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February 2012

Renovation and


Biomass Boiler Retrofit Saves Kentucky Companies From Closure Page 18


Canadian Province Rolls Three Biomass Heating Plants into One Page 24

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FEATURES 18 CONVERSION Revitalizing Rubbertown A new biomass system will replace an old coal-fired boiler in Louisville, Ky., saving local companies and jobs. By Anna Austin

24 DISTRICT HEAT Combined Calefaction Prince Edward Island’s MSW and woody biomass district heating plant was created through expansion of existing infrastructure. By Luke Geiver

30 EMISSIONS Words from the Wise Nine forest scientists expect their positive biogenic emissions findings to influence federal policy decisions. By Anna Austin

DEPARTMENTS 03 ADVERTISER INDEX Biomass Power & Thermal: February 2012, Vol. 6, Issue 2. Biomass Power & Thermal is published monthly. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Application to Mail at Periodicals Postage Rates is Pending at Grand Forks, ND and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Power & Thermal/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

04 EDITOR’S NOTE Good News for Forest Biomass By Lisa Gibson

06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 08 POWER PLATFORM Biomass Confusion at the EPA By Bob Cleaves

09 THERMAL DYNAMICS ON THE COVER: The fuel handling system at a coal-fired steam plant in Kentucky was completely replaced during biomass conversion.

Speaking for Heat, Accent and All By Joseph Seymour

10 ENERGY REVIEW Update on a Mobile Indirect Biomass Liquefaction System By John P. Hurley


11 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE Understanding Further Revised US EPA Boiler Standards By Glenn Unterberger and Michael Duffy




Good News for Forest Biomass


Many of us are growing tired of hearing about the Manomet study and are more than familiar with the assumptions that guide its debt-then-dividend forest biomass carbon emissions findings. They’ve been outlined and poured over in numerous credible studies, and are well-documented in our industry. But one more report deserves notice. While not intended to refute the Manomet study, this report, “Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy” does address the Manomet findings directly. The new research confirms that forest biomass used for heat and power generation does not, in fact, release any net carbon. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of this study is its authors: forest scientists from multiple universities and organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency tasked with understanding and caring for our nation’s forestlands. The Manomet study was done in 2009 by researchers from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. It was commissioned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to evaluate the carbon neutrality of biomass for energy. The state had also implemented a moratorium on renewable portfolio standard qualification for biomass projects, to remain in effect until the research was complete and any appropriate subsequent measures were taken. Manomet concluded that forest biomass initially releases more carbon dioxide than coal per unit of energy, but pays off its carbon debt as forests regrow and that carbon is resequestered. Based on the less-than-favorable study findings, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs ordered a swift change to the RPS qualification standards. The resulting Sept. 2010 draft of standard revisions severely hinders biomass power development through stipulations that are difficult to achieve. The final regulations still have not been released and are now more than six months overdue. The legislative limbo has caused a monumental setback in Massachusetts’ biomass power industry. And Massachusetts developers aren't the only ones waiting on legislation. The U.S. EPA has commissioned its own study to determine the characteristics of biogenic emissions, deferring for three years implementation of its Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule for biogenic emissions, while the research is carried out. The EPA has also reluctantly rushed through the Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rules, and legislation currently in Congress would give it more time to completely overhaul them. It seems to me that in this time of regulatory uncertainty, a study by top forest experts should carry some weight. Associate Editor Anna Austin explores the study for a feature article this month, starting on page 30. She talks to a couple of its authors about how they anticipate the findings might be applied. Associate Editor Luke Geiver also has pleasant news to report, in the continued success of a Canadian biomass district heating plant. See page 24. All in all, this month’s issue is packed full of good news about successful applications and about what we know to be truth regarding emissions.

For more news, information and perspective, visit Contributors


In this month’s Power Platform column, Biomass Power Association President and CEO Bob Cleaves addresses the most recent turn of events regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules. A new court decision has raised a number of questions in the biomass power industry.



John Hurley, senior research advisor for the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., writes in the Energy Review column about a biomass liquefaction system. Hurley discusses updates to ongoing development of the process, which he says is a solution for bringing distributed power generation to off-grid sites.




ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie



VICE PRESIDENT Tom Bryan VICE PRESIDENT, SALES & MARKETING Matthew Spoor EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT MANAGER Howard Brockhouse SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Jeremy Hanson ACCOUNT MANAGERS Marty Steen Chip Shereck Bob Brown Andrea Anderson Dave Austin



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¦INDUSTRY EVENTS International Biomass Conference & Expo April 16-19, 2012

ONE SOURCE, ONE AUTOMATED SOLUTION You can count on our knowledge and experience for a cost-effective, integrated solution for your green energy plant. Our engineered system combines quality equipment and process management to control product flow from start to finish, with automated solutions for: • Grinding • Conditioning • Pelleting • Cooling • Sifting

Colorado Convention Center Denver, Colorado A New Era in Energy: The Future is Growing Organized by BBI International and coproduced by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of Bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. Early bird registration rates expire March 5, 2012. (866) 746-8385

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 4-7, 2012 Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Evolution Through Innovation Now in its 28th year, the FEW provides the ethanol industry with cuttingedge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The largest, longest running ethanol conference in the world, the FEW is renowned for its superb programming, and is powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. (866) 746-8385

Call us today, and hold us accountable for your cost-effective solution.

Algae Biomass Summit September 24-27, 2012 Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel Denver, Colorado Advancing Technologies and Markets Derived from Algae Organized by the Algae Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop – the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all algae industries. (866) 746-8385

International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show November 27-29, 2012

800-552-2382 | WATERLOO, IOWA


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Hilton Americas - Houston Houston, Texas Organized by BBI International and produced by Biorefining Magazine, the International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste, and petrochemical professionals to explore the value-added opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. Contact a knowledgeable account representative to reserve booth space now. (866) 746-8385

City Center - Saratoga Springs, NY March 21 - 23, 2012

Expand Your Northeastern Biomass Thermal Network Meet new customers at the region’s premier biomass heating conference and expo. 2011 Event Stats UÊ{Èä³ÊÀi}ˆÃÌÀ>˜ÌÃÊ UÊ"ÛiÀÊÓx¯ÊÜiÀiÊVœ“«>˜ÞÊ«ÀiÈ`i˜ÌÃ]ʜܘiÀÃ]Ê>˜`Ê "à UÊÓxÊ`ˆvviÀi˜ÌÊÃÌ>ÌiÃÊ>˜`Ê >˜>`>ÊÀi«ÀiÃi˜Ìi` UÊ"ÛiÀÊÈxÊLÕȘiÃÃiÃÊi݅ˆLˆÌi`Ê>ÌÊÛi˜`œÀÊv>ˆÀ

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Register Today and SAVE Register before February 21, 2012 and save over regular rates. Log on to our web site: Exhibitors, reserve your booth by calling 978-669-5019.


Biomass Confusion at the EPA BY BOB CLEAVES

The saga of the U.S. EPA’s Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology and related rules continues. With the District Court’s decision on Jan. 9, invalidating the EPA’s previous stay of the original rules, the need for Congressional action has now become critically important. Some background: In March 2011, the U.S. EPA issued final rules for, among other things, Boiler MACT and Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators. These rules were flawed in many respects and, by EPA’s own admission, were in need of further work based on lack of data and feasibility, among other reasons. As a result of the flaws in the March rules, on May 18, the EPA announced that it was delaying the date the rules would go into effect until the agency completed its reconsideration (76 Federal Register 28662). In accordance with the May 18 decision, the EPA issued revised Boiler MACT and CISWI rules based on the agency’s findings after studying the potential effects of its original rules. The revised rules officially appeared in the Federal Register on Dec. 23, and the EPA has given the industry until Feb. 21 to respond. Presumably, the plan was for the new set of rules to be finalized this spring. However, this plan was disrupted on Jan. 9, when the U.S. District Court threw a wrench into the revised rules by essentially deciding that the May reconsideration was unlawful. The Court ruled that the EPA’s


original March 2011 rules already went into effect on May 20. While it would appear that the ruling does not affect the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rule that was also published on March 21, there are many unanswered questions. Which compliance dates apply, the March 2011 rules or the recently promulgated rules? Will litigants seek to invalidate the recent rules now that the court has determined that the EPA did not have the authority to stay them in March 2011? Most important, what does all this mean for the biomass industry caught in the crossfire? How many hard-earned dollars and jobs could be lost as a result of the confusion? All of this highlights a fundamental point: EPA rulemaking should not be done in the courts. For Congressional “fence sitters” who were reluctant to support legislation on the assumption that the EPA would “get it right” through the revised rules, the issue is now clear. Only legislation can cure the uncertainty that has been created by litigation. Congress needs to take action now to give the EPA the time it needs to collect and confirm all the facts, and craft rules that are reasonable, achievable, and protective of the public health and the environment. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association


Speaking for Heat, Accent and All BY JOSEPH SEYMOUR

On Washington D.C.’s mild winter days, I often look out my office window to the bare streets below and reflect on the challenges of growing biomass thermal businesses amid a sharply divided and seemingly distracted government. In those moments, I recall a dinner conversation with a small town central-Michigan insurance agent. After passing the potatoes around the table and offering my Biomass Thermal Energy Council ‘elevator’ speech, the insurance agent nodded in acknowledgement. “I have a number of policy holders heating their homes with corn cobs and pellets,” he shared. “And they say they’re saving significantly on their energy bills.” If it weren’t for my Midwestern manners, I would have high-fived the man on the spot, across the table settings and all. You see, despite troubling federal budget cuts, tax extenders and regulatory uncertainty, and ongoing congressional biomass education, I channel my inner Horace Greely and recognize the work of countless advocates and end users across the states. “Go west, young man, go west and grow the [biomass thermal] country.” Or more accurately, look north, south, and west of D.C. for signs of encouragement. From advocates in New England, to an enterprising collaborative organization in the Midwest, and on to growing forest stewardship and restoration works in the West, biomass heating and cooling is securing confidence on the backs of proven projects matched by regional understanding and impassioned supporters. When BTEC hosted a three-part regional webinar series as part of our U.S. Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center grant, we easily recruited ardent speakers, saw inquisitive attendees, and received approval ratings exceeding other similar events. State governmental officials, consumers, and project developers, in near consensus, appreciated the regional nuances of biomass thermal resource use spoken in their shared accent. The spring of 2012 holds even greater regional recognition of biomass thermal progress, independent of the apparent Congressional stalemate. The fourth annual Northeast Biomass Heating Expo March 21-23

in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., will feature historical keynotes from the New York State Energy Development Authority. The U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities will anchor the expo’s content and outline the region’s path to greater renewable heating use. Nearly 45 days later, an inaugural event, Heating the Midwest Conference and Expo: Forming the Vision, will transform the city of Eau Claire, Wis., into a biomass thermal brain trust April 25-27. An industry tour and conference program addressing biomass resource availability, processing, heating policy, combustion technologies, and success stories will inform the Midwest’s biomass vision. When combined with the sustained western efforts of groups like the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, it’s difficult to deny biomass heating’s engagement coast to coast. Regional advances in biomass thermal generation are certainly unique to the communities, households, and businesses they serve. Yet, the identities they forge have dedicated roles in advancing shared federal policy. In recognition of these efforts, BTEC will support a series of regional member networks beginning in February, designed to link stakeholders, identify industry barriers, and disseminate successful state strategies. BTEC’s Eastern, Central, and Western interests will bring louder and better coordinated voices to Washington than ever before. If supporting the biomass trade associations is not within your company’s means, consider attending the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo or Heating the Midwest events, or joining a volunteer advocacy group like the Northeast Biomass Thermal Working Group. A pause in D.C. is an opportunity to reflect and organize from the bottom up, because history teaches that this Washington stalemate will not last. When the openings arise, BTEC will again be at the table, ready to speak for all biomass thermal supporters, regardless of pronunciation, twang, or drawl. Author: Joseph Seymour Executive Director Biomass Thermal Energy Council



Update on a Mobile Indirect Biomass Liquefaction System BY JOHN P. HURLEY

Minnesota’s forestry operations produce 300,000 tons per year of wood waste that is not used in any existing or proposed facility. Through the process of indirect liquefaction, this waste can be converted into liquid fuels that could be transported to remote off-grid sites and reformed to hydrogen to power fuel cells producing electricity. Using distributed power generation at off-grid sites eliminates the need to build transmission lines at remote sites, which ultimately saves utility ratepayers money. In addition, the wood-to-fuel technology provides a nonfossil fuel, nearly carbon dioxide neutral method to fuel backup generators. Even in areas that are served by the grid, this saves utility ratepayers the cost of maintaining large backup power production systems. Ratepayers may also be able to take advantage of future carbon credits or avoid carbon taxes applied to fossil energy-based power production. The Energy & Environmental Research Center has developed and tested at small scales much of the technology necessary for distributed indirect liquefaction systems. With funding provided by customers of Xcel Energy through a grant from the Renewable Development Fund, and the U.S. Department of Energy through the EERC Centers for Renewable Energy and Biomass Utilization, the EERC designed and built a mobile, demonstration-sized indirect wood waste liquefaction system. The EERC then operated it in order to determine best construction and operating practices, overall system productivity, and necessary design changes to make the concept more commercially viable. The system was described in this column in the April 2011 issue. The system uses a unique gasifier to convert the wood waste into synthesis gas, which is cleaned and compressed and flows to a reactor that converts the gas to a


liquid. In this program, we focused on the production of methanol, the simplest alcohol, because it can be easily reformed into hydrogen, which can be used to power fuel cells to efficiently make electricity at sites separate from the biomass resource. The gasifier was designed by the EERC to handle wet wood waste with up to 40 percent moisture, thereby eliminating the need to dry the wood before gasification, as most commercial gasification units require. Two types of wood waste were tested in the system: chipped hybrid poplar and chipped ash. In both cases, the hydrogen content of the gas produced was lower than expected. The methanol production rate was approximately 15 gallons per ton of biomass for both wood types. This initial production rate was relatively low but did serve to validate computer models of the system performance. Using those models, engineers have evaluated several improvements to the system to increase the hydrogen content of the syngas, which should allow production rates as high as 50 gallons per ton with the existing design and as much as 100 gallons per ton with additional hardware. Demonstrating this technology and using it to validate our engineering models has been an important step toward making use of neglected biomass residues to ultimately provide renewable distributed power generation. But an essential question must be answered: at what cost? The economics of the production of methanol by this technology will be discussed in a future Energy Review column. Author: John P. Hurley Senior Research Advisor, EERC (701) 777-5159


Understanding Further Revised US EPA Boiler Standards BY GLENN UNTERBERGER AND MICHAEL DUFFY

Glenn Unterberger

Michael Duffy

The emission standards for industrial, commercial and institutional boilers are back on the front burner at the U.S. EPA. In May, the agency suspended the standards it had promulgated just two months before, over concerns that compliance might be too costly or even unachievable. Now the EPA has published proposed revisions to the hazardous air pollutant emission standards for certain boilers and incinerators, including biomass-fueled boilers. The EPA projects the proposed changes, published Dec. 23, will cut the cost of implementation nearly in half from the original proposed rule, while still meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Several new subcategories of units are proposed that may allow for more precisely tailored and, for some pollutants, less stringent emission limits for certain biomass units. The first is for boilers designed to combust kiln-dried wood, with new emission limits for particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO) proposed for this subcategory. Second, separate numeric emission limits are proposed for PM and CO for the hybrid suspension/grate boiler subcategory (previously not assigned separate limits as a combustion-based fuel subcategory). Third, dutch ovens and suspension burners are proposed as two separate categories, based on their inherently different design, with each having separate emission limits for PM and CO. The EPA requests comment on whether further subcategorization of biomass units is appropriate. The EPA also proposes revision of certain emission standards in light of new data. Most importantly, a review of test data EPA had relied upon for dioxin/furans for all subcategories led the agency to determine that the test emissions were too low to be measured accurately. It now proposes a work practice standard for dioxin/furan emissions, requiring an annual tune-up in lieu of numeric emission limits. Also under the most recent proposed revisions, the PM continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) requirement would be eliminated for biomass units. The EPA expressed doubts that this technology will have the ability to accommodate the unpredictable variety of biomass fuel constituents and moisture content, noting that it has not been sufficiently demonstrated in practice and relies on a single calibration point to measure emissions from a specific fuel type. The agency noted it would be impractical to replicate, during performance testing, all of the varying fuel conditions necessary for calibrating the monitor. Since PM CEMS cannot be applied with the accuracy necessary for compliance assess-

ment, the EPA proposes continuous monitoring of operating parameters to determine compliance, which will substantially reduce monitoring costs. The proposal also clarifies the accompanying Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rule, which sets guidelines for determining which materials are “solid waste,” and therefore subject to the more stringent emission limits of the Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration rule. EPA clarifies that certain biomass materials are considered traditional nonwaste fuel under the NHSM rule, and therefore not subject to the CISWI rule. Further, the proposal lists specific biomass materials to be included within the definition of “clean cellulosic biomass,” thus allowing them to be treated as traditional fuel. Additionally, the proposal lists several NHSMs as nonwaste when burned as a fuel in a combustion unit for which EPA has sufficient information to determine that discard is not occurring. This includes certain NHSMs which, though not meeting the criteria for “legitimate” fuel in all instances, would be considered a nonwaste fuel after balancing the legitimacy criteria with other relevant factors. Resinated wood, for example, would be deemed “not a solid waste material when used as a fuel regardless of whether it remained within the control of the generator.” The EPA promulgated the March regulations under a court-imposed deadline, and when the agency suspended the regulations to consider revisions, another suit was brought to vacate that “stay.” On Jan. 9, the D.C. District Court vacated the stay. Assuming the EPA holds to its announced schedule to promulgate final revisions by April, it is now uncertain whether existing sources will be required to comply with these new rules by 2014 according to the reinstated regulations, or by 2015 according to the proposed revisions. Further litigation may ensue, even as the EPA proceeds to finalize the revisions and implement the rules. How such litigation will affect the rules’ implementation remains to be seen. The EPA must receive public comments on the proposed revisions by Feb. 21. Authors: Glenn Unterberger Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP (215) 864-8210 Michael Duffy Associate, Ballard Spahr LLP (215) 864-8248



ReEnergy appoints White director of energy operations ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a Latham, N.Y.-based renewable energy company, has named James White as its director of energy operations. White, who has a degree in marine James White engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and an MBA in management from Bentley University, is responsible for ReEnergy’s health and safety program and operation of the company’s energy assets. He joined ReEnergy after five years in leadership roles with NextEra Energy Resources. White was plant manager for American Ref-Fuel Co. in Newark, N.J., for 10 years before joining NextEra.

NAES announces new members of turbine services division Independent services provider NAES has incorporated new management, sales, proposal and support personnel with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences into its Turbine Services Division. Russell James, Rob Broglio and Rick Stanford have joined the division as project services manager and business development managers, respectively, and Debi Patrick will be the new proposal manager. James brings nearly 30 years of field service experience in turbine overhaul and installation to the turbine field services management team. Broglio has more than 20 years of experience in new installations, as well as retrofit of power generation facilities, in both field and design engineering, in addition to business development and EPC project negotiations. Sanford’s 25 years of

experience in the oil, gas and power industries, with emphasis on rotating equipment and upstream markets, brings broad managerial experience to NAES rotating equipment and repair services. Patrick comes to NAES with 25 years of power industry experience with an emphasis on maintenance and construction projects. Potter promoted to engineering manager Aaron Potter has been promoted to engineering manager for Innovative Processing Solutions. Potter has more than 14 years of experience as a systems and design engineer for Aaron Potter Innovative Processing, as well as its affiliate, Stedman Machine Co.

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Potter has a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. His responsibilities include customer relations, project management, systems and component design, and estimating. ArborGen named Southeast Partnership for IBSS member ArborGen has been named as a core member of the recently formed Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems. Created through a $15 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to accelerate the supply of biobased renewable energy, the IBSS partnership will develop sustainable feedstock production systems for dedicated energy crops, specifically purpose grown trees and switchgrass. The Center for Renewable Carbon, a program of the University of Tennessee Institute of

Agriculture, will act as the lead institution for the IBSS, which will include several collaborating institutions throughout the Southeast. Maud Hinchee, ArborGen’s chief science officer, and Michael Cunningham, director of product development, will serve as ArborGen’s representatives to the Southeast IBBS partnership. ArborGen expertise will be critical in meeting the IBSS partnership goal of exploring the inherent performance and cost advantages of short-rotation woody crops such as eucalyptus, pine and poplar, matching the economic and environmental performance of each feedstock with a preferred conversion platform.

der the terms of the alliance, Vermeer will serve as the exclusive supplier of the feedstock grinder to be used in Pellet Technology’s patent-pending system to manufacture its PowerPellets product from stover, wood, energy crops and other agricultural residues. The Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder, complete with a patented Series II duplex drum, will be integrated with the Pellet Technology air-assisted feed system, allowing for higher moisture agricultural residue to be processed. The addition of the Vermeer horizontal grinder to the Pellet Technology USA design package provides a key component to the company’s turnkey biomass processing solution.

Pellet Technology, Vermeer Corp. form strategic alliance Pellet Technology USA has formed a strategic alliance with Vermeer Corp. Un-

SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Industry Briefs, Biomass Power & Thermal, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also e-mail information to Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.


Dutch Ports Prepare The Port of Amsterdam in the Netherlands already handles 1.5 million metric tons (1.65 million tons) of biomass every year, but that’s not stopping it from making major handling, storage and infrastructure upgrades. By 2020, the port’s managing director of the commercial department, Koen Overtoom, believes the volume handled will expand to 13.4 million metric tons per year. “The Port of BURGEONING BIOMASS: Infrastructure at the Port of Amsterdam will be upgraded to handle more biomass. Amsterdam is strong in energy,” Overtoom says. Most of the cargo The Port of Amsterdam also reports that a dry bulk cargo shipped through the port terminal operated by IGMA, a subsidiary of Cargill Inc., is neconsists of oil and coal, but based on several factors inside and gotiating with biomass manufacturers, making the most progress outside of the Dutch country, Overtoom thinks the port’s role in with a Georgia, U.S.,-based wood pellet supplier. IGMA plans to handling biomass will only get stronger. ship roughly 200,000 metric tons of biomass to Germany and the First, Overtoom points to the Dutch government’s 2011 Netherlands by the end of the year, and the terminal company will energy report, which includes proposals to make biomass use build 5,000 square meters of storage. mandatory in the country’s coal-fired energy plants. Second, the “International energy companies are taking advantage of the energy report calls for an increase in renewable energy from the 4 percent that has been used since 2010, to 14 percent by 2020. And favorable location and attractive business climate in the Netherthird, Overtoom recognizes the impact other European countries’ lands to install new electricity production capacity,” the Dutch government’s 2011 energy report states. In addition to the Port of energy strategies has on the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s activity regarding biomass import growth preparaBecause Germany plans to phase out nuclear power stations tion, it is also working with the Port of Duisburg to redevelop a by 2020, and the European Union has a greater focus on utilizing cleaner burning fuels, Overtoom says biomass imports at his facil- transshipment terminal for the storage and transfer of biomass for customers shipping from Amsterdam. ity will increase. By 2020, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia In the Port of Delfzijl in the northern region of the Nethand the U.K. will require 15 million metric tons of biomass per erlands, energy developer Eneco is forgoing port development year. altogether, choosing instead to construct a 50 MW woody biomass Hans Mattheyer, manager of the commercial department at power plant right at the port. the Bulk Terminal of Amsterdam, agrees with Overtoom. “These Overtoom says he is confident that his port will grow based developments will strongly increase Amsterdam’s potential to play on future developments linked to biomass, including the port’s an important role in biomass logistics,” he says. The bulk storage specialized handling abilities. Given the 600-plus students who terminal already has five storage facilities under the cranes that can store up to 110,000 metric tons, and if or when demand increases, complete logistics courses in the Port of Amsterdam area every year, Overtoom’s biomass perspective is strong. —Luke Geiver Mattheyer is prepared to expand using covered storage.



The Port of Amsterdam is just one of many Dutch ports planning for biomass handling


Flaring Potential FlexEnergy illustrates growth in global biomass energy capacity that may reach 83.1 GW by 2017

For Mike Levin, flaring methane is at best a huge waste, and at worst a lost opportunity. Levin, the director of government affairs for FlexEnergy, the recent startup turned major biogas technology provider, is helping lead FlexEnergy’s charge toward landfill gas-to-energy applications. If a recent Global Industry Analysis report detailing the potential for biomass and waste-to-energy is any indication, Levin and his team at FlexEnergy are heading in the right direction. According to the GIA report, global installed capacity of biomass and waste-to-energy plants was roughly 61.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2011, but by 2017, the global installed capacity will reach 83.1 GW. North America, according to the report, which used source feeds from market participants from solid waste management service providers to power generation companies, offers the largest market for biomass and waste-to-energy at 13.8 GW of installed capacity in 2011. FlexEnergy has already entered the waste-to-energy market in the U.S., and the Irvine, Calif.-based company provides a great example for other waste-to-energy companies that have expansion strategies. The team is using its FP250 turbine, a technology that combines electricity generation from a micro turbine with a thermal oxidizer, at a Santiago Canyon landfill site in California that has been closed since 1988. The site has been flaring methane for

more than 20 years, Levin says, because the percentage concentration of methane was too low to run an engine or a turbine. The FlexEnergy system not only cuts down pollutants to nearly zero, but also uses the heat in the oxidizer to power the turbine. While a typical turbine requires 30 to 40 percent methane, the FlexEnergy technology can create electricity using a much lower percentage. “If all goes as planned, we are actually going to shut the flare off,” Levin says of the work at Santiago Canyon. “We are going to take all of the methane that is there and put it into eight FP250 systems for 2 MW of electricity generation.” That is enough electricity to power 1500 homes. “Our hope is that we can do what we are doing, where we shut the flare off, throughout California and eventually throughout the country,” he adds. Those hopes might not be hard to fulfill. The FlexEnergy team has former U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on the board of directors, and a New Hampshire manufacturing facility that is already planning an expansion. The GIA report acts as a back-up reminder that there is an opportunity for several FlexEnergy types to shut off the flare. —Luke Geiver

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A Perfect Plan Denmark plans for 100 percent renewable energy use by 2050.

The Danish Government has launched an ambitious renewable energy strategy that will convert its energy and transport system by 2050. Ambitious, in In order to secure 100 percent renewable energy in 2050, the government has several energy policy milestones in the years 2020, 2030 and 2035. this case, means 100 percent. For the coming decade, the strategy contains a range of concrete initiatives projected to lead to 36 percent renewable energy use by 2020, according to Ture Falbe-Hansen, head of media relations for the Danish Energy Agency. Milestone dates have been set for the years 2020, 2030 and 2035. By 2050, Denmark will be The initiatives up to 2020 will result in a greenhouse gas reduction by 35 percent in relation to 1990. mostly fossil fuel free. The 2011 energy reSWIFT SHIFT: Denmark plans to phase out fossil fuels completely. port noted that the exact optimum energy SOURCE: DANISH ENERGY AGENCY system for 2050 is uncertain, as there are far too many unknowns. What does this plan mean for biopercent from the amount used today. mass? According to Falbe-Hansen, coal covers about 40 percent of Although the energy plan for Denmark sounds great for the Danish electricity production and nearly 20 percent of district heat- country, the possibilities don’t end there. For the next six months, ing production. Coal consumption will be reduced by 65 percent Denmark will take on the presidency role for the European Union. by 2020, he says. “The proposals will replace coal with biomass and For Denmark, that means pushing for a Danish energy road map initiatives to promote wind power.” that will fulfill the long-term vision of a low-carbon and resourceThe Danish energy plan will stop any new buildings from using efficient energy system by 2050. The goal of the roadmap, Falbeoil or gas-fired installations by 2013, with some exceptions, and also Hansen says, is to illustrate the need for a common policy to stop installation of oil-fired boilers in existing buildings by 2015. It develop European energy infrastructure and a sustainable energy will also provide funding for partnerships on strategic energy planplatform. ning in municipalities for better use of resources like biomass. “It is the responsibility of the presidency to move the work of the The plan to use more renewable energy is forecast to cover 23 council forward and create results,” he says. —Luke Geiver percent of gross energy consumption by 2020, an increase of 33

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Biomass in the Garden State New Jersey’s new energy plan raises the biomass bar

In order to map out New Jersey’s strategic vision for the use, management and development of energy in the state over the next decade, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration spearheaded the crafting of an Energy Master Plan, released in early December. In conjunction with development of the energy plan, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities established four working groups comprised of subject matter experts to provide the BPU with specific recommendations on various topics, including biomass. Biomass Work Group Co-Chair Gail Richardson, who is Vision Energy vice president for programs, says the group represents virtually all of the sectors in the state closely connected to the biomass arena—solid waste, management, wastewater treatment sectors and agriculture, as well as public utilities, engineering firms and others. “So we feel that in tackling the important questions that the Board of Public Utilities posed to us, we have had a very good high-level input,” she says. The mission of the BWG was to determine what New Jersey can do to incentivize bioenergy development, and report its recommendations for integration into the Energy Master Plan. The major recommendation the group made—which was adapted in the plan—was that the state take action under a new initiative to facilitate the rapid construction and operation of renewable biomass facilities to produce electricity and vehicle fuels. That recommendation stems from the fact that biomass energy potential in New Jersey is substantial. According to an assessment ordered by the BPU, New Jersey produces an estimated 8.2 million dry tons of biomass annually, approximately 65 percent of which could be available for energy production. The plan points

Levelized Cost of Generation by Technology ($/MWh) Hydro Biomass Offshore Wind Onshore Wind Solar PV Advanced Nuclear Conventional Coal Combined Cycle

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out that agricultural and forest residues, along with municipal and industrial waste, are underutilized resources that could be used to fuel power plants. The amount of biomass in the state could deliver up to 1,299 MW of power, approximately 9 percent of its electricity demand, according to the plan. Findings in the plan will be used to facilitate the development of energy from biomass, including the assessment of current state incentives and implementation of new ones. The plan notes, however, that practicality and cost effectiveness should be investigated and confirmed before any substantial new incentives are implemented. That includes the development of an objective and systematic process of sustainability determinations that will facilitate environmental permitting. —Anna Austin



RECAST REDESIGN: An old coal-fired energy plant in Kentucky is being upgraded to burn biomass. PHOTO: RECAST ENERGY



Revitalizing Rubbertown A biomass conversion in Louisville, Ky., will revamp a closed coal boiler house, saving and creating more than 350 jobs. BY ANNA AUSTIN



Do or Die Specialty elastomer manufacturer Zeon Chemicals has occupied the complex since 1989, and was joined by Lubrizol Corp., maker of latex and CPCV (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) resins, in 2004. They and two other companies remained in the complex in 2009, each owning a portion served by a single-utility boiler house operated by one of the companies. In February of that year, Zeon and Lubrizol were notified that the chemical company that owned and operated the boiler and sold utilities to the other tenants was shutting down its operations there.




rom fuel binders for space shuttle rocket boosters to brake pads and deck paint, products manufactured at the chemical complex in Louisville, Ky., are used in a wide variety of applications. Aptly dubbed “Rubbertown,” the area exploded with activity during World War II, when the U.S. Office of War Production contracted several companies in the complex for the production of synthetic rubber used to make tires for ongoing war efforts. Since then, ownership of the facility has changed hands several times, and it has continued to house a multitude of different chemical companies. The area isn’t known for having an impeccable environmental footprint, but is switching gears, as a new biomass energy system will replace the complex’s coal-fired boiler house. Not only will it help lower emissions, but it has come to the rescue of the complex’s remaining tenants, ensuring their continued operations while preserving the jobs of hundreds of employees. A multi-faceted partnership involving Kentucky state officials, Recast Energy Corp., Zeon Chemicals, and Lubrizol Corp. has made this developing project possible. Recast has impressed its partners with its ability to tip-toe around the existing companies, allowing them to continue operating while the conversion moves full-steam ahead.

COMPLEX COMMUNITY: The new biomass boiler will provide utility services to manufacturers in a Louisville, Ky., chemical complex.

“They had no interest in continuing to operate the boiler,” says Zeon Chemicals President and CEO Tom Gettelfinger. “So we were just kind of left high and dry. When they gave us notice, they basically said that within a year, we would have to figure out what we would do to get the steam we need to run our process.” That couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the company, according to Gettelfinger. “We were in the midst of a severe recession that hit our business hard, so it was difficult to justify keeping our plant open by investing millions to set up a new boiler,” he says. “And it isn’t as if we would have been investing in process equipment that would generate more product.” Taking over the boiler house wasn’t a fit for the remaining chemical companies either, so Zeon knew it would have to look elsewhere



NEW VIEW: Portions of Recast Energy's plant need complete reconstruction for biomass conversion.

for help. In the same boat, Lubrizol joined the effort to find an alternative solution. “We had discussions with Recast a few years ago about supplying steam to our Mississippi plant, and so we knew they were already in the business,” Gettelfinger explains. “Since we wanted to focus on our particular product lines and not utility product, it was a good fit.”

Recast Energy currently operates cogeneration facilities in the Dominican Republic and Mississippi, and has several projects under development in other U.S. and Caribbean locations. The company began conducting feasibility studies for the conversion over the following year, and with the help of local and state officials, the companies involved were able to sign a deal in July 2010, according to


¦CONVERSION Recast Energy Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Brandon Ogilvie. Since then, the project has been on a smooth and steady path to success.

Out With the Old Sam Striegel, plant manager of Lubrizol’s Louisville location, explains that the boiler house purchased by Recast contained a coal-fired boiler that would be converted to biomass, as well as a natural gas boiler for back-up. That boiler is currently being operated, and an additional natural gas boiler has

been rented as back-up. “As a result, we’ve been able to operate without any significant issues,” he says. While it may have been easier to keep the natural gas-fired boiler, he says biomass was more appealing for a few reasons, one being its carbon emission reductions, and the other its more predictable price. “Coal and natural gas can be quite volatile, which creates significant swings in our energy costs,” Striegel says. “With biomass, while we will see steady increases in pricing, we expect the price of the fuel to be much more stable and

predictable in the long run and at a lower cost than fossil fuels.” Ogilvie emphasizes the complicated but beneficial nature of performing the retrofit around a live boiler house. “It’s not as though we were able to take two acres off the side, build the project, tie it in and turn it on,” he says. “We’re conducting it while the plant is live, while the water and steam pipes are hot.” While some equipment will be upgraded, other equipment has to be gutted and replaced completely. “Coal and wood are both solid fuels, but there are significant differences in materials handling aspects and the combustion aspects,” Ogilvie says. “Coal is much more energy dense than wood; one pound of coal contains a lot more energy than one pound of wood. You have to put about three times the amount of wood through the system to generate the same amount of energy.” Existing conveyor belts and fuel handling systems for coal are grossly undersized for wood, he adds. “We basically ripped out the entire fuel handling system.” As the whole unit itself is being converted to burn biomass, major changes are primarily being made to the combustion system, modifications that will allow it to sustain a burn of 100 percent wood. “To burn coal, you need far less air than wood,” Ogilvie explains. “Wood has a lot more moisture in it, and therefore needs a lot more air to help drive it off.” In addition, the ash handling system was replaced and two of the four original boilers were torn out, resulting in about one-third of the facility being demolished or moved out of the way to make room for new equipment. While these mechanical changes are a significant part of the conversion, there are a few other important components, one being securing new fuel sources.

More Project Pieces The project is a different order of magnitude than a 50 MW power plant requiring 350,000 tons of fuel each year, Ogilvie


CONVERSION¦ points out, and even though it will only require around 75,000 tons per year of woody biomass, that feedstock is an important piece of the puzzle. “We’ve been working with local companies that have existing chipping and processing equipment, and companies that are hired to remove tree branches from power lines or to clean up storm debris,” he says. “There’s also some logging activity in the area that can provide tree tops, branches and other residuals, as well as some area sawmills. It will be predominantly residues.” While most companies don’t have the cash to pay for conversions like this one, under Recast’s business model, the company pays for the project and owns it, selling the energy back to the companies under a long-term contract. The revenue generated from energy sales justifies the investment. Additionally, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has preliminarily approved Lubrizol and Zeon for tax incentives up to $1.75 million each through the Kentucky Reinvestment Act, a program designed to assist companies that need to make significant capital investment in Kentucky facilities in order to remain competitive and retain existing workforces. Unfortunately, the project won’t qualify for any state renewable energy programs. “It’ll just be producing steam and not electric power, and incentives tend to focus on electricity,” Ogilvie points out. While the plant isn’t generating electric power, it will provide all of the steam needed for the companies’ chemical manufacturing processes, heat the buildings during the cooler months, purify water, and provide other ancillary utility services. Recast is anticipating a commercial startup this month. Finally, and perhaps most important, in a state that has a 9.4 percent unemployment rate, the project is preserving and creating more than 350 jobs, including Recast’s personnel on site and several dozen in the supply chain, aggregating and collecting the biomass. “We have the manufacturing facility here, but we also have our corpo-

rate headquarters, sales and marketing and research and development groups here,” Gettelfinger says. “It’s our biggest manufacturing location, and if we would have made the decision to shut the plant down, the direct jobs and all of the supported jobs would have been at risk. [The conversion] has assured us that we’re going to be here, and we’re happy campers again in this facility.” Ogilvie points out that biomass conversions such as this one may be a solution for operations considering pathways to com-

ply with the U.S. EPA’s Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules. “One option may be to switch to natural gas, but they might not have access to that,” he adds. “A solution like this, where we can come in and retrofit a coal or oil unit to biomass, is one of the possible solutions for those facing that issue.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 751-2756

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PIONEERING ON PEI: Prince Edward Island's district heating plant is Canada's first MSW- and woody biomass-fueled energy facility. PHOTO: PEI ENERGY SYSTEMS



Combined Calefaction

A Canadian community merged three biomass plants into one big success story for district heat. BY LUKE GEIVER


aul Eastman oversees all of Veresen Inc.’s power facilities in Eastern Canada, including the first-ever municipal solid waste (MSW) and woody biomass-fueled system in the country. Prince Edward Island’s (PEI) biomass district heating plant provides heat for more than 125 buildings in the capital city of Charlottetown, and 1.4 MW of power for internal use, as well as sale to the grid. The operation is a great example of why district heating systems fueled by biomass make sense. Eastman says Veresen acquired the PEI facility in 2007 because it made sense to buy a company with a wide moat around it, literally. PEI also has no threat of alternatives cutting away at its profits, he explains. The facility, which uses a small portion of heating oil, features long-term contracts that generate a steady cash flow, and uses readily available biomass feedstock to solve a somewhat complicated energy problem. “There certainly isn’t the ability to power anything with natural gas there,” Eastman says. But even for Eastman, the story of the facility isn’t about a company’s successful realization that Prince Edward Island really did appear to have that large mote around it—in the form of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait, both part of the Atlantic Ocean. For Eastman, and those before him involved in linking three separate biomass-based systems together to form the present day facility, it is about so much more.

Three Become One Dave Godkin worked in Charlottetown at the University of Prince Edward Island back in the 1980s, when high oil prices and potential landfill issues were on the horizon for the province. Godkin, now the general manager for plant operator PEI Energy Systems, was instrumental in making the current district heating system what it is today. “I started on the ground floor as they were building it up,” he says of his time spent as an energy consultant and maintenance manager at one of the original biomass sites on the University’s campus. FEBRUARY 2012 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 25



online in 1983 to provide power to a major hospital was the first facility on the island to use MSW for power, and then in 1986, a woody biomass-based district heating system was introduced to the downtown area to serve the Provincial offices and a number of other customers. By 1995, the island had added another biomass heating facility on the campus of the University of Prince Edward Island to serve not only the campus, but other surrounding buildings, as well. “In the mid-’90s, the province decided it didn’t want to be in the district energy business anymore and went out for expressions of interest for someone to purchase the district heating system,” Godkin says, adding that, perhaps more important, the WOOD CHIP WHEREWITHAL: Large bins hold the wood chips that will help fuel Prince Edward Island's district heating plant. province was looking for someone to commercialize the system. As part of the purchase agreeGodkin helped the Province meet its goal of utilizing more bio- ment, the province stipulated that any potential buyer would have to furmass created from a then-stable forestry industry, as well as circumvent- ther develop the MSW plant, upgrading the site to allow a merger of all ing some of the concerns related to MSW. The MSW plant that came three district heating systems into one large system, Godkin said. Robert

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Doyle, now a principle with FVB Energy Inc., a district heating developer that specializes in biomass utilization, had helped design one of the three biomass facilities. Doyle was certain the idea of upgrading the MSW facility with new biomass boilers on the same location was a great idea. In 1997, a company called Trigen purchased the three district heating systems and funded the upgrades, which, according to Godkin, happened in a fairly quick timeframe— one year—and included installation of six kilometers (3.7 miles) of underground pipe to connect the systems, new heat recovery equipment, and new air pollution control equipment. Since the upgrades, little has changed at the facility. “One thing that has CO-COMBUSTION: PEI Energy Systems combusts both wood chips and MSW. changed a little bit for us is the type of fuel used,” Godkin says. When the main MSW and woody biomass facility first came online in 1997, the biomass feedstock was from sawmill residue to forest chips from land clearing or residue left sawmill residue, but after an operational downturn at the sawmill, the over from cutting,” he says. “That is basically where we sit today. That plant needed another feedstock stream, Godkin says. “We moved away is one of the bonuses of district energy and large biomass facilities: you









can switch fuels fairly quickly without a whole lot of trouble.”

The Real Story There was no question of whether Veresen’s purchase of PEI Energy Systems' district heating plant and infrastructure was a promising endeavor. “It looked profitable, it looked like it would continue to be that way and it looked like there was potential to grow over time,” Eastman says. “I think that is still true.” But, he adds, the concept of district energy is odd and difficult to understand. Doyle agrees with Eastman’s sentiment, adding that the biomass component of district energy needs to be outlined separately, because of its significant advantages. Doyle and Godkin agree that the benefits of biomass in a district heating system can outweigh the challenges created by linking businesses to residential buildings, and private sector energy budgets to public. They also agree that the PEI story proves that. Doyle’s research into other systems also makes it difficult to argue with such claims. His team has completed a project to turn sawmill

waste into heat for a downtown area of a British Columbia, Canada, city, and is currently working on other projects in British Columbia: one that will use sawmill waste to generate hot water for a central heating system at Prince George; and a wood waste-fired campus and residential heating system, both set to come on line this year. In Alberta, Canada, Doyle is developing a biomass pellet boiler for a water heating system, and is in the process of designing a biomass boiler in the Northwest Territories that could be operational in the summer of next year. “There is a lot of interest (in biomass-based heating applications),” Doyle says. “I think district heating applications are good for biomass.” Although Doyle’s opinion might seem biased, he cites several compelling reasons biomass makes sense for district heating efforts, and why stories like PEI’s should unfold everywhere. “One of the challenges for biomass has always been that it’s not as easy as turning on a natural gas boiler,” he says. “It is not as easy as going over to flick a switch.” But, because biomass systems are more complex, combining



WASTE WATTS: MSW is piled for combustion at Prince Edward Island's district energy plant.

a woody biomass system with an MSW system, as PEI and Godkin did, makes sense based on the requirements needed to operate an MSW facility, Doyle explains.

DISTRICT HEAT¦ “MSW is even more complicated in terms of the combustion process, and a skilled operator who can handle MSW will also be adept at handling woody biomass,” Doyle says. “You have very knowledgeable operators (at an MSW facility), skilled people who on a daily basis are dealing with fuel quality issues, moisture issues, fuel feed issues, all of the things that make running a biomass or MSW system more difficult.” But if a district heating system isn’t already using MSW for fuel, woody biomass still makes sense, even though running a district energy system presents challenges. Those challenges, however, are related to capital, infrastructure and customers. “It’s not a technical challenge,” Doyle says. The right combination of customers and capital is required to get a project started, he adds, noting that biomass feedstock and conversion technology are rarely issues. Thankfully, the PEI Energy system benefited from government support, Godkin adds. Doyle’s reasoning for using biomass in a district heating system is also about the profile of the user. While some heating systems operating in pulp mills run at 60 to 90 percent

capacity all day every day for 365 days a year, most, like Charlottetown’s, aren’t placed in the same operational conditions. Those systems in a mill don’t have to cycle through huge swings during the day, Doyle explains, putting his point in perspective. “In your house, you get up in the morning and turn the heat up; you go away for the day and you turn the heat down. So your load profile switched dramatically during the day for heating.” Sound like a problem for commercial and residential buildings that might be considering a biomass-based heating system? Doyle would say no. Although a biomass boiler doesn’t like huge load changes, the biomass-based district heating system benefits from the fact that typically there are enough customers and enough load base to justify full-time operators for at least 12 hours per day. Larger systems also make more sense, he says, as they allow larger stacks with filter systems, all of which help to justify the capital for a larger system. Add in the sustainability of biomass and the ability to create jobs, or in most places like Charlottetown that at one time relied on the forestry industry, save jobs, and Doyle says

biomass-based district energy project development will only increase. To take part in that development, Godkin has his own advice: “You’ve got to be committed to it. You have to take a long-term view of your energy supply. I think that is one thing they were doing in PEI.” Although Eastman and his team at Veresen believe they won’t necessarily seek out projects involving biomass in the future, Eastman’s plans for the Charlottetown facility show that his role in the story of Prince Edward Island isn’t simply about his success in finding that moat. “I think there is a huge opportunity to expand that facility,” he says, based on the possibility to utilize a higher percentage of MSW. “And there should be the economics to support expansion to the point where we could displace all of the oil that we burn at the facility.” Author: Luke Geiver Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4944





A study by a group of forest scientists confirms forest-derived bioenergy results in no net carbon release BY ANNA AUSTIN


oes the utilization of wood for energy release as much pollution as energy from coal? Does it release more? Is it depleting our nation’s forests and destroying natural habitats? These questions are hotly debated by scientists, foresters, bioenergy industry members and even the general public. While it’s likely the real answers lie somewhere buried beneath a discombobulating mountain of studies, reports and whitepapers—many of which have been conducted with a very specific purpose or outcome in mind—it’s left policymakers and landowners unsure about what’s fact and what’s fiction. A recently released study authored by nine scientists from multiple organizations and universities, including the U.S. Forest Service, may be poised to clear up some confusion. With no motive other than to scrutinize, hash out and compare the best and most recent science surrounding forests, climate change and bioenergy from a forest management perspective, the group is confident in its findings and hopes they will be accepted as the unvarnished truth.

Carbon: Biogenic vs. Geologic The study “Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy” is an update to a previously released report initiated by the Society of American Foresters, and was put together by a task force of

people who had all been involved in forest and carbon accounting aspects. It took about 10 months to complete, according to lead author Robert Malmsheimer, professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Overall, the study has one major finding with a few main supporting conclusions. So what’s the bottom line? “As long as you manage forests sustainably, you can produce bioenergy and help address some of the issues surrounding climate change,” Malmsheimer says, segueing into the first supporting conclusion. “We can provide carbon benefits through both storage in forests and through substitution benefits, while providing all of the other benefits that forests normally provide society.” The fact that it’s not necessarily either/ or is an important point, he emphasizes. “We can still have the wildlife benefits, the recreation benefits and all the things people use forests for, all while still managing them for carbon.” But that doesn’t mean every forest should be managed for carbon. “It’s really the landowner’s decision, but we wanted to be able to provide them with the correct scientific background so if they decide they’re potentially interested in managing for carbon, they have that science available to help them decide,” Malmsheimer says. The second main supporting conclusion of the study is that energy produced




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from forest biomass returns to the atmosphere carbon that plants absorbed in the relatively recent past, and therefore it essentially results in no net release of carbon. “An important thing to think about here is that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been relatively stable for hundreds of thousands of years,” Malmsheimer explains. “The issue we have in regard to climate change is that what we’re doing is taking carbon that’s been sequestered in the earth—from the start of the industrial revolution up until now—and we’ve been emitting it into the atmosphere at such a rate that the atmosphere can’t assimilate it.” Simply put, burning coal takes geologic carbon—carbon stored in the earth—and adds it into the atmospheric cycle. When a tree sequesters carbon through photosynthesis, it’s absorbing carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. “So when you are creating energy [with wood] you’re using that atmospheric carbon and simply putting it back into the atmosphere; you’re recirculating it. When you’re producing energy from coal, you’re taking stored geological carbon and adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.” It seems like a simple concept, but people have a hard time grasping it, Malmsheimer says. “When explained in this way, I think it makes a lot more sense to people.” All of these ideas are only relevant, however, if forest inventories are stable or increasing. Is that really the case in the U.S.?

Sustainable Forestry “It is the case, and has been for the last 70 years,” Malmsheimer says. “However, there are parts of the U.S. where it hasn’t been the case for all of those years, so it depends upon the spatial scale you’re looking at.” When asked whether U.S. forests are being sustainably managed, study co-author Jim Bowyer of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering says yes and no. “Yes because the forest area in what is now the U.S. is within one percent of what it was 100 years ago,” he explains. “Net growth nationwide has exceeded removals for over 70 years continuously, and as a result, standing timber volume has increased steadily over that period as well.”


At the same time, there are areas where forest inventories aren’t necessarily stable or increasing, but it really isn’t because too many trees are being removed for energy. “Many forested areas, including much of the federally designated national forest lands, are not being managed at all,” Bowyer says. “Some of these areas currently support numbers of trees and overall biomass volumes that are well-above historic levels, a situation that is increasing the risk of serious insect infestation and disease incidence, and fueling rising incidence of catastrophic fire events.” He adds that there are, however, instances of increasing fragmentation of forest lands due to expansion of urban areas and home development in forested areas. That trend could potentially threaten stability of forest-dwelling wildlife species, opportunities for management, and sustainable timber production. Moving away from forest management, another point in the study is that there are some real benefits to using wood in place of other materials. “The study is really designed to try to specify what those benefits are,” Malmsheimer says. “One is that forest products require less fossil-based energy to be produced, and also, when you produce anything out of wood you’re storing carbon for some length of time; sequestering it in whatever it is.” The authors of the study do recognize that a large percentage of the future U.S. energy portfolio will come from a variety of sources, including wind and solar, but none of them sequester carbon, Malmsheimer points out. “And, a lot of technologies still need a lot of work to be adapted on a widespread basis.” When asked about how this study’s findings compare with the infamous Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences study, which crafted a debt-then-dividend model for forest bioenergy carbon emissions, Malmsheimer says the Manomet study had a very specific purpose and a very specific question, which was answered. “The problem with that study is that the question was wrong: what is the carbon accounting on a single plot of land? We don’t manage just one plot; we manage hundreds of thousands of stands. Granted, some stands are just getting

EMISSIONS¦ to a point of carbon deficit, and some are further away, but you have to look at multiple stands over long periods of time. It’s impossible for [wood energy] to be worse than coal, because you have to go back to the very basic idea that with coal you’re taking geologic carbon and putting it into the atmosphere.” Though the team had the study in mind, Malmsheimer says it was not intended to be anti-Manomet. “We believe we provide information in our report that addresses it directly, but we were much more interested in a broader look at forests and carbon accounting and wood products. There are a lot of people who have done those kinds of analyses and we didn’t think it would be helpful to have one more.” Instead, the study is intended to serve as a guide for not only landowners, but policymakers as well.

Pushing for Sound Policy From Bowyer’s perspective, policy shouldn’t be influenced by anything other than science. “In all environmental decision making, we need to move as rapidly as possible away from decisions based on intuition, emotion, and politics to decisions based on scientific, systematic and comprehensive assessment of the likely environmental impacts of possible alternatives,” he says. “One key is far greater use of life-cycle assessments (LCA) in environmental decision making.” There is one caveat, Bowyer says. Assessments must follow international protocols for the conduct of life-cycle inventory and assessment, as spelled out in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14000 series. “Several recent studies of biogenic carbon emissions that have supposedly been based on LCA have completely ignored established protocols, with the result that their findings are completely meaningless. Nonetheless, they have still been dutifully reported in the media.” Malmsheimer says the group is working on publicizing its study, and perhaps most important, getting it into the hands of policymakers. Because studies such as this one generally have a technical nature and are oftentimes difficult for congress members to fully comprehend, Bowyer has authored a nontechnical, 15-page version through Dovetail Inc., an authoritative information company focused on the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives. “Realizing that most decision makers at all levels of government are, in fact, not scientists, we prepared the Dovetail summary with the goal of bringing a summary of recent science on forests and carbon balances to those people so as to provide a basis for reasoned and informed debate,” Bowyer says. As to whether he thinks the study will influence policymakers, Malmsheimer says the team hopes so. It has sent a copy of the study to state landowner organizations and is working on a two-page summary for Capitol Hill. “We’ve learned it’s not ‘if you build it, they will come,’” he adds. “You have to build it, and then bring it to them.” Author:Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 751-2756

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February 2012 Biomass Power & Thermal  
February 2012 Biomass Power & Thermal  

February 2012 Biomass Power & Thermal