INSIDE: SUSTAINABILITY A HOT TOPIC AT WORLD BIOFUELS SYMPOSIUM January 2009
Toronto’s Waste Reduction Regimen Canada’s Largest City is Redirecting Organic Waste, Saving on Landfill Space
FOR BIOMASS POWER, THE SKY’S THE LIMIT.
We’re working to expand the use of clean, green biomass power. Formerly known as USA Biomass, we’re advocating for the tax and regulatory policies that will help our industry grow, and educating state and federal lawmakers about biomass power’s vital role in reducing climate change, cleaning the environment, creating jobs and boosting local economies. Our members include the owners and operators of 80 biomass facilities in 16 states, along with suppliers, plant developers and financial institutions. Help us show America the way to a clean, independent energy future.
Join us at biomasspowerassociation.com.
The future of fuel Transforming corn and other grains into biofuels is a major industry today . But what about tomorrow? The future of biofuels will also rely on the next generation of raw materials – biomass. At Novozymes we’re taking a fresh look at all types of biomass, and © Novozymes A /S · Customer Communications · No. 2007-35469-02
considering how we can turn it into something useful. And you know what? Corn cobs and wheat straw are just the beginning. Who knows what other types of waste we can transform into fuel? Novozymes is the world leader in bioinnovation. Together with customers across a broad array of industries we create tomorrow’ s industrial biosolutions, improving our customers’ business and the use of our planet’ s resources. Read more at www .novozymes.com.
Novozymes North America, Inc. 77 Perry Chapel Church Road · Franklinton, NC 27525 Tel. +1 919-494-3000 · Fax +1 919-494-3485 firstname.lastname@example.org · www .novozymes.com
4 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
FEATURES ..................... 22 INNOVATION Emissions Eliminator Eisenmann Corp. is preparing its wet electrostatic precipitator, WESP-F2, for its commercial debut. The emissions technology is designed for stringent multipollutant applications such as biomass boiler systems. By Anna Austin
28 TECHNOLOGY Craving Corn and the Cob Ethanol producers and equipment manufacturers are working together to produce more energy from an acre of corn. Biomass Magazine examines the different prototypes developed by equipment manufacturers to harvest corn and the cobs. By Ryan C. Christiansen
34 ANAEROBIC DIGESTION Go Green Pronto, Toronto Canada’s largest city plans to divert millions of tons of organic matter from going into the landfill. The project will involve the use of anaerobic digestion and BTA technology. By Ron Kotrba
40 INDUSTRY Size Matters TECHNOLOGY | PAGE 28
DEPARTMENTS ..................... 07 Advertiser Index
Should biomass power plants be large and centrally located, or small and spread out across a region? Two experts weigh in on this important issue. By Anna Austin
44 EVENT A World of Potential The 4th World Biofuels Symposium held recently in China revealed a growing global demand for biofuels. Sustainability will play an important role in that development. By Travis Hochard
08 Editor’s Note Disaster Debris Shouldn’t Be a Problem By Rona Johnson
10 CITIES Corner The Sweet Smell of Anaerobic Digestion By Tim Portz
50 PROCESS Producing the Next Generation of Green Hydrocarbons As demand for petroleum fuels increases, companies like Ensyn Technologies Inc. and its biomass-to-liquid technology are making the promise of green energy a reality. By Heidi Vincent
11 Legal Perspectives Managing Contractual Relationships in a Turbulent Economy By John Eustermann
13 Industry Events 14 Business Briefs 16 Industry News 55 EERC Update Sustainability of Biofuels: A Glimpse at the Magnitude of Fuel Consumption, Agricultural Production By Brad Stevens
1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 5
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1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7
NOTE Disaster Debris Shouldn’t Be a Problem
recently came across an article in the International Herald Tribune that would make any red-blooded American biomass processor salivate. The story, titled “Debris pile becomes symbol of US agency delays,” was about a 30-mile-long pile of debris along the Texas coast leftover from the 2008 hurricane season. However, before you start making plans to turn that debris into something useful such as energy or fertilizer, there’s something you should know. According to the article, that pile of debris is mired in red tape. The article says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working as fast as it can, but complex regulations, the need to spend taxpayer money wisely and arguments over who is responsible for what have stymied cleanup efforts. Call me crazy, but I think FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison and Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman should sit down and map out some sort of plan to deal with the debris that remains after hurricane season. After all, Bodman and his people are looking for new technologies to create renewable energy, and FEMA has often been criticized for its handling of disasters. It seems to me that a 30-mile pile of debris would be the perfect proving ground for a new biomass handling system or a technology that can turn biomass into power, fuel and/or chemicals. At the very least, following several disastrous hurricanes starting with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there should be a protocol in place to deal with this debris. Maybe it’s a matter of the federal government taking ownership of debris from natural disasters in areas where residents have accepted government assistance. Then biomass processors should be allowed to bid on this material. I’m sure rules would be required to ensure that biomass processors do what they say they’re going to and do it in a timely fashion. To make the process more palatable, the money that the processors pay for the debris could go into a fund to help victims of natural disasters. I’m probably simplifying the issue, but if it’s that complex, a task force or committee needs to be formed to map this out. It would be a shame if all of this debris was just burned or buried.
Rona Johnson Features Editor email@example.com
8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
Construction Why hire a project coordinator when you can hire a team of experts to develop your ethanol or biodiesel project? Let BBI guide you down the project development path: Feasibility study
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CITIES corner The Sweet Smell of Anaerobic Digestion
he road from my current home in Minneapolis to my hometown in Eldora, Iowa, includes a 25-mile stretch from U.S. Highway 20 east to Interstate 35. This stretch of road runs through one of the densest hog producing areas of Iowa and, as you can imagine, the pungent smell of manure fills the air. I am a big fan of pork, and can appreciate the fact that the industry is an important contributor to the state’s economy. In 2002, Iowa hog receipts totaled $2.46 billion and the hog industry supported a whopping $2.02 billion in personal income and $3.02 billion in gross state product (Otto and Lawrence, 2002). Iowa’s pork industry is not alone in its struggle to produce a product efficiently and profitably, while minimizing its impact on the environment and its neighbors. The poultry, beef and dairy industries face similar issues. The New York Times recently reported on the growing public outcry in Maryland over runoff from poultry operations finding its way into the Chesapeake Bay. The reality is that large-scale production has emerged as the most efficient form of operation for livestock producers. That being said, while the total number of livestock operations has declined, the number of animals per farm has risen. As a result, waste streams associated with animals
10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
raised in this industrial manner is more concentrated. I expect that in the near future, energy production from manure will become an olive branch between largescale livestock producers and environmentalists. Most notably, anaerobic digestion holds incredible promise to mitigate some of the negative aspects of large concentrations of manure, while providing a domestic, renewable energy source. Some of those operations have been profiled in this magazine. Manure is a reality of the production of meat, eggs, and milk. Manure already serves as a valuable source of nitrogen for many farmers and energy production doesn’t have to interfere with that role. The nutritive quality remains in the digested manure stream, so producers can still count on it for fertilizer. If you factor in the environmental benefits of anaerobic digestion and the revenue opportunities for producers, manure smells pretty sweet. Tim Portz is a business developer with BBI International’s Community Initiative to Improve Energy Sustainability. Reach him at tportz @bbiinternational.com or (651) 398-9154.
Managing Contractual Relationships in a Turbulent Economy By John Eustermann Eustermann
anaging contractual relationships and assessing transaction risks is key to a producer’s success in today’s renewable fuel/energy environment. Tighter commodity margins and credit markets require the producer to be more proactive with regard to managing contractual performance than in the past. Rather than waiting to find out through the trades that a business of a supplier or off-taker has failed, the producer, as a party to the contract that suffers from waning performance by a counterparty, may be able to avail itself of certain “self-help” provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code. With respect to a contract for the sale of goods, § 2-609 of the UCC states, “When reasonable grounds for insecurity arise with respect to the performance of either party, the other party may in writing demand adequate assurance for due performance … .” As between merchants, the reasonableness of grounds for insecurity and the adequacy of any assurance offered is determined according to commercial standards. Essentially, with regard to a producer that finds itself in such a situation with a vendor or customer, it must have a good-faith basis for its “reasonable grounds for insecurity.” From the producer’s perspective, for example, if reasonable doubts exist as to a counterparty’s (vendor/supplier or off-taker of goods) ability or willingness to pay, the producer may suspend its own performance
on the contract in question upon a demand for “adequate assurances.” If no such assurances in writing are proffered within 30 days of the producer’s demand, the contract at issue may be deemed as repudiated by the counterparty. The producer, at this juncture, may avail itself of certain remedies provided under the UCC, including but not limited to, cessation of further performance, claims for amounts owed and, as applicable, claims for incidental and consequential damages. What constitutes “reasonable grounds for insecurity” and satisfactory “adequate assurances” are fact sensitive and determined on a case-by-case basis. The terms and conditions of the particular contract in question and a party’s performance thereunder should be the first driver of the grounds for insecurity. Insecurity stemming from general industry or market conditions is not sufficient for purposes of availing the self-help remedies of UCC § 2-206. Thus, whether from the perspective of the party seeking the adequate assurances or from the perspective of the party responding to a demand for adequate assurances, careful analysis of 1) the contract at issue, 2) the parties’ dealings thereunder, and 3) any applicable commercial standards is warranted. The assurances provided must be adequate under the circumstances of the particular case in question. Responses to a demand stating that a party’s performance to date has been stellar or faultless has been
held by the courts to be evasive and insufficient. Further, statements that a party intends to pay or perform were likewise found to be inadequate. Rather, the supplier or off-taker should provide information regarding future performance sufficient enough to establish the likeliness of such performance. As for the party requesting adequate assurances, courts have held that demands resulting from commodity pricing insecurity were made in bad faith where the party seeking assurances had found itself in a financial corner due to an over-leveraged balance sheet. As with any contractual relationship, the best security comes in the form of contractual performance by all parties. The current political and economic environment, however, can have spillover effects that result in waning contract performance and break downs in communication. Appropriately demanding adequate assurances can open up the lines of communication and bring the parties together to get contractual performance back on track or to allow the parties to make needed modifications to contractual terms and conditions. On the other hand, the failure to communicate and provide the sought-after adequate assurances can result in the parties severing their relationship. BIO John Eustermann is a partner with Stoel Rives LLP. Reach him at jmeustermann@ stoel.com or (208) 387-4218.
1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 11
Biomass Energy & Fuel Prep Systems From Concept To Completion
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vecoplanllc.com T H E
U L T I M A T E
S H R E D D I N G
M A C H I N E
industry events Carbon Markets North America
Jan. 15-16, 2009
Feb. 12-13, 2009
The Westin Colonnade Coral Gables Miami Carbon emission regulations will be part of the renewable fuels standard that will regulate future advanced biofuels use in the United States. A leading panel of carbon market experts will inform attendees how to prepare for a carbon-constrained economy at this second event. It will detail how current emissions trading systems are creating business opportunities, fostering innovation and influencing global finance. + 44-20-7251-9151 www.environmental-finance .com/conferences/2009/Miami09/intro.htm
Renaissance Brussels Hotel Brussels, Belgium This second event will provide a platform for companies to learn about the latest trends and international developments in biomass power generation. Agenda topics will include policy, financing and investing, sustainable feedstocks, cofiring, combined-heat-and-power plants, and gasification, among others. A preconference seminar will detail how to build a biopower portfolio. +9714 813 5212 www.greenpowerconferences.com/ biofuelsmarketsbiopower.html
Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition
Canadian Renewable Energy Workshop
Feb. 25-27, 2009
Regina Inn Hotel and Conference Center Regina, Saskatchewan Registration is open for this second conference, which will facilitate the continued development of Canadaâ€™s renewable energy industry. More information will be available as the event approaches. (888) 501-0224 www.crew2009.com
Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas This event includes a business conference, a trade show and several side events. The business conference will address the status and outlook of renewable energy, including biomass and biofuels, among others. Breakout sessions will address sustainability, feedstocks, financing, ethanol production technologies, biobased products, biopower and biorefineries, among other topics. (805) 290-1338 www.retech2009.com
March 10-12, 2009
The Future of Biofuels
International Biomass Conference & Trade Show
April 4-8, 2009
April 28-30, 2009
Snowbird Resort Snowbird, Utah The goal of this meeting, being supported by DuPont Co., will be to share a broad perspective forming the critical needs for biofuels and to highlight cutting-edge research and development efforts that are forming the next generation of biofuels products and processes. Agenda topics will include next-generation advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, and the feedstocks needed for those fuels. (800) 253-0685 www.keystonesymposia.org
Oregon Convention Center Portland, Ore. This event, sponsored by BBI International Inc., will address the latest technologies and business considerations for bioenergy projects. Breakout session topics will include biopower, ag and wood waste, anaerobic digestion and biogas, biobased chemicals and coproducts, and biomass gasification. Attendees will also be able to tour the Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Cornelius Summit Foods ethanol plant and the Beaverton Material Recovery Facility. A more detailed agenda will be available as the event approaches. (701) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com
International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo
European Biomass Conference & Exhibition
June 15-18, 2009
June 29-July 3, 2009
Denver Convention Center Denver This will mark the 25th anniversary of the worldâ€™s largest ethanol conference, which was recently recognized by Trade Show Week magazine as one of the fastest-growing events in the United States for the second consecutive year. Abstract presentations will be accepted until Jan. 9. The event will address conventional ethanol, next-generation ethanol and biomass. More details will be available as the event approaches. (701) 746-8385 www.2009few.com
CCH-Congress Center Hamburg, Germany This 17th annual event is expected to bring in more than 1,500 participants from more than 70 countries. Participants will learn about the latest breakthroughs in the biomass field. There will also be an exhibition featuring various companies and products in the industry. More information will be available as the event approaches. +39 055-5002174 www.conference-biomass.com
1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 13
BRIEFS Ze-gen adds two members to team
Xethanol changes name, energy focus The self-described “discredited cellulosic ethanol company” Xethanol Corp. reorganized and relaunched itself on the New York Stock Exchange in late October as Global Energy Holdings Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Ames said it’s now a “diversified energy company” focusing on converting various waste feedstocks into energy and natural gas. Ames mentioned methane acquired from landfills and woody biomass derived from the Southeast as possible feedstocks. BIO
Terumi Okano and Bernard Bulkin have joined Bostonbased Ze-gen Inc. Okano, who received her master’s degree in chemical engineering, serves as a process engineer for Ze-gen’s research and development team. She supervises and manages the company’s process model. Bulkin is a member of Ze-gen’s board of directors. He previously spent 18 years with BP Corp. and The Standard Oil Co. Ze-gen Chief Executive Officer Bill Davis said his Bulkin company looks for board members with specific expertise to create a well-rounded governing team. The board of directors has seven members. The company also has two two-member, non-governing boards: the Marketing Advisory Board and the Scientific Advisory Board. Ze-gen develops advanced gasification technology to convert wood debris and other solid waste streams into syngas. BIO
Intrinergy closes financing
Commission denies power plant proposal
Virginia-based Intrinergy LLC and joint venture partner Shanks Group PLC, a European waste management company, closed $47 million in debt financing from Norddeutsche Landesbank-Girozentrale, a German renewable energy bank, to begin construction of a biomass energy project in Belgium. The joint venture, Intrinergy Vare Holdings, has permits in place and expected to begin construction in January. The project will use sawdust and forest residue as feedstocks to provide process steam and electricity for a wood pellet manufacturing facility.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has rejected a proposal by Wisconsin Power and Light Co., a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corp., to expand its existing Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville, Wis. The commission cited the $1.26 billion price tag as a reason for the denial. Although Alliant Energy committed to using up to 20 percent biomass, concerns regarding Nelson Dewey 3’s potential greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental impact also factored in the PSCW’s 3-0 decision. The PSCW expected to issue its written order by Dec. 15, 2008, 20 days from which Alliant can request a reconsideration. BIO
Schmack Biogas to build second of 20 proposed biogas plants
Jenbacher engines win award, contract
German-based Schmack Biogas has signed an agreement with Italian power plant operator Fri-El Green Power to build a 1-megawatt biogas plant near Rivigo in northeast Italy. Construction was slated to begin in January. This would be the second of 20 proposed biogas plants that Schmack agreed to build with Fri-El in a letter of intent signed earlier this year. The first plant, located in Codroipo, Italy, has begun production and is expected to be fully operational by mid-2009. BIO
14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
Atlanta-based GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engine technology has been recognized in Japan. The Yamagata Green Power wood-based gas-to-energy power plant that utilizes two Jenbacher engines won Asian Power magazine’s Best Renewable Energy Power Plant of the Year award in October. In Forli, Italy, the Jenbacher engines will generate electricity and provide thermal power for a sewage-gas-to-energy cogeneration project being developed by Hera SpA at the northern Italian city’s wastewater treatment facility. BIO
BRIEFS W2 Energy updates project status W2 Energy Inc., a U.S.-based green energy company, reported in a corporate status update in November that economic conditions have financially hindered the company’s projects. However, a biodiesel subsidiary formed in June continues to negotiate for a site. Meanwhile, joint ventures with Combustibles Alternativos Chile and Bangkok, Thailand-based Better World Energy are awaiting financing. W2 Energy has also begun to market small-scale biomass-to-energy systems that can produce liquid fuels and electricity. BIO
InEnergy to provide due diligence services The North Dakota-based Energy & Environmental Research Center Foundation launched InEnergy Inc. in November. InEnergy is a for-profit consulting corporation that was created to provide due diligence services for financial investors analyzing the risks and opportunities of new energy technologies, and emerging energy industry trends. The corporation draws on the expertise of the EERC and a select group of experts. InEnergy boasts a wide range of technical expertise, including alternative fuels, gasification and combustion technologies. BIO
Hardimon to lead Blade sales Iberdrola to manage biomass power delivery The Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California has agreed to purchase electricity from a 55-megawatt biomass cogeneration plant being built adjacent to Simpson Tacoma Kraft Co. LLC’s pulp and linerboard mill in Tacoma, Wash. The contract would begin when the plant is slated to start production in July. According to Portland, Ore.-based Iberdrola Renewables, which will manage delivery of the power, the plant will use sawmill and paper mill byproducts, demolition waste, and logging debris to generate steam to produce electricity, and to power Simpson Tacoma Kraft’s manufacturing process. BIO
Frank Hardimon will lead seed sales for Ceres Inc.’s Blade Energy Crops brand. He will direct sales to both farmers and bioenergy producers. Prior to joining Ceres, he was a regional sales manager for Great Lakes Hybrids, a brand of AgReliant Genetics. Earlier in his career, he held various positions in research and product management. He said his goal is to help producers quickly move up the learning curve with Ceres’ new crops. BIO
USA Biomass adds ‘Power’ Virent wins technology prize Virent Energy Systems Inc. in Madison, Wis., won the 2008 ICIS Chemical Business Innovation Award for the Best Innovation by a Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise. The company received the award for its BioForming technology, which uses a catalyst to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules. The hydrocarbons can be processed into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other chemicals. The judges voted unanimously to present Virent with the award, citing the technology’s market potential and its ability to provide a gasoline alternative for use in today’s engines. BIO
USA Biomass, an organization devoted to the growth and long-term viability of biomass-powered electric generation, has changed its name to the Biomass Power Association. The name change is meant to more accurately portray the dedication of the association’s members to generate biomass-based power. The group is currently comprised of 41 member companies operating 80 power plants in 20 states throughout the country. Prominent members include Renegy Holdings Inc. and Covanta Central Valley Biomass. Members of the association use a broad range of biomass for their operations, including wood chips, rice hulls, orchard prunings and forest waste. BIO
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NEWS Biogas projects gain traction company, and Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, have partnered to develop a biogas-to-electricity project at the Anderson Regional Landfill. The power generation facility began operating Sept. 1 and has the capacity to produce 3.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power apHall shows off his company’s proximately 1,500 homes. Biogas projects have continued pressure swing absorption vessels. to gain traction in Europe, as well. In October, Climate Change Capital Private Equity, a €200 million ($260 million) fund dedicated to clean technology, announced it would make a €6 million ($7.8 million) investment in England-based Renewable Zukunft Ltd. The funding will allow Renewable Zukunft to partner with farmers and other organizations to develop anaerobic digestion plants, each capable of producing 10 million kilowatts of electricity annually. In addition, U.K.-based Biogas Nord recently constructed a 370-kilowatt-per-year biogas plant in the U.K. The plant’s feedstocks include liquid cattle manure, corn and grass silage. PHOTO: QUESTAIR TECHNOLOGIES INC.
While the biogas market in Europe is well-developed, it has taken longer for the industry to gain a foothold in North America. However, recent biogas project announcements suggest this may be changing. In October, QuestAir Technologies Inc., a Canadian-based developer and supplier of gas purification systems, announced the company plans to focus largely on the biogas market. “We’ve been in a couple of different markets but really saw a great growth opportunity in biogas,” said Andrew Hall, QuestAir’s president and chief executive officer. The company uses a modular pressure swing absorption technology that separates impurities, such as water vapor and carbon dioxide, from methane. The result is a renewable natural gas suitable for injection into natural gas pipelines or for use as compressed natural gas (CNG) for transportation fuel. The technology can be applied at landfills and in combination with any entity making methane gas in anaerobic digesters, including wastewater treatment facilities and livestock operations. To date, QuestAir’s technology has been utilized in five biogas projects in North America and five in Europe. California-based Hilarides Dairy is using the technology to produce CNG, which is used to power milk trucks. Near Cincinnati, the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill is using QuestAir’s technology to purify landfill gas, which is then injected into a preexisting natural gas pipeline. Biogas can also be used to produce electricity. In South Carolina, Allied Waste Industries Inc., a nonhazardous solid waste management
Anaerobic digestion activities abound Several projects centered on developing anaerobic digestion technology have emerged within the United States and United Kingdom in the past month. Michigan State University will utilize $3 million in state and foundation grants to construct an anaerobic digestion research and education center where technology could be developed for small-scale farms to turn animal waste into heat, electricity and other products. Researchers at the facility, to be colocated with the university’s farm animal and environmental research complex, will seek to develop and commercialize turnkey digesters and microturbine modules to address issues concerning food contamination, pollutant runoff, odor and greenhouse gas emissions from animal manure at small- to mid-sized farms. Additionally, MSU plans to test related equipment and processes, so the center can generate its own electricity. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2009. Pennsylvania-based Philadelphia Mixing Solutions introduced its Momentous Flow, a mixing technology for anaerobic digestion in wastewater, biofuel and agricultural markets. The system has a rotating component but no baffles to release trapped gas in the upper part of the vessel, creating a centrifugal force that pushes methane bubbles from anaerobic digestion to the center of rotation. They coalesce and escape from the liquid in a collection cap, 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
thus the methane is harnessed to power digestion operations. The company said the technology significantly reduces or eliminates the need to power equipment from the grid. It also offers faster installation, lower operating and maintenance costs, and efficient generation of reusable energy from methane. In the U.K., the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Program announced the launch of two funding opportunities offering the waste and recycling sector a total of £26 million ($33.8 million) to support various programs throughout the country. The Anaerobic Digestion Demonstration Program will provide £10 million ($13 million) to support three to six projects in England focusing on the development of commercial-scale anaerobic digestion technology to maximize positive environmental impacts and cost-effective biogas production. Through the Organics Capital Grant Program, £16 million ($20.8 million) will be available to facilitate the development of a food and waste recycling infrastructure, such as in-vessel composting or anaerobic digestion. The program will be open to projects in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, aiming to increase the country’s capacity to convert landfill waste into approximately 400,000 metric tons of quality products by March 2011. -Anna Austin
A John Deere 1490D Slash Bundler collects residual woody biomass in the woods near Diboll, Texas.
Mechanization, technology make wood removal profitable Extracting low-value woody biomass from forests and delivering it to consumers is a relatively expensive process. Handling costs are high because forest harvesting systems were originally designed for large-diameter timber, not logging slash—small-diameter trees, treetops, limbs and trees that can’t be sold for sawtimber. The most profitable woody biomass removal operations are the most-mechanized and use new technologies designed specifically for biomass removal, according to the Santa Fe, N.M.-based Forest Guild in a recent report, titled “Synthesis of Knowledge from Woody Biomass Removal Case Studies.” The report, funded by the U.S. Forest Service’s Joint Fires Science Program, examined 45 biomass removal case studies. A company in Lufkin, Texas, is putting this knowledge into practice. In November, Angelina Fuels LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aspen Pipeline LP, began using a John Deere 1490D Slash Bundler to collect residual woody biomass left behind in the east Texas woods after timber harvesting. The slash is fed into the bundler and bound into compact logs, dubbed “slash logs.” Angelina Fuels is collecting the biomass for its sister company Aspen Power LLC, which has begun building a 50-megawatt biomass-fired power plant in Lufkin, according to Danny Vines, president of both companies. He said the power plant is scheduled to come on line in November 2009 and will consume 1,500 tons of woody biomass per day. The John Deere bundler is only the third unit to be sold in the United States, according to Shane Toner, sales consultant for Doggett Machinery Services in Lufkin. According to Deere & Co., the bundler is widely used in Europe. Vines said bundling makes it easier to transport slash from the woods and increases its shelf life. Ultimately, he said, Angelina Fuels will need to have six of the John Deere slash bundlers in operation. -Ryan C. Christiansen
Projects study best stover, grass stubble heights The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Soil Tilth Laboratory recently completed a round of research investigating how harvest practices affect fertilizer costs and how the quality of variably harvested corn stover impacts thermochemical conversion to renewable fuel. Corn was harvested at varying heights: high (30 inches), normal (16 inches) and low (four inches). ARS soil and water quality research leader Doug Karlen and his team found that removing stover equaled a per-acre loss of up to 45 pounds of nitrogen, two to four pounds of phosphorus and 23 to 38 pounds of potassium. In other words, low-cut harvests could cost farmers $25 to $30 per acre to replace with fertilizer. All the stover was then thermochemically processed, and energy yields were measured. The team found the moisture content of stover adversely affected conversion efficiency the most. In fact, one of the low-cut harvests contained as much as 64 percent water. The researchers concluded the convenience, speed, water content and processing characteristics of the normal-cut stover appeared to be the all-around best option. Karlen said the cob and upper portion of the stover is best for ethanol conversion, which would likely leave ample residue behind for soil conservation. Upcoming work will look at effects of crop spacing, fertilization rates and the use of cover crops on stover quality. Meanwhile, a South Dakota State University project is investigating how pheasant and waterfowl populations respond when perennial grasses such as switchgrass are harvested at different heights and seasons. The project recently won the 2007 Budweiser Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation Research Prize, which includes $100,000. SDSU assistant professor Susan Rupp said the project will study fall and spring harvest intensity. “By intensity, we’re talking about removing a certain portion of the plants at different heights and then seeing what kind of an effect it’s going to have on waterfowl and pheasant production,” she said. “My gut instinct says that a spring harvest is going to be better, but the timing of that harvest in the spring is also going to be very essential.” PHOTO: USDA AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE
PHOTO: DOGGETT MACHINERY SERVICES
Soil scientist Doug Karlen shows technician Tanya Ferguson how to visually assess soil quality impacts of harvesting crop residue.
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NEWS Marine biomass could serve as power source Algae have gained a great deal of attention over the past year as a potential source of oil for biodiesel production. However, algae and other forms of marine biomass—kelp, in particular—could have important implications for energy production, as well. A recent report published by the Scottish Association for Marine Science on behalf of The Crown Estate, the property-holding organization for the British monarchy, detailed the potential production of methane from marine biomass via anaerobic digestion. The methane could be used to generate electricity and heat, or used as compressed natural gas for transportation fuel. The use of marine biomass could circumvent many of the land and freshwater use issues associated with terrestrial biomass, the report said. In addition, studies investigating the anaerobic digestion of marine biomass have found that marine
Marine biomass sources, such as kelp, may hold potential for methane and cellulosic ethanol production.
algae are as good a feedstock as terrestrial sources of biomass. Due to its lack of lignin and relatively small amounts of cellulose, marine biomass could also be a promising feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. According to the report, marine biomass is generally made of 25 percent to 30 percent easily degradable carbohydrates. The report recommended that additional research on the farming and har-
vesting of marine biomass be conducted. In addition, it said research should explore ways to optimize methane production and investigate the economic aspects of installing necessary infrastructure. As part of this research, the Scottish association recommends the establishment of pilot-scale kelp farms. At least one American company has plans to implement a marine-biomass-topower project. BioCentric Energy Inc., a California-based energy solutions research and development company, recently announced details of several algae projects that the company expects to complete over the next three years. As part of an algae-oilto-biodiesel project in Lake Elsinore, Calif., the company plans to convert algae residue into biogas, which will be used to produce electricity. A similar project is planned for Wuhan, China. -Erin Voegele
According to an analysis recently completed by researchers at Frost & Sullivan, Brazil may benefit from the use of sugarcane bagasse for power generation, reducing its dependence on hydropower. Titled “Sugarcane Bagasse for Power Generation in Brazilian Markets,” the study said biomass currently represents approximately 4.1 percent of the total installed energy capacity in Brazil, the majority of which is derived from sugarcane bagasse. Julio Campos, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said Brazil currently generates approximately 83 percent of its electricity through hydroelectric dams. “It will greatly depend on its water level, so during drought periods, the country may find serious problems to supply energy to the matrix,” he said. “The creation of new installed capacity to generate energy from sugarcane bagasse will drive a very positive diversification of the Brazilian electric energy matrix.” The analysis said the sugarcane bagasse 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
Sugarcane bagasse could benefit Brazil energy matrix
Sugarcane can not only provide food products, but also diversify Brazil’s energy options.
power market reached 3 gigawatts in 2007, estimating that number would increase to 12.2 gigawatts in 2014. To further support the expansion of sugarcane bagasse cogeneration technologies, Frost & Sullivan researchers recommended structured tax and financial policies, including the establishment of fair prices to pay back the high investment required of the mills. According to UNICA, the Brazilian Sug-
arcane Industry Association, there are approximately 25 million hectares (61.8 million acres) of suitable degraded pastures available in Brazil for sugarcane expansion. Between 2007 and 2008, the annual gross earnings from sugarcane in Brazil amounted to approximately $20 billion, 2 percent of which came from biobased electricity. UNICA estimated that sugarcane production will increase from approximately 496 million tons in 2007-’08 to more than 1 billion tons in 2020, and that the 3 percent of sugarcane currently used to produce electricity will rise to 15 percent. This is assuming 1 ton of sugarcane produces 250 kilograms (551 pounds) of bagasse, which generates 85.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Any excess biobased electricity produced in Brazil could supply countries such as Argentina and Sweden, the association said. -Anna Austin
NEWS Missouri adopts renewable portfolio standard Missouri’s Election Day in November resulted in a narrow win for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and an overwhelming win for mandatory renewable energy requirements for state utilities. While McCain ultimately lost the election, renewable energy companies serve only to benefit from the state’s new renewable portfolio standard (RPS). More than 66 percent of Missourians voted “yes” on an initiative that will require the state’s three largest electric utilities to generate or purchase at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021, beginning with a 2 percent requirement in 2011. Approved sources include solar energy, wind, hydropower, landfill gas and biomass. The new mandate formalizes a good-faith agreement passed in 2007, which asked utilities to generate at least 11 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. By making the initiative mandatory, Missouri joins 27 other states in initiating an RPS. While no two states have exactly the same provisions, each standard was created with the goal of requiring electricity providers to use renewable sources to generate energy. According to the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a list of specific issues should be considered by states considering an RPS: the definition of eligible resources, the purchase requirement for each utility’s portfolio, enforcement of the standard and penalties for noncompliance, and what state agency should be responsible
U.S. states with renewable energy initiatives
Voters in Missouri passed a renewable portfolio standard in November, making it the 28th state to enact some type of mandatory renewable energy initiative.
for implementing and enforcing the standard. According to the EERE, potential benefits of an RPS include a diversification of the state’s energy supply, greater production of less environmentally harmful electricity and increased market demand for renewable energy industries. -Kris Bevill
States see benefit to funding biomass projects
PHOTO: MINNESOTA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
the governor. State Sen. Ellen Anderson, coTwo states recently announced plans to chair of the task force, stressed her group give money to biomass-based projects, stating is working separately from the governor. that growth in renewable energy industries It plans to introduce similar recommendawould mean growth for the state’s economy, tions to the legislature when it reconvenes in among other benefits. January. Funding will be an issue, but both In mid-November, Minnesota Gov. Anderson and the governor said a plan to Tim Pawlenty unveiled a Green Jobs Investstimulate the state’s economy is necessary. ment Initiative, which he said if implemented In Pennsylvania, Gov. Edward Renwould result in one of the biggest changes dell announced nearly $12 million in grant to the state’s economy since the industrial awards for clean energy projects, with more revolution. His plan includes incentives that than $2 million given to biomass-based opprovide credits to state utilities toward their erations. The largest grant, totaling $1 milannual energy savings requirements if they lion, was awarded to American Refining & produce or purchase methane, thus promot- Gov. Pawlenty held a press conference Nov. 10 Biochemical Inc. and will be used to build a ing the growth of methane projects through- to unveil his Green Jobs Investment Initiative. torrefaction facility. The plant is expected to out the state. A Green Job Opportunity Building Zones program was also part of the plan. The program would convert up to 180,000 tons of feedstocks annually into 60,000 tons be a modified version of the state’s current JOBZ program, imple- of a product similar to coal. Wood and switchgrass have been torremented to entice new investments in the state by offering a multitude fied by the company, and agricultural residues are being considered, of tax exemptions. In this case, “green” businesses would be given as well. Those involved with the project believe it will be the first commercial-scale torrefaction facility in the country. preference. In 2008, the Minnesota State Legislature established a Green -Kris Bevill Jobs Task Force to look into some of the same issues addressed by 1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 19
NEWS Europeans are expecting a period of sustained growth in the bioplastics industry with worldwide capacity growing from 150,000 tons in 2006 to 2 million tons by 2011. Approximately 300 delegates from 26 countries heard speakers addressing different facets of bioplastic development at the third annual European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin on Nov. 5-6, sponsored by industry association European Bioplastics. Two keynote speakers highlighted the industry’s growth and potential. “The bioplastics market has already become a considerable market, both on a retail and resin level,” said Michael Stumpp, group vice president for BASF Corp. “I am convinced that the market will grow quickly and sustainably within the next few years.” Armand Klein, Europe business director of applied biosciences at DuPont, added, “We have to reduce our environmental footprint drastically. Renewably sourced materials, which are already available today, can provide a step in the right direction.” How that direction may affect land use and whether there is enough land for bioplastics production was addressed in a panel discussion. “Already in 2006, the European Com-
PHOTO: EUROPEAN BIOPLASTICS
European Bioplastics conference details market
Udo Hemmerling of the German Farmers’ Association, far left, told attendees of the European Bioplastics Conference that farmers can meet demand for both food and biobased products.
mission assessed the anticipated impact of a 10 percent biofuel target on needed land and grain prices, and ascertained that the production of biofuels would only have a moderate impact,” said Andreas Pilzecker, the European Commission’s directorate-general for agriculture. “Bioplastics require a significantly smaller share of agricultural production and are therefore even less responsible for a price increase.” Michael Carus, director of the Nova
Institute, underscored that statement by telling conference attendees that only 0.05 percent of European agricultural land is used to produce bioplastics. The panel also called for the European Common Agricultural Policy to be more aligned with the industrial utilization of renewable raw materials. “It is high time that the industrial and energy utilization of biomass is equated in Brussels,” Carus said. Udo Hemmerling of the German Farmers’ Association added, “We don’t have to distinguish between the use of crops for food or industrial raw materials. The farmers are flexible and can respond to every demand for more food or more biobased products.” Other speakers addressed the themes of certification and labeling. In additon, more than 25 companies presented their latest products and services in the bioplastics sector, including new packaging solutions featuring plastic film combinations for improved barrier properties and a longer shelf life, improvements in compounds and additives, and developments in technical products. -Susanne Retka Schill
Saskatchewan funds biomass briquette project Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment has awarded Titan Clean Energy Projects Corp. in Saskatoon with a $160,250 Green Technology Commercialization Grant to help bring its biomass briquetting technology to market. “We are a technology-neutral company that brings different technologies together in order to produce value-added products from biomass,” said Jamie Bakos, chief executive officer of Titan Clean Energy Projects. Titan Clean Energy’s process will turn agricultural and forestry waste, including bark, sawdust and oat hulls, into a dense briquette using an extrusion process. The company is having a turnkey briquetting facility manufactured in Europe that will be moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and producing in early 2009. “We will be at the border between forestry and agricultural production 20 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
in the province,” Bakos said. “There are excellent opportunities for feedstocks in Canada for this technology.” Titan calls its briquettes Maratherm to acknowledge their long-burning capacity. The company is marketing these briquettes manufactured in Europe prior to the commissioning of the Canadian facility. It sells two products, a log-shaped fuel for residential heating and briquettes to replace coal in industrial boilers. “The log is a premium product for heating stoves,” Bakos said. “It is very long-burning because of its low moisture and density. There are no waxes or paraffins that would make the log burn quickly. The bulk of our material will be used for industrial heating fuel to replace coal.” According to the company, the process has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 35,000 metric tons an-
nually, the equivalent of taking more than 8,000 cars off the road each year. Bakos said the company believes its customers will be eligible for carbon credits, but at this time, the law in Saskatchewan isn’t clear on that point. “Other provinces are making stronger moves toward greenhouse gas trading and valuation,” he said. “We are in wait-and-see [mode] toward greenhouse gas credits, but we see that coming in the future.” Titan will use its grant for specific budget items, including capital, equipment and operating expenses for the project. “This is a very specialized process,” Bakos said. “This technology is not operating in this country. We are bringing a new technology to the country to produce solid biomass fuel in a very innovative way.” -Jerry W. Kram
NEWS UK company starts up waste-to-energy plant Energos Ltd., part of the Ener-G family of companies, has completed a municipalsolid-waste-to-energy facility on the Isle of Wight in the U.K. It’s the first plant in the country to use an advanced thermal conversion technology. The facility, which is sited alongside the island’s waste processing and recycling operation, has a capacity of 2.3 megawatts, enough to power 3,000 homes. It’s part of the British government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs New Technology Demonstrator Program. The project uses existing infrastructure and equipment, including boilers, a steam turbine and flue gas cleaning equipment, from a former incineration plant. This caused some delays, according to Nick Dawber, managing director of Energos, as it took longer than expected to integrate modern process controls
way, where it operates five facilities in tandem with recycling operations. The company also has a plant in Germany. The company also has several larger plants in the works. It was awarded a contract to build an 80,000-metric-ton plant in Sarpsborg, Norway, and has planning permission for an 80,000-metric-ton plant in Irvine, Scotland. The company also submitted an application to build an 80,000-metric-ton facility in Knowsley, England. The Knowsley facility is expected to cost £40 million ($60 million) and take two years to build. “We are proposing a community-sized solution for local waste that would otherwise fill up landfill sites and emit damaging greenhouse gases,” Dawber said. “We offer a proven, world-class, low-emission gasification technology that can help the UK build a much-needed sustainable waste infrastructure.”
into the older equipment. The plant gasifies municipal solid waste (MSW) that can’t be recycled and uses the gas to produce electricity. The project is the only energy-from-waste process in Britain that has received preliminary accreditation for renewable obligation certificates. Once the qualifying biodegradable portion of the waste is certified, the process will receive full accreditation. The company anticipates that its renewable waste content will be greater than 60 percent. Prior to the establishment of the Energos plant, the Isle of Wight was completely dependent on electricity from the mainland. The new facility employs nine workers, making a significant impact on the island’s economy. It will also incorporate a visitor’s center as the company expects a great deal of interest from communities across Europe. Energos pioneered its technology in Nor-
-Jerry W. Kram
Scottish distillery Diageo PLC received the go-ahead from a local planning authority for a $100 million bioenergy plant that will generate energy from byproducts produced at its Cameron Bridge Distillery in Fife, Scotland. Construction was expected to begin by the end of 2008 with completion scheduled for the fall of 2010. The facility will be built by energy company Dalkia PLC, after which ownership will be transferred to Diageo while Dalkia continues to operate the facility. Dalkia is part of the French-owned environmental services company Veolia Environment. Approximately 90,000 tons of waste products per year will be used to generate 5.5 megawatts of electricity. Biomass removed from the distillery effluent—a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water—will be burned to generate heat and energy for the distillery. The remaining water will be treated in an anaerobic digester
PHOTO: DIAGEO PLC
Scottish distillery to utilize biomass power
Donaghey, left, and Frédéric Pelège, chief executive officer of Dalkia, stand at the Cameron Bridge Distillery with a sample of spent wash, which will be turned into bioenergy in the form of electricity and steam, and a sample of the recovered clean water.
to produce biogas for energy. The project is expected to generate approximately 80 per-
cent of the electricity and 98 percent of the steam needed to run the distillery, and clean up the effluent discharge from the production process. Diageo, which makes Johnnie Walker among other brands, produces approximately 100 million liters of whisky at the Fife distillery each year. The company said the use of the biomass plant to generate energy would reduce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 44,000 cars each year. “The bioenergy facility will harness a variety of green technologies in a project of unprecedented scale in our industry,” said Bryan Donaghey, managing director of Diageo Scotland. “It is without question the right way forward in terms of Diageo’s environmental ambitions. It also secures the long-term sustainability of our operation at Cameron Bridge, moving the site away from reliance on fossil fuels.” -Susanne Retka Schill
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Emissions Eliminator Companies that embrace biomass-to-energy applications face stiff emissions and pollution control requirements. Biomass Magazine examines Eisenmann Corp.â€™s dual flow wet electrostatic precipitation technology and boiler emissions compliance system, which will be installed in a major bourbon distillery in Kentucky. By Anna Austin
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he emissions from a biomass boiler vary depending on the fuel source, whether it’s wood waste, manure or coal. The composition of these emissions can be a deciding factor when a company purchases a system to mitigate various pollutants. The electrostatic precipitator (ESP), first patented by chemistry professor Frederick Cottrell in 1907, is a particulate collection pollution control device that removes particles from a flowing gas, such as air, using the force of an induced electrostatic charge. Typically electrostatic precipitation is a dry process, but spraying moisture such as water into the air flow containing the particles reduces the electrical resistance of the incoming dry material, making the process more effective. A wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP) combines the operational methods of a traditional wet scrubber with a dry ESP. Eisenmann Corp.’s WESP-2F is designed exclusively for stringent multipollutant applications such as biomass boiler systems. The WESP-F2 will soon make its first commercial debut in a major bourbon distillery in Kentucky, which will be a showcase for demonstrating the technology, says Joseph Shulfer, P.E. engineering product manager for Eisenmann.. “The primary reason they chose our technology is it will allow them to change biomass sources without having to change the type of pollution control equipment they are planning to use,” he says.
Inside a WESP As one might imagine, the type of pollutants produced by a biomass plant differ depending on the technology and the biomass. Many plants use a variety of feedShulfer stock sources. “There is a very limited selection of multipollutant control equipment available—there are technologies that focus on specific pollutants, such as a flue gas desulfurization scrubber for sulfur dioxide control,” Shulfer says. For
example, Eisenmann, which is well-known in the biofuels industry, provides regenerative thermal oxidizers to treat emissions from drying distillers grains in ethanol plants. “These are designed exclusively for the abatement of carbon monoxide and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), much like our WESP-2F is designed specifically for the treatment of biomass boiler emissions,” he says Eisenmann’s WESP-2F not only addresses particulate matter emissions, but also an array of other pollutants. “One thing that we’ve seen in the past year, is that with the increased costs of oil and natural gas, a lot of U.S. plants are looking for alternative ways to produce steam,” Shulfer says. “One operational difference between a natural-gas-fired boiler and a biomass system is the increase in untreated emissions. This will result in the need for a more robust pollution-control system.” When operating, biomass boilers require combustion air, which is ultimately turned into flue gas and sent through the smokestack before being released into the atmosphere, but not before being treated by pollution control equipment. In a wet pollution control system, the gas first travels through a quench duct which forces the temperature of the gas to drop from about 450 degrees Fahrenheit down to the saturation temperature, which may be as low as 160 degrees F, Shulfer explains. “This is done because in order for a WESP system or a scrubber to work, the gas must be saturated with water—a point at which a drop in temperature will result in condensation,” he says. As the quenched gas enters the WESP2F system, it travels through an open spray tower scrubber where nitric oxide, which isn’t soluble in water, soluble nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride are removed. “The spray tower removes these acid gases through the liquid-gas absorption as the flue gas travels in the vertical direction counter flow to the scrubber spray,” Shulfer says. “It’s like a rain shower inside. It models the same ‘scrubbing’ the earth does after a hard rain, absorbing the pollutants and particulates.”
PHOTO: EISENMANN CORP.
As particles enter the WESP system, they become charged and are attracted to the collector tube walls.
After passing through some duct work, the gas reaches the first WESP field. Because particulate matter is a difficult pollutant to remove due to its size, the system must rely on forces such as an electric field to pull it out of the air stream. “Inside of the wet electrostatic precipitator there are multiple tubes which particulate laden air enters,” Shulfer says. “The tubes are constructed with a rigid electrode placed in the center of the tube. These two components form the high-voltage electric field required for the removal of particulate matter.” The collector tube walls inside the WESP have opposite polarity of the electrodes, which when combined function as a large capacitator. “The electrical potential between them is kept as high as possible for maximum efficiency while controlling the spark rate for adequate ozone production— an oxidizing agent used in the reduction of NOx (nitrogen oxide) and mercury,” Shulfer says. Voltage is applied across the space between the electrode and the wall. As particles enter the system they become charged and are attracted to the wall. All of the particles and dust that accumulate on the wall have to be disposed of at some point, Shulfer says. “Dry electrostatic precipitators have rappers that pound on the wall to shake the collected dust into a hopper—a technique that can re-
sult in particulate re-entrainment,” he says. “In a WESP, water is injected in the form of a super-fine mist that continuously cleans the collected particulate from the collector tube walls.” Ash resistivity issues associated with dry ESPs are also eliminated because of the wet film slurry formed from the collected water and particulate. In the last phase, the gas travels through an up-flow WESP field. Shulfer says this is done is to ensure the removal of mercury. Elemental mercury is one of the most difficult types of mercury to remove, he says. “In the first field, ozone is produced and the mercury is converted to mercuric oxide, which can be removed with the final WESP field because it takes on the form of a particulate,” Shulfer says. Basically, the mercury is converted to a gas because of the specific temperature and then combines with the ozone and condenses to form a solid piece of mercuric oxide dust, which is attracted to the second WESP field, he says. The final field also serves as a demisting device and removes most of the remaining droplets of water from the gas as it goes up and out through the smokestack.
Why Choose a WESP? In selecting a WESP over a dry ESP, water consumption is something to consider. That can be determined by measuring the
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1) Inlet quench section 2) Pre-scrubber 3) Downflow WESP #1 4) Horizontal gas scrubber 5) Upflow WESP #2 6) Clean exhaust outlet
A model of the EISENMANN WESP-2F system.
amount of water needed to quench the incoming flue gas, according to Shulfer. “We have new technology that can be easily implemented with this system that reduces the amount of water consumed by over 60 percent,” he says. “It will also reduce the combined boilers and WESP blowdown to zero-liquid discharge.” The WESP-2F allows for the ability to switch to any fuel without worrying about additional emissions, Shulfer says.
To make the system easier to purchase, Eisenmann has partnered with a key biomass boiler manufacturer in the United States to offer package deals. The cost of a biomass-to-energy system can range from $5 million to $50 million, according to Shulfer. “Typically our system represents about 10 percent of the total capital investment,” he says, adding that customers can expect a three- to five-year payback on the entire system based on fuel savings. Overall, the WESP-2F is the result of much research and dedication. In support of developing the WESP-2F for the biomass boiler industry, Eisenmann desired to entirely understand the technology and its implications. “We invested a lot of time, including the development of a small-scale pilot unit,” Shulfer says. “This was an ideal way to develop this technology. We have employees on our staff who have dedicated their entire careers to air pollution control technology and, specifically, electrostatic precipitation.” BIO
PHOTO: EISENMANN CORP.
Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at aaustin @bbiinternational.com or (701) 738-4968.
Pictured is a WESP system being assembled.
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PHOTO: EISENMANN CORP.
craving corn Andthe cob
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TECHNOLOGY The ethanol industry’s declaration of energy independence for the United States is leading producers to generate more energy from an acre of corn. Story and Photos By Ryan C. Christiansen
t might not look like a revolution: men and women in Carhartt jackets and feed caps standing in a corn field watching a combine harvest grain. Adjusting the car radio, yawning or blinking, the casual traveler passing by might miss the rebellion. The American farmer, however, might pause—and smile. He sees that the harvest is for more than just grain. Cobs, too, are being collected and hauled away from the field. Under the banner of energy independence, ethanol producers—along with agricultural equipment manufacturers of every color—are working together to generate more fuel from the field.
Cob Harvest Demand To spur the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, the 2008 Farm Bill includes a $1.01 per gallon tax credit through 2012. Sioux Falls, S.D.-based ethanol producer Poet LLC has selected corn cobs as its cellulosic ethanol feedstock. According to Doug Berven, director of corporate affairs for Poet, cobs are an excellent feedstock because they are consistent in quality, they can be collected during the main corn grain harvest, they have good bulk density, and farmers are more willing to collect cobs than the remaining corn stover, mainly because the stalks, leaves and husks provide valuable nutrients when left to decay in the soil. Berven says cobs are a logical feedstock for producing cellulosic ethanol, and 5 billion gallons of ethanol could potentially be produced each year from cobs alone. With $80 million from the U.S. DOE, Poet is perfecting cob-to-ethanol conversion at the Poet Research Center in Scotland, S.D., and is converting a 50 MMgy corn grain-to-ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, into an integrated corn-grain-to-ethanol and cob-to-ethanol biorefinery to produce 125 MMgy of ethanol—25 MMgy from cobs and also from corn fiber derived through grain fractionation. The process will allow Poet to produce 27 percent more ethanol from an acre of corn. Construction in Emmetsburg is expected to begin this year and Poet plans to produce cellulosic ethanol commercially by 2011. The plant will require 275,000 acres of cobs annually. Another ethanol producer wants to use corncobs to help fuel its corn grain ethanol production process. Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLLP of Benson, Minn., will convert cobs in a gasifier to synthesis gas to replace 75 percent or more of the natural gas needs at its 45 MMgy plant. According to Gene Fynboh, the harvest coordinator and a board member for the Chippewa Valley Agrafuels Co-op, cobs are desirable for gasification because a ton of cobs produces a similar amount of British thermal units as a ton of coal, with little ash. 1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 29
TECHNOLOGY CVEC isn’t the only company on the southern edge of the Central Lakes area of Minnesota looking at cobs for energy. The University of Minnesota, Morris wants cobs for its gasifier and Willmar Municipal Utilities in the city of Willmar, Minn., plans to test burn cobs with coal at its 16 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant this winter. According to Bruce Gomm, general manager for the utility, because Minnesota has mandated all utilities produce 25 percent of their energy through renewable resources by 2025, the goal is to burn 20 percent to 30 percent cobs. “Our research indicates there is quite a large quantity of cobs available [in the area] … plenty to meet everybody’s needs,” Gomm says. Jon Folkedahl, a consultant for the utility, says 150,000 acres of corn were planted in Minnesota’s Kandiyohi County last year. “The farmer will feel more comfortable investing in cob harvesting equipment if he knows that there is more than one market available in the area,” Folkedahl says. “Cobs are the hottest thing going in terms of renewable fuels.”
Cob Harvest Evangelism To evangelize the economic benefits of harvesting cobs with grain, Poet and CVEC have demonstrated the prototypes that agricultural equipment manufacturers have developed for harvesting, transporting and storing cobs. Poet held a demonstration on 4,000 acres near Hurley, S.D., in October 2007, and in November 2008 displayed equipment for approximately 750 farmers near Emmetsburg. “What’s exciting is that so many equipment companies, and all of the major equipment companies, are working on this,” says Jim Sturde-
vant, director of Poet’s Project Liberty cob-to-ethanol initiative. Poet tested harvesting 10,000 acres of cobs in Texas, Iowa and South Dakota in 2008. CVEC held three cob harvesting demonstrations in October near Donnelly, Priam and Holloway, Minn., with the goal of harvesting 5,000 acres of cobs from more than a dozen farmers. The company received applications offering more than 25,000 acres for the harvest, Fynboh says. Numerous growers volunteered for the Willmar utility’s 450-ton cob harvest, but in the end logistics, timing and equipment availability prompted them to work with a single grower, Folkedahl says. Sturdevant says interest among farmers is growing. “This is an opportunity for farmers to get an additional revenue stream without requiring them to change their planting practices,” he says. The companies have yet to determine how much to pay for cobs. Poet has suggested that the cobs are worth between $30 and $60 per ton. The most recent Farm Bill includes the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which allows for farmers to be reimbursed up to $45 per ton for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of feedstock to a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.
Cob Harvest Equipment Corn grain is typically harvested using a combine that strips the ears from the stalks and then separates the grain from the ears, depositing cobs and the rest of the stover back on to the field. Agricultural equipment manufacturers have come up with multiple ways for
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TECHNOLOGY harvesting cobs during the same field pass, which prevents farmers from having to pick up cobs from the ground, and keeps dirt from being collected with the cobs. The manufacturers know the first criteria farmers have for cob harvesting is that the equipment should not slow down the grain harvest, because the window for harvesting corn can be small due to weather constraints. Manufacturers have employed three basic harvesting techniques: using a modified combine to harvest a mixture of cobs and grain together (dubbed corn-cob mix or CCM), using a modified combine to harvest and also separate cobs and grain, or using a cob “caddy” towed behind the combine to harvest cobs from stover ejected by the grain combine.
Corn-Cob Mix Harvest The CCM harvest technique uses a modified combine to harvest a mixture of whole or broken cobs and clean grain into the same bin. The cobs and grain are then separated using a second machine on the side of the field. The farmer doesn’t have to change harvesting practices while operating the combine, but would have to consider using a modified grain cart that can better handle the emptying of the cob-grain mix. Additional equipment is required to separate the cobs from grain after harvest. The manufacturers involved in this technique include CNH America LLC with its Case IH combines, Claas of America Inc. with its Lexion combines and Deere & Co. with its John Deere combines. “It’s relatively minor modifications,” says Sam Acker, director of
marketing for Case IH harvesting equipment at CNH. “In a couple of hours of changing some parts out, a guy can go from just harvesting the grain to harvesting a corn-cob mix.” “Within the next couple of years—once we get a good handle on what type of solutions our customers are looking for—we will have a kit available to convert a combine over to do the corn-cob mix,” says Barry Nelson, manager of media and channel relations for Deere. A conversion kit is already available for the Claas Lexion combine, according to Bob Armstrong, product marketing manager for Claas. He says the modification is a variation on what is available for harvesting earlage. To catch and transport the CCM from the combine, Armstrong says Claas has a Xerion multipurpose tractor with a fifth wheel and a 53-foot aluminum trailer that can be transferred to a semi tractor for high-speed road transport to a feedstock purchaser. Unverferth Manufacturing Co. Inc. has developed the dual-auger Brent Avalanche 1194CCM grain cart, which has been designed specifically for emptying the CCM. “Being dense and slippery, [corn grain] flows very well but, once you get the less-dense corncobs and some of the fodder from the corn plant itself in there, its flow ability is reduced, and so we have made modifications to the inside of the cart,” says Jerry Ecklund, advertising manager for Unverferth. To separate cobs from grain, Wildcat Manufacturing has a modification for its 626 Cougar trommel screen system, according to Shannon Wezensky, design engineer for Wildcat.
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TECHNOLOGY Obtaining Harvesting Equipment
The Vermeer Corp. CCX770 Cob Harvester emptying cobs.
On-Combine Cob Separation The on-combine cob separation technique uses a modified combine to harvest cobs and grain into separate bins. The manufacturer involved in this technique is primarily Ceres Agriculture Consultants. The Ceres Ag Residue Recovery System sorts stover at the back of the combine and then collects cobs in a hopper on top of the combine.
Tow-Behind Cob Harvest The tow-behind cob harvest technique uses a cob caddy hitched to the back of the combine. The machine catches the stover from the combine to collect the cobs. A hitch must be installed on the combine, meaning the combine will work harder to pull the weight of the equipment and the cobs. “That’s obviously a concern,” Ackers says. “The combines up to this point—I don’t care which [manufacturer]—their chassis haven’t been designed for pulling a big, heavy cart behind them. What [Case IH] is looking at with our own (tow-behind) design, as well, is what do we need to do with the rear axle and rear frame of the combine to ensure that it’s all going to hold together when we do this?” Because cobs are less dense than grain, the cob caddy needs to be emptied more often than the grain cart. The manufacturers involved in this technique include CNH America LLC, Vermeer Corp. and Redekop Manufacturing. To support collecting grain from the combine and cobs from the caddies during a single harvest pass, Dethmers Manufacturing Co. (Demco) has developed the dual-cart 2-SKU Cob Cart, according to Ken Streff, vice president of sales and marketing for Demco. Streff says the front cart collects grain. The rear cart is connected using a swing hitch so that it can be positioned beside the cob caddy for cob collection.
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Most cob harvesting equipment is not yet available for purchase and most manufacturers haven’t determined pricing, which makes it difficult for farmers to weigh the cost of harvesting cobs against the value of their cobs—which is also still an unknown. No matter. Machinery Link, an agricultural equipment leasing company based in Kansas City, Mo., plans to have cob harvesting equipment available for lease as soon as possible, according to Landon Morris, vice president of marketing for Machinery Link. Morris urges farmers to consider leasing. “We lease combines because they are a very expensive and highly specialized asset,” he says. “Whichever of the cob units become commercial, they will fall into the same asset class. They are new pieces of equipment that have never existed before, and so we don’t know what the residual value of those pieces of equipment will be or what their useful life will be. This is an ideal model for leasing or short-term rentals as opposed to asking a producer to bear the burden of purchasing an asset for cob collection.” Morris says the farmers he has talked to are excited to begin harvesting cobs. “I think they are all hopeful,” he says. “Farmers are generally optimistic. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be farmers, right?”
Cob Harvest Logistics Researchers at the U of M, Morris have looked at cob storage and transportation issues and have determined that cobs can be stored in the field temporarily, so long as the piles are removed before spring. This provides growers and feedstock purchasers with a practical, inexpensive storage option. So far, both Poet and CVEC have asked farmers to pile cobs at the edges of their fields and have shouldered the cost of transporting cobs to their facilities. Meanwhile, researchers continue to examine whether broken or whole-cob pieces store best and which is best for transportation.
A Commercial Harvest The first, small-scale commercial harvest of cobs for Poet and CVEC will be in the fall of 2009. “We will work with farmers and buy cobs, probably through a contract approach,” Sturdevant says. “We’ll just keep this evolution going so that in 2009, a number of farmers are actually harvesting cobs and then in 2010, there will be more machinery available for lease or purchase and there will be more farmers involved. We will just let it grow from there.” CVEC currently purchases corn from approximately 112,000 acres of land supplied by members of its associated cooperative. “We expect that those same 112,000 acres could provide 75 percent of the energy needs for operating the plant if we use all of the corn cobs,” Fynboh says. “It’s not an insurmountable task. Twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t imagine the pile of corn that we’re producing now.” BIO Ryan C. Christiansen is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 373-8042.
Green Pronto, Toronto Go
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Toronto is implementing residential source-separated organics to divert tons of organic matter—about 30 percent of all household trash—from landfills. Currently some of the material is being composted and turned into green fertilizer. Once its plans to construct two large anaerobic digestion facilities are fulfilled, the city will be making green energy to help offset the cost of implementing its green bin program. By Ron Kotrba
itchener, Ontario, near the impressive Toronto skyline, is the home of the now-universal “blue box” recycling program, where residents put recyclables into a blue container that’s regularly picked up at the curb. The pilot program was instrumental in developing a practice known as source separation, meaning the consumer—the “source” of the recyclable waste—is encouraged, possibly incentivized, to separate their recyclables from trash to divert useful material from landfills. The blue box program was started in the Toronto suburb of Kitchener in 1981, and has been successfully implemented for years in Canada and the United States. Approximately 20 years later, the city of Toronto embarked on an equally ambitious task to steer tons of organic material—table scraps from last night’s dinner, banana peels, soiled diapers, etc.—from occupying precious and fleeting space in landfills. This was called the green bin program. According to the city, organics comprise approximately 30 percent of household garbage. Redirecting that large chunk of household trash from the landfill is part of Toronto’s goal to reach 70 percent landfill diversion. When achieved, more than two-thirds of all trash generated by Toronto residents will never even see a landfill. “The environment is the primary driver of our behavior, but the second motivator is the limited capacity at our garbage dumps,” says Toronto Councilor Glenn De Baeremaeker. “We spent about $230 million of taxpayer money to buy one garbage dump, and once it’s filled we don’t have another one, so we want to make sure we extend the useful life of that garbage dump because that saves us a lot of money, and political heartache and headache. Nobody wants another garbage dump, and we really can’t build another one in our own city, which means we’d be un-neighborly, dumping our trash in someone else’s back yard.”
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PHOTO: CANADA COMPOSTING INC.
Michigan residents are all too familiar with this, as Ontario has found it cheaper to dump its trash in Michigan instead of in its own province. “There has been a lot of fuss from Michigan,” De Baeremaeker says. “People don’t want imported garbage coming to their community—and that’s fair.” He says Michigan nets out ahead in the deal though, because while it accepts Ontario’s trash, Ontario takes in Michigan’s toxic waste. “We should all take care of our own waste—treat it in your own backyard—and with an organics plant we have that option,” he says.
Feedstock Collection: The Green Bin Program When Toronto’s green bin program officially launched more than six years ago, no one thought it would become an instant success story with 510,000 single-family homes. “We couldn’t stop people from using the green bins even when we said ‘don’t use them yet,’” De Baeremaeker says. Green bins were delivered to houses on June 1, 2002, but the residents were asked not to use them yet because the first pickup wouldn’t be until July 1. People began to source separate their organics immediately, and after nearly a month of material accumulating in these bins, drivers collecting the bins were getting sick from all of the decomposing material. “So that’s the type of insane success we’ve had in the city of Toronto,” De Baeremaeker says. “People thought it was an ecological crime to throw the fish they had last night into the garbage. We don’t have organic green bin police searching up and down alleys seeing if people are using their bins. So with virtually no enforcement and very little public education, we had about a 95 percent compliance rate from the very first day.” The launch of the green bin program in 2002 dovetailed with the startup of a 25,000 metric ton (approximately 27,500 ton) per year front-end demonstration facility at the city’s Dufferin Transfer Station, built to prove out anaerobic digestion and the BTA process for which Canada Composting Inc. holds a technology license. De Baeremaeker says anaerobic digestion isn’t a new technology—but it is new to the general public. The Dufferin biogas demonstration plant 36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
The 25 million metric ton per year anaerobic digestion plant at Toronto’s Dufferin Transfer Station was built as a front-end demonstration project to prove out its wet pretreatment process and anaerobic digestion. As a front-end demonstration plant, no generators were installed so the methane produced from anaerobic digestion is flared off.
doesn’t actually produce electricity from the methane gas generated. “No one knew if the technology would work,” the councilor says. “So we didn’t invest the money to make energy from it.” The city has four other sites where organics from single-family homes are delivered and composted, and turned into organic fertilizer. In November, Toronto announced that it was expanding the green bin program to include another half-million Toronto citizens who were previously excluded from the program, including residents of multiunit buildings, apartments and condominiums. Once all 4,500 multiunit buildings come onboard, the city will be swimming in an additional 30,000 metric tons (approximately 33,100 tons) of organic material in need of a home. Much like the dovetailing of the green bin program in 2002 with the startup of the Dufferin demonstration plant, once all the apartments in Toronto are in the program, the city says it will include 300 additional buildings per month over the next 18 months. When all the apartments are incorporated in the green bin program, the city hopes to have made significant headway on construction of the first of two 55,000 metric ton (approximately 60,600 ton) per year anaerobic digestion facilities.
Dufferin Demonstration Plant The demonstration plant at the Dufferin Transfer Station was designed to prove out a wet preprocessing stage and anaerobic digestion, and process 25,000 metric tons (approximately 27,500 tons) per year, however, plant manager Doug Beattie tells Biomass Magazine the facility has been operating well over capacity, taking in more than 40,000 metric tons (approximately 44,100 tons) per year. Beattie says moving from two shifts per day to three has, in part, helped achieve operation well beyond design capacity. Randy Cluff, a board member and consultant with Canada Composting Inc., says in 1999, Toronto decided to develop a demonstration project to figure out how to divert organics from the waste stream. A request for proposal was issued, attracting 19 bidders. The city selected CCI’s technology proposal. “So off the project went,” Cluff says. “It was developed in 2000, all done under demonstration basis—they wanted to see how the technologies performed so after a couple of years they could formalize a larger plan.” Cluff says CCI is the license holder for BTA technology in the United States and Canada. Beattie says the technology was developed by a group of engineers—half in the
ANAEROBIC DIGESTION pulp and paper industry and the other half in wastewater treatment. “Some of them were familiar with pulpers used to pulp paper and thought it was an ideal system to pulp up food waste and mix it with water,” he says. “The engineers with wastewater treatment were familiar with anaerobic digestion.” The two processes were linked together, creating the BTA process. The differentiated front-end technology at the Dufferin plant is designed to clean the contamination from the organics to produce a high-quality organic pulp. This pretreatment is an important step, as Cluff says contamination in the feedstock can be as high as 12 percent by weight. “Even in source separation you’re going to get contamination,” he says. “Forks, knives, household batteries, tin cans, Pepsi bottles, anything you can think of.” And plastic, lots of plastic. Residents line their “kitchen catchers,” small pails used for organics in the home, with plastic bags so when it’s full there is little mess and they can tie it off and take it to the green bin, which may also be lined with plastic. “Toronto allows people to collect their food wastes in plastic bags because [before the Dufferin demo plant was built] the city was concerned whether the equipment could remove the plastic bags, so the pulper was installed to do that side of the work,” Beattie says. “Basically the pulper is a big mixing tank that’s filled half full of water, and the rest is food waste that’s conveyed in with a big conveyor, then a mixer grinds up the food waste into a soup-like mixture, which is pumped out to a great big tank—the digester—where bacteria breaks this organic matter down and produces methane gas.” Once the digester, which has a 3,600 metric ton (approximately 3,970 tons) capacity and a 12- to 14-day residence time, breaks down the material, the remaining solid/liquid mixture is dewatered and the solids are then shipped out for composting, according to Beattie. “The technology is all quite simple,” he says. “There are mixers, pumps and conveyors— nothing rocket science about it.” Because CCI is the technology provider for the Dufferin demonstration plant, it is one of two bidders hoping to land the contract with Toronto to build two 55,000
metric ton (60,600 ton) per year anaerobic digestion facilities.
Economic and Environmental Drivers It takes fuel, labor, time and equipment—money essentially—for the city to collect tons of trash from all over Toronto on a regular basis. De Baeremaeker says generating methane gas, electricity or even perhaps liquid fuels from digesting the source-separated organics will help offset the cost. “There will be flexibility and flexible thought with respect to the final use of the biogas—it could be used for CHP (combined heat and power), or liquid fuel, or pipeline-grade gas, or any combination of those things,” Cluff says. De Baeremaeker says for the past six years there’s been zero incentive for residents to participate in the program other than being good, environmentally conscious citizens. “But we’re changing that,” he says. “As of Nov. 1, we have gone to a user-pay system where the more garbage you produce, the more you pay. People will now have an additional financial incentive to throw their banana peels in the green bin. Under the new system recycling, green bin organics and yard waste are all collected for free; you only pay for what you put in your garbage can.” Now, the 5 percent of Toronto residents living in single-family homes, who haven’t been driven by the environmental aspect to recycle their organics, have a financial incentive to do so. “Obviously what’s being done now around the world is not sustainable,” De Baeremaeker says. “You can’t consume everything and throw it in a dump. If we’re going to survive on this planet as a species, we have to make sure it’s sustainable. We’ve all heard about global warming. We see the ice caps melting. We understand polar bears are on their way to being extinct and we don’t want to contribute to that. In fact, we want to reverse that process.” BIO Ron Kotrba is a Biomass Magazine senior writer. Reach him at rkotrba @bbiinternational.com or (701) 738-4942.
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June 15 – 18, 2009 Denver Convention Center D e n v e r , C o l o r a d o, USA
w w w. f u e l e t h a n o l wo r k s h o p. c o m 38 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
Size Matters The logistics involved in developing a biomass-based power project can be daunting. Sourcing, transporting and storing biomass are all issues that need to be addressed, but the size of the facility needs to be determined before that can happen. Biomass Magazine talks to industry experts who have different ideas about the perfect size for biomass-fired power plants. By Anna Austin
Pictured is a 240 megawatt biomass power plant in Finland. PHOTOS: PETER FLYNN
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PHOTO: SIEMENS AG
n recent months, announcements of new biomass-to-power projects have flooded renewable energy news. These ventures range from the construction of a giant 100-megawatt (MW) wood-powered plant, to building 25 small 4-MW wood and agricultural-waste-fired plants. Presumably, different parts of the world have different needs and demands when it comes to electricity—but is one size more economical than the other? In August, Denmark-based Babcock and Wilcox Vølund A/S, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Babcock and Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc., announced that it had reached an agreement with Italybased Advanced Renewable Energy Ltd. to supply up to 25 small biomass plants over the next 10 years, all of which will be built in Italy. In addressing its plan to build multiple plants, Ryan Cornell, company spokesman, says the main impetus was to meet customer needs. “These are the types of plants [our customers] were looking for, so we are licensing a design that fits their needs,” he says. “There are several reasons why they wanted to go with the smaller plants instead of larger, centrally localized plants, some of that has to do with essentially the size of the region where they are building.” All 25 plants will be built in two regions in southern Italy— Calabria and Sicily. “The towns are small there, so you are looking at building a small plant to serve a town of 1,000 to 5,000 people. They don’t need a gigantic plant to serve these towns—the electrical grid isn’t developed in the same way it is in the United States. It is small and limited, so we are trying to provide electricity to these small regions separately rather than to a large region.” Cornell says another reason for small-scale plant development in this particular area is that the Italian government encourages the development of small biomass plants to support the local forestry industry. “They essentially have large tracks of forest land there, and they are trying to provide a market for the waste products that are generated,” he says. “It is more economical this way. Instead of building one plant 100 miles away and then trucking the wood and biomass in, the plant is built nearby and the biomass has to be hauled only 10 miles.” Cornell says local, small-scale development reduces transportation costs and helps generate more jobs for the local people. In summary, Cornell says in this case, the market is different than it is in the United States. “These are smaller towns with smaller power needs,” he says. “Considering the grid infrastructure, it makes sense to keep it small rather than taxing the grid with power output from one large plant.” Other companies such as Québec, Canada-based Sanimax and Ontario–based StormFisher Biogas also favor small, local facilities to utilize continuous waste streams. With plans to invest more than $160 million, the companies recently announced a joint venture to construct eight biogas plants in the Midwest over a period of time, which has yet to be determined. Sanimax annually collects more than 1 million tons of animal and food byproducts, vegetable oils, and hides and skins and transforms them into useable products for industries worldwide, including feed companies, chemical manufacturers, tanneries, soap producers and pet food manufacturers.
This 10 megawatt biomass power plant in Germany was built by Siemens AG, and is powered by timber and wood waste.
StormFisher Biogas, a renewable energy company that builds, owns and operates biogas plants across North America, works with the food processing and agricultural industries to process organic byproducts into electricity and natural gas. In the next five years, the company plans to develop 18 plants across North America. The first three plants will be built in Ontario and are expected to be on line in 2009. Each of the plants will process about 100,000 tons of organic byproducts annually and generate 2.6 MW of electricity, enough to power approximately 2,600 homes.
Is Bigger Better? Good things don’t always come in small packages, according to Peter Flynn, pool chair in Management for the Engineers Department of Mechanical Engineering University of Alberta at Edmonton, Canada. Flynn has spent nearly a decade studying the burning of biomass—agricultural and wood waste—in standard power plants instead of coal. He has also been involved in numerous research projects to determine the economics of different plant scales. Flynn says building multiple small power plants in a region is an economic disaster. “The mantra that has come out of my work is that capital efficiency trumps transportation,” he says. “Talking about ethanol and power generation—everybody who has modeled power generation has come up with an economy of scale that says, when you double the size of a plant you will have a 62 percent increase in capital costs,” Flynn says. “This is for a 100 percent increase of capacity.” He has also found that small power plants are not as thermally efficient as large plants. “A 200 MW power plant will turn 30 [percent] to 39 percent of the thermal energy in the biomass into elec-
INDUSTRY says. “When you look at the cost of trucking something, the biggest cost of driving a car is the depreciating value of the car,” he says. “So when fuel increases, it has a small impact. When you look at trucking costs, a quarter or maybe a third of that cost is fuel. So, if I have a 50 percent increase in fuel cost, it’s not a big deal.” Flynn says he conducted a highly detailed study in a mixed farming county in Alberta, Canada, to determine whether it would be more economical to install anaerobic digesters on individual farms or to build one large, centralized plant. The study looked at the cost of trucking the manure to the centralized plant and then transporting the leftover liquid back to the farms where it would be spread on the land as fertilizer. “Unquestionably, it was more economical to have a centralized plant, much like the people in Denmark have, which is a heavy dairy industry country,” he says.
PHOTO: PETER FLYNN
A 240 megawatt biomass power plant in Finland.
tricity,” Flynn says, considering a 200 MW plant to be large. “A 25 MW plant will turn 20 percent into electricity, or maybe 25 percent into electricity. It’s losing more heat per unit of capacity, and this is because the surface area per unit of biomass is bigger.” Flynn conducted a study with other researchers for the British Columbia government to determine the plant economics of using surplus trees killed by mountain pine beetles as a feedstock to generate electricity. “We found that if a plant was built at 300 MWs, generated power could be sold for 7 cents per kilowatt hour. If it is built at 100 MWs, power could be sold for 12 cents per kilowatt hour— having it bigger made it cheaper per unit of power output.” Although larger facilities cost more to build, more power and efficiency would be generated, which would outweigh the higher construction costs, Flynn says. “This is an economy of scale,” he says. “This is why we build big refineries and coal-fired plants, and all the same stuff is true for ethanol.” A common misconception in the biomass industry is that biomass cannot be economically transported great distances because its energy content isn’t high enough, Flynn says. “That is absolutely wrong,” he says. “I can tell you six studies from Europe, the U.S. and Canada—highly detailed studies—have said this isn’t true.” Even the cost of fuel doesn’t make that much difference, Flynn
Should the size of the community affect the size of a plant? In some cases, but not usually, Flynn says. “If you have district heating, where you capture waste heat from a power plant and use that, then the economics of distributed plants changes a bit because you can’t ship low-quality heat long distances,” he says. In North America, where district heat is rarely used, it’s irrelevant, Flynn says. There is a reason why there are no small coal-fired power plants for each small town in North America. “It’s expensive, and while it may promote rural living, the economics are not there,” he says. Another issue to consider is the staffing needs for a large number of plants. “Staffing for a 500 MW plant is nearly the same as it is for a 50 MW plant,” Flynn says. “You have to have a person in the control room no matter what the size. Having more plants means more workers, raising costs considerably.” Flynn says companies that build multiple smaller power plants and receive government subsidies are generally less profitable and are a waste of taxpayer dollars. The technology utilized at a biomass power plant also affects the economics of plant size. “Many technologies are expensive and require a large plant to be economical,” Flynn says. “For example, Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis is a very capital intensive process.” Other studies have shown that large biomass power plants may have less of a negative affect on the environment. Research conducted by Patricia Thornley of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, showed that smaller facilities generally produce higher levels of emissions per unit of electrical output than larger ones. In addition, gasification processes facilitate a reduction in emissions for large plants. As the world continues to look for ways to create cleaner, less expensive power, it is critical to consider logistics such as the size of biomass power plants, Flynn says. “All of this doesn’t matter if we are talking about a half of a percent of a country’s energy mix,” he says. “But when you start talking about 25 percent of a country’s energy from renewable energy—we better get this right. If we get it wrong, the consequences could be enormous.” BIO Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at aaustin @bbiinternational.com or (701) 738-4968. 1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 43
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A World of
Experts at the 4th World Biofuels Symposium offered their impressions of the global potential for ethanol, biodiesel and beyond. By Travis Hochard
ore than 200 people attended the 4th World Biofuels Symposium held Oct. 19-21 in Beijing. The symposium, which was organized by BBI International and Tsinghua University, featured 48 speakers from biofuel associations, technology companies and research institutions from countries around the world including Brazil, China, Scotland, Thailand, Italy, Republic of Ghana, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. The common thread throughout the conference was that sustainability must be a top priority in the expansion of biofuels worldwide. While many speakers found this path to be in second-generation ethanol and other advanced biofuels, Marcos Jank, president and chief executive officer of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) said that he considers Brazilian ethanol from sugarcane a sustainable biofuel based on the greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved and low percentage of arable land used. Jank said in Brazil, the equivalent of 25.8 million tons of carbon dioxide was avoided in 2007, thanks to the use of ethanol. He also said that food versus fuel is not an issue for the country. “Sugarcane for ethanol accounts for only 1 percent of the arable land in Brazil, reducing our gasoline consumption by 50 percent,” Jank said. “This is in a country where gasoline is considered the alternative fuel.” Brazil produced 23 billion liters (6.08 billion gallons) of ethanol in 2007, and the domestic sales of E100 were 1 billion liters (264 million gallons), according to Jank. “This demand is driven by consumer choice—90 percent of new cars sold in Brazil are flex fuel—representing more than 25 percent of the fleet,” Jank said, adding that another driver of Brazil’s success is the mandatory blending of 20 percent to 25 percent of ethanol into gasoline. Projections for Brazilian ethanol from sugarcane show tremendous potential with 47 billion liters (12.42 billion gallons) by 2016 and 65 billion liters (17.17 billion gallons) by 2021. Most of this expanded production would be exported—an unpredictable market for Brazil. This is why Jank is in favor of making ethanol a globally traded energy commodity by lifting all tariff and nontariff barriers. “Sugarcane is the most competitive raw material for the production of ethanol—competitive with any gasoline obtained from a U.S. $70 barrel of crude—and has very positive energy and environmental balances,” Jank said, adding that Brazil does not intend to supply ethanol for the rest of the world. “We are part of the solution, not the solution,” he said. While Brazil is a net exporter of ethanol, China will have to look to next-generation technologies for ethanol and other biofuels to become a significant part of its fuel supply, according to information provided by Xiaohui Wang, director and senior
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analyst of the Market Monitoring Division of the China Grains and Oils Information Center, a government think tank researching grain and oilseed supply and demand. Wang’s analysis of Chinese agriculture and food supply revealed the country’s limitations for grain-based ethanol expansion. “Chinese agricultural products will continue to increase yields and efficiency, but the lack of water and arable land will limit China’s future in grain output,” Wang said. “With a rising population and increased standard of living we must ask who will feed Chinese people in the future.” Wang explained that to expand agricultural production the Chinese government has implemented policies that will improve crop yields, increase storage and restrict uses for arable land, but he stressed that food will remain the priority for Chinese agriculture. It is for this reason that China’s largest food manufacturer and ethanol producer is focusing its research and development efforts on cellulosic ethanol. The China National Cereals, Oils, & Foodstuffs Corp. (COFCO) produces 820,000 tons (275 million gallons) of ethanol in China annually, which is half the country’s total capacity. “Our demand for cellulose is more than in the United States,” Guojun Yue, assistant president of COFCO, told the audience during the general session. “With the development of biomass technologies we have a goal to produce 2 million tons (670 million gallons) of biomass ethanol by 2010 and 10 million tons (3.3 billion gallons) by 2020.” However, Yue did not dismiss the production of grain-based ethanol altogether. He explained that corn and wheat are laying down the foundation for nongrain ethanol in China, and the second stage will include sweet potato and sweet sorghum, which is still considered a grain. “This will provide a transition period, but the future of ethanol in China lies in cellulose.” A U.S. company that is trying to find a way to supply the Chinese biofuels market is Coskata Inc., a cutting-edge technology firm that is commercializing a proprietary process for the production of fuelgrade ethanol. Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development for Coskata, discussed China’s rising potential for second-generation biofuels and outlined his company’s solution to its food-versus-fuel dilemma. Bolsen’s figures showed that Chinese grain-based ethanol production has grown from 100 million gallons in 2004 to about 500 million in 2008. He attributed this increase to E10 mandates in several Chinese provinces and cities, but cautioned that “high food demand limits the further growth of first-generation ethanol in China.” He added that corn ethanol is not economical without subsidies in China, and said that cellulosic ethanol from the Coskata process costs less than half the current cost of producing grain-based ethanol. Bolsen told participants that cellulosic ethanol can tap into a wealth of nonfood resources and help make China energy self-sufficient. He said that China’s current annual biomass resources can displace the equivalent of 1.2 billion barrels of imported oil, and that additional potential exists from dedicated energy crops, garbage, steel off-gasses and fossil sources. “Using Coskata’s hybrid gasification plus fermentation technology combines the best of both routes and allows for the use of a wide variety of feedstocks,” Bolsen said. “This could provide important economic development in China—not only in rural areas—but outside major cities using things like tires, municipal solid waste and plastic bottles.” 46 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2009
PHOTO: BBI INTERNATIONAL
A lack of water and arable land limits China’s ability to use food crops to produce ethanol, so the country is focusing its efforts on nonfood crops such as this cassava root.
General Motors Corp., a premier sponsor of the symposium, supports Coskata’s process and the second-generation ethanol movement. The automaker has announced alliances with Coskata and Bostonbased Mascoma Corp., another cellulosic ethanol start-up. “GM is committed to the rapid commercialization of the next generation of ethanol,” said Andreas Lippert, director for Global Energy Systems in General Motor’s Research and Development and Strategic Planning Department. “This is why we started a strategic alliance with the two leading cellulosic ethanol companies that together cover the biothermal and biochemical spectrum in advanced biofuel technology.” The United States is also looking at cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels to meet its goals for alternative transportation fuels, according to Dale Gardner, associate director for Renewable Fuels Science and Technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Gardner presented an overview of the biofuels industry in the United States and pointed out the limitations of grain feedstocks. The United States has 162 commercial ethanol plants with a total capacity of 9.4 billion gallons per year and another 4.2 billion gallons per year planned, Gardner said. There are an additional 13 cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants funded by the U.S. DOE with a projected capacity of 250 million gallons per year for 2008. Gardner listed three government programs aimed at increasing the capacity of alternative transportation fuels in the United States including President George W. Bush’s 20-in-’10 target of 35 billion gallons of alternative transportation fuels by 2017, the renewable fuels standard legislation that requires the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, and the DOE’s 30x’30 goal of 60 billion gallons of ethanol (30 percent of today’s gasoline consumption of 140 billion gallons per year) by 2030. “A major goal of the DOE is to reduce the cost of cellulosic ethanol,” Gardner said. “We are currently funding projects using various technologies including biochemical, thermochemical and integrated processes.” In addition to technical barriers for commercially viable production, Gardner explained that another challenge is collecting the feedstock. “We have done extensive resource assessments so we
PHOTO: BBI INTERNATIONAL
Participant of the World Biofuels Symposium toured Guangxi COFCO Bio-energy Co. Ltd., a cassava ethanol plant in Beihai, China, the first fuel-ethanol plant based on a nongrain feedstock in China.
know where it is … the challenge is how to get it.” The U.S. biodiesel industry will also require technological breakthroughs to meet these goals. Gardner said that while the production capacity for the 171 biodiesel plants in the United States is currently 2.2 billion gallons per year—only 450 million gallons were produced in 2007. “Lack of feedstock is a factor for our biodiesel industry,” Gardner said, adding that its future will rely on what he called third-generation technologies, which includes the use of microalgae. “We see algae as a promising new feedstock with potential to produce 10 to 50 times more lipids per acre than other terrestrial plants,” Gardner said. “Other benefits of algae cultivation are that it can utilize marginal, nonarable land, saline or brackish water, and can provide large waste carbon dioxide vent resources such as absorbing flue gases from coal plants.” According to Gardner, the DOE also has plans to start an advanced biofuels program. “What we mean by this is beyond ethanol and biodiesel,” Gardner explained, using the term fourth-generation
technologies—converting higher energy density molecules directly from organisms into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. “Regardless of what path we take, we cannot assume that land use, water, soil and other environmental factors are not part of the equation,” Gardner said. “We must put together a comprehensive sustainability analysis that considers environmental, social and economic impacts.” Most experts agree that a comprehensive life-cycle assessment of future biofuels is needed and to understand that not all biofuels are created equal. Ausilio Bauen, director of E4tech, a European sustainable energy consultancy, gave an overview of international developments in carbon and sustainability policy for biofuels. He said that the recent rapid growth of biofuels led by strong policy support in the United States, European Union and Brazil has led to carbon and sustainability concerns. “Life-cycle greenhouse gas savings vary depending on the biofuel type and how it is produced,” Bauen said. “Direct change of land use to grow biofuels increases these emissions significantly—in some cases negating the benefits of using biofuels.” This has led to a variety of policy responses worldwide such as in Germany where biofuels laws require a minimum greenhouse gas savings of 30 percent, rising to 40 percent in 2011. In addition there are mandatory requirements on agriculture and habitats. The EU, United Kingdom and the Netherlands have similar laws in place. They all use a life-cycle approach to assess biofuel’s carbon intensity. “It is essential to consider all of the policy goals when designing low-carbon fuels policy,” Bauen explained, adding that greenhouse gas emissions savings may be the key driver, but other goals must also be considered and prioritized including energy security, macroeconomic impact, rural development, social responsibility and the potential for innovation. “Regardless of the model, policy must be made in an international context and it must be flexible and adaptable to new technologies.” BIO Travis Hochard attended the World Biofuels Symposium held in October in Beijing.
CERTs 2009: Harnessing Resources & Teamwork for Minnesota’s Energy Future Feb. 10-11, 2009 | St. Cloud, MN You can be a part of Minnesota’s clean energy future, and you can get energy efﬁciency and clean energy projects on the ground in your community! No matter who you are, there’s a role for you to play. Come learn about the energy solutions that will help our economy and our communities thrive, share resources, and connect with people from across the state. Register to attend, sponsor or exhibit: www.CleanEnergyResourceTeams.org 1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 47
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PHOTO: ENSYN TECHNOLOGIES
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Producing the Next Generation of Green Hydrocarbons Commercially producing bio-oil from biomass is at the core of Ensyn’s expertise. The company proves that multiple sources can be used when converting biomass into bio-oil for the production of biomass-based chemicals, bioenergy and renewable transportation fuels. By Heidi Vincent
any companies are searching for a renewable source of energy that will alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels. Ideally, this renewable source would ensure compatibility with existing oil refineries and delivery infrastructure, and would be derived from non-food biomass, such as forest residuals and post consumer materials. All of these features constitute not only a renewable source of energy, but a new generation of biofuels—one that provides a carbon dioxide-neutral, renewable gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Ensyn Technologies Inc., a Canadian company that operates commercial fast pyrolysis plants for the production of bio-oil from wood biomass, believes it has discovered this source. While Ensyn is best known as a producer of chemicals derived from wood feedstocks, it has also been producing energy from bio-oil for nearly 20 years. With the recent peak in crude oil prices, Ensyn’s bioenergy products used for industrial heat and electrical power generation—all of which are based on its Rapid Thermal Processing system—are proving successful within the biofuels marketplace. Recently, Ensyn teamed up with UOP LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc. and major global technology company based in Des Plaines, Ill., to facilitate the upgrading of liquid bio-oil to an alternative transportation fuel. “This is [our] holy grail,” says Robert Graham, founder and chairman of Ensyn Technologies. “Transportation fuels have the highest economic value of all fuels and
are what the world has an insatiable appetite for. [The world also] has an appetite for electricity that can be produced by using bio-oil in turbines, but everybody thinks first about transportation fuels. [Bio-oil] is the future. This is one of the most exciting areas we are working in.” Bio-oil may also provide the renewable solution for producing biofuels that major oil companies are looking for, as it can be seamlessly applied to a company’s existing infrastructure and operational scale. “In searching for a replacement fuel to meet our energy and transportation needs, we have to be practical in the solutions we seek,” Graham says. “Petroleum companies cannot quickly move away from what they are doing as they have billions of dollars invested in sophisticated infrastructure and systems for controlling the flow of energy around the world, including refineries, pipelines and service stations that have taken nearly 100 years to build.”
Developing a Bio-Oil System During the production of bio-oil, solid biomass wood is blasted into a tornado of hot sand at the bottom of a conversion unit. In less than two seconds the wood is vaporized. It is then condensed and recovered as a liquid bio-oil. Seventy-five percent of the solid wood biomass injected into the RTP system is transformed into high yields of espressolike bio-oil. The liquid wood is not a tar. It is a pourable fluid, which Ensyn treats as its own version of crude oil, and is used as a resource to make other products, such as
high value biochemicals, in the same way petroleum crude is used in a variety of applications. The remaining 25 percent of the biomass is converted into non-condensable gas and charcoal. These byproducts are fed back into a reheater in order to keep the tornado of sand at the required processing temperature. More energy is in the gas and char than required to drive this process, so the reheater has a surplus of energy. Ensyn uses this surplus to dry the wet biomass that arrives at the facility and to supply other industrial heat requirements. Since 1989, Ensyn’s RTP plants have been making liquid bio-oil from solid wood biomass through a patented fast pyrolysis thermal process. Liquid bio-oil can replace heating fuel, natural gas and coal in a vast array of boiler applications. The company produces renewable energy in the form of a liquid fuel as opposed to a gas or solid fuel, which enables what is known as “decoupling.” With decoupling, production can be separated by time and space from the actual use of the product. In systems that do not produce a liquid fuel, following the gasification and combustion stages, the energy produced must be used immediately and cannot be stored, which forces the energy and fuel generator to be coupled with the energy user. This can pose a problem when the energy system is down, as it means the end user is also offline. Ensyn’s liquid fuel product avoids this by decoupling the interdependence of the production and end-use, making the energy storable, shippable and transportable. continued on page 53
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).
1|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 51
Bio-Oil Projects, Partnerships Take Root In September, Ensyn and UOP LLC signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture regarding technology and equipment to convert second-generation biomass into oil for power generation, heating fuel and eventual conversion into transportation fuels. The joint venture company is expected to offer Ensyn’s RTP technology and accelerate research and development efforts to commercialize next-generation technology to refine bio-oil into transportation fuels. “The widespread use of residual biomass—a clean, sustainable source of energy— is a major step forward to reducing our carbon footprint and broadening our energy resources,” said Jennifer Holmgren, UOP’s director of renewable energy and chemicals. “We are confident that the combined resources of UOP and Ensyn will allow this venture to commercialize viable solutions for converting biomass to drop-in transportation fuels in the next three years.” A month after the letter of intent was signed, UOP and Ensyn received a U.S. DOE grant. The DOE has taken an active role in supporting the research and development of the stabilization of biomass fast-pyrolysis oils. In October, it awarded up to $7 million to U.S. research organizations and institutions of higher education. The DOE defined the act of stabilizing bio-oil to include removing char, lowering the oxygen content, and reducing the acidity of pyrolysis oil because it’s naturally corrosive, unstable and difficult to transport.
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Five funding recipients were selected in October. The first is a group including UOP, Ensyn, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Pall Corp., and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit. UOP launched its renewable energy and chemicals business in 2006. It has commercialized a process to produce green diesel fuel from biological feedstocks and has also developed process technology to produce renewable jet fuel. The group’s project is focused on developing a commercialized next-generation technology to refine bio-oil for use in power generation, as a heating fuel and transportation fuel. Other USDA fund recipients include North Carolinabased research institute TRI International, which proposes research to develop a pyrolysis technology that produces stable bio-oil. Three universities—Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Iowa State University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst—also received funding. More information on the DOE’s Biomass Program is available at http:www1.eere.gov/biomass/. --Biomass Magazine
PROCESS continued from page 51
Ensyn’s most recent breakthrough is its engineering relationship with UOP, a company that supplies petroleum technology to all of the major refineries in the world, including much of the new refining capacity in China and India. This joint venture partnership is revolutionizing all the markets in which Ensyn and its partners are working. By applying an enabling petroleum technology to upgrade bio-oil, it has made alternative green hydrocarbons possible. “The world wants fungible transportation fuels,” Graham says. “Once we make gasoline, diesel or fuel oil via Ensyn’s RTP system, it no longer matters whether the source is from oil in the ground or from a tree in the forest. That is the essence of what the world wants to achieve… a completely replaceable, fungible liquid biofuel.”
Entering the Market Rather than become a large company, Ensyn establishes strategic relationships and joint ventures and then spins them off as separate businesses. RTP remains at the core of each business as the fundamental enabling technology. This business model works for Ensyn, which has a history of partnerships with major providers, such as specialty chemical company Red Arrow Products Co. Inc. and petroleum partner Ivanhoe Energy Inc. In 2005, Ensyn sold the rights to its commercialized version of the heavy oil upgrading process to Ivanhoe for an enterprise value of $100 million. “With current energy prices, our proven track record, commercially operating plants and in-house expertise, companies are coming to our door every day,” Graham says. “Our time has come. We are being approached by potential partners from energy and forestry companies. People want liquid fuels and they are asking us to solve their residual biomass problems.” Ensyn’s strategic partners have access to large amounts of feedstocks and biomass residuals. In effect, these biomass assets are equal to their “oil-in-the-ground” counterparts. Ensyn works with them to access these assets and to provide an enabling RTP tech-
nology so that the partner can distribute renewable energy. Thus, each strategic partnership is commercializing Ensyn’s RTP technology by pulling bio-oil products into their respective marketplaces. The company has active strategic relationships in six core sectors: thermal and electrical generation, construction and demolition, forestry, biochemicals, renewable transportation fuels and petroleum upgrading. The construction and demolition sector has access to large amounts of waste wood from the demolition of buildings. Major utilities and energy-from-waste companies are working to collect these post-consumer products that can be used as feedstocks for energy production. Ensyn recently signed a partnership agreement with a major global electrical utility company that has access to vast amounts of urban wood waste. This partnership will provide Ensyn with the opportunity to produce green electricity and fuel oil through RTP plants in major municipal centres. Ensyn is also targeting the forest industry that has biomass residuals from which they need to achieve the highest value. These residuals include sawdust, hog fuel and other lower value biomass that cannot be used for timber. Ensyn is working with a forest product company to use their forest residuals for the production of electricity, fuel oil, chemicals and energy. “If we had been asked just over a year ago, what is the biggest scale we would like to comfortably achieve in our next commercial RTP plant, we would have said 250 tonnes of dried feedstock per day,” Graham says. “Now, with our strategic engineering relationship, we can confidentially talk about building 1,000 to 2,000 dried tonnes per day plants as we move into producing bio-oil as a feedstock to make next-generation biofuels, such as green hydrocarbons.” BIO Heidi Vincent is a communications consultant with GreenLane Communications. She can be reached at heidi @greenlanecommunications.com
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UPDATE Sustainability of Biofuels: A Glimpse at the Magnitude of Fuel Consumption, Agricultural Production To help frame the ongoing discussion of biofuel sustainability and the food-versus-fuel debate, we will present statistical information in terms that may help readers form their own opinions on the issue. We will use the USDA’s most recent data, from 2006. Let’s begin with annual transportation fuel usage in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 138 billion gallons of gasoline and 53 billion gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel were sold in 2006. Since ethanol as a gasoline replacement is pretty well known, we’ll address it first. Two retail gasolinewith-ethanol products are typically sold: gasoline with 10 percent ethanol (E10) and gasoline with 85 percent ethanol (E85). The amount of ethanol required if all of the gasoline consumed in 2006 were either E10 or E85 would be approximately 13.8 billion gallons and 117.3 billion gallons, respectively. Assuming 1 bushel of corn is required to make three gallons of ethanol and assuming a yield of 150 bushels of corn per acre, approximately 31 million acres of cropland would be required in the E10 scenario and 261 million acres in the E85 scenario. In 2006, the United States produced almost 5 billion gallons of ethanol, and at press time 9 billion gallons was projected to be produced in 2008. Knowing these production numbers leads one to believe that the E10 scenario is certainly achievable, if not a foregone conclusion. However, the E85 scenario would still be an extremely daunting challenge. Another way to consider ethanol production is that, based on the crop yield and conversion numbers, corn yields approximately 450 gallons of ethanol per acre.
Now let’s address biodiesel as a replacement for its petroleum counterpart, No. 2 diesel fuel. As presented earlier, the United States consumed approximately 53 billion gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel in 2006. Assuming each gallon of biodiesel requires 8 pounds of soybean oil, a soybean crop yield of 40 bushels per acre and 11 pounds of soybean oil in each bushel of soybeans, approximately 964 million acres of cropland would be required to replace all Stevens 53 billion gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel with biodiesel. These numbers translate into 55 gallons of biodiesel per acre of soybeans. To further put these numbers into perspective, the USDA estimated the total U.S. cropland and active Conservation Reserve Program acres in 2006 to be approximately 455.6 million acres and 36.7 million acres, respectively. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set a production goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022, 21 billion gallons of which must be from cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels. The question of whether we have enough land for food and fuel feedstock growth is left for further debate, but the answer probably lies in the level of the blend and the type of feedstock. Therefore, February’s column will focus on nonfood types of biofuel feedstocks and the role they may play. BIO Brad Stevens is a research manager at the EERC. Reach him at email@example.com or (701) 7775293.
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