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Biomass Technology Trend Everything from Algae to Biosolids to Woody Biomass is Converted Into Renewable Energy in Sacramento, Calif.






FEATURES ..................... 22 EMISSIONS Stack Attack Project developers sometimes have their work cut out for them convincing people that emissions from biomass power plants will not cause health risks and are monitored and regulated by state and federal agencies. By Lisa Gibson

28 INNOVATION Building on its Biomass Base Sacramento, Calif., is capitalizing on its biomass, whether it’s waste wood or wastewater. The city is also home to a unique laboratory where biomass technologies are developed and tested. By Lisa Gibson

34 POLICY Methane Migraine California dairy farmers who operate anaerobic digesters believed they were being environmental stewards. Now some are scrambling to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the combustion engines used to turn biogas into electricity. By Anna Austin

40 FEEDSTOCK Bad Boy Crop Deserves a Second Chance POLICY | PAGE 34

A scam in the 1970s and 80s left the Jerusalem artichoke with a bad reputation, but some people believe the crop has great potential as a source of inulin for human food products, as a livestock feed and an ethanol feedstock By Rona Johnson

DEPARTMENTS ..................... 06 Editor’s Note Navigating the Biomass Industry’s Hills and Valleys By Rona Johnson

07 Advertiser Index 08 Legal Perspectives Developing Large-Scale Wood Biomass Projects Challenging By Jordan Hemaidan

09 Industry Events 10 Business Briefs

CONTRIBUTIONS ..................... 46 SWITCHGRASS SDSUScientists ‘Re-Discover’ Switchgrass Moth The discovery of a switchgrass-feeding moth has researchers thinking about the need to design pest management programs for native grasses as they become more prevalent in the production of cellulosic ethanol production. By Lance Nixon

48 LOGISTICS Strategy and Implementation of Biomass Conversion at Mt. Poso In switching from coal to biomass power at the Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. the plant has encountered and dealt with several challenging logistical issues. By Desmond Smith

12 Industry News 51 BPA Update Parity in the Production Tax Credit By Bob Cleaves

53 EERC Update The Quest for Renewable Biomass Electricity By Chris Zygarlicke

54 Marketplace



NOTE Navigating the Biomass Industry’s Hills and Valleys


here are several important stories in this month’s magazine, but I would like to point out a couple that address what I believe will be ongoing issues for the biomass industry. In the first, “Stack Attack” (page 22), Associate Editor Lisa Gibson delves into biomass-power plant emissions and the heated opposition to the use of biomass for power in Russell, Mass. Gibson did an excellent job covering both sides of this issue even though at Biomass Magazine, we are clearly proponents of biomass power. We do believe it’s important, however, for our readers to be aware of this opposition and to see the kind of disruption it can provoke, whether the opponents are in the right or are totally off base. The biomass power emissions issue became even more pervasive when the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources suspended consideration of any new biomass projects for participation in the state’s renewable portfolio standard until a study is conducted to evaluate the sustainability of biomass resources in the state and the carbon neutrality of biomass power. Furthermore, biomass opponents are circulating a petition to pass a law that “would require waste-to-energy and biomass renewable energy sources relying on combustion or pyrolization (decomposition caused by heat) to emit no more than 250 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour in order to be considered ‘renewable energy generating sources,’ ‘Class I renewable energy generating sources,’ or ‘alternative energy properties’ under state laws concerning renewable and alternative energy programs.” We need to keep our eyes on these developments, and make sure that they don't become models for other states to follow. Another feature I would draw your attention to is “Methane Migraine” (page 34) written by Associate Editor Anna Austin, who talked with air quality officials and dairy farmers in California about anaerobic digestion permitting headaches. Even though, as pointed out in the article, digesters greatly reduce methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than CO2, the dairy farmers are being told that they need to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) released by the combustion engines they use to turn the biogas into electricity. This is especially onerous for dairy producers in regions considered severe non-attainment areas for ozone, where stricter NOx emissions standards exist. Although this issue is currently specific to California dairies, we should keep in mind that many air quality rules adopted in this country originated in California. Despite these issues, the biomass industry continues to grow and government support hasn’t waned. In fact, in early December, U.S. DOE Secretary Steven Chu and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack selected 19 integrated biorefinery projects to receive up to $564 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to speed up the construction and operation of pilot-, demonstration- and commercial-scale facilities. As with any new industry there are going to be hills and valleys, we just have to make sure the valleys don’t turn into sink holes.

Rona Johnson Editor


advertiser INDEX

2010 International BIOMASS Conference & Expo


2010 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo


CEO Joe Bryan

Agra Industries





Biodiesel Magazine


BRUKS Rockwood





Detroit Stoker Company






EDITOR Rona Johnson


ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin Lisa Gibson COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann

ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Elizabeth Slavens Sam Melquist

Energy & Environmental Research Center SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Jeremy Hanson

Ethanol Producer Magazine


Subscriptions Subscriptions to Biomass Magazine are $24.95 per year in the U.S; $39.95 in Canada and Mexico; and $49.95 outside North America. Subscriptions can be completed online at www.BiomassMagazine. com or subscribe over the phone at (701) 746-8385.

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Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC


Indeck Power Equipment Co.


Mid-South Engineering Company




R.C. Costello & Associates Inc.



Stoel Rives LLP The Teaford Co. Inc.



West Salem Machinery


WestMor Industries, LLC


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Developing Large-Scale Wood Biomass Energy Facilities Challenging By Jordan Hemaidan Jordan Hemaidan partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP


he use of wood biomass as fuel for energy production is not new. Utilities and other industries have been using a variety of technologies to turn wood waste into energy for decades. By some accounts, there are thousands of woodfueled projects producing power and heat, largely for industrial applications throughout the world. What is new, however, is a trend toward advanced technology such as wood gasification, and an increase in the scale of wood biomass energy projects for uses such as base-load electric generation. Three factors appear to be driving this trend. First, as utilities anticipate significant regulation of carbon emissions, increases in state renewable portfolio standards, and the possible creation of a federal renewable portfolio standard, they are prudently planning to get ahead of the game by expanding their generation portfolio beyond current requirements. Second, although they can satisfy most states' renewable portfolio standards with a wide array of renewable technologies, more demanding renewable portfolio standards mean that utilities are become increasingly interested in renewable technologies that provide dispatchable, base-load generation supply, in contrast to intermittent, non-dispatchable resources such as wind and solar energy. Recent experience shows that implementing


advanced wood biomass technologies in utility scale applications has its detractors, who are likely to intervene in any local or state approval proceedings to articulate their concerns. Those concerns fall into two general categories— economic and environmental. On the economic side, the concerns will be that the introduction of a new user of wood resources in the region will have an adverse economic impact on existing users of wood by driving up prices for wood and rendering existing users—such as paper manufacturers and other forest product industry participants—unable to compete effectively in their markets. The answer to this concern is that as long as the new project focuses on using wood waste and not roundwood or tree boles, the economic impact will actually be positive, as wood suppliers will begin to benefit from monetizing the waste materials that normally would be left on the forest floor. Some in the forest product industry may argue that a trend of declining roundwood harvests will mean scarcity of wood waste, which may incentivize large-scale wood biomass users to harvest roundwood for energy production. The answer to this concern is that roundwood not harvested for forest products use should be available for any legitimate purpose, including energy production. This brings us to the environmen-

tal concerns that stakeholders are expressing in opposition to large-scale wood biomass energy projects. These include concerns about over-harvesting, carbon neutrality and soil health. The answer, though not necessarily a panacea, is for developers to be well proactive with an environmentally sustainable fuel procurement plan. Such a plan could include voluntary harvesting guidelines to ensure that sufficient wood waste is left on the forest floor for bioregeneration, and that other environmental concerns are addressed. Another proactive approach is the development of energy plantations that can turn otherwise unproductive land—such as abandoned farmland— into productive new uses, resulting in less pressure on existing forest resources. Other strategies include the development of cooperative organizations to maximize the efficiency of wood waste harvesting and to help ensure a standardized approach to compliance with environmental regulations. As with any other development, the best strategy is to anticipate opponents' concerns, and resolve them in advance. Jordan Hemaidan, is a partner in the renewable energy group at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. Reach him at (608) 2834431 or

industry events Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo

Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show

January 11-13, 2010

January 25, 2010

Hyatt Regency Sacramento, California With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, this Biomass Magazine sponsored event will connect current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utilities, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. (701) 746-8385

Polk County Convention Complex Des Moines, Iowa The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association has designed this fourth annual event to bring together Iowa ethanol and biodiesel producers to foster the development and growth of the state’s renewable fuels industry through education, promotion and infrastructure development. IRFA is committed to making Iowa a leader in producing renewable fuels and value-added coproducts. (515) 252-6249

Energy From Biomass and Waste

Developing and Commercialising Next Generation Biofuels

January 26-27, 2010 Royal Horticultural Halls & Conference Centre London, England Investment in bioenergy is set to rise in the U.K. and this conference and exhibition will provide a meeting place for vendors, buyers, investors, municipal representatives, legislators and scientists from around the world. +49-2802-9484840

February 9-11, 2010

World Biofuels Markets

5th International Congress Fuel Bioethanol-2010

March 15-17, 2010

April 13-15, 2010

The RAI Exhibition and Congress Centre Amsterdam, The Netherlands This event will provide leaders of the biofuels field an opportunity to meet new customers, suppliers and partners, and help drive innovation and business. More than 4,500 executives from 78 countries have attended this conference to date. +44 20 7099 0600

Moscow World Trade Center Moscow, Russia More than 300 participants from 20 countries attended this event in 2009, making it the premier event for any organization involved in the rapidly maturing biofuels markets in the former Soviet Union. This event is hosted by the Russian Biofuels Association and presentations will include new process technologies and feedstocks, cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol and other second-generation biofuels. +7 495 585-5449

2010 International Biomass Conference & Expo

2010 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

May 4-6, 2010

June 14-17, 2010

Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota This Biomass Magazine sponsored conference will unite current and future producers of biomass-derived power, fuels and chemicals with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policymakers. Future and existing biofuels and biomass power producers will be able to network with waste generators and other industry suppliers and technology providers as well as utility executives, researchers, policymakers, investors, project developers and farmers. (701) 746-8385

America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri The FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. It is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world. The event delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production, new technology, and near-term research and development. (701) 746-8385

Kingsway Hall Hotel London, England This conference will provide the latest information on technological developments and examine the prospects for bringing next-generation biofuels to market. The event will cover groundbreaking developments in cellulosic ethanol, synthetic biology, biomass to liquids, renewable diesel, algal biofuels, waste to ethanol, biomass management and advanced biofuels, including biobutanol and biogasoline. +44 (0)207 017 7499



BRIEFS Schmack changes name to quasar energy group Schmack BioEnergy, a Cleveland-based waste-to-energy company, has changed its name to quasar energy group. “Our systems represent an aggregation of the best available technologies from over 30 European providers,” said Mel Kurtz, quasar president. “We have changed our name to more accurately reflect our technological approach and to symbolize the contribution our systems will make to the national energy supply.” Quasar designs, builds, owns and operates anaerobic digestion facilities using U.S. components to produce clean renewable energy. The first system to apply the quasar technology is currently under construction in Wooster, Ohio, on the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center campus. The company’s new Web site can be found at BIO

EnerTech enters UK renewable energy market EnerTech Environmental Inc. is expanding its project development efforts across the Atlantic with the formation of a new development team in the U.K. Working closely with developers in the U.S., the team’s efforts will focus on delivering SlurryCarb and anaerobic digestion facilities in the U.K. The project team will be led by Andrea Gysin and Abigail Field who both join EnerTech from the U.K. consulting firm Mouchel. Gysin has more than 10 years of experience working in the water industry with an emphasis on new venture development. Field is a chartered engineer with more than 10 years of experience in engineering and project management. BIO

GTE appoints Dotts as CFO Gas Turbine Efficiency announced the appointment of Kevin M. Dotts as chief financial officer. Dotts contributes a solid executive management background to GTE, having served as executive vice president and CFO at EarthLink Inc. from 2004 to 2009. His financial career spans more than 20 years Dotts including 15 years at General Electric Co., where he held global financial leadership positions in the energy and industrial businesses, at its media subsidiary, NBC, as well as corporate audit. From 1999 to 2002, Dotts was CFO of GE Energy Parts Inc., a $1.2 billion revenue business. Magnus Nordgren, the current CFO stepped down as a director and will continue to provide leadership, while supporting GTE in a number of global financial process roles. BIO 10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

Morbark, HTI form waste-to-power partnership Morbark Inc., a manufacturer of wood reduction equipment, announced an agreement with Heat Transfer International of Kentwood, Mich. HTI is a technology company providing turnkey waste-to-energy systems which create renewable energy through its starved-air/low-temperature (SALT) gasification of biomass. The agreement, which will create dozens of green jobs in Michigan, includes a manufacturing agreement for Morbark and an equity investment in HTI. Morbark’s investment in HTI is in line with the company’s decades-old vision of sustainable energy through responsible forestry. “Not only will we manufacture the finest wood reduction equipment, but we’ll be producing the systems which convert wood and other organics into usable electricity and steam,” said Morbark President and CEO Lon Morey. “Our agreement with HTI will allow us to do what we do best—manufacture large custom equipment systems with world-class quality, and allow HTI to focus on managing the rapid growth of its exciting sustainable energy technology.” BIO

Haftka joins Metabolix, ADM’s European Telles venture Metabolix Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. appointed Stan Haftka as director of business development, Europe, for Telles, the joint venture that is commercializing Mirel bioplastics. Haftka will lead European business development with the opening of Telles’ first international office at ADM’s Europoort facility in the Netherlands. Haftka has 20 years of experience in the global specialty polymer market and brings leadership assets important for the organization’s international growth. Haftka joins Telles from the engineering polymers business of Celanese Corp., where he was responsible for managing the business segment globally. He successfully developed and implemented new business strategies, managed numerous product and application platforms, and received patents for new polymer applications. BIO

Syngenta taps industry veteran to lead biotechnology R&D Michiel van Lookeren Campagne has joined Syngenta to lead global biotechnology research and development at the company’s key biotech facilities—the North American biotechnology headquarters, Syngenta Biovan Lookeren Campagne technology Inc., in Research Triangle Park and Syngenta Biotechnology China Co. Ltd. in Beijing. Van Lookeren Campagne will be based in Research Triangle Park, where he will serve as president of Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. He has more than 20 years of experience working in university and industry settings in the U.S. and abroad. BIO


BRIEFS Attachment allows Vermeer grinders to produce fuel chips Vermeer Corp. has introduced an attachment for its horizontal grinders that will help customers produce biomass feedstock for this growing market. The Vermeer Fuel Chip Attachment offers customers more versatility, allowing the use of one machine to process wood waste into mulch one day and biomass the next—simply by changing out the cutting mechanism in a few hours. The fuel chip attachment helps customers enter the biomass market without tying up capital resources in a separate machine. Designed for use with Vermeer HG6000 or HG6000TX horizontal grinders equipped with the Series II Duplex Drum, the fuel chip attachment changes the action of the cutting drum from ripping and shredding to a chipping action—offering the ability to produce a more uniformly sized end product. BIO

Syracuse recognizes Innovation Fuels for contributing to economic development


Innovation Fuels, the New York-based renewable energy company that manufactures, markets and distributes second-generation biodiesel to customers in the U.S. and around the world, was recognized for its contributions to the loLeft to right, Syracuse Mayor Matt cal economy at the annual Driscoll, Joe Dickson, Innovation Fuels’ senior vice president for Syracuse Economic Chamcorporate development and Syracuse pions luncheon and awards Chamber of Commerce President ceremony held in October Darlene Kerr at the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center at Oncenter in Syracuse, N.Y. The annual event recognizes businesses that have added employees, expanded their space or relocated due to growth, or used capital expenditures. Innovation Fuels relocated its corporate headquarters to the Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse in June. BIO

Intersystems adds Petruzzi to its sales team Bob Petruzzi has joined Intersystems, a division of ESI, as sales manager in the southeastern U.S. territory. Petruzzi will be responsible for marketing the company’s line of bulk material handling equipment to the feed, grain, pet food, Petruzzi ethanol and other related industries in the Southeast. Petruzzi has 30 years of experience in the animal feed, grain and pet food industries. He has served in various management and sales positions for companies such as Goldkist, Southern States, ConAgra and Anitox. BIO

Enerkem receives recognition for innovation Esteban Chornet, Enerkem co-founder and chief technology officer, received the Synergy Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The Synergy Awards for Innovation are granted by the NSERC to honor outstanding research and development partnerships between industry and universities in natural sciences and engineering. Chornet received the award and a $200,000 research grant on behalf of the University of Sherbrooke, Enerkem, Fractal Systems and CRB Innovations. In November, Vincent Chornet, CEO and president of Enerkem, joined his fellow award recipients at the Toronto Stock Exchange opening bell to announce the 2009 cleantech leaders. The Cleantech Next 10 list exhibits Canada’s most promising privately held companies in the Cleantech sector. These leaders are chosen for their innovative approach, clear business objectives, business problem solving and potential for breakthroughs. The selection is made by an advisory panel of Canada’s principal authorities on cleantech. BIO

Faegre & Benson form clean technology, climate team Faegre & Benson LLP announced a new service offering to anticipate and mitigate the legal risks associated with a rapidly changing regulatory environment and the “new energy economy.” More than 50 attorneys from the Boulder, Colo., Denver, Des Moines, Iowa, Minneapolis, Shanghai and London offices will collaborate to provide services in the new energy, clean technology and climate sectors, called the NECTC team. The firm will serve businesses developing solutions and new environmental technologies in the new energy economy. The firm will advise a broad range of businesses facing new regulatory mandates arising from energy and climate change legislation. BIO 1|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 11




The new Inbicon cellulosic ethanol plant in Denmark was inaugurated in November.


A 5.4 MMly (1.4 MMgy) nameplate capacity Inbicon A/S cellulosic ethanol plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, is preparing to distribute its first stock of fuel in 2010. The facility, one of the world’s first demonstration plants for second-generation ethanol, was inaugurated Nov. 18 by Prince Joachim of Denmark and will run on about 30,000 metric tons (33,000 tons) of straw per year, according to Inbicon, a Dong Energy technology company. Danisco Genecor and Novozymes will provide enzymes to the plant, which will employ about 30 people. The plant also will produce 13,000 metric tons of lignin pellets per year, for use as fuel at combined-heat-and-power plants, and 11,100 metric tons of C5 molasses, for animal feed, according to Dong. It’s a unique technology with minimum waste, according to Kathrine Westermann, international media adviser for Dong Energy. The total cost of construction is 400 million Danish kroner (DKK) ($80 million), supported by 76.7 million DKK from the Danish Energy Development & Demonstration Programme, according to Dong. Demonstration is supported by the European Seventh Framework Programme with 67.7 million DKK. The European Seventh Framework also supported plant design at an earlier stage. Norway-based Statoil will distribute the ethanol to target markets in the U.S. and Asia, among others, Westermann said. Inbicon has already sold 5 million liters of ethanol to Statoil, according to Dong. A number of business delegations have been visiting the site in Kalundborg and Dong is close to signing a deal with a U.S. company, she added. Part of the fleet of cars that transported delegates around Copenhagen at


Cellulosic ethanol plant in Denmark inaugurated

The Denmark plant will use straw to produce cellulosic ethanol.

the U.N. Climate Change Conference in December ran on Inbicon’s ethanol mixed with petrol, according to Niels Handrikson, Inbicon CEO. During the inauguration, Prince Joachim was accompanied by executives

and representatives from Dong Energy, the EUPD program and the EU Commission. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS Biochar company Mantria charged with investor fraud A Pennsylvania-based company that has made claims of being the largest producer of biochar in the world is being charged with fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC alleges that since about September 2007, Mantria Corp. principals Troy Wragg and Amanda Knorr raised approximately $30 million from more than 300 investors in approximately 12 fraudulent and unregistered securities offerings to investors, totaling at least $122 million. According to the SEC, Mantria investment opportunities were promoted through Denver-based Speed of Wealth LLC. Owners, Wayde McKelvy and Donna McKelvy, are also defendants in the case. Speed of Wealth “particularly targeted elderly investors or those approaching retirement age to finance such ‘green’ initiatives,” the SEC said in a news release. These include a “carbon negative” housing development in Tennessee, as well as the commercial production of biochar at multiple locations. The SEC alleges that Wragg and Knorr paid a 12.5 percent commission, or “finders fee” to Speed of Wealth, while convincing investors to attend seminars or participate in Internet Webinars and liquidate their tradi-

tional investments such as retirement plans and home equity loans and instead invest in Mantria. Wragg and Knorr are also accused of falsely promising investors enormous returns on their investments, when none of the company’s initiatives have generated any significant cash, and the only returns paid to investors have been funded almost exclusively from other investor contributions. “[Mantria] overstated the scope and success of Mantria’s operations in several ways to solicit investors,” the SEC said. “For instance, they claimed that Mantria was the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of biochar and had multiple facilities producing it at a rate of 25 tons per day. In fact, Mantria has never sold any biochar and has just one facility engaged in testing biochar for possible commercial production. Furthermore, Mantria’s only source of revenue has been from its resale of vacant lots for its purported residential communities in rural Tennessee, but those did not generate cash with which to pay investor returns because Mantria provided 100 percent financing for almost all of its vacant lot sales to buyers using other investors’ funds.” A federal judge in Denver has ordered a preliminary injunction and has frozen Mantria’s assets.

The company announced in August that it had opened a 32,000-ton-per-year biochar production facility in Dunlap, Tenn. The SEC alleges that little or no construction had ever taken place at that site or any other leased project sites, and that no facilities have ever been completed or operated and are not currently being pursued. Biochar lobbying group, International Biochar Initiative, said it became aware of the SEC’s investigation in mid-November. “IBI’s knowledge of Mantria’s biochar activities is limited to what has appeared in press releases—IBI has not visited the site of Mantria’s operations nor have we supported any of their projects,” said IBI Communications Director Thayer Tomlinson. He added that the IBI has not received any funding from Mantria LLC or from EternaGreen, the name under which the company markets its biochar product. A request for comment from a Mantria spokesperson was not immediately returned. At press time, the company’s Web site was not functioning, and stated that it was being rebuilt for informational purposes. —Anna Austin

UK waste disposal company proposes biomass power plant U.K.-based Bronzeoak Thermal, a company that specializes in waste disposal operations, has proposed a 12.7 megawatt biomass power plant on its former special waste disposal site at Castle Cary, Somerset. The facility would use about 136,000 metric tons (150,000 tons) of waste wood, virgin wood, energy crops and waste biomass per year, according to the company, and would create 20 jobs. The project will be designed to combust a small fraction—less than 20 percent—of refuse-derived fuel or solid recovered fuel, according to Hugh Unwin, Bronzeoak commercial manager. An animal carcass incinerator was operated on the site

from 1999 to 2006, according to Unwin. The plant will use moving grate boiler technology to generate electricity for the export grid. “We are currently exploring opportunities to co-locate an industrial heat user on site, but as of yet nothing is confirmed,” he said. The fuel supply is under negotiation and a power purchase agreement is not yet in place. The company anticipates construction on the site will start in 2011 and take about 24 months. Planning and environmental consents are still needed, along with other contracts and agreements, Unwin said. Capital costs and sources of funding are commercially

sensitive at this stage, he added, but disclosed that Bronzeoak intends to finance a significant portion of the project with nonrecourse project finance debt. The special waste disposal facility on the site was decommissioned in 2007 following the end of the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s Over 30 Month Scheme for cattle, which prohibited beef from animals over 30 months old from entering the food chain. —Lisa Gibson



NEWS Waste Management and Linde North America have commissioned what they say is the world’s largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant at the Altamont Landfill near Livermore, Calif., producing enough fuel to power about 300 Waste Management waste and recycling collection vehicles. The $15.5 million project received contributions from four state agencies—the Integrated Waste Management Board, the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The project is the first of its kind for Linde, according to Steve Eckhardt, head of alternative energy business development. He said since commissioning of the plant, which began in September, production has been ramped up to full capacity—about 13,000 gallons per day. In a simplified description, trapped landfill gas is sent into a purification system to create a high-quality biomethane stream, which is then introduced to a liquefier. “It’s sent through a heat exchanger and passed against a cold mixed refrigerant, and that warm biomethane

is turned into liquid natural gas,” Eckhardt said. “It’s sent right into storage tanks at the site, which are basically giant thermos bottles that keep the product cold.” A tractor trailer picks up the fuel and transports it to Waste Management refueling sites about once a day, Eckhardt said. The plant typically requires two people to operate, but it can run unattended and be operated remotely so personnel are not constantly required onsite. “We’re really excited about this plant’s progress,” Eckhardt said. “The commissioning phase went relatively well where we were able to get liquid natural gas produced in a timely fashion—we came on line without any major problems and that’s not easy to do with first-of-a-kind projects.” Eckhardt says Linde will likely be involved in similar projects relatively soon. “We’re very excited, being the largest one in the world,” he said. “Today, conventional natural gas is used in many different types of fuels. What’s exciting here is that we’re using biogas, the lowest carbon fuel out there per the California Air Resources Board, to fuel a fleet of vehicles


World’s largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant on line

The Waste Management and Linde landfill gasto-liquid natural gas plant produces about 13,000 gallons a day.

that already exists—it’s a great bang for a buck, a more environmentally friendly fuel and it’s produced domestically.” —Anna Austin

California biomass plant to supply local utility When operational in 2010, the Buena Vista Biomass Power facility near Ione, Calif., will supply the Sacramento Municipal Utility District with 16 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power about 14,000 homes. The 20-year contract supports SMUD’s goal of providing 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, according to Buena Vista Biomass Power LLC. The 18 MW facility is being reconfigured to utilize 210,000 tons of woody biomass from local sources within 50 miles, including forest-sourced wood waste generated as a byproduct of timber harvest, forest fuel treatment and forest restoration activities; agricultural waste such as orchard removals, orchard pruning, shells and pits; and clean urban wood waste such as tree trimmings, green 14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

waste, construction waste, pallets and clean demolition wood, according to BVBP. USDA Forest Services awarded BVBP a Wildland Fire Management grant in excess of $2.4 million that will be used for the project, according to BVBP. The grant is derived from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is specifically geared toward the development and completion of projects that will result in local job creation and responsible wild land fire risk mitigation. The BVBP facility will create more than 50 construction jobs, along with about 90 during service, including about 20 full-time jobs on-site to operate and maintain the facility, according to the company. The other 70 will be in various support areas, such as engineering,

collection, processing and biomass fuel transportation. The repowering investment includes substantial efficiency upgrades, a completely integrated emissions system with control technology, a biomass fuel handling system, and an energy-management and operating control system, according to BVBP. The benefits to the region are numerous, including improved air quality, reduced landfill waste, creation of a market for hazardous forest fuels, economic development, a carbon neutral footprint and a contribution to the tax base, according to the company. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS Washington companies partner to produce biochemicals from microalgae Under a new partnership, Seattle-based Blue Marble Energy Corp. will produce its biochemicals using a supply of microalgae from algae producer Bionavitas, Redmond, Wash. Thus far, Blue Marble has made biochemicals, specifically esters—a group of chemicals used in food, fragrances, plastics, resins and adhesives—using mainly the waste grain from a neighboring brewery, according to Danielle Hendrix, Blue Marble communications manager. The new partnership does not specify a fixed amount of algae, she said, and is an open research and development agreement. “We haven’t decided on a cap,” she said. Blue Marble’s conversion system Acid Gas and Ammonia Targeted Extraction can use wet biomass, bypassing the expensive, energy-intensive drying process, according to the company. Through anaerobic digestion and fermentation, the AGATE process manipulates microbial environments to produce methane, hydrogen, esters, amides and anhydrous ammonia. The process uses nongenetically modified microorganisms and can be adjusted

to meet changing economic opportunities and market needs, according to Blue Marble. Bionavitas uses its proprietary Light Immersion Technology to grow algae to remediate zinc, lead, cadmium, boron, mercury and other undesirable elements and components of industrial waste streams. The technology helps solve one major problem in algae growth: as it grows, it becomes denser and blocks out vital light. Light Immersion Technology brings light to the algae culture in both open ponds and closed bioreactors through a system of light rods extending deep into the algae culture, according to Bionavitas. By distributing light below the surface layer and releasing it in controlled locations, algae cultures can grow denser. In external canal systems, the rods distribute light from the sun into the culture, according to the company. The partnership project is still about 18 to 24 months away from actual consumption, Hendrix said, adding that off-take partners eventually will be established. Blue Marble already has off-take partnerships for the bio-

chemicals it produces from waste streams. Blue Marble has a precommercial pilot site in Seattle, including a prototype AGATE platform to test and develop process improvements. The company’s goal was to increase its biomass consumption from 0.3 tons per day to one ton per day by the end of 2009, according to the company. Feedstocks tested include wild grasses, duckweed, food waste and pulp mill waste, among others. Blue Marble is in the final stages of securing an industrial plot in Lincoln County, Wash., in collaboration with Barr-Tech LLC for an industrial plant slated for operation in the third quarter of 2010. It will use cellulosic biomass along with algae and food waste to produce biochemicals and energy, according to the company. —Lisa Gibson

NC utility seeks more for electricity from woody biomass Progress Energy Carolinas wants to add between 40 to 75 megawatts (MW) of biomassbased electricity to its capacity, starting in 2013. The utility accepted proposals for electricity generated from woody biomass through Dec. 15 as it looks to contribute to North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard of 12.5 percent by 2020, according to Scott Sutton, Progress Energy communication specialist. The company was looking for proposals from engineers and developers, who will build, own and operate their own facilities, but with purchase agreements in place with Progress for 100 percent of the power generated, renewable energy certificates and the biomass facility’s capacity, Sutton said. Utilities need to guarantee to their overseers that they have enough capacity to provide power to their customers whenever it’s needed and purchasing the

biomass facility’s capacity would allow Progress to count it toward its own capacity, he explained. The proposed facilities must be in North Carolina and run on woody biomass only. Progress did not specify that all the energy needs to come from one plant, Sutton said, leaving the possibility of more than one contract with more than one developer. Bids were to go through a competitive bidding process and contracts would include timelines for construction and operation. Progress was expected to screen and evaluate proposals by Jan. 10 and a shortlist determination, if necessary, was scheduled for Jan. 11, according to the company. Contract negotiations should be completed by Feb 14. The company has not ruled out building its own biomass plant, if the economics are better than simply purchasing power.

The company does not own any biomass power plants, but has about 300 MW under contract, although not all are operating currently, Sutton said. Most of Progress’s biomass energy is generated in Florida—280 MW from wood waste and sweet sorghum—among other biomass feedstocks. The company also purchases power from a 25 MW plant in North Carolina that runs on wood waste, along with a 7 MW plant that uses municipal solid waste. Sutton said Progress has considered converting its existing coal-fired plants to biomass feedstock to increase its renewable energy resources. More information about the request for proposals, along with guidelines, can be found at —Lisa Gibson





A study has confirmed that the logistical capacity exists to supply a cellulosic ethanol plant in the The New North, an 18-county region in Wisconsin.

Study confirms logistical capacity for Wisconsin cellulosic ethanol plant Phase two of a two-part Resource Analytics study commissioned by northeast Wisconsin consortium New North Inc. recently concluded that the logistical resources for a woody biomass supply chain exist to support a cellulosic ethanol plant in Niagara, Wis. Previously, phase one had concluded that enough woody biomass is available to support a plant, along with existing paper mills in the area. The new cellulosic ethanol plant would be on the site of a closed paper mill, according to Joshua Morby, The New North spokesman. “The primary focus for this effort was how to keep jobs in the region,” he said. “When that paper mill closed, we looked at some other potential uses of that facility, with cellulosic ethanol being one of them.” Phase two brought together individuals and companies that would make up such a supply chain and found significant interest in doing so among them, according to New North Inc. New North Inc. is a consortium of businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development and other agencies in an 18-county region in Wisconsin. The organization’s approach is unique on several fronts. Typically, developers looking to build a plant on a particular site would conduct the study. “We’ve done it preemptively,” Morby said. “We’ve gone out and done the study and now we’re marketing the 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

study.” The approach sweetens the deal for developers looking to build, he added. “If somebody comes to you and they’ve already paid to do the study and they already have the relationships and collaborations in place with the people that handle the logistics, it just makes it easier,” he said. The consortium is in discussions with developers interested in converting the mill to a cellulosic ethanol plant, but no agreements are in place, he added. About 460,000 green tons of fiber from logging residue could be obtained from within a 65-mile-radius of the plant, phase one found, and policy restraints in harvesting it are minimal on all ownerships except national forests. It also found that agricultural sources of fiber could be used, but phase two found woody biomass to be a more beneficial and logistical feedstock. Switchgrass supplier cooperatives also could be established, according to findings. “From our standpoint, the focus of this effort is to retain jobs and employ an existing skilled workforce while leveraging the available resources we have in a sustainable manner,” Morby said. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS EDI to unveil biomass digester system

California-based Environmental Developers Inc. plans to showcase a new biomass digestion system for the first time at Biomass Magazine’s Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo being Jan. 11-13 in Sacramento, Calif. The company believes the process is three to 10 times faster than other digestion designs on the market. The Vacuum Retort Anaerobic Digestion system has been in development since 1977, after EDI President Herman Miller III initially observed an anaerobic digester. “Typically, its instrumentation was out of service and deep rust has penetrated everything ferrous in the vicinity, eaten up by the hydro-sulfurous acid products of raw digest gas,” he said. “Realizing the potential energy possibilities for anaerobics and the disastrous impediment of the hydrogen sulfide byproduct as well as its usefulness, I was intrigued and challenged into a new avocation of work and study, while building other people’s plant designs. Every solution highlighted another problem until 30 years and four or five patents later, we had VRAD.” At a typical plant, municipal solid waste (MSW) is weighed, sorted, crushed and ground as finely as possible. Miller said EDI has a design for a grinder that the company can build, but added that it would be more economical to buy a grinding system that is already in the market though none have yet met the system’s exact specifications. The MSW is hydrolyzed, enzymes are added and the material then goes through three digestion stages. Hydrogen sulfide and inert materials are removed. “The sodium sulfate and sodium bicarbonate byproducts are taken off as part of the gas separation process,” Miller explained.

“We end up with clean water, a certain amount of which is used for washing, hydrolization, fire protection and general cleanup around the plant.” The water is continually recycled, he added, leaving about 80,000 gallons per day for sale. “The pure biomethane and carbon dioxide products are put through two stages of compression,” Miller said. “The low-pressure stage (300 pounds per square inch) gas is used for mixing, pH control and to feed the high-pressure stage (3,000 pounds per square inch) gas that is bottled and sold, based on the highest and best use principle—to power electric cars, trucks and buses. Brazil and Argentina are already well into these vehicles, and they make the most sense on every count.” Miller said the most significant benefit of the VRAD process is its gas separation capability. “It not only allows us to sell a cleaner biomethane product with a higher Btu per cubic foot than pipeline natural gas, but also allows us to reduce greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions to zero,” he said. This offers a serious carbon credit advantage over other processes. We didn’t design the process with the carbon credit game in mind, it just made good sense.” As far as the cost is concerned, Miller said EDI expects it will take $35 million to get the first 1,000-ton-per-day plant on line. The plant would have a 10-acre footprint and generate a return on investment in five to seven years. —Anna Austin

UK company supplies palm kernel shells for biomass power A U.K. company originally focused on supplying materials for the solar industry has expanded to the biomass industry, providing wood chips, bamboo and palm kernel shells to customers on several eastern hemisphere continents. Opean Energy Managing Director Odera Ume-Ezeoke said the company has offices or partners in each country it sources biomass from, which includes Ghana and Indonesia. “We started out aiming to bridge the supply gap in the clean commodity market where there appeared to be a real problem tracking down reliable supplies of silicon for solar panel production,” she said. “Now, we’ve expanded our products to focus and solve similar problems in the biomass industry by physically trading to supply our clients with the biomass they seek.” Opean Energy was formed in 2005, Ume-Ezeoke said, but its focus on biomass didn’t begin until early 2009, when it began developing its supply chain. “In the fourth quarter of 2009 we started marketing our supplies,” she said. “We chose to expand from silicon to biomass because as clean commodities, the products shared a lot of similarities as bulk products focused on the production of clean power, and used by a mainly industrial client base. Our silicon background essentially gave us a jogging start in the industry.”

Opean supplies customers with bamboo pellets, wood chips and pellets, and palm kernel shells, a waste product of palm oil production. “Smaller quantities of items like bamboo, we have around 5,000 metric tons (5,500 tons) per month at present,” Ume-Ezeoke said. “For wood chips, pellets and palm kernel shells, we have a supply capacity of around 20,000 to 40,000 metric tons per month of each, either on a FOB (free on board) or CIF (cost insured freight) basis.” According to Opean Energy, on an annual basis there are 3.2 million tons of palm kernel shells available in Indonesia and 3.1 million tons in Malaysia. The shells compare favorably as a boiler fuel source due to their relatively high calorific value of 4,320 kilocalories per kilogram (16 Btu per 154 pounds), abundance of supply, ease of use and per tonnage cost. Palm kernel shells are versatile and have multiple uses, Ume-Ezeoke added. “It can be used in its natural form for fuel at power stations, as a clean alternative to coal, to form activated carbon or to pave roads. We’re reducing emissions of EU power stations by encouraging them to burn biomass instead of coal, and also promoting and enabling enterprise in developing countries where we source our biomass from.” —Anna Austin





Next Step Biofuels is ready to market its Power Pellets made from corn stover to coal-fired power plants.

Next Step debuts corn stover pellets After a series of rigorous operational and burn characteristic assessments, Nebraska-based Next Step Biofuels is ready to move their corn stover pellets into the marketplace, and told Biomass Magazine negotiations are underway with several Midwest power utilities for supply contracts to begin next year. Will Gardenswartz, Next Step director of marketing, said all of the testing has been completed with satisfactory results, including the manufacture of the pellets at a commercial scale. Several months ago, Next Step worked with Loup Valley Alfalfa’s pelletizing facilities in Burwell, Neb., to perform production tests, according to Gardenswartz. “We retrofitted the facility with what’s needed to make our corn stover pellets—which is different—and we produced them there for a period of several weeks,” he said. Next Step also had tests conducted at the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota. There are two main advantages to “Power Pellets” over wood pellets, Gardenswartz said. “Processing characteristics is one,” he said. “What’s necessary, in order to fold this into a coal-fired plant operation, is to pulverize whatever they plan to co-burn in the same way they do coal.” Wood pellets can be difficult to pulverize, especially if they are made with binders, he said. “Binders create undesirable substances in the ash which can cause slagging problems, and you don’t want to introduce impurities from the binders into the system.” The other advantage is the economics of using corn stover as a pellet feedstock, according to Gardenswartz. “Because corn stover is the most abundant biomass source in the U.S., in theory, [corn stover pellets] will sell for less than wood pellets,” he said. “One problem with the wood supply market is that although they say it’s renewable, if you look at the numbers on leftover waste wood and lumber resources, you’ll see a lot of pressure.” Though the company hasn’t yet built its own pellet plant, Gardenswartz said major off-take agreements with utilities will influence where and when one 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

or more will be built. “For a lot of reasons, as you can imagine, we’ll put the plants really close to where the pellets will be used,” he said. A typical plant will produce 175,000 tons of the pellets annually, each pound containing just less than 7,300 Btu. The Midwest will host the plants, he added, due to an abundance of corn stover throughout the region. “We’re actively contracting for corn stover right now and are seeing success doing that,” he said. “These are seven-year, price-stable agreements, and involve a turn-key program. We come in, harvest, bale and shred the corn stover, using our own combines and crews.” Addressing concerns surrounding the possible effects corn stover removal might have on the quality of soil, Gardenswartz said it won’t be a problem. “While leaving a certain amount of corn stover in the field is important for the soil, yield increases in corn have actually created a corn stover surplus, and leaving too much is a problem.” Though admitting that no pellet will compete with the cheap cost of coal, Gardenswartz emphasized the point of utilizing biomass pellets is beyond cost competitiveness. “Using them will be necessary to comply with state renewable portfolio standards, carbon credit gains, and will become especially important with the new U.S. EPA greenhouse gas ruling,” he said. “Though the pellets could cost three to four times as much as coal, using them is all about reducing carbon dioxide emissions.” Biomass pelletizing is far from a new concept, Gardenswartz pointed out, but corn stover is a particularly stubborn substance to pelletize. “The reality is that people have been producing biomass pellets for a long time, but corn stover has been resistant for a variety of reasons—it just has bad processing characteristics. It took us a long time to figure out, but now we’ve solved the problem and have a novel, cost-effective process.” —Anna Austin


NEWS Georgia company to sell exclusively licensed miscanthus rhizomes Georgia-based SunBelt Biofuels LLC is prepared to sell registered and certified rhizomes of its Foundation Freedom giant miscanthus to several hundred licensed growers in the Southeast U.S. starting in the spring. The plant was selected as the company’s main biofuels crop after about 12 years of investigations by Mississippi State University researchers and named Freedom because they believe it can reduce the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil. It was chosen because of its ability to grow well in the Southeast and its vigor, size, profitability and yield, according to Craig Patterson, of SunBelt. “It’s important to know that it is not genetically modified,” he said. “It was selected.” Researchers are in the process of fingerprinting and patenting the crop, he added. SunBelt has field trials of Freedom giant miscanthus in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia, for a total of 300 acres, and is the exclusive supplier of the plant. At full maturity, it yields up to 25 tons per acre. “Because of the high vigor and rapid multiplication of the plant rhizomes, we are able to harvest each year with high multiplication,” said Phillip Jennings, president of SunBelt. Yield on 1-year-old material is 8 tons, second-year regrowth yields 14 tons and third-year regrowth yield is 20 tons, Jennings said. Some tests have revealed 27 tons per year is possible with some supplemental water after the fourth year of growth, he added. The company possesses enough material now to plant at least 1,000 acres, Patterson said. “Our work for the past few months has been concentrated on bringing

the cost down for planting and doing it mechanically,” Jennings said. This is SunBelt’s first biofuel crop and the company does not have plans for expansion to include more, Patterson said. “We think this is the best solution for farmers to plant in the Southeast,” he said. While it is mainly a biofuel crop, it can be used for biomass power, animal bedding or can be pelletized and shipped. “We can ship it to wherever, whenever,” he said. An advantage to using grasses rather than woody biomass is moisture content, Patterson said. Freedom giant miscanthus has a moisture content of 12 percent to 15 percent, whereas wood has about 60 percent. Drying that material is energy intensive and costly. SunBelt has not used money from the government or large corporations, Jennings said, adding that it is a true grass-roots effort, from the ground up, among farmers. SunBelt offers a full growers assistance program including planting supervision, growing assistance and quality monitoring. Jennings says he’d like to see 25 million acres planted in low-grade soils and on abandoned farms in the Southeast over the next 10 years. “I want so much biomass produced in the Southeast that it looks like a mushroom cloud from outer space,” he said. —Lisa Gibson

California company sees potential in its miscanthus trials California-based Mendel Biotechnology Inc. has more than 2,000 varieties of miscanthus under development on several different plots and hopes to have significant plantings for biomass power generation in the next two to four years. Fifteen research and development plots have been planted across the eastern U.S. and Canada to identify genetics and breeding materials, according to Mendel CEO and President Neal Gutterson, along with nine pilot locations to help understand the different varieties and their yields, as well as the best locations to plant them in order to work with off-take partners. In addition, a precommercial demonstration site in southwest Kentucky is helping researchers understand the logistics of harvest, collection and storage. “But also to get farmers interested,” Gutterson said. Mendel also has collaborations in Europe, China and Brazil. Currently, yields are being used mainly for testing, but plots, specifically Kentucky’s demo site, have shown great potential for miscanthus as an energy crop. Interest in miscanthus is huge, according to Rasto Ivanic, director of business development, and Mendel is in discussions with several businesses interested in testing the company’s crops for conversion to biofuels and power. It’s just a matter of a few years before a substantial agreement is in place, he added. The Kentucky trials were done by a top grower, Gutterson said, and have accomplished yields comparable to a mature switchgrass field. Firstyear data is encouraging, he said, and the demo plot will be harvested for the next several years. Crops planted now are clonal offerings, but Men-

del has long-term aspirations of moving to a seeded system, which would lower costs, Gutterson said. “We think the costs can come down five- to 10-fold,” he said, adding that the seeded products will be game changing. Mendel is focused on a portfolio of crops, mainly miscanthus, and sees limitations on current offerings that they will address in their own varieties. The company’s plants are not currently genetically modified, Ivanic stressed, adding that Mendel is leading the effort to make sure varieties of the crop will not pose issues or threats where they are planted and harvested. “We are extremely conscious about being good stewards of the industry,” he said. “We can bring in important traits without having genetic modification,” Gutterson added. Desired traits include improved and stabilized yield, improved energy content and maximized growing season and flowering time, he said. Mendel’s clonal offerings are seeing yields in the first year and results look promising, Gutterson said. “We’re now seeing progress,” he added. The industry still seems a bit sluggish and many questions have yet to be answered, but he is confident that in a couple years the company will have the data and information that will spur financing for miscanthus-based renewable energy projects. “We’re very optimistic that this will be a good feedstock,” he said. —Lisa Gibson





The VRSD in Ventura County, Calif., has started operations at its biosolids drying and electric generation facility in Santa Paula.


The Ventura Regional Sanitation District in southern Ventura County, Calif., has officially commenced operations at its biosolids drying and electric generation facility in Santa Paula, a project the utility hopes will serve as a model for other regional governments and municipalities. It took about two years and $19 million to construct the facility, which is on three acres at the Toland Road Sanitary Landfill. The facility utilizes landfill gas to provide 100 percent of its required power (about 1 megawatt), and an extra 1.5 megawatts are sold to the local power grid, according to VRSD General Manager Mark Lawler. With some additional units, the facility could handle the biosolids produced by up to 700,000 people. Within the 10-city county, VRSD is contracted to take biosolids from six cities that do wastewater treatment. “The remainders are special districts that don’t have large volumes of biosolids, so they haven’t contracted with us just yet, but we’re working on those,” Lawler said. “We needed these contracts with the cities in order to get the financing for the project—this project proceeded with no grants or special loans, so we went for conventional financing.” The landfill gas, after going through a process to remove excess liquids and filtration systems, is conveyed to the facility by a blower that supplies low-pressure gas to the biosolids dryer and a compressor that sends high-pressure gas to fuel nine microturbines for electricity generation. Biosolids arrive at the facility via trucks, and are dried in two 80-ton batch dryers. Hot oil from process heaters circulates around the dryer shell and through a series of internal rotors that turn the biosolids to dry them evenly. Steam from the dryers is condensed to water, which is treated and then used for dust control at the landfill; exhaust air from the dryers is filtered to remove odors and particulates. The dried biosolids are conveyed to trailers at the receiving station and hauled to the landfill. “The end product from the biosolids qualifies under California’s Solid Waste Law,


VRSD provides regional biosolids management solution

The VRSD biosolids drying and electrical generation facility uses landfill gas to provide 100 percent of its required power, and an extra 1.5 megawatts are sold to the local power grid.

and we’re using that as daily cover at the landfill right now,” Lawler said. California’s Solid Waste Law AB 939 requires each city or county to divert 50 percent of all solid waste from landfill or transformation facilities through source reduction, recycling and composting activities by Jan. 1, 2000. Several people have contacted VRSD and are interested in securing the end product for commercial use as a fuel source or fertilizer, Lawler said. Since the electric generation and biosolids processing facility began initial start-up operations in August, the two dryers have

been ramped up to handle about 120 tons of biosolids per day. “It’s the first of its kind, so we’ve been doing things slowly to make sure everything’s done properly,” Lawler said. “To our knowledge, this is the first of its kind in California—where somebody is treating biosolids regionally rather than individually. We’d really like to show other regional governments and municipalities what we have, and help those who are interested try to duplicate it.” —Anna Austin




Biomass power plant emissions, if not properly controlled, can cause health problems and stir up opposition groups that can impede a plant’s development. By Lisa Gibson






roposed five years ago and still going through stringent state and federal permitting processes, Russell Biomass LLC’s plant in Russell, Mass., would provide 50 megawatts (MW) of power to the local grid from clean, locally sourced wood waste such as forest management residue and stumps. But local opposition groups already have appealed several of the company’s permits and continue to do so, inevitably delaying the construction and operation timeline. The Russell Biomass Power Plant will be the tightest permitted biomass plant in New England history, said Russell Biomass developer Peter Bos. The plant requires about 36 permits, but construction cannot commence during an active appeal process, which can take up to four years, Bos says. The company currently is on track to get all of its permits in place by March 2010, polish the design over the summer and begin construction by September 2010 with the goal of operating in the spring of 2013. But not if local grassroots opposition group Concerned Citizens of Russell can do something about it, which Bos fully expects. The group opposes the plant for several reasons outlined on its Web site, www., including trucking routes and frequency of travel, river impacts, forest sustainability and, of course, plant emissions. The area already has high levels of air pollution because of its location and geography, according to CCR spokeswoman Jana Chicoine. “This site is ringed by mountains,” she says. “You’ve got a 300-foot smokestack next to a 1,100-foot mountain.”

Emission Impacts Typical major emissions from biomass power plants include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and lead, along with particulate matter, among others. All these emissions, in high concentrations, have adverse effects on the environment, but also pose health risks. Carbon monoxide can cause issues such as asthma, headaches, unconsciousness and death; particulates can cause respiratory illnesses; sulfur dioxide can induce breathing 24 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

difficulty or worsen asthmatic problems in children; and nitrous oxide can affect the central nervous system, along with cardiovascular and reproductive systems, among other side effects. But the U.S. EPA regulates those harmful emissions and issues penalties, commonly in the form of fines, to facilities not in compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards, as per the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970. The law’s administrators can require owners or operators of an emissions source, or control or process equipment, to continuously keep emissions records and use monitoring equipment. Administrators will have access to those records and the premises, according to the EPA. The administrator also can require an operator to enhance monitoring and control techniques, or submit compliance certifications, which include compliance status, method of determining that status, and whether it is continuous or intermittent, among other criteria. The EPA may also inspect facilities regularly to determine compliance in accidental release prevention or mitigation programs. Section 112 of the CAA was amended in 1990 to require the EPA to issue emission standards and requirements for 189 cancer-causing air pollutants. The amendment resulted in more than 100 new rules for industrial and commercial sources of air pollution, according to the EPA. The EPA mostly conducted outreach and compliance assistance in the first few years the new rules were in place, but now has a standard enforcement process of identifying priority violators and taking enforcement actions, including issuing penalties. Since 1997, the EPA has issued enforcement actions for Section 112 violations in more than 600 cases, some involving penalties and environmental projects of more than $1 million each, according to the agency. Penalties for a violation of stationary emissions source requirements of the CAA can be up to $32,500 per violation (per day or per engine), according to the EPA. The federal EPA administrators, along with any state government, also have the power to prevent construction of a major emitting facility that does not conform to the requirements.

EMISSIONS After an inspection of a biomass power plant site in Lufkin, Texas, in February 2009, the EPA ordered a stop work order on the 50 MW project because it found construction activities had been completed without required air permits, according to the EPA. The developer, Aspen Power LLC, had been previously granted a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit, but it was rescinded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality because it was challenged by concerned citizens, according to Dave Bary, spokesman for the Region 6 EPA office. “Aspen Power decided

to proceed with construction at its own risk in the absence of a permit from the state of Texas,” Bary says. The PSD permit is required because Lufkin is near the Houston/Galveston area, which already is not in attainment of federal ozone standards, Bary explains. “In order to proceed with construction, it was necessary to demonstrate that their emissions would not contribute to an existing air quality problem in an area nearby,” he says. It is unusual for the EPA to issue a stop work order because of permitting issues, he adds. Aspen was denied a motion to appeal

The Russell Biomass LLC power plant will be built in Russell, Mass., on the site of a paper mill that was shut down about 15 years ago.


EMISSIONS in April, but construction has since commenced after an Oct. 26 re-issuance of the permit by the state, with the addition of more control technologies, according to the EPA. A message left with Aspen Power was not returned. The $130 million plant will burn clean wood debris generated by timber harvesting and municipal clean-up activities and is expected to begin operations in late 2010. For more information on the CAA, visit In addition, the EPA’s Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule, announced in September, will require suppliers, manufacturers and facilities emitting more than 25,000 metric tons (27,550 tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent annually to report and continuously monitor their emissions. The rule goes into effect Jan. 1.

Concentration, Not Weight Concerned Citizens of Russell lists expected emissions amounts of harmful compounds from the Russell plant on its Web site, but Bos says it’s not the number of tons or pounds emitted, but the concentrations that indicate the health measure. “The numbers mean nothing when you’re thinking about health impacts,” he says. “You must know what the resulting concentrations in the air are of that pollutant or any pollutant.” For example, the plant will emit 39 tons of particulate matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller per year, but that goes up the 300-foot smokestack and into the air, where it disperses, resulting in a concentration of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, he says. The standard set by the EPA for PM2.5 concentration is 35 micrograms per cubic meter, he adds. In the 1,600-person village of Russell, particulates emitted from wood stoves in homes during the winter will result in an overall concentration of 5 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter, he explains, adding that emissions from each stove results in 40 micrograms per cubic meter right around the home emitting them. “The reason our concentrations are so small is we have a huge filter that captures over 99 percent of all particulates generated,” he says. “Whereas a wood stove in a house only has maybe a 20-foot stack that goes up to the roof.” The com26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

pany has offered to replace 20 wood stoves in the community with clean-burning pellet stoves, effectively reducing the concentration of wintertime particulates and carbon monoxide. “I think this is the first time in history that a developer has created a program that will reduce pollutants of concern if the plant is built,” he says. Chicoine disagrees with Bos’s concentration measurements for the plant and has consulted a meteorologist who says conditions around the village, including surrounding mountains, make it harder to disperse air pollutants. But besides the smokestack emissions, Chicoine worries about the diesel exhaust from the trucks transporting wood on the route right next to her family’s home. “You’ve got what I like to call an ozone factory,” she insists. “This is a health threat.” Russell Biomass has acquired a number of the required permits and has a draft permit to discharge into the river under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System from the EPA. CCR has appealed three permits to date and two or three more appeals are expected, Bos says, adding that all appeal rulings thus far have gone against the opponents and sustained the project.

Broad Opposition A broad, statewide opposition to biomass has developed in Massachusetts, initiating a petition for a carbon dioxide emissions law that would prohibit biomass plants emitting more than 250 pounds per megawatt hour from operating. That’s far lower than any biomass plant emits, along with any fossil fuel power plant, Bos says. Biomass power should not be included as a renewable energy resource because it is not carbon neutral, Chicoine says, adding that a number of other organizations in the state have formed around opposition of biomass power plants. “Opposition to biomass power plants in Massachusetts is uniquely strong, organized, gifted, qualified, focused and accomplished, I think, in all the world,” she says, adding that the idea of biomass being carbon neutral is a “fairy tale.” The state has one operational biomass plant in Westminster that generates 17 MW and four more have been proposed, includ-

EMISSIONS ing Russell’s. A number of coal plants are also considering switching to biomass. Additionally, Massachusetts has a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 15 percent by 2020, with smaller goals each year. At the beginning of December, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources suspended all consideration of new biomass projects for participation in the state RPS, as it awaits the results of a thirdparty study to determine the sustainability and carbon neutrality of biomass power generation. The study is fueled in large part by opposition to new biomass facilities proposed in the state and will focus on forest management as it relates to biomass collection, along with the life-cycle analysis of the carbon inputs to biomass growth, harvesting, transportation and combustion. The study, led by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, should be completed by June, with any new rulings released in about one year. The study and suspension can delay development, but Bos says it will not affect his plant, as he already expects a delay because of appeals. It will not cause any further delays, he says, adding that construction should start in 2011. The study’s chief function will be to help the DOER determine how many projects it can approve for renewable energy credits, based on the supply of feedstock, Bos says. He does not expect a ruling that allows no biomass power generation in the state at all. “The question is how much biomass will be allowed,” he explains, “not if no biomass will be allowed. The answer to how much wood is available is not zero.” Qualification for state RPS generates renewable energy credits, a key portion of a biomass power plant’s revenue. “Without them, you won’t likely have biomass power,” Bos says. The study also will help identify specific sources of the wood supply that will be allowed for biomass power generation, limiting total megawatts to what’s available. Different ways of supplying biomass and different sources have an effect on the GHG emissions, he adds. “In all states, you find that environmental standards are tightening, but Massachusetts is clearly the tightest permitting state in New England,” Bos says. That might

not be the only reason fewer plants exist in the state than elsewhere, he adds, such as in New Hampshire, which has supported 200 MW of biomass power from woody biomass for years without clear cutting. More forest management activities take place in northern New England than southern, he says, providing more feedstock. If he had it to do over again, Bos says he would propose a site in New Hampshire over the former paper company site he chose in Massachusetts, one of two paper mills shut down in the village of Russell about 15 years ago. “It was a good paper company site and it’s a very good power plant site,” he says. A support group for the Russell plant, RussellFirst, also has emerged in the past six months and has about 100 members, who are concerned about losing the tax revenues the plant would bring in ($120 million over 50 years) and the 22 permanent jobs, Bos says. Even so, Chicoine calls RussellFirst

an “astro turf group” and says it is indistinguishable from Russell Biomass. “Grassroots is genuine and astro turf is not,” she says, adding that RussellFirst is more concerned with tax dollars than the other issues, such as health and sustainability. “RussellFirst just doesn’t show an interest in the information,” she says. But permitting standards are rigid, Bos argues, and no health or environmental risks are ignored. “It defies rational thinking that there are that many environmental impacts that have been overlooked by and allowed by the various permitting agencies,” he emphasizes. “Unfortunately, the appeal stage is a typical final stage of project development in the northeast.” BIO Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@bbiinternational. com or (701) 738-4952.



Building on its

BiomassBase The biomass industry is flourishing in and around Sacramento, Calif., where new biomassbased technologies are nurtured and innovative proven processes are embraced. By Lisa Gibson






t might be hard to fathom four separate companies developing and testing their biomass systems in the same laboratory without a certain level of competition, but that’s part of daily operations at Technikon LLC’s 60,000-square-foot Renewable Energy Testing Center in Sacramento, Calif. The center, operated in conjunction with Renewable Energy Institute International, provides a site for evaluating the performance of renewable energy and fuels technologies with respect to robustness, safety, energy efficiency, environmental effectiveness and other key performance specifications. “If you don’t have the answers to those questions, you’re not going to get anybody to give you money,” says Jodie Crandell, senior project manager for Technikon. The four companies—Davis, Calif.-based Sierra Energy; PEAT International, which operates in locations such as Florida, India and Taiwan; Ternion Bio Industries, headquartered in San Jose, Calif.; and a fourth company that declined to disclose any information for this article—are working together on complementary and


sometimes competitive technologies, even sharing expertise. The center has been operating for about 1½ years and is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Typically, the U.S. DOE solicits grant applications to build large-scale plants, but start-up companies that haven’t proven their technologies don’t often qualify. “The smaller guys, who don’t have any data or information or a place to have people come in and look at their equipment, really kind of get squeezed out of the process at this point,” says George Crandell, vice president of Technikon operations and Jodie’s husband. “We’re helping more and more small guys become successful.” Companies using the space save money on facilities, electricity and other aspects of research and development that are already available at the RETC. It’s a unique model of how to leverage government funding to accelerate the commercialization of pilot-scale technologies, Crandell says. The four companies together have made in-kind contributions of about $4 million in areas such as personnel and equipment, according to Technikon. Four projects are all

Crandell can support on current funding, but there are four or five waiting to use space in the center. A formal group reviews projects and determines who will occupy the RETC, and Crandell has found that he doesn’t have to look far to find companies looking to use space. “We’re also finding that venture capitalist groups are circling like vultures around us,” he laughs. “They see us as a very good sorting and screening mechanism.” Technikon also offers expertise in project management, finance, and chemical and mechanical areas, among others. The company does not have a large area for biomass storage and handling at this point because the systems currently occupying space are not big enough to warrant it. Process testing is also available for Technikon’s clients in the areas of throughput, scalability and capacity, among others, along with emissions and biofuels testing. “We initially thought that we’d just open the doors and let people bring equipment in and we’d help them test it,” George Crandell says. “As we’ve been moving forward, we really realized that we wind up helping them do

INNOVATION equipment development and modifications, so we’re getting more into that.”

The PEAT plasma gasifier is one of four technologies in the RETC.


Sierra Energy is using its space in the RETC to develop its patented Fastox gasification system that modifies iron-making blast furnaces, converting exhaust gases into nearly pure syngas. Currently, the team is using a blend of charcoal briquettes (80 percent), coke and limestone to simulate the waste and hopes to eventually use municipal solid waste (MSW), according to George Crandell. Sierra is not converting its syngas at this point, but has an agreement with a New Zealand-based company that produces ethanol from syngas. That company will set up its production system in the RETC after the Sierra system is scaled up from the current 1-ton-per-day input level to 10 tons per day, Crandell says. That scale-up should happen in about three months, but it may take longer for the ethanol system to move in. The gasifier is currently producing a syngas composed of 30 percent hydrogen and 70 percent carbon monoxide, by adding water and steam to the bottom of the reactor, Crandell says. An existing blast furnace could consume about 30,000 tons of MSW per day. “It’s very scalable because [the blast furnaces] already exist at the size [Sierra Energy] is starting with, all the way up to 30,000 ton-per-day sizes,” Crandell says. “The technology is textbook, except for their modifications to it.” PEAT International is working on its plasma torch gasifier, feeding it mostly wood chips. “It’s a high-temperature conversion of pretty much anything to a synthesis gas,” Jodie Crandell says. An electricity generator with the capacity to produce 75 kilowatts of electricity is hooked up to the back end of the system. “We actually make more syngas than the generator can handle,” George Crandell says. The system is operating on about 1½ tons of wood chips per day and will use rice straw in the near future, but the company is also working with Sacramento County to permit plasma gasification of MSW or medical waste, he says. “The very interesting thing about that is the county wants that data as much as we do because people keep proposing plasma furnaces in our area and they feel uncomfortable that they don’t know anything about it,” he says.


Projects in the Center

Woodland Biomass supplies power to the local grid.

Ternion is testing its 32-foot algae photobioreactor that can eat up to 28 tons of carbon dioxide per month. “They don’t have a partner for the algae back end yet,” Crandell says. “They’re a good partner for someone who wants to make algae oil.” Each bioreactor is the equivalent of about 2½ acres of

pond and the company is looking into ganging several together, he says. While the four technologies in the center don’t currently compete, there could be friendly competition in the future, depending on the types of systems that are chosen to utilize the space. “It’s up to them if they 1|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31



Biosolids are anaerobically digested to produce power at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.

don’t want to come in because they’re worried about the other guy seeing what they’re doing,” George Crandell says.

Waste Wood to Watts Since 1989, Woodland Biomass Power, owned by DTE Energy, has generated electricity for the grid from locally sourced woody biomass, including agricultural residues and


urban wood waste. About 60 percent of the feedstock comes from landfills, 35 percent from agricultural sites and 5 percent from a free local wood drop-off site, according to Kirk Bingham, environmental coordinator for the facility in Woodland, Calif. Residents and commercial operations can drop off their wood waste such as fencing, boards and wood furniture. While that feedstock is free

for the facility, the wood waste that comes from the landfills and agricultural sites is not. That material, on average, costs about $27 per ton, but can range from $17 to $42 per ton, depending on the material and the demand for it, Bingham says. If not used, most of the feedstock material would be landfilled or open-field burned. The plant’s circulating fluidized bed combustor requires about 650 to 800 tons of ground wood per day, depending on its moisture and quality. While the purchased waste wood usually is already ground, an on-site portable grinder processes the local drop-off feedstock about once per month. A majority of the company’s 27 acres is used to store the processed wood on-site. The steam produced during combustion is run through a steam-driven turbine, generating about 28 megawatts (MW) of electricity per hour. Three MW are kept to power the equipment at the facility, while the other 25 MW are sold to local utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Woodland Biomass has the capacity to sell the steam it produces, but chooses not to, Bingham says.

Effluent to Energy Each day, 165 million gallons of wastewater come in to the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Elk Grove, Calif., and through anaerobic digestion of the separated biosolids, methane is generated and

INNOVATION turned into electricity for the local grid. But it’s not quite that simple. “We have a couple of unique solids disposal processes that a lot of plants don’t have,” says Mike Donahue, senior civil engineer in the Sacramento County Regional Sanitation District Operations group. First, the wastewater goes through bar screens and grit tanks to remove large objects, dirt and rocks. Then, the solids are separated from the water through two processes. Primary sedimentation settles out all the large, heavy biosolids, and the lighter solids are consumed in a biological reactor by 10 or more naturally-occurring microorganisms, Donahue explains. Liquid oxygen produced on-site is injected into the reactor, resulting in a much smaller footprint. The secondary solids are then collected in secondary sedimentation tanks. While the primary sludge is 3½ percent total solids, secondary sludge, only one-half percent total solids, needs thickening before anaerobic digestion. That is done through either dissolved air floatation thickeners or gravity belt thickeners, both common processes at wastewater treatment plants, Donahue says. After the secondary sludge is thickened, it is mixed with the primary sludge and sent to the anaerobic digesters. The plant has five primary digesters where the sludge spends the majority of its 20-day detention time. From there, all the sludge is combined in the blending digester. Bacteria in the digesters—the type commonly found in anaerobic mud or the stomachs of ruminant animals—break down the organic compounds while 97-degree Fahrenheit temperatures cook off the methane gas. About 1,700 cubic feet of methane per minute (2.5 million cubic feet per day) is sent from the digesters to the neighboring Sacramento Municipal Utility District power plant and used, along with natural gas, to generate enough electricity to power 5,500 homes each year. In addition, SMUD sells steam back to the treatment plant to heat the anaerobic digesters. The methane has to be scrubbed down to 40 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide before it’s transported to the power plant. “But at the end of the day, we’re still left with 75 dry tons of digested solids,” Donahue explains. Thirty percent of that is sent to

a nearby Synagro plant, where it’s pelletized for use as fertilizer on local farmland. The other 70 percent is pumped into 125 acres of facultative ponds where it stays and breaks down further for about five years, he says, to about 40 percent of its original volume. Pond solids are dredged during the dry summers and injected into one of three 40-acre permanent biosolids disposal fields, lined to protect the groundwater. The storage ponds with permanent on-site disposal, combined with the

production of biosolids pellets are what make the facility’s process unique, Donahue says. Technikon, Woodland Biomass and the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant are all stops on a tour scheduled in conjunction with Biomass Magazine’s Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo being held Jan. 11-13 in Sacramento. BIO Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@ or (701) 738-4952.



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Methane Migraine

Are stringent air quality regulations impeding dairy digester implementation in California? By Anna Austin






hen it comes to renewable energy portfolios, California is an archetype for other states developing standards to follow. Targets increasing the use of renewable power to 20 percent by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020 have set the clean energy bar high, especially when coupled with the state’s stringent air quality regulations. Despite the benefits and incentives associated with generating renewable energy in California, complying with certain air pollution control regulations has become a major hurdle for some projects— in particular, for farmers attempting to install anaerobic digesters on their dairy operations. California leads the nation in dairy farming, with some 2,700 farms, at which only 16 operate digesters, one-fourth of those are small in scale. While digesters significantly reduce methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 21 times more potent than CO2, problematically, the combustion engine that transforms the biogas into energy releases a high amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx), a catalyst in the breakdown of ozone. Certain areas in California, such as the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley regions, have been classified by the U.S. EPA as “severe non-attainment” areas for ozone, and therefore the air resource boards in those districts impose strict standards on NOx-emitting facilities. About 75 percent of all dairy cows are housed in dairies within the boundaries of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Sacramento Municipal Air Quality Management District.


Farmers and environmentalists say Central Valley air pollution control agencies that refuse to budge on the matter are unwilling to compromise and are overlooking the positives associated with digesters. In 2009, six dairy digesters ceased operating as a result of regulatory and financial problems. Charged with controlling air quality, the boards insist the technology to meet the set NOx requirements is available today, and say those having trouble getting permits or meeting the standards should have checked with their local air district about requirements before engaging in their projects. Allen Dusault, program director for Sustainable Agriculture, says building new digesters in California today is “a nightmare.” It all stems from a clash of interests and goals, he tells Biomass Magazine. “In California, we have the most progressive dairymen anywhere in the country who are looking to do the right thing; to capture the GHGs and reduce their emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons per year, while generating renewable electricity, another goal of the state,” he says. “Even if the air district recognizes the GHG benefits, they are responsible for air quality, and that’s solely what they focus on. What’s been required of these dairymen is extraordinary.” Jorge DeGuzman, permitting program supervisor for the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, says that the regulations affecting dairy digesters have been in place for more than 10 years. “All other sectors of our economy have had to comply with these standards,” he says. “If we were to relax the standards for dairies, we would have to impose even more stringent requirements on other sectors to make up for the increase in NOx emissions.”

POLICY Regulatory Red Tape In the spring of 2001, the California legislature passed SB5X, which provided $15 million to support the building of manure digesters for electrical generation, $10 million of which was earmarked for on-farm dairy digesters. The program covered up to 50 percent of the capital costs of the digesters. Many dairy farmers are now wondering why the state government encourages and provides grant money for projects that are extremely difficult to get permitted. DeGuzman says while the program was being developed, there was no communication with air pollution control districts. “The grant program was overseen by an advisory group comprised of representatives from the California dairy industry, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Energy Commission, California State Water Resources Control Board, Sustainable Conservation (a small California nonprofit environmental group that focuses on agricultural and transportation issues), the University of California and U.S. EPA AgSTAR Program,” he says. “Air pollution control agencies were not part of this advisory group nor were they aware of this advisory group.” The grants were awarded, the digester systems designed, and the equipment purchased, all before consulting the local air pollution control agencies, according to DeGuzman. “When these projects came to us, the dairy operators were pretty much expecting a simple, rubberstamp approval. However, some discovered that the equipment they had purchased did not meet the standards that had been in place for approximately 10 years. Had they contacted the local air district before purchasing the equipment, as the law requires, we could have made

them aware of the emission standards applicable and they could have designed compliant digester systems.” DeGuzman says air pollution control districts are in full support of the concept of electricity generation from the anaerobic decomposition of manure, but only if it’s done correctly. “If properly designed, the dairy digesters could operate well within the required standards and permitting them would not be an issue,” he says. Any dairy in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento districts must meet an emission limit of 9 parts per million of NOx, or 0.15 grams per brake horsepower-hour (the actual horsepower of an engine, measured by a brake attached to the drive shaft and recorded on a dynamometer), a difficult to achieve standard which Dusault says no dairy digester has previously been compliant. “The basis for the air district deciding that limit was achievable was based on a dairy in Atwater, Calif.,” Dusault says. “We met with [the air district] and pointed out that we knew from investigating, that the dairy was not in compliance. The air district essentially didn’t believe us, but went out there and checked and found out that in fact, it wasn’t complying.” Dusault says the air district then recommended a different type of technology, a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) rather than a three-way catalyst. “We said that there wasn’t any dairy biogas facility, or any biogas facility in the country that we’ve identified that’s meeting that limit using SCR and they responded by telling us that they believe there are other types of facilities meeting it, so these digesters must, too. They couldn’t find anyone meeting it with biogas, but yet they still required it.”




Fiscalini installed a complete-mix digester system on his dairy that cost double the original estimate of $2 million.

Methane Migraine John Fiscalini, owner of Fiscalini Farms, Fiscalini Cheese Co. and a 1,500-head dairy, knows first-hand the strife a dairy farmer can face when taking on a digester project. Fiscalini has a complete-mix digester system consisting of two 860,000 gallon tanks installed at his farm, a project originally estimated to cost $2 million, but in the end cost about $4 million. He received a $1.5 million grant from the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, but the remainder came out of his own pocket. Fiscalini says initially, the biggest incentive for him to install a digester was to stay ahead of legislators who may pass laws requiring dairies to have them. He had anticipated the project would take eight to 10 months, but it ended up taking two years because of permitting issues with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Regional Water Control Board. Aside from being prepared to handle mountains of paperwork from regulatory agencies, grant providers and power utilities, any dairy farmer in California considering installing a digester should “do a lot of home38 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 1|2010

work,” Fiscalini says. “Hire a consultant who knows the digester arena, get as many bids as possible, look for grant money, and be really careful about permits and which agencies have the power to impose regulations.” Now that his digester has been up and running for the better part of the year, Fiscalini believes he is well-equipped to help other dairy farmers who might be facing the same problems. He and his project manager have formed a consulting firm called Ag Power Development. “Because of what we went through with this project, we believe we are among the most knowledgeable people in the state of California about how to get through the regulatory process,” he says. “Our experiences, although painful at the time, have educated us and also the regulators, about the process.”

Recognizing Trade-Offs Though each regulatory agency involved in the digester permitting process serves a sole purpose, environmental tradeoffs should be kept in mind, says Steve Weismann, at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at Berkeley Law. “Most importantly, state government at the top levels needs to recognize the as-

sistance of these trade-offs,” Weismann says. “Not every solution that would benefit the reduction of carbon emissions will necessarily uniformly benefit all of their environmental concerns.” Weismann points out that it will be necessary, in some instances, to recognize certain needs and set priorities. “The other major component is to assure that when agencies analyze projects, they are free and equipped to look at the full range of life-cycle impacts of the project, instead of first-level impacts that may relate to the particular thing that an individual agency regulates,” he says. “For instance, if a concern is NOx emissions, there may be some NOx emissions directly related to the operation of a methane-based power generator, but there might be other NOx emissions that might come, for instance, from taking that same manure and transporting it to some other place to be processed. It’s really going to be important for agencies to look at the full range of impacts.” The air district’s stake isn’t in GHG benefits, even if they recognize them,” Dusault says. “Their charge is for air quality, and that’s what they focus on—but there is an opportunity to come in with new technology to get that permit, and that’s where [Sustain-

POLICY able Conservation is] at right now.” Dusault admits that while there are other uses for biogas, all of which have barriers, electricity generation has turned out to be the most economically attractive—one incentive being that power providers are willing to pay more for renewable electricity to meet state mandates—yet most daunting from a regulatory point of view. “The air district is very powerful,” he adds. “Ultimately, we’ve focused on looking at new technology that might help meet the requirements. Dairymen and the project developers can’t afford to challenge the air district in legal proceedings; it’s just too costly. So separately, we’ve begun developing technology on our own.” In the meantime, those who are in the midst of, or might soon be launching new digester projects, should pay close attention to significant air regulatory issues.

look at the technology to see if your state and your location make economic sense.” Digester projects will become much more important with federal GHG legislation, as well as national efforts to reward renewable electricity production, according to Dusault. “Over the long term, this will be more of a common solution,” he says. “For California dairymen, we say come talk to us. We’re developing some new technologies, which we think will be cost-effective, allow compliance with the stringent requirements,

and allow them to make a profit on electricity production. [Sustainable Conservation] should have some demonstration projects starting early next year. So watch and see what we can do.” BIO Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at aaustin@ or (701) 738-4968.

Taking Notes “Based on experience, those taking on new digester projects should be aware of two major issues when designing their systems,” DeGuzman says—biogas sulfur content limits and Best Available Control Technology for NOx. BACT is a pollution control standard under the U.S. EPA’s New Source Review program. BACT standards vary in each district, but are at least as stringent as federal new source review standards. BACT requires an applicant to adopt the most stringent control technology that has been achieved in practice for a similar source, is technologically feasible and cost-effective, or is contained in a State Implementation Plan or New Source Performance Standard. In Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley, NOx BACT for internal combustion engines being used to produce power is 0.15 grams NOx per horsepowerhour (9 parts per million)—a standard that Dusault reiterates is difficult to achieve. The opportunity for digester expansion in the state is not lost, however. His advice to dairy farmers pursuing new digester projects is simple. “If they’re not in California, I say go for it,” he says. “Nationally, there are lot of other states such as Wisconsin and New York, where digesters are proving to be viable and cost effective. It’s worthwhile to


More Information? Please call 770-849-0100 or email us at 1|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 39


Bad Boy Crop

Deserves a Second Chance Mention Jerusalem artichoke in some farming communities in the Midwest and there’s a good chance you’ll be run out of town on a rail. The tubers’ reputation was tarnished in the early 1980s by scandal, but some people still believe in its potential as a biomass resource. By Rona Johnson






he Jerusalem artichoke was sold to Midwestern farmers as a crop that thrives in dry soil conditions and could be used to make ethanol and for use in food products. The farmers initially grew it for seed to get the crop established. But the businessmen who were behind the effort turned out to be shady and eventually ended up in court, farmers already stricken by drought conditions were left with a crop they couldn’t sell and “Jerusalem artichoke” became a dirty word. The scandal is detailed in a book called “The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus: The Buying and Selling of the Rural American Dream” written by Joseph A. Amato and published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1993. The scandal involving Jerusalem artichokes doesn’t faze Larry Whetstone, who, for the past 10 years, has been sending out information about its potential as a biobutanol feedstock and its health benefits, in an effort to get it established in North America. As the owner of Canuk Sales, an organic food ingredient company, he is particularly interested in the inulin or prebiotic soluble fiber produced by the tubers. “The opportunities for gut health are huge,” Whetstone says. “The prebiotics feed the gut microflora of any single-stomach animal, whether it’s an oyster, shrimp, chicken, pig, horse or a human. The probiotic thing has been pushed by major companies such as Dannon and anybody making probiotics are doing a big business now because they’ve indoctrinated mainly women to get their tummies in shape, and it’s their digestive gut that’s what they have to shape up.” New research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Stanford Hospital and Clinics also suggests that probiotics can enhance weight-loss programs. “Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines,” according to WebMD. “The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system.” The Web site describes prebiotics as “nondigestible ingredients in foods that are used to spur the growth of probiotic bacteria in the body.” Most of the probiotics used today come from the inulin extracted from chickory roots that are mostly grown in Europe. Jerusalem artichokes are also produced in Europe as well as in China and south Asia. “It took over eight years in Canada before they allowed the inulin to be called a soluble fiber,” Whetstone says. “If you start to look at labels on cereal boxes you’re going to see lots of soluble fiber inulin addition. It’s also in breads, cookies and dog food in particular. Animals improve when eating it because they have the same gut as we do.” Whetstone says that inulin added to milk helps the body absorb more minerals, calcium and iron, which is beneficial for people who suffer from osteoporosis and for children. “I don’t understand how so much of it can be used in North America and it’s all being imported,” he says. While people such


The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also referred to as sunroot or sunchoke, is a sunflower species native to the U.S.

as Whetstone believe in the benefits of probiotics, which can range from helping in the treatment of hay fever, preventing asthma, reducing infections in athletes, reducing kidney stones and improving infant immune functions, there are some researchers who think more research needs to be done to determine its heath benefits.

Livestock Feed Market While Whetstone is particularly interested in the Jerusalem artichoke’s human health benefits, John Timmons, a hog producer in Moberly, Mo., believes its greatest potential is for livestock feed. Timmons is growing plots of the crop and says he can easily produce 50 tons of the bulk tubers per acre, which would yield 8 to 10 tons of dry matter per acre. “The production rate in this area is just absolutely incredible … you are going to have a higher production rate than corn or


Jerusalem Artichoke Improves Pig Diets According to a study “Economic Evaluation of Nutritional Strategies that Affect Manure Volume, Nutrient Content, and Odor Emissions” conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Department of Animal Science, Jerusalem artichoke would be a great addition to pig diets. The following are comments the authors made regarding the tuber: Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) is a native North American plant having a tuber that grows underground. The tubers are high in inulin, which can be broken down to fructooligosaccharide, a carbohydrate. Adding Jerusalem artichoke to growing pig diets has resulted in faster growth and improved feed conversion. In addition, inulin appears to increase growth of bifidobacteria in the pig, reducing diarrhea and swine manure odor. Farnworth et al., 1995, conducted a sensory evaluation study to characterize the smell of fresh (less than 4 hours) swine manure obtained from pigs fed 0 percent, 3 percent and 6 percent Jerusalem artichoke. As shown in table 1, swine manure from pigs fed Jerusalem artichoke smelled sweeter, less sharp and pungent, and had less skatole than pigs fed the control diet. The observed changes in pig manure and subsequent odor are most likely due to the positive influence of Jerusalem artichoke on bifidobacteria in the intestinal microflora.

Table 1: Sensory Evaluation of the Smell of Manure from Pigs Fed Diets Containing Jerusalem Artichoke

















Sharp, pungent








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any other crop,” he says. “The problem with it right now is we’re looking at how to dry it.” Animal feed crops such as corn or soybeans are dried and then ground into a powder. A similar process has to be developed for the Jerusalem artichokes. “I’ve got to develop a system where we can harvest this and

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FEEDSTOCK ‘My involvement with the artichoke machine at that time was strictly focused on harvesting in what I’ve termed junk soil. I figure what a great place to grow energy crops if we can get this harvested in soil with only antelope, jackrabbits and sagebrush on it.’ Chuck Gode, consulting engineer, CRG Co. LLC


dry it to a point where it can be stored,” Timmons says. “The powder has to be lower than 20 percent moisture. Right now when you harvest it it’s at 80 percent moisture so you have to chop it up into a product that can be air dried in the field and then it can be brought in and stored and then you can go into grinding it.” Using dryers to dry the crop would require too much energy, he adds. Timmons is also interested in the crop because often in his area it’s too wet in the

spring to plant. “With the ‘choke’ there’s no planting, it comes back every year,” he says. “You can harvest the tubers and they will come back thicker than ever.” Although Timmons and Whetstone are convinced that the crop has potential they are unable to sell it to the academic world. “I’ve tried to get people from the University of Missouri interested and they’re not really,” he says. “We’re out here on our own and that’s all there is to it.” Whetstone has also had a tough time getting researchers interested in the tubers. “It’s going to take someone to say, ‘we need biomass that’s not food related and what are we going to use?’” he says. “I come along and say look at this and then they say they are not interested in Jerusalem artichoke. I say, ‘Why not let me send you some information.’ I don’t understand.” Timmons says using Jerusalem artichoke in cattle feed can reduce the cow’s methane production, which is a source of greenhouse gases. “I think it has tremendous potential for solving a lot of environmental problems, health problems, as far as livestock goes, and it produces more per acre [than other feed crops],” he says. “As an energy source, you can break it down into ethanol. But I think it’s going to be much more valuable as a feedstock for cattle or hogs or any kind of livestock. But you have to overcome the problem of being able to harvest, dry and get the tubers to the point where you can grind them into a powder. Until you have that, you are not going to be able to bring it in as a commercial crop.” A study conducted by University of Minnesota concluded that feeding Jerusalem artichokes to hogs improved their diets and made their manure smell sweeter (see sidebar on page 43). Timmons came across information about the Jerusalem artichoke when he was studying energy producing crops. He is well aware of the scam and read Amato’s book. “Several farmers in this area grew this with the hopes that it

FEEDSTOCK would be a savior as an energy crop,” he says. “It’s really too bad because the crop did have potential. It was just the way it was handled. It’s just a shame.”

First-Hand Knowledge Chuck Gode, a semi-retired consulting engineer, also believes the crop deserves another chance despite its reputation and his own experience with the Jerusalem artichoke schemers. In 1982 when he was living in Salem, Ore., Gode, who had an engineering consulting business called CRG Co. LLC, received a midnight phone call from a man named Bill Hawkey wondering if he could design a machine for him to harvest Jerusalem artichokes. The conversation resulted in Hawkey buying him a plane ticket to Salt Lake City, where they met just two days later. “He met me there with a twinengine airplane and we flew over Idaho and all over the West to visit artichoke fields and to show me the processes they were trying to use for harvesting,” says Gode, who currently resides in Portland, Ore. In Idaho they were successful using potato harvesters, but soil conditions in Wyoming were hard on the potato harvesters. “We flew to Gillete, Wyo., and about halfway between Gillete and Sheridan—no mans land—they had three or four 40-acre plots of artichokes growing and doing just fine,” Gode says. “They tried for three years to harvest them with potato harvesters and the potato harvester builders, and as soon as they hit the soil—I think one got about 12 feet— they bent and didn’t work anymore.” Hawkey hired Gode to design a harvester that would work in “junk” or marginal soils, and gave him 90 days to produce the machine. “I designed it in modules and [Hawkey] fabricated it; he was an excellent fabricator because I had virtually no tools to work with just what he brought,” Gode says. “Ninety days later the machine is on its way to Wyoming. We get there and it takes about two weeks of debugging and tweaking this

and that and by golly it started working.” After debugging the machine his job was over but he was still owed $17,000. When he tried to collect it, Hawkey was nowhere to be found. The next time he saw him was in a Los Angeles courtroom. Although Gode wasn’t happy about not being paid, he was impressed with the Jerusalem artichoke. He has no idea what happened to the machine that he and Hawkey built, but he kept all of his drawings and photos. “My involvement with the

artichoke machine at that time was strictly focused on harvesting in what I’ve termed junk soil,” Gode says. “I figure what a great place to grow energy crops if we can get this harvested in soil with only antelope, jackrabbits and sagebrush on it.” BIO Rona Johnson is the editor of Biomass Magazine. Reach her at rjohnson@ or (701) 738-4940.

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SDSU forage breeder Arvid Boe’s work in switchgrass has been complicated by the re-discovery of a tiny moth, first described a century ago. Only now when scientists are exploring biomass crops have they learned that it feeds on switchgrass and can cause extensive damage.

SDSU Scientists ‘Re-discover’ Switchgrass Moth The rediscovery of the switchgrass moth indicates that native prairie plants are just as vulnerable to insects as other crops are, and that pest management programs will be needed if these prairie grasses are going to be produced commercially.


outh Dakota State University scientists have “rediscovered” an insect that was first described by a scientist in 1910, but hasn’t been studied since. What they are learning about its diet and life cycle suggests it could be one of the first major pests of a new biobased economy that grows native grasses for energy. SDSU professor Paul Johnson, a research entomologist, said SDSU scientists found larvae of an unidentified insect that were responsible for losses on a private

farm specializing in seed production of native grasses in 2006. At an SDSU research farm in 2007, professor Arvid Boe, a forage breeder, calculated that 40 percent or more of new tiller growth was lost to the caterpillar. Then in 2008, Johnson collected adult moths using simple emergence traps, and estimated population densities of male moths using freshly emerged virgin females. He also collected larvae and reared them to adults on an artificial diet provided by colleagues at the University of Illinois.

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).


Johnson, the curator of SDSU’s Severin-McDaniel Insect Research Collection, said identifying the insect was a puzzle. “At first we thought it was an undescribed species. I started calling it the ‘switchgrass moth’ because everything we know about it so far is that it feeds only on switchgrass,” Johnson says. “We had no idea what this thing was. We had no identified material in the insect collection here that would allow us to identify it to any level. Suddenly this species, in an agronomic sense, was presenting itself as a pest of switchgrass.” SDSU’s search for answers finally led scientists to David Adamski, a research associate

with the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Adamski, a specialist in small moths, identified the insect and told them it had been reported to science in 1910. “In this case, a worker named Dietz using electric light collected two specimens of Blastobasis repartella from Denver, Colo., and they weren’t collected since,” Adamski says. Adamski went to South Dakota in June to gather specimens of the insect and is currently rearing adults of the moth from larvae that were collected. He will co-author a paper about it with the help of colleagues including Johnson and Boe at



The switchgrass moth isn’t considered a new or rare species. Researchers believe it was just ignored for years because it only feeds on a plant previously unimportant to humans. The top photo is of a switchgrass moth larva and the bottom photo is of a female moth.

SDSU, and another researcher from Illinois who has also found the insect in switchgrass plots. “We’re going to redescribe it and put it in modern terms,” Adamski says. The insect may not be rare as much as it has been simply ignored, Adamski says, since it apparently depends on a plant that previously was unimportant to humans. “This moth is, with wings spread, very small and generally would go unnoticed by anyone. It’s not like it’s hiding,” Adamski says. “An insect like this, someone would ignore it without a thought.”

Insect Find Raises New Issues Johnson said the insect is an interesting example of issues

that can emerge when a native plant is elevated to crop status. “Part of the question from a biodiversity perspective is how thoroughly do we know the insects of native prairie plants?” Johnson says. “As we convert native plants into crops, we are bringing with them the potential for new pests and diseases. Here we have a native, prairie grassadapted species that apparently no one knew about.” Encouraging large tracts of native grasses as agricultural crops would give insects that use those species the signal to thrive. “When you start encouraging large monocultures, it’s like there’s a Thanksgiving feast laid out for them,” Johnson says. In fact, he says, the switchgrass moth is only one of several puzzling insects that SDSU sci-

entists have found in the course of their research on various species of native grasses and other plants. One other switchgrass insect is a cecidomyid fly that was previously unknown to science. “We now have a genus name, Chilophaga. And it is confirmed to be a new species,” Johnson says. “Then there are different moths, midges, aphids and other insects on big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, cup plant and other plant species being studied as potential crops.” For the scientists studying native grasses as potential feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol, the ongoing discoveries challenge an important assumption, Johnson notes. “Before these recent discoveries, the mantra in the national biofuels and biomass circles was that there were no significant pests of concern and that growing native plants as crops would be environmentally benign if not beneficial. Our basic insect natural history work here at the Severin-McDaniel Insect Research Collection has shown this presumption to be false and that native prairie plants are just as vulnerable to insects as other crops,” Johnson says. “A major concern in the near future, then, becomes designing pest management programs.” More information on both insects can be found at http:// index.htm. Click on “Biomass/ Biofuels/Bioenergy Insects” near the bottom right of the page, then click on the link beside “Switchgrass.” Adamski says the incident raises other serious biological issues for entomologists. The switchgrass moth belongs to a family called Blastobasidae, commonly known as scavenger

moths. Yet repartella and other newly discovered relatives are not scavengers but phytophagous insects that feed on living plants. These new discoveries may change the way scientists think about the group in general. About 400 species of Blastobasidae are known worldwide, Adamski said, and of those only about 6 percent are known to have host plant associations. In addition, Adamski said, the number of known Blastobasidae is increasing. For example, Adamski has yet to publish a work on Costa Rican Blastobasidae that will add 102 new species to the list. The incident points to the need for taxonomic expertise that focuses on insects that live inside the stems of plants, where the switchgrass moth lives for most of its life cycle. The moth was discovered in plots that were established and evaluated when Boe’s forage breeding research was supported by the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station; by the U.S. DOE through a contract with the Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development in Minneapolis; and by the DOE’s biomass program through a contract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. More recently, his work has been supported by the North Central Sun Grant Center at SDSU. Johnson’s work to date on the switchgrass moth has been funded by the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and by the Burruss McDaniel Insect Collection Endowment (SDSU Foundation). BIO Lance Nixon writes for SDSU Research News. Reach him at


LOGISTICS By Desmond Smith



The Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. facility will make the switch from coal to biomass starting at the end of this year.

Strategy and implementation of biomass conversion at Mt. Poso In switching from coal to biomass power, the most challenging issues facing the Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. plant have been receiving and ensuring reliable sources of quality biomass that can be handled within the plant’s operating, storage and recovery parameters.


he Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. is a 50 megawatt (MW) coalfired electrical power plant near Bakersfield, Calif. In operation since 1980, the plant receives natural gas from an adjacent oil field and returns condensate, injecting the spent water into the ground, displacing the extracted oil. Coal from Utah is transported by train to a receiving station in Bakersfield where it is unloaded from railcars and reloaded into trucks for delivery to the plant.

The facility is in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where irrigation is used to produce citrus crops, nuts, row crops and grapes. The agriculture industry produces tons of waste every year. California has embraced renewable sources of power. In September, the governor increased the percentage of renewable power that California utilities will be required to supply from 20 percent to 33 percent through an executive order, establishing the implementation deadline as 2020.

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).


The permit allowing the Mt. Poso plant to use coal as a raw fuel expires at the end of this year. Rather than applying to extend the permit, Millennium Energy management, which owns and operates the plant, decided to convert the facility to exclusively use biomass. The plant has run short trials cofiring local agricultural wastes with generally good results. While adapting the boiler to use biomass exclusively will require some specific modifications, and the power output rating will be reduced from 50 to 44 MW because biomass has a lower fuel value, the technology for making this change is understood and commonplace.

The real issues are biomass availability, seasonality and the challenges of receiving it; insuring that the size, cleanliness and handling characters are within normal operating parameters; storing and recovering the biomass; and delivering it to the boiler with high reliability. In addition, some agricultural residues are exothermic in storage and pose a serious threat of spontaneous combustion. Any storage system would need to take into consideration the need to segregate these fuels, keep the storage temperate below the threshold point for fire and be able to blend these materials with less volatile materials.

LOGISTICS By Desmond Smith

Implementing a Biofuel Handling System The Mt. Poso facility will be composed of a few distinct system components, and all areas must be dust controlled using enclosed transfer points and collection ducting to bag houses or high-efficiency cyclones. A control system for the fuel yard will be integrated into the mill’s distributed control system so no manpower will be required to operate the fuel yard equipment. Truck drivers will operate the unloading facilities, in communication with the power plant control room operator, and according to a protocol based on the specific fuel they are delivering. Biomass receiving: The plant will receive biomass delivered by truck. Some trailers come equipped for self-unloading and some require a lifting platform to empty the trailer. Initially two hoppers will be installed to take the self-unloading trailer materials. The hoppers are covered to prevent dust escape, and have an air duct that draws air inside the unloading area to create negative pressure to prevent dust release. Another hopper can be added as required by the biomass supply availability. If additional hopper capacity is needed, space has been reserved and the common conveyor that transports the fuel from the unloading area to the screen/hog tower can be extended. Two tipping platforms empty back-on style dumper trailers with the cabs still attached. The platforms can cycle trucks and trailers in about six minutes, raising and lowering in four minutes. The hoppers have the capacity to hold two trailers of material if required. All four (or potentially five) hoppers discharge onto a com-

mon collection conveyor that transports the biomass to the screening and hogging tower. The aggregate flow rate from all hoppers is a maximum of 250 tons per hour. It is possible to mix the discharge rates from two or more hoppers at one time, if required. Screening and hogging: The biomass has to pass through a 4-inch-round-hole classification screen. Still, some variation will exist in raw particle sizes. The first step is to isolate the largest fractions and hog them into a smaller size. This is accomplished in a two-step process using a disc scalping screen fit with turning steel discs, set 3 inches apart, followed by the hog. The smaller particles pass easily between the turning discs of the screen and the larger chunks are rejected off the end. This style of screen has an active surface, tending to dislodge most lumps and clumps, and rarely jamming with foreign materials such as rocks and metal. The larger pieces drop into a hammer hog that reduces them to less than 3 inches. The hog has a discharge screen that retains the big pieces until they can pass through the holes. Most of the materials will pass through the disc screen at a rate of 50 percent to 60 percent to avoid overloading the hog. Storage and recovery: When the biomass is relatively uniform in size (less than 3 inches) it’s ready for storage and is moved through a series of conveyors to one of two circular stacking/reclaiming towers. Each tower can hold 4 million uncompressed cubic feet of material, or approximately 32 days of running storage volume. The stacking conveyor can pivot on the tower (called slewing) to cover 180 degrees of

movement. This allows several zones to be set up in the control programming, segregating certain kinds of biomass to particular parts of the pile. If the plant is receiving walnut hulls, which are highly exothermic, they can be placed on the margins of a pile, where they are accessible to mobile equipment if a problem occurs. The stacking boom can also be angled down during stack out, called luffing, to minimize the distance the material falls to the pile surface keeping airborne dust to a minimum. All of the conveyors and process equipment to this point has been sized to handle the 250 green tons per hour that will be placed on the conveyor at the truck dump area. Recovery occurs at the rate required by the boiler, which is about 45 green tons per hour. The reclaim boom is positioned and operated to achieve this rate, recovering the desired material. Rakes will drag across the pile face, moving biomass to the center column. A lifting pan is used to raise the biomass so it can drop into the loading area of the recovery conveyor. The reclaim boom and chain operates automatically, moving back and forth across the face of the pile. Limit switches identify the ends of the slewing travel, indexing the boom down into the pile a short distance and reversing the movement to produce a uniform recovery rate. Screening for sand and truck loading: The recovered biomass material is passed over a shaking screen fit with a 3-millimeter-round-hole punched plate to remove sand and grit, and is moved to a truck loading station where it falls into open top trailers.

Conveyortransportinthe fuel yard: From receiving to delivery to the boiler feed surge bin, the biomass is transported in the fuel yard in covered, contained belt-conveying systems. The patented Tubulator conveyors use standard-style belts running inside a tube. Small fans push air into a space below the belt which suspends the belts on a cushion of air. Little air escapes from below the belt, as the air pressure holds the belt away from the inside of the tube’s surface. The potential for dust to escape during transport is minimized because the fuel is completely contained, and dust collection is used at the head and tail pulley sections to control any emissions as the fuel falls at the transfer points. Additional benefits of this belt conveyor system are that there are only two moving parts, and the low friction in transport requires less power. Silo modifications and boiler feed system: Processing biomass requires certain modifications to a surge bin located on the side of the boiler building, and a new boiler fuel feed and distribution system that actually places the fuel into the boiler. The new fuel system will be installed and running by the end of 2010. Delivery of agricultural residues from the valley will begin in the third quarter of 2010 to be stored in the new stacker/ reclaimer circular storage piles. A brief tie-in period will occur and coal receipt will cease. BIO Desmond Smith is vice president, West Coast Office, BRUKS Rockwood Inc. Reach him at



UPDATE Parity in the Production Tax Credit


with wind and geothermal power. As demonstrated in the table below, biomass power receives only $2.93 per kilowatt hour. When compared with ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, wind, geothermal and advanced nuclear power, wood-fired biomass power plants receive the least support, by a long shot. There is no legitimate Bob Cleaves president and policy explanation for this disparity. The table details the standard CEO, Biomass Power Association dollar amounts awarded to different renewable energy sources per million Btu generated. In other words, all of those renewable sources are calculated on the same scale. There is no difference in the quality of energy produced, just in some cases the type of energy; fuel versus electricity. Considering the economic and environmental benefits of biomass power, it is inexcusable that it would receive less support than its competitors. The BPA is urging Congress to level the playing field in the renewable sector by giving biomass power the same tax credits as other renewable energy sources. Congress must provide tax equity, or parity, in the production tax credit. No one should be picking winners and losers in the renewable energy industry. Without parity, biomass power is at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, this discourages the expansion of biomass power and undermines America’s goals of meeting an aggressive renewable electricity standard. To protect and grow the biomass industry, tax equity is essential. The value of a penny Statutory Credit *Credit Amount may seem inconsequential, even in today’s weakened $1.01 per gallon $13.29 economy, but to a biomass $1.00 per gallon $8.45 power producer it can mean the difference be2.1 cents per kwh $6.15 tween keeping the lights on 2.1 cents per kwh $6.15 and going dark. BIO


$0.45 per gallon


Advanced Nuclear Power

1.8 cents per kwh



1 cent per kwh


The Biomass Power Association recently addressed government officials and other renewable energy industry representatives at a Biopower Workshop in Denver, sponsored by the U.S. DOE. The focus of the workshop was to understand the developing trends in the bioenergy field in order to help the DOE focus its efforts on the research and development that would produce the best results. Former BPA Chairman Bill Carlson made a compelling case for the importance of analyzing the optimal cost/benefit relationship between the location and size of traditional wood waste biomass power plants. His complete study “Bigger Not Necessarily Better or Cheaper,” can be found at http:// s m a l l wo o d n e w s. c o m / D o c s / P D F / S u p p l y / BIOMASS%20POWER%20AS%20A%20FIRM% 20UTILITY%20RESOURCE.pdf. My presentation focused on steps that Congress could take now, irrespective of research and development, to expand the role of biomass power in America and allow all renewable energy sources to operate on a level playing field. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, wood-fired biomass power plants were awarded half the production tax credit that other renewable energy sources such as wind and geothermal power received. What’s worse, the tax credit was also awarded for half the time period, which is why BPA is currently fighting to get those production tax credits extended for an additional five years. The disparity in the credit, however, does not stop Renewable Energy Source Cellulosic Ethanol Biodiesel Wind

Notes: 1. Source is “Tax Expenditures for Energy Production and Conservation,” Joint Committee on Taxation, April 21, 2009. (Calculations on the value of electrical production on a Btu basis appear incorrect due to a mathematical error that we corrected.) 2. Cellulosic ethanol is assumed to be same value as ethanol. 3. 1 gallon of ethanol = 76,000 Btu (LHV); 1 gallon of biodiesel = 118,296 Btu (LHV)

Bob Cleaves is president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. To learn more about biomass power, please visit www.



UPDATE The Quest for Renewable Biomass Electricity Almost two decades ago, utilities began to look for ways to lower sulfur, nitrogen and carbon emissions by cofiring biomass with coal. Biomass was already a contributor to the U.S. electricity portfolio at a level less than 3 percent, with most generated from small industrial plants and the pulp and paper industry. Projects sprang up to study the elements of acquiring, processing and incorporating biomass into coal boilers. Some of these early players—Xcel Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Georgia Power, Savannah Electric, New York State Electric and Gas, Foster Wheeler, Electric Power Research Institute, the Energy & Environmental Research Center and the U.S. DOE—conducted ground-breaking research at full-scale and pilot facilities with shoestring budgets. DOE and the USDA jumped into the picture in 2000 to help promote cofiring by establishing the Biomass Power for Rural Development office. The program was designed to advance the development of electricity generation systems that use biomass instead of fossil fuels to lower emissions, reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, and increase rural benefits such as creating new income sources for farmers, more jobs and economic development. Even with the utility interest and federal programs and incentives, cofiring really didn’t go anywhere. However, times have changed, and it appears we are headed for significant power generation from biomass. Has anything changed since the 1990s to help sustain this newfound desire to cofire or direct-fire biomass? First, most utilities’ service areas cross many state boundaries so their coal-powered generating stations may operate under several different state laws. Twentynine states and the District of Columbia have enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require a certain percentage of renewable energy production. Most utilities are impacted by some states’ RPS. Biomass cofiring is an attractive option for utilities since it is a form of baseload power (unlike intermittent wind), it uses a fuel that lowers most emissions except nitrogen, and ideally can be done using existing equipment with some retrofitting. Second, the U.S. Congress is drafting a global climate bill that may force utilities to consider options that

reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Third is the unprecedented amount of federal dollars being poured into renewable energy to make electricity, heat and transportation fuels from biomass. A significant portion of these dollars are for groundbreaking research and development to get new tech- Chris Zygarlicke nologies to the small demonstra- deputy associate director of research, tion scale. EERC In addition to these one-time allotments are the programmatic incentives such as the biomass power producer credit (Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit) of 1.8 cent per kilowatt hour. Several USDA programs also provide dollars to help produce biomass, such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Fourth is the groundswell of biomass providers. Many large utility projects failed because of the lack of a sustainable biomass supply. Plus, the inevitable laws of supply and demand, and the demand for big dollars for the supply always occurs. Experience has shown that the minute a new biopower plant comes on line, the price for the local feedstock seems to rise. Right now, the U.S. is still in a phase where significant quantities of usable forest residues, clean manufacturing wood residues, agricultural residues and municipal wastes still exist. Entities are forming that can procure and deliver this biomass within consistent quantity/quality parameters. Current forest management, agricultural practices, and the future show a looming competition for biomass resources for the biopower industry and the biorefining industry. For now, as we crawl out of the economic downturn, there is an exciting biomass industry focused on making electricity. Biomass as contributor to the U.S. electricity portfolio at a level greater than 3 percent seems to be certain. BIO Chris Zygarlicke is a deputy associate director for research at the EERC. Reach him at or (701) 777-5123.



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