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Pumping Advanced Biofuels, Cellulosic Biofuels and Biomass-Based Diesels Into the Nation’s Fuel Market


JULY 2010



FEATURES ..................... 30 OUTLOOK Advocating Advanced Biofuels The field of advanced biofuels covers an array of technologies, feedstocks and fuels. According to Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, to be successful a fuel must possess five characteristics—scalability, fungibility, energy density, affordability and environmental sustainability. By Anna Austin

36 USE Jetting on Biofuels Rentech Inc. and Clearfuels Technology Inc. have teamed to produce drop-in synthetic fuels from wood waste, sugarcane bagasse and other virgin biomass. By Lisa Gibson

42 RESEARCH Double Down Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Minnesota have discovered a way to convert 100 percent of the carbon from biomass into carbon monoxide, doubling the amount of biofuels that can be produced from an acre of biomass. By Lisa Gibson RESEARCH | PAGE 42

DEPARTMENTS ..................... 04 Editor’s Note Government Sending Mixed Messages By Rona Johnson

05 Advertiser Index

CONTRIBUTIONS ..................... 48 MARKET University Sees Biomass as Future for Energy Generation The University of Missouri continues to develop its biomass power base by replacing an existing boiler with a 100 percent biomass-fired boiler that will produce 150,000 pounds of steam per hour. By Greg Ehm

06 Industry Events 07 BPA Update We Can Prevent Forest Fires with a Biomass Strategy By Bob Cleaves

09 EERC Update One Size Doesn’t Fit All—Designing the Right Biomass System for You By Tera Buckley

11 BTEC Update Proposed EPA Emissions Rules Threaten to Send Biomass Heating Industry Up in Smoke By Scott Nichols

13 Legal Perspectives Financing Biomass Plants Using the BCAP By Gregory J. Lynch and Craig Johnson

14 Business Briefs 16 Biobytes 18 Industry News 52 Marketplace



NOTE Government Sending Mixed Messages


he good news is the U.S. DOE and USDA continues to be supportive of renewable energy and have announced a couple of new funding opportunities. The DOE and USDA jointly announced on May 6 up to $33 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products. According to the release, these projects are subject to annual appropriations, and applications are due July 13. On May 28, the U.S. DOE announced up to $11 million in funding, spread out over three years, for research and development in the area of thermochemical conversion of biomass into advanced biofuels that are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure. The funding is designed to improve the conversion of nonfood biomass to liquid transportation hydrocarbon fuels through pyrolysis. The DOE expects to fund three or four projects and requires a minimum cost share of 20 percent from the applicants. The applications for these funds are due July 9. On June 2, the DOE announced $5 million in funding for research on the sustainable production of large quantities of nonfood biomass for bioenergy. The closing date for that funding opportunity is July 16. To find out more about these biomass funding opportunities, go to biomass. The bad news is while the DOE is concentrating its efforts on supporting renewable energy, the EPA is trying to regulate it out of existence. Its latest proposed Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology ruling would change the standards for biomass boiler units and those previously considered multifuel boilers would be classified as incinerators and be subject to new emissions limits for mercury, hydrogen chloride, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and dioxin. A 45-day comment period on the new ruling opened June 7 and the Biomass Power Association held a press conference on June 8 to discuss how the ruling would affect biomass power. Bob Cleaves, BPA president and CEO, said he’s been inundated with concerns from the biomass industry. According to one e-mail Cleaves shared during the call, a “mass exodus” from biomass to natural gas would occur if the rule passes. “This rule is unfortunate and inconsistent with the administration’s stated goal of supporting biomass,” Cleaves said at the press conference, adding that the BPA is willing to work with the EPA to develop health-based, rational and achievable standards. The EPA also recently released it's final Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Tailoring Rule, which doesn't exempt biomass power producers from GHG permitting requirements. This ruling treats biomass the same as fossil fuels, despite the fact that it is carbon neutral (see "EPA tailoring rule worries biomass industry" on page 28). It’s obvious to me, that the EPA should be included in discussions about renewable energy funding with the DOE and USDA. If not, we could have a situation where the federal government is funding technology that can’t even be operated under EPA rules.

Rona Johnson Editor


advertiser INDEX

EDITORIAL EDITOR Rona Johnson ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin Lisa Gibson COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann 10th Pellets Industry Forum



2010 Industrial GHG Conference & Expo


ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund

2010 Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

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2010 Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo


GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Elizabeth Burslie Sam Melquist

2011 International BIOMASS Conference & Expo



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industry events Biomass ’10: Renewable Power, Fuels, and Chemicals Workshop

Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

July 20-21, 2010

Westin Copley Place Boston, Massachusetts With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast—from Maryland to Maine—the Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will include more than 60 speakers, including technical presentations on topics ranging from wood pellet manufacturing and biomass densification to combined heat and power and large-scale biomass combustion. Tracks will include electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. (701) 746-8385

Alerus Center Grand Forks, North Dakota In its eighth year, this workshop offers a cutting-edge two-day technical program and exhibit with national experts who focus on biomass production and biomass conversion to power, transportation fuels and chemicals. The workshop will be geared toward industry, research entities, government, community and economic development corporations, financial institutions and landowners. Topics will include trends and opportunities in utilizing biomass, renewable policies and incentives, renewable fuels, financing biomass-related projects, biorefinery chemicals and products, biomass for heat and electricity, biomass feedstocks and algae. (701) 777-5000

August 4-6, 2010

2010 Farm to Fuel Summit

Southeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo

August 11-13, 2010

November 2-4, 2010

Rosen Shingle Creek Orlando, Florida This fifth annual summit will be an opportunity for industry leaders and stakeholders to learn, network and strategize to advance the development of renewable energy in Florida. Florida’s Farm to Fuel Initiative was developed to promote the production and distribution of renewable energy from Florida-grown crops, agricultural wastes and other biomass. More than 500 attendees from academia, industry and government participated in last year’s summit. (850) 488-0646

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 & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will include more than 60 speakers within four tracks: electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

Industrial GHG Solutions Conference & Expo

Pacific West BIOMASS Conference & Expo

Nov. 16-18, 2010

Jan. 10-12, 2011

David L. Lawrence Convention Center Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania The Industrial GHG Solutions Conference & Expo is an educational forum and networking opportunity for environmental compliance professionals, emissions mitigation practitioners, technology providers and corporate executives engaged in industrial greenhouse gas management—including GHG measurement, reporting and mitigation—at the facility or corporate level. The event will feature four tracks, 18 panels and nearly 60 speakers. Presentations will focus on GHG measurement, mitigation and offset strategies. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

Sheraton Seattle Hotel Seattle, Washington With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, the Pacific West BIOMASS Conference & Expo is one of three distinct regional offshoots of Biomass Magazine’s International BIOMASS Conference & Expo. The program will focus on the vast potential for biomass utilization in the Pacific West, featuring more than 60 speakers within four tracks: electricity generation; industrial heat and power; biorefining; and biomass project development and finance. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

International BIOMASS Conference & Expo

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

May 2-5, 2011

June 27-30, 2011

America’s Center St. Louis. Missouri The International BIOMASS Conference & Expo is the biomass industry’s largest, fastest-growing event. In 2010, BIOMASS was attended by 1,700 industry professionals from 49 states and 25 nations representing nearly every geographical region and sector of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. With six tracks, 38 panels, 120 speakers, 400 exhibitors and an anticipated 2,500 attendees in 2011, BIOMASS will continue to be the industry’s leading educational, networking and business development forum. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana Entering its 27th year, the FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world. The FEW is renowned for its superb programming which remains focused on commercial-scale ethanol production—both grain and cellulosic—operational efficiencies, plant management, energy use, and near-term research and development. With five tracks, 32 panels, 100 speakers, 400 exhibitors and an anticipated 2,500 attendees in 2011, the FEW remains the ethanol industry’s leading production-oriented educational, networking and business development forum. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385




We Can Prevent Forest Fires With a Biomass Strategy After a long, cold winter, the summer is finally here. For most Americans, this is the season of cookouts, bonfires and fireworks. But these warm months also bring a different, dangerous kind of blaze: forest fires. Seemingly every year, forest fires burn through millions of acres across the country, devastating communities and causing billions of dollars in damage. The sad truth is that regular forest maintenance could greatly impede the speed and ferocity with which these fires spread; reducing costs to fight them and protecting homes and lives in harm’s way. The climate legislation currently being considered by Congress should take into account that in addition to being a valuable renewable energy source, the biomass industry helps to reduce the spread of forest fires by clearing highly flammable debris from the forest floor. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, in 2009 alone there were nearly 80,000 wildfires burning through almost 6 million acres across the United States. Forest fires are often fueled by excess small trees and brush that choke forests and create fire ladders that direct fires into the crowns of the largest trees. These varying tree densities and the dead, dry brush left behind act as kindling to allow crown fires to move across the landscape in a highly destructive manner. The biomass power industry is uniquely positioned to improve forest health and reduce the threat of forest fires, while at the same time provide clean, renewable electricity to Americans in every region of the country. Without proper forest maintenance—including managed thinning and prescribed burns—forest waste is left to build up over time and stoke the flames of future fires. The biomass power industry is prepared to work directly with the U.S. Forest Service and other industry partners, as well as environmental groups, to ensure that forest material is carefully removed and converted to produce green electrical power. Some environmental groups fear that the biomass industry will clear-cut forests for fuel. This fear can be put to rest. It is not the practice of the biomass power industry to clear-cut forests and it is simply not economically viable to chop down whole trees to generate electricity. Biomass power uses only waste material such as scrap lumber, forest debris, or agricultural harvest waste to generate clean electricity, material that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left as fodder for forest fires. Currently,

the biomass power industry removes more than 68.8 million tons of forest waste annually. The biomass power industry effectively encourages regular forest management by creating a market for the excess small trees, slash and brush that are choking many of our forests. Removing this incentive to clear brush by discouraging Bob Cleaves biomass power would result in overgrown, president and unmanaged forests that pose an increased CEO, BPA risk for forest fires. Furthermore, generating electricity from biomass actually reduces greenhouse gases. As dead brush decomposes it releases harmful methane gas and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. During the electricity-generating process, biomass power eliminates methane gas and reduces the carbon dioxide that would have been emitted otherwise. Accounting for displaced fossil fuels, the biomass power industry removes more than 30 million tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere annually. The climate legislation introduced by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., with its focus on stimulating the renewable energy industry, presents an opportunity for the biomass industry to gain the recognition it deserves as a viable and mature renewable energy source. Not only will more aggressive renewable energy mandates reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but these mandates will also spur new investment in biomass power and encourage the maintenance necessary to clear the waste debris responsible for fueling the massive forest fires witnessed around the country in recent years. Reducing the intensity and extent of forest fires by improving forest health will also lower costs for containment and keep firefighters and communities out of harm’s way. Sens. Kerry and Lieberman are leading a new national agenda to build a clean energy economy. With the goals of reducing forest fires, creating jobs, and improving the environment, biomass power stands to lead the way in the renewable energy sector. BIO Bob Cleaves is president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association. To learn more about biomass power, please visit 7|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7


January J uar 10-12, 12, 2011 2 Sheraton rato Seattle Ho Hotell Sea ngt n Seattle, Washington


UPDATE One Size Doesn’t Fit All—Designing the Right Biomass System for You Renewable energy advocates are praising the 30 states and the District of Columbia for adopting regulatory policies requiring the increased production of renewable energy and the five states that set voluntary goals. It’s a good thing right? After all, those states will be limiting fossil-based carbon emissions and will create green energy jobs to counter the effects of the recent recession. But some of these renewable portfolio standards aim to achieve 25 percent renewable energy in just a decade or so, with much of that energy coming from biomass. Relying on biomass, without a good basis for that reliance, may violate some of the basic principles of supply and demand. No biomass is uniformly available across the U.S. or even within individual counties. The fact is one size doesn’t fit all, and there is no single ideal biomass source. While some sources may have ideal combustion and cofiring properties, such as wood, other sources such as corn and soybeans are optimal feedstocks for fuel production. The Energy & Environmental Research Center is advancing a suite of technologies that can be tailored to the resources available and the needs of each client. The best biomass resource for a particular energy production scenario will depend on multiple factors that need to be assessed on a caseby-case basis: Availability and cost of biomass depends on supply and demand. Many biomass sources are already used in other applications and may not be accessible or economical to use as an energy source. For example, agricultural residues are generally difficult to collect and are composted in the field to maintain soil quality. Physical and chemical properties of the biomass will vary depending on the species, geography, climate and harvest time. This variability is of particular concern when the impact is considered on the slagging, fouling and particulate emissions associated with utilizing the biomass as an energy source.

Energy content/heating value can range from 14,000 Btu per pound, found in scrap railroad ties with nearly no moisture, to 2,600 Btu per pound, typical of leaves and grass clippings with up to 60 percent water. Transportation costs will likely be the determinant of ac- Tera Buckley marketing research ceptable moisture and energy specialist, EERC content for given biomass applications. Transportation logistics also need to be considered for each scenario. Land ownership impacts biomass availability and future growth potential. About one-half of the total acreage in the U.S. has some potential for growing biomass. Nearly 60 percent of the land in the U.S. is privately owned, and the federal government owns 28 percent. Plant logistics such as size; feed ratio with coal (for cofiring scenarios); resource processing requirements (drying, shredding, pulverizing, separating); storage options; and availability of process utilities for conditioning as-received resources also need to be considered. The right mix takes a multitude of factors into consideration—not because the government mandates it, not because environmental groups support it, but because it makes sense for the particular situation. The EERC has conducted numerous resource and technology assessments that utilize biomass, and in every case, it has been imperative to verify the information on a local level and test the specific biomass source to be used. Each application requires a thorough technoeconomic assessment and analysis of available feedstocks prior to being selected for energy generation or product development. In this way, biomass can be made to fit. BIO Tera Buckley is a marketing research specialist at the EERC. Reach her at or (701) 777-5269.


August 4 - 6, 2010 Westin Copley Place Boston, Massachusetts

The Northeast BIOMASS Conference & Expo program will include more than 60 speakers, including 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: TR TRACK 1: El Electricity Generation TR TRACK 2: Ind Industrial Process Heat and Power TR T R TRACK 3: B Bi Biorefining T TR R TRACK 4: Bi Biomass Project Development and Finance

Register Today 866-746-8385


UPDATE emissions are less toxic than other fossil fuel sources; however in the proposed rule, only PM weight is considered, not composition. Consequently, the surrogate tests—CO for HAP and PM for heavy metals—may not accurately reflect the differences between biomass boiler and fossil fuel boiler emissions. Installing exhaust testing ports and in- Scott Nichols director, BTEC strumentation along with advanced emissions control technology such as filter bag houses or electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) and other equipment can add immensely to installations costs— approximately $100,000 for even the smallest sized boilers. Testing and control technology can easily cost more than the boiler itself. Annual testing alone is reported to cost $5,000 to $20,000 per boiler. For boilers under 3 MMBtu the required additional emissions controls and testing make new biomass boilers unaffordable. Schools, churches and small businesses will be disproportionately affected by these regulations, which could turn a costeffective, locally available, job-producing heat source into an economic nonstarter. Many of these applications may utilize more than one boiler, which could easily lead to a doubling, tripling or quadrupling of costs. There is a human component too. In smallscale installations finding trained personnel to manage the filter bag houses, ESPs and test reporting will be difficult. EPA’s favored fuel, natural gas, is not available in many rural communities, where biomass has played a cost-effective heating role. In the Northeast, a region heavily dependent on fuel oil for heating, biomass has materially reduced that dependence, but now biomass heating could be bound and shackled by the proposed rule. As one reads this article the initial 45-day comment period is complete. The EPA administrator is under court order to complete the final rule by Dec. 16. It will then be three years before compliance is mandatory. Seemingly, this is reasonable time to achieve compliance until one considers that the rule is retroactive to the day it is published in the federal register, scheduled for June 4. Potential biomass boiler customers are now putting purchasing decisions on hold while the EPA reaches a final decision. This is a major blow to an industry that is already challenged by a struggling economy. Coordinating our industry’s response, BTEC aims to ensure that the final air quality regulation integrates clean air goals with encouragement for cost-effective, renewable biomass heat for customers throughout the U.S. BIO


Last month in this column, Biomass Thermal Energy Council Chairman Charlie Niebling outlined the recent progress to raise the profile of biomass heating at the national level. However, on April 29, the industry was confronted with a major challenge. Because of action brought by the Sierra Club and other petitioners, the U.S. EPA proposed new emissions regulations. The proposed regulations would impact existing and new commercial, industrial and institutional boilers burning coal, oil and biomass. BTEC sympathizes with the need to decrease emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) and believes the best way to achieve this is through the application of practical performance testing and maintenance regimes that achieve significant emissions reductions without burdening boiler owners, especially small-scale ones, with onerous compliance costs. The proposed rule differentiates between small boilers under 10 million Btu (MMBtu) and large boilers over 10 MMBtu. Existing large biomass boilers will not be tested for particulate matter (PM) emissions, but will be required to demonstrate carbon monoxide (CO) emissions of fewer than 160 parts per million (PPM) at 7 percent oxygen (O2). These facilities must also undergo a certified energy conservation assessment. Rightly, EPA believes that by reducing the heating load with conservation measures emissions will also be reduced. Existing small biomass boilers will not require testing due to technological limitations and relatively high costs for testing. However, a record of certified tune up must be submitted to the EPA every two years. This is a tough regimen, but it is doubtful that owners of these older, dirtier boilers will consider upgrading to more modern technology given the proposed requirements for new boilers. Under the proposed rule, new biomass boilers must meet strict emissions limits for CO and PM, which are 100 PPM CO at 7 percent O2 and PM limits of 0.03 pounds per MMBtu. Initial compliance must be demonstrated by a stack test and retested annually. After demonstrating initial compliance, a monthly fuel record must also be maintained. If the fuel type is changed a new compliance test must be performed. For biomass boilers, initial compliance cannot be obtained without the performance of a facility energy assessment. These emissions levels are, at a minimum, two times more stringent than what is required to meet strict German and Austrian Eco-Label requirements. New oil boilers will also be challenged to meet similar strict criteria at 1 PPM CO at 7 percent O2 and PM limits of 0.03 pounds per MMBtu. Advanced boiler designs control fuel combustion time, temperature and turbulence to achieve complete burn-out of the fuel which results in low HAP, such as tars and creosotes. The remaining ash PM from highly efficient wood combustion is mostly inorganic salts (calcium, magnesium) not heavy metals (mercury, cadmium) as are found in coal or heavy oil. As a result, wood particulate

Biomass Thermal Energy Council

Proposed EPA Emissions Rules Threaten to Send Biomass Heating Industry Up in Smoke

Scott Nichols is BTEC director and president of BioHeatUSA. To learn more about the BTEC, go to






July 20–21, 2010 Alerus Center Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA

It’s All Here

iomass is no longer a long-range option for U.S. energy needs—it is a significant player. It has many near-term uses now, as seen in the alternative fuels and chemicals industry, and holds hope as the largest global sustainable and renewable energy resource. The Biomass ’10 Workshop will deliver an all-inclusive look at the most pressing topics circling around the biomass industry today. Join industry leaders this summer in the heart of biomass country for exceptional networking and educational opportunities! It’s all here!

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Exhibit and Sponsorship Opportunities Available




Financing Biomass Plants Using the BCAP


s developers know, financing biomass to electricity plants in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s environment is challenging. Fortunately, the USDA will soon be reviving a significant funding source for biomass feedstocks. In June 2009, USDA issued a Notice of Funding Availability under its Biomass Crop Assistance Program for matching payments for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of eligible wood, plants and other renewable materials for sales to qualified bioconversion facilities that convert biomaterials into heat, power, biobased products or advanced biofuels. The intent was to promote the use of renewable biomass products for the production of electricity and biofuels. However, like many laws, this one had unintended consequences. The matching payments resulted in a significant increase in the price of raw timber and undermined an industry that has used sawdust and wood shavings to make cabinetry. As a result in February, USDA terminated the 2009 NOFA and issued proposed new rules for the BCAP program. Final rules are expected this summer, and the following summarizes the current proposals and discusses their implications for the biomass industry. Matching Payments: Payments are available for the delivery of eligible material to a qualified biomass conversion facility to either the producer of the material, or the person with the right to collect or harvest the material. Eligible materials generally include renewable plant materials such plants and trees and waste

materials, including wood wastes and wood residues, that would not otherwise be used for higher value products (to avoid sawdust and wood shavings). A qualified biomass conversion facility is one that converts or proposes to convert renewable biomass into heat, power, biobased products, advanced biodiesel or advanced biofuels and undergoes a qualification process with the Commodity Credit Corp. USDA offered three different payment formulas in its proposal, including $1 for each $1 paid by the facility per dry ton of eligible material: up to $45 per dry ton, but matching payments for wood or wood wastes converted into heat or power for on-site use would only be made if those materials exceeded the facilityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s historical use; up to $45 per dry ton for materials converted into advanced biofuels, with a lower cap for all other conversions; and paid in a way that rewards delivery to new facilities, newly converted public facilities, and facilities that are increasing their use of biomass. It will be interesting to see which one of these three options the USDA selects in its final rule. Establishment and Annual Payments: BCAP also offers payments to producers in a designated project area to help cover the cost of establishing a biomass crop, as well as to incentivize long-term commitments to the crop. A project area is established by a group of producers or a biomass conversion facility in conjunction with the CCC. A project area must demonstrate a sufficient facility, and quantity and quality of producers.

Gregory J. Lynch attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich

Craig Johnson attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich

Establishment payments can be up to 75 percent of costs such as seed and stock, planting and site preparation. Annual payments are made to producers who contract with CCC to establish or produce eligible crops, with contract terms up to five years for nonwoody perennial crops and up to 15 years for woody perennial crops. An annual payment is reduced to the extent that the producer also receives a matching payment. Eligible crops for establishment and annual payments include crops ineligible for matching payments such as algae and animal, food and yard waste. The new BCAP is expected to be a significant financing source for biomass plant developers. We believe that the new rules, when issued, will address the unintended consequences of the initial NOFA and serve their intended policy objectives of promoting the use of renewable biomass for electricity and biofuels. BIO Gregory J. Lynch is managing partner of the Madison, Wis., office of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. He is also the co-chair of the Renewable Energy Group and co-founder of the Venture Best venture practice. Reach him at gjlynch@, Energ or (608) 283-2240. Craig Johnson is a member of the Renewable Energy, Business and Health Care Practice Groups in the Madison office at Michael Best & Friedrich. Reach him at or (608) 257-3064.



BRIEFS LobeStar Pump is now LobePro LobeStar Pumps, manufacturer of the LobeStar Rotary Lobe Pump, has announced it will now be LobePro. LobeStar engineers pumping solutions for difficult applications such as pumping sludge, slurries, corrosives and waste. The quick growth and acceptance of the company’s products in the global marketplace resulted in challenges in trademarking the LobeStar name throughout the world. LobePro notes that nothing but the name has changed. LobePro still has the same engineering and service team and the same Rotary Lobe Pumps. More info can be found at the new website BIO

Clenergen names Kumar nonexecutive director, Nelson board adviser Clenergen Corp. has announced the appointment of MB Sanil Kumar as nonexecutive director and Bonnie Nelson as board adviser. Kumar is the managing partner of Kumar Biju Associates, a firm of accountants based in India and the Middle East. He has more than 20 years experience in the accounting and management consultant professions and works with an extensive portfolio of corporate and multinational clients as well as the government and public sectors. Nelson is a prior owner and CEO of the Wall Street brokerage firm, Vanderbilt Securities Inc., where she was responsible for taking companies public, over-the-counter trading, mergers and acquisitions, and the development of joint ventures and strategic alliances for her clients. With a career spanning more than 20 years of investment and merchant banking, Nelson has extensive experience in consulting and corporate finance for public and private companies. BIO

Morbark launches Sawdust Quick Switch conversion kit Morbark Inc. now offers a second quick-switch conversion kit, allowing grinder owners to further diversify their product offerings by simply modifying the hammermill of their Morbark horizontal grinder. The original conversion kit, introduced in 2009, gave Morbark grinder owners the ability to make highquality standard-size chips. The new Sawdust Quick Switch conversion kit also allows grinder owners to supply the largevolume sawdust market. This gives Morbark grinder owners the capability to produce mulch, high-quality chips or sawdust with one machine. The conversion kit is available on Morbark horizontal grinder models 3800, 4600, 4600XL and 6600 from any model year, wheeled or track versions. For more information, go to BIO


Sapphire hires senior director, downstream technology Sapphire Energy announced veteran oil executive Dan Sajkowski has joined the company as senior director, downstream technology. After more than 24 years with BP (Amoco), Sajkowski brings his wealth of experience in the oil and refining industry to the burgeonSajkowski ing field of algae-based fuel. Sajkowski served as the business unit leader of BP’s Whiting Refinery, the fourthlargest refinery in the country, for the past five years. In addition to operational and financial accountability for the site, he was a primary driver behind the largest capital project in the history of Indiana and the most complex project BP has ever undertaken: the $3.8 billion modernization of the Whiting Refinery. BIO

River Consulting ranks high in a down economy River Consulting was ranked as one of the Top 500 Design Firms in the country by Engineering News-Record for the third consecutive year. Published annually, the ENR Top 500 recognizes topperforming architectural and engineering firms. River Consulting took the 431st spot in ENR’s April 21 issue. The ranking is based upon 2009 revenue, and is a rise from last year’s spot at 440. River Consulting is a mid-major A/E to energy, food, process and industrial clients, providing engineering and project management services to companies around the globe and combines the capability of a full-service firm with the responsiveness and flexibility of a specialty engineering practice. BIO

New England Wood Pellet, Sandri announce strategic partnership, sale of Propell Energy New England Wood Pellet LLC and The Sandri Cos. announced a formal strategic partnership between the two companies, as well as the acquisition by Sandri of NEWP’s commercial pellet boiler business, Propell Energy, which is central to the partnership. Propell Energy was founded in 2008 to market commercial- and industrial-scale pellet boilers for heating schools, office buildings, apartment complexes and other large buildings. Propell also provides economical bulk pellet delivery to large commercial accounts. Sandri will fold Propell Energy into its emerging renewable energy division. Sandri’s renewable energy group will be led by Jake Goodyear, president of Propell Energy. The partnership also involves a multiyear exclusive supply agreement in which Sandri will buy and resell bulk pellet fuels exclusively from NEWP for resale to residential and commercial customers. The two companies also partnered to secure a $3.2 million dollar grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to install numerous commercial pellet boilers in western Massachusetts and increase the use of residential high-efficiency pellet boilers. BIO


BRIEFS John Deere introduces 900 KH-Series Tracked Harvesters The new John Deere 900 KH-Series Tracked Harvesters offer extra power and productivity to take on the toughest trees, with dual power options at 300 horsepower (hp) or the industry-first 330 hp. The 900s feature a larger displacement Tier 3 PowerTech Plus 9.0 liter engine that delivers the power needed to move, swing and harvest faster due to dual swing motors for high torque and a power management system that makes sure no power is wasted. According to the company, the KH-Series boasts the lowest daily fuel cost in the industry, a 295-gallon fuel tank, a fully integrated measuring system that has been factory installed and fully documented for optimized performance and quick, consistent troubleshooting, a protected undercarriage with double flange rollers for maximum durability, and a best-in-class leveling system to keep the upper frame level, even when the tracks are climbing or tilting on tough slopes. BIO

Martin Engineering introduces custom-engineered transfer chutes Martin Engineering has introduced custom-engineered transfer chutes to help deliver material control from the time it leaves the conveyor discharge pulley until it reaches the receiving belt. By managing the material speed and direction, Martin Inertial Flow Transfer Chutes can minimize impact and wear on liners and belts, while containing the dust and spillage that are often generated at transfer points. The engineered flow chutes employ special geometries that capture and concentrate the material stream as it travels through the chute. Every design is tailored to suit the specific material characteristics and conveyor systems of the individual customer, rather than using stock products and attempting to make them work. BIO

Qteros appoints Hager as vice president, corporate communications and government affairs Qteros Inc. announced the appointment of Susan Hager as vice president of corporate communications and government affairs. In this role, Hager will report directly to John McCarthy, president and CEO. Jef Sharp, senior vice president of corporate communications and government affairs, director and a member of the Qteros Hager founding group, will continue to serve the company as a member of Qteros’ board of directors. Hager’s career spans more than 16 years, and has focused on developing results-driven communications campaigns for a broad portfolio of unique life science companies within both the private and public sectors. BIO

Ze-gen hires Robertson as vice president of technology Ze-gen Inc. has announced the addition of David Robertson as vice president of technology. He joins Ze-gen after a 30-year career with BP plc. Robertson will be leading the technology development, project deployment and operations activities at Ze-gen as Robertson it advances commercialization of its gasification process. His most recent role was technology vice president, conversion in the refining and marketing company in BP. He was responsible for developing a portfolio of technologies to create synthesis gas from a range of primary fuels and creating a range of clean fuels and fuel-related products from syngas. BIO

Enerkem announces new board director Enerkem Inc. has announced the expansion of its board of directors. Timothy J. Cesarek, managing director in the Organic Growth Group of Waste Management Inc., has joined the company as a director. As announced in February, Waste Management became a strategic investor in Enerkem during the company’s last financing round. Cesarek’s contribution as a director will enhance Enerkem’s expertise in the waste sector. Currently, Cesarek is responsible for originating and commercializing innovative technologies that are consistent with Waste Management’s core business. Prior to joining Waste Management, Cesarek was the president of Koch Genesis where he led the corporate venture arm, identifying and commercializing technologies external to the research and development effort of Koch Industries. BIO

Siemens to deliver steam turbine for UK’s largest biomass project Siemens has been awarded a major contract to design, manufacture and install a state-of-the-art SST 800 steam turbine for the largest biomass-fired combined-heat-and-power plant ever to be developed in the U.K. The new plant, utilizing Siemens technology enables Tullis Russell, the Fife-based paper manufacturer to meet its energy needs efficiently and in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. Siemens received the order from Aker Solutions, a global provider of engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) and commissioning services to the natural resources and energy markets. Aker Solutions is engaged as the EPC contractor to RWE npower renewables on this pioneering project. When fully operational, Siemens’ turbine will be fired with 400,000 metric tons of harvested wood and waste and have an installed capacity of 50 megawatts. BIO

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BIObytes Biomass News Briefs

Mirel bioplastics grades cleared for food contact use

ArborGen permitted to grow genetically engineered eucalyptus The USDA has approved two ArborGen permit applications for planting and growing genetically engineered eucalyptus trees, following the completion of an environmental assessment that concluded the field releases are unlikely to pose plant pest risks or impact environmental quality. The decision will allow ArborGen to continue its research on the genetically engineered traits in eucalyptus, including cold tolerance, and authorizes the confined planting of the

eucalyptus trees on 29 sites with 28 of the sites allowing trees to flower. Earlier this year, ArborGen announced an agreement with cellulosic ethanol company Range Fuels to evaluate the usefulness of woody biomass as a source of cellulose for biofuels and to help Range Fuels understand the issues surrounding the planting, management, harvesting, storage and transportation of purpose-grown trees as a biofuels feedstock.

GPI launches Energy Choice Simulator Researchers at the Great Plains Institute and the University of Minnesota created an online tool to study the impacts of policy options on the Midwestern economy. Users of the Energy Choice Simulator can “test drive” energy policies and study their effects on the region’s energy production, state government budgets and greenhouse gas emissions, according to GPI. 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7|2010

The ECS can model policy options such as incentives for renewable energy and carbon capture, low-carbon fuel standards, cap and trade, and moratoriums on polluting technologies. The online user interface is free and available to the public for constructing scenarios, changing data assumptions or performing new experiments. Learn more at

Mirel F1005 and F1006, members of the Mirel bioplastic family by bioscience company Metabolix Inc. and agri-giant Archer Daniels Midland Co., are now cleared for use in nonalcoholic food contact applications by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to Metabolix. Mirel is now suitable for a wide range of injection-molded food service and packaging applications including caps, closures and disposable

items such as forks, spoons, knives, tubs, trays and hot cup lids. The clearance also includes products such as house wares, cosmetics and medical packaging. Mirel bioplastics have the physical properties of petroleum-based resins, but are biobased and biodegradable in natural soil and water environments, in home composting systems and in industrial composting facilities.

SSE to build Scotland’s largest biogas plant Scottish and Southern Energy will soon begin construction on what it believes will be the largest biogas plant in Scotland, a facility that will be located at a former landfill site at Barkip, North Ayrshire. The plant will be capable of annually processing about 75,000 metric tons of waste to generate approximately 2.5

megawatts of electricity. SSE’s project partner, William Tracey Ltd., has signed a 25-year contract with the company to supply feedstock to the plant. SSE expects the project, which was awarded a £2.2 million ($2.9 million) grant from Zero Waste Scotland’s Organics Capital Grants Program, to be operational by 2011.

Westervelt to generate biomass power in Alabama The Westervelt Co., a land resource organization, will supply Alabama Power with 7 megawatts of power from biomass through a long-term contract approved in May by the Alabama Service Commission. Westervelt will generate power from wood byproducts from its Sustainable Forestry Initiative Chain of Custody Certified lumber production facility in Moundville, Ala., along with other sources, according to Westervelt. An incremental amount of 60,000 tons of feed-

stock is anticipated, according to Robby Johnson, Westervelt marketing manager. Westervelt purchased a used steam turbine that is being reconditioned for the facility. Vendors have been selected and contracts are being finished, Johnson said, and commercial operation is expected to begin 14 months after engineering work begins. Enough biomass power will be generated to supply 3,000 residential customers.

ND to establish biomass testing lab The North Dakota Renewable Energy Council and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Mandan, N.D., have granted $450,000 to North Dakota State University to establish a dedicated biomass testing laboratory, the first of its kind in the state. The lab will be designed specifically to test the dimensional, thermal and physical properties of biomass and

will be centrally located at the USDA-ARS site in Mandan, according to NDSU Biofuels Economist Cole Gustafson. One particular goal of the project is to develop a database of biomass characteristics obtained from samples coming to the lab from across the state. Development of the facility is expected to take two years before it becomes fully operational.

U of Vermont to offer biomass-to-biofuels course During July, the University of Vermont will be offering a four-week four-credit biomass-to-biofuels course that will involve hands-on experience in liquid/solid biofuels and biogas, cover environmental, economic, social and other biofuel/biomass-related issues. Topics to be covered include wood biomass-to-energy, grass energy, oilseed-based biodiesel, biogas from waste biomass, algae biofuels, integrated sustainability assessments of biofuels, economics

of biofuels, and material and energy flows in combined food-energy systems for designing appropriate agricultural technologies. The university recommends the course to degree and nondegree seeking students, farmers, budding entrepreneurs, teachers (interested in developing curriculum, or projects at school or college levels) and others. For more information, visit igs/biomass_to_biofuels.

WBIA launches biomass news campaign The Wisconsin Bio Industry Allianceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bio Power Initiative launched a statewide media campaign to promote the positive benefits of biopower in Wisconsin. It includes editorial board visits, radio advertisements, media releases and other educational materials. A 60-second radio ad titled â&#x20AC;&#x153;Communityâ&#x20AC;? discusses the creation of family sustaining jobs from the proposed biomass cogeneration facility in Rothschild, as well as the po-

tential improvement in air quality from the project. The group is holding a series of editorial board visits around the state, talking with reporters about how the industry can positively impact their region, and is working to create a coalition of business leaders and organizations that support clean energy. The initiative has also released a series of fact sheets that help to clearly define and explain biopower and its role in Wisconsin.



NEWS U.S. states import billions of dollars in coal Three dozen states are collectively spending billions of dollars annually on imported coal, hundreds of times more than what they spend on renewable energy development and research, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists report released May 18. “Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal” ranks the 38 states that are net importers of domestic and foreign coal based on federal data from 2008. “Almost all states burn coal for electricity, but only a few mine for it,” said Barbara Freese, report co-author and UCS senior climate and energy policy advocate, during a May 18 press conference to discuss the report. The subject of the report is the money spent on that coal, Freese said. “We maintain that ratepayers in the states would be better served if this money was [kept] at home and used [for] readily-available clean energy technology,” said Marchant Wentworth, UCS assistant climate and energy legislative director. About 63 percent of U.S. coal consumption comes from Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky. Foreign coal, which totaled about $1.8 billion for a 16-state supply in 2008 and accounts for an astounding 83 percent of coal consumption in Massachusetts, comes mainly from Colombia, according to the report. “One of the most surprising findings of the report is the amount of coal we import from foreign sources,” said Jeff Deyette, report co-author and UCS assistant director of energy research and analysis. Although foreign imports tripled between 1999 and 2008, the U.S. still exports more coal than it imports. The first-of-its kind report uses six categories to rank state dependence on coal imports: total spending on net imported coal; spending on net imported coal per state resident; spending on international coal imports; amount of net coal imports by weight; spending relative to the size of the state economy; and reliance on net imports relative to total power use. A list of top 10 states was developed for each category. Georgia spent the most on net coal imports in 2008 at $2.6 billion, followed by North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana and Missouri, all spending more than $1 billion. The UCS has dubbed the group the “Billion Dollar Club,” joined by South Carolina, according to the report. Georgia is the only state that appears on every list. Twenty-four net-importing states ranked in one or more of the six categories, but states in the Midwest and Southeast dominate, according to the report. Of the 29 states that have adopted a renewable energy standard (RES), North Carolina is the only one in the Southeast, according to Deyette, a disappointing statistic when taking into account the abundant forest resources in the region. In addition, several wood pellet plants in the Southeast as well as on the East Coast are exporting their products to Europe instead of selling them domestically. The U.S. has a reservoir of untapped renewable energy potential, 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7|2010

A Union of Concerned Scientists report revealed that dozens of states are spending billions on imported coal.

Deyette said, citing the Southeast. Some states, such as Iowa and Massachusetts, have ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs, one of the lowest-cost means of decreasing coal imports, he added. “Many states that are the most dependent on imports are lagging in these policies,” he said. But it’s not all bad news. Centerview, Mo.-based Show Me Energy Cooperative, the first non-profit, farmer-owned cooperative in the U.S., produces several tons of pellets per hour and sells them domestically at half the cost of propane, said Steve Flick, president of the board of directors. “We’re the real deal.” The cooperative manufactures its pellets using switchgrass, blue stem and other crops grown by farmers in a 100-mile radius, along with damaged wood. The feedstock is in ample supply and keeps up with the energy value of coal, Flick said. Facilities such as Show Me Energy’s, along with federal policies such as an RES, will help wean the nation off coal. An RES needs to be “stronger than business as usual” to be effective, Wentworth emphasized, in excess of 20 to 22 percent by 2020. “We already know this approach works because 29 states already have enforceable standards in place,” he said. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS With the help of a state program and Indeck Ladysmith LLC, schools in Wisconsin may have the opportunity to reduce fuel costs by switching to woody biomass. Through a state-funded program, Focus on Energy’s Fuels for Schools and Communities, Wisconsin schools have been able to obtain free prefeasibility assessments to determine whether replacing their old boilers and furnaces with wood pellet boilers would be economical. Mike Curci, Indeck Ladysmith Biofuel Center superintendent, said he initially meets with school officials to determine what kind fuel the school uses—oil, natural gas or propane— what its requirements are and whether wood pellets are a better option. “Once the prefeasibility assessment determines it’s worth the switch to biomass, Focus on Energy will do a full feasibility study and depending on a positive outcome, we look into longterm fuel contracts with the school to help offset the initial capital cost,” he said. Indeck Energy Services Inc., which offers biofuels production and electrical generation facilities, operates a 90,000 ton per year wood pellet facility in Ladysmith, Wis., that would supply the schools. A typical-sized kindergarten through fifth grade northern Wisconsin school would require about 250,000 to 300,000 tons of wood pellets annually, Curci said, at an [industry] average cost of $140 per ton, prior to delivery fee. Indeck Energy is also looking into working with schools in northern Minnesota. So far, the results of feasibility studies have been promising, as Indeck Energy has found about 10 schools that would be able to install the new boilers and eventually see cost-savings associated with the conversion. Curci said whether a school is a good candidate mainly depends on its current fuel contract. “Since natural gas prices are low right now it might not be as good [to switch from] a natural-gas fired boiler, but as natural gas prices increase over the next couple of years, that will change,” he said. “If a school is using propane or No. 2 fuel oil, it’s always a positive switch.” A Focus on Energy-funded study conducted in 2008 by the Biomass Energy Resource Center found that as many as 25 percent of Wisconsin schools could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by switching from natural gas to wood or other biomass. According to the study, Wisconsin schools spend nearly $200 million a year on energy.


Indeck Energy helps schools cut costs with biomass

Indeck Energy has a pellet facility in Ladysmith, Wis., which would supply schools that want to switch to biomass boilers.

Today, many schools have experienced declining income or funding, however, and may not be able to afford the initial capital costs of changing out their heating system. To help alleviate that financial burden, Focus on Energy will provide up to $250,000 to a school to go toward implementing a biomass system. These funds will allow Indeck Energy to lease boilers to schools that are strapped for cash along with a long-term fuel contract. After a period of years the school would own the system. Indeck Energy’s branch Indeck Keystone Energy Inc. designs and manufactures industrial boilers at Erie, Pa., but Curci said the company is also looking at several other commercial and industrial systems on the market to help schools select the best fit. —Anna Austin



NEWS BCAP matching payments reach $224 million The USDA has released reports revealing what types of eligible materials have been contracted through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program as of May 18, as well as the number of contracts for each material and the total collection, harvest, storage and transportation (CHST) matching payment value. CHST funds allow matching payments to eligible biomass material owners in the amount of $1 per $1 paid per ton by a qualified biomass conversion facility—a facility that will use the material to produce power, heat, biobased products, advanced biofuels or any combination—to the producer, up to $45 per dry ton for a time limit of two years after the first payment is made. On Feb. 8, the USDA stopped accepting CHST applications and issuing payments until the final BCAP rule is in place, which is speculated to come out this fall. On a national level, the USDA estimates that 5,423 contracts have been granted to date, totaling more than $224 million in matching payments. Bark contracted from nonfederal woody resources led the matching payment categories with 1,426 contracts valued at about $42.2 million in payments, followed by fuel wood (755 contracts at $31.4 million) nonfederal hardwood chips (818 contracts at $31.4 million), and forest harvest slash (389 contracts at $27.9 million).


Agriculture resources such as corncobs, grain, nut hulls and sugarcane bagasse have been granted 37 contracts totaling about $246,000. Energy grasses and legumes totaled 99 contracts at $200,000 in matching payments, and waste materials such as nonedible fats and oils, nonedible plant processing waste and scraps, orchard wood waste, pellets, roadway maintenance cuttings, sawdust and shavings have been granted 711 contracts totaling about $34.8 million in CHST payments. On a statewide basis, Alabama has the most contracts at 585, which are worth $22.7 million in CHST payments; Maine’s payment value is the highest at $33.7 million from 423 contracts. Nineteen states were not listed as having any contracts, though data for states with less than four facilities or less than four contracts were not reported for confidentiality reasons. Though not definitive, the USDA has estimated BCAP spending to total about $2.6 billion, including $2.1 billion for matching payments over the next four years. —Anna Austin


NEWS Novozymes partners for cellulosic ethanol research Energy crop company Ceres Inc. and enzyme provider Novozymes will collaborate on research to co-develop customized plant varieties and enzyme cocktails to improve cellulosic ethanol production. The joint optimization project will lead to more effective enzymes and higher quality energy crops for greater fuel yields and lower capital and operating costs, according to Novozymes. Research will begin with determination of the best enzyme cocktails to biorefine Ceres’ commercial switchgrass seed product, along with similar evaluations of sweet sorghum. Ceres’ researchers will also develop customized plant varieties that can be degraded more easily by Novozymes’ enzymes, in addition to crops that minimize the components in biomass shown to decrease conversion rates and yields. “The composition of biomass varies greatly, even within a crop like switchgrass and sorghum,” said Gary Koppenjan, Ceres corporate communications manager. “Within this variability, we are looking for the optimal combination of biomass characteristics (the lock) and the enzyme cocktail (the key). The first step is to understand what locks and keys are available, and then which ones offer the best results.” Like feedstock characteristics, the process technology is also an important factor, according to Cynthia Bryant, marketing manager

for Novozymes. The two elements can significantly change the specific enzyme complex needed to optimize biomass to fermentable sugar conversion. “This is why Novozymes has expanded our research from focusing on enzyme development to also researching process technology in the areas of pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation in order to optimize the feedstock, process and enzyme interrelationship,” she said. Other contributors such as the producer’s business model can also play a role in the optimal enzyme and crop combination. “The challenge with cellulosic ethanol production is that unlike the cornto-ethanol process, which basically has a standard process technology and business model, cellulosic ethanol will rely on a multitude of feedstocks, process technologies and business models,” Bryant said. “If two producers use the same feedstock but have different process technologies and business models, the optimal enzyme complex could be different.” One way to address the needs of many unique combinations could be to develop enzyme complexes that are best suited for each combination, she said, adding that Novozymes has the capability to do that today and applies it in many of its industries. —Lisa Gibson



NEWS California bioenergy stymied without bill passage A bill (AB 222) that would expedite the introduction of new conversion technologies to produce advanced biofuels and/or green power from organic waste materials in California has recently gained support from three powerful state regulatory agencies. Without endorsement from two Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, however, AB 222 will not reach the Senate floor and will die at the end of the year, allowing many barriers to bioenergy growth to remain in place. AB 222 passed the California Assembly with flying colors on June 1, 2009, by a vote of 54-13, after it was approved by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 11-0 in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. In July, it was approved in the Senate Utilities, Energy and Communications Committee, and since is awaiting action in the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality which elected not to act on the bill. Overall, AB 222 corrects scientifically inaccurate definitions and antiquated provisions in the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, and thus enables and expedites the in-state production of advanced, nonfood-derived biofuels and green power from biomass through new nonincineration technologies such as gasification, fermentation and pyrolysis. Despite receiving support from more than 80 major statewide associations, state and federal agencies, electric utilities, waste management firms and renewable energy industry groups, the SCEQ has not taken action on it. AB 222’s newly gained support is evidenced in a letter sent to SCEQ Chair Joe Simitian, signed by the Vice Chair of the


California Energy Commission (and chair of the governor’s Interagency BioEnergy Task Force) Jim Boyd; Director of CalRecycle (formerly known as the Integrated Waste Management Board) Margo Reid Brown; and Chairperson of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols. Urging support for AB 222, the letter said the bill would assist California in meeting state renewable energy and low-carbon fuel goals. Particularly, it will enable electricity produced from biogenic waste streams—the stream left over after waste is sorted for recycling—to qualify as renewable energy under the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which is set for 20 percent by the end of 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. Implementation of California’s ambitious Low Carbon Fuel Standard was approved in January and requires the reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in California by an average of 10 percent by the year 2020. Reid, Brown and Nichol’s letter states that new conversion technologies would assist in developing local fuel sources as part of the LCFS and as it is implemented additional sources for producing low-carbon fuel will be needed to meet the increasing demand. AB 222 would also remove current statutory restrictions that require thermal conversion projects to have zero emissions, a standard required of no other energy generation technology or manufacturing process in the state, and it effectively precludes any municipal solid waste conversion technologies from qualifying for the state’s RPS, according to the letter. Jim Stewart, AB 222 advocate and chairman of the Bio-


NEWS energy Producers Association, said the letter is a powerful endorsement as the three agencies rarely combine to publicly support legislation. He said traditional recycling methods won’t be effective enough to control mounting waste, especially with the rapidly growing population. “In 1989, California passed a mandate for 50 percent recycling, and in that year we landfilled 40 million tons of waste,” he said. “In 2008, we were supposedly at 58 percent recycling in California, but yet we still landfilled 40 million tons of waste. That means that after 20 years of effort— from increased population and per capita disposal—we have not reduced the amount of material we are putting in landfills. Over the next 20 years, we expect to put another 800 million tons of material [post-recycling], into California landfills if we don’t provide new tools and new methods to dispose of the materials. That’s what this [AB 222] is about—we can’t achieve zero waste without having new technologies.” The way legislation is currently written, if a municipality provides waste (residuals left over post-recycling) to a bioenergy producer who converts it to biofuels or electricity, it counts as disposal—just as it would if that same material was sent to a landfill. “For example, if you take green waste or biosolids and you send it to a landfill for use as a daily cover, you get credit as waste diversion, not as waste disposal,” Stewart said. “If we take the same material and make biofuels from it, it counts as waste disposal as though we put it into a landfill. If landfill biogas is combusted to make electricity, credit is granted under the RPS, but if you take the same waste and convert it to fuel or electric-

ity using a new technology it doesn’t qualify as renewable energy even though it’s made from exactly the same feedstock that’s put into the landfills. AB 222 would correct some of these illogical rules.” Stewart also noted that AB 222 would correct a scientifically inaccurate definition of gasification, which is fundamental to all new thermal technologies. “California has a definition which requires zero emissions from the entire production process,” he said. “That means not only zero from the disposal and destruction of waste, but zero from the biorefining aspect as well. There are no oil refineries or electrical generation plants in the state that could have been built if they required zero air emissions; it’s not even minimal or meeting the highest standards, but zero. When the statute was passed back in 1989, these new technologies hadn’t even begun development.” Stewart recommended that the public write the California Committee on Environmental Quality and demand that AB 222 be passed. “We need to grasp and realize the immense importance of this issue,” he said. To learn more about AB 222, visit —Anna Austin



NEWS Researchers discover cellulose conversion benefits of ionic liquid Dissolving cellulosic biomass in nonvolatile and recyclable solvent ionic liquids results in more sugars needed for biofuel production than using traditional acid catalyst extraction, as discovered by two Colorado State University researchers. Not only that, but the reaction is carried out more quickly. Eugene Chen, professor of chemistry, and Xianghong Qian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, discovered that ionic liquids—salts that melt at low temperatures—mixed with a suitable amount of water convert biomass directly to sugars. They made the discovery unexpectedly while examining the effects of ionic liquids as solvents when used together with acid catalysts, according to Chen. “We discovered that [ionic liquid]-water mixtures are actually trifunctional, serving as solvent (IL), reagent (water), and catalyst (intrinsic, suitable acidity of the IL-water mixture),” he said. The acidity of ionic liquid-water mixtures Chen and Qian discovered was previously unrecognized but is now found suitable for conversion of biomass into sugars without common side reactions or additional catalysts. The process also eliminates environmental concerns over acids, creates a homogenous reaction, and has high conversion yields, along with the benefits of using a recyclable material. “ILs are currently expensive, so they must be recovered, recycled and reused,” Chen said. “We have demonstrated the recyclability of ILs

in the conversion process albeit in a small, laboratory scale.” After conversion to sugars, the next step is to use a metal catalyst to convert the sugars to 5-hydroxylmethyl furfural Chen Xianghong Qian (HMF), which leads to Eugene professor of assistant professor biofuel with considerably chemistry, Colorado of mechanical engineering, Colorado higher energy density than State University State University current ethanol-based biofuel, Chen said. But the ionic liquid solvents can also convert the biomass directly to HMF in the presence of the metal catalyst, he added. A paper on the work was published in the American Chemical Society journal Energy & Fuels. The next goal in the research is to investigate and increase the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass, such as untreated corn stover and pine wood, into sugars and HMF, Chen said. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS Chromatin optimizes sorghum

Chromatin Inc. will use its expanding technology portfolio to optimize fit-for-purpose sorghum for use in biofuels, biopower and renewable chemicals. Through compositional screen analysis, marker assisted breeding and gene stacking technologies, the company will deploy proprietary feedstocks near term and ultimately optimize sorghum for specific bioprocessors’ needs, according to the company. “We really think it’s the ideal energy crop,” said Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss. “We looked at everything and did a lot of analysis. Sorghum became the clear winner by a landslide.” The globally cultivated crop can generate starch, cellulose and sucrose, distinguishing it from all others. “It gets us an opportunity to touch a lot of end users,” she said. According to Preuss, the three most important elements when optimizing a crop include aiming for the right quality, making good use of the land, water and other resources, and matching the qualities of the crop to the user. Chromatin has taken the time to understand the needs of farmers and bioprocessors who would use the optimized strains and has developed solutions for them, she said. The company expects to have some seed products ready by the next growing season, but can employ some of its technologies immediately. “We think we can make an immediate difference,” she

said, adding that there is a lot of interest among growers and producers. Chromatin, launched in 2001, began by developing its core technology platforms in crop improvement and now focuses solely on the optimization of sorghum for its recently-launched renewable energy endeavors. “I think that there’s enormous opportunity in this area,” Preuss said. “We’re excited about optimizing these products and putting them in the hands of the farmers and bioprocessors.” The company’s Mini-Chromosome Platform genestacking technology was one of its first, but has since been joined by a number of others. “Mini Chromosomes is one of those gamechanging breakthroughs,” Preuss said. “But since that time, we’ve built an entire portfolio of technologies to optimize sorghum.” The company also recently acquired the assets of hybrid sorghum developer, marketer and distributer Sorghum Partners Inc., along with Milo Genetics LP. The transaction provides Chromatin with access to SPI’s well-established network of sorghum growers and distributors, as well as Milo Genetics’ commercially viable sorghum germplasm. —Lisa Gibson

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NEWS FirstEnergy encounters opposition to biomass plans Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy has plans to convert its 312-megawatt coal-fired R.E. Burger power plant along the Ohio River to biomass, but two state organizations have concerns with sustainability and the source of that biomass. The Ohio Environmental Council and Consumers’ Counsel have asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to reject FirstEnergy’s request for classification of its project as a renewable energy facility on the grounds that it has not provided enough information to warrant the qualification. That would mean First Energy could not count the energy generated from biomass there toward its state mandate of 12.5 percent renewable electricity from utilities by 2025, according to Will Reisinger, staff attorney with the Ohio Environmental Council. “We think that FirstEnergy has not explained enough about their project to identify why it qualifies as a renewable energy project,” Reisinger said. The PUCO has agreed with the agencies’ argument twice, indefinitely suspending the company’s application, he added. The two agencies are now requesting dismissal of the application altogether. “We want some basic information about the source of the biomass material,” Reisinger said. “The whole state could be deforested to produce energy for this one project.” The biomass plant would be one of the largest in the country, requiring about 1 million tons of biomass each year, according to Mark Durbin, FirstEnergy spokesman. FirstEnergy has yet to determine the type and source of feedstock that would be


used at the $200 million retrofitted facility, but it could consist of woody biomass or agricultural biomass. “We’re actually in the process of looking through the requests for proposals for fuel,” Durbin said. “We would work with fuel suppliers.” He added that the company does not agree with the arguments against it and has provided all the information required for the application. “We have done everything we need to do,” he said, adding that he would not speculate as to the impact on the company or project if the PUCO rejects its application. FirstEnergy is required by the U.S. EPA to convert the facility to biomass feedstock if it wants to continue generating electricity there, Reisinger said, adding that the concerns lie in the application and renewable energy qualification, not in the retrofit itself. The sole project would meet the state mandate for the company, while providing extra renewable energy credits to sell to other utilities, Reisinger said, adding that biomass is only one of a few options for renewable energy. “If this generates as much as they think it will, FirstEnergy can use that to comply with the renewable energy standard.” No deadline exists for the PUCO to reach a decision on the application. “Ultimately, the PUCO will decide,” Durbin said. —Lisa Gibson


NEWS ZeaChem breaks ground on demo plant ZeaChem Inc. broke ground in early June on its 250,000 gallonper-year cellulosic ethanol and ethyl acetate demonstration plant in Boardman, Ore., and is still on track with previously mapped-out commercialization plans despite tough economic conditions that have hampered or halted other biofuels projects across the country. According to ZeaChem President Jim Imbler, the hard times are actually good for some developers. “It weeds out the weak,” he said. Imbler added that strong support from local, state and federal government as well as investors and project partners have largely influenced the company’s ability to maintain its momentum. The first stage of the project will implement the company’s core process––fermentation-to-ethyl-acetate, a salable chemical intermediate and precursor to cellulosic ethanol––which will be built and tested at Hazen Research facility in Golden, Colo. The following stage, supported by a $25 million grant from the U.S. DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Biomass Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will produce cellulosic ethanol. “The interesting thing about ethyl acetate is that it takes about half the equipment that ethanol takes to make, but sells for twice the amount,” Imbler said. He said the company’s “stage” strategy is similar to building with Lego blocks. “We build one block at a time, optimize it, and then add another,” he said. “It’s very traditional in the way that chemical plants are built; the majority of the time they are add-ons.” Imbler said ZeaChem chose Boardman as the project’s location because of the company’s contract with GreenWood Resources, a

Portland-based timberland investment manager, to obtain sustainable hybrid poplars from nearby farms held by GreenWood Tree Farm Fund LP. Wheat straw and other energy crops/waste streams will also be utilized at the plant, to produce about 135 gallons of ethanol per bone dry ton. “We view our platform as more of a biorefinery,” said Imbler, who has an extensive background in oil refining. “We have a process that allows us to take molecules off at different steps, which we can do based on market pricing. Our C2 platform, which we are focusing on right now, produces three products—acetic acid, ethyl acetate and ethanol—and we will be producing each of them at this plant for commercial testing.” The Oregon Employment Department calculated that the construction and operation of the demonstration biorefinery will create 292 direct and indirect jobs in Oregon, 167 of which will be located in Morrow County, where Boardman is located. ZeaChem hopes to have a license agreement signed by the end of this year to build its first commercial plant, and has begun work on its C3 platform to produce lactic and propionic acids. Overall, Imbler said the company has simply stuck to its plan. “[Sticking to the plan] is what makes or breaks new companies,” he said. “The world is your oyster, but you have to decide what you’re going to do without being too flashy and just execute.” —Anna Austin



NEWS EPA tailoring rule worries biomass industry The biomass power industry was unpleasantly surprised with the release of the U.S. EPA’s final Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, which does not exempt biomass power producers from greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements despite past EPA affirmations that biomass is carbon neutral, and requires the same GHG reporting obligations as fossil fuel consumers. Because the EPA did not explicitly raise the issue of biogenic carbon in its proposed tailoring rule, the agency determined that it could not make a decision regarding the treatment of biogenic carbon in the final rule. This is despite receiving a number of comments requesting that the agency exempt emissions from biogenic activities or biomass combustion or oxidation activities, including solid waste landfills, wasteto-energy projects, fermentation processes, combustion of renewable fuels, ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative energy production that use biomass feedstocks. At the same time some commenters opposed the exemption of biogenic/biomass activities, the EPA said, claiming a lack of a valid scientific basis for treating these GHG emissions differently than other GHG emissions and that it should not be assumed that all biomass combustion is carbon neutral. While the EPA said it did not address the issue of exemptions for biomass combustion or biogenic emissions, the agency said it is mindful of the role that biomass or biogenic fuels and feedstocks could play


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in reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions. The decision, the EPA added, is not final and does not foreclose its ability to provide this type of exclusion at a later time when it has additional information about overwhelming permitting burdens due to biomass sources, or to provide another type of exclusion or other treatment based on some other rationale. “Although we do not take a final position here, we believe that some commenters’ observations about a different treatment of biomass combustion warrant further exploration as a possible rationale,” the EPA said. “…we plan to seek further comment on how we might address emissions of biogenic carbon dioxide under the PSD and title V programs through a future action, such as a separate Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued some brief statements on the EPA’s decision, assuring that as the [GHG permitting] process moves forward, the USDA will work with the EPA to ensure that rules designed to reduce the buildup of GHGs in the atmosphere also encourage the development and utilization of biomass energy resources and avoid unnecessary regulatory impediments and permitting requirements. Despite the EPA expressing intentions to revisit the issue, those relevant to the biomass power industry remain disappointed. American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO Donna Harman

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NEWS said the rule treats biomass fuels identically to fossil fuels, in effect undermining the administration’s support for renewable energy policy in this country. “The forest products industry is proud of its voluntary reductions in GHGs and our increasing reliance on domestically grown, renewable and carbon neutral biomass to power our mills—all of which are important for a sustainable future,” she said. David P. Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, pointed out that the U.S. has increased the amount of trees by nearly 50 percent over the past 50 years. “… our nation stores more carbon in its forests than it releases from them,” he said. “That is why energy from forest biomass does not increase carbon in the atmosphere.” Tenny also said that regulating biomass energy the same as fossil fuels would be a significant shift in federal policy and a powerful disincentive to use biomass to address U.S. renewable energy and climate needs. “The economic impacts on forest owners, mills using biomass energy and rural jobs would be significant, and the resulting devaluation of private forests could increasingly force this land into more economically competitive alternative uses with far fewer GHG mitigation benefits,” he said. Biomass Power Association President Bob Cleaves emphasized that biomass power emissions add no new carbon to the atmosphere, and that they should not be regulated by the EPA. “Biomass power gen-

erates electricity from waste wood and debris on the forest floor already naturally emitting carbon and methane gas,” he said. “The biomass electricity generating process only emits biogenic carbon—carbon that already exists in the atmospheric cycle. In many cases, biomass power actually reduces greenhouse gases by eliminating the harmful methane gas that would otherwise be emitted during decomposition.” Cleaves added that emissions from fossil fuels are fundamentally different and significantly more harmful than emissions from biomass power, and that equating biomass emissions with fossil fuel emissions ignores the fact that carbon from fossil fuels has been buried for thousands of years deep in the earth, and burning those fossil fuels to generate electricity introduces massive amounts of new carbon into the atmosphere. “BPA is encouraged, however, by the EPA’s recognition of the important role that biomass power plays in reducing greenhouse gases,” he said. “Acknowledging that biomass emissions are not the same as fossil fuel emissions is a significant step towards forming policies that expand the use of clean, renewable biomass power and improve the environment.” —Anna Austin

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As the chief lobbyist for the Advanced Biofuels Association, Michael McAdams advocates for many different technologies, pathways and products, which are all seeking federal support to help get a foot in the door of the fuel market. By Anna Austin




ith their extreme versatility and often complicated nature, it isn’t easy for most people to wrap their brain around advanced biofuels, and the definitions in the renewable fuels standard 2 (RFS2) aren’t much help. When Congress released RFS2, which was signed into law in December 2007 as part of the Energy, Independence & Security Act of 2007, biofuel volume requirements were separated into three categories: advanced biofuels, cellulosic biofuels and biomass-based diesel. An advanced biofuel is defined as a renewable fuel—other than ethanol derived from corn starch— that is derived from renewable biomass and achieves a 50 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. A cellulosic biofuel is defined as a renewable fuel derived from any cellulose, hemicellulose or lignin that is derived from renewable biomass achieving a 60 percent GHG emission reduction. The potentially perplexing factor is that some cellulosic biofuels won’t meet the 60 percent GHG threshold but will meet the 50 percent threshold, and will therefore count as an advanced biofuel. In addition, though biomass-based diesels are advanced biofuels, the advanced biofuel quantity is reserved for biofuels outside of the cellulosic biofuel and biomass-based diesel subsets, such as sugarcane ethanol. Michael McAdMichael McAdams ams, president of the president, Avanced Biofuels Biofuels Association Advanced Association, says he views them all as advanced biofuels despite the language in the RFS. In observing them, he suggests, three filters should be used: technology, feedstock, and final product or molecule.

Pathways and End Products Generally, there are three technological pathways to advanced biofuels: oleo-


‘The market will choose the winners and losers. We believe in that, rather than letting public policy choose. The market allocates resources better, and the market will make those determinations better than if something is prescribed in statute.’ —Michael McAdams, president, Avanced Biofuels Association

chemical (using natural oils derived from plants and animal fats), biochemical (facilitates chemistry between living organisms using sugars/starches, enzymes or dedicated microorganisms) or thermochemical (cellulosic biomass conversion to syngas as an intermediate step) processes. Using cellulosic biomass, the modern pathways are acid or enzyme hydrolysis, gasification and pyrolysis, and depending on which additional step is taken, can produce a number of biofuels. Acid or enzyme hydrolysis, through additional saccharification and fermentation steps, can produce ethanol, butanol or hydrocarbons. Gasification routes result in a versatile synthesis gas, which through additional syngas fermentation or FisherTropsch steps can result in cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, green gasoline or jet fuel. Pyrolysis, which is the extreme heating of biomass in the absence of oxygen, will result in bio-oil, which can be further processed into biogasoline or renewable diesel. Pyrolysis can also densify biomass into biochar, a soil carbon sequesterer or fuel source. Sugar and starch feedstocks are fermented to produce hydrocarbons, ethanol or butanol; biodiesel and renewable diesel can be made using natural oils and transesterification or isomerization/hydrotreating processes, and the overall possibilities don’t end there (see page 33).

OUTLOOK Pathways to Renewable Fuels


McAdams says the Advanced Biofuels Association represents companies from all ends of the advanced biofuels spectrum—from UOP LLC, A Honeywell company, (green diesel/ jet fuel) to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (sugarcane ethanol) to Solazyme Inc. (algae-based diesel) to Neste Oil Corp. (renewable diesel). Advocating technology neutrality, McAdams recognizes that out of the myriad of current and up-andcoming companies, only a minority will find a stable role in the fuel market. “The market will choose the winners and losers,” he says. “We believe in that, rather than letting public policy choose. The market allocates resources better, and the market will make those determinations better than if something is prescribed in statute.” So what would make an advanced biofuel more apt to be embraced by the market? Production barriers aside, McAdams says there are five characteristics a perfect advanced biofuel should possess: scalability, fungibility, energy density, affordability and environmental sustainability/friendliness.

Favorable Characteristics A fuel produced in small quantities in a laboratory or at pilot scale won’t necessarily scale-up in the same way. Part of achieving a successful scale-up is securing a steady and sustainable feedstock supply, as the amount required dramatically increases. “A process needs to be tied to a feedstock that’s available in a quantity such that you could make a lot of it, in a way that would help achieve [U.S.] energy diversity and security goals,” McAdams says. Once the fuel is successfully scaled to commercial quantities and is ready for the market, fungibility becomes an issue. “There are many companies using a range of platforms to


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OUTLOOK ‘If policymakers want to expedite them, we need to decide if the government can assist with that by giving the advanced biorefining industry the same priviledges as wind, geothermal and solar have had. If we can fund them, the gallons will flow; it will take the pressure off the debate of whether the whole thing is a mirage because there are no gallons.’ —Michael McAdams, president, Avanced Biofuels Association

transform renewable biomass into a hydrocarbon molecule with no oxygen atom, exactly the same as if it had come from a refinery or barrel of oil,” McAdams says. “This means it lasts a long time and is totally fungible in existing systems. We wouldn’t have to put new pumps into 127,000 gas stations, change whole automobile fleets, or build $20 billion worth of pipeline to transport it from the middle of the country to the coast. These are dropin fuels compatible with today’s systems.” Once fungibility is squared away, fuel consumers are likely to choose the one that will give them the best bang for their buck. If a biofuel is much cheaper than gasoline, the initial appeal is obvious, but it’s necessary for that fuel’s performance to adequately compare with traditional fuels. “From a consumer standpoint, you’d much rather have hydrocarbon molecules than ethanol, for example, because ethanol contains 70,000 Btu per gallon versus gasoline, which is 124,500 Btu,” McAdams says. In some cases, advanced biofuels can be more expensive to make. “If the capital cost of the unit is $500 million, that’s obviously a disadvantage,” McAdams points out. “Looking at certain cellulosic or gasification facilities, generally there’s a higher capital cost associated with building them. The enzymatic costs of reducing woody biomass to sugar slurry are certainly higher than the enzymatic cost of making corn ethanol. They need to be affordable—competitive with oil—such that you don’t have to subsidize it forever because it will eventually be able to stand on its own.” Perhaps the most debatable desired characteristic is environmental sustainability/friendliness, which McAdams describes as the most complicated and contentious in terms of determining the right mix of environmental compliance and sustainability. “There’s maintenance of habitat, conservation of land, reduction of the amount of water used in making a fuel/ plant, maintaining ozone air quality and reduction in GHG formations, which depends on what your views are on the various models,” McAdams says. “What’s the right combination to determine an accurate life-cycle analysis of any given fuel from any


given feedstock? When we look at wood or grasses, generally speaking, those kinds of feedstocks [when run through a range of different models] show a lower carbon footprint overall than first-generation feedstocks—that’s a fair statement, but [carbon life cycles] can be debated to no end.” The RFS sets the GHG emission reduction standards in its biofuel categorization, and if a fuel doesn’t meet those standards it doesn’t count toward the set quantities. In 2010, the RFS calls for 950 million gallons of advanced biofuels. The cellulosic portion was lowered from 100 million gallons set in RFS1 to a significantly lower 6.5 million gallons in 2010. Will this year’s advanced biofuel quantities be met despite the adjusted quantity? The answer depends on who you ask, McAdams says.

The RFS and Federal Support “The EPA, which by statute sets the volume quantities by fall each year, clearly didn’t think the initial RFS targets would be achieved,” McAdams says. “The reduction specifically in the cellulosic target, which was very significant, will only get worse over time because the number is supposed to ramp up each year.” The problem with meeting the mandate for most companies is a lack of initial capital to get the facilities built, McAdams says. Throughout the years, renewable energy industries such as solar and wind have been granted investment tax credits to get them off the ground, and the advanced biofuels industry is urging Congress to allow them the same opportunity. After all, without these facilities the RFS will not be met, and without adequate funding, the facilities will not be built. An investment tax credit would help, says McAdams, who was trying to convince lawmakers to approve one by mid-May. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced a biofuels tax incentive bill that extends the investment tax credit to advanced biofuels, and would make available the 30 percent investment tax credit for qualified advanced biofuel production for companies whose sole and exclusive purpose is to produce advanced biofuels for sale. Nearly 40 groups and companies, such as the Renewable Fuels Association, BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc., Coskata Inc., Enerkem, Verenium Corp., Range Fuels Inc. and Iogen Corp., have expressed support for the investment tax credit, pointing out that there will be no commercial cellulosic biorefineries commissioned before 2011 at the earliest, due to the lack of funding. “This is a discussion about the rate of speed we want advanced technologies deployed,” McAdams says. “If policymakers want to expedite them, we need to decide if the government can assist with that by giving the advanced biorefining industry the same priviledges as wind, geothermal and solar have had. If we can fund them, the gallons will flow; it will take the pressure off the debate of whether the whole thing is a mirage because there are no gallons.” Once the facilities are built, will advanced biofuels need



McAdams was one of several presenters during the Biomass Priorities on the Hill general session at the 2010 International Biomass Conference & Expo that was held in May at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

subsidies similar to other biofuels? “Depending once again on what your feedstock and technology is, right now you generally fall in one of these buckets: if you’re Gevo (Inc.) producing biobutanol, you get 60 cents per gallon under the VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit). If you’re Tyson (Foods Inc.), Neste or Amyris (Biotechnologies Inc.) making a non-coprocessed renewable diesel, then you get $1 per gallon (blenders excise tax credit),” McAdams says. “If I’m Virent (Energy Systems Inc.) and I make speciated gasoline out of a catalyst

technology using sugar or corn, I get 50 cents per gallon. If I’m a cellulosic company I have a $1.01 production tax credit, and if I’m algae, I don’t know where I go. If I make a fuel, I guess I default to the alternative fuels mixture credit because it gives me 50 cents per gallon for a fuel. ” One aspect that needs to be examined from McAdam’s perspective, is the technology/feedstock/fuel parity. “It isn’t parity now and doing this will lead to determining at what stages of development various technologies and fuels are, and what should we do in terms of the efficient deployment of U.S. resources moving forward,” he says. “We’ve had 25 years of the ethanol tax credit that has been sufficient to build a 14 billion gallon industry. Should we continue to help the ethanol guys to potentially lower the price at the pump by a cent or two, or should we take what’s going to be about $6 billion each year if we continue the VEETC, and tailor that credit to build new plants deploying new technologies if they can compete affordably, fungibly and sustainably? These are decisions that have to be made and policy conversations that need to take place.” Working together would help, he adds. “The whole industry needs to get out of their silos, step back and have a collective conversation to determine what’s in the best interest of the entire biofuels industry, and then help the government sort through those questions,” he says. “We need to ask ourselves, at what point should an industry’s subsidy end, and whether the current statutes are tilted toward a certain technology and if that’s ultimately good or bad. The industry is way too siloed right now.” BIO Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at (701) 738-4968.

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Jetting on Biofuels ClearFuels and Rentech are integrating their technologies for a demonstration facility that will produce drop-in renewable fuels, one of several developments taking shape in the advanced biofuels industry. By Lisa Gibson






y the end of 2011, Rentech Inc. and ClearFuels Technology Inc. will have an integrated demonstration biorefinery that will serve as a model for their commercial-scale plans at sugar mills and wood products facilities. The two companies’ technologies complement each other perfectly, they say, and the project will have a significant impact on the advanced biofuels industry. The partnership will facilitate the installation of ClearFuels’ biomass gasification system in Rentech’s Commerce City, Colo., product demonstration unit (PDU). The gasifier will be attached to Rentech’s syngas-to-liquid technology, which is based on the Fisher-Tropsch process. The PDU has been producing drop-in synthetic fuels from natural gas but the integration will allow production of fully renewable fuels from wood waste, sugarcane bagasse and other virgin biomass. “Clearly, we think it is a major step forward to show essentially a shoot-to-tank demonstration from wood waste and sugarcane bagasse to RenDiesel and RenJet coming out the back end of the plant,” says Harold Wright, Rentech’s chief technology officer. The fuel produced currently with Rentech’s technology is certified and ASTMapproved. RenJet was tested in April on an engineering validation flight by United Airlines, marking the first time a commercial airline has used synthetic fuel in flight, according to Rentech, although that fuel was made with natural gas. “We’re substituting CO (carbon monoxide) and hydrogen from biomass,” says ClearFuels CEO Eric Darmstaedter. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from. The end product—the fuel—is the same. The fuel is already certified, whether it comes from coal, natural gas or biomass, it doesn’t matter. Once we integrate with Rentech, it’s a fully renewable fuel.”

How the Process Works Rentech believes its PDU is the only fully integrated synthetic transportation fuels facility in the U.S., producing about 420 gallons per day of fuels and chemicals. The technology uses a cheaper, proprietary ironbased catalyst and has a unique proprietary 38 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7|2010

‘We’re trying to assist these companies in getting the data that would be necessary for them to go out and get private financing for the commercial replication.’ —Valri Lightner, acting biomass program manager, DOE

design, Wright says. “The beauty of our technology is it will work on a wide variety of renewable feedstocks as well as fossilbased feedstocks like natural gas,” he says. Rentech chose ClearFuels’ technology from a pool of more than 200 candidates because it has the capacity to maximize liquid yields and hasn’t been deployed on a demonstration scale, according to Wright. “We had made an investment in ClearFuels’ technology because of its ability to integrate well in an integrated biorefinery to produce high volumes of liquids,” he explains. ClearFuels’ gasifier, dubbed High Efficiency Hydrothermal Reformer, is characterized as an indirect-fired steam reformer. With steam instead of oxygen or air, the system does not process nitrogen and needs no oxygen plant for operation, Darmstaedter says. It also allows for control of the resonance time of the biomass and steam inside the reformer to adjust the syngas characteristics without redesigning the reformer. “We can operate it in one configuration to make 65 percent hydrogen,” he explains. “In another configuration, we can make 40 percent hydrogen and 40 percent carbon monoxide. That’s the same reformer.” ClearFuels focuses only on unprocessed biomass such as crop residues, corn stover, sawdust and bark to allow for the simplest possible process and operation. Coupling the two technologies results in the highest yield at the lowest cost for the best fit. “It’s a great integration of our technology to theirs,” Darmstaedter says. “We just happened to come together and see the fit.” The project received $23 million from the U.S. DOE, and is one of 19 biorefinery endeavors to receive a total of $564 mil-

USE lion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate construction and operation of pilot, demonstration and commercial-scale systems. “Our focus on advanced biofuels really has been one that’s based on energy independence, and the idea is to replace foreign sources of fuel with domestic sources of fuel,” says Valri Lightner, acting biomass program manager for the DOE. “Biofuels offer a near-term, clean, domestic source of liquid transportation fuel.” The program’s overall goals include achieving energy security, developing clean energy, advancing science and technology, and creating jobs, she says, adding that biofuels support all of them. The DOE is currently cost-sharing 27 biorefinery projects, one of which is operating now—Verenium Corp.’s 1.4 milliongallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Jennings, La.—and the rest scheduled for operation by 2011 or 2013, Lightner says. The ARRA funding recipients were chosen through a four-step process beginning with a compliance review, which includes basic criteria such as ensuring all the proper forms were completed and submitted. Next is the technical merit review, where external experts evaluate the technical merit and rationale for the project, ensure it demonstrates credible economics and a competitive advantage, and assess the project management and execution. The policy review by DOE staff follows, ensuring geographic and technological diversity, and evaluating how well the project fits the DOE portfolio as well as its ability to meet the ARRA schedule. Last, a selection official makes the final decision based on all the criteria. Sustainability is an important aspect of a project’s viability, Lightner emphasizes, saying the department considers 100 million dry metric tons per year of available feedstock to be a good standard. “What we’re really looking to do in these projects is to validate both the cost and the technology,” Lightner says, adding that it helps bridge the “Valley of Death” between a proven concept at laboratory scale and enablement of a commercial reality in the future. Financers look for projects

that are proven at one-tenth to one-fiftieth of commercial scale with data over a period of time, she explains. “We’re trying to assist these companies in getting the data that would be necessary for them to go out and get private financing for the commercial replication.” When awarding money, the DOE favors fuels that meet the renewable fuels standard, including the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements, so the scale-ups can qualify toward the standard, Lightner says. Rentech’s fuels meet the requirements, Wright says, reducing nitrogen dioxide, sodium oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and tailpipe carbon emissions. When made from biomass, the fuels also have low life-cycle GHG emissions. “We think that the fuels meet a demand for cleaner fuels from the tailpipe perspective, but also meet the needs of cleaner fuels from the overall carbon emissions perspective,” he says. Wright adds that Rentech’s fuels can be used today in planes, trains and automobiles. “We think that, because we have the ability to make drop-in fuels—diesel and jet fuel—that will fit into today’s pipeline and today’s infrastructure and today’s engines, that this will be a major step forward for the industry,” Wright says. “There will be other players in the industry, but many don’t produce drop-in fuels. I think there will be a lot of interest in these drop-in fuels as we go forward.” Not only that, but Rentech’s fuels can be produced cost-competitively and at commercial scale, adds Julie Dawoodjee, Rentech’s vice president of investor relations and communications. Rentech now has a 25 percent strategic ownership interest in ClearFuels and the companies plan to polish their process during the demonstration, using its success as a blueprint for commercial biorefineries colocated with sugar mills and wood products facilities. The setup would allow for readily available feedstock with little transportation costs.

Branching Out The first such project is planned for Hughes Hardwood International Inc. in

USE ‘The roadblock has been financing the first new plants because the appetite in the loaning community has been very slow to react to funding the first type of any technology and so what you see that’s exciting in the biofuels space, in the bioproducts space, are some things that are the first of a kind.’ —Michael McAdams, president, Advanced Biofuels Association


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Collinwood, Tenn., slated for operation by early 2014. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) specifies Hughes Hardwood will supply 1,000 dry tons of wood products per day for the production of about 16 million gallons of synthetic jet or diesel fuel and 4 million gallons of naphtha per year, along with about 8 megawatts of renewable power. The wood products will be mostly byproducts and waste from Hughes Hardwood, but may include slash and other residues harvested directly from the forest, Darmstaedter says. The only difference in the gasifier from demonstration to commercial scale is the number of tubes in the reformer, altering the capacity from 20 tons per day to 250 tons per day. The commercial systems will utilize four 250-ton-per-day modules. “If the demonstration is successful, the next step is a commercial plant,” Darmstaedter says, adding that he fully expects positive results and is in discussions with more possible co-location partners. “We’re confident enough in the expected outcome of the demonstration that we’re in project development on four commercial facilities, one of which we’ve announced.” Darmstaedter believes ClearFuels’ technology could be a good fit for other syngas-to-liquid processes, too, allowing for a wider imprint on the advanced biofuel market. “We won’t fit with every application, but there are enough of them out there where we think we do fit well, where we think we’ll help make a difference.” Rentech is working on several projects separate from ClearFuels as well, developing two production facilities, both of which already have off-take agreements with airlines. The proposed Strategic Fuels and Chemicals Complex near Natchez, Miss., would use fossil fuel feedstock such as natural gas to produce about 30,000 barrels per day of synthetic fuels and chemicals, while exporting more than 120 megawatts of power. Thirteen domestic and international airlines have signed MOUs for a fuel supply from the facility. The proposed Rialto Renewable Energy Center in Rialto, Calif., would produce about 640 barrels of RenDiesel per day from urban woody green waste and export about 35 megawatts of power. The facility will employ Rentech’s technology, coupled with the SilvaGas biomass gasification system. Rentech has multiyear agreements with eight domestic airlines to supply up to 1.5 million gallons per year of fuel for ground service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning in late 2012, when the facility is expected to go on line. “That allows the airlines at the airport to meet all of their environmental regulations without changing their

USE ground service fleet,” Wright emphasizes. “There are emissions issues around LAX and so they’re under some mandates to reduce those and this fuel allows them to meet those mandates without actually changing any of the engines or any of the equipment they have on the ground today.” United Airlines will purchase 5,500 gallons per month of RenDiesel from Rialto for use in vans, trucks and specialized aircraft support equipment such as aircraft tugs, ground power support units and forklifts, according to United spokesman Mike Trevino. “From a business standpoint, United and other airlines at LAX have the opportunity to utilize a domestically produced fuel that does not depend on overseas crude oil, and hopefully will be available at a stable price,” he says. The agreement will lower United’s carbon footprint by 1.8 million pounds annually and, when combined with its addition of electric-powered vehicles, will bring emissions from United’s ground equipment at LAX close to zero.

Driving Development Progress in the advanced biofuels industry may not be speeding up, but the recent developments are encouraging, according to Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association. “I’m delighted to see the development,” he says. “We’ve been waiting for it and now we’re actually seeing some commercial demonstrations being brought forward.” McAdams cites a 75 MMgy Dynamic Fuels LLC renewable diesel plant in Geismar, La., that is nearly complete. A 50/50 joint venture between Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum will convert Tyson’s large byproduct stream of beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat and various greases to fuel. But even with all the recent progress, the advanced biofuels industry could use a boost, one that could come in several forms, such as an investment tax credit or continued funding from the DOE, which has exhausted its integrated biorefinery funding for 2010-’11. “The No. 1 obstacle is financing,” McAdams says, adding that mature technologies are emerging from the point of having been demonstrated in a lab or small pilot. “The roadblock has been financing the first new plants because the appetite in the loaning community has been very slow to react to funding the first type of any technology and so what you see that’s exciting in the biofuels space, in the bioproducts space, are some things that are the first of a kind.” Companies such as ClearFuels and Rentech that received funding get a giant boost, enabling scale-up and possibly attracting more investors. “They should be very excited,” McAdams says. “We’re excited about this development. This shows the deployment of these new technologies. It shows cross-partnership and it moves us one step closer to commercializing that kind of development.” Wright agrees. “The future’s bright for renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel,” he says. BIO Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at or (701) 738-4952.

S e p t e m b e r 7– 8, 2 0 1 0 Inter national Conference Centre Stuttgart (ICS), Germany

Conference with Accompanying Exhibition for the International Pellets Industry

Meeting Point for the International Pellets Industry 535 Participants from 35 Nations in 2009 7|2010 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 41


ouble own


A team of researchers has developed a high-temperature catalyst biomass gasification system they say can double the amount of biofuel that can be produced with an acre of biomass, and with no char byproduct. By Lisa Gibson






he biofuels industry might be a different arena if there were a gasification technology with the capacity to convert 100 percent of the carbon from biomass into carbon monoxide, increasing twofold the amount of biofuel that can be produced from a single acre of feedstock. Now, imagine a system that does it without producing char. Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Chemical Engineering, says he and his team of researchers from the department and the University of Minnesota have developed that system. It began four years Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor, ago when Dauenhauer University of started designing a bioMassachusetts mass gasifier that would Amherst use a high-temperature


‘So the benefit of touching particles with this high-temperature surface is you get this conversion to a liquid due to the high heating rates. It basically makes the particle convert down a chemical pathway that’s very favorable for making gasses and volatile organics.’ —Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

catalyst, but without the harmful byproduct biochar. His research has evolved and the team—led by him and University of Minnesota Professor Lanny Schmidt—now says it can alter the char-free process to convert all the biomass carbon to the essential biofuel element carbon monoxide instead of a mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. “When I got started in this, I wanted to find a process that would allow me to use wood fibers and switchgrass and things like that directly with catalysts,” Dauenhauer says. “Now, since I’ve been able to have that

breakthrough, the question is, what can I do with it? What’s exciting about this current research is that since now we’re able to use catalysts directly with biomass, we can do all sorts of crazy things like add methane and carbon dioxide and it does all the chemistry in a single reactor.”

Char-Free Challenge Inside the special catalytic reactor sits a hot surface that melts the cellulose immediately upon contact into a liquid droplet that is essentially melted sugar. The heat transfer


Dauenhauer’s ternary diagram illustrates the “teardrop” zone where the reaction is optimal. SOURCE: PAUL DAUENHAUER

is dominantly from the surface, at least 10 times higher than transfer from the hot air in the reactor, Dauenhauer says. “It makes it really easy to heat the biomass up extremely fast,” he says, adding that the reaction takes place so quickly it cannot be seen with the naked eye, so the team used a high-speed camera to capture the event. “The fact that the biomass forms this liquid is very exciting for researchers such as myself because now we know how these things convert and we can use it to make reactors,” he says. The discovery has already led to more research into how wood chips are converted into fuel. Dauenhauer says the achievement of the liquid droplet without char is all in the reactor design. “If you design your reactor with different heating rates, and basically a different geometry will do this for you, it’ll make the particle heat up really slowly and instead of seeing the liquid, you’ll actually see char formation and things like that,” he explains. A lot of processes make biochar,

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RESEARCH but when using high-temperature catalysts, the biochar will coat the catalyst, rendering it less effective. “So the benefit of touching particles with this high-temperature surface is you get this conversion to a liquid due to the high heating rates,” Dauenhauer says. “It basically makes the particle convert down a chemical pathway that’s very favorable for making gasses and volatile organics.” In addition, the reactor needs to control the heat flow to keep it moving in the right direction and allow the particles to hit the hot surface while permitting the heat to get to it. The team is using a rhodium-based reforming catalyst, but has also demonstrated its process with a nickel-based catalyst and will continue research into cheaper catalysts in the future, although the main focus is the reactor design, Dauenhauer says.

‘In terms of the university, we’re focused on generating the intellectual property that American companies and start-up companies can use to get these new types of processes and reactors into the field as quickly as possible.’ —Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Carbon Conversion With existing gasification technology, only about 50 percent of biomass carbon is converted to carbon monoxide, the remainder emitted as carbon dioxide, according to Dauenhauer. The team’s design, however, recovers all the carbon in the biomass and, with the right balance of carbon dioxide and methane, converts it all to carbon monoxide. The team used Dauenhauer’s ternary diagram (see page 45) to accomplish the

perfect combination of fuel, oxygen and carbon dioxide that would facilitate the reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) reaction. “If you operate the reactor within that teardrop, you can actually get all of your biomass carbon back as carbon monoxide,” he says. But in order to do that, researchers had to co-feed hydrogen into the reaction to supply the energy needed to drive the RWGS reaction, they say. In lieu of a hydrogen injection, the team adds methane to create hydrogen inside the catalytic reactor. “Using this catalyst, now we can add the carbon dioxide, the biomass and, instead of adding hydrogen, we actually generate the hydrogen within the reactor and use it right away,” he says. “Everything happens within a single reactor. That’s why I get so excited. It does so many things at once.” The system could be set up near an existing natural gas power plant, providing ready access to methane and carbon dioxide. The team has a ways to go before its project is ready for commercialization, although Dauenhauer believes it may be ready in as few as two years. While the hot surface reaction has been tested on aspen trees, cellulose, starch, polyethanelene and municipal solid waste, the team has only used pure cellulose in experiments with carbon dioxide and methane additives.

Mixed Reactions The response from the research community to the team’s findings has been mixed, Dauenhauer says, and one crucial aspect of the process has yet to be determined: economics. “As always, there are two questions: Does the process work; and is it economic compared with other uses of biomass?” says Peter Flynn, mechanical engineering professor at the University of Alberta. Bio46 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7|2010

RESEARCH mass gasification and subsequent FischerTropsch conversion to liquid fuels are just not economic processes, Flynn says. “[The researchers are] getting a higher yield of syngas from the biomass by using methane, so in effect, they have a way of turning biomass and methane into a precursor of liquid fuels,” he explains. “But today, if you just turn biomass into liquid fuel, it’s not as attractive as other things you can do with the biomass and if you turn natural gas into liquid fuel, it’s not as attractive as other things you can do with natural gas, unless you’ve got a stranded field [of natural gas]. So I don’t know if putting these two things together will make favorable economics. But it is something new.” The process might modify the actual yield from the process for the same capital cost, says Doug Bull, thermochemical projects manager for Iowa State University’s Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies. “That’s how it might help the economics because they might actually get more product for a similar cost of plant equipment,” Bull says. Understanding both the chemistry that’s happening and the reactor that can double the yield of carbon monoxide does change the economic analysis considerably, Dauenhauer says. “If you derive twice as much fuel from an acre of land as before, you’re doubling your return potentially,” he says. Bull agrees with Flynn that gasification is not economic, adding that fast pyrolysis is pulling ahead in popularity with its cheaper cost and simplicity. Even the U.S. DOE is shifting more toward pyrolysis, Bull says, as investment is risky for costly gasification processes. At the end of May, the DOE allocated up to $11 million over the next three years for research and development of biomass pyrolysis for advanced biofuels. Both Bull and Flynn are skeptical of some of the details of the team’s process, having not experimented with the reactions themselves. “They’re sort of just modifying the reaction chemistry to get more of the gasses they desire,” Bull says, adding that complete conversion of all the biomass carbon is a difficult feat. “They might be able

to increase it dramatically, but I don’t think entirely all of it would be [converted]. I’m pretty sure they’d still have a little bit of carbon dioxide, even if it’s only like 5 percent.” The reaction can only be forced to a certain point, he explains. Dauenhauer says the amount of carbon dioxide that is converted to carbon monoxide depends on where inside the teardrop shape the reactor is operating. “The closer the reaction conditions are to the center, the higher the conversion of CO2,” he says. Even some of the carbon dioxide added to the process is converted, he adds. Since char production has been a problem in biomass gasification, a system that eliminates it would be a significant development, Flynn says, although there are other proposed solutions. “They are saying they have found a spot they can operate where they don’t produce any char, and if that’s

true, it’s a big deal.” It’s one of two reasons the process is intriguing, he adds, along with methane that in effect can be converted to liquid transportation fuels. “It sounds reasonable. I know enough to say to it sounds reasonable.” Dauenhauer says the ultimate goal of the research is to answer the scientific questions that will lead to a wide array of new biomass processes and reactions. “In terms of the university, we’re focused on generating the intellectual property that American companies and start-up companies can use to get these new types of processes and reactors into the field as quickly as possible.” BIO

Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@ or (701) 738-4952.


MARKET By Greg Ehm



Private and public partnerships are being developed to design and build specialized equipment that will more efficiently harvest woody biomass. The State University of New York and New Holland have created a harvesting head that is fitted onto a New Holland forage harvesting machine.

University Sees Biomass as Future for Energy Generation The University of Missouri is creating initiatives to help develop biomass market in the state.


iomass has been in use at the University of Missouri power plant since 2005. The power plant boilers have been cofiring wood waste up to 5 percent with coal in the existing plant boilers, consuming between 5,000 and 6,000 tons of woody biomass this year. So far, using biomass as an alternative fuel source has had

a positive impact on the university campus. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 7,000 tons per year and the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is equivalent to planting 28,000 acres of trees. In addition, by sourcing locally grown biomass, the university has reduced diesel fuel consumption by almost 16,000 gallons per year that would have

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


been used to transport coal to the power plant from neighboring Illinois. The university recently made the decision to replace an existing boiler with a 100 percent biomass-fired boiler that will produce 150,000 pounds of steam per hour. This will increase the power plant’s steam output by 30,000 pounds per hour once the unit is replaced—

enough to build capacity and meet anticipated growth. The new boiler should be in operation in 2012. “We needed to add steam capacity at the power plant, so we began looking at our options,” says Gregg Coffin, superintendent of the University of Missouri power plant. “We could expand using coal, but that would be problematic from


MARKET By Greg Ehm

In three years, the trees will grow up to 20 feet with eight to 10 stems per tree. An acre can be expected to produce 9 to 13 dry tons woody biomass.

an environmental standpoint. Obtaining a permit would be difficult, and we anticipated pushback from the campus and local community in regard to adding another coal-fired boiler.” The university believed it could install a biomass boiler much more cost-effectively for the life cycle, compared with natural gas. Plus the biomass would provide several benefits that a natural gas boiler would not. Biomass is 100 percent renewable and would provide an investment back into the local economy instead of purchasing coal and natural gas from other states.

“We have the potential— with this new biomass boiler— to displace about 25 percent of our coal consumption,” Coffin says. “It’s a pretty significant jump considering we’re currently at less than 5 percent.”

Creating a Sustainable Supply Chain The biggest challenge according to Coffin will be sourcing biomass fuel for the boiler and having adequate storage and handling systems in place to serve the unit. The new boiler will require 100,000 tons of biomass annually, which is a substantial jump from the 6,000

tons currently being sourced. Coffin sees about onethird of the woody biomass fuel coming from waste stream sources—mills, chopped pallets, development clearing, tree trimming and ice storm damage— one-third from forestry management and thinning efforts and another third coming from growing biomass instead of traditional crops. “We are tapping into the resources here at the university,” Coffin says. “The university forestry department has been actively involved with the project, helping source woody biomass from waste trees. They’re

highly interested in supporting a forestry thinning effort and establishing the criteria for that.” According to Hank Stelzer, a state forestry extension specialist for the University of Missouri, the state forests are not in the best of health. “Forest thinning would greatly improve the health and quality of our forests and at the same time provide a good, renewable source of fuel for the plant,” Stelzer says. “We’re developing a set of thinning and harvesting guidelines to make sure we protect the long-term integrity of the state forests, yet create a sustainable source of


MARKET By Greg Ehm

biomass, not just for the university but for other facilities across the state.”

Biomass—A New Value-Added Crop The university is exploring options to grow woody biomass crops on marginal ground and in the river bottom areas across the state that were affected by flooding in 1993. The land in these areas is no longer economically viable for traditional row crops

as the soil profile features a deep sand formation. While this type of soil isn’t suited for row crops, it is ideal for certain species of trees, such as willow and cottonwood. Stelzer and other forestry faculty are in the process of establishing research plots that will test various species of trees to determine their potential as energy crops. The University of Missouri’s Center for Agroforestry began experimenting with different species of cottonwood and hybrid poplar

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back in the late 1990s and over the years has identified select clonal varieties that are well-suited to the soil conditions in Missouri. Today, the research is being done in collaboration with the State University of New York, University of Minnesota and Mississippi State University. Traditionally willow and cottonwood trees have been planted in a 10-foot-by10-foot spacing pattern and were allowed to grow for five to six years before being harvested. Stelzer says that current thinking is to plant the trees in a double-row configuration, however, where two rows will be planted close together on 2-footby-2-foot centers with a 5-foot space and then another double row of trees. “Basically we will set the cuttings in year one and clip out the tops to help promote multiple sprouts,” Stelzer says. “The trees will grow for three years and reach a height of up to 20 feet with several stems (eight to 10) coming from that clump. The neat thing is, especially with willow and cottonwood trees, is the ability to harvest the trees about every three years or six times over the 20-year life of the tree. At 20 years of life the trees will be removed and the process starts all over.” Stelzer says that producers can expect to produce 9 to 13 dry tons woody biomass per acre at the end of the three-year growing cycle, and this number will go up as the university identifies higher yielding varieties over time. At the current price the power plant is paying ($35 per ton) that would generate $315 to $473 in revenue to the farmer on just one acre. That’s enough to get a farmer’s attention considering the input and production costs are minimal. Harvesting the woody biomass is another issue, but a team of researchers at the State University of New York have been working with New Holland, a leading agricultural equipment manufacturer, to develop specialized equipment to harvest the woody biomass. Basically, the team has created a harvesting head that is fitted onto a New Holland forage harvesting machine. As the machine moves through a field of trees, the harvesting head clips off the trees, which are then fed

MARKET By Greg Ehm

into the machine and a cutter drum chops the woody biomass into small pieces, similar to processing a tree in a brush chipper. The resulting processed woody biomass is placed onto trucks and transferred to a storage site. The MU Forestry Department, in cooperation with the MU Center for Agroforestry, is developing a pilot program at the Horticultural and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin, Mo., that will include test plantings of various tree species to produce woody biomass. The pilot will also test harvesting options and deliver the resulting wood chips to the power plant. The purpose of the pilot project is to show farmers how they can adapt this new crop to their farms. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Woody biomass production has the potential to be more profitable and economical than traditional row crops, especially in the Missouri river bottoms laid waste by the floods of 1993 and 1995,â&#x20AC;? Stelzer says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It also allows farmers to regain lost production acres with fewer disturbances to the land compared with traditional agronomic production. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re also enabling the farmer to integrate forestry practices into other areas of the farm that will not only provide another source of income, but also serve as a sediment, nutrient and pesticide trap in the root systems of these trees.â&#x20AC;?

This project will truly be a test to see how the biomass industry can and will develop in the state. Should the price of biomass become more expensive than natural gas, however, Coffin has the ability to switch the boiler over to gas until the price of biomass comes back in line with fossil fuels. Either way, the university and the Columbia community will see a reduction in conventional emissions.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I believe the campus community appreciates this opportunity to produce energy from a renewable crop and reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions,â&#x20AC;? Coffin says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re creating something here thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a win-win for everyone involved and from the calls weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re receiving, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot of support for the direction weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re taking.â&#x20AC;?BIO Greg Ehm is a features writer for Two Rivers Marketing in Des Moines, Iowa. Reach him at

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Considering More Than Woody Biomass Coffin and his team are also seriously exploring how to utilize corncobs in the new boiler as the university is located in the heart of Missouri corn production. Plus the new boiler technology burns at a lower combustion temperature making it more suitable to agricultural-based fuels. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The new boiler can handle a full-size cob and the opportunities to source cobs as a fuel source are abundant in our state,â&#x20AC;? Coffin says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The biggest challenge is collection and storage. However, companies are developing innovative collection systems that are showing promise. We just need to address how to deal with such a large volume of material.â&#x20AC;?

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