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The Case for Anaerobic Digestion in North America BY DOUGLAS KEMP

Despite the significant economic and environmental benefits of generating renewable energy from the anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic waste streams, North America, with fewer than 200 AD installations, has lagged behind other parts of the world. Europe has more than 8,000 AD installations, and, according to the German Biogas Association, the number of AD installations in Europe is projected to grow to nearly 25,000 by 2020. For environmental reasons, Europe has regulated the diversion of organic waste away from landfills to other solutions such as composting and the production of biogas for power and renewable natural gas. To ensure the economic viability and funding of these renewable energy projects, European governments provide economic support with long-term subsidized power purchase agreements (PPAs). This is not the case in North America, where government support to divert organic waste and provide economic subsidies is not widespread. In order for the AD industry to rapidly develop in North America, solutions must be found to address these issues. AD projects typically earn revenue from three sources: converting the biogas into electricity for sale to the grid, charging tipping fees for the processing of the organic waste, and selling the digestate as biofertilizer. Even with these combined revenue streams, a typical AD project’s payback is five to seven years. In order to attract capital, these projects must find additional revenue streams to reduce the payback to less than three years. To meet current air and water quality standards, these projects must find solutions for sequestering the carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) found in biogas, and reuse the production water from the AD. Solutions4CO2’s Integrated Biogas Refinery provides AD developers with solutions to these economic and environmental challenges. The IBR platform’s enhanced recycling and reuse of the CO2, H2S,

digestate and production water from the AD creates additional value-added nutra/pharma coproducts from the production of microalgae. Project paybacks are significantly reduced to less than three years. The continuous-flow and modular IBR consists of a biogas purifier and infusion system, algae cultivation system and harvesting and extraction system, which can be integrated with any AD technology. Here’s how it works: the AD processes organic waste to produce biogas containing roughly 60 percent methane, 39 percent CO2 and less than 1 percent H2S as well as waste water and digestate. The biogas purifier and infusion system separates over 85 percent of the CO2 and 95 percent of the H2S from the biogas by infusing and dissolving these gasses into water for use in the algae cultivation system, in which the microalgae assimilate over 95 percent of the dissolved gasses over the course of their growth cycle. The purified 90 percent methane stream is used to power a combined-heat-and-power unit, which more than offsets the parasitic load of the entire IBR, and provides some surplus power for sale to the grid. The harvesting and extraction system harvests and dewaters the algae biomass and extracts the oil containing high-value coproducts for sale in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical markets, and the production water from the system is then recycled and reused in the biogas purifier and infusion system. The residual algae biomass can be sold as bio-fertilizer. The potential market for biogas projects in North America is significant, and more realizable now that solutions exist to address the economic and environmental hurdles that have historically faced the industry. An integrated biorefinery platform unlocks this potential. Author: Douglas Kemp CEO, Solutions4 CO2



Senate Backs Advanced Biofuels BY MICHAEL MCADAMS

In a series of critical votes at the end of November, the U.S. Senate went on record as strongly backing an aggressive federal strategy for advanced biofuels. This was the industry’s first major test after the harsh rhetoric of the previous two years. In an effort to embarrass the Obama administration, many naysayers had been comparing renewable energy to Solyndra and “fictional fuels.” Some, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had successfully imposed restrictions on use of advanced biofuels when the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, the legislation that funds the military. The issue came to a head soon after the election, when the full Senate considered the legislation approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee. In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 62 to 37, the Senate first struck prohibitions from the legislation that would have restricted the military’s ability to purchase advanced biofuels. Sponsored by Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the Senate action had the backing of a broad coalition of groups, ranging from biofuels producers such as the Advanced Biofuels Association, Algae Biomass Organization and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, to energy security groups, the airline industry, farm organizations and environmental groups. Since the House-passed version of the NDAA has this prohibition, the issue will be resolved in a Senate-House conference committee.


The second vote removed language proposed in committee by McCain that would have barred use of federal funds for the building of advanced biofuels drop-in capacity. In a 54 to 41 vote, this amendment again received strong bipartisan backing. Sens. Udall, Collins, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., were the primary sponsors. Since the House-passed bill contains no provision similar to that proposed by McCain, there is no issue for the conference committee to consider, and the proposed ban will not be in the final legislation. These two votes were resounding endorsements for the efforts of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Obama administration to use advanced drop-in biofuels. Moreover, it was a major turnaround from the negative votes that took place in the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in 2011 and 2012. Despite these Senate victories, there are some who will spend enormous sums in an effort to undermine the advanced biofuels initiative, particularly in the House and Senate conference committee. For that reason, we must continue to work to educate many of the members from rural America who benefit from these specific programs. These victories were an important step in securing America’s energy future. Thank you to all of you who called, wrote or visited with a member of Congress to support this effort. Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuels Association 202-469-5140


Renewable Portfolio Standards and Military Bases in 2013 BY KATE BECHEN AND JORDAN HEMAIDAN

The biomass industry, like almost all sectors of the economy, has been deeply affected by the recession and slower-than-expected economic recovery. Some biomass projects were put on hold in 2012 due to the changes in natural gas supply and price; others were scrapped as a result of inability to attract necessary financing. Often, these two factors went hand-in-hand. In 2013, it will continue to be challenging to attract financing. There are, however, areas for potential growth in states with aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements, and at military bases, as a result of military energy security initiatives. Additionally, there will be investor interest in technology that promises to increase the efficiency and reliability of biomass production, especially for technology that has additional applications outside of the biomass industry. While utilities in states without an RPS may not be pressured to turn to renewable generation, or are turning to other renewable sources such as wind and solar, the U.S. military is not as cost-sensitive and has a far greater concern for energy independence from a national security perspective. The military, which measures the fuel efficiency of its tanks in gallons per mile, may look like an energy nightmare at first glance, but the Pentagon is pursing ambitious goals for renewable energy. As a result of identifying fossil fuel dependence as a strategic liability, the U.S. Department of Defense is pursuing energy efficiency and energy independence as national security necessities. This drive for energy independence could be a substantial opportunity for the biomass industry, especially in states that lack other renewable resources such as wind and solar. The DOD consumes over three-quarters of the total energy consumption of the federal government, which accounts for approximately one percent of total U.S. consumption. The military alone is therefore one of the world’s largest consumers of energy. Under the Army’s Net Zero Strategy, for example, contracts totaling $7 billion will be awarded over the next 10 years to businesses for the purpose of developing renewable and alternative power generation projects at Army bases. Many large Army bases are located in states that lack renewable resources that otherwise would compete with biomass, such as solar and wind. For example, in the southern U.S., which is home to many military bases,

wind is not a viable energy resource—except perhaps for offshore on the coast—and solar is not ideal, at least compared to solar in the Southwest. Biomass feedstocks are abundant in the South, however, including both crop residue and timber residue. Another significant energy security development is California’s recent passage of the Energy Security Coordination Act, which aligns the state’s and DOD’s energy independence plans. The law encourages collaboration with the military and furthers commercialization of clean energy technologies. California has long been a leader in clean energy and this law helps to further cement its position as the go-to state for energy technology companies. Biomass developers may have significant opportunities under the new California law. The biomass industry is and will continue to be significantly impacted by the price and availability of natural gas. The development of technology that allows us to access and extract significant natural gas deposits has resulted in unprecedented and unexpected prices. That said, continued modest growth may be possible in the industrial space, as manufacturers seek alternatives to cut historically high coal-based emissions from their existing boilers by repowering to less-regulated feedstocks including natural gas and biomass. Industrial users of power are also motivated by a desire to break away from the power cost structure imposed by their serving utilities. Repowering with biomass will most likely occur at plants that produce a feedstock that can be plowed into a bolt-on biomass facility. Given the historically low price of natural gas, plants that do not self-produce their feedstock or otherwise have low-cost feedstock access are much less likely to pursue biomass generation, unless other economic factors are at play. Chief among such factors would be aggressive, unmet RPS, such as exists in California and a few other states, essentially creating a market for renewables such as biomass. Authors: Kate Bechen Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP 414-225-4956 Jordan Hemaidan Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP 608-283-4431



Sapphire Energy appoints new executive officer Sapphire Energy Inc. has appointed Jeff Webster as chief operating officer. In this role, he will oversee current and future business operations, business and project development and corporate affairs. Webster has more than 28 years of industry experience in the biotech, renewable energy, agricultural, oil and gas sectors. Prior to joining Sapphire Energy, Webster served as COO at Solazyme Inc., where he was responsible for leading in-market business units and multiple administrative functions. He has also served as group vice president and general manager of renewable products at Tyson Foods, where he established new growth platforms, partnership and brands while pioneering the company’s efforts in the renewable energy space. Biomass Thermal Energy Council elects board members The Biomass Thermal Energy Council has announced the election of six members to its 2013 board of directors. New board members include Christine Donovan, managing consultant at Vermont

Energy Investment Corp.; Scott Nichols, president of Tarm Biomass; and Angela Visintainer, senior brand manager at Cambridge Environmental Technologies. Reelected board members include John Ackerly, president of the Alliance for Green Heat; Kristen Cofrancesco, sales and business development manager of North America at Pratt & Whitney; and Dan Wilson, vice president of Wilson Engineering Services. The election was held during BTEC’s fourth annual membership meeting Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C. Xebec Adsorption adds board member Xebec Adsorption Inc., a provider of biogas upgrading, natural gas, field gas and hydrogen purification solutions has added Patrick Palerme to its board of directors. Palerme currently serves as a board member at Rona Inc., and is the managing director and cofounder of Global Change Leaders, a consulting group comprised of former GE employees that offers experience in change initiatives, organizational integrations and business mergers and acquisitions. Palerme’s

expertise, experience and skill set will serve as an asset to Xebec Adsorption as it pursues its growth strategy. Viaspace Giant King Grass planted in Virgin Islands Viaspace Inc. has announced its Giant King Grass is now growing in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The initial shipment was received and planted by Tibbar Energy USVI LLC. The company is developing a 6 MW biomass energy project fueled by a 1,000-acre Giant King Grass plantation. The Tibbar project is scheduled to be online by the first quarter of 2014. The 20-year project is expected to generate 20 full-time jobs and $150 million in economic benefit to the local community through its agricultural- and power-production components. Tibbar and Viaspace have formed an exclusive partnership to grow Giant King Grass on St. Croix. The initial shipment of the feedstock was sent by Viaspace from its California growing site. Italian refinery retrofits for biofuel production UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, has announced that Italian energy company

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Eni S.p.A. will implement Honeywell’s UOP/Eni Ecofining technology at its Venice, Italy, facility to produce renewable diesel. Once complete, Eni’s retrofitted facility will be capable of producing more than 100 MMgy of renewable diesel beginning in 2014. The initial conversion of the Venice oil refinery’s existing facilities is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2013 and be complete by the end of the year. New facilities constructed as part of the project will be complete during the first half of 2015. Anellotech licenses p-xylene technology Anellotech Inc., a technology-based company focused on biobased fuels and chemicals, has signed an exclusive license agreement with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The agreement adds new technology capability to Anellotech’s core catalytic fast pyrolysis process, tripling the amount of p-xylene produced from cellulosic biomass. The company is developing a process to produce benzene, toluene, xylenes, and olefins from biomass. The additional technology involves a modified catalyst

used within Anellotech’s process to enable more economical production of biobased p-xylene, enabling lower-cost renewable polyethylene terephthalate. Both Anellotech’s core technology and the new innovation were invented at UMassAmherst. Airline commits to biojet purchase British Airways has officially committed to a 10-year purchase agreement for biojet produced at GreenSky London, a commercial-scale waste-to-biojet fuel, bionaptha and renewable power plant. The facility is under development by US.-based Solena Fuels Corp. in east London. The 10-year contract equates to approximately $500 million in investment. Once complete, the facility is expected to produce 16 million gallons of biojet fuel, 9 million gallons of bionaptha and up to 40 MW of power. The facility will feature Solena’s hightemperature gasification process as well as Oxford Catalyst’s/Velocys’ Fisher-Tropsch reactors and catalyst. Fluor is serving as project engineer for the facility.

Microsoft to install biogas fuel cell power plant FuelCell Energy Inc., a manufacturer and designer of fuel cell power plants, has announced a biogas-powered stationary fuel cell power plant will support Microsoft’s latest data center research project in Cheyenne, Wyo. Biogas to fuel the plant will be sourced from a wastewater treatment facility. The sub-megawatt Direct FuelCell power plant will be installed at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne by spring. The plant will provide 200 KW of power to the Microsoft center. Excess power not used by the data center will be provided to the water treatment facility to offset its electric costs. The fuel cell plant will be configured to operate independently and provide continuous power in the event of a grid outage.

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BiomassNews Military biofuel use could jump-start advanced biofuel market A report commissioned by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) finds that the U.S. military’s plans to expand its use of biofuel could generate more than $10 billion in economic activity while creating more than 14,000 jobs by 2020. According to Nicole Lederer, E2 co-founder, the military’s biofuel initiatives are the single most SOURCE: E2, ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF MILITARY BIOFUELS REPORT important market signal to the clean energy industry. Its policies constitute the most comprehensive Lederer added that what we’ve experiU.S. federal energy policy to advance clean enced so far is the tip of the iceberg. Milienergy technologies today, she says. “They tary demand is helping to scale the advanced [the military] are doing it for national sebiofuels industry into larger markets, she curity objectives; suffice to say, the military said, including the civil, commercial and believes alternative fuels are mission-critical aviation markets. from an installations, operational and budgetary perspective.”

Enviva closes loan for construction of pellet plants Pellet producer and global biomass supplier Enviva LP has closed on a $120 million senior secured credit facility that will help complete construction of two 500,000 metric ton pellet mills and the expansion of the company’s deep-water port terminal in Virginia to 100,000 metric tons. “We’re delighted by the strong show of confidence from leaders in the banking industry,” said Steve Reeves, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Enviva. He added that the corporate borrowing is one of the first credit underwritings in the biomass industry. Barclays Bank PLC, Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Royal Bank of Canada and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. served as the joint lead arrangers and joint book runners on the deal. By 2013, Enviva will have 1.72 million metric tons of annual biomass capacity to supply its European utility customer base.


Stewardship contracts to produce biomass fuel The U.S. Forest Service Bark beetle impact has announced two 10-year Total U.S. acreage affected since 1996 (all beetles) 41.7 million stewardship contracts. The Total Region 2 acreage affected since 1996 (all beetles) 10.7 million Medicine Bow-Routt Long Colorado 6.6 million Wyoming 3.65 million Term Stewardship Contract South Dakota 473,000 was awarded to Kremmling, Nebraska 30,000 Colo.-based wood pellet Total Region 2 acreage affected since 1996 5.27 million producer Confluence En(mountain pine beetle only) ergy. Under the $4.75 million Colorado 3.18 million contract, Confluence Energy Wyoming 1.75 million will remove beetle-killed trees. South Dakota 344,000 Source: U.S. Forest Service Bark Beetle Fact Sheet In areas where the trees have commercial value for the production of wood pellets, dimension lumber tion has partnered with Eagle Valley Clean Energy to utilize dead and small-diameter or other biomass products, Confluence trees removed under the contract as fuel in Energy will pay for the material to offset the company’s future 11.5 MW biomass the cost to government. plant in Gypsum, Colo. The power plant is The $8.66 million White River Long supported by a $40 million loan guarantee Term Stewardship Contract was awarded awarded by USDA Rural Development’s to West Range Reclamation LLC, a Hotchkill, Colo.-based forest management Utility Service in October. company. The contract focuses on the removal of trees susceptible to insects and disease infestations. West Range Reclama-

Industry leaders meet in Texas at advanced biofuels conference Assembling for the first time since the recent election and the U.S. EPA’s announcement that it will retain the renewable fuels standard, biofuels industry stakeholders met at the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, held in Houston, Nov. 27-29. Presentations were given by advanced biofuel industry leaders. Michael McAdams, Advanced Biofuel Association president, was keynote speaker and Andrew Holland, senior fellow for energy and climate at the American Security Project, also presented. During the general session panel, CEOs of advanced biofuel companies discussed the race to bring capacity for new biofuels online, as well as the need to increase production of existing biofuels. Attendees also participated in tours of the 35 MMgy REG Houston LLC state-of-the-art biodiesel plant and the USS Texas, a retired U.S. battleship.

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Q&A Minding the Fleet NAES Corp.’s George Wackerhagen discusses strategies to keep a diverse portfolio of energy generation facilities, including 400-plus MWs of biomass power, operational and at peak efficiency. George Wackerhagen, vice president of Plant Operations and Technical Services for NAES Corp., has more than 30 years experience operating and maintaining power generation assets across a wide spectrum of technologies and fuels. He currently leads plant operations for 120 some facilities that NAES Corp. operates and maintains on behalf of its clients. With 400-plus MWs of biomass power already in its portfolio, NAES and Wackerhagen have established a significant presence in the industry. The team is now looking to grow its market share in the advanced biofuels space as conversion technologies are proven at pilot-scale and new facilities create a need for experienced operators. You’ve spent the bulk of your career in energy generation. Where did you get your start? After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, I spent the first part of my career in design, operation and maintenance of electrical systems, focusing on reliability, capital improvements and customer service in a large utility. I moved into the merchant generation field in the mid-’90s and ultimately lead operations and maintenance (O&M) for a variety of power facilities and technologies around the world. I accepted the opportunity to join NAES and the O&M organization in 2009. I had watched NAES grow significantly during this time, and knew they were a global market leader and one of the best in the business. And, I love the O&M business and the challenges of 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2013

operating more than 100 facilities and multiple technologies around the world. What aspect of energy generation has changed the most since you began your career? Clearly, the efforts to deregulate the industry and the fits and starts of this evolving reality has changed the business markedly during the last 20 years. The industry has gone from the rate-base staid utility model to one with very smart, innovative investors who view risks in different ways through new economic lenses ground by regional market signals. Contributing to this change is the evolution of new innovations in fuels and technologies in conventional generation, and by interest in renewables as the industry seeks to produce more environmentally friendly energy with a wider variety of fuels. What has been the biggest contributor to the growth of NAES Corp. since 2002 when it had fewer than 20 operating facilities in its portfolio compared to nearly 120 now? The short answer is that there are really two major contributors. The first is the external market, which became increasingly complex and forced companies to operate in areas where they had limited expertise. The result was a significant need within the industry to outsource to companies whose models were built on transparency, owner-alignment and being exceptional at one thing. The second is more specific to NAES and stems from our laser-like focus on providing flawless operations and maintenance to facilities so

George Wackerhagen

Q&A ¦


that our clients can focus on what they do best. We are firm believers in the concept that if you can’t be best in the world at something, you shouldn’t be doing it. We are also focused on taking advantage of our fleet size. This pays dividends to our customers in terms of purchasing power. By connecting facilities of similar technologies, needs, or problems, we are better able to quickly discern and solve issues, which pay dividends in performance. Our biomass managers routinely talk with one another and with in-house technical experts about specific problems. We also see interaction between coal and other conventional boiler plant personnel as well due to the use of common technologies in plant systems. It is the advantage of connecting to others and being part of a virtual fleet. NAES operates virtually all types of generation facilities including biomass power facilities. What are the challenges unique to biomass power facilities? We’ve been operating biomass facilities for 25 years and you don’t have to go far to see the unique challenges in biomass. It starts with the fuel; supply price and quality, delivery and handling, the works. Weather affects the biomass fuel supply from the gathering process right on through the combustion process. There are also significant technological differences among facilities. The types of boilers can have a major impact on day-to-day operations as well as routine and annual maintenance requirements. We create different boiler management plans for facilities that would otherwise appear similar in scale and scope. We are also working with many latestage developers in the commercialization of second-generation biomass-to-fuels plants. These are innovative, but also unproven technologies at commercialscale. The result is that there are significant

unknowns in terms of their actual operational and maintenance profiles so it will take the whole of our experience and infrastructure to support their success. In our industry there is a lot of discussion about modifying coal plants to cofire biomass. Operationally, how feasible is this? Is it more likely that we’ll see a migration to completely reconfiguring for biomass like the Drax Power Station facility in the U.K.? In our experience today, we see many facilities in the process of cofiring or switching from coal to biomass with fairly simple changes in fuel handling, boiler front, and controls. With the significant pressure on coal, we expect to see conversions to exclusive biomass fuel continuing, supporting both the renewable mandates in states and regions as well as limiting capital investments in emissions control equipment as required in a coal operation. We have some clients that are in the process of completing coal-to-biomass conversions for these reasons. After a planned outage for maintenance, is there an appreciable difference in efficiency and output at a facility, or is maintenance performed predominantly to extend the life of the parts and pieces in a given facility? We always have our eyes on efficiency as it tells you a lot about the shape of your facility both before the outage and after a maintenance outage. It can tell you if you have accomplished what you set out to do. But in a biomass facility, much of an outage is about replacing or refurbishing worn parts. Ultimately, with an expert job in the outage, we expect to attain improvements in efficiency and reliability.

What percentage of the work performed during a scheduled maintenance outage arises from something discovered during an inspection of the plant once it is idled? We are clearly working to plan maintenance in a biomass facility using observation, performance and predictive programs such as vibration monitoring, oil testing and thermography to identify the appropriate scope of work for an outage. Obviously, the more we can predict and plan, the smoother and more effectively the outage will go. We are working to reduce the unplanned work in the outage to less than 10 percent. NAES recently rehabilitated two smaller biomass facilities in California. Where do you begin in your efforts to bring a facility back into production? When NAES takes on the operation and maintenance of a facility, we look immediately at problems that are affecting those things most important to our customers and those things that produce the most value for our customer’s dollar. Often this includes an analysis of all single points of failure with a corresponding assessment and evaluation of what can be done to fix the problem. The team at the facility is supported by NAES technical staff to find the best solutions to the problems. We are also able to draw on experiences at other facilities with similar problems for potential solutions. While facilities may have significant differences, there can often be similarities at a system or subsystem level where other facility expertise can help. We have to drive performance.



HARD WORK PAYS OFF: Scheduled maintenance at a biomass facility provides an opportunity for cleaning, testing and, in some cases, equipment upgrades. PHOTO: WHEELABRATOR INC.



Planned Outage Protocol Scheduled outages for plant maintenance and repairs are essential to overall efficiency and functionality. BY ANNA SIMET




hen personnel at Wheelabrator Inc.’s 53 MW waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Falls Township, Penn., are ready to commence a scheduled plant outage, meticulous planning has been underway for many months, including procurement of materials and agreements with contractors. That’s the case with all of the company’s plants, according to Art Posey, Wheelabrator senior manager of maintenance, because a high level and detail of planning is the key to successful execution of an outage. Like coal and other types of power plants, WtE and biomass power facilities undergo several outages a year—both major and minor—and plans are dictated by several factors, including weather, electrical demand and trash flow, which is unique to WtE plants. If all goes well with maintenance, unplanned shutdowns are minimal. For the plant maintenance team at Covanta Energy, the job is never done. When a major outage is complete, planning for the next one begins immediately, says Frank Miller, vice president of maintenance technology. Deciding the right time for an outage isn’t just a matter of choosing a random date, however, as there are many factors that need to be taken into account. “Your commitment on the power side of things is taken into consideration—whether your permit or agreement with the local utility agrees with the optimum time to do an outage—as well as economic drivers such as fuel opportunities and cost in the case of biomass plants, and also practical issues, meaning the condition of the boiler,” Miller says. During a boiler’s years of operation, various components will


need to be replaced, and their condition from outage to outage is heavily scrutinized. This includes auxiliary equipment or equipment external to the boiler such as fans, motors and conveyors, and internal boiler components including pressure parts, water wall tubes, super heaters, and various parts needed to generate steam in the boiler. “They all have a finite life and replacement has to be planned out,” Miller says. Major maintenance done at an WtE plant or biomass plant may vary for numerous reasons, one of which may be the long-term replacement plan for a particular part or piece, and its year-to-year condition. “We monitor the boilers when they come down, perform nondestructive testing, measure wall-to-wall thickness, and the thickness of the tubes through extensive parts of the boiler,” Miller says. This helps maintenance answer the question of what immediate repairs need to be done, versus repairs integrated into the long-term plan. Prior to the boiler being brought down, Covanta requires completion of a unique set of internal technical safety standards that must be completed, most of which are inspections. At that point, the plant is ready to undergo an outage.

Cooling and Cleaning Accurately deciding when to cease trash flow to the boiler can influence whether the outage begins at the agreed-upon time, Posey says, as trash has to be fully processed through the unit and the ash run out, followed by a cooling process. That takes some time, as a typical WtE plant can reach temperatures above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.



WtE plants’ cooling rates vary greatly on the amount of refractory in the boiler, a cement or concrete-like material that is often sprayed onto boiler walls with a gun apparatus, or applied in the form of blocks or various-shaped tile. “Its primary purpose is to protect the tubes in the combustion zone where it does a couple of things, one of which is to protect tubes from impingements or excessive heat,” Miller explains. By capturing the heat energy from combustion, refractory works as part of the temperature profile throughout the boiler. Distribution of heat in the boiler isn’t uniform, Miller adds, as it happens more intensely in some areas than others. Aside from the refractory, a lot of heat is still trapped in the boiler water and steam, so cool water and air are cirPREPARING FOR DISASTER: All ReEnergy employees prepare for oncoming storms by analyzing plant data taken during similar situations. culated through the boiler to get it down to a proper temperature for entry. Then, the outage crew begins an hour-by-hour plan that maps out the sequence of activities that must occur from How fast a boiler cools greatly depends on the size and configuration of boilers, according to Miller, but typically it takes anywhere from 6 the time the boiler is down to when it is generating power again, beginning with an initial inspection from outside of the boiler to gauge to 12 hours.

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¦MAINTENANCE the amount of deslagging work required. “You don’t enter a boiler unless it’s properly locked and tagged out, with safe entry permits,” Miller says. “These initial inspections are done from doorways to get an idea of the condition of the boiler.” Cleaning may begin with the use of high-pressure, industrial water spray equipment to remove ash and soot, according to Posey. Standard practice at a WtE plant is to then dynamite the boiler in various locations. “The reason we do that is because fly ash is very sticky, and depending on the configuration of tubes and their shapes, it tends to stick and accumulate in various places— in the realm of tons—forming clinkers,” Miller explains. Once clinkers are cooled off, they sometimes fracture and fall or dislodge on their own, but in many cases personnel have to help them along. Although biomass power plants have some slagging issues, they aren’t to the extent of WtE plants, and rather than in the combustion zone, they occur in the superheater sections of the boiler. “The reason for that is because many boilers are designed as big boxes made of water wall tubes with an open path for the flue gas to pass through, but various components of the boiler may hang down in that path—sometimes called pendants—intentionally getting in the way of the flue gas to absorb heat,” Miller says. Those obstructions cause a mixture of fly ash and sand from the biomass boilers to accumulate in the superheater areas, typically cleaned out with dynamite detonation cords, which are wound with much smaller amounts of dynamite and then wrapped around the boiler tubes. “When it’s ignited, it causes the tubes to shake violently, instead of resulting in the concussion you get from a dynamite blast,” Miller says. In the case of both WtE and biomass boilers, employees or contractors usually finish the deslagging process by knocking out loose bits of slag and ash with long sticks. The resulting slag may be run out on the grate system or manually removed from the boiler, depending on where it is. Overall, a good deslagging experience takes around 8 hours, Miller says, and a not-so-good experience requires around 20 22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2013

hours of work. Usually, it’s completed during a 12-hour shift. Since a boiler is considered a confined work area by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, there are safe operating procedures that have to be followed in order to achieve a permit necessary for entry. This includes locking shut all of the steam and water valves leading to the boiler so work can take place without any chance of cutting into pressurized lines, Posey explains, as well as locking out electrical supply to fans, pumps and conveyors. The boiler is drained and vented, moving equipment including ash and grate systems are shut down, and the air in the boiler is sampled to ensure it is safe for sustained work. Once that’s been completed, permits are issued for entry and work can begin.

Permits and Inspection The extent of scaffolding, which is typically erected in the major passages of a boiler, largely determines whether the outage is major or minor. Once it’s erected, the operations group controlling the outage issues permits to various work groups, which may be working in or outside of the boiler. Shift supervisors usually sign off on the permits, but sometimes there are separate outage supervisors, according to Miller. “Typically, it’s dictated by how much work is going on, but operations always controls the boiler and plant environment, and maintenance performs the work, first complying with the safe work permit process.” Permitting is not a simple process. Each work group leader has to understand how a permit is issued, what safety precautions need to be taken and what has to be locked out. Every Covanta employee or contractor working on the site is required to put a personal lock on a lock box, augmented with a key that will unlock the boiler. “Sometimes, you may have upward of 300 people working in an outage, and every employee locks himself on that permit, so it cannot be closed out until all of the locks are off,” Miller says. Once again, planning is key, as the plan must include what permits come out first, what has to be done in what order, and what time contractors are to show up. “Permits

MAINTENANCE¦ become a major boiler activity—making sure the planner or maintenance department knows exactly the sequence of events becomes very important, as well as the estimation of time it will take to walk down the permits.” Once permitting to access the scaffolding is obtained, typically the first internal work done is cursory inspections, or boiler walkthroughs to gain an idea of their condition. It may be what was expected, but occasionally is not. “We’ll also do extensive nondestructive testing, which can be done in many different ways,” Miller explains. “Typically in our industry, we use ultrasonic metal thickness testing, which measures boiler tube and boiler wall thickness. It’s a direct way of measuring the condition of the tube and the rate of metal loss, the primary causes of

which are erosion and corrosion.” Erosion and corrosion occur to different degrees in biomass power plants and WtE plants. At a WtE plant, anything can make its way into the waste stream, including plastics and items containing lots of chlorides and sulfides. At high temperatures, salts become very aggressive in regard to corrosion, according to Miller. “You don’t really see salt in the fuel stream at biomass plants, but they have other, less-aggressive things going on,” he says. ”[Biomass plants] have sticky and sand-like fly ash, and typically use a bed of sand in the combustion zone, so that sand also goes through the flue gas stream until it is separated. Operating for thousands of hours at high temperatures while being sand blasted causes boiler tubes to have aggressive erosive metal loss,

Overcoming Unplanned Outages By Luke Geiver

The best way to handle unplanned outages or severe weather events is to be prepared before they happen. The team at ReEnergy Holdings Inc., a New York-based biomass operations company that runs 12 plants throughout the Northeastern U.S., has the experience to prove it. In the fall of 2011, the team had to deal with a record-breaking winter storm system, and earlier this year, the team endured Hurricane Sandy. Jim White, vice president of operations, says all of his plants establish guidelines and procedures to address emergency conditions for different types of events. For weather related events, each facility’s staff will perform a safety check before a storm hits, securing loose material or equipment, clearing walk downs to avoid flying debris and verifying that shift personnel have the appropriate supplies in case they are required to stay past their shift. In some instances, a plant may have to purchase extra feedstock, backup equipment or storm clean-up supplies prior to the peak of a weather event. “We try to minimize any potential damage to equipment,” White says, in addition to the company’s main goal of plant personnel safety. “Most of the equipment has a redundancy; there will be two of everything. As we start to see some concerns, we can energize another pump or take one offline to protect the equipment.” When a storm is approaching, each plant team will provide input on what to expect based on past events, White adds. But that isn’t the only important communication line that should be in place. Most biomass plant managers need to be in contact with the regions Independent System Operator, the electricity grid’s governing body. “We have an obligation to make sure we are communicating with them [ISO] as far as what issues we may be having onsite,” White says. In some cases, an ISO may require a plant to decrease generation due to grid issues or the loss of transmission lines. At times, he says, a plant may have to cycle the equipment off proactively to prevent any significant damages, an action that might allow the plant to go online sooner after an unscheduled shutdown. In other cases, a plant manager may have to inform an ISO that strong winds or heavy rains are impacting production. “This is where interaction with the ISO is critical,” White says. “When we come out of these events we look at what we can tweak to our systems to make them better.”




IMPROVING PERFORMANCE: Extending boiler tube life can be achieved by welding an overlay onto the tubes to prevent corrosion and erosion.

but not to the extent of a WtE plant of a similar size.” A key to preventing boiler tube erosion and corrosion is proper application of Inconel, a stainless steel alloy that was invented a couple decades ago. “I’ve been in the business since they first started building plants, and we fought this aggressive corrosive and erosive environment for many years trying to understand what was causing it,” Miller says. “Over time, numerous things improved, such as how we were combusting trash and our combustion controls, but one thing we continued to notice is that regular boiler tubes, which are typically just carbon steel, were very susceptible to that double whammy of corrosion and erosion.” Using Inconel, which is welded on the outside of the tube internal to the boiler as an overlay, has extended boiler tube life significantly. “In some cases 20 years,” Miller says, adding that Covanta has a dedicated Inconel crew. The initial erosion and corrosion inspections and overall boiler evaluation should result in a good map of pressure part conditions, most of which are typically anticipated. “Operating these boilers for 20 years, we have a pretty good idea of metal loss rates,” says Miller, who has a total of 35 years in the energy industry. “We try to predict where particular components or parts of the boiler will be at a certain time and plan accordingly, but we also have to be ready to respond to as-found conditions. They might be more aggressive than we expected, so we have to be ready for that with two plans of action: anticipated work, and emergent work or asfound conditions.”

Work and Unplanned Outages With such a range of different maintenance and repair work to do, having a do-itall person in-house for most waste-to-energy or biomass power companies isn’t realistic. At Wheelabrator, specialty repair contractors are utilized to perform most of the work done during an outage, Posey says. “Our employees are involved in all aspects of the outage, but are vastly outnumbered by the contractors brought in to perform the bulk of the work.” While all plant maintenance 24 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2013

MAINTENANCE¦ and operations personnel are involved in an outage, as well as employees from other Wheelabrator facilities and regional outage teams, contractors for water washing and/or blasting, scaffolding, testing and inspection, mechanical repairs, certified boiler repair, refractory, insulation and valve repair may all be brought in, as well as representatives from equipment manufacturers. For a company like Covanta Energy, which owns or operates more than 40 plants across the U.S., it’s a different story. “Covanta Field Services’ primary job is to perform boiler work in most of the facilities we own and operate,” Miller explains. “It’s a 148employee, five-crew team that travels to various plants when they are down for repair to perform the actual, physical repair work on the boilers.” Covanta has 200 to 210 outages per year with so many plants, and CFS performs approximately 80 percent of those outages. Each plant typically undergoes two outages a year, one major and one minor. “Since we’ve pursued a very aggressive pressure part program during the last five to six outages, we’ve been able to go to one major and one minor outage a year, usually about six months apart,” Miller says. “Having a good boiler reliability program allows us to do a lot of preplanning and preparation of components on a planned basis, rather than on an as-found basis, which is very costly and time consuming.” Still, unplanned down time does happen. “Unscheduled outages occur several times a year in most boilers,” Posey says. “Tube failures are, by far, the leading cause of unscheduled boiler outages, which typically last about 24 hours.” Tube failures can affect other tubes in their vicinity, causing them to fail as well, so when a water or steam tube is repaired, it’s important to perform a wide inspection of the area to determine what else might have been affected. “Nobody likes to fix a tube leak and then have to bring the boiler back down after discovering a nearby tube is leaking,” Miller says. Unplanned outages can also be caused by other component failures such as a motor on an important fan or a pressure part

leak, and while they are turned around as fast as possible, any active work orders are also attended to. Overall, outage costs vary with the size and design of the plant, and in the case of WtE plants, the annual refuse throughput. Typically, according to both Posey and Miller, around 75 percent of a plant’s annual maintenance budget is spent during outages. As plant operators and maintenance personnel continue to achieve innovation and expertise,

however, that number is going down. “We have improved our boiler availability so much that the historical reasons for boilers to come down for repair—tube failures—is really dwindling,” Miller adds. “That’s really allowing us to focus on the secondary problems.” Author: Anna Simet Contributions Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-751-2756



Pellet Mill Repair: Flat Die Versus Ring Die Repair advantages and disadvantages should be considered when selecting the most suitable option for a pellet manufacturer. BY LINDA ZHU


lat die and ring die pellet mills are the two major designs used in global biomass pellet manufacturing. Each design has its own characteristics and advantages, so in order to select appropriate machinery based on production requirements, as well as efficient maintenance and repair work later on, the features of each should be investigated.

The Flat Die Design Flat die pellet mills work on a unique vertical design, using gravity as the main force for feeding material through the machine. It hosts a horizontal die with a series of rollers above it, and a screw-center adjusting pressure structure that makes it the more practical pellet mill. The pressed rollers' gap can be adjusted slightly bigger or smaller, and the pellet compression ratio is also adjustable, enabling

a manufacturer to meet different pelletizing requirements. Meanwhile, this design greatly reduces pressure to the die and avoids unnecessary malfunction. There are two different designs of flat die pellet mill that can make it widely applicable and durable. The first has a rotating die with a stationary roller shaft, and the other has a stationary die with a rotating roller shaft. These two different designs have their own unique features, so one should choose the design according to the raw materials. Generally speaking, if you want to make biomass pellets, you should choose the type with rotating rollers and stationary die.

The Ring Die Design The ring die pellet mill has a sophisticated structure design, the die mold and roller being the most important components. The

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).


ring die is drilled with many holes and encloses two rollers fixed on a support. After hardening and tempering, materials enter the ring die cover through inclined channel. After continuous use and wear, the ring die needs to be changed to guarantee the smooth operation, and it also needs to be equipped with an imperative feeding device. As materials such as wood sawdust, corn, wheat, rice and straw are very light, they need to be pushed into the pelletizing chamber by force. Unlike flat die pellet mills with gravity principles, ring die pellet mills need a feeder device that ensures the machine operates smoothly, allowing for continuous and efficient production. The compression rate of a ring die pellet mill cannot be adjusted. Flat die pellet mills ensure an adjustable compression rate that protects the die to a degree, but the uncontrollable pressure of ring die pellet mill, triggered by structural constraints, can suppress

PELLET MILL REPAIR¦ choose different compression ratios according to different materials. so as to improve capacity and reduce wear. Last, regularly changing the lubricating oil of the gearbox will lengthen service life.


Solving Common Malfunctions

The ring die pellet mill has a sophisticated structure design; the die mold and roller are the most important components.

materials beyond the pressure load, leading to a broken roller bearing. Understanding the design of both a ring die pellet mill and flat die pellet mill, how does one maintain and repair a pellet mill in the “right” way?

Maintainence and Repair After reviewing the pellet mill design and characteristics, it’s important to be aware that operation and maintenance of a machine is also very important because the right use of a pellet mill directly affects the economic benefit. With a flat die pellet mill, one will find that it is easier to access the pellet mill chamber, compared to the ring die pellet mill, while the worn die needs to be changed. Flat die pellet mills have the advantage of the adjustable compression rate, which can reduce roller shell wear, and are significantly superior in the five main areas of to machinery maintenance

and repair, the first is consistently checking easy-wear parts. For a flat die pellet mill, checking the quick-wear parts at a regular time is easy to do because of its simple design; for the ring die pellet mill, irregularly scheduled inspection is required, and is more challenging due to its complicated structure. Regularly adding oil to transmission parts is another important component of maintenance and repair. All transmission parts should be lubricated at a fixed time to ensure long service, and all component parts should also be checked carefully, on a weekly basis especially to determine whether connected parts are loose and if the stroke switch can operate reliably. Regularly cleaning of the screw conveyor and conditioner is also necessary. The next and most important aspect of the pelletizing process is the selection of a suitable compression ratio. One should

After functioning for a period of time, both the ring die and flat die will wear. If the die mold isn’t changed when it should be, it will directly affect the productivity and pellet quality. Regularly removing and replacing the die is necessary for both flat die pellet mill and ring die pellet mill, but the process for replacing a ring die is troublesome due to the heavy weight of the die the complicated design of the machine. Like the die mold, the roller shell is an easy-wear part. Compared with a flat die pellet mill, the roller shell of ring die pellet mill is easier broken, due to uncontrollable pressure. At this point, the flat die pellet mill has an outstanding advantage of an adjustable compression rate, which can reduce roller shell wear. Bearing lubrication is very important for all machines. To reduce damage to bearings and ensure they are in normal condition, they should be regularly lubricated. Going too far, however, is as bad as not going far enough: too much oil can also cause damage to a bearing. Overloading can cause great damage to both the reduction gear and motor, so it must be avoided. If it does happen, broken parts should be quickly repaired or changed. Finally, the gap between ring die and pressure roller should be regularly adjusted to avoid violent vibration damage to the transmission parts and bearing guard. While the aforementioned recommendations will help prevent malfunctions, a flat die pellet mill has several advantages when it comes to repair.

Flat Die Pellet Mill Repair Advantages Pellet mill repair is an important area of focus. While each design has its own advantages and disadvantages regarding repair, decades of practical experience and professional feedback indicate the flat die pellet mill is incomparably superior: its structural design is simple, it is easy JANUARY 2013 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 27



Flat die pellet mills work on a unique vertical design, using gravity as the main force for feeding material through the machine.

to operate, move and maintain, and the failure rate is lower. Because the flat die pellet mill is structured with a pressure-adjusting screw center, the size of the pressed roller gap can be adjusted smaller or bigger to meet the demand of different materials—even coarse and difficult-to-process materials can be pelletized. The ring die pellet mill, however, is diametrically opposite. The pressure of coarse and difficult materials combined with its nonadjustable design may increase the need for repairs and their attendant costs. Replacement parts for a flat die pellet mill are less expensive than parts for a ring die pellet mill, due to the more complex design of the ring die mill, whose equipment is heavy and particular, and consequently more expensive to replace, especially in the production line. When wear and tear occur in ring die pellet mill parts, usage and maintenance costs will be much higher than those of a flat die pellet mill. Systematic staff training is indispensable for the pelletizing industry. Staff training at a flat die pellet mill is much easier––the machine is easier to operate, compared with ring


die pellet mill, so staff training will not be as complicated. Based on the simple structure design and easy-to-move characteristic of flat die pellet mills, personnel can master repair techniques and carry out them out professionally and efficiently. As a final comparison, the changing of a pellet mill roller and die is easier in a flat die pellet mill, as the pellet mill chamber is more accessible, thereby saving time when changing the die. By contrast, changing out a worn ring die in a ring die pellet mill is a rather complicated process. In conclusion, proper operation and maintenance is the key to extending the service life of pellet mills, so maintenance and repair must be carried out properly to achieve a high product output, consuming less time and increasing corporate profits. Author: Linda Zhu Zhengzhou Amisy Machinery


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