmass, Carver says it can now be done in less than two years. “That means we’re inside the development time frame for a new power station,” he adds. On the end-user side, NEF will help work out the kinks. “Typically we can’t supply fuel at the start of a contract, and we have no means of supplying further fuel if we don’t have enough miscanthus,” Carver says. To solve that problem, the company has partnered with commodity trading companies to supply waste wood or wood residues initially. “That’s the bridge as we develop purpose-grown crops,” Tiessen says. “[The external biomass supply] handles year one to years four and five, then purpose-grown crops from year five to year 20.” What an affiliate or grower needs to start planting miscanthus varies, whether it be plugs, roots or rhizomes. Tiessen says the best selection depends on the grower’s intentions.
Roots, Rhizomes, Plugs and More Currently NEF sells plugs, roots and rhizomes, and the cost of each differs. Plugs are the most expensive option as they are the most mature plants. “If our customer needs to plant acreage for biomass production very quickly, the only way they can get fast multiplication is with plugs due to their higher rate of rhizome production,” Tiessen says. “Starting with rhizomes will be slower.” Determining how much material a grower will need to purchase in relation to prices and volumes of biomass produced is region and climate specific, according to Tiessen. “Production capacity ranges on cultivars, conservatively it’s about 20 million Btu per acre [when harvesting].” In terms of electricity, with 35 percent conversion efficiency, that equates to about 400 to 450 acres of miscanthus per megawatt. “We look at the region and its capacity to multiply the plants,” Tiessen says. “If you’re putting in a good, solid plug you’ll get anywhere from 20- to 100-fold multiplication over a couple of years of production, it just depends on certain agronomy issues. Generally speaking, for every acre of plants you’ll see a 20- to 50-fold multiplication in a short period of time.” NEF conservatively estimates that 4,200 plants are needed per acre, or one plant per square meter, to ensure good establishment. “If you need miscanthus in 2014, you had better be planting rhizomes today,” Tiessen advises. “But if the plant won’t be opening until 2015, it’s more cost-effective to produce your own plant material.” Overall, NEF affiliates will have a leg up over other growers. “A producer or supplier will have access to all the equipment and technology we have developed and also future technology that we think will really change how the market transacts.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968 firstname.lastname@example.org
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32 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
Powerful Crops Multiple studies tout the potential of energy crops to contribute to a fossil fuel-free lifestyle. But barriers block the path in most countries treading it. BY LISA GIBSON
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 33
hile energy crops alone won’t secure a fossil fuel-free planet, they do represent an enormous opportunity to curb our dependence on harmful fuels. Experts predict these crops will contribute significantly to the world’s renewables portfolio in the not-too-distant future, but obstacles currently blocking market penetration make growing or using energy crops a risky endeavor. Daring though it may be, the potential is hard to ignore. Using imaging assessment models, research has indicated that in the year 2050, energy crops worldwide could supply about 400 exajoules of energy per year. For those not familiar with that enormous quantity, an exajoule represents 1018 joules. In a newer analysis, more conservative estimates peg the realistically achievable potential for energy crops by 2025 at between 2 and 22 exajoules per year. These and other research figures have been compiled in one study to evaluate the current status of energy crops and their conversion technologies, assess their po-
‛Many of the energy crops we’re starting to use, like miscanthus and switchgrass, we’ve only really started to use them. We haven’t had many years of selective breeding or even genetic modification with these crops. So I think there’s a great potential to increase yield in the future as we find better genotypes and better ways of managing the crops.’
―Pete Smith, study author and professor of soils and global change, University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences
tential to contribute to global energy demand and climate mitigation over the next few decades, and examine their potential for the future. The study, “Energy crops: current status and future prospects,” suggests that realizing the massive potential of energy crops will require optimizing—not maximizing—dry matter and energy yield per area of land through the latest biotechnological routes. “The idea of putting this study together was to pull together all the information on what we know so far; what potential we might get, and how much energy
we can generate in this sector,” says Pete Smith, one of the five study authors and professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences in Scotland. “Biomass and bioenergy won’t fulfill all energy needs, but will be part of the portfolio.”
Exa-energy In this energy-dependent world, as developing countries get richer, their demand for energy will grow. “We can’t possibly supply all of their energy with fossil fuels,” Smith says. “So we’re going to need
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ENERGY CROPS¦ to rely on renewables and there is no one renewable technology at the moment that can meet our energy needs.” Globally, biomass currently provides about 46 exajoules of energy in the form of combustible biomass and wastes, liquid biofuels, renewable municipal solid waste, solid biomass, and gaseous fuels, the study says. Increasing current biomass potential will require changes to agricultural and forestry production, and the active growth of dedicated energy crops. “We’re starting to plant energy crops now, but if you look at where we are globally, the proportion of energy that’s generated from dedicated energy crops in most countries that have a large biomass supply, that tends to be quite small,” Smith points out. It’s likely that bioenergy cropping systems of the future will have primary, secondary and even tertiary uses, propelling bioenergy systems into mainstream markets, according to the study. In addition, dedicated energy crops have not undergone the centuries of im-
provement that characterized major food crops, so there’s still plenty of room to grow. “Many of the energy crops we’re starting to use, like miscanthus and switchgrass, we’ve only really started to use them,” Smith says. “We haven’t had many years of selective breeding or even genetic modification with these crops. So I think there’s a great potential to increase yield in the future as we find better genotypes and better ways of managing the crops.” In the U.S., the study’s authors cite, long-term breeding of switchgrass is beginning to produce large yield gains that will continue to improve. And hopefully other energy crop improvements won’t be far behind. But the U.S. isn’t in the region that tops the list of technical energy crop potential in 2050. Instead, South America takes a powerful lead with an estimated 189 exajoules per year, followed distantly by central Africa with 86, according to the study. The regional breakdown of the potential of about 400 exajoules is based on an imaging assessment model that esti-
mates the technical potential of industrialized countries, which includes the U.S. and Europe, at 30 exajoules. Latin America’s estimated potential for 2050, divided into two regions, is 200 exajoules; Africa’s is 145 and divided into five regions; and China, divided into four regions, has a technical potential of 21 exajoules. South America also comes out on top in estimated area available for biomass production in 2050, at 0.63 gigahectares, or 630 million hectares (1.6 billion acres). Again and not surprisingly, central Africa comes in second with 280 million hectares, according to the model, and industrialized nations will have an estimated 100 million hectares. The study also takes into account future technologies that will enable extraction of other useful products from energy crops. In fact, the ability to extract highvalue products first with the lower-value residues being used for energy production would most likely make energy crops more economic, it says.
¦ENERGY CROPS But the main driving force behind energy cropping uptake will be social and environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration opportunities, job creation, support for rural communities, pride and independence, improved social cohesion, and of course reduced dependency on imported oil, the study concludes. Future opportunities for energy crops include development of biorefineries, atmospheric carbon scrubbing, and the growing trend toward small-scale distributed energy systems, it predicts.
Stumbling Blocks But as tremendous potential sits on the horizon, barriers to energy crop market penetration loom, including practical difficulties to biomass projects such as: the public’s perception of the technology as dirty; the challenge to secure biomass fuel supplies; high demand for water and nutrients by some energy crops; and difficulties for conversion plants in achieving economies of scale. Besides that, though, other obstacles such as competition for land also stand in the way, along with the current power generation and distribution infrastructure. And there’s the ever-present policy and incentives issue. “I think policy would be a barrier,” Smith says. “In many areas, there’s no market penetration because it’s just not economical for growers to invest in energy crops.” Smith speculates that might be because of risk, the fact that energy crops don’t fall under their expertise, or maybe because energy crops are less flexible then annual crops. Whatever the reason, relatively small areas of energy crops are being grown. “Policy could certainly play a part in that, either by providing guaranteed pricing for the products, or it could provide guaranteed markets in conjunction with the energy users.” Subsidies, tax breaks and other economic measures could be a strong force behind an expansion of the global energy crop sector. “I think that would make the difference between relatively small market penetration and a really quite substantial uptake,” Smith says.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS: Energy crop market penetration is being stymied by several issues including availability of ample biomass fuel supplies and high demand for water and nutrients for some crops.
Uplift for Uptake’s Sake To encourage energy crop uptake in the U.K., the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced in March 2010 an increase of half a Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) for dedicated energy crop technologies. The U.K.’s Renewables Obligation is banded by technology type and provides incentives in the form of ROCs per megawatt hour to a multitude of renewable technologies. Dedicated energy crops now receive two ROCs, while cofired energy crops still receive one. “The DECC decided it wanted to support energy crops and was looking to stimulate the energy crop sector,” says Tricia Wiley, spokesperson for the U.K.’s Renewable Energy Association. Other biomass technologies receive between 1.5 and 2 ROCs. Strangely, though, the DECC left energy crops out of the technologies considered eligible for grandfathering into the Renewables Obligation banding, which is reviewed every four years, sometimes amending ROC levels. They sit outside the category with
36 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
cofiring, bioliquids, and combined heat and power. “Unlike contracts for regular biomass, we did not receive any evidence that long-term 15- to 20-year contracts for energy crops could be delivered,” the DECC explains. Energy crop prices are still variable and the DECC fears grandfathering could mean over- or under-compensating, Wiley says. Some members of the REA, however, argue that grandfathering energy crops would be beneficial for investment purposes. “There are still quite a lot of capital costs and things like that that go into arranging a contract and setting up to grow energy crops,” Wiley says. “So they felt that grandfathering was needed to ensure investment in that. I think they were quite disappointed it wasn’t grandfathered.” Many energy crop farmers agree. “That’s one of the reasons why the power stations have not gotten financial closure and have not started procuring that stock,” says Jonathan Scurlock, chief advisor of Renewable Energy and Climate Change for
ENERGY CROPS¦ the U.K.’s National Farmers’ Union. “Until those plants break ground, they won’t send anyone out to secure contracts with farmers.” The U.K. has about 10,000 hectares planted with energy crops, miscanthus being the most common, and also incentivizes them through its Energy Crop Scheme, part of the Rural Development Programme in England. The scheme issues establishment grants for approved energy crops, designed to cover a percentage of the set-up costs, including ground preparation, fencing, purchase of planting stock, planting, weed control and first-year cutback. The program only lasts until 2013, however, and Wiley says there is no talk yet of extending it. “We’re almost moving away now nationally from a situation of planting grants because they don’t seem to have worked very well,” Scurlock says. Between 2002 and 2006, the program issued flat grants of £1,000 ($1,500) per hectare, roughly half of the total planting cost. But after coming back in 2007, it now works off a formula to determine grant amounts. Farmers also have to prove the amount they’ve spent in order to be reimbursed. “It’s an administrative nightmare,” Scurlock says, adding that the government has been underwhelmed by the amount of interest the scheme has attracted. “Establishment grants were a good first step, but it’s not the ultimate solution to building this supply chain.” Now, the DECC has proposed a new program to support renewables as well as low-carbon technologies. Electricity Market Reform will work in parallel to the RO through a feed-in tariff beginning in 2013 or 2014, according to Wiley. The government has proposed, however, that all new technologies fall under Electricity Market Reform instead of the RO by the year 2017. Therefore, the DECC must decide by then whether to grandfather the remaining technologies, including energy crops, into the RO banding. In the U.S., the USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program is designed to drive investment and interest in energy crops, but
has hit some walls. Still, many agree that with the proper amendments, the program’s matching payments to farmers for biomass material could be an effective driver to spur development. Whatever programs do the job, it seems governments all over the world need to step up incentives for energy crops if we’re ever going to realize the 400 exajoule-per-year potential. While that’s not the only change needed, it could be one of the most important. But Smith doesn’t like to compare progress across oceans and explains that Europe
and the U.S. have different anomalies to bear. “There are different challenges and probably both the U.S. and European Union have a long way to go to get in policies that encourage sustainable use of bioenergy and biofuels,” he says. “There’s significant progress to be made on both sides of the Atlantic.” Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952 email@example.com
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BCAP Relaunch Should Bring New Biomass Producers into the Supply Chain The redesigned Biomass Crop Assistance Program may have some shortcomings when it comes to funding and longevity, but it still provides significant opportunities for making new biomass materials economically viable for energy production. BY DANIEL SIMON AND TOM KIMMERER
he wait is finally over. The USDA has relaunched the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and is once again accepting applications from biomass conversion facilities (BCFs), including biomass power and thermal plants. The redesigned program substantially reduces the list of eligible fuels, imposes new and complex rules, and may have limited funding and longevity. Despite these changes, the updated BCAP presents strong opportunities for conversion facilities to gain access to new fuel sources and to build more robust supply chains. A solid understanding of the new rules and administrative procedures is essential for conversion facilities and producers to benefit fully.
Birth of BCAP and the 2009-’10 Pilot Program The 2008 Farm Bill created BCAP to encourage the use of otherwise wasted biomass materials for energy and to stimulate interest in new crops for renewable energy feedstocks. The program was designed to meet these goals through a matching payments component for existing fuel sources and establishment payments and annual payments component for new energy crops. USDA, through the Commodity Credit Corp. and Farm Service Agency, initially implemented a pilot version of the matching payments component. Launching the program in 2009 in quick response to a presidential directive to aggressively accelerate biofuel
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38 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
production, USDA did not issue detailed requirements on how biomass materials needed to be produced, collected, harvested or separated from higher-value material. The guidelines also did not require BCFs to purchase eligible materials at fair market value. Many biomass facilities benefited from the initial program by negotiating lower fuel prices with suppliers, who then received matching payments to make up the difference. The program, however, negatively affected other industries by distorting feedstock prices for mulch, fiberboard, nursery media, and other products. A report recently issued by USDA’s Inspector General also found that the pilot program’s brisk implementation led to “wide-ranging problems” in its operation. In February 2010, USDA suspended the program and issued a new proposed rule, allowing matching payments for existing con-
POLICY¦ Land Use
Forest thinning Post-disaster forest debris Wood chips Slash, tops, cutoffs, bark Trees without timber or pulp value Trees with timber or pulp value Forbs (e.g., sunflower, clover) Grasses, nonyard Vines, nonyard Mosses Title I Crop Residues Corn cobs and stover Bagasse Rice hulls, straw, wheat straw, nut hulls Orchard and vineyard waste Energy crops, woody or herbaceous Title I Crops Yard waste and urban wood Algae Animal waste and byproducts Food waste
Owner Federal Agency Yes, with forest management plan; must reduce fire risk, remove invasives or improve forest health
Private, State, Tribal Yes, with forest management plan; must reduce fire risk, remove invasives or improve forest health
Yes, as above Yes, with approved conservation plan
Potentially eligible and ineligible fuels are listed under BCAP. Otherwise-eligible fuels become ineligible if a) they are not collected and processed on the land, or b) the local FSA office determines that there are pre-existing markets for the material in the local area. The list is subject to interpretation and change by FSA.
tracts through the end of March 2010. During the pilot program’s short life, USDA paid approximately $244 million in matching payments. USDA received more than 26,000 comments on the proposed regulations, which delayed release of the final rule until October 2010. On Dec. 14, 2010, FSA published new documents and began accepting applications from BCFs to become “qualified.” All previous certifications of facilities were revoked. FSA also published documents for the establishment of Producer Areas. Documents and procedures are still being established in early 2011.
New BCAP Rules The new BCAP rules include greater restrictions on what qualifies as eligible biomass and how that material is collected and harvested, as well as requirements for demonstration of sustainable agriculture and forestry practices. The new rules also implement the Project
Area program of the 2008 Farm Bill, providing incentives to establish energy crops. Matching Payments: FSA will make matching payments of up to $45 per dry ton for eligible fuel delivered to a registered BCF. Eligible fuels must be collected directly from the land, and cannot be collected from another facility. For example, bark stripped from trees in the forest is eligible if the bark is delivered directly to the BCF, even if the wood from the trees goes to another use; bark stripped from trees at a wood processing mill is ineligible because it did not come directly from the land. Similarly, agricultural materials must be picked up directly from the land and transported to the BCF. Corncobs from an ethanol plant are not eligible, but corn stover collected in the field is eligible. Materials that have an existing market in a given area may be ineligible for matching payments. For example, bark is an eligible material unless there are already markets for bark mulch and other products within the
geographical area of the BCF. Eligibility is determined by local FSA agents, who must determine whether a given feedstock had a local market as of Oct. 27, 2010. The following materials are not eligible for matching payments: Title I crops (such as corn and soybeans); animal, food and yard waste; and algae. Although Title I crops are not eligible, waste from Title I crops, such as corn stover, is eligible. The yard waste exclusion is broad enough to exclude all urban forestry materials. The matching payments are to be made at the fair market value of the feedstock. BCFs will be required to maintain lists of all biomass purchases, both from eligible materials owners and sellers who are not participating in BCAP. The arm’s length requirement of the original program has been removed, allowing payments between affiliates. Perhaps the most complex aspect of the new BCAP rules is the sustainability requirement. Crop residues require a conservation
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 39
¦POLICY (or equivalent) plan registered with FSA, while forest materials require a forest management, stewardship or equivalent plan. Forest materials must be taken during operations to reduce fuel hazards, remove invasive species or improve forest health. This should not be a major impediment, as sound forest management improves forest health. Material from Federal lands cannot include wood that has timber, lumber or pulp value; material from private lands is not subject to this restriction, but is still subject to the existing markets condition. Some clarification from FSA offices may be required concerning eligibility of forest materials. Otherwise eligible material delivered to a BCF may nevertheless fail to qualify for matching payments if the material owner fails to register with the local FSA office before delivery; the material owner fails to provide documentation, including a receipt for payment and an assessment of the material’s moisture content; the biomass delivered contains ineligible material; or for a number of other reasons, such as supplying false information. Because payments are made on a dry weight basis, actual measurement of moisture content of the delivered material is required. CCC reserves the right to amend the list of eligible fuels. Establishment and Annual Payments: A major goal of BCAP is to mitigate risks that prevent producers from entering the biomass market. Implementation of the establishment and annual payments provisions of BCAP is intended to provide incentives for producers to enter the market. Producers of energy crops, along with the potential consumers of their products, may apply to the FSA to create a Project Area located near a BCF. All approved producers within that Project Area can qualify for matching payments for up to 75 percent of the establishment of an energy crop, and ongoing payments for up to five years for herbaceous perennials and 15 years for woody plants. Producers who are registered participants in a Project Area are still able to get up to two years of matching funds for delivery of biomass to the conversion facility associated with the Project Area. In addition, producers in a Project Area who are not participants in the project are eligible for matching payments. The rules regarding eligibility for Project Area
approval and establishment and annual payments are stringent. Potential Project Area participants are encouraged to contact their local FSA office as soon as possible to begin discussions of eligibility. The final rule states that a producer will enter into a contract with CCC to commit acres to establish and produce an eligible crop. These contracts are intended to promote the production of a long-term source of biomass feedstock that can be harvested in a reasonable period of time. The contracts will take into account the appropriate establishment period for a specific crop. The expectation is that at least one harvest for biomass delivery to the conversion facility will take place within the period of the contract.
Is the New BCAP Worth the Effort? Although substantially more restrictive than the original, the revised program is clearly designed to achieve the original intent of BCAP: to bring more biomass fuel to market and to provide incentives for the creation of supply chains and new energy crops. Despite the new regulations’ complexities, participation in BCAP provides significant opportunities for BCFs. In most areas of the country, there is a significant lack of capacity within the supply chain, and an unwillingness of producers to establish energy crops. BCAP can help overcome these supply limitations. Under the original trial program, BCAP simply lowered the price of fuel for conversion facilities. The new program instead provides a strong price incentive for suppliers to accept the risks of changing their operations in order to provide fuel to biomass facilities. The new matching payments program can help bring new eligible biomass material producers and harvesters off the sidelines and into the biomass energy supply chain. For instance, matching payments may turn some waste products previously too expensive to otherwise collect and harvest for energy usage into economical fuel sources. Matching payments can also open up new biomass fuel supplies that were otherwise too far away to use economically due to higher transportation costs. Although qualifying BCFs will have to purchase these new sources at the fair market value of similar materials, more fuel sources can help create a larger and more flexible fuel
40 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
market, possibly providing BCFs more stable fuel supplies. Some plants also can benefit from blending additional biomass types together. Although vendors receiving matching payments cannot charge below-market rates to undercut their competitors, matching payments could indirectly lead to lower prices through greater competition. The new BCAP also allows qualifying BCFs and/or their affiliates to constitute eligible material owners that may receive matching payments. This change could create new opportunities for biomass plant owners to become their own fuel suppliers. As with any new agricultural policy, there are still some uncertainties about the implementation of BCAP. Some uncertainties will be quickly resolved by FSA, but others may take some time. Communication with your local FSA office may help answer questions.
Major Budget Concerns Remain Potential BCAP participants need to be aware of concerns regarding adequate funding and continued authorization. BCAP is currently operating under a continuing resolution funding the federal government only through March 2011. Additional congressional action will be required to fund BCAP for the remainder of FY 2011 and FY 2012. Congress also must decide whether to authorize—and fund—BCAP beyond FY 2012. If BCAP fails to attract a sufficient number of energy crop producers, Congress may be less inclined to extend the program beyond FY 2011.
Conclusion Although portions of BCAP have been scaled back substantially from the pilot program, the final rules still provide significant opportunities for making new biomass materials economically viable for energy usage. Would-be participants need only bone up on the rules, get to know their local FSA agents and ready themselves for a vigorous pursuit of those opportunities. Authors: Daniel Simon Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP. SimonD@ballardspahr.com Tom Kimmerer Senior Scientist, Moore Ventures LLC email@example.com
¦WOODY BIOMASS CONTRIBUTION
Harvesting Forest Renewables Sustainably Harvesting woody biomass is ‘preventive medicine’ for our forests and just what the doctor ordered for timber-dependent communities. BY MIKE SCHMIDT
he solution to some of America’s most pressing environmental, energy and economic challenges can quite literally be found at our feet. Sustainable harvesting of forest renewables (woody biomass) is “preventive medicine” for our forests, helping limit the number and severity of forest fires, reducing the habitat of destructive insects to help ensure that the healthiest trees thrive, and promoting the growth of healthier, stronger trees. In addition, it offers struggling communities a much-needed, new revenue stream and other social benefits. As an energy source, forest renewables may still be relatively new, but they have unlimited potential.
Forest renewables come from several sources, including: • Residues and byproducts from wood processing mills and pulp and paper mills. • Residues from logging and site-clearing operations. • Biomass from fuel treatment operations to reduce forest fires. The USDA and the U.S. DOE estimate 368 million dry tons of sustainably removable biomass can be produced from U.S. forestlands per year.1 Harvesting it represents substantial environmental, social and economic opportunities, particularly for rural forestry communities.
The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Power & Thermal or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
42 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | FEBRUARY 2011
Fewer and Less Catastrophic Forest Fires Excessive dead, dry material that has accumulated in our forests poses significant wild land fire risks. Over the past 10 years, these fires have consumed more than 49 million acres of forest in the United States alone, and federal agencies have spent more than $8.2 billion fighting them. Removing forest renewables could help save millions of acres of forest and billions of taxpayer dollars spent battling forest fires. According to Danny Dructor, executive director of the 10,000-member American Loggers Council, harvesting forest renewables can go a long way toward reducing that destruction and expense. “The impact of forest fires is greatest in the Western states,” he points out. “If we
WOODY BIOMASS¦ could take that biomass off the forest floor, the understory and small-diameter trees that really have no market value as timber, we could reduce the fuel that feeds those fires. And I’m convinced we could reduce the number and the severity of the catastrophic wildfires that we’re seeing.”
Reduced Insect Infestation In addition to decreasing fuel for potential fires, harvesting forest renewables also reduces habitat and food for destructive insects such as the mountain pine beetle, which thrives in overstocked areas and kills healthy trees. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 2.5 million acres of pine trees in Colorado and Wyoming were affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic between 1996 and 2008.2 The Natural Resources Defense Council also released a report in July on the dead and dying high-elevation forests in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Within these regions, aerial photographs have documented 1 million acres of whitebark pine forest dead or dying from the mountain pine beetle and, to a lesser extent, an invasive fungus. One of the report’s authors, Wally Macfarlane, has stated that another million acres of whitebark pine forest are at risk.3 Harvesting forest renewables can not only reduce insect food and habitat, but it can also thin forests to promote the growth of healthier trees, which are better able to resist infestation, grow to their full potential and contribute to a healthier environment.
Compatible With Forest Service Recognizing the value of sustainable harvesting of forest renewables, the U.S. Forest Service began implementing its Woody Biomass Utilization Strategy4 in 2008. The program includes harvesting dead trees in 19,000 acres of forests to help reduce the threat and impact of wildfires and prevent further spread of beetle infestation. Cody Neff, owner of West Range Reclamation of Crawford, Colo., is happy to be part of that strategy. Neff has been involved in ecosystem management for more than 10 years, working with a wide variety of federal, state and environmental agencies such
as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s Division of Wildlife and State Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy. In 2009, the Forest Service awarded his company a 10-year forest stewardship contract that includes reducing hazardous biofuels in Colorado’s Arapaho, Roosevelt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests. “Most of our forests are dangerously loaded with hazardous fuels, including understory and beetle-infested trees,” Neff says. “Wildfire has historically played an essential role in the natural development of our Western ecosystems, but today’s wildfires are not those of the past. They are much more dangerous and devastating. Unhealthy forests are also much more susceptible to disease and insect epidemics, which in turn create even more fuel for wildfires. Sound forest management, including sustainable harvesting of renewables, can help conserve the Western landscape that we all value so much. Neff has personally witnessed the positive effect this harvesting can have in limiting a forest fire. “A fire broke out near Boulder, Colo., just two weeks after we had removed diseased trees and understory from what had been a particularly dangerous area,” he says. “The fire had escalated into the canopy, but when it reached our treatment area, the limited understory enabled firefighters to put it out. It was more than gratifying to see the good that had resulted from our work—the forest that was saved because of it.”
Economic and Social Benefits Harvesting and converting forest renewables to energy can provide a solution to some of the country’s most pressing economic and energy challenges. These benefits start by making use of logging slash, which is typically left to waste on the forest floor or simply collected and burned. An associate professor of forest operations at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Tom Gallagher has studied the issue and understands its short- and long-term potential. “The ‘low-hanging fruit’ right now is logging slash,” Gallagher explains. “Millions of tons of this material are available every
year without impacting other markets, and it only makes sense to capitalize on this opportunity. Is woody biomass really something we can use to produce energy in a sustainable way? Absolutely. Further research is needed to make biomass harvesting and processing more efficient. But I have all the confidence in the world that with collaborative efforts by all the stakeholders—government, landowners, loggers and markets—we can make world-changing use of this sustainable material.” The ALC’s Dructor sums up the problem and the opportunity this way: “Most timber-dependent small communities are facing upwards of 20 percent unemployment. By developing energy from woody biomass, we can create new markets, new opportunities and new jobs. We can revitalize rural economies and help kids who are growing up in small communities remain in those communities by providing high-paying jobs.” Healthy forests rely on sustainable forest management, which includes the removal of excess biomass. Sustainable harvesting of forest renewables represents an important new step in the overall strategy of sustainable forest management. To learn more about the importance of harvesting woody biomass, visit the John Deere-sponsored website www.woodybiomass.com. Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply, U.S. DOE and USDA, 2005. 1
2, 4 U.S. Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization website, www.fs.fed.us/woodybiomass
Macfarlane/Logan/Kern. Using the Landscape Assessment System (LAS) to Assess Mountain Pine Beetle-Caused Mortality of Whitebark Pine, Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 2009: Project Report, 2010. 3
Author: Mike Schmidt Manager of Forestry Renewables, John Deere Construction & Forestry Division firstname.lastname@example.org
FEBRUARY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 43
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