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July 2011

Trailblazer New York Developer Building First U.S. Large-Scale Gasifier Page 22

Plus: How to Make Biomass Power Plants Cleaner and Leaner Page 30

How NREL Study Impacted Investment in Gasification Page 36

Why India is so Enticing for Biomass Project Developers Page 42

Exhibit Space and Sponsorships

Now Available Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity to reach hundreds of people in the biomass industry in search of solutions. There is simply no other means of meeting with this many biomass-related decision makers, influencers and stakeholders in the Northeast. Be there, interact and do business with these key decision makers, influencers and stakeholders. Exhibiting at the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will deliver real value toward your bottom line. Contact an account representative today for more information, or to learn about exhibit space and sponsorship opportunities. 866-746-8385

JULY 2011 | VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 7


FEATURES 22 GASIFICATION Full Steam Ahead Jim Taylor is building what could be the first large-scale biomass gasification plant in the U.S., turning waste into 20 megawatts of renewable electricity. By Anna Austin

30 EFFICIENCY Cleaner and Leaner Covanta Energy and Wheelabrator Inc. share insights into improving biomass power plant productivity, decreasing harmful emissions and maintaining the plants and the landfills that fuel them. By Anna Austin

36 MARKET Inspiring Investment

42 DEPARTMENTS 04 EDITOR’S NOTE From Budgets to Biomass Gasification and Combustion By Rona Johnson

06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 08 POWER PLATFORM MACT Rules Threaten to Derail Biomass Industry By Bob Cleaves

A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study conducted in 2009 has prompted some states to provide funding for gasification technology and demonstration projects. By Lisa Gibson

42 INTERNATIONAL Biopowering India India has experienced a surge in biomass gasification development that could potentially bring power to rural areas that have never had it before. By Lisa Gibson

CONTRIBUTIONS 48 STUDY How Manomet Got It Backwards: Challenging the ‘Debt-Then-Dividend’ Axiom New study finds flaws in the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences woody biomass carbon accounting method. By William Strauss

12 ENERGY REVIEW Anaerobic Digestion ABCs By Paul Pansegrau

13 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE California Cap-and-Trade Wars By Lee N. Smith


ON THE COVER: Jim Taylor Jr. (right) and his son Jim Taylor III survey the construction site of Taylor Biomass Energy, a gasification plant that will convert construction and demolition debris and municipal solid waste into 20 megawatts of electricity. PHOTO: CHUCK HAUPT




From Budgets to Biomass Gasification and Combustion


I wanted to write something about the budget battle going on in Washington and attempts to cut funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, but the situation is so fluid that anything I write would be passe within 24 hours, or less. I do, however, urge members of Congress to keep in mind when they discuss eliminating money for developing biomass projects, the amount of money the U.S. spends to subsidize and to import fossil fuels, not to mention cleanup costs for accidents such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, on to bigger and more pleasant topics like biomass combustion and gasification, which is the focus of this month’s magazine. We were fortunate that this issue coincided with the construction startup of Jim Taylor’s waste-toenergy facility in Montgomery, N.Y. Taylor is a brave and patient man, after having to deal with permitting issues that lasted for several years and the threat of losing a federal loan guarantee worth $100 million. Thankfully, the loan guarantee was restored and, as you can see by the photos in Associate Editor Anna Austin’s feature “Full Steam Ahead,” dirt work has begun on the site. The photos were taken at the end of May so construction is probably farther along by now. You can read more about Taylor and the gasification system he will be utilizing in his New York facility starting on page 22. Check out Austin’s “Cleaner and Leaner” feature starting on page 30 if you want to find out how the nation’s largest waste-to-energy companies—Covanta Energy and Wheelabrator Inc.—reduce emissions and make their plants more efficient. Associate Editor Lisa Gibson delved into the biomass situation in India and its efforts to use gasification to power rural areas in her feature called “Biopowering India” on page 42. While the country already uses much of its bagasse and rice husks for energy, rice and cotton straw, coconut husks, bamboo waste and municipal solid waste offer opportunities for further development. Gibson also wrote about a National Renewable Energy Laboratory assessment of biomass combustion and gasification and how it has impacted its development in the U.S. in her feature “Inspiring Investment” on page 36.

For more news, information and perspective, visit



Biomass Power Association President and CEO Bob Cleaves writes about the U.S. EPA’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology and related rules and how Congress needs to act immediately to make sure the rules are enacted responsibly and that they not negatively impact the growth of the biomass power industry in his column “MACT Rules Threaten to Derail Biomass Industry” on page 8.



William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics, takes to task the Manoment Center for Conservation Sciences, which conducted a study for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources that negatively impacted the woody biomass industry. The study’s carbon assessment of woody biomass is all wrong, Strauss writes, in “How Manomet got it Backwards: Challenging the ‘Debt-Then-Dividend’ Axiom,” published in full starting on page 48.


ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie


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¦INDUSTRY EVENTS International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show September 14-16, 2011 Hilton Americas – Houston Houston, Texas The International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste, and petrochemical professionals to explore the value-added opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. Register by Aug. 3 and save $200. (866) 746-8385

Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show

Northeast Conference Coincides With a Surge in Biomass Utilization The timing of the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show is perfect as the biomass industry is poised to expand not just in the Northeast U.S. but worldwide. In the U.S., biomass pellet production has been increasing as companies scramble to supply fuel for the rapidly growing biomass power industry in Europe. The nuclear disaster in Japan has caused some countries, such as Germany, to phase out nuclear power. Germany plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022 and replace them with renewable power. The U.K.’s Renewable Heat Incentive has raised the visibility of biomass thermal and could be a model for other countries to follow. Also, China and India are increasing their use of biomass power and thermal by leaps and bounds. In the Northeast U.S. specifically, Massachusetts’ first biogas power plant began operating in May at the Jordan Dairy farm in Rutland. The plant was designed and built by a consortium of five local dairy farms called AGreen Energy LLC and quaser energy group. New England Organics, a division of Casella Waste Systems, will manage the facility. In New York, Synergy Dairy LLC is partnering with Florida-based CH4 Biogas LLC to develop an anaerobic digester at a 2,000-head dairy farm in Covington called Synergy Biogas. The plant, which is currently under construction, will produce 2 megawatts of power for the grid. New York is also home to the largest wood pellet plant in the Northeast. In June, New England Wood Pellet held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 85,000-ton-per-year pellet facility in Deposit, N.Y. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley says he supports a bill that would allow municipal solid waste to be classified as a Tier 1 renewable, making its use eligible to receive renewable energy credits under the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show program will feature more than 60 speakers and include technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to combined heat and power and large-scale biomass combustion, within the structured framework of general session panels and four customized tracks: electricity generation; industrial process heat and power; biorefining; and project development and finance. The show, which will be held Oct. 11-13 at the Westin Place Hotel in Pittsburgh, is designed to help biomass industry stakeholders identify and evaluate solutions that fit their operations. It's time to improve operational efficiencies and tap into the revenuegenerating potential of sustainable biomass resources in the Northeastern U.S. To attend, exhibit, speak or sponsor, visit



October 11-13, 2011 Westin Place Hotel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast—from Maryland to Maine—the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show 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. (866) 746-8385

Algae Biomass Summit October 25-27, 2011 Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Minneapolis, Minnesota Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policymakers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all algae industries. (866) 746-8385

Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show November 1-3, 2011 Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Southeast—from the Virginias to the Gulf Coast—the Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect the area’s current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. Speaker abstracts are being accepted online through July 15th. (866) 746-8385

• Educational Sessions • Industry Exhibits • Networking Opportunities

Register Now Conference and Hotel Registration now open. For more information, visit the PFI website.

Key Topics: • Maximizing Pellet Plant Operations • Fire Prevention and Safety • Combustible Dust Management • International Market Development • Industry Standards • Federal Legislative and Regulatory Update

Who should attend: • Pellet Fuel Manufacturers • Industry Suppliers • Federal, state and local government biomass experts • Anyone interested in learning more about the densified biomass industry

For more information, contact PFI at The Pellet Fuels Institute, located in Arlington, Virginia, is a North American trade association promoting energy independence through the efficient use of clean, renewable, densified biomass fuel. For more information about pellet heat, contact the Pellet Fuels Institute at (703) 522-6778 or visit


MACT Rules Threaten to Derail Biomass Industry BY BOB CLEAVES

As the biomass power industry struggles to recover from one of the worst economic downturns in our history, we now face another threat: a series of proposed U.S. EPA rules that endanger the continued viability of our plants and jeopardize thousands of well-paying jobs in rural America. On the minds of biomass owners, operators and developers of new biomass plants these days is boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology and related solid waste rules, proposed EPA regulations that could seriously raise costs for biomass facilities that plan to use available biomass fuels other than traditional wood waste materials. If ever there was a case for congressional intervention, this is it. Mired in litigation for years, EPA promulgated draft rules in 2010 which, by the agency’s own admission, were based on fundamental misunderstandings about boiler technology and the benefits of various biomass fuels. Instead of going “back to the drawing board” to find a better, science-based solution, EPA was forced by the court to finalize the rules under an unreasonably short timeline. In a partial win for the biomass industry, the EPA agreed on May 15 to stay the so-called “boiler and commercial industrial solid waste incinerator (CISWI) MACT.” However, the EPA stay remains problematic for two reasons: First, the stay does not affect the solid waste rule, which wrongly classifies millions of tons of valuable biomass as “waste” and subjects our facilities to overly cumbersome and needless regulations. Second, the EPA stay is at risk of legal challenges from environmental organizations. If successful, these challenges could force the private sector to comply, even if EPA believes—as the agency does—that the regulations need more work. Neither scenario bodes well for the industry, but what is truly unfortunate about boiler MACT and related rules is that—although the EPA seems to be trying to do the right thing by biomass—these rules stand to


have a serious impact on our industry with little gain for the environment. If the EPA’s rules are allowed to proceed unchanged, they will result in what many experts estimate will be billions of dollars in needless changes to industrial facilities. Many existing biomass plants will simply shut down, adding to the growing number of facilities unable to compete with fossil fuel power. New facilities will be placed on hold, chilling renewable energy investment in areas of the nation in dire need of such investment. And, at a time when the nation is promoting the use of domestically sourced renewable energy like biomass, many biomass fuels would be landfilled, contributing to the clutter and emitting dangerous gases like methane. The biomass industry needs Congress to intervene now in order to prevent costly regulations that have no public health or environmental benefit. We urge Congress to enact legislation that delays implementation of the rules for at least two years, which is the time believed necessary for EPA to properly consider all of the information necessary to adopt common sense rules. We also urge Congress to require any rule to be based on available technology and to propose standards that are actually achievable at a reasonable cost, and to facilitate—not hinder—the use of a wide variety of biomass fuels. We need Congress to act as soon as possible to ensure that the boiler MACT and related rules that are enacted will be responsible and won’t hinder the growth of our industry. Please contact your member of Congress by phone, email or snail mail—or all three—to emphasize the importance of acting now to save renewable energy and jobs in your area. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association

April 16-19, 2012

Colorado Convention Center Denver, Colorado

A New Era in Energy: The Future is Growing

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Anaerobic Digestion ABC's BY PAUL PANSEGRAU

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which bacteria consume organic matter in the absence of oxygen. This process is completely natural and can be found widely in nature. Examples include the rotting of wood in a forest, production of “swamp gas� in bogs, and the decay of any organic matter. This same process has been used indirectly for years in municipal and food-processing wastewater treatment systems as a means to conveniently reduce organic waste. Now, anaerobic digesters can not only reduce organic wastes, but also produce a renewable, low- to medium-grade fuel gas, or biogas that can be converted to power and heat. An anaerobic digester is simply an enclosed container that holds the waste material, the microorganisms, and the environment they live in while excluding oxygen. The digester can be of almost any size, from only several hundred to several million gallons in volume. The digester is really a system of equipment components including solids handling equipment, liquids handling equipment, and gas handling equipment. Key properties used to describe the particular attributes of an anaerobic digester are volume, hydraulic residence time (HRT) and solids retention time (SRT). The HRT is the numerical value, usually expressed in days a volume of water will reside in the digester. Similarly, the SRT describes the numerical value, again, usually in days, that solids will reside in the digester. The HRT and SRT characteristics of the digester are set to achieve the desired treatment of a water stream and simultaneously achieve optimal conversion of the organic matter to biogas. Digesters must be maintained in order to keep the digester functioning at design level. This entails feeding the organisms; removing materials indigestible by the


microorganisms; and maintaining appropriate temperature, water chemistry and nutrient levels. Oftentimes, the food must be presorted in order to remove items that would either interfere with digester operation or poison the broth. Undesired items include objects containing poisonous materials, such as batteries, herbicides, disinfectants and other toxic chemicals. Additionally, metal items such as nails and small pieces of scrap metal should likewise be removed as they may damage pumps and other mechanical components in the system. The biogas produced in such a system has many uses. Frequently, the biogas is utilized to operate a modified diesel generator set. In this way, a waste material is conveniently transformed to readily usable electrical power. Over the past several years, federal and state incentives have stimulated the use of anaerobic digestion systems at dairy farms, where a large proportion of the electrical power used in production of dairy milk is self-generated from digestion of manure produced by the herd. The Energy & Environmental Research Center is working on new and exciting uses for biogas. This includes generation of both renewable hydrogen and renewable ammonia from biogas. The EERC is presently working on moving recent laboratory-scale advances into distributed-scale production units for both hydrogen and ammonia. This effort will result in production of future renewable fuels and fertilizers from common waste materials. Author: Paul Pansegrau Research Scientist, EERC (701) 777-5169


California Cap-and-Trade Wars BY LEE N.SMITH

The California legislature passed AB 32 and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solution Act of 2006, which aims to reduce current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The law requires the Scoping Plan, which was approved on Dec. 12, 2008, and provides a road map and timeline for actions to reduce GHGs in California via regulations, market mechanisms and other actions. One Scoping Plan item was cap-and-trade regulation, which requires GHG emitters to lower emissions by using allowances for GHG’s that are reduced over time requiring either a reduction, the purchase of allowances or offsets from other sources. In preparation for this regulation, a number of industries have also been required to report their GHG emissions. As the regulation stands, electrical generators and large industrial facilities would be subject to cap and trade. For most energy generation facilities, the calculations of emissions is based on fossil fuel combustion and any process or vented emissions, as reported under a mandatory reporting rule. Emissions calculations for biomass facilities, and related compliance obligations are more complicated. Combustion emissions from biomass-derived fuels (except biogas from digesters) from the following sources do not have compliance obligations: sold waste materials; waste pallets, crates, dunnage, manufacturing and construction wood wastes, tree trimmings, mill residues, and range land maintenance residues; all agricultural crops or waste; or wood and wood wastes that follow specific practices. In California, the approval of a regulatory action like cap and trade generally requires compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, which in turn requires an environmental review. In this instance, CARB drafted an environmental document that purportedly reviewed the potential adverse effects on the environment due to the GHG cap-and-trade regulations, including a review of potential alternatives. The document drafted by CARB was the equivalent of an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA. The regulation and the environmental document were provided for public review and a hearing in December, where a number of supporters and many others expressed that the environmental document and the regulations were not sufficient.

After conditional approval in December, the AB 32 rulemaking process for cap and trade encountered a setback when the lawsuit brought by several environmental groups successfully argued, at the Superior Court level, that the environmental document was deficient at addressing all of the relevant alternatives. The court after providing a tentative order issued a final writ of mandate that arguably prohibited the CARB from continuing to work on the regulations. CARB appealed the decision and continued to work on the regulations, which prompted objections from the original petitioners. On June 6, the San Francisco Superior Court at petitioners urging issued an order that criticized CARB for continuing to work on AB 32 regulations despite the injunction issued in the CEQA case, and ordered the head of CARB to address these issues or face sanctions. It should be noted that there is a technical legal argument that depending on the form of the writ, the appeal may, on its own have stayed the injunction. In a strange turn of events, it was discovered that prior to the Superior Courts June 6 order criticizing CARB, the court of appeals had temporarily stayed the trial court’s injunction that prevented the CARB from implementing its cap-and-trade program. Thus the parties will argue before the appeals court on whether to maintain or lift the stay while the appeal is pending. In our view, one issue the appeals court should be looking at is whether allowing CARB to go forward could foreclose alternatives or mitigation measures that could otherwise be considered when the revised environmental document is finalized. Since the main focus of the new document is alternatives, the further promulgation of regulations could foreclose alternatives. However, if the implementation of the rules occurs after the environmental document is released, one could argue that the alternatives discussed may not have been ruled out. Finally, if the rulemaking is stayed or delayed for much longer, the scheduled 2012 start of regulation may have to be postponed as well. In mid-June the appeals court will hear arguments on the issue of the stay and the schedule should become more definitive. Authors: Lee N. Smith Stoel Rives LLP




Martin Engineering offers online training to improve conveyor operating efficiency

ONLINE OPERATION: Martin Engineering is offering online workshops to help improve safety, performance and payback of its conveyors.

Martin Engineering has added an online course to its library of Foundations training programs that teaches personnel to make the operation and maintenance of belt conveyors cleaner, safer and more productive. The company is expanding its workshop series into three customizable training programs, with the Operations & Maintenance Seminar available as an online course. The seminar takes an in-depth look at methods to improve the safety, performance and payback of belt conveyors by controlling fugitive material and improving system efficiency. This online training is for anyone concerned with operating and maintaining belt conveyor systems. Discussion topics include material-handling basics, conveyor safety, belt alignment, belt cleaning, transfer point improvement, belts and splices, leading edge technologies and dust management. After studying these topics, staff and operations will benefit by improving safety, justifying and validating investments, and increasing performance and profitability. To sign up, go to Cashco announces new leadership Cashco Inc. has promoted Clint Rogers to general manager from his previous position of executive vice president of sales,

marketing and engineering. Rogers will be responsible for all activities related to the valve division, which includes manufacturing, purchasing and finance, in addition to his previous duties. Rogers’ career with Cashco has spanned nearly 18 years, and his leadership experience includes various positions. Since 1998, when he assumed a full-time role with Cashco, he has expanded Cashco’s global market by building an international sales team and assisted with product line enhancement. Most recently, he was instrumental in the development of the Cashco tank vent product line, which includes pilot-operated, weight-loaded and spring-loaded vents. Cashco Inc. has also promoted Dimity Ankerholz to assistant sales manager/marketing manager, expanding on her previous role as marketing manager. Ankerholz will oversee the daily activities of internal and outside sales and assist in the long-term objectives and planning for the valve division. Ankerholz began her career with Cashco in December 1998 as a research specialist in the valve division. Fecon hires technical service adviser Fecon Inc. has hired Mike Karre as the newest addition to its product support team. Karre’s responsibilities will include traveling within Fecon’s dealer network to provide technical support, assist with new machine deliveries and start-ups. Karre joins Fecon with 10-plus years of service experience. Most recently he worked for a Komatsu dealer as a field service technician, completing full machine repairs on construction equipment plus maintenance on forestry grinders and coloring machines. Covanta plant receives Facility of the Year award The Alexandria/Arlington Resource Recovery Facility in Alexandria, Va., has been named the 2011 Large WTE (waste-


to-energy) Facility of the Year in the combustion category by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in recognition of its strong environmental and safety performance record. The award was announced at the 19th Annual North American Wasteto-Energy Conference held in Lancaster, Pa. In addition to its outstanding environmental and safety performance, the award recognizes Covanta Alexandria/Arlington’s technological innovation and its many contributions to integrated waste management. Covanta Alexandria/Arlington processes 975 tons of municipal solid waste per day to produce up to 23 megawatts of renewable energy and recycles approximately 7,000 tons of metals annually. Renewable energy alliance elects board members, officers Patrice Lahlum, of Fargo, N.D., has been re-elected chair of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy. Lahlum, a consultant to the Great Plains Institute on biomass programs, was re-elected at the NDARE annual meeting in Bismarck. Other re-elected officers include Kim Christianson, Great Plains Energy Corridor, vice chair, and Jocie Iszler, communications consultant, secretary-treasurer. Other board members include Al Christianson, Great River Energy; Mindi Grieve, Environmental Law & Policy Center; Terry Goerger, farmer; and Mike Williams, Greenfields Energy. Both Lahlum and Grieve were also re-elected to three-year terms on the board of directors. NDARE is a diverse membership-based advocacy organization that works with citizens, industry, government, interest groups and educators to promote the development and use of renewable energy, including biofuels, biomass and wind energy, as well as the widespread adoption of smart energy efficiency and conservation practices.


Palmer and Christopher join Michael Best & Friedrich Michael Best & Friedrich LLP announced that Todd E. Palmer has joined the firm as a partner in its Madison, Wis., office. Palmer will lead the Environmental Law Group within the Firm’s Todd E. Palmer will Energy & Sustainability use his experience Industry Team. Through- in environmental law and assisting clients out his 19-year career, with the Clean Palmer has focused on Air Act in his new position at Michael environmental law and Best & Friedrich. in particular on assisting clients with the complexities of the Clean Air Act. He has successfully represented a variety of industries including paper manufacturers, printers, agricultural operations, Mary Ann petroleum refineries, recyclers, electric utilities Christopher brings her expertise in and trade associations. He complex commercial has earned a reputation business as an innovative problem- transactions and project finance to solver by developing her new position as successful, cutting-edge partner with Michael regulatory strategies for Best & Friedrich. clients. The law firm also announced that Mary Ann Christopher has joined as a partner in its Milwaukee office. Christopher will join the Firm’s Energy and Sustainability Industry Team and the Transactional Practice Group and has successfully represented clients in complex commercial business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and project finance, primarily in the development, acquisition, sale, finance, operation and leasing of major infrastructure and industrial projects, equipment assets, and related facilities, with a particular emphasis on the renewable and clean energy sectors such as wind, biomass, biofuels, hydrothermal and nuclear.

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney expands energy practice Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC is opening an office in Southpointe, Pa., to accommodate the growth of its energy practice, which includes the oil and gas (Marcellus shale), coal, renewable energy and environmental sectors. The office will be used by lawyers who have been spending an increasing amount of time with clients in Canonsburg, Pa. Buchanan expects the office will be utilized by lawyers and lobbyists who have clients there. Buchanan's Energy Section includes more than 80 lawyers and government relations professionals whose practices cover a broad range of energyfocused legal and lobbying services from litigation, corporate transactions and leasing to environmental and regulatory issues. Biomass Secure Power appoints CFO Biomass Secure Power Inc. announced that Murray Swales has been appointed chief financial officer of the company. Swales earned a chartered accountant's designation from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, British Columbia. He has been involved with public companies and their operating and financial reporting requirements for more than a quarter century, and has served as an officer and/or director of several reporting issuers since 1980. He has diverse business experience, gained as an entrepreneur, as a partner in domestic and international accounting firms, and in senior management positions with various public and private companies. NEFCO names Grace VP of marketing and environmental affairs NEFCO has promoted Virginia M. Grace to vice president of marketing and environmental affairs. With more than 25 years in the environmental field in the pub-

lic and private sectors, and having served as the business development manager at NEFCO since 1996, Grace brings experience with the development, environmental compliance and product marketing for all of NEFCO's biosolids projects. As president of the North East Biosolids & Residuals Association since 2010, Grace also plays a key policy development and leadership role in the biosolids industry. Grace will develop strategic alliances and growth opportunities for NEFCO and will be responsible for management of all company marketing efforts. She will also have executive oversight and responsibility for the environmental affairs of the company. Equilibar regulator solves galloping biogas engine speed The Gloversville-Johnstown wastewater plant in upstate New York serves 25,000 residential customers and 30 industrial and commercial customers. The unsteady flow of methane from the digester to two 350 kilowatt (KW) Caterpillar gas engines driving generators resulted in surging engine rpm, something not acceptable in this application. An Equilibar back pressure regulator was installed to route excess gas back to the gas holder. Tests have shown that the system can be smoothly throttled up and down the load range including taking one engine off line or running both engines wide open (700 KW) with no loss of methane pressure or engine speed control.

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


FiredUp Adding Value to AD Report says biomass crops can enhance anaerobic digestion.

The U.K.’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials has recently released a report that finds using biomass crops can play a valuable role in on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD). The main point of the report, which was released in May, is that anaerobic digesters operate more efficiently when biomass crops are used along with slurry and manure. “Biomass that has already been digested once, for example in a cow, will have a lower yield than biomass that hasn’t been digested before,” explains Matthew Aylott of the NNFCC. “In general, adding crops to an anaerobic digester will increase biogas yields because there are more sugars and proteins in the crop biomass for microorganisms to consume than in slurry or manure.” Additionally, the report finds that AD can offer farmers a guaranteed market for their surplus crops or residues, a chance to use different cropping rotations and the opMatthew Aylott of portunity to diversify the NNFCC says their income. adding biomass crops to anaerobic Crops examined digesters increases in the report are those biogas yields. considered most appropriate for production in the U.K. as supplementary feedstock for AD, Aylott says. These include corn and grass silage and whole crop cereals such as wheat. Farms vary from small- to averagesized dairy farms (130 cows with followers), medium-scale (250 cows with followers) and large-scale (large, mixed farm or collaborative venture assuming 500 dairy cows with followers housed year-round). The most attractive option for each farm varies according to farm size, according to Aylott. “At small scale, the option generating the most favorable internal rate of return under the U.K. electricity feedin tariff system, which offers AD plants

Methane yield (cubic meter per ton volatile solids) Maize (whole crop) Wheat (grain) Oats (grain) Rye (grain) Grass Clover grass Red clover Clover Hemp Flax Sunflower Oilseed rape Jerusalem artichoke Peas Potato Sugar beet

205-450 384-426 250-295 283-492 298-467 290-390 300-350 345-350 355-409 212 154-400 240-340 300-370 390 276-400 236-381

Fodder beet Barley Triticale Sorghum Alfalfa Sudan grass Reed canary grass Ryegrass Nettle Miscanthus Rhubarb Turnip Kale Chaff Straw Leaves

420-500 353-658 337-555 295-372 340-500 213-303 340-430 390-410 120-420 179-218 320-490 314 240-334 270-316 242-324 417-453

ADDING BIOMASS: The methane yield ranges for a number of possible crop feedstocks. SOURCE: NNFCC

a fixed income for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated, is the slurry-only plant, primarily due to the cost of feedstock impacting the overall profitability.” However, if the aim is to increase energy output to warrant heat and power generation, then some crop material should be added, he says. Ideally that would be grass or maize silage, as slurry alone has such a low energy value. At medium scale, the most attractive economic option is again the slurry-only model, followed closely by the 70:30 slurryto-crop ratio. “This example shows that inclusion of a relatively small volume of crop material can increase energy output tenfold for only three times the capital cost,” Aylott says. “Although the cost of production and the energy yield remains constant, the capital and operational costs do not increase proportionate to the scale of the plant.” The most attractive option for largescale farms is a higher crop-to-slurry ratio of 60:40, while remaining under the 500-kilowatt threshold for the higher feedin tariff payment. This maximizes economic returns and energy output, Aylott says. He notes that when the report was composed, the U.K.’s Renewable Heat Incentive details


were not available and therefore have not been taken into consideration. While the benefits can be numerous, using crops in AD processes doesn’t come without challenges, the report recognizes. “A high proportion of crop material, typically above 50 percent inclusion, would require different AD technology due to the high dry matter content of the feedstock mix, or for water to be added or recirculated through the system,” Aylott says. “This increases the size of the digester tank(s) required, and as a result increases investment costs. Although this is technically possible and such plants are already developing, it is clearly not the intention of the feed-in tariffs or RHI to encourage wide-scale deployment of crop-based plants, which are more common in countries like Germany. As a consequence, the tariffs are not currently optimized for energy production.” The research is now being fed back to the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change to support policy development on AD, including the current review of the feed-in tariffs support scheme. —Anna Austin


Wood: The Next Global Commodity? As demand increases, wood pellets could be the next global commodity.

In light of the increase in demand for wood pellets, it is no surprise that predictions are outlining woody biomass as the next commodity to be traded on the open market. Biomass demand for bioenergy applications is expected to increase, especially in Europe and particularly for wood pellets. “It’s clear that with incentives in place and the policies in play, that bioenergy is going to be an increasingly important part of the renewable portfolio in many European countries, especially U.K.,” says Cormac O’Carroll, president of Pöyry Management Consulting in London. O’Carroll emphasizes that for woody biomass to become a commodity, demand needs to be big enough to support a commodity trading platform. And it looks as though the hundreds of megawatts proposed in the U.K. will help that along. The country can only provide itself with 10 million to 12 million metric tons of sustainable biomass each year, falling short of the 50 million metric tons that will be necessary if the multiple proposed biomass plants are developed there. O’Carroll predicts, however, that only a portion of those proposed projects will come to fruition. “Clearly, if even a substantial portion of them goes ahead, there will need to be significant

stocks, be it gas, oil, coal.” imports of biomass to supply For the forestry industry, these plants,” he says. “Then they it could shift the environment can come from North and South surrounding biomass agreements America, certainly, and I think quite from its traditional bilateral focus. a few pellet plants being developed “With the emergence of bioenergy, in America are focusing on Europe certainly, we see a lot of the forest and in particular the U.K.” industry players and forest owners Demand is one important Cormac O'Carroll, starting to rethink their approach driver of commodity derivative president of Pöyry a little bit and starting to think market development, but other Management Consulting, believes about longer-term contracts and factors come into play also, such that woody biomass even starting to think about how as volatile market pricing that alwill become a global they might take advantage of the lows hedging. “When we look at commodity within the next few years. increasing commoditization of pellet pricing, we see that it is quite biomass,” O’Carroll says. For forest volatile,” O’Carroll says. Liquidity owners, commodity status for wood would is another important element, as well as the number of people trading the material. “There mean another market for their products, but industries using wood now, such as pulp and are a lot of pellet plants out there and a lot paper, would most likely not benefit. “They more planned,” he says. “There are also a lot of pellet consumers on the bioenergy side and may not like to see much of a commodities market develop in biomass because that more and more entering the business.” potentially makes their life more difficult,” he If wood pellets were to become a says. commodity, it would make the market more But the scarcity of supply to satisfy growefficient and would make moving forward with bioenergy investments much easier, espe- ing demand points to woody biomass becoming a global commodity in the near future. cially from the perspective of power utilities, O’Carroll predicts it within the next few years. O’Carroll explains. “They’re used to having a working commodities market for their feed—Lisa Gibson

Regeneration in Germany Germany expedites elimination of nuclear power and increases focus on biomass.

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the world has kept a watchful eye on nuclear power. While some governments, including the Obama administration, maintain that the power source is necessary, others are beginning to erase it from their portfolios, few as quickly as Germany. The country’s Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen wants to speed up Germany’s nuclear exit, focusing on early implementation of the 2010 Energy Strategy. The country aims to shut down all nuclear power stations by 2022, with only the three newest being permitted to operate that long. Parallel to the gradual departure from nuclear power, the percentage of energy generated from renewables will rise consistently,

according to the German government. The target is to raise the percentage from 17 to 35 percent in 2020. The government has already finalized a bill to reform the Renewable Energies law and the legislative agencies need to agree to it. In light of that switch, solid-fuel handling equipment manufacturer Martin Engineering has increased its interest in the German market, says Jim Turner, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. “It’s driving the Germans to look at a lot of different ways of producing energy in the short and long term,” he says. “The power has to come from somewhere and they’re looking at biomass to be their No. 1 gap filler for power.”

The 2010 strategy includes reintroduction of support for low-emission woody biomass gasification boilers, with prerequisites for emission values. The country has support in place for pellet boilers and wood chip installations that remained unchanged in the 2010 strategy. With an increasing adoption of biomass energy in the U.S. and Europe, Martin Engineering has investigated the intricacies of biomass handling systems, noting their differences with traditional fossil fuel handling systems, Turner says. That research is proving advantageous in a Germany that’s intent on more ecofriendly energy. —Lisa Gibson



Gasification Debate in the Sunshine State California continues to see attempts to stymie gasification projects.

The Bioenergy Producers Association has been trying for the past six years to pass legislation to make California friendlier toward bioenergy projects, particularly biomass gasification projects. California law, however, contains a scientifically inaccurate definition of gasification, requiring the process to result in zero emissions, the BPA says. Attempts to correct the definition have been repeatedly blocked by a minority of democratic legislators on the state’s environmental committees. As a result, many companies have located their bioenergy projects in other states. At the end of 2010, there was some traction in rectifying the situation, as the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) issued a finding that Canada-based Plasco Energy Group, which is planning to build a waste-to-energy facility, could meet the intent of the existing gasification definition. Once again, however, there are attempts to block the action, this time from the office of the Senate's President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. On behalf of Steinberg, Chief Policy Advisor Kip Lipper sent a letter to the state agency and the California governor’s office, demanding a rescission of the Plasco Energy ruling. In response, David Roberti, who served 13 years as president pro tem of the state senate and is currently president of the BPA, wrote a letter to Steinberg describing the action as a “frontal attack” on the bioenergy industry. “It is clear that CalRecycle’s ruling on this issue, reached after long discussion, was the correct opinion,” Roberti states. “Legally, there could be no other interpretation, because it would never be the intent of the legislature to pass a law with which no one can comply.” Roberti points out that no refinery of any type or size produces zero emissions, and that the standard is not required of any other manufacturing facility. “[The standard] has discouraged, indeed has prevented, this industry from attempting to operate in the state.” The Lipper letter is a damaging signal to the multibillion dollar biobased technology industry and indicates the state is not interested in what it can contribute to California’s economy, Roberti says. Nor


does it want the industry’s help in meeting California’s energy goals, including the renewable portfolio standard of 33 percent. Plasco Energy intends to comply with all applicable state and local laws and legitimate environmental standards in its Salinas project, he adds. Roberti says using post-recycled waste streams as feedstock for renewable energy production is universally recognized everywhere but in California and that the short-sighted view of a minority of Democratic party members is becoming the subject of ridicule. “In a free market economy, the waste-to-clean energy industry has just as much right to be permitted and operate under California’s stringent environmental laws as any other,” he writes. “National security, the economy, energy independence and an improved environment demand this.” In early May, Roberti received a response from Steinberg, emphasizing that current law does not erect any unique or specific barriers to the construction or operation of gasification facilities. “There are no restrictions in law especially applicable to bioenergy or gasification facilities that do not apply to other fuels and energy facilities,” he writes. “Rather, the supporters of these technologies wish to be accorded elevated statutory treatment currently reserved for activities such as recycling and renewable energy, which the legislature and past governors have held are unique environmental goods.” Jim Stewart, chairman of the BPA, says Steinberg’s comments are refuted by the fact that the waste gasification-to-biofuels/electricity industry has virtually abandoned California, and by the scientifically inaccurate definition of gasification in statute that has caused biobased technology providers and their investors not to risk capital investment in the state. “Their letter and demand for rescission of the Plasco Energy ruling has indeed been taken by the industry as a signal that the state's legislature is not interested in the development of advanced biofuels projects in California, nor is it sensitive to the related issues of national security, energy independence, low-cost biofuels, reduced dependence on landfills and the benefits to the environment resulting from the positive use of solid waste as a feedstock for the recycling of carbon through renewable energy production.” —Anna Austin


Rocky Mountain Research Armed with a $5.3 million federal grant, a U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station laboratory in Montana will embark on a multifaceted research initiative to develop new systems for bioenergy production using wood waste and residues from forest restoration treatments. “The main goal is to address what we think are some critical issues with regard to using woody biomass in the West for energy feedstock,” says Greg Jones, principal investigator for the biomass grant and research forester with the Rocky Mountain Research Station. The five-year research effort includes: • Experimental forest operations research to develop advanced feedstock logistics and improve feedstock supply chains. • Development of new trucking and processing systems to reduce feedstock costs by improving access to dispersed forest treatment residues. • Development of multifacility spatial models of forest biomass feedstock flow. • Field research and modeling to evaluate the effects of biomass harvest on water resources, soil resources and forest ecosystem. • Research and development of a gasification system for forest industry deployment. • Product development focused on biochar soil amendments, activated carbon and liquid fuels from synthesis gas. • Consequential cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis of all system products. • Financial models for the gasification systems co-located at sawmills. • Market and nonmarket economics research to quantify the costs, benefits and tradeoffs of the conversion technology if deployed in the forest sector.


Research station launches complex bioenergy research initiative.

UNITED FRONT: The agencies and local universities collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station laboratory in Montana comprise one of only eight teams to receive funding for biomass research by the USDA and U.S. DOE.

The team has been able to produce a fairly high-energy syngas, as well as biochar, from a preliminary gasification system and feedback from the forestry industry about its utilization has been encouraging. “There is certainly interest in this industry if it’s feasible,” Jones says. Transporting and processing residue from remote areas will also be an important aspect of the research, Jones says, adding that little access for wood chippers and other equipment makes biomass harvests in those areas a challenge. “A lot of these remote areas in our part of the world are accessible only by logging roads.” The group will also look for areas in need of improvement in existing equipment designs, says Nate Anderson, forest researcher with the Rocky Mountain Research Station. —Lisa Gibson

Biogas Bevvy The U.S.’s potential for CHP from biogas has attracted a European technology manufacturer.

With more than 1,500 European cogeneration installations under its belt, German company 2G Bio-Energy Technologies is focusing its interests on a growing U.S. biogas market that it says represents enormous opportunity. The company already has a number of combined-heat-and-power projects in line under Florida-based technology manufacturer 2G-Cenergy, which it jointly owns with its North American management office. The company saw growth opportunity in the U.S. for its technology, applied in combination with all types of anaerobic digesters at landfills and with methane-generating wastewater treatment facilities, according to

Michael Turwitt, 2G-Cenergy president and CEO. “The U.S. is actually a very interesting and prosperous market for all renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” Turwitt says. “While the rest of the industrialized world has been very active implementing advanced and modern energy technologies for years, the U.S. market is just now waking up and trying to catch up. The opportunities are endless, and despite a lot of regulatory challenges (every state within the U.S. is different), the market for our products is clearly expanding.” In April, Pennsylvania-based Environmental Management Group International

Inc. awarded 2G-Cenergy with an order to supply a high-efficiency biogas CHP plant for an anaerobic fluidized bed digester technology at a brewery in New York, according to Turwitt. More recently, Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority in Pontotoc, Miss., announced it will invest $1.3 million in a 2G biogas power plant for its landfill facility. 2G-Cenergy also has modular systems under development in Massachusetts, South Carolina and Texas, and dairy farm operators have ordered 2G’s systems for their biogas plants in Washington, Oregon and California. —Lisa Gibson



Group of 50 Kentuckians embarked on three-day biomass tour. A bioenergy buzz across Kentucky prompted more than 50 individuals representing the state’s government, academia and bioenergy industry to embark on a multiple-stop, three-day bioenergy tour in May, transforming that buzz into some considerable enthusiasm. Tim Hughes, director of biofuels at the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet’s Department of Energy Development and Independence, says the idea for the tour stemmed from some local farmers’ interest in Missouri-based Show Me Energy’s business model, a farmer-owned cooperative that has developed a fuel densification facility. Hughes' cabinet and the Kentucky Office of Agricultural Policy jointly organized the tour. Show Me Energy’s facility in Centerview, Mo., was one stop on the tour, as were a Monsanto research facility in Chesterfield, Mo., an Abengoa ethanol plant in Mt. Vernon, Ind., and Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine’s International Biomass Conference & Expo that was held May 2-5 in St. Louis. “The tour, which was really well-rounded, provided us with a good overview of the biomass industry and the issues that it faces,” Hughes says. “The networking was tremendous, and it gave those interested and involved in the state’s industry an opportunity to meet and understand initiatives going on across Kentucky, and different programs available.” Going into the tour, attendees all had different interests that they were hoping to pick up information about, according to Hughes. They were able to accomplish that and much more because of the diversity of information and tour locations. “They were able to see a lot of different angles of the industry, and everyone realized there are a lot of questions to be asked about the future of the industry and what we can do as a state to move it forward,” he says.



Biomass in the Bluegrass State

SHOW ME SITE: Show Me Energy's plant in Centerview, Mo., was one of many destinations on the biomass tour.

Currently, Kentucky hosts a grain-based ethanol plant, two biodiesel plants and a few fuel pellet operations, Hughes says. “We’ve got a very strong forest industry in the state. With the resources we’ve got—the infrastructure, roads and the state’s location—there are a lot more opportunities down the road.” Hughes said he would definitely recommend a similar trip to other states. “It was a tremendous experience and full of value,” he says. “From the Abengoa plant to Show Me Energy to walking through the biomass conference trade show and seeing all of the different companies involved, as well as attending informative breakout sessions, we were able to see a little of everything.” Hughes adds that a final report on the trip is being put together for presentation to attendees, the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet secretary and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. —Anna Austin


Biomass Deferment Debate NAFO intervenes in Tailoring Rule lawsuit. When the U.S. EPA’s final Tailoring Rule proposal was released in January, the biomass power industry was somewhat satisfied with the three-year deferment of the permitting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from biogenic sources. That would give the EPA time to ensure that greenhouse gas policies properly account for the emissions and carbon sequestration associated with biomass, a subject of heated debate among the scientific community. The decision to defer biomass has come under fire by some environmental groups. In April, the Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming the agency doesn’t have authority to retroactively exclude biomass facilities from the rule’s scope. In a move to protect the interest of its members, David Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, has filed a motion to intervene. “We agree with the direction EPA is going, revisiting the Tailoring Rule,” he says. “In this case, the organizations that have filed suit have opposed what the EPA is proposing to do, and that’s not usually

done through a lawsuit unless it is because something has violated the rulemaking process or the law. In this case, we don’t see that either has occurred, and we had to intervene to make sure that the process continues.” Since NAFO filed its motion, the lawsuit proponents have filed a motion with the court to hold their case until the rulemaking is over. “I think that sends a signal that they realize it was probably not going to be successful at this point in the process,” Tenny says. “It is now on hold until the rule is completed, and EPA is trying to finish it by July.” NAFO expects that when the rule is complete, the lawsuit will return. “If that’s the case then so be it, our policy overall is to make sure that federal policy recognizes the carbon benefits of biomass energy, that’s an extension of the benefits that come from forests,” Tenny says. “It’s an important benefit that has real public and economic value, and it’s something that is important to NAFO’s members and should be to the nation.” The challenge with biomass carbon emissions is that there is some confusion between science and policy, Tenny

says. “The science of the carbon cycle is settled,” he says. “We understand how it works, we understand that it’s ongoing, and we understand that carbon is moved in regular fluxes between the earth and the atmosphere. In the U.S. it’s a very settled proposition that the carbon flux has produced net carbon in the ground in the form of trees.” Ever year, U.S. forests remove enough net carbon to offset 15 percent of the country’s industrial emissions, Tenny says. “If that’s the case, then our forests are operating as a net carbon sink and it begs the question of whether we are really adding carbon into the atmosphere when we use some of the wood in the forests for energy.” The confusion—even though the science is settled—is caused by those who want to manipulate or change the parameters within which forest carbon are looked at, Tenny adds. “If you were to make the time frame and area small enough, you can get a different answer from what we’ve received from the other approaches we’ve taken.”—Anna Austin



BUILDING BLOCKS: Construction on Taylor Biomass Energy, a 20-megawatt biomass gasification plant, has begun on a 95acre site near Montgomery in Orange County, N.Y.



Full Steam Ahead Development of large-scale biomass gasification in the U.S. is in between demonstration and commercial scale, but a few companies are overcoming the challenges to make large-scale projects happen. BY ANNA AUSTIN PHOTOS BY CHUCK HAUPT



SITE SPECIFIC: Taylor Biomass Energy will be co-located with Taylor Recycling Facility and will expand its current capacity of 307 tons per day (TPD) of C&D waste and 100 TPD of wood waste to 450 TPD of C&D waste, 100 TPD of wood waste and 500 TPD of municipal solid waste.


hen Jim Taylor Jr. founded Taylor Tree in 1953, he had no idea that it would pave the way to development of the first large-scale biomass gasification power facility in the U.S. That tree recycling business, with help from his son, Jim Taylor III, was transformed into a successful construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling company, a key component in his future biomass gasification plant model. Construction of the 20-megawatt (MW) plant in Montgomery, N.Y., has finally begun after more than five years of planning, permitting and financing. As is often the case with a first-of-its-kind project, multiple obstacles had to be overcome throughout the process. Now, the goal of Taylor Biomass Energy is to show policymakers, project financers and the public that biomass gasification is a clean, viable way to get rid of waste while generating renewable electricity on a large scale.

‘Air or oxygen is not used to convert the biomass, but rather hot solids circulating around the system, and it incorporates a unique gas conditioning reactor as an integral part of the gasification process.’ —Mark Paisley, chief technology officer, Taylor Biomass Energy

Hatching an Idea “In 1989, New York state enacted a solid waste law that declared our landclearing debris was now a regulated waste to become known as construction and demolition debris,” Taylor explains. “There were 40-some tree service companies and no C&D processing facilities, so I decided to create the first permitted C&D facility in the state, and it also turned out to be one of the first in the U.S.” During the next 20 years, Taylor’s company developed the core competencies of sorting and separating waste streams, and as a result was hired for the World Trade Center Disaster Recovery Project at Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, according to Taylor. By 2000, Taylor Recycling Facility had accomplished about 45 to 50 percent recovered recycled products. “At that point in time, I made the decision that we needed another technology to be able to recycle the remaining 50 to 55 percent,” Taylor says. “In New York, our solid waste policy at the time called for reducing, recycling, reusing and recovering the energy content, and landfilling or incineration as the last tool. The step we bypassed was recovering the energy content, as there was no technology of this type. Little did I know that I would eventually be the one company to bring a new, innovative alternative energy technology to the market for the first time ever, one that would recover the energy content.”


RECYCLING PIONEER: Jim Taylor has been in the recycling business since 1953 and now, after five years of preparations, he's building the nation's first large-scale biomass gasification project.

Mark Paisley, the man behind the science of Taylor’s gasification process, has been involved in gasification research for nearly 40 years, including work at Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Battelle. “I’m one of the few people who were around when the biomass field wasn’t even called that,” he chuckles.


Paisley has several patents on gasification processes, and invented what is known as Rentech Inc.’s RentechSilvaGas process. In 2005, he teamed up with Taylor and developed a new process, which will be deployed at the Montgomery plant. Taylor’s process is unique because it’s an indirectly heated gasification process, Paisley says. “Air or oxygen is not used to convert the biomass, but rather hot solids circulating around the system, and it incorporates a unique gas conditioning reactor as an integral part of the gasification process,” he says. As opposed to the conventional approach of applying various scrubbers, catalytic reactors or other purification mechanisms to adjust the composition of the gas to clean it up, the Taylor gas conditioning reactor, as an integral part of the gasification process, converts the condensable materials—or tars—in the gas into an additional synthesis gas. “At the same time, it adjusts its composition so that the gas is significantly higher in hydrogen, making it more suitable for things like synthesis operations,” Paisley says. While the Montgomery project will utilize biomass residuals such as C&D materials and municipal solid waste, Paisley says, the process is amenable to any form of biomass. “Flexibility is an important part of the process,” he says.

TRASH TALK: Taylor Recycling, which is in Montgomery, N.Y., about 70 miles north of New York City, is a unique C&D waste recycling operation, converting more than 95 percent of the waste it receives into valuable end products.


¦GASIFICATION “That way, you can pick and choose what source makes sense for a particular project, and that gives you the ability to locate the project wherever you need to.” Though most biomass energy projects claim they can use any feedstock, Paisley says flexibility varies by technology. “[For gasification] some fixed-bed and some fluid-bed technologies are a little less forgiving than a lot of the indirectly heated technologies,” he says. “Some technologies, based on their reactor configuration and types, require specific feedstock preparation. That can create limitations because now you have to have additional equipment up front to prepare the feedstock. Flexibility is important because one type of biomass may not always be available.” ICM Inc., another gasification process developer, shares Paisley's perspective on feedstock flexibility.

Ready for Deployment ICM says it has successfully processed more than 13 different feedstocks at the company’s commercial demonstration unit in Newton, Kan. Good system controls are a central component in ICM’s gasification system and allow for its feedstock flexibility. “We can control what’s happening in the gasification unit, increasing its operability,” says Tom Ranallo, ICM’s vice president of operations. The company has “really put the unit through the test,” amassing more than 220 hours of operation over the past two

years, Ranallo says. It’s now ready for purchase and several power projects that will utilize the gasifier are in various stages of development. Initial development of the system began about four years ago, as a way to potentially alleviate fuel costs at ethanol plants. “This was when natural gas prices were very high,” Ranallo says. “We started looking at different technologies on the gasification side because we thought it might be a good way to get these plants off natural gas and to generate their own power. That’s becoming more common, but the challenge now is that natural gas is cheap. As we saw prices come down, the economics around the system began to change so we began looking at other applications.” ICM’s largest design is a 450-ton-per-day, 15-MW unit. Costs vary since each application requires a uniquely engineered solution, Ranallo says. “You have to understand the feedstock components and engineer around them,” he says. “For projects that generate power, we’ve generally seen that the cost of the thermal island, the gasifier piece with the power island—the turbine and the generator on the backside—is about $3 million to $4 million per megawatt, excluding the feed handling system. That’s a good rule of thumb.” Development comes with two sets of challenges, some on the technology provider side and some on the project developer side, Ranallo says. For ICM, the biggest challenge has been emission controls.


REDUCING, RECYCLING AND REUSING: At Taylor Recycling, materials such as wood, concrete, metal, wallboard and cardboard are removed and the remaining fraction is made into a cover product for landfills to prevent fires. Unpainted wallboard is converted into gypsum and paper products using a proprietary mechanical process.

Challenges Since few gasification units have been deployed for commercial applications in the U.S., ICM is dealing with first-time permitting and emissions issues, Ranallo says. In what it believes is the best available solution, ICM has partnered with emission control solution provider Eisenmann Corp. to incorporate its technology on the back end of the gasifier. “We realized upfront that it was critical,” Ranallo says. As ICM has been running multiple feedstocks through the gasifier, it has been gathering emissions and testing data to compile an emissions database to help developers with their permitting. “Cleaning and cooling producer gas has been the Achilles heel of gasification,” Paisley says. “Biomass gasification is a very old technology, pre-1900s. The cleanup and adjustment of the composition of that gas has been something that people have been working on for a long time. There are old references, I have one dated 1923, that shows all kinds of various approaches to gas cleanup from absorbers to filters to various scrubbers.”

Today, people have zeroed in on catalytic systems in an attempt to make the gas easier to transport and use within an industrial facility, or to keep it from plugging up lines, Paisley says. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve focused on the gas conditioning reactor within the Taylor process, because it addresses those issues.” From Paisley’s perspective, the challenges on the developer’s side relate almost exclusively to financing. “The technology is sound,” he says. “The gas turbine manufacturers are comfortable with a medium calorific value gas like we produce, and are happy to provide you with guarantees that say ‘if you give me this gas, our turbine will produce x amount of megawatts.’” Because there is no inventory of gasification technologies out there, banks and sources of capital for these projects are reluctant to provide financing. Ranallo agrees. “Financing is key,” he says. “We’ve had finance groups looking at our gasifier to get them comfortable with the technology and our approach to it, and that will help ease JULY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 27

¦GASIFICATION ‘I’m a firm believer in biomass energy and its potential because, as far as renewables go, biomass gasification gives us the ability to produce virtually any energy product that we want, from power to liquid transportation fuels to natural gas substitutes. It gives us the ability to grow our energy.’ —Mark Paisley, chief technology officer, Taylor Biomass Energy

their minds so they can feel good about financing some of these waste-to-energy projects.” Another issue surrounding large-scale commercial deployment is the price of electricity. Jim Childress, executive director of the Gasification Technologies Council, says that’s the main reason commercialscale gasification-to-power hasn’t taken off in the U.S. “How to do [gasification] is known, it’s just a matter of competitiveness with coal combustion,” he says. “People have been burning coals for years, and it costs less to burn coal on a large scale than it does to gasify biomass.” Also, on the developer side, locking down a steady feedstock supply and securing power purchase agreements are neces-

sary and potentially challenging, Ranallo adds.

Progress in the U.S. Both Taylor Biomass and ICM are also working on international projects. Childress says that while interest is growing among the GTC’s 65 domestic and international members, most of whom are involved in some aspect of large-scale fossil fuel gasification, in the U.S. biomass gasification is being done at smaller or demonstration scales. “There have been some [large-scale] applications in Europe, but in the U.S., that’s where we are,” Paisley echoes. That has largely been driven by U.S. DOE policies over the past several years, he says.

“The DOE has focused on liquid fuels— ethanol specifically—and even though they were interested in power some years ago, they sort of abandoned that for a while. There’s some renewed interest now, but we’re one of the few large-scale projects underway and probably the furthest along relative to the production of power in the U.S.” Another hindrance is a misconception of what biomass gasification really is. “During our permitting process and public hearings, you run into people who believe that if it is high temperature by definition, it’s incineration,” Paisley says. “That’s obviously not correct from a technological standpoint, as it’s hard to operate an incinerator without air going through it. The technical community typically understands that gasification is an intermediate step. You can almost look at it as a pretreatment step where you have the ability to clean up all of the potential environmental issues so that when you do the final conversion to electricity, it’s far superior to a direct-

GASIFICATION¦ combustion process.” Paisley is hopeful that anti-biomass sentiment in the U.S. will soon be overcome so that biomass gasification will be more readily accepted, allowing for widespread implementation. “Not just for the Taylor process, but all [gasification] processes,” he adds. “I’m a firm believer in biomass energy and its potential because, as far as renewables go, biomass gasification gives us the ability to produce virtually any energy product that we want, from power to liquid transportation fuels to natural gas substitutes. It gives us the ability to grow our energy.”


Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968

READY TO DEPLOY: ICM has put its feedstock flexible gasification system through more than 220 hours of testing and it's now ready for purchase. The company says several projects in various stages of development are interested in the gasifier.

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Cleaner Leaner A N D

The nation’s two largest waste-to-energy companies discuss how they have reduced emissions and increased efficiencies. BY ANNA AUSTIN





hen the Clean Air Act of 1990 was passed, it forced municipal solid waste (MSW) combustor plants across the U.S. to spend more than $1 billion on required upgrades, including combustion controls and sophisticated air pollution control equipment. By 2000, the industry had achieved compliance, and the U.S. EPA has reported that many of the upgrades exceed CAA requirements. Unfortunately, these power plants still have an undeserved reputation as being dirty. Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer at Covanta Energy, which operates 44 waste-to-energy (WtE) plants across the globe, says most folks who describe these facilities as dirty are referring to the way they were operated prior to the CAA. “The act has made facilities that have survived the transition dramatically better in their emissions characteristics,” he says. “The percent reductions from emissions ranging from particulate matter, dioxins and mercury are on the order of 95 to 99 percent. NOx (nitrogen oxide) is the only pollutant that didn’t see those dramatic reductions—only about

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kilowatt hours (kWh) for every ton of MSW. “A boiler we would build today in a community would probably be in the range of 700 to 800 kWh per ton,” Gilman says. “The technologies have improved and the newer facilities have higher efficiencies, but that’s not where we quit.” Covanta currently has a program designed to decrease the amount of electricity used within a facility to ensure the maximum amount of power goes to the grid. The Produce More Juice effort includes anything from using variable-speed motors to installing energy efficient lighting in their facilities, Gilman says. “In that same sense, we do lots of things to improve natural resource utilization of our own facilities, such as taking them down to zero discharge and low water use,” he adds.

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Waste Management-owned Wheelabrator Inc., the other dominant U.S. WtE company, also continually works to improve the operability of its 17 facilities. Recently, Wheelabrator completed major upgrades at


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GREAT GRATE: Wheelabrator performed a total grate replacement at its waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Va.

20 to 30 percent—because it’s much more difficult to go after.” But that hasn’t stopped Covanta from trying to better control it. “We’ve developed a proprietary technology that we believe can cut NOx emissions in half,” Gilman says. “We’ve installed it at 13 different units now, and we hope to continue to move that out across our facilities.” Referencing a recent EPA report, Gilman says that today, the emissions per unit of energy are lower for WtE facilities than for landfill gas-to-electricity plants, about the same for natural gas-fired plants, and easily better than coal- and oil-fired plants. Besides dramatic improvements in emissions, efficiencies in power production have also been an area of improvement at WtE plants. “When these plants were first being developed, the emphasis was on solid waste management, and secondarily on energy,” Gilman says. “Facilities today are built with boilers that are more focused on power production.” Figures Covanta typically uses indicate that existing facilities produce about 550





¦EFFICIENCY A total grate replacement on the existing traveling grate system was also done, according to Grego. A traveling grate system consists of a series of rigid and movable grates that move the waste through its natural process direction. “On the reliability side, we did a lot of material handling changes, such as fly ash conveyors and bottom ash conveyors that were causing a lot of plant down time,” he says. “They were either replaced or repaired to good operating condition.” Another key improvement was the installation of a high-efficiency over-fire air system. “This, in conjunction with the new grate system, gives us the proper air and fuel ratio for complete combustion,” Grego says. “We’ve improved the overall combustion of the units and lowered CO2 emissions, and those are the biggest improvements as far as efficiency upgrades.” New turbine controls were also installed, he adds. “We have an inlet pressure control system that steadies out the boiler header


a WtE facility and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) receiving plant in Portsmouth, Va., investing more than $20 million in capital upgrades and maintenance improvements. The Portsmouth facility is not at a landfill, which is common for WtE plants. Rather, the public authority trucks waste in from eight transfer stations to the RDF facility, where it is processed and shredded, then sent across the road into a storage pit on the power plant side, via an underground conveyor. “That’s where we use that now-processed waste, to burn as our fuel in our four boilers,” says Portsmouth Wheelabrator Plant Manager Paul Grego. “When we bought the plant, boiler availability was operating at around 70 percent, and today we’re around 85 percent,” Grego says. By the end of next year, he expects that to increase to 90 percent. “A lot of the cost went to boiler pressure part replacements,” he says. “They were built in 1985, so they are about 26 years old.”

CLEANING UP: Performing regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of a plant.

pressures, and that helps maintain a consistent steam flow, and again helps improve the overall combustion process.”



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While upgrading and adapting, new technologies play major roles in keeping WtE plants efficient and running as long as possible, general maintenance is also important, Grego says. Typically, a WtE plant has a 50-year life cycle, Grego says. “The upgrades made at the 26-year-old Portsmouth facility would certainly extend the life of the plant through that cycle for the next 24 years.” In reality, the life cycle can continue indefinitely if the plant and boilers are properly maintained on an annual basis. “Across the board, our overall boiler availability is at about 93 percent, which is excellent in the industry,” Grego says. “If you maintain the units, you should expect to be able to run them year after year in the future.” Covanta’s Fairfax, Va., facility has been operating for 20 years, according to Gilman, and soon the community will have to decide whether to purchase the facility. A third par-

EFFICIENCY¦ ty was hired to determine the value of the plant, which amounted to about $418 million. “That’s more than what it cost to build the plant,” Gilman says. “If you run these plants well and maintain them well, even after 20 years they hold their value and they can operate for another 20 years easily.” At Covanta’s Union County, N.J., plant, the county is planning to extend its current mortgage over 30 years. “We’re projecting a 50-year life span for that facility,” Gilman says. “It’s all about taking care of them. Our capacity factors are very high—they rival nuclear power plants—but when they go into outage we do the kind of work to make sure they’re going to last 40 or 50 years.”

Landfills, Revenues and Recycling Along with plant maintenance, comes maintenance of the landfill. The longer a landfill stays open, the better the situation for the WtE plant. “When a community looks at what they want to do with their post-recycled waste— whether they want to send it to a landfill or do energy recovery—the benefits of doing energy recovery include extending the life of the landfill by 10 times,” Gilman says. “They’re also looking at the production of renewable electricity, which may qualify for incentives in some states.” Those incentives vary considerably from state to state. In those that have renewable portfolio standards, MSW is in the top tier in some, lower tier in others. “The price of electricity from a WtE plant going on the grid is less than the price wind, solar and other renewable power gets,” Gilman says. “It’s a fairly competitive price at the outset, and that’s because besides the electricity revenues, there are revenues from taking in the waste and the recycled metals.” The amount of metal recovered during the process is significant, he adds, as after the combustion process the ash is filtered to remove all of the remaining metals. In some instances, zero-waste advocates have asserted that the WtE industry is competing with the recycling industry, which can potentially jeopardize MSW streams. “Some say that we want to burn everything that can be recycled, and that’s just silly,” Gilman says. “The communities where we operate

have higher recycling rates than average U.S. communities, and many have world-class recycling rates. For example, Marion County, Ore., has a 60 percent recycling rate and it is climbing to 70 percent, and they are often evaluating whether they need to expand their Wte facility.” Lee County, Fla., where Covanta also has a WtE facility, has a recycling rate that is twice the national average, according to Gilman. “[The WtE industry and recycling industries] are logically compatible and aren’t in competition, but for some reason, some zero-waste folks like landfills and think of energy recovery facilities as competition for recycling.” There isn’t much Btu value in cans, bottles or metals, Grego adds. “If they can be recycled ahead of time, that’s better.” Though it seems as if the flow of MSW should remain steady, Grego says that volumes are slowly decreasing over time. “It is good that there is growth in areas like solid-

stream recycling, because that’s waste that is typically not valuable to us.” While the development of new, more efficient WtE facilities continues, Gilman says work to improve existing operations never ceases. That includes emissions, where major WtE upgrades first began. “The Clean Air Act has been terrific for us because our communities know we’ve made dramatic changes in emissions,” Gilman adds. “We’re committed to further reductions, and we’ve been very successful in the past few years. As a company, or even a sector in general, we’re not resting on the morals of the Clean Air Act.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968



ENERGY CENTER: The Bioenergy Research Demonstration project on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver will produce 2 megawatts of power and 10,000 pounds per hour of steam. SOURCE: NEXTERRA SYSTEMS CORP.




nspiring nvestment

A 2009 NREL assessment of biomass combustion and gasification technologies may not have spurred rapid commercial development, but it has encouraged state investment in demonstration projects. BY LISA GIBSON


n the path of pitches from technology manufacturers and project developers looking to drum up business in certain states, members of the Clean Energy States Alliance realized they were unaware of the commercial status of biomass combustion and gasification technologies. A request to the U.S. DOE’s Technical Assistance Program resulted in a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory titled “Market Assessment of Biomass Gasification and Combustion Technology for Small- and Medium-Scale Applications.” Free of charge to CESA, the 2009 report focused on conversion technologies with capacities of less than 5 megawatts (MW) or 50 million Btu per hour. Primary applications considered were thermal, combined-heat-and-power (CHP), and district heating. The report analyzed biomass availability, strengths and weaknesses of both technologies, system economics, and included an assessment of their commercial statuses, as well as inventories of suppliers of both technologies. “[CESA] wasn’t quite familiar with the status of the technologies and the commercial viability, so they wanted some type of overview,” says study co-author Scott Haase. Not surprisingly, the study found that direct combustion systems for heat, power or CHP are available commercially from a number of manufacturers. Gasification systems, however, showed different and more diverse results. Close-coupled gasification systems, where the syngas is burned directly for space heat, drying or to produce steam,



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¦MARKET certainly proved useful in more were already commercially availthan one aspect. able from manufacturers. But what Haase calls two-stage gasification, where the syngas is conditioned for Following Through tar and particulate matter removal “For many states, biomass before use in a genset or gas turhas been a challenge for our bine, were largely still in developmembers to figure out a stratment with a number of technolo- Scott Hasse, a egy and program approach that senior engineer with really evaluates the efficiency gies in the demonstration phase. In light of those findings and NREL, conducted of biomass conversion,” says research into others, NREL concluded its study biomass gasification Mark Sinclair, executive direcwith three important recommen- and combustion tor of CESA, which is made up dations: entities wishing to sup- technologies. of major state-level programs port the development of gasificathat invest public dollars in retion applications and technologies should newable energy. He added that the study consider funding demonstration projects confirmed what CESA already knew: state of near-commercial technologies in their clean energy programs have an important states; a central clearinghouse of the mar- role in supporting research and developket potential for small- and community- ment to move forward with biomass gasscale biomass direct combustion and gas- ification and more efficient direct combusification systems should be commissioned; tion technologies. and a national assessment of the market Thus, NREL’s recommendation that potential for small- and medium-scale sys- entities supportive of gasification technolotems that is searchable online should be gies fund demonstration projects was taken created and maintained. seriously by a number of CESA members. Two years later, the study may not “Several of our states relied on that recomhave spurred rapid development of either mendation for demonstration projects to technology in CESA member states, but it direct some funding into supporting bio-

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MARKET¦ mass conversion technology acceleration,” Sinclair says. The Alaska Renewable Energy Fund invested $2 million in a 400-kilowatt biomass-fired Organic Rankine Cycle combined-heat-and-power plant that is scheduled for start-up this fall, he says. Massachusetts and Wisconsin have referenced the report in funding considerations, he adds, and the California Energy Commission took it as confirmation that the money it had already invested in biomass conversion technologies through its Public Interest Energy Research program over the past decade was crucial to development. “They say while the NREL report didn’t spur new activity, it basically confirmed the need for their continued research in support of future gasification advancement activity,” Sinclair says, adding that California has two demonstration-scale two-stage gasifiers currently operating. Both were developed, however, before NREL released its report. Not only did the report confirm the need for state support in research and development, but it proved useful in understanding where manufacturers of the technologies are located, and therefore how important demonstration projects could be in certain states. “When there’s a number of manufacturers in your state that are focusing on this technology, that’s another good reason to put clean energy dollars into the technology,” Sinclair explains. “That’s becoming even more important in this economic climate. That inventory provided by NREL was extremely useful in finding out how valuable this technology is in terms of manufacturing for each of the states.” A state industrial development aspect can carry weight in determining whether to make investments in clean energy projects, he adds. It can be hard to find objective, detailed information about biomass conversion technologies for use by agencies wishing to support them, Sinclair laments. “This NREL report really helped our members confirm that if you’re going to increase efficiency, there really needs to be some public-funded demonstration projects for gasification. The study gave new impetus to focusing on biomass gasification and combined heat and power.”


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¦MARKET NREL’s report is one example of a promising and necessary partnership between the DOE and states investing public dollars in clean energy development, Sinclair stresses. “One of the strong beliefs of our organization is that there is a real need for DOE and the national laboratories to work closely with individual states in advancing clean energy investment and technology,” he says. “There can be a lot more of this activity between the state and federal government going forward.”

Study Updates And while the states move forward in supporting technology development, NREL will continually update the report to reflect the current environment. The lab is reworking its equipment supplier inventory and adding a few manufacturers, Haase says, but beyond that, not much else has changed. The demonstration-phase status of twostage gasification, the finding that may allow the most room for growth and updates, has remained unchanged with the rest.


But while two-stage biomass gasification, categorized by gas conditioning before use in an engine, lingers in its precommercial-scale classification, progress is certainly being made. Gasification system developer and manufacturer Nexterra is partnering with General Electric Co. for two identical, demonstration-scale, two-stage gasification systems, having sold a number of commercial close-coupled systems. The first twostage system, scheduled to commence operation in the first quarter of 2012, has been widely publicized and will be at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The CHP plant, dubbed the Bioenergy Research Demonstration project, will produce 2 MW of power and 10,000 pounds per hour of steam, supplying up to 25 percent of the campus’s heating demand. Prepared for woody biomass feedstock, the project has received millions in provincial funding and will also provide learning opportunities for the university’s students and faculty. The gasification system’s twin will be installed at a landfill in Catawba County, N.C., and will run on wood diverted from the landfill, according to Nexterra CEO Jonathan Rhone. Both systems will be paired with a GE Jenbacher engine, a technology to which the landfill is no stranger. “They were a real pioneering site for GE,” he says, adding that the landfill served as somewhat of a test site when the Jenbacher technology was brought to North America. The systems will be standard module designs and will include a single gasifier, single gas conditioning system and Jenbacher engine. Nexterra’s gas conditioning system is not like others that take approaches such as tar scrubbing or chemical conversion, Rhone says. “Our approach is quite different,” he explains. “We take the syngas after it comes out of the gasifier … and we thermally crack the tars.” That process is given sufficient residence time, he says, converting the tars into more syngas. In addition, the heat used to reach the high temperatures for tar cracking is recovered and recirculated into the process. Downstream of the tar cracking, inorganics are removed through a filter system and the syngas is then fed into the Jenbacher engine.



a step change in overall system efficiency compared with combustion CHP. Second, it doesn’t require steam plant operators, who are expensive and hard to find; and last, it provides a favorable power-to-heat ratio. “There’s a lot more electricity-to-thermal energy produced from the engine system versus a steam CHP system,” he says. While demand grows and Nexterra and other technology providers move forward with development, maybe an upgrade for two-stage gasification to commercial-

JENBACHER GENERATION: The Nexterra Product Development Center employs a GE Janbacher engine.

“We looked at about half a dozen different approaches,” Rhone says. “We didn’t like any of them because they were either too expensive, unproven with a fair amount of technology risk, or they produced another environmental problem such as tarry water that needs to be treated before disposal.”

scale status will be the first major update to Haase’s report. With already apparent progress in convincing state-level renewable energy agencies that financially supporting advancements in gasification technology is necessary, it seems such a sizable and meaningful advancement could be just over the horizon. Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952

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Two-Stage Trade Perhaps the most famous example of two-stage gasification demonstration is in Gussing, Austria, where a wood-fired 2 MW CHP plant with the capacity to cover the entire town’s electricity demand has turned the former poor region into a prospering center of renewable energy. The system also generates 4.5 MW of thermal energy for district heat and has helped the small community of 4,000 completely change its energy supply to renewable sources. Such a shining example is nonexistent thus far in the U.S., but Rhone says demand for and interest in gasification systems is enormous. “We’ve got a huge demand for this type of technology,” he says, citing three main reasons. First, it represents

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India’s biomass gasification sector is growing by leaps and bounds, seemingly at all levels, and it’s raising hope for the establishment of electricity in rural villages. BY LISA GIBSON



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erhaps the most important impact of India’s recent rapid biomass gasification development is socioeconomic, in its capacity to bring power to rural areas that have never had it. In the past few years, the biomass gasification industry in India has ballooned, growing from plants with kilowatt capacity peppered throughout the country, to development of systems between 1 and 10 megawatts (MW) sprouting up regularly, according to Kam Patel, director of equipment provider Global Energy Collaborations. Development has increased on residential, community and industrial scales, but different technologies seem more practical in certain applications than others. Residential development has latched onto biomethanation, where a biochemical is used to generate methane gas, according to Surya Chandak, a senior program officer with the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Environmental Technology Centre in Japan. And the most common form of gasification, which Chandak calls thermal gasification, has taken root in community and industrial installations, he says. In India, biomass feedstocks have been converted to energy for decades, specifically bagasse. Back then, however, it was directly combusted in boilers for steam and power. In the late ’80s, Chandak pioneered a combustion boiler that would burn rice husks on an industrial scale. “I was working in energy and had contact with boiler manufacturers,” he explains. “They all laughed at me, ‘Ha, ha, using rice husks, what nonsense.’” At that time, farmers would pay collectors to take the rice husks and save them from securing disposal, so the plan was viable and innovative for its time, although Chandak jokes that he feels a mixture of pride and shame when thinking about his technology. “The first industrial boiler designed by me was a primitive design,” he laughs.

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Direct combustion seemed to be a no-brainer, especially since bagasse and rice husks are easily burned with little ash. “If you can use a fuel directly as such, why would you want to gasify it?” Chandak says, launching immediately into a multifaceted, yet concise answer. First, converting a boiler to burn solid biomass fuels is extremely difficult and expensive, whereas modifying one to burn syngas is much simpler. Second, boilers are crucial pieces of equipment, and fuel without favorable combustion characteristics can be harmful to them. “To subject your key equipment to such difficult material would mean that you are compromising on the reliability of your equipment,” Chandak says. Instead, shift the material problem away from the boiler. “You don’t expose your boiler to difficult fuels. You expose a gasifier to a difficult fuel.” Last, different types of biomass are available at different times of the year and they all possess varying characteristics. “If you use it directly, you’ve got to adjust your main equipment very often,” he says. “Whereas if you use an intermediary gasifier, then you’ll get normalized fuel for the boiler and all the variations will be taken care of by the gasifier.” So after years of almost-exclusive direct firing of bagasse and

INTERNATIONAL¦ rice husks, India is in the midst of a shift to wider gasification use, Chandak says. “What people realized is yes, you can direct burn biomass, but we will probably have more flexibility in operations if we use gasifiers.” While fluidization in fluidized bed boilers mandates a minimum size requirement, gasifiers can be built in small, multiple units and can be adjusted to suit a wide variety of purposes, Chandak adds. “That is where the use of gasification is increasing.” Nearly 500 million tons of biomass is generated every year in India from bagasse, ag residue and forest sources, according to Global Energy Collaborations. In 2006, India was first in the world in biomass gasification, producing almost 70 MW, according to the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, India. India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources have teamed up with a goal of increasing biomass power generation from 200 MW to an astonishing 19,000 MW, according to Global Energy Collaborations.

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Incentives To reach such lofty goals, the government has meaningful incentives in place to spur development. They have been effective and a major factor in the successful growth of the biomass gasification industry, Patel says. The National Biomass Gasifier Programme provides capital subsidies for thermal and electric biomass gasifier applications, based on the output of the system in kilowatts. The program has been wildly successful, assisting in the development of 1,074 gasifiers all around India, together aggregating 34.36 MW in various applications including mechanical, electrical, thermal and cooking, according to Global Energy Collaborations. “They don’t have anything in mind to stop it for the next three or four years,” Patel adds. Besides the program and others like it, inherent benefits to biomass gasification serve as development drivers, too. Patel says an 80 percent depreciation in the first year can be claimed for certain cogeneration systems and comes in handy if the operator is taking profit from somewhere else. “So where can you go wrong?” he questions. Costs of production also go down with industrial installation of a biomass gasifier, as it allows power production instead of purchase. It also provides a secure supply of power, and in areas where power is scarce, that benefit is good for business, Patel says. Last, the gasifiers can be eligible for carbon credits. The widespread development driven by such benefits has led to an almost equally widespread and diverse feedstock pool. “What I have seen is that alternative uses of biomass are so widely different from country to country and even within a country from region to region,” Chandak says. “What crops are being grown and what the current use of the residues is would determine what resource is viable.” In general, though, he lists rice straw, cotton straw and coconut husks, reiterating that bagasse and rice husks are already used to produce energy almost to their full extent. Pa-

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tel adds bamboo waste to the list and says there is no concern of a feedstock shortage in the midst of the development boom, but prices for those materials have increased. One energy resource Chandak laments as being unexplored in India is municipal solid waste. “To my mind, if we can have a system for sorting of this waste, this would be a very excellent source of energy.” But comingled waste is hard to handle and unfortunately, everything in India is comingled, he says. In the U.S., development of any type of biomass power plant, no matter the feedstock, can be met with intense, albeit sparse, opposition. Patel balks at the question of whether biomass developers in India deal with the same hurdles. “No. No. No,” he assures. “Nothing of that sort has come up.” India is the largest democracy in the world, with the U.S. a close second, he says, but there’s one major difference. “India is just a democracy,” he begins. “U.S. has democracy refined and polished and multiplied by five so everybody has got super democratic feelings. Everyone will oppose everything.”

INTERNATIONAL¦ Applications So a lack of fierce local opposition could be one reason biomass gasification is catching on more quickly in India than in the U.S., making way for substantial development. Clenergen has announced it will install by the end of this year a 4 MW per hour (MW/h) gasifier in Bangladore, Karnataka, India, for hydraulic manufacturer Yuken India Ltd. The company will use about 2.5 MW/h, with the rest sold to the state of Karnataka, according to Clenergen. Global Energy Collaborations cites two projects in the South India state of Hayana with a combined output of 17.55 MW. A 12 MW power plant will be set up in the city of Ambala that will use rice straw, rice husk, wheat straw, bagasse and cotton stalks, and a 5.5 MW plant is being established in Karnal that will generate power using cotton stalks, wheat straw, rice straw and rice husk. Chandak says the food processing industry in India also makes a great candidate for biomass gasification, as residues need to be disposed of. “If that can be converted into energy, you solve two problems at the same time,” he says. In addition, some locations in Northern India have difficulty securing commercial fuels, such as the Punjab region, which is a textile hub. Fuel such as oil or gas is transported from between 1,000 and 2,000 kilometers. “They are dependent very much on the supply of their fuel,” Chandak says. “If these industries can double up on an energy supply system which uses a locally available, renewable, perennial fuel like waste biomass, they would be ... happy.” These are the things that would drive industrial biomass gasification, he adds. But the potential for village-level biomass gasification is easily one of the most exciting aspects of the gasification push. Thus far, many small, remote villages have lived without electricity, but the realization that it’s necessary is setting in as economic development reaches down to rural levels, Chandak says, adding that it’s not feasible to extend the transportation grid to all ar-

eas. “Any alternative means by which they can get power is very welcome,” he says. And the increased development of biomass gasification has brought hope and a viable solution. Right now, small kilowatt capacity systems are being developed at villages in Gahar, and Chandak hopes that in due course, those systems will lead to larger ones for larger distribution areas. “Probably in the future, the sizes will increase,” he says. While the larger systems have a significant impact on the overall national energy demand, the small village systems don’t, Chandak says. But they certainly have a very large impact on socioeconomic development in areas that have been left out of such development. Chandak is convinced it would have a significant ripple effect and cites as an example the fact that children will be able to read at night, thus improving education.

“That impact, in my mind, would be much more important to highlight than just a mere impact on the national energy demand.” Bolstered by government incentives and social benefits, energy from biomass gasification is expected to continue growing in India, providing local resources for commercial and industrial applications that save money, and bringing rural villages out of the dark. “I think gasification offers a very good alternative for enhancing access to energy and simultaneously ensuring you have secured an energy supply from your own resources,” Chandak says. “This need would propel the use of locally adaptable power systems and gasification seems to be a viable route for that.” Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952




How Manomet Got It Backwards: Challenging the ‘Debt-Then-Dividend’ Axiom Wood-to-energy from sustainably managed forests can provide net-zero carbon emission or even positive carbon sequestration if the woody biomass stock is not depleted or grows over time. BY WILLIAM STRAUSS


he so-called Manomet Study1 has generated a great deal of interest and controversy about the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of using woody biomass for energy. In response to some of the controversy, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences released a two-page clarification2 in June 2010 acknowledging the need for a rational reading of the study: “Manomet has also issued

a statement to aid in the interpretation of some of the misleading press coverage that followed the release of the report.” However, the two-page statement continues to advance the assumption that a carbon debt is incurred before there can be a dividend. This is embodied in the statement on page one of the clarification: “While burning wood does emit more GHGs initially than fossil fuels, these emis-

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


sions are removed from the atmosphere as harvested forests regrow.” This short paper challenges the assumption that there is always a carbon debt incurred and then a carbon dividend later (debt-then-dividend) when using woody biomass for energy. The Manomet authors have that assumption so deeply ingrained into their logic that it is presented as axiomatic.


Figure 1: The biomass curve assumes a 30-year growing cycle with dedicated sustainable forests so that no new net CO2 is released by combustion for 30 years after biomass facilities that started in 2011. The coal curve is business as usual. The model assumes a 2.5 percent annual gowth rate in demand.

In complex systems theory, one of the points of study is the concept that “selection is information.” By presenting the debt-then-dividend assumption as an William Strauss, axiom, the Manomet president of FutureMetrics, authors have limited produced this study the scope of their to point out flaws in the Manomet Center view of the world and for Conservation thereby have removed Sciences' woody information from the biomass carbon accounting method. system. Their model allows no conclusion other than those that accrue from their debt-then-dividend framework. The following text begins with some of the already published criticisms of the Manomet study. This brief paper, however, focuses on the self-evident (axiomatic)

presupposition of the study’s authors’ assumptions regarding carbon sequestration and release.

The Fallacy That Underpins the Manomet Argument As some critiques3 have noted, the Manomet Study has a simplistic view of forestry that has been characterized as a “stand versus landscape” argument: “Manomet’s model of greenhouse gas emissions focuses only on stands of trees that are harvested in any given year and ignores stands that are not disturbed by harvesting. As a result, the model creates the false impression that forest carbon stocks are always depleted by harvesting; that biogenic CO2 emissions from biomass energy systems are equivalent to carbon stock depletion due to biomass feedstock removals from harvested stands and that carbon stock depletion is reversed only gradually

over a period of years by regrowth of the harvested stands.”4 Manomet’s reply to that critique5 includes a statement in the early paragraphs (“This initial carbon debt … ”) that embodies this paper’s thesis that Manomet’s authors have subtly postulated that there is only one view of how forests work. The foundation of the Manomet argument is that there is a debt when the CO2 is released from combustion and over a growth cycle, the debt is repaid as the trees grow and gather carbon from the atmosphere. Taken to the logical extreme, the Manomet study’s logic is essentially beginning with a full-grown tree, then they are watching that tree get harvested and used for energy and having its stored carbon released as CO2 (the debt) and then they continue to watch the empty spot where the tree was for 30 to 50 years while a new tree grows in its place. Only after that regrowth is the carbon debt repaid (the dividend). Using this debt-then-dividend model, Figure 1 shows the pattern of net CO2 from combustion6. Figure 1 is similar to those in the Manomet Study. Note that the model compares biomass and coal with the assumption that all capacity could be biomass beginning this year. It also assumes a 30-year growth cycle7. The assumed energy conversion efficiencies for both coal and biomass (both only making electricity) are 30 percent8. In this comparison scenario, the “dividend” from biomass-derived energy is defined as that point when the net CO2 from combustion of biomass becomes less than the net from coal for the same energy demand. In this case, the “dividend” from biomass generation versus business as usual coal generation does not materialize until 2052. The Manomet Study does show that there will be a dividend at some point in the future as long as trees grow to replace those used for energy. The stand versus landscape critique suggests that the Manomet error is to ig-



Figure 2: The biomass curve assumes that the biomass used in 2011 is from sustainable forests that have already sequestered the CO2. The model assumes a 2.5 percent annual growth rate in demand. Improved silviculture increasing yield per acre is assumed to match the growth in demand.

Figure 3: The biomass curve assumes that the biomass used in 2011 is from sustainable forests that have already sequestered the CO2. The coal curve is business as usual. The curves assume a 2.5 percent annual growth rate in demand. Improved silviculture increasing yield per acre and/or dedicated energy crops are assumed to match the growth in demand.


nore the fact that the forest is a system. The Manomet logic would suggest that some stand of trees is picked and every tree is harvested. In actual forest systems, assuming sustainable forestry practices9, the carbon released by combustion from selective harvesting is offset by carbon accumulation from the rest of the system’s continued growth. Describing this in simple terms, if there is a forest system with 1 million tons of biomass on Jan. 1 of a given year and that system has 1.01 million tons of biomass on Dec. 31 of that same year then the forest has increased its carbon stock over the year and it is embodied in the extra 10,000 tons of biomass. If 10,000 tons are harvested from the system on Dec. 31, then the system begins the next year with the stock of biomass and carbon at the same level that it was at the beginning of the previous year. Implicit in the Manomet debt-thendividend logic is that the timeline for the carbon accounting starts the moment the tree is harvested. Suppose we dismiss their axiomatic assumption and we start the carbon accounting at a point in the past. In our 1-million-ton system, if we start our accounting on Jan. 1, we accrue our dividend first before we harvest the benefits. There is never a debt. Let’s call this a “dividend-then-benefit” logic. We do not even have to assume a forest system as long as we have a history of sustainable forestry practices. We can look at just a small group of trees. Those trees have been gathering carbon (some of which is from the combustion of fossil fuels) for the same 30 years that was assumed for Figure 1, the debt-then-dividend chart. We have accrued a dividend. We can then derive a benefit from that dividend by using those trees for energy10. Figure 2 shows this scenario. The model assumes that the carbon accounting for this stand begins 30 years ago. It also assumes that as the demand for power generation increases at the assumed rate of


Figure 4

Figure 5

2.5 percent per year, the sustainable biomass necessary to meet this demand also increases due to improved silviculture11. In this scenario, the accounting starts in 1982. The red line is the zero net carbon level (again, this accounting is not including any other carbon other than that from combustion and it does not consider the carbon in the stumps and other unharvested components of the “stand�). The stand captures carbon for 30 years. The down sloping green line shows the net carbon dividend accruing as carbon is sequestered. In 2011, we compare the net CO2 from the stand being used for energy and for a quantity of coal being used that yields the same amount of energy. The stand gives up its dividend and the coal releases its net new carbon (the grey ball). The stand regrows over the next 30 years (it is larger this time due to improved silviculture) and has enough energy to match the necessary coal needed for the increased demand12. Clearly this scenario has a number of simplifying assumptions that may change the shape and magnitude of the points on the chart. But the underlying conclusion is also clear: if biomass is harvested from existing forests that will be sustainably managed in the future, there is no debt. Looking at the same dividend-thenbenefit story from a system perspective rather than just a single set of trees, the benefits of using sustainably managed forests for energy versus business as usual become even clearer. The assumption is that those trees harvested every year starting in 2011 have completed their dividend gathering in the preceding growth cycle which, in this model, began for the first trees in 1982. Also, we can broaden the scope for increased yield to include not only better forest management practices but also dedicated energy crops.

Sustainable Use of the Accrued Carbon Dividend Of course, this analysis depends upon the assumptions that the stock of biomass (and therefore sequestered carbon) has JULY 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 51


Figure 6

Figure 7

been more or less constant for a growth cycle and that the yield per acre would be expected to improve in the future. This remaining analysis will focus on Maine’s forests and will prove that, for Maine, those assumptions are true. Maine is the focus of this last section because

Maine has detailed and current data, and because FutureMetrics has provided analysis on Maine forest characteristics as they relate to wood to energy for more than five years13. However, we expect that most if not all of the states in the Northeast have systems of forest resources with accrued


carbon stocks that can be applied sustainably to use for energy. The Manomet authors have made it clear that their study’s scope was limited to Massachusetts14. It is possible that Massachusetts cannot support any further growth in the use of wood for energy without depleting the stock of trees (and therefore creating a net loss of sequestered carbon over time). But the shortcomings of Massachusetts in terms of forested land versus potential demand on the forest resource, first, should not be assumed to be generalizable to other states; and second, do not change the Manomet study’s fallacy of not accounting for the already accrued carbon dividend from those working forest systems that do have a history of sustainable management whether they are located in Massachusetts or elsewhere. As is shown in the following text, the characteristics of Maine’s forests clearly support the premise that Maine has an accrued carbon dividend and that the net carbon stock in Maine’s forests can not only remain constant, but can grow larger over time. The total harvest in Maine has been relatively stable for the past 30-plus years as Figure 4 shows. The fluctuations in total tonnage between 15 million and 17 million tons per year have also resulted in fluctuations in the number of acres harvested each year in Maine (see Figure 5). Of the 17.7 million acres of forestland in Maine, between 400,000 and 500,000 acres per year were actively engaged in the harvesting of sawlogs, pulpwood, biomass and firewood between 1991 and 2009. That is between 2.5 percent and 2.8 percent of the total forested land in Maine. The total forested land in Massachusetts is 3.2 million acres,15 which obviously can support a far lower annual sustainable rate of harvest. The fact that Massachusetts has a much smaller forest resource and that the forest products industry is relatively insignificant compared to Maine (and other Northeastern states)16


Figure 8

Figure 9

may be a contributing factor to the Manomet study’s misunderstanding of forest growth cycle dynamics. The trend in how many acres are harvested in Maine in Figure 5 tells several stories.

Figure 6 shows that clearcuts have steadily declined from more than nearly 133,000 acres in 1989 (44 percent of the total harvest) to less than 15,000 acres in 2009 (3.8 percent of the total harvest) as better and more sustainable forest man-

agement methods are embraced by landowners. Figure 6 also shows the increased uses of “shelterwood” harvests and the decline of clearcuts. These improvements in silvicultural practices are gradually increasing the health of the forests and the yield per acre. Another reason for the change in yields per acre is that the components of the total harvest have changed. In recent years, the demand for pulpwood and therefore the harvest of pulpwood has declined. Concurrently, the demand for biomass chips has increased as wood-to-energy demand has increased. Biomass chips can be created from some parts of the trees that do not otherwise have commercial value. More of what was once considered waste is now being brought out of the woods. This has effectively increased the yield per acre18. Figures 7 and 8 show these trends. The “dividends” of the investment in improved silviculture in Maine in previous decades, and of a broadening support of the working forests by the growth of the biomass-to-energy sector are contributing to an improvement in forest productivity. The shift away from the unsustainable practices of the past century left more trees per acre in the forest systems and required more acres per year to be harvested to yield the same output in tons. This “investment” (and the decline of clearcutting) caused the yield per acre to decline from 1989 to a low point in 2002. As Figure 9 shows, the dividends from that investment along with the increased harvest of biomass chips have made Maine’s forests more productive. These conclusions complement those of the Maine Forest Service which wrote: An analysis of highly reliable existing information on Maine’s forest resources indicates that, with improvements in forest utilization and silviculture, Maine’s forests are capable of producing substantially more wood than they do currently, while at the same time retaining the number of



or combined heat and power for industry would be our recommended uses. See memo_071708.pdf for a report on the sustainable supply of biomass and the expected improved yields from improved silviculture in Maine.


The assumption that the net forest biomass per acre increases is not necessary for this logic. This exercise is based on data that shows that yields in the northern forests could be significantly improved (as they are already in European managed forests). If yields do not improve, then the grey balls would be at the same level and the net carbon dividend over each growth cycle would be the same.


Dr. William Strauss was asked to and did serve as the chief economist on the Maine Governor’s Wood-to-Energy Task Force in 2008.


That caveat is often overlooked by the media, by opponents of the use of wood for energy, by policymakers in states other than Massachusetts, and even by several of the Manomet study authors in some presentations that have been observed by the author of this paper.


CARBON CONCLUSION: If biomass is harvested from existing forests that will be sustainably managed in the future, there is no carbon debt.

den trees (Den trees are large, standing trees that are used by animals for nesting, roosting, cover, food supply and other critical functions.), snags, large dead logs, and limbs and tops needed to maintain or improve site fertility, wildlife populations and biodiversity19.

Conclusion The Manomet study has an embedded axiomatic assumption regarding carbon accounting. The foundation of the study is a debt-then-dividend flow for carbon accounting. This paper has shown that this so-called axiom is a flawed basis for a proper understanding of the carbon benefits that wood energy can provide. In fact, Manomet gets it backwards. There is no debt if the forest system has been in growth-to-harvest equilibrium or has a growth-to-harvest ratio greater than one and the forest is managed sustainably so that the net stock of biomass does not deplete. This is true in aggregate for Maine and it is true in other locations. Wood energy from sustainably managed forests, as this paper has shown and as all of Europe has codified in its carbon accounting rules, can provide net zero carbon emission or even positive carbon sequestration20 if the woody biomass stock is

not depleted or grows over time.



3 4

Ibid. 5

Note that we ignore the life-cycle carbon accumulation. For both fossil fuels and woody biomass fuels, the values should be considered. But this analysis is strictly about combustion. 6

7 The actual growth time to maturity will vary and is typically longer than 30 years but for this exercise the time assumption only affects the proportion of the total forest stock that can be sustainably harvested each year. This exercise does not try to quantify the level of sustainable harvest; but there is some level of sustainable harvest that will allow a significant proportion of fossil fuel use to be displaced. See, for example, http://www.biomassthermal. org/resource/2025vision.asp 8 As noted in a footnote later in this paper, straight electricity generation from biomass may not be the best use of this limited sustainable resource. 9 In the simplest of terms (ignoring all the other ecological sustainability criteria) here we mean that the net stock of the forest systems resource is never depleted. That is, the growth to harvest ratio is equal to or greater than one.

As with any limited sustainable resource, the method of use matters. Using the fuel in high efficiency and clean systems is our axiomatic assumption. That would mean a very high proportion of the energy would be used for thermal needs either for heating or for thermal process needs that are currently provided by fossil fuels. Home heating with pellets, heating larger buildings with chips,



Forested acreage from “Forest Resource Fact Sheets,” USDA, 2011.


Forestry alone accounts for 1.48 percent of gross state product in Maine compared to 0.24 percent in Massachusetts (US Census, table 571, gross domestic product by industry and state). Forest-based manufacturing provided a high proportion of gross state product. It provided 31 percent of the manufacturing gross state product in Maine in 2005 (“The Economic Importance and Wood Flows from Maine Forest, 2007” by the North East State Foresters Association).


Partial Harvest: Harvest where trees are removed individually or in small (<5 acre) patches.


Shelterwood: Harvest of mature trees from a forest site in two or more stages. The first stage removes a portion of the trees to allow establishment of regeneration before the remaining trees are removed in subsequent harvest. Clearcut: Harvest on a site larger than 5 acres that results in residual basal areas of acceptable growing stock trees >4.5 inches diameter at breast height of less than 30 square feet per acre. Land Use Change: Harvest conducted to convert forestland to another use such as house lots, farm pasture, etc. Maine Forest Service guidelines and sustainability certifications such as the Sustainable Forest Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council require that parts of the harvest be left on the forest floor to maintain balanced forest ecology. Most of the larger industrial parcels (87 percent in 2005 as reported by the Maine Forest Service) are SFI or FCS (or both) certified.


From “Maine Forest Service Assessment of Sustainable Biomass Availability,” July, 2008.


This is based on the combustion of the fuel only. A complete life-cycle analysis will, as long as fossil fuel is used in harvesting and transportation, always have some positive carbon emission components.


Author: William Strauss President, FutureMetrics William

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