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February 2013

Deadline: February 25, 2013

Pellet Mill Magazine’s 2013 Pellet Producer Map

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Pellet Mill Magazine’s Pellet Producer Map is the only comprehensive and up-to-date producer map created today. This map identifies and documents current pellet producers in the U.S. and Canada. Listings include name of facility, city, state, feedstock and capacity. Pellet Producer Map is distributed to: z Mailed

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INSIDE ¦ ADVERTISER INDEX¦ FEBRUARY 2013 | VOLUME 7 | ISSUE 2 2013 Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo


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2013 Pellet Producer Map Airoflex Equipment

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16 ADVANCED BIOFUELS The Harvesting Life Advanced biofuel facilities have created a new job force tasked with feedstock acquisition and transport. By Luke Geiver

The Greatest Biomass Story Seldom Told By Tim Portz


22 PELLLETS Enabling Efficient Exports Innovative wood pellet storage, receiving and handling methods are making North American export possible. By Anna Simet

Final Moments of 2012 Bring Major Biomass Policy Shifts By Bob Cleaves

08 THERMAL DYNAMICS Passing the Biomass Thermal Torch By Charlie Neibling

CONTRIBUTION 28 SUPPLY Engineering a Better Biomass Supply Chain How engineers work behind the scenes to improve all aspects of the biomass industry. By James H. Dooley

09 ALGAE APTITUDE Algae Tax Credit Will Spur Other Products By Mary Rosenthal

10 ENERGY REVIEW Biomass and Biopower: What’s the Outlook? By Chris J. Zygarlicke

11 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE Final EPA Air Rules Provide Greater Clarity for Biomass By Robert B. McKinstry & Michael C. Duffy


Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) February 2013, Vol. 7, Issue 2. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/ Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.



The Greatest Biomass Story Seldom Told It comes as no surprise that our industry is drawn to the stories of groundbreakings, construction updates, plant commissionings and the first gallons or tons of energy products produced. They serve as the landmarks by which we measure our progress, growth and momentum. Running parallel to these story lines, however, are the equally important, less-acknowledged stories of how massive quantities of feedstocks find their way out of our fields and forests into the receiving bays of the celebrated TIM PORTZ conversion facilities. It’s stories like these that are featured VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT & in this month’s issue of Biomass Magazine. EXECUTIVE EDITOR Through these narratives, it becomes clear that without continued innovation in the harvest, handling and storage of biomass feedstocks, this industry will fall short of its incredible potential. Fortunately, the talented professionals working to imagine, build, test and refine biomass handling products and systems virtually guarantee that the growth of this industry will not be bottlenecked by a lack of efficient and cost-effective solutions. We look at biomass handling challenges and the strategies being deployed to handle, move and store everything from tiny pellets to massive bales. Beginning at the mid-Atlantic coast, in her feature, “Enabling Efficient Exports,”Anna Simet investigates how port terminals are outfitting themselves to handle the demand for bulk pellet storage and conveyance to European-bound cargo ships. Luke Geiver’s feature, “The Harvesting Life,” serves as a snapshot of the localized economic activity in biomass harvesting once an advanced biofuels facility is fully capitalized and construction begins. As remarkable a story as Poet’s Project Liberty is, Geiver’s feature makes a strong argument that the innovation and entrepreneurialism surrounding the collection of the required feedstocks is every bit as impressive as the subsequent conversion process. After putting together this month’s issue, it becomes obvious that our industry’s eventual energy market share and growth hinges not only on conversion breakthroughs, but also the continuance of biomass handling and storage innovations similar to the pellet domes, ship loaders, stover balers and custom harvesting businesses featured this month.


ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie


Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for any country outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 701-746-8385 or Advertising Biomass Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biomass Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 701-746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Contributions Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.



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INDUSTRY EVENTS¦ Municipal Solid Waste to Biofuels & Bio-Products Summit February 20-21, 2013 Omni Orlando Resort Orlando, Florida Build Strategic Partnerships in Feedstock and Finance to Commercialize Your Waste to Biofuels Business. Discussion on: 1. Commercialization: The Race for Scale 2. Project Economics 3. Finance & Strategic Investment: 4. Project Development and Operations 5. How to work with State and National Bodies for Progress. +44 207 375 7196 |

International Biomass Conference & Expo April 8-10, 2013 Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Building on Innovation Organized by BBI International and coproduced by Biomass Magazine, the International Biomass Conference & Expo program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to pyrolysis and combined heat and power. This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. 866-746-8385 |

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 10-13, 2013 America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri Where Producers Meet Now in its 29th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cuttingedge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic businessto-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest running ethanol conference in the world—and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. Visit our website to reserve premium booth space now. 866-746-8385 |

Algae Biomass Summit September 30- October 3, 2013 Hilton Orlando Orlando, Florida This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s algae utilization industries including, but not limited to, financing, algal ecology, genetic systems, carbon partitioning, engineering & analysis, biofuels, animal feeds, fertilizers, bioplastics, supplements and foods. 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 |



Final Moments of 2012 Bring Major Biomass Policy Shifts BY BOB CLEAVES

As we kick off 2013, we’re looking at how policy shaped in the last months and days of 2012 will affect the biomass industry. A momentous decision by the U.S. EPA, as well as delivery of the highly-anticipated fiscal cliff deal, will have major impacts on biomass in the new year. What will likely have the biggest influence on biomass was one of the final decisions made by the EPA in 2012, a ruling on Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials, which was a huge win for our industry. The ruling clarifies what we have known all along: organic material such as agricultural debris, pallets and other clean wood-based fuels serve as important resources for making renewable electricity. The EPA’s announcement that it does not likely view such materials as wastes is historic. In the rule released Dec. 21, EPA signaled its intent to treat these materials as fuels and not wastes through a subsequent rulemaking. The federal government is now joining California and other states that have long considered these materials as important fuels, and encourages their use in biomass plants to avoid landfilling, open burning or other non-sustainable practices. Of course, the policy discussion that received the most attention at the end of 2012 was the fiscal cliff agreement (and the drama leading up to it). Despite the weeks-long will-they-or-won’t-they media coverage, Congress and the administration finally did make an agreement at the last possible minute, and their deal will be beneficial for biomass and other sources of renewable energy. Thanks to the extenders language in the fiscal bill, facilities can qualify for production tax credits (PTC) and the investment tax credit based on the date that construction begins on a facility, thereby officially extending qualifications to anyone building a biomass

facility this year. Before this legislation, new facilities would have had to be up and running by Dec. 31 of this year in order to qualify for the credits, a virtual impossibility even if construction began today. The legislation did not, however, address the industry’s need for an extension of the program expiration date, which is currently Dec. 31, nor the fact that biomass—along with hydro and energy from waste— receive half the credit of wind resources. Congressional supporters of biomass have signaled their intention to address both of these issues in the 113th Congress. Another provision in the fiscal deal was not so favorable to biomass. While the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a version of the Farm Bill last summer that included $80 million of mandatory funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the passed legislation includes only $20 million of nonmandatory funding for the program. While BCAP has not been funded for some time, in the past the program has been a valuable source of funding for several facilities that collect forest waste. Particularly in dry, heavily forested areas, BCAP can provide fuel for biomass facilities while keeping forests healthy and preventing fire risk. Entering 2013, we have a mixed bag of legislative and regulatory changes to adapt to. I hope that everyone who qualifies takes advantage of the new PTC rules. I will continue to advocate for biomass with legislators, regulators and the administration, and Happy New Year to all in the biomass industry. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association



Passing on the Biomass Thermal Torch BY CHARLIE NIEBLING This January, I stepped down as board chair of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, a position I had held since the organization was founded in 2009. Doing so, I’ve been reflecting on how far our industry has come in this short time. Making heat with biomass has been around for millennia; it’s nothing new. In fact, it’s so commonplace that we’ve often been overlooked in America’s renewable energy portfolio, despite the fact that heat from biomass represents the single most widely adopted renewable energy in the U.S. and the world. It’s only been in recent years that we have begun to be taken seriously, and the potential of this resource and technology to meet American energy independence and renewable energy goals fully appreciated. We still have a long way to go to gain the validation of our colleagues in the solar, wind, liquid biofuels and biomass electric sectors, however, but BTEC can take pride in the fact that advanced clean combustion of biomass fuels for heat is now widely understood to be a vital component of our nation’s long-term energy strategy. We’ve managed to achieve some very important accomplishments on a shoestring budget (at least by Washington trade association standards). My list of BTEC’s top achievements since its founding in 2009 include that it: • Grew from eight members to 110, with representation from all sectors. • Secured White House Committee on Environmental Quality recognition of biomass heating in federal accounting for greenhouse gas emissions. • Played a major role influencing U.S. EPA’s final adoption of a Boiler MACT rule with achievable emissions limits and wider use of work practice standards for commercial and industrial biomass boilers. • Led industry recruitment of members for the Congressional Biomass Caucus, and have leveraged the group to hold numerous biomass thermal briefings. • Introduced six separate bills over four years creating incentives for biomass thermal in the efficiency and investment tax credit sections of the federal code, including our two-tiered investment tax credit for commercial and industrial biomass heating, which will be reintroduced in the 113th Congress. • Led organizing of the inaugural Biomass Thermal DC Summit, holding over 40 meetings with federal agencies and members of Congress. • Received $130,000 in grants from the USDA Forest Service to develop and coordinate dozens of outreach events and materials to help educate the public and practitioners about biomass heating. In all, we reached many thousands 8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 2013

of participants. • Grew the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo into the largest conference focused solely on biomass thermal in North America. • Served as the go-to source and partner for the USDA as it looked to engage biomass stakeholders on new programs and grants. • Successfully advocated for adding thermal output from biomass combined heat and power to a federal clean energy standard, and for funding and authorization of key Farm Bill programs that benefit biomass thermal. We didn’t hit any homeruns in Washington, D.C., over the past four years, but this was during a time when nearly all progressive energy policy was hopelessly mired in partisan dysfunction. And frankly, BTEC has preferred to take a “small ball” approach, looking for incremental gains in legislative and regulatory policy to help the industry gain traction and develop new markets. We certainly have much important work ahead, and I see numerous challenges on the immediate horizon: • Can we build an even more effective trade organization by broadening our appeal and by consolidating our efforts with other like-minded organizations? • Can we more effectively represent and advocate for our industry interests at the regional and state level? • Working with other organizations, can we effectively overcome public anxiety and misinformation about sustainability and the impact of biomass on climate change? • Can we solve technical and regulatory challenges that are holding our industry back from broader public acceptance? • Can we finally gain the validation our sector deserves by full recognition in federal and state renewable energy policy, such as renewable portfolio standard programs and the federal tax code? These are the cornerstones of BTEC’s work going forward, and our 2013 program plan reflects a major commitment of resources to each. I thank the forward-looking companies, organizations and public agencies that have supported our work over the past four years. I am confident we will look back on this time as a turning point for our industry, and that tremendous growth, opportunity and public support are just around the corner. Author: Charlie Niebling General Manager, New England Wood Pellet 603-532-4666


Algae Tax Credit Will Spur Other Products BY MARY ROSENTHAL

The year got off to a great start for algae when Congress passed legislation that avoided the fiscal cliff and leveled the playing field for producers of algal biofuels. I expect this development will have an impact far beyond the biofuel markets, however. Thanks to the new legislation, producers of fuels derived from algae, cyanobacteria or lemna (another free-floating aquatic plant with biofuel potential) will be allowed to benefit from the $1.01-per-gallon tax credit that had previously only applied to cellulosic biofuels. Tax parity with other advanced biofuels has long been a goal of the Algae Biomass Organization, and we are grateful for the hard work of our members who regularly announce new breakthroughs and production milestones. The rapid pace of these announcements and steady outreach to lawmakers has finally pushed Congress to give algae the same tax incentives as other biofuels. Fuel markets are not the only ones that will be affected by this incentive, however. Investors in algae will now be in a better position to reap returns from the unique properties of this biomass that extend beyond algae-derived gasoline, biodiesel, ethanol or aviation fuel. While production levels ramp up to quantities useful for biofuel production, many algae companies are finding revenue opportunities in algal coproducts. These are often lower-volume products but have higher value, from foods to specialty feeds to chemicals, even cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical powders with active carotenoids that can be derived from algae, for example, can be valued at $300 to $3,000 per kilogram. There are also great possibilities behind the recent announcement that algae can be used to make an alternative to an existing anti-cancer drug with significantly lower production costs. These are just a few of the potential applications for algal biomass that are complementary to fuel production. The tax parity legislation is also good news for companies developing technologies that use algae biomass for the feed and food products industries. The global animal feed market is expected to exceed

1.5 billion tons per year by 2020, and global demand for aquaculture feed is set to increase substantially over the next 20 years, providing significant opportunities for the various nutrients that can be derived from algae biomass, including omega-3, carbohydrates and proteins. Companies that have long-term fuel plans can also take advantage of these trends, including Bioprocess Algae, which has commissioned new production facilities in Iowa to produce poultry feed from algae that digest carbon dixoide emissions from an annexed ethanol plant. Cellana in Hawaii has announced a range of algae products that include aquaculture feed that reduces exposure to toxins like mercury or PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Other markets that will be keeping a sharp eye on the algae industry include those for plastics, chemicals, fertilizers and even some services like wastewater treatment and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon pricing, for example, is already a fact of life in Europe, Canada and California. Producing algae biomass can reduce a carbon footprint, and has the added benefit of helping the bottom line by turning waste gases into a new revenue stream. Thanks to the new fuel credit, companies like Solutions4CO2, Accelergy and virtually all large-scale algae producers now have another reason to look for partnerships with carbon producing industries. Duke Energy is one energy company seriously looking to the carbon abatement potential of algae. There have been exciting predictions that in 2013 we will see even more stories about new biomass facilities opening or beginning operations. That will certainly be true for algae, but thanks to algae’s versatility as biomass, and to the new incentives that put algae on a level playing field with other biofuels, we are also likely to also see more stories about new markets being affected by our products. I expect more than a few surprises. Author: Mary Rosenthal Executive Director, Algae Biomass Organization 763-458-0068



Biomass and Biopower: What’s the Outlook? BY CHRIS J. ZYGARLICKE

Now that the Obama administration has another four-year window and the hotly-debated fiscal cliff has been avoided, scuttlebutt around office bubblers (a Midwestern term for water fountain) surrounds the outlook for biomass and biopower. In one of my columns last year, I was cautiously optimistic about biopower projects. So what’s my outlook today? I remain cautiously optimistic. It appears that projects related to biomass and biopower have a chance to make a contribution to the U.S. energy mix, and my reasons for this follow. First, the Obama administration’s drive for renewable energy production and research will continue, as was vividly pointed out in the passing of fiscal cliff legislation. The bill extended the production tax credit by one year, which is valid not only for wind power projects, but also for biomass and waste-to-energy projects. Several other tax credit extensions for various biofuels and new eligible feedstocks, such as algae, telegraph the pro-biomass intent of the Obama administration. This will definitely keep some biomass projects on the table. The administration’s intent in respect to certain biopower competitors, such as low-cost natural gas, is less obvious. Natural gas prices have been on a downward skid since January 2012, and currently they hover a little over $3 per MMBtu. This is a challenge for biomass, especially since the administration’s most effective carbon reduction method has been the replacement of coal power generation with natural gas generation. The fact remains that the U.S. has built only a handful of new power plants over the past several years, and now that some sectors of the economy are recovering, there is a strong possibility that new generation will be needed. Significant biopower supply is still relegated to either large coal-fired utilities cofiring small fractions of regional biomass feedstocks, small industrial plants burning large amounts or 100 percent regional biomass feedstocks, or new 100 percent-biomass industrial boiler installations. So the concurrent innovation of American oil and gas explorers and the administration has indirectly made new natural gas power generation the winner. This inadvertently hurts biopower, since the cost of biomassderived power simply cannot beat out that derived from natural gas produced and sold for less than $5 to $6 per MMBtu.


A good case in point is a project in California. About 15 years ago, the Energy & Environmental Research Center was working with several California entities to utilize biomass in new and existing power generating systems, as California was slowly weaning itself from coal-fired generation. Most of these in-state biopower efforts ultimately died off because of a lack of sustainable biomass supply, high biomass costs, onerous permitting and environmental processes, and loss of state incentives for biopower. Contrast that scenario with today, where electricity demand is still high in California, and the base load power choices are down to natural gas or biomass, as coal is out because of state laws aimed at prohibiting greenhouse gasses, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and trace metal emissions. Biomass is out for some of those same emission reasons, with attendant environmental reasons involving agriculture and the lack of a low-cost sustainable supply. Natural gas is in because of the plentiful supply, lower emissions, competitive capital cost for generating platforms, and projected hope for sustainable fuel prices. Just in late 2012, the new 255MW Lodi Energy Center natural gas power plant was commissioned at a cost of $452 million. The federal government is not exclusively driving the bus on making natural gas a winner over biomass and other renewable energy forms, however. Industry and economics are playing a role. At a recent energy conference, I was caught off guard slightly when several energy executives representing utility, power plant equipment and services, and energy regulatory entities all believed that abundant North American natural gas resources would most likely hover between $4 and $6 per MMBtu for decades. For these folks, that makes natural gas very competitive, with ample room for coal to remain a major player. Biomass remains a player only when state or regional incentives come into play, or when feedstocks are fairly cheap. Whether these trends continue remains to be seen. I am still, however, cautiously optimistic for biomass and biopower. Author: Chris J. Zygarlicke Deputy Associate Director for Research 701-777-5123


Final EPA Air Rules Provide Greater Clarity for Biomass BY ROBERT B. MCKINSTRY JR. AND MICHAEL C. DUFFY

On Dec. 20, the U.S. EPA issued the final revised hazardous air pollutant emission regulations for industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators (CISWI regulations), including biomass-fueled units, under the Clean Air Act. At the same time, EPA revised and added clarity to the nonhazardous secondary material (NHSM) regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which determine, based on a unit’s fuel content, whether that unit’s hazardous air pollutant emissions will be regulated under the CAA program for boilers, or under the program for CISWI units, which is generally more stringent. These regulations amend a rule that was finalized in March 2011, following EPA’s decision to reconsider the rule and take a voluntary remand. The current revisions address certain definitions used to determine which CAA program applies to particular categories of biomass units, and will increase the rule's flexibility, address concerns raised by stakeholders following issuance of the 2011 rule, and facilitate use of many forms of biomass as a fuel. At the time of writing, the final rules have not been published in the Federal Register, but are expected shortly. The revised NHSM regulations expand the range of biomass fuels excluded from the definition of solid waste, allowing units that burn such fuels to be regulated under the boiler rule, rather than the CIWSI rule. These fuels, now falling within the definition of “clean cellulosic biomass,” are: agriculture-derived biomass, other crop residues (including vines, orchard trees, hulls, and seeds), and other biomass crops used for the production of cellulosic biofuels, hogged fuel, untreated wood pallets, wood pellets and wood debris from urban areas. These fuels are not considered solid waste unless they have been discarded prior to being burned as fuel. EPA notes that in spite of this expanded list of fuels specified under the definition of clean cellulosic biomass, the list remains illustrative and not exhaustive. The rule adds several additional specific types of fuel that are categorically-excluded from the definition of solid waste when burned in combustion units, so that these combustion units will be regulated as boilers under the boiler rule, rather than incinerators under the CISWI rule. These categorically excluded materials include resonated wood, a category that has been expanded to include “offspecification resonated wood products that do not meet

a manufacturing quality or standard.” Also included are dewatered pulp and paper sludges, which are generated and burned in significant quantities on-site by pulp and paper mills, provided that management of such dewatered residuals preserves the meaningful heating value of the materials. Units that burn these categorically excluded materials will not need to meet further site-by-site criteria to demonstrate that they are not solid waste. These regulatory changes are of particular interest in light of EPA’s establishment of more stringent emissions limitations for hydrochloric acid and mercury emitted from biomass-fired solid waste incinerators. Biomass-specific subcategories in the new boiler rule remain the same as those in the final March 2011 rule, although many of the specific emission limits have been adjusted based on additional data received by EPA in the intervening months. The changes create a strong incentive for many companies to discontinue use of coal as a boiler fuel and to switch to cleaner biomass or natural gas. Although very low natural gas prices caused by the development of domestic shale oil and gas resources will continue to pose a significant deterrent to use of biomass and coal alike, biomass will remain the fuel of choice for many companies with significant available biomass resources. Companies that will be required to install emissions control equipment for coal-fired boilers may consider conversion of those boilers to biomass only, or replacement with natural gas-fired boilers coupled with gasification processes for biomass use. Gasified biomass will command a premium in California markets due to California's economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases (GHG) and regulation of GHG emission increases under emerging federal programs. Moreover, utilities in California and elsewhere can comply with renewable portfolio standard obligations using gasified biomass to generate electricity. Authors: Robert B. McKinstry Jr. Partner, Ballard Spahr Environment and Natural Resources Group and Energy and Project Finance Group 215-864-8208 Michael C. Duffy Associate, Ballard Spahr Environment and Natural Resources Group 215-864-8248



BioNitrogen Corp. adds to team Florida-based BioNitrogen Corp., a company developing biobased urea fertilizer production, has hired Ernie Iznaga as operations manager. Iznaga, who has more than 20 years of experience in operation and engineering management, will be responsible for overseeing operations at the company’s initial plant in Hardee County, as well as at all future plants. BioNitrogen also added Brian Samuels as facility manager for its Hardee County facility. In his new role, Samuels will be responsible for supervising the operation of the plant, including the acquisition of biomass feedstock. Samuels has more than 20 years of experience in the fertilizer industry. In addition, the company has appointed independent accounting firm Kaufman, Rossin & Co. as its new auditor. In December, BioNitrogen also signed a three-year lease on new office space in Wauchula, Fla. The space will be home to the company’s Hardee County facility management team as it begins construction of BioNitrogen’s initial biobased urea plant. Cool Planet Energy Systems appoints chief financial officer Cool Planet Energy Systems has added


Barry Rowan as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Rowan brings the company more than 30 years of experience in building and turning around sizable technology companies in a variety of industries. Prior to joining Cool Planet, Rowan served as executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Vonage Corp., where he contributed to a comprehensive financial and operational turnaround at the company, resulting in significantly increased shareholder value. Rowan has also served as executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at Nextel Partners. He is expected to begin his role at Cool Planet on Feb. 15. Novi Energy appoints new executive Novi Energy has added Robert Zeldenrust as vice president of business operations for Novi Energy and general manager of the Fremont Community Digester, a $22 million anaerobic digestion project in Fremont, Mich. In his role at Novi Energy, Zeldenrust will help the company develop new energy infrastructure projects, including biomass, biogas and natural gas combined-cycle power projects. Before joining Novi Energy, Zeldenrust served as senior manager of North Center Cooperative, a

Wabash, Ind.-based agricultural cooperative. The Fremont Community Digester will convert 100,000 tons per year of organic waste into 3 MW of renewable electricity. NYSERDA, Forest Service join Wood Stove Challenge The Next Generation Wood Stove Design Challenge has picked two major sponsors. The New York State Energy Research and Development Agency is making a $35,000 grant to support testing the stoves in the design challenge. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service has become the first federal government agency to ensure and support the competition, which will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Nov. 4-10. The wood Stove Challenge is modeled after the Solar Decathlon and is drawing teams from all over the world to see who can build the cleanest and most efficient wood stove that is still affordable to the average American family. Cardia wins contract to supply biobased bags in China Australia-based Cardia Bioplastics Inc. has announced an exclusive annual supply contract with the Shanghai Pudong City


District in China. Under the contract, the company will supply an estimated $1.2 million worth of its trademarked Biohybrid renewable kitchen waste bags to approximately 20 percent of the households in the region on an annual basis. The contract was awarded after a successful six-month trial of Cardia’s products, which was completed in 2012. BTEC names 2012 Biomass Thermal Champion The Biomass Thermal Energy Council has named Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., as its Biomass Thermal Champion of 2012. Shaheen was selected to recognize the years she has spent advocating for the inclusion and parity of biomass thermal energy for heating, cooling and combined-heat-and-power in federal energy programs and legislation. One of her most recent efforts was successfully requesting the U.S. Energy Information Administration include biomass fuel in its annual Winter Fuels Outlook report. Oregon to implement phase 1 of Clean Fuels Program In December, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted to begin implementation of the state’s Clean Fuels Program,

which is similar, but not identical to, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Phase one of the program requires entities that produce fuel in Oregon, or import it into the state, to register and report to the Department of Environmental Quality the volumes of fuel they provide within the state. During the second phase of the program, which is not currently being implemented, regulated parties would be required to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the fuels they provide by 10 percent when compared with 2010 baseline levels. Biomass power plant to open at Georgia paper mill Green Power Solutions will open a biomass-fueled power plant in Laurens County, Ga. The project is the culmination of more than 18 months of collaboration between Beasley Forestry Products and Land Care Services. The facility has received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission and will be located at an existing paper mill that was recently purchased by SP Fiber Technologies LLC. The planned capital expenditures will allow Green Power Solutions to provide steam required for the paper mill’s daily operation, and also generate 56 MW of

electricity to feed the grid. The company will provide base load power, which will be sold to Georgia Power Co. under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Conditional use permit approved for California plant The Placer County Planning Commission in California has approved a conditional use permit for a proposed 2 MW biomass power plant, which will be located near Lake Tahoe, Calif. The Cabin Creek Biomass Facility will use a gasification technology to convert locally sourced woody biomass into power. The project includes the construction of an 11,000-square-foot building and a 1-acre fuel storage area. Once operational, the facility will take in forest thinnings that have traditionally been burned in open piles. The project is being developed by the county as part of its Wildfire Protection and Biomass Utilization Program.

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BiomassNews Oregon plan pushes for more bioenergy development

EPA sets standards for industrial boilers

Oregon Electricity Resource Mix 2009-2011 Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has released a 10-year Energy Action Plan, which includes recommendations for bioenergy and biomassbased thermal energy development. To continue development in the biomass utilization sector, the plan calls for a shift in incentive investments away from fuel source collection to investment in institutional boiler, cogeneration and cellulosic biofuel production facilities. The plan also aims to integrate local energy sources into residential, commercial and industrial buildings. One component of the plan SOURCE: OREGON 10-YEAR ENERGY ACTION PLAN calls for the development and expansion of markets for advanced biofuels and waste while supporting nutrient recovery engineered solids fuel products, such as the and management, while woody biomass Clean Fuels Program, which includes local, projects within the state will help leverage domestic and export-focused opportuniforest health restoration projects and utilize ties. The plan also states that anaerobic forest residuals that would otherwise be digestion projects could reduce landfill burned in open piles.

The U.S. EPA has finalized new rules for boilers and certain incinerators. Final adjustments to Air Toxic Standards for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers at Area Source Facilities include a two-year extension of the compliance date for existing boilers subject to the tune-up requirement; extending the deadline for initial notification for existing area source boilers to Jan. 20, 2014; provisions to allow dual-fired units that switch from gas to coal, biomass or oil, to still be considered existing sources; and requirements for tune-ups every five years for certain area source boilers. Final adjustments to the Air Toxics Standards for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters and Major Source Facilities include adding new subcategories for light and heavy industrial liquids; new emissions limits for particulate matter that are different for each biomass fuel subcategory; new emissions limits for carbon monoxide; and increasing variability in compliance monitoring.

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UK plans cap on dedicated biomass power

Proterro poised for pilot production Proterro Inc. has closed on a $3.5 million financing round led by current investor Braemar Energy Ventures. Cultivian Ventures, Middleland Capital, Battelle Ventures and Innovation Valley Partners also participated. The capital will allow Proterro to continue optimizing the genetic engineering of its microorganism, and support piloting a full-scale photobioreactor. The funding will also support the design of Proterro’s demonstration-scale facility. The company’s technology is focused on sucrose-producing cyanobacteria, also known

as blue-green algae. The microorganisms take in water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients, excreting sugars that can be converted into biofuels and biochemicals. The pilot facility is expected to be running in the first half of 2013. The facility will test a handful of the company’s solidstate reactors. A future demonstration-scale facility will feature up to 100 of the reactors. Proterro projects its process will be capable of producing fermentation-ready sugars at a cost of less than 5 cents per pound.

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The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change has introduced a 400 MW nonlegislative cap on the total new-build, dedicatedbiomass-generating capacity that can expect to be supported at 1.5 renewable obligation certificates per MW hour. The cap will not be set in regulation, but once the cap is triggered, the government will consider issuing a consultation paper on proposals to restrict further biomass deployment through the removal of grandfathering rights from additional dedicated biomass power facilities. According to a renewable obligation banding review published in December, plants that deploy within the 400 MW trigger threshold will not be affected. The cap will be underpinned by a notification register for new dedicated biomass power plants, which will be set up and managed by Ofgem. Combined-heat-and power (CHP) plants will be permanently excluded from the cap and notification process when they are first certified under the CHP Quality Assurance program.

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INLINE WITH DEMAND: Eric Woodford built his business supplying biomass harvesting balers and other equipment.



The Harvesting Life Feedstock demand and economic opportunity are creating a new biomass job force. BY LUKE GEIVER PHOTOS BY JESS SHIRK




ric Woodford knows his career choice wasn’t normal. In 2010, Woodford and his family moved from Redwood Falls, Minn., to Emmetsburg, Iowa to start a biomass handling equipment dealership with his wife. The basic tenet of the business, he says, was to provide specialized balers featuring a patented powered windguard for improved harvesting of corn cobs and stover, feedstock necessary for the cellulosic ethanol plant under development just a mile down the road. “When you think about it,” he says, “who else do you know that has pulled up and moved their family for the cause of biomass?” Three years after giving up his 15-year custom harvesting and baling business in Minnesota, Woodford’s equipment shop is booming, and now his career move to the business of biomass harvesting for energy projects seems to make perfect sense. “I’m confident we will see strong machinery sales in 2013. The economy will support it,” he says. Woodford isn’t the only example of someone willing to make a career move into agricultural residue-based biomass harvesting and handling, a fact that Woodford is happy about. In the Emmetsburg area alone, custom baling operations and custom feedstock transport driving units ranging from teams of two to teams of 20, are operating now or in formation. In Nevada, Iowa, where DuPont is building a cellulosic ethanol plant, the same thing is happening. And soon, the area surrounding a Wisconsin ethanol facility that recently signed an agreement with an upstate New York cellulosic sugar developer, Sweetwater Energy, to colocate a feedstock flexible advanced biofuel production facility near the plant, will present the same opportunity for a new breed of custom harvesters, haulers and equipment dealers who can provide biomass for energy projects. The grueling harvest schedule of 12 hour days, 6 days a week (or 7 in most cases) for a month or longer behind a baler-pulling tractor harvesting corn stover may not be for everyone, especially


TIMELY INNOVATION: The baler’s in-line ramp turns the bales 90 degrees as they are ejected, which makes clearing the bales out of the field 35 percent more efficient.

ADVANCED BIOFUELS¦ on a frozen November morning. And the time and investment needed for harvesting operations devoted to miscanthus grass in the spring or any other purpose-grown energy crop may not be either. But as Woodford and others have shown, the harvesting life is one of economic opportunity with a sustainable future.

Eliminating the Risk Adam Wirt, regional biomass coordinator for Poet LLC, has led the efforts by the Poet-DSM advanced biofuel project in Iowa to help potential biomass harvesters understand what it will require. Not only has Wirt helped the team understand why the harvest goals have transitioned from pure corn cobs to a light stover mix of husks, leaves and cobs—it minimizes corn stalk removal and FUTURE SUPPLY: Both round and square cornstalk bales are accepted at Poet-DSM's Project machine dirt intake—he has also helped de- Liberty biomass storage yard. velop the standard operating procedure for harvest. This is how it works, according to Wirt. First, when the growers are harvesting their grain, they should run a stalk stomper or stalk roller on the corn says they take both), are loaded on an accumulator and placed at the heads to disrupt the stalk integrity as the combine moves. Second, driveway leading out of the field where the bales will stay until the the grower should also turn off the chopper and spreader on the grower’s scheduled pick-up date, which could be a week or several back of the combine to avoid spreading the residue out over the months later, a time discrepancy that helps Wirt explain the scope field, producing, instead, a wind row of feedstock piled on top of of the ordeal. the stomped stalks. The process removes roughly 20 to 25 percent When potential harvesters or growers inquire about participatof the residue in the field, or 1 bone dry ton of biomass per acre, ing in Project Liberty, the advanced biofuel project in Emmetsburg, according to Wirt. After the windrows are formed, balers are called Wirt offers a comprehensive view of the project. “This is bigger in to collect the feedstock. The bales, either round or square, (Wirt than just harvesting biomass in the fall of the year,” he says of the


STEP RIGHT IN: Woodford’s biomass harvesting business is built on his own innovations and the demand for ag residue. He predicts 2013 machine sales will be great.



endeavor. “This is a cellulosic ethanol facility that is going to consume material 365 days per year.” Because of that, Wirt and his team have devised two strategies for growers and harvesters. Option one allows independent growers and harvesters to supply the feedstock directly to the facility, and option two, the custom model, means Poet-DSM will align the baling, staging and transportation for the grower. “Each farmer is different and we are trying to find ways to make each farmer comfortable,” Wirt says. He anticipates, however, that a certain option will dominate the feedstock supply process. “Much like we see on the wheat run every year with a lot of custom harvesters combining grain, we believe in corn country we will see the direct opposite. A lot of farmers will harvest their crops, but they will look for somebody to custom bale it for them.” The round-bale machinery designed for corn residue will cost roughly $45,000, and a new square baler will be $120,000. And, each harvester will have to figure out how to pick up and stage the bales at the field’s edge. “Most people are buying accumulators,” Wirt says. A towable unit will run around $15,000-30,000 and a self-pow-

ered unit will cost $150,000-200,000. And, a harvester will need a tractor. Most importantly, Wirt wants potential harvesters to understand that they are building a business plan for the long term. As for compensation, Wirt says it all depends on who is sitting across the table from the harvester. If the grower retains responsibility of the feedstock supply, he will pay the harvester, but if Poet-DSM is contracted to handle it, Poet will provide the compensation. The actual dollar amount each harvester will receive for their time and effort will be different for each case as well. In some cases, existing farming operations that depend on corn and soybean income, can run a harvesting business on the back-end, utilizing existing equipment like tractors or semi-trailers for harvest or transport, a scenario that might allow for a smaller compensation due to lowered operating costs and upfront investment. In other cases, Wirt says, there are harvesters who have moved back to the region (remember Woodford) just to harvest ag residue. Kyle Elbert did just that. In addition to helping his father run their farm a few days a year, Elbert has started a biomass harvesting and handling business that in-

ADVANCED BIOFUELS¦ metsburg, Woodford designed, patented and licensed a powered windguard for balers to Vermeer Manufacturing. “Cornstalks want to tumble and tumble in front of a baler,” he explains, “but this device force-feeds the baler and makes everything in front of the baler go in, regardless of shape, size or texture.” Engineers at Vermeer knew about Woodford, and they knew there was no dealership like his in Emmetsburg, so Woodford says, “they [Vermeer] thought who better to train farmers and sell the technology than the guy that actually invented it.” For harvesters like Elbert, it dramatically increases the number of tons they can harvest in a day, he says, something that has a huge impact on the bottom line. “The dollars that it costs them to harvest biomass goes down because they can do more in the course of a day. In certain circumstancCommitted to the Culture Arunas Chesonis, CEO at Sweetwater es I think you could say it would increase Energy, works out of Rochester, N.Y., but throughput 40 percent based on condihe’s committed to the emerging culture of tions,” he says. ag residue harvest. He also exemplifies the potential opportunity for biomass harvesters. Before taking his current role, Chesonis was the lead angel investor in Sweetwater. And before that, he was part of a $1 billion company he helped build with the current executive team at Sweetwater. Wishful thinking aside, Chesonis hopes to sign seven or eight contracts in 2013 in addition to the Ace Ethanol contract the company formed earlier this year. Each contract would mean hiring harvesters to collect ag residue, woody biomass, energy sorghum or other suitable feedstocks. Sweetwater is a partner with Denmark’s Biogasol, an advanced biofuel production company whose pilot plant, in operation today, will be the same size as Sweetwater’s commercial-scale facilities in North America. But that isn’t the most promising part about Sweetwater’s potential. Each facility will generate $7 million to $9 million in business each year. Until that happens, the Woodford Equipment and the Kyle Elbert custom biomass harvesting operations will signify the opportunity in harvesting, and anyone considering a harvesting job should rest assured with Woodford around. He knows his stuff. Woodford not only sells equipment, he designs it. Before moving to Emcludes one baler bought from Woodford, and a couple of semi-trailers for transport. Elbert harvests hard in the fall and transports biomass year round. Elbert says it’s easy to enjoy his line of work. Like Woodford, he started in 2010, and his business has grown steadily since. He plans to purchase another baler and add to his staff of three. “A farmer will call me to say he’s in the field or just got done. After I get the call, I’ll head over to the field if it is ready and start to bale,” Elbert says. “I’ll leave the bales on the field edge until the farmer’s delivery date is up then I’ll take the bales to the facility.” Elbert’s situation is one Wirt is happy to see. Because the operation will run all-year, there is also a need for drivers such as Elbert.

Woodford likens the process of light corn stover baling to that used in hay country, a process that hasn’t been in practice by the vast majority in corn country for a few decades, he adds. Many harvesters in the region have been trained by Woodford and rely on his team as the experts about baling for a biobased energy project. If his progress or Elbert’s example don’t reveal why biomass harvesting can be a way of life, Wirt has something to say that might. “We want to make sure they [growers and harvesters] have a sustainable opportunity to be successful for many years, and at the same time, we grow the feedstock needs of the facility.” Author: : Luke Geiver Features Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4944



DOUBLE DOME: Pellets are received by rail from Georgia Biomass's plant in Waycross, Ga., and stored in two 25,000-metric ton concrete domes until being reclaimed and loaded onto vessels bound for Europe. PHOTO: Georgia Biomass



Enabling Efficient Exports Innovation in wood pellet receiving, storage and handling at U.S. ports is readying the industry to meet growing European demand. BY ANNA SIMET




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t the Port of Chesapeake near Norfolk, Va., Enviva LP owns a deep water terminal that serves as the company’s shipment point for its Mid-Atlantic pellet plants. Rising high above most structures at the site is a central component of the pellet export infrastructure there—a gleaming white, 175-foot tall storage dome, which will soon be accompanied by a twin. Able to withstand hurricane winds of above 300 miles per hour and earthquakes exceeding 8 on the Richter scale, such domes are becoming the storage method of choice at pellet export operations, and not simply for their natural-disaster-resistant qualities. In fact, a soon-to-be-revived cargo port at the Virginia Port Authority’s Portsmouth Marine Terminal will host two of the same storage domes that Enviva utilizes, a project that the VPA has contracted ecoFuels Pellet Storage LLC, which is a joint venture between Capital Management International and energy infrastructure developer multiFuels LP, to take on. The joint venture has a 20-year lease on a 15-acre site that includes construction of the pellet storage domes, which will have a combined storage capacity of about 1.2 million tons. Although there are no immediate plans for construction of a nearby pellet plant for supply—which at first thought may seem like a backward plan—Peter O’Keefe, ecoFuels partner, says that when it comes to pellet exports, storage facilities are key. “You have to be able to efficiently store them,” he says. “We have found that storage needs to be addressed first and foremost, and then plans (supply) can be built out from there. In the U.S., we are really blessed with great ports and storage potential; in Canada, that’s a big challenge.” The Portsmouth Terminal is a muchsought after, short haul to Europe—thus boasting great export economics—and it’s very close to a wood basket. Not only that, but, according to O’Keefe, in rural parts of western Virginia and North Carolina there is tremendous rail access, a recipe that may make it viable for smaller producers to get a foot in the export door. So rather than

using the port to export solely its own supply, O’Keefe says, ecoFuels will also bring in third-party supply. Another bonus is the port’s ability to accept any size ship, and exporting pellets from there to Asia within the next few years is a possibility, according to O’Keefe. For now though, getting the right infrastructure in place is the main focal point, and that begins with construction of the domes, which will be built by Idaho-based Dome Technology.

Superior Storage In 1975, Idaho brothers Barry, David and Randy South began experimenting with inflatable airforms, the end result of which was their first patent, achieved in 1980. In a nutshell, an impermeable and tough fabric is attached to a solid, ring beam foundation to form a freestanding structure with no supports on the inside. Once the structure is inflated, the inside is sprayed with polyurethane foam to harden it and also provide an insulation layer. A rebar framework is then built and filled with shotcrete, a type of concrete that is projected through a hose via a high-pressure system, to hold the steel infrastructure in place. After that, crews follow the construction plan according to what the buyer wants, which in the case of pellet storage may be tunnels dug beneath the ground floor for conveyor systems that will transport the pellets to ships, and an aeration system. So what really makes these domes ideal? Lane Roberts of Dome Technology says that out of the three ways to store pellets—flat warehouse, silos or domes— domes require the least amount of real estate, somewhere around three times less the amount of space that a flat warehouse would require. That’s a money saver, as is the domes’ rigidity. “Typically ports don’t have great soil—a lot is filler from years ago and not stable like it would be inland— so flat storage and silos need deep foundations, which is a significant cost to the project,” Roberts says. “Domes are very rigid and hold their shape, so we can often eliminate deep foundations, and depending

PHOTO: Dome Technology


SMOOTH MOVE: Conveyors are key in moving wood pellets from receiving into storage at Enviva's Port of Chesapeake, Va., export operation.

on the size of the storage, that can save millions of dollars.” Since the bulk of the work is done inside of the domes, inclement weather doesn’t typically hinder construction plans, Roberts points out, and because of their waterproof membranes, there isn’t a risk of rain or moisture seeping through cracks, as there can be with concrete structures over time. Additionally, the 1.5-inch-thick layer of polyurethane foam keeps the temperatures balanced from inside and outside the domes, so no condensation is created on the inside.

A 50,000-ton dome can be constructed in about four to five months, plus a couple of more months to install a pellet reclamation system and aeration in the floors, if it’s part of the engineering plan. After that, it’s ready to be filled with pellets. Typically, a truck loaded with pellets will pull up to a platform and empty its cargo onto grates. The pellets fall through the grates onto a conveyor, which carries them to the top of the dome, where the process is monitored in a head house that rests on the surface. Inside the dome, a ladder softly delivers the pellets to the floor.


¦PELLETS we like to see turnovers from two to four weeks.” ‘What’s very important here is having the ability to feed big ships; Storage and reclamation systems aren’t the loader has to be high and big enough to handle the capacityyou the only areas of innovation when it comes to pellet exports. Methods of moving the want to load the ships at.’ —Hugo van Benthem, Samson Materials Handling pellets from reclamation systems onto the waiting ships, as well as controlling dust, have also vastly improved, as evidenced by So how long can they remain there the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association com- Samson's (previously B&W) mobile ship before should be moved? “The jury is still mittee on safety and handling and transport loaders. out on that, but feedback has been that two is working to gather information on this isto three weeks is optimum,” Roberts says. sue and more, including whether aeration Loading and Dust Control “There are a lot of opinions out there, and in the floor really works. Typically though, Being able to efficiently load pellets onto a ship at high handling rates is essential to a successful export operation, according to Hugo van Benthem at Samson Materials Handling. Who owns the ship loader at a given port varies, but it mostly depends on who owns the storage facility—the port, a pellet plant or a third-party service provider. “Normally we find a little of each,” he says. Storing pellets at the port is the ideal option to enable schedules to remain as planned, according to van Benthem, as a pellet plant produces at a certain rate over time, but, also wants to load a ship in a very short, specific time frame. “If one wants to load 40,000 tons, the ship has to be loaded at a rate of 500 to 2,000 tons per hour; we do 1,000 tons per hour,” he says. “Even though you want to finish in 40 to 60 hours, overall it can be a month-long production.” Once reclaimed by a conveying system, Samson provides the link between the pellet conveyors to the ship loader. “Trucks are driven into a reception system and emptied, and the system claims the pellets to fill up the ship loader,” van Benthem explains. “What’s very important here is having the ability to feed big ships; the loader has to be high and big enough to handle the capacity you want to load the ships at.” The company’s ship loaders can serve Panamax and Super Panamax vessels, ships that van Benthem says are ideal size for the U.S. because it’s difficult to get larger-sized vessels in. Another important component in loading equipment is the ability to control dust. “These pellets are pretty dusty, and you have to be able to extract it,” van Ben-




DIMINISHING DUST: Samson's mobile ship loaders are equipped with dust control equipment to keep the air clean from wood pellets dusty from storage.

used residentially; the other half is for industrial use, which is subsidized,” he says. “Otherwise, it is not viable. So when politics start to move and utilities start to move, we’ll see more progress.” Until then, those with stakes in the industry will continue quietly working to perfect the entire pellet export process, tweaking equipment and methods of receiving, storing and loading. “What we’re looking to do is ben-

efit from what the industry has already learned,” O’Keefe adds. “It’s growing rapidly, but still in its embryonic stage. We’re learning from those who have gone before us, and those after us will learn from what we’re doing.” Author: Anna Simet Contributions Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-751-2756

them says. “You can’t just convey the pellets through the air into the ship because the amount of dust would be crazy—we have dust filters, encapsulation and extraction on the [ship loader] equipment itself, from when the pellets are fed into ship loader from when they are discharged through a chute, which also has dust equipment on it, onto the ship.” The mobility of the ship loader provides the opportunity to “trim the holes,” an expression that van Benthem explains means to fill up areas around the pellet pile, creating an even load rather than a giant heap. And once a loading operation is complete, the ship loader can be removed from the area. “They don’t have to become part of the port infrastructure,” van Benthem says. “One of the big drivers for them is that the volumes of pellets going out of one port is not so large that the loader is continuously needed, so it can be moved to free up the loading area. It is also easier to get a permit for, rather than a big, fixed installation, and it can be sold to another place in the future. The Port of Panama City, Fla., uses a mobile ship loader at its pellet out-loading facility, as does German Pellets at the Port of Port Arthur in Texas. On whether demand for loaders and other export equipment has been increasing or is expected to soon, van Benthem says there has been a lot of interest, but not that much movement. “European policy is driving this— in Europe, 50 percent of consumption is



Engineering a Better Biomass Supply Chain Agricultural and biological engineers are making significant contributions to the biomass industry. BY JAMES H. DOOLEY


e all know the refrain, “How many gallons of biofuel does it take to grow and process enough biomass to make a gallon of biofuel?” This is not a rhetorical question to agricultural and biological engineers around the globe who have already achieved tremendous energy and conversion efficiencies throughout the biomass supply chain. Engineers at equipment firms are making improved combines and balers to enable single-pass harvest of corn and stover. High-density bales of dedicated energy crops and commodity-scale pellets improve transportation payloads, thus reducing the cost and fuel consumption for delivery from producers to refiners. Biological engineers who have special expertise at the intersection of plant biology, bioprocessing, and engineering are decreasing the energy consumed in grinding and drying. They are

substantially improving yields from both biochemical and thermochemical conversion of biomass to biofuels and bioproducts to get more product out of each unit of biomass input. Agricultural engineers at farm equipment manufacturers have designed new generations of balers that are compatible with crop residues and dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass. They are adapting forage harvesters to meet the more challenging physical properties of woody biomass, miscanthus, sorghum and other high-moisture biomass. For example, Jeremiah Johnson, a recent agricultural and biological engineering graduate, is working at John Deere on one-pass harvesting of grain and biomass, and other engineers at Deere are working to develop equipment for bale handling and transport through the supply chain.

The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).


Entirely new types of equipment are being invented specifically for use in the biomass supply chain. Engineers at Forest Concept created a new class of biomass milling equipment that works on both wet and dry feedstocks and consumes minimal energy to produce small particles; their new Crumbler machines came onto the market in the fall of 2012. The Anderson BioBaler round bale machine was developed in Canada by agricultural engineers for use with willow farms, and now is increasingly used in vegetation management applications to collect biomass for biopower applications. Engineers Dave and Chris Lanning from Forest Concepts, in partnership with Jim Fridley, professor of forest engineering systems design, applied a science-based process to design a streetlegal, large-square baler to replace chippers and make it easier to recycle woody biomass and prunings from urban and suburban landscapes. Outside of equipment, tremendous investments are being made in biomass engineering research by federal agencies, particularly the USDA and U.S. DOE.

ENGINEERING¦ Biomass Engineering Research Federal research investments are being directed toward innovative research and development programs at universities, research centers, and private companies to further reduce the cost, improve sustainability, and improve worker safety throughout the biomass supply chain. Engineering research is a vital part of the effort. One example is the work of Ray Huhnke, an agricultural engineer and director of the Biobased Products and Energy Center at Oklahoma State University, who is leading a team of engineers and plant scientists to improve biomass sustainability while reducing costs. The OSU biosystems and agricultural engineers use a “whole-system” approach consisting of industry-scale machinery performance evaluations, large-scale biomass storage trials, and comprehensive material property characterizations to develop best management practices for the biofuels feedstock system. Another example is Hasan Atiyeh in the biosystems and agricultural engineering department at OSU, who is quantifying the effects of feedstock specifications on conversion technologies. Atiyeh is finding that a gasification-syngas fermentation hybrid technology is more tolerant to changes in feedstock specifications compared to biochemical conversion, because it utilizes all components of the biomass regardless of their compositions. The hybrid technology may increase the

conversion efficiency of biomass feedstocks to biofuels by more than 35 percent compared to pure biochemical technology, while reducing supply chain costs. Vance Morey and other agricultural engineers at the University of Minnesota are developing a system for bulk handling of corn stover and other feedstocks, to solve the problem of long-distant transport of lowdensity, round and square stover bales. These engineers are designing a low-cost method for farmers to grind baled stover and compact it into high transport-density units for delivery. At the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, more than 30 agricultural and biological engineers conduct biomass production engineering research under the direction of research leader K.C. Ting within the BP PLC-funded Energy Biosciences Institute. This research program has been organized into five task teams that span agricultural biomass supply chain technologies from sensors to machinery and operations management. In the forest biomass sector, Han-Sup Han, a forest operations engineer at Humboldt State University, has been developing lower-cost methods to recover forest residuals and other woody biomass for delivery to biopower and bioenergy users. While examples of engineer contributions are numerous beyond the aforementioned, as the biomass industry continues to grow, additional engineers will be needed by equipment

manufacturers, feedstock processors, biorefineries, and downstream processors.

Educating the Next Generation There are more than 40 agricultural and biological engineering academic programs in the U.S. and Canada, with many more around the globe. Many universities now have a bioenergy-related track for undergraduates, and professional-level master’s degrees specific to the needs of the bioenergy industry. Paul Weckler of the biosystems and agricultural engineering program at OSU prepares his students for entry into the bioenergy industry through immersion in design projects. One example is a current senior design project focused on highly mechanized biomass harvesting for biofuel feedstock production. Students are developing an attachment to Agco’s largesquare baler that will alter the bale’s placement onto the ground, reducing the cost of bale collection for delivery to depots or biorefineries. Four universities—Oklahoma State University, Kansas State University, University of Arkansas and South Dakota State University—have collaboratively developed a new professional-level graduate program that prepares participants for careers in the emerging biobased industries through an innovative, distance-enabled platform. The multidisciplinary, master’s degree-level graduate certificate in bioenergy and sustainable technology includes course topics such as biomass feedstock devel-

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¦ENGINEERING opment, bioenergy economics and sustainability, and biomass conversion technologies. Agricultural and biomass feedstock engineer Mark Dilts is an example of the new generation of young professionals supporting the biomass industry. After graduation from Iowa State University, he became a feedstock development engineer with Poet LLC in South Dakota, and recently joined the CNH International agricultural machinery company in Pennsylvania where he is designing specialized field machinery. Dilts says that agricultural engineers receive a broad base of knowledge during their education, and nowhere is this more important than when solving multidisciplinary challenges such as development of the biomass supply chain. “As a feedstock development engineer, I had to interface with chemists, design engineers, and marketing folks,” Dilts adds. “Now I design machinery, dealing with CAD design, strength calculations, and power requirements.” The demand for competent new engineers to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding biomass and bioenergy industry requires continuous recruitment of young people who are

good at science and math. Through the profession’s technical society, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, employers and academic institutions cooperatively market the profession to high schools, and participate in E-Week, the national event celebrating engineering. Each year ASABE sponsors the Most Sustainable Food Production System award as part of the Future City competition where middle school students are challenged to create a technical vision for communities 150 years in the future that are selfsufficient for food, water and energy. ASABE provides a global forum for exchange of ideas and knowledge in the feedstock arena with more than 300 presentations at each of its recent annual conferences, and is the administrator of more than 50 voluntary standards being used in the feedstock supply chain. ASABE, which is leading the development and improvement of additional international standards, also hosts an online technical library that includes thousands of bioenergyrelated conference papers, peer reviewed journal articles, and proceedings of specialty conferences. The next annual meeting, in July,

will likely be attended by more than 1,500 participants, and will include hundreds of presentations related to biomass production, processing, and utilization, as well as dozens of technical committee meetings for discussion of topics of interest to technical specialists. Engineers are a unique lot who hold a belief that the status-quo is not good enough, and that opportunities always exist to make the world a better place through innovation, creativity and disciplined engineering. Engineering has played a vital role in making today’s biomass feedstocks more economical, environmentally sustainable, and of higher quality. As second-generation cellulosic biofuels enter commercialization, the role of engineers competent in agricultural and biological systems will be increasingly important to invent and implement technologies at scale and in the context of local communities, biorefinery pathways and regulatory requirements. Author: James H. Dooley Chief Technology Officer, Forest Concepts LLC 253-333-9663

BIOMASS SOLUTIONS TO POWER TOMORROW ProcessBarron has 30 years of experience in designing and fabricating biomass fuel, air & ash handling systems. ProcessBarron has the know-how to get the most out of your biomass systems. AIR HANDLING



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February 2013 Biomass Magazine