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June 2014

Harnessing Safety

Modern Spark Detection, Fire Protection Equipment Protects Plants, Operators Page 12


Countries Unite To Battle Pellet Hazards Page 20


Ensuring Your Digester Is Up To Snuff On Safety Page 30


ON THE COVER A construction employee at the Gainesville (Fla.) Renewable Energy Center is equipped with a welding shield, hard hat and a fall arrest harness ensure safety while on the job. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BIOMASS MAGAZINE

06 EDITOR’S NOTE No Injuries Reported By Tim Portz


20 POWER 10 NEWS 11 COLUMN Small Town Big on Biomass By Bob Cleaves

12 FEATURE Hampering Hazards Utilizing state-of-the-art fire suppression and spark detection equipment assures plants they will be safe, rather than sorry. By Chris Hanson

PELLETS Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 701-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational. com. Advertising Biomass Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biomass Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 701-746-8385 or service@ Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Managing Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to asimet@bbiinternational. com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

18 NEWS 19 COLUMN Safety Essential to Global Biomass Use By Nicole Forsberg

20 DEPARTMENT Standardizing Pellet Safety The rapid growth of the global pellet market has prompted a major effort to craft health and safety standards. By Anna Simet


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32 THERMAL 24 NEWS 25 COLUMN Response to Tragedy Can Make or Break a Business By Cam McAlpine

26 FEATURE Biomass Thermal Plant Precautions Potential dangers lurk in the day-to-day operations of biomass thermal plants By Sarah Ludwig

BIOGAS 28 NEWS 29 COLUMN International Cooperation Yields Exchange of Project Models By Amanda Bilek COPYRIGHT © 2014 by BBI International

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) June 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 6. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/ Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

30 FEATURE Unique and Essential Safety Features Suppliers, designers and biogas system owners should be jointly vested in safety efforts. By Michael O'Neil

ADVANCED BIOFUELS & CHEMICALS 32 NEWS 33 COLUMN Standards for a New Industry


Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling

By Margaret McCormick

34 DEPARTMENT North Dakota's Subterranean Fuel Feedstock Move over corn stover, switchgrass and miscanthus—energy beets may be the next hot advanced biofuel feedstock. By Chris Hanson



No Injuries Reported The bulk of this issue of Biomass Magazinee was researched, written and produced in April, with safety top of mind. As chance would have it, while researching safety and hazard abatement across the broader biomass segment, we encountered at least two fire incidents at operating pellet mills and reported on them amongst our daily online news coverage. Fires, explosions and other plant mishaps quickly draw the attention of our team, TIM PORTZ mainly because at least one of us has been on VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT the facility’s premises, know persons working & EXECUTIVE EDITOR at the plant, or both. For that reason, our favorite three words to include in those stories are “no injuries reported.” These incidents don’t simply impact faceless personnel, but rather, industry colleagues, advisors, editorial board members and, increasingly, friends. For the operators reading this month’s issue, you know the feeling well. Safely returning employees to their loved ones at the end of the work day is management’s top priority. Making energy products from biomass has inherent risks, and it is our obligation to the public to mitigate those risks as much as is humanly possible, especially as the industry continues to grow. When incidents occur, the public rightly inquires about the overall safety of an industry. The public good delivered by the production and use of biomass-derived energy products must not be allowed to be overshadowed by incidents of fire and explosion. In this month’s issue we feature a subset of biomass professionals who are working feverishly to institutionalize best practices for a rapidly growing industry. Chris Wiberg, lab manager at Biomass Energy Laboratory and frequent Biomass Magazine contributor spoke with Anna Simet for her page-21 “Standardizing Safety” feature, in which he paints a picture of the industry in a discovery phase, saying, “It’s interesting that there is so much left to be understood and discovered.” This shouldn’t surprise anyone in the space, as the industry is working through never-seen-before production volumes, storage volumes and volumes in transit. Finally, the time is now to inquire about a facility’s safety protocols and how they match up to the best available technologies. Bob Korn’s quote in Chris Hanson’s “Hampering Hazards,” feature on page 13 is telling. As the director of sales and marketing for Fike, Korn notes, “It’s unfortunate, but a lot of times the phone rings after the explosion.” I urge you to read this month’s issue and ask yourself and your team if you are in the best possible position to announce after an incident at your plant: “No injuries reported.”



ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie


INDUSTRY EVENTS¦ International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JUNE 9-12, 2014

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana Now in its 30th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest running ethanol conference in the world—and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. 866-746-8385 |

Emerging Corn Production Technologies & Science Forum JUNE 9, 2014

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana Corn is arguably the world’s most important agricultural commodity. It enjoys widespread cultivation and demand not only because of its versatility but also because of the tradition of innovation that surrounds corn. As the demand for corn continues to rise it generates robust research and development activity all along the corn production spectrum. The Emerging Corn Production Technologies and Science Forum will offer attendees a unique opportunity to take a broad look at the very latest developments in corn genetics, yield maximization, cutting edge production technologies and corn stover harvest and conversion. 866-746-8385 |

National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo OCTOBER 13-15, 2014

Hyatt Minneapolis Minneapolis, Minnesota Produced by BBI International, this national event will feature the world of advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals—technology scale-up, project finance, policy, national markets and more—with a core focus on the industrial, petroleum and agribusiness alliances defining the national advanced biofuels industry. With a vertically integrated program and audience, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. 866-746-8385

International Biomass Conference & Expo APRIL 20-22, 2015

Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. 866-746-8385 |



Lignetics announces acquisition Lignetics Inc. has announced it was acquired by Taglich Private Equity LLC, Management and Gladstone Capital Corp., which provided subordinated debt and equity financing, along with Texas Capital Bank, which provided senior debt in support of the transaction. Lignetics manufactures and distributes wood pellets from three U.S. production facilities. The transaction is expected to give Lignetics the capital base to pursue expansion plans.

treatment plants, and municipal landfills into mers crafted by Meredian are entirely safe to a high-value PHA-based thermoplastic mate- use as food containers and storage for the general public. rial called AirCarbon at commercial scale. Aurora Algae expands operations Aurora Algae has announced it is expanding its test facility in South Texas, beginning with four 1-acre cultivation pods and a harvesting system. The move comes after six months of testing and evaluation, which converted the potential for commercialscale algae cultivation in South Texas. The company also operated a demonstrationscale cultivation facility in Karratha, Western Australia.

Amyris, BASF enter agreement Amyris Inc. has entered a collaborative Newlight completes Series C research and development agreement with financing round BASF SE. Under the agreement, Amyris will Newlight Technologies has completed a use its strain engineering technology to deSeries C financing round, raising $9.2 million velop a microorganism capable of producing Bloomberg New Energy awards 2 biorefining firms from both new and existing investors, and a target molecule identified by BASF. Bloomberg New Energy Finance bringing the company’s total capital raise to recently announced its selection of 2014 $18.8 million. The company has developed a Meredian receives FDA approval New Energy Pioneers. The list of 10 winprocess to convert greenhouse gases, such as Biopolymer manufacture Meredian ners includes two biorefining companies: methane, into carbon-negative plastics. New- Inc. has announced the receipt of a food light has announced it is using its patented substance contact notification approval from Genomatica and Renmatix. Genomatica develops and licenses manufacturing promethane-to-PHA bioconversion technolthe U.S. Food and Drug Administration. cesses for biobased chemicals. Renmatix is a ogy to convert biogas from farms, water The approval certifies that certain biopoly-

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technology licenser that enables the production of petrochemicals from plants. Cool Planet Energy Systems adds chief technology officer Cool Planet Energy Systems has added Jan Thijssen as its new chief technology officer. Thijssen has advised governments and Fortune 500 companies in the oil and gas, materials, and utility industries in Thijssen North America, Europe and Asia. Working with some of the world’s leading financial institutions, he has analyzed and evaluated more than 100 emerging energy companies and biobased product companies. Thijssen will be leading the Cool Planet Research and Development organization that is based in Camarillo, Calif., as it continues to advance and deploy the company’s technology at commercial scale.

Seeger Green Energy launches new website Seeger Green Energy LLC, the North American, South American and African subsidiary of German company Seeger Engineering AG, has announced the launch of a new website. The site was designed to provide essential information on green energy and how Seeger can become a partner for companies interested in renewable energy and biomass.

BTEC recognizes Wallowa Resources The Biomass Thermal Energy Council announced that Wallowa Resources has become a new participant in the Biomass Green Heat Registered Site program. The Enterprise, Ore., nonprofit organization installed two pellet boilers that meet 85 percent of its heating needs and replace 20,000 gallons of heating oil.

Biodome announces product orders Biodome International, part of the Kirk Group, announced it will design and supply seven top-mounted gas holder roofs and tow ground-mounted membrane gas holders to three dairy farms in the Pacific Northwest. The gas holder system provides necessary equipment to extend existing processing plants present on the farms to handle growing amounts of waste while creating renewable energy through the anaerobic digestion process. The seven gas holder roofs will be constructed on top of existing digester tanks to capture biogas and reduce odor.

SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Business Briefs, Biomass Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to evoegele@bbiinternational. com. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.




©2014 CNH America LLC. All rights reserved. New Holland is a trademark registered in the United States and many other countries, owned by or licensed to CNH Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates. NHBM05149137

PowerNews UK bioenergy production increases

European Commission adopts new renewable energy funding guidelines

UK bioenergy capacity (in MW) 2009





Landfill gas






Sewage sludge digestion






Energy from waste






Animal biomass (non-AD)











Anaerobic digestion Plant biomass Total reneable energy capacity












The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change has released provisional annual energy data for last year, reporting a 28 percent increase in renewable generation. The renewables share of total generation increased by 3.2 percent, reaching a record 15 percent of total energy generation in 2013. According to the DECC, total energy production in 2013 was 114.0 million metric tons of oil equivalent, 6.6 percent lower than 2012, due primarily to reductions in the production of coal, oil and gas. Bioenergy and waste consumption, however, rose by 18.7 percent when considering seasonally adjusted and temperaturescorrected annualized rates. This increase reflects higher use in electricity generation. The report shows that bioenergy, which includes cofiring, generated 18.7 terawatt hours of electricity last year, a 28 percent increase over 2012. The increase is attributed to more capacity from conversions.


The European Commission has adopted new rules on public support for environmental protection and energy projects. According to the commission, the guidelines promote a gradual move to market-based support for renewable energy. The guidelines also call for a gradual introduction of a competitive bidding process for allocating public support to renewable energy projects. Feed-in tariffs would also be gradually replaced with feed-in premiums, which are expected to expose renewable technologies to market signals. Certain exemptions would be available for small systems and in circumstances where member states demonstrate the bidding process would lead to an unsatisfactory outcome. Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the U.K.-based Renewable Energy Association, called the commission’s guidelines a “huge leap into the unknown.” He added, “These new guidelines are based on economic modelling, which suggests that competitive mechanisms will deliver equally good results at lower cost to the consumer. We support measures to reduce policy costs as renewables continue their journey towards price parity with fossil fuels. But putting so much faith in untested theory is a big risk, especially when the U.K. is in such desperate need of new capacity.”


Small Town Big on Biomass BY BOB CLEAVES

We spend a lot of time talking about what is happening in Washington, D.C., as that is where important decisions that affect our industry are made. Rather than getting in the TSA line for a flight there as I typically do on a Monday morning in early May, however, I hopped in my car and travelled to Lyme, N.H., (via the Meldrin Thomson Memorial Highway for political junkies who remember former N.H. Gov. Thomsen’s controversial and colorful terms in office). Lyme, a small town along the Connecticut River bordering Vermont, was the location of a roundtable discussion with Rep. Annie Kuster, a second-term House member representing northern New Hampshire, and a long-time champion of the forestry sector. The story of Lyme is like so many towns in New Hampshire. Tight-knit families with generations committed to preserving their heritage, way of life, and natural beauty. Historic protection is everywhere (there are 27 horse sheds located behind the Congregational Church, reportedly the oldest of their kind in the nation), and the preservation of farms and nearby forests have won the town leadership awards. Like so many other rural towns across New England, it also values its working forests, and is home to well-respected firms like Wagner Forest Products and Lyme Timber—household names in the biomass industry. But the tour of Lyme was simply a bonus for me. I was there at the invitation of Jason Stock, the long-time leader of New Hampshire Timber Owners, and Dan Sakura, formerly with the Conservation Fund and now part of the team at the National Association of Forest Owners. Stock and Sakura invited stakeholders from the entire biomass value chain—from landowners to foresters, from pellet fuels advocates to biopower, as well as public agen-

cies and NGOs—to meet with Kuster, a leader who “gets it” when it comes to the importance of wood products. We were reminded that the value of New Hampshire’s forest products industry is enormous—more than $3.8 billion in annual market value. We also heard from the Forest Service about the role of working forests throughout the North Country, about efforts to preserve endangered species while fighting pests most likely brought on by climate change, about the importance of pellets in reducing reliance on oil, about the threats to the paper industry and the importance of communities like Whitefield, Springfield and Berlin, N.H., which are home to bioenergy facilities. We also heard about the need for regulatory certainty, markets and predictable and fair tax policy. Rep. Kuster reminded us that what is at stake here is not just healthy, economically viable forests, but sustainable communities where land can be kept in production and where young people have opportunities to follow in the footsteps of generations before them. According to a study performed by the North East State Foresters Association, the forest products industry is responsible for creating some 23,000 jobs in New Hampshire alone. I was impressed by the enthusiasm coming out of our meeting in Lyme, grateful for the opportunity to share our vision with Kuster, and confident that sustainable energy sources like biomass will continue to play a role in the production of renewable energy and in supporting the working forests of rural America. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association



Koda Energy in Shakopee, Minn., is equipped with novel fire and spark detection and suppression equipment. PHOTOS: STACY COOK, KODA ENERGY



Hampering Hazards Explosion suppression, spark detection and extinguishing technology help stave off dust explosions at biomass power plants. BY CHRIS HANSON

afety protocol at biomass power facilities is an evolutionary process that progresses as plants move from design to construction to commercial operations. New facilities coming on line boast some of the latest safety and protection equipment, but similar to older, existing power plants, they must abide by general industry standards regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association. Biomass power plants are covered by several existing OSHA general industry standards, especially 29 CFR 1910, which pertains to worker safety and health. Those standards apply to topics from process safety management and fire extinguishers to electric power generation, transmission and distribution. In the absence of an OSHA standard, the agency also has the ability to enforce a general duty clause for any workplace hazard that has the potential to expose employees to serious workplace injuries or illnesses, according to an OSHA spokesperson, who requested anonymity. With towering stacks, metal-laced walkways and immense machinery, biomass power plants tackle diverse safety protocols. In the past, OSHA has issued citations to biomass power facilities for safety violations, but some of those violations may be related. For instance, fire protection, materials handling and


storage, and lockout-tagout violations could present a dangerous situation for fires and possible explosions. In their most passive form, dust particles seem irrelevant and only a nuisance on a clean surface, but these tiniest samples of chipped feedstock, stray pollen and conglomerated grit can pose some of the biggest fire and explosion hazards for almost any industrial operation, including a biomass power plant. To combat the dangers and potential for these events, developers and OSHA are working to improve plant safety by addressing issues that can lead to dust explosions and fires. In 2009, OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, the OSHA source says. Currently, the preliminary regulatory texts have been drafted and the agency is continuing to conduct economic analyses, she adds. In April 2014, OSHA announced it will also be issuing a final rule to improve workplace safety and health for workers engaged in electric power generation, transmission and distribution work. While OSHA formulates new safety rules and standards, technology producers such as GreCon Inc. and Fike Corp. develop the equipment to prevent the causes and help protect against the effects of fire and explosions.


¦POWER Snuffing Sparks The best method of tackling an issue is to address it before it happens. With that kind of foresight, modern biomass power plants turn to spark detection and extinguishing systems to prevent tiny embers from becoming larger problems. “These hot particles and sparks can cause a problem at any time and you will never know it until it is too late,” says Terry Franklin, technical sales director at GreCon. “It’s better to be safe and have a system that can spot the troubles and react to it.”

The greatest potential for spark-initiated fires could come from older operations with complacent safety practices. In older plants, personnel may feel somewhat invincible since their processes have not experienced an incident involving fires caused by sparks. “When developers are building a new plant, a new bag house, or [installing] new equipment, they are forced to look at installing the technology from the beginning, or they won’t be able to get their permit,” Franklin explains. GreCon’s spark detection and extinguishing technology are implemented in

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pneumatic conveying systems. Some of the biggest problem areas for sparks within a biomass power plant are the feedstock dryer exits, collectors and storage bins, Franklin says. There is also greater potential for sparks to transfer from pulverizers and grinders to storage bins, he adds. “It’s the sparks that come off the grinding and heating processes, drag chains or conveyers. It’s the things that can cause the material to heat up and combust.” On mechanical conveying systems, the technology is best implemented in a drop chute to allow the sensors to examine the material as it falls through the air, but it is primarily installed on pneumatic conveyance systems, Franklin says. In a pneumatic pipeline, GreCon’s sensors search for the infrared heat, a telltale sign of sparks. “Our light field detectors can detect a spark from quite a ways away,” he says. In one-third of a second, sensors can signal an extinguishing device to inject atomized water into the process, snuffing out any potentially dangerous sparks. Typically, the material whips through a pneumatic transfer line at roughly 4,000 feet per minute, Franklin says. “You have to figure out what the velocity is, and we can do our calculations to determine where the valve needs to be installed,” he explains. “At 4,000 feet per minute, you would install the valve 20 feet down the line past the sensor. Then the valve fires the water before the sparks get there and the spark is driven through the atomized water.” User-friendly and faster response are the words to describe the next generation of spark detection and extinguishing. GreCon updated its technology within the past seven years to include multi-microprocessor controller modules and last year with multi-touch screen capability allowing for easier operations. Additionally, the system is able to remember factors, such as alarms, spark counts and reactions, within milliseconds to allow efficient data collection. Additionally, GreCon ensures the spark detection systems are Factory Mutual Approved. Although spark detection and extinguishing technology tackles some of the main causes that can lead to fires and explosions, those instances can still occur

POWER¦ wherever dust collects. To combat those instances, technology developers such as Fike Corp. have been creating the second line of defense against those dangers.

Explosion Control

Unlocking the Treasure in Cellulose It’s a fact. Cellulosic feedstocks allow biofuel producers to turn what was once considered waste into treasure. The key: processing techniques that maximize fuel yield from every ton of feedstock. For more than 30 years, decanters and separators from GEA Westfalia Separator have been used to produce ethanol and biodiesel. Our process know-how, combined with a complete range of machines, allows us to develop solutions for the toughest separation challenges. So whether you are considering processing wood chips, grasses, corn stalks, corn cobs, corn stover or other cellulosic feedstocks you can count on us. To learn more contact Keith Funsch at 201-784-4322 or or visit us online at

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Dust collectors and air filtration devices have some of the highest recorded occurrences of combustible dust explosions, says Bob Korn, director of sales and marketing of the industrial protection group at Fike. “Within any type of biofuel facility, they are going to have dust collection attached to some of their processes, such as conveying or grinding lines,” he says. “All of those material handling activities generate dust. When fugitive dust is pulled off grinding or material handling activities, that’s where some of the biggest danger areas are.” A dust explosion does not behave the way most people may think. Rather, it is a chain reaction of events. “The first explosion in a dust collector will create a shockwave throughout the facility and will knock all the fugitive dust loose and typically create a big dust cloud in the facility,” Korn says. “Then this flame shoots through a tube, accelerating every second, until it comes out the other end in a big fireball and ignites the dust cloud created from the small initial explosion. Then it’s the secondary explosion that is the bad one.” Facility owners typically fall into one of three groups when it comes to choosing explosion control technology, Korn explains. The first group chooses to do nothing and ignore the explosive threat. ���That’s still a prevalent approach,” Korn says. “Oftentimes, the people who never had an explosion, they don’t get it, and don’t protect their facilities. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of times the phone rings after the explosion,” he adds. The second group of customers is characterized by passive explosion control systems. Those include explosion venting and passive isolation valves, or check valves, which need to be rated for explosions, rather than just for fires. “In the U.S., there’s still probably more people that are doing nothing than the passive solution,” Korn speculates. “For those customers that


Step 1: An ignition event occurs in a vessel.

Steps 2 and 3: The initial pressure wave reaches the detector before the flame. The detector activates the suppressant system to control the flame.

Steps 4 and 5: The injected suppressant extinguishes the fireball within the chamber until it is completely out.

are going to protect [against explosions] by far, explosion venting is the most widely used method for mitigating the effects of a combustible dust hazard.” Active explosion control systems make up the third group. Active systems consist of monitoring panels, optical detectors and suppressant injectors that can distinguish an explosion during its initial stages and engage suppressors to prevent a fireball from forming. “They’re relatively sophisticated systems, just because of the time frame we have to work with,” Korn says. “Our systems operate within 50 milliseconds.” In these active control systems, sensitive pressure detectors are mounted on a vessel to sense changes in air pressure. These detectors are usually set to trigger between 1 and 1.5 pounds per square inch (PSI), Korn explains. “Most of these vessels—air filtration systems and dust collectors—are operating at a slightly negative pressure as they are pulling material into them,” he adds. Additionally, the detectors monitor the environment four times every millisecond. These readings are used to help create a base reading in order to prevent false readings, and help the system determine when 16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | JUNE 2014



an explosion is actively occurring. “We look at four or five readings in a row to make sure it is consistently showing an alarm or activation condition, so we don’t have false activations,” Korn says. “Within a millisecond, the system figures out whether to go into activation mode.” Once in activation mode, the system reacts by quickly injecting the suppressant, sodium bicarbonate, into the vessel. The sodium bicarbonate is stored in a nitrogencharged container at 900 PSI. The detector sets off a chemically triggered device to create another pressure wave, bursting a rupture disc, and then injects sodium bicarbonate into the vessel. By forming up-to-date safety policies and deploying new preventative and protective technologies, new and existing biomass power plants can provide cleaner energy sources to customers while protecting workers, facility equipment and the environment. Author: Chris Hanson Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4970


PelletNews Future Georgia plant to serve European market

NEW DEVELOPMENT: Viridis Energy is purchasing new equipment for its 120,000-tonper-year pellet mill in Nova Scotia. PHOTO: VIRIDIS ENERGY

Viridis adds equipment to Nova Scotia mill The government of Nova Scotia has awarded Viridis Energy with a CA$517,500 ($469,000) grant to purchase new equipment for its Scotia Atlantic Biomass Co. Ltd. subsidiary, located in Middle Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia. Viridis is expected to use the funding to purchase a truck dumper with a 6,200 cubic foot hopper and an Intalogix weigh scale, which is designed to improve the unloading of fiber, increase the types of trucks and sources that can be utilized, and increase the amount of fiber delivered per truck load by up to 40 percent. The com-

pany also plans to purchase a destoner. Michele Rebiere, chief financial officer of Viridis, said the company desires to convey a message to the market that it’s continuing to expand in Nova Scotia. “We want as much fiber and feedstock as we can get,” she said. “By purchasing that equipment, we are really trying to encourage more suppliers, even if they don’t have the right trucks and type of equipment to deliver. It really broadens our ability to attract fiber from just about anybody. The only bottleneck [in expanding] is ensuring that we get additional material.”

South Carolina-based Geechee Energy LLC has announced plans to build a 360,000-metric-ton-per-year pellet plant near Millen, Ga. The proposed Ogeechee River Pellet Mill project is scheduled to break ground this year and is expected to be operational in early 2016. Once operational, the plant will take in mill residue, forest residue and roundwood logs as feedstock. The mill will primarily sell its product into the European market. A small percentage of production, however, is expected to be sold domestically. Geechee Energy has an announced an agreement with the Jenkins County Development Authority in Georgia to purchase property for the project. The company is considering a 75- to 100-acre parcel of land north of Millen that is adjacent to both highway and rail transportation. While the Ogeechee River Pellet Mill is the company’s first pellet project, it may expand its operations in the future.

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Safety Essential to Global Biomass Use BY NICOLE FORSBERG

It’s very exciting to be involved in an industry where increased trade, globalization and regional development can go hand-in-hand with achieving environmental performance, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing energy security. Add that to the fact that most of the technology and feedstock is commercially available, and both industrialized and developing countries can explore the potential of bioenergy, and the result is a beautiful description of a sustainable industry. Living in Sweden, I have seen a lot of potential being utilized. Bioenergy is, to date, according to Svebio, the largest energy source in the country. In 2013, bioenergy accounted for more than one-third of Sweden’s total energy supply. Bioenergy has largely contributed to Sweden’s decrease in greenhouse gas emissions—9 percent between 1990 and 2010—while gross national product increased by 50 percent. This is a practical example illustrating how biomass can contribute to sustainable growth, and it is exciting to follow the global development in the biomass industry. Sustainable growth is about balancing economic, ecological and social issues, and safety ties into all of these aspects. Safety is essential to achieving a sustainable growth in the biomass industry. Fires, dust explosions and accidents are costly from an economic, ecological and a social standpoint (and in some cases even from an insurance standpoint). Costs that can, to a large extent, be avoided by integrating safety as a core value in all biomass operations. Each individual

operator has a responsibility to contribute to a sustainable growth of the biomass industry. With rapidly increasing volumes of biomass being handled across the globe, especially in North America, the complexity of handling the fuel in a safe manner has come apparent, due to the various properties of biomass as a fuel. Issues such as combustible dust, dust explosions, self-heating, and off-gassing are frequently discussed in the industry. Of course, a lot of safety knowledge has been gained in countries with a long history of biomass usage, but in many cases the complexity goes beyond that. Biomass is a broad description of several different types of fuel with different physical and chemical characteristics that have to be taken into consideration in each unique case. To contribute to a sustainable growth of the industry where safety plays an essential part, key players in the industry must ensure they have gained the right knowledge and be educated on the various properties of biomass as a fuel, to prevent any hazards that can arise. There is really no other way than making sure the proper homework is done up front. Safety should be considered a core value, not a priority or a separate bullet point, that top management strives to combine with productivity, quality or even profitability, as an industry respecting the people involved and the resources we have to manage. Author: Nicole Forsberg Business Development Manager, Firefly AB 480-340-8666



Standardizing Pellet Safety Countries around the globe are combining efforts to develop robust safety standards for pelletized biofuels. BY ANNA SIMET




ires and explosions are an undesirable reality of the pellet industry, and can result in employee injury or death, economic loss, and facility damage. As global pellet production and consumption have soared over the past several years, the buzz surrounding safety and health issues in the manufacturing, handling and storage of wood pellets has become much louder. So loud, that the International Standards Organization has launched an effort, under the direction of Working Group 4 of ISO/ TC238, to develop global standards for numerous components of commercial, industrial and small-scale applications. Topics to be addressed include not only prevention, detection, suppression and management of fires and explosions, but also safe handling and storage, analysis of spontaneous heat generation and analysis of off-gassing products. While all issues up for discussion are essential, Chris Wiberg, manager at Biomass Energy Laboratory and participating member of the new working group, a spin-off of the ISO standards for solid biomass fuels initiative, says that in his Chris Wiberg, Biomass Energy opinion, self-heating and carbon Laboratory monoxide (CO) are the most critical because of the dangers each presents. “For example, on vessels, whenever there is a large store of pellets, it has the natural ability to offgas carbon monoxide,” Wiberg explains. “So in confined spaces like the hull of a ship, pellets generate CO and it can build up in the ship, and there have been some deaths associated with it.” When it comes down to documented instances, considering all of the circumstances, it’s debatable whether it was truly caused by pellet off-gassing, Wiberg admits. “However, the phenomena has been documented enough to show that it does occur, we just don’t understand exactly why. It has also been reported in small storage—residential home heating models with basement-type storage. Again, it’s confined, and if someone goes in there after off-gassing has occurred, it can create a very dangerous circumstance. Figuring out why this occurs and developing

safe practices to eliminate these types of issues, is the key driver behind this initiative, and it’s one I personally take great interest in.” For self-heating, which is the result of chemical reactions that produce heat at sufficient rates to raise the temperature of surrounding material in a stockpile, Wiberg says it’s the same scenario—why it occurs isn’t really known, but researchers are digging into to all potentials. “In the meantime, how do we keep the pellets from getting out of control thermally? When there’s a silo hot spot that grows out of control until it’s a smoldering fire, how do you put it out? You can’t pour water onto the pellets, as the first few inches will absorb the water so it cannot get it down deeper in the silo, so it’s a very difficult fire to fight and can persist for a very long time.” Fires related to the pellet process potentially result in explosions, Wiberg adds, which serve as an interconnection to the issues of explosivity and safe handling of dust and materials. “All of the different topics are really important—it’s interesting that there is so much left to be understood and discovered.” While the ISO standards will change safety and health protocol within the pellet industry in a very meaningful way, lots of work done by experts around the globe over the past several years has led up to this effort.

Orchestrating Collaboration The Wood Pellet Association of Canada and the University of British Columbia have performed considerable work in the realm of pellet safety, drawing much attention to the topic, and, not directly related to the ISO group activities, a pellet safety workshop was held in Fügen, Austria, last year. It was expected that progress made since that meeting would be detailed at this year’s event in early May. Christian Rakos, president of the European Pellet Council, says this year, self-heating is high on the agenda. The SafePellets project, which has been investigating mechanisms responsible for self-heating since early 2012, were to present research results for the first time. “Also, safety in the supply chain particularly in terminals, seems to be a topic that is going to draw attention because of large investments in terminals.”


¦PELLET Rakos says that while the EPC wanted to have this year’s workshop directly attached to the next meeting of the ISO group in early June to allow direct interaction, it wasn’t posChristian Rakos, European Pellet sible for organizational Council reasons. “But we will seek close interaction and flow of information,” he says.

Wiberg, who attended the Fügen workshop last year, says he’d also like to see the groups cooperate to prevent redundancy, but it’s likely that individuals at Fügen will also be attending the ISO initiative, allowing a confluence of information between safety experts. Rakos says he believes last year’s meeting did just that. “Most of the benefits of these interactions are not directly visible, but I am sure they are there,” he says. “A lot of learning has been taking place, and will continue.”

ARE YOU FLIRTING WITH DISASTER? DON’T IGNORE POTENTIAL HAZARDS IN YOUR FACILITY. TRUST FIKE for expert testing in addition to a full range of explosion protection solutions. To arrange for your no-obligation hazard analysis, Call 877-814-3453 or email 22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | JUNE 2014

The June ISO meeting follows the first meeting in October, which members from seven countries attended. Representing the U.S. was Scott Cedarquist of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the standards development organization assigned by ANSI to oversee the activities of ISO TC 238, and the administrator of the U.S. technical advisory group. At the upcoming meeting, feedback on a base document that is considered the first draft of the standards will be discussed, and work for the next year will be plotted, according to Cedarquist. Global interest in development of the ISO Standards has been healthy, but still has room to grow, he says. When initiatives first began, efforts were very EuScott Cedarquist, American Society ropean dominated, for Agricultural and but that dynamic is Biological Engineers changing. “The number of countries [involved] has really expanded—Korea and Thailand are starting to participate, and they [the group] have reached out to Russia and others that are big powerbrokers when it comes to woody biofuels. We’d like to see an expansion of participants as we’re trying to get a world view on this, but at least right now, we have Asia, North America and Europe.” While all countries interested in the ISO work may not have physical representation at the meetings, participating nations may still vote and have committees developing that each respective nation’s position, Cedarquist says. In the U.S., interest has been satisfactory. “We’ve got a fairly large group, and it seems like we add a couple people every month, many who just want to know what’s going on, because they may just be interested in a small subset of the committee.” Observing members may weigh in only on topics of great interest, rather than all topics under the working group, which

PELLET¦ includes pellet testing standards. “For example, a company that makes sampling equipment or chemical testing equipment may not care about all the other topics,” Cedarquist explains. “If you’re a company that makes fire suppression equipment, you’d certainly want to see the stuff that comes through on safe handling and storage, but maybe not sampling and things of that nature. We continue to reach out, and we haven’t yet set a limit on the number of people in the committee.” So why has it been imperative for the U.S. to become involved in standardization efforts? There’s more to it than one might think. “In the context of current EN [testing] standards already published and being utilized in contracts, for the simplest of comparisons, in the U.S., the definition of fines is particles that will pass through a one-eighth-inch mesh screen, and the definition in Europe is 3.15-millimeter round hole. If it’s determined a 3.15-millimeter round-hole screen is needed, there aren’t any U.S. manufacturers that make such a screen. So in order to get appropriate testing equipment, we have to make an order from Europe, pay extra dollars because of shipping, the Euro exchange, and it takes time to get equipment from overseas. This results in equipment issues, time delays, and inconsistency in data comparability.” Relating back to safety, similar issues are present. “We understand what our scenario is for pellets, how they’re produced and what safety issues there are. But if the issues there aren’t the same—and it’s likely they aren’t, because here the species prominent are hardwoods and southern yellow pine and in Europe it’s predominately spruce—there will be differences, such as the volatiles that might off-gas, or the behavior of dust.” If standards are developed based on the European model and the U.S. isn’t at the table, it will not be able to provide its interpretation, making it difficult or impossible for U.S. producers to meet contract specifications. “Power companies or anyone pur-

chasing pellets will cite the standards in their contracts, and if we aren’t there during their development to tell them ‘wait a second, this doesn’t apply to us,’ it will be written into the standard and a contractual requirement. We have to be on our toes and watch this very closely as it develops.” The key to successful development of the standards is through means of a twostage approach—creating safe practices, but also understanding why events occur, Wiberg says. “That’s why it’s been so difficult, up un-

til now, to develop these standards, because it hasn’t been well understood.” The nature of the pellet industry is that fires are a reality, he adds. “But it’s good we’re starting to collaborate at this level to help identify cause and effect, and change practice that will hopefully improve our industry’s safety record.” Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


ThermalNews Total Requirement

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Thermal Class I

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2025 and thereafter








NH PUC takes step implementing thermal RPS provisions In April, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission published a document containing proposed amendments to the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), including those for new thermal requirements. In mid-2012, New Hampshire passed legislation making it the first state to grant full credit to renewable thermal projects under an RPS. With the publication of the proposed amendments, the New Hampshire PUC has taken another step in implementing the new provisions of the program. The amendments set a 0.4 percent RPS requirement for Class I thermal starting in 2014, ramping up to a 2 percent requirement in years 2023 and later.

Researchers use flue gas to dry wood chips

A research team at the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry recently received a $150,000 grant from the New York Energy Research Development Authority to study the use of flue gas to dry wood chips, improving their efficiency as a heat source. According to the ESF, the funding will support the fabrication of a system that can test the effectiveness of flue gas in drying chips and model its potential success as an energy-saving way of making wood chips more effective at producing heat. Thomas Amidon, the principal investigator on the project, is working with machinist Bob Kelly, who is constructing a unit designed by Sergiy Lavrykov, a research associate in ESF’s Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering. The grant was part of a $3 million NYSERDA funding round that made awards to 18 research institutions. The projects support the Renewable Heat NY program.



Response to Tragedy Can Make or Break a Business BY CAM MCALPINE

Between January and April 2012, the province of British Columbia was hit with a double shot of tragedy. In three months’ time, two sawmills exploded and burned to the ground, killing four workers and injuring 42 more. Many people involved in the wood processing industries are familiar with the story. On Jan. 20, 2012, the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake suffered a catastrophic explosion and fire that razed the mill, leaving two dead and another 20 injured. Three months later, on April 23, an eerily similar explosion leveled the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, taking the lives of two more workers and injuring 22. Companies involved in resource industries all face the prospect of an event similar to the experiences in British Columbia. Biomass producers, like lumber producers, operate in an environment where the byproducts of the manufacturing process create potentially explosive consequences. In Canada, during the past two years, considerable attention has been paid to the issue by government, regulators and industry. But there has been a vacuum in the area of crisis response and risk mitigation that companies have been slow to react to. Truth be told, organizations with well-thought-out communications strategies fare better in the face of crises: The duration of the crisis event and public scrutiny are reduced, reputational impacts are minimized, social license to operate is maintained, and bottom line impacts are mitigated. So what do you do when tragedy strikes? A preplanned, coordinated strategy is a must in responding to the overwhelming demand for answers from all quarters: government, regulators, the media, employees and others. Whether you have a plan or not, there are some key steps to follow. First of all: don’t panic. Start by assembling a team. This should include senior management and emergency response personnel. Establish lines of communications to each of your key stakeholders. Designate a spokesperson and other key points of contact. Next, you need to assess the situation. Find out what happened, where it happened, when, who was involved, and, most importantly, what you are doing about it. Determine a communications strategy to ensure people are getting the information they need when they need it. If you

allow an information vacuum to develop, people will fill it with rumor and speculation. It’s important to get in front of the media as soon as possible. Stick to the facts. Don’t speculate, and certainly don’t lie. Commit to openness and transparency. Acknowledge the negative, but emphasize the positive things you are doing. Ensure you are monitoring and responding to news reports about the incident. Speculation and inaccuracies on the part of the media can quickly get out of control. Ensure misinformation is corrected swiftly and publicly. You’ll also need to collect information for the legal record. Think “people first” in everything you communicate. Your employees and their families are your most important stakeholders. Speak to them directly. Provide as much information as you can as soon as you can. Seek and accept feedback. Acknowledge the impacts, express empathy and ensure you are supporting those who need it most: those impacted by the tragedy. Expect anger, blame and insults, but don’t take it personally. Throughout the process, don’t forget to keep your local elected officials, community leaders and support services informed. They will be the ones who have your back as the crisis grinds on, so they need to know you are doing everything you can to mitigate the impacts on their community and its citizens. Crises end; issues don’t. Tragedies like these take seconds to occur. But the fallout will go on for months or years. So you need to be prepared to continue to respond proactively to reassure all of your stakeholders that you are responding appropriately to the incident at hand, while doing everything possible to avoid anything like it ever happening again. Tragedies such as the Babine and Lakeland explosions are first and foremost about the health and safety of the workers and the companies’ assets. But it is also important to note that the way the company responds to the crisis, and the way it communicates that response, can have important consequences on its business going forward. Author: Cam McAlpine President, PRMedia Strategic Communications 250.961.6611




BEING AWARE OF BACKGROUND: It's essential for those delivering fuel such a wood chips to a fuel storage area to be aware of their surroundings to avoid collisions. PHOTO: ANNA SIMET, BIOMASS MAGAZINE

Biomass Thermal Plant Precautions Personnel working at commercial or industrial biomass heating plants should be mindful of everyday hazards. BY SARAH LUDWIG


hile operators of commercial or industrial biomass heating systems may become comfortable with daily regimes, several potential safety hazards loom amongst routine activities, dangers that could result in injury, equipment damage or worse. Main risk areas reside in fuel delivery, fuel storage and handling, and boiler and combustion areas, and potential for fires and explosions is always present. “They [hazards] are the most acute, the most deadly, the most traumatic,” says Chris Wiberg of Biomass Energy Laboratory. “Fire protection is the No. 1 thing we need to lock down. Most of the other risks are common to any work environment.” There are companies that specialize in detection, suppression, and fire management, but the real problem resides in the fact that putting out fires that occur in such biomass systems can be complex, and many fire departments simply aren’t trained to deal with them. “Let’s say the fire is burning in an open area that a firefighter can easily get to and he thinks, ‘OK, I can just go throw my hose on that flame on the


floor.’ What he doesn’t necessarily know is that as soon as he throws the water on it, it causes a cloud of dust to come up, which becomes the explosion source,” Wiberg says. “So one of the problems in fighting this type of fire can be a secondary explosion. A fire department might say they understand how to put out that kind of a fire, but does the neighboring fire department know how to put out that kind of fire? How many people truly have experience putting out this type of fire? It’s relatively small.” And because fire departments are often volunteer, and these plants can be in very rural locations, he adds, it’s not a given that the firefighters are going to know and understand how to manage this kind of a fire. Wiberg hopes some kind of handbook can be developed on these types of fires and provided to local firefighters. “There are best practices, but they’re not defined yet. Eventually, what these initiatives hope to do is to better define the practices so that the people that will have to address them have a ready-made resource,” he says.


Rebecca Knecht, certified energy manager and project manager at Evergreen Engineering Inc., feels that attitudes toward safety have become better and more mainstream in the past several years. “Companies with an active workplace safety culture are lowering their workplace injury rates and incidents significantly and have increased buy-in among operators,” she adds.

Fuel Delivery ● Tilting trucks. “Fuel delivery to the site is normally handled by tractor-trailer rig, and it can be anything from a side dump to a full-tilt machine that literally tilts the entire truck up 90 degrees and shakes all the fuel out,” says Nicholas McGrew, project manager at Thermal Systems Engineering. Operators need to watch for personnel who may have gotten into the restricted area when a lift is occurring, says McGrew. ● Pedestrian and vehicular accidents with reversing trucks. Keeping a close and watchful eye on surroundings when backing up could prevent a collision. “Operators’ field of vision is key,” McGrew says. ● Mechanical equipment. “If it’s a site that already produces the biomass material, it’s normally just pushed around with track hoes or rubber-wheeled equipment,” says McGrew. Again, operators need to be aware of other personnel in the area. “Typically, there’s nothing to cordon off between piles of fuel and the walkway,” he says. ● Dust and explosion. “We have seen a significant shift to enclosing dump trucks to avoid dust contamination,” says Knecht. “Consequently, that dust is then subject to spontaneous combustion, as it is trapped inside the new structures.” Delivery by bags or material being blown into a silo also increases the risks of explosion. ● Falls into underground fuel storage spaces. “As they say, all accidents are preventable, and being tethered to prevent falls is paramount,” Knecht says.

Fuel Storage and Handling ● Fire. “Piles, if left alone and not managed (properly ventilated or turned over), can automatically ignite due to the interior temperatures,” Knecht says. “They can smolder for weeks or even months and, in some places, years. When the pile is eventually disturbed for use, oxygen is introduced and combustion results. Significant damage has occurred to facilities and sadly, workers have been burned or killed as a result. Fires can also start as a result of burn-back from the boiler or from a heat source within the storage area. ● Explosion. Wood pellets in good condition are not very susceptible to explosion, but once they have degraded, there is the potential for dust and therefore, the risk of an explosion in the right circumstances, such as a buildup of static electricity. Pneu-

matically transferred pellets offer the highest risk of dust explosion due to the potential for pellets to disintegrate during the delivery process. All delivery pipes should have a smooth internal bore, and bends should have a large radius to reduce the chances of pellet disintegration. ● Mechanical equipment. Some heating systems use live bottom feeders to convey fuel, and if not attentive to surroundings, it poses risks to personnel. “Live bottom feeders make me nervous as far as safety goes,” says McGrew. “If someone falls in there, there’s precious little time to get out.” ● Carbon monoxide, or off-gassing. “Wood doesn’t just offgas automatically. Wood pellets, because there’s a whole bunch of them in a small area, have some kind of a natural biological process going on that’s causing the generation of carbon monoxide. In very small quantities, it doesn’t appear to be an issue, but certainly in huge industrial-type stores, we have examples of scenarios that have become fatal,” says Wiberg. “The off-gassing issues are only when you have quantities stored in the wrong environment and/or some period of time. It can creep up because maybe it’s not being watched like it should be.”

Boiler and Combustion ● Inability to extinguish immediately. A biomass boiler cannot be extinguished immediately because they have large thermal inertia caused by fuel burning on the grate and potentially also residual heat stored in the refractory. This presents a risk of excess temperature or pressure if the boiler must be shut down suddenly. This risk can be reduced by including a buffer vessel, an emergency heat dump or cooling loops in the design. The problem tends to be greater with wood chip boilers that are physically much larger than pellet boilers with similar outputs and hence have a larger thermal inertia ● Explosion. Occasionally, uncombusted, explosive gas mixtures can build up within a biomass boiler’s combustion chamber and flue, which are subsequently ignited and an explosion of some form can occur. This can happen in circumstances such as uncontrolled draft, excessive charging, delayed ignition, accidental or uncontrolled admittance of air to the combustion space. In order to avoid the consequentially severe explosion risks, it is vital that the boiler system is designed for the load, the correct controls are used for the boiler charging, and the manufacturer’s operating instructions are adhered to at all times. ADDITIONAL SOURCE: Combustion Engineering Association, Health and Safety in Biomass Systems: Design and Operation Guide. Author: Sarah Ludwig Freelance journalist


BiogasNews White House introduces methane reduction plan The White House has released its Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions under the President’s Climate Action Plan. It addresses methane from landfills, agriculture, coal mines and oil and gas operations. With regard to landfills, the White House indicated the U.S. EPA will proposed updated standards this year to reduce methane from new landfills. Comments will also be accepted on whether standards for existing landfills should be updated. In addition, the EPA will aim to reduce landfill gas emission through voluntary programs via its Landfill Methane Outreach Program. This includes landfill gas-to-energy projects. The plan also addresses anaerobic digestion systems. In June, the USDA, EPA and U.S. DOE, in partnership with

U.S. methane emissions Natural gas and petroleum systems


Enteric fermentation




Coal mining


Manure management




Wastewater treatment



the dairy industry, are scheduled to release a Biogas Roadmap that outlines voluntary strategies to accelerate the adoption of methane digesters and other technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S. diary sector by 25 percent by 2020.

Joint venture to implement gas-to-liquids technology using landfill gas A new joint venture formed by WM Organic Growth Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., NRG GTL Holdings, VPI LF-GTL LLC and Velocys Inc. aims to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biogas and biogas using smaller-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology. The joint venture’s first facility is under development. It will be located at Waste Management’s East Oak site in Oklahoma. According to WM, the joint venture intends to make a final decision to proceed on the first plant this year. En-


gineering and design work is substantially complete. In addition, final draft permitting documents have been submitted. Development activities for additional facilities are expected to commence soon. Waste Management previously built and operated a smaller-scale GTL demonstration unit at the East Oak landfill. That demonstration unit has accumulated more than 10,000 hours of successful operation.


International Cooperation Yields Exchange of Project Models BY AMANDA BILEK

In today’s global marketplace, even before the first good or service is produced for export, a significant amount of relationship building and information sharing among trading partners occurs. Formulating relationships and defining cooperation agreements are the first step on the path to global trade. This applies to several industries, but international cooperation is a critical element for the bioenergy sector. During an international trade mission last summer, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sweden on bioenergy cooperation. Last March, Sweden was able to tout that nearly half its total energy use was supplied by renewable resources, and nearly one-third was from bioenergy alone. Minnesota has similar renewable energy resources to Sweden, especially forestry and agricultural resources. It was a smart decision by the Dayton administration to formalize a cooperation agreement with a global leader in bioenergy development. Bioenergy encompasses many feedstocks, technologies and opportunities. The Minnesota/Sweden cooperation agreement has been specifically targeted to help ensure success. When a Swedish delegation visited Minnesota last fall, it was determined that a near-term focus area for cooperation should be biogas (biomass thermal was another focus area). As a strong advocate and proponent of biogas energy systems, I am excited to see focus on the underutilized biogas resource. Sweden is the world leader in the use of biogas for transportation fuel. Sweden views its domestic biogas resource as the best way to decrease fossil fuel use in the transport sector. According to the Swedish Gas Association, Sweden produced 1.6 terawatt-hours of biogas from approximately 240 production facilities in 2012. More than 50 percent of the biogas produced was used as vehicle fuel. The remaining portion was utilized primarily for heat and for electricity generation. Sweden’s total potential for biogas production remains more than 10 times greater than what is currently produced. So even in Sweden, where biogas is already a more established resource, there is a significant amount of untapped potential. Biogas is a significant player in a diversified energy portfolio in Sweden. Since biogas is a key strategy for reducing fossil fuel use in the transportation sector, the number

of biogas-fueled buses, trains, taxis and passenger vehicles in operation is growing throughout Sweden. A robust effort to build out alternative fuel infrastructure accompanies the increased use of biogas. In addition to biogas, the Swedes are also developing additional production capacity and utilization of liquid renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Another element of Sweden’s alternative fuel strategy is to blend conventional natural gas with its domestic biogas resource. Biogas is still the majority share of the finished fuel blend. According to the U.S. DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center, over 50 percent of the gas used to fuel Sweden’s 11,500 gas vehicles consists of biogas. Much of Sweden’s renewable energy and alternative fuel development success can be attributed to policies that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial incentives, which make it easier for consumers to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives. Although some of Sweden’s carbon policies might be a difficult sell politically in the U.S., there are many other strategies that could be achievable in the country. Sweden and the U.S. can learn from one another as we work to expand the production and utilization of our biogas resources. This international spirit of cooperation led to the development of a sustainable transportation seminar that took place May 19 at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. The seminar, which was hosted by the Swedish Embassy with opening remarks from Swedish Ambassador Björn Lyrvall, highlighted the successful biogas transportation models currently utilized in Sweden. Strategies were shared by Swedish and Minnesota partners about how we could work cooperatively to export and import the most successful models to further develop our biogas resources. In addition to the seminar, individual meetings took place between the Swedish delegation members and key Minnesota agencies and companies to further discuss how we could formalize cooperation agreements for biogas resource development. It was the first step in what I hope will lead to greater biogas deployment in Minnesota. Author: Amanda Bilek Government Affairs Manager, Great Plains Institute 612-278-7118




Unique and Essential Safety Features Safety is a joint effort that the supplier, designer and owner of a biogas system should be vested in. BY MICHAEL O’NEIL


iogas is a great renewable energy source. It is created through natural biological processes, and the generation of biogas often results in a biologically stabilized waste product that can be reused and oftentimes sold as a commodity. The biogas industry has grown in the past two decades, gaining acceptance worldwide as a feasible renewable energy source. Along with that growth has come an increased need to address safety concerns. There are some inherent dangers associated with biogas production plants. As more biogas plants are installed worldwide, there is increased potential for an accident that can have devastating effects on the environment, operations personnel and equipment. Statistically, even though accidents are rare, just one major accident can result in direct substantial costs and tarnish the reputation of all parties, including the biogas system supplier, the design engineer, the system owner and the renewable energy industry. Besides risks that are typical of every production plant (fall hazards, chemical hazards, etc.) there are unique risks and potential dangers inher-

ent in the characteristics of biogas itself. Biogas is composed of a large amount of methane (50 to 80 percent), carbon dioxide (20 to 50 percent), hydrogen sulfide and other gaseous or aerosol particles. Therefore, suffocation and asphyxiation from having no oxygen, toxic effects from hydrogen sulfide, and explosive or flammable hazards associated with the methane are a few potential dangers. There is also the potential for damage as a result of gas release due to a ruptured tank or piping. Methods to mitigate and lower the potential for accidents include the following: 1. Apply the guidance given in the U.S. National Fire Protection Association 820 reference standard. 2. Use of warning signs at all potentially hazardous locations with respect to the conditions potentially present from the release of biogas. 3. Implement adequate equipment system redundancy and the multiple level safety net approach, in areas that have the greatest risk. 4. Follow sound engineering design practice for the collection and handling of biogas for existing and new facilities. The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers.



5. Provide detailed operations and maintenance information, standard operating procedures and operator training for the biogas systems.

Fire and Electrical Safety The NFPA is the primary author of recommended standards for fire protection and electrical codes in the U.S. NFPA 820 is a set of fire safety standards for wastewater treatment and collection facilities. It sets standards for classifying areas (Class 1, Division 1, Class 1, Division 2, etc). These area classifications are then used by electrical installers of electrical components where an ignition might come in contact with flammable gas. NFPA 820 is not a code (law); however, some states have codified it in their state statutes. It is also primarily focused on municipal wastewater treatment facilities, but it contains some very good and practical recommendations for safety at industrial biogas plants and is followed by many biogas plant design engineers. Some suppliers and contractors may say that NFPA 820 is not code and is relevant only to municipal wastewater plants, so the recommendations do not need to be followed on an industrial project. The view of Symbiont Inc., a Milwaukee-based engineering and consulting firm, is that the NFPA 820 standard contains valuable design guidance information for protecting customers’ assets and personnel from fire and explosions at biogas plants and should be used as a design resource at every biogas facility. By applying the standards set forth in NFPA 820, all project affiliated parties are protecting themselves.

Safety Signage What is obvious to one employee may not be so obvious to others. A good practice in every plant is to include well-labeled, visible, and clearly understood signs that provide warning or reminders of the potential dangers in a particular area. Posted signs should include what personal protective equipment is needed to enter an area, or read, DO NOT ENTER.

Multilayered Protection Equipment component redundancy and a multilayered approach should be used in areas that pose a greater risk for biogas release. Some examples of the use of redundancy are pressure-vacuum relief (PVR) valves typically located on the biogas dome space of anaerobic digesters or on biogas storage systems. Typically, it is advisable to pair two PVR valves in parallel, with one being active and the other used as a standby. This is done so that the active PVR can be periodically switched to a standby status for maintenance while still protecting the tank by switching the standby unit to active. A multilayered safety approach is typically used when a failure could result in catastrophic damages or loss of life. These safety systems often involve both electronic programmable logic control (PLC) devices and mechanical systems so that if one system fails, the next system in the series will prevent an accident. Another example of a multilayered safety approach is the safety systems used to prevent a tank from overflowing. Tanks usually contain a pressure transducer at the bottom of the tank or some other means

of measuring the liquid level in the tank. In the first safety level, a sensor sends a signal to the PLC if the liquid level in the tank approaches a high level, and the PLC alerts operations personnel of the status. Most tank systems will also include a float switch at, or near the overflow level of, the tank that will alert operations personnel that the tank is approaching an overflow event—this is the second level. If the liquid level in the tank continues to rise unchecked, it will begin to flow out of the overflow pipe. The overflow pipe can be connected to another tank either upstream or downstream and temporarily flow into this tank instead of overflowing on the ground—the third safety level. Finally, in the unlikely event that all secondary tanks become full and there is nowhere to go with the excess liquid, a berm system can be built around the tank system to prevent any overflow from reaching environmentally sensitive areas. The berm can also include a float switch that will alert personnel that the final safety level is being used, or is being breached.

Think Safety From the Beginning Risk mitigation and safety begins at the conceptual stage and should be incorporated into the design of the biogas system from the very start. Good engineering practice involves more than just doing what is required; it involves a multistep thought process from the onset of design all the way through to commissioning of the system. Designers need to think forward when designing systems and place safety features where potential hazards might be present. An often-missed step in the design and commissioning process is thorough QA/QC, throughout the design process and prior to the release of the design for construction.

Employee Training During biogas plant commissioning, every biogas system provider should offer thorough operator training. Most accidents are the result of human error, and personnel working with and operating the system on a daily basis will, statistically, have the tendency to make errors that cause an accident. Generally, operators are very conscientious of their work, but if they have not been adequately trained with the system, there is a greater chance of an unwanted incident. Designers need to make sure all staff understand the system and know how to operate it before the system supplier leaves the site. It should be stressed to operators that they need to think before they act, and apply the rules of cause and effect to each operation they perform. Overall, it is important to understand that safety is a team effort that the supplier, designer and owner of the biogas system should be vested in from the beginning of the design throughout the entire life of the system. The mindset should be that a biogas plant is a long-term investment with safety being a high priority. If the safety techniques discussed above are applied, it is likely to result in a safe and profitable biogas plant. Author: Michael O’Neil Project manager and Senior Process Engineer, Symbiont 414-291-8840


AdvancedBiofuelNews EPA reduces 2013 cellulosic requirement

NASA continues renewable fuel tests

The U.S. EPA is RFS cellulosic requirements Gallons revising the celluStatutory 2013 RFS cellulosic 1 billion losic requirement of 2013 RFS cellulosic as established by 6 million the 2013 renewable rulemaking fuel standard (RFS) Revised 2013 RFS cellulosic requirement, 810,185 to reflect actual proposed in new rulemaking production. On RINs April 23, the agency 2013 D3 cellulosic biofuel 422,740 published prepubli2013 D7 cellulosic diesel 387,445 cation versions of a Total 2013 cellulosic 810,185 notice of proposed SOURCE: U.S. EPA rulemaking and a direct final rule to reduce the 2013 cellulosic RFS requirement to 810,185 ethanol-equivalent gallons. On a percentage basis, that equates to approximately 0.0005 percent of U.S. transportation fuel. The EPA’s action stemmed from petitions filed last year by the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute requesting reconsideration of the cellulosic requirements. Those petitions cited a reduced cellulosic fuel production forecast made by a cellulosic biofuel producer after the 2013 RFS rulemaking process was complete. The direct final rule will become effective 60 days after its official publication in the Federal Register unless the EPA receives relevant adverse comment within 30 days, in which case it will proceed with the parallel proposed rule.

NASA is continuing its biojet testing initiative. In April, NASA announced it has signed separate agreements with the German Aerospace Center and the National Research Council of Canada to conduct a series of joint test flights to study the atmospheric effects of emissions from jet engines burning alternative fuels. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS II) flights are set to begin May 7 and will be flown from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. NASA's DC-8 and HU-25C Guardian, DLR's Falcon 20-E5, and NRC's CT-133 research aircraft will conduct flight tests in which the DC-8 engines will burn a mix of different fuel blends, while the Falcon and CT-133 measure emissions and observe contrail formation. According to NASA, ACCESS II is the latest in a series of ground and flights tests that began in 2009. ACCESS I testing was conducted in 2013 and indicated that tested biofuel blends may substantially reduce emissions of black carbon, sulfates and organics.

GeoSynFuels purchases, retrofits idle Western Biomass demo facility Colorado-based GeoSynFuels LLC has acquired the cellulosic demonstration facility previously owned and operated by Blue Sugars Corp., the parent company of Western Biomass Energy LLC. Western Biomass filed for bankruptcy in 2012, followed by Blue Sugars in 2013. Todd Harvey, president and CEO of GSF said his company plans to leave the facility in place in Upton, Wyo., and retrofit it to use his company’s proprietary 5CS ethanol production technology. Unlike many cellulosic technologies that target both five-carbon and six-carbon sugars, GSF’s process targets only five-carbon sugars for ethanol production. As a result, more biomass material is left behind for other purposes, such as combustion. The process is designed to be a bolt-on addition to facilities that already aggregate, process and combust biomass, such as sugar mills, pulp mills and biomass energy facilities. GSF began testing its process at the pilot scale in 2011. The newly purchased demonstration facility is expected to be operational by mid to late summer.


ENGINEERING A SOLUTION: Researchers place engineered E. coli into test tubes containing glucose to determine which enzyme combinations produce pinene most efficiently. PHOTO: GEORGIA TECH

Engineered bacteria produces biobased rocket fuel alternative Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon with potential to replace highenergy fuels, such as JP-10 used in missiles and other aerospace applications. Pinene is produced in nature by trees. According to information released by Georgia Tech, researchers inserted enzymes from trees into the bacterium and were able to boost pinene production six-fold over earlier bioengineering efforts. To be commercially competitive, production must be boosted by an estimated 26-fold. Researchers said that is within the range of possibilities for bioengineering the E. coli. The amount of PT-10 that can be extracted from a barrel of oil is limited. That limited supply drives up the price of the fuel to approximately $25 per gallon. That high price point gives researchers working on a biobased JP-10 an advantage over scientists working to produce replacements for lower-priced gasoline and diesel.


Standards for a New Industry BY MARGARET MCCORMICK

Today, the biofuels and biomass industries face more scrutiny than fossil industries ever did. For better or for worse, we can expect a constant stream of research about various new technologies and their impacts on water, greenhouse gases, land use and other important issues. Nobody asked these questions when the first oil wells were being drilled. Even today, as new wells are drilled in locations from the deep oceans to the field next door, fossil-based fuels are exempt from the high bars set for renewable fuels. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. That's why we must equip ourselves with tools that can offer standardized and honest comparisons of the benefits and impacts of various technologies, even within industries. The Algae Biomass Organization recently released “Industrial Algae Measurements, Version 6.0,” a significant update to common standards, established by ABO members, which measures and compares algae industry operations across almost any technical approach, regardless of size or outputs. The document is the result of the hard work, foresight and expertise of the ABO’s Technical Standards Committee and dozens of industry experts. All algae operators should consider how the IAM methodologies apply to their systems. These include heterotrophic, autotrophic, open pond, photobioreactor and open water algae production, as well as harvest and conversion processes. The IAM considers inputs such as the carbon, water, energy and nutrients required by algae cultivation, as well as land requirements, process consumables and labor. Outputs measured by the standards include the different classes of algal products as well as industrial waste emissions such as gas, liquid, and solid discharges. To maintain comparable results, IAM establishes a "green box" approach that measures inputs and outputs as they pass through analytical boundaries that can be established for almost any algae farm, fermentation facility, or even separate components of a biorefinery.

These measurements systemically allow for techno-economic analyses and sustainability calculations. Identifying this total footprint will become increasingly central in the funding, regulatory and sustainability review of an expanding algae industry, and will ultimately come to define the commercial viability of specific ventures. Those in the industry know the most recent examinations of algae production systems have been enormously positive. For land use, algae have already been shown to grow successfully on marginal lands at yields far above other crops (exceeding 5,000 gallons of oil per year). Using saltwater as a growing medium means a robust algae industry won't pressure our freshwater supplies. Fuel from algae has been shown to reduce CO2 by 68 percent or more in comparison to fossil fuels. Recently, a team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory showed that with existing technology, microalgae could generate a volume of fuel equivalent to 48 percent of current U.S. petroleum imports for transportation. Remember, these encouraging analyses are based on existing technology. ABO members know they will quickly outpace the capabilities of today's technology, and many undoubtedly have already done so. You will likely hear about those advances at the Algae Biomass Summit, taking place Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in San Diego. Standard measurements are vital to keeping momentum in today's business environment. All algae operators should be examining their systems with the IAM methodology. As scrutiny of biomass technologies increases, they will be glad they did. Author: Margaret McCormick Chair of Board of Directors, Algae Biomass Organization 877-531-5512



North Dakota's Subterranean Fuel Feedstock Sugar beets as an advanced biofuel feedstock has North Dakota scientists researching outside of the box. BY CHRIS HANSON


hen the advanced biofuel industry thinks feedstocks, ideas may drift toward dried corn stover on a freshly harvested field, or swathes of switchgrass or miscanthus swaying in the breeze. In the Red River Valley and Drift Prairie regions of North Dakota, however, the next advanced biofuel might be found below the ground in the form of sugar beets. But why sugar beets? “Why not sugar beets,” replies David Ripplinger, assistant professor at the agribusiness and applied economics department at North Dakota State University. The feedstock has several benefits to both growers and biofuel producers. For growers, the plant improves soil


health with its deep tap root, yields relatively high numbers and can gain access to nutrients available in lower soil depths, he explains. “It’s also relatively high-yielding. If you did an ethanol yield per acre, it’s about twice that of corn.” Farmers also gain a nitrogen credit due to the left-behind plant tops, he adds. “That ends up being quite a bit of nitrogen on a per acre basis.” From a biofuel producer standpoint, the beets are a sugar-rich source that can be processed and handled more easily than food-grade sugar. “It’s a sugar crop, so you don’t have to go through the effort of converting starch or cellulose into sugar,” Ripplinger says. “It’s already

ADVANCED BIOFUELS AND CHEMICALS¦ U.S. 10-Year Sugar Beet Production (1,000 tons) 2004/05 Michigan









































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in that form.” The sugar being used in the process would not be necessarily taken away from the food production chain since food-grade sugar producers prefer beets with a sugar content greater than 12 percent, whereas this project could utilize beets under the threshold." Additionally, North Dakota is one of the few locations where beet production remains fairly steady, Ripplinger says. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the upper Midwest, which includes only North Dakota and Minnesota, harvests the most sugar beets. North Dakota alone harvested 225,000 acres of sugar beets during the 2013-’14 growing season, more than the totals reported from the Great Plains and Great Lakes regions. Converting the beets to a usable material does not come without its challenges, Ripplinger explains. “You’re essentially re-engineering the front-end, even though it’s not as many pieces or quite as delicate as a process,” he says. “Making sure that everything works individually, as well as together, and scaling from bench-scale to commercial scale, that’s still a pretty big deal.” The crop is also relatively delicate when it comes to herbicide carryover from field applications. For instance, herbicides containing sulfentrazone can have rotational restrictions of 24 months or longer, while other chemicals, such as imazethapyr, has 40-month rotational restrictions, according to Ripplinger. “You can certainly grow with the right chemical regime,” he says. “But some growers, who grow certain crops or certain practices, you have to let them know years in advance because the carryover for certain chemicals can be significant.” Converting beets to edible sugars requires roughly 38 different steps, Ripplinger says, whereas converting it to an industrial sugar requires four steps. The beets are run through a hammer mill, a modified ribbon mixer with hot water spray, and a chamber filter press. Afterward, the beet pulp can be used for pellet production, while the

sugary beet juice can be used in biofuel production. Based on a life-cycle analysis at NDSU, the beets could potentially qualify as an advanced biofuel feedstock, Ripplinger says. In October 2011, a petition was submitted to the U.S. EPA to establish its use as an advanced biofuel pathway, however, the agency’s evaluation revamp has put it and other potential pathways in a slight delay, he says. Although the petition delay presents a challenge in the project, it has not stopped the project partners from evaluating sites across North Dakota. Last October, the project developers saw the promise behind the project and decided to develop criteria for a site location process, Ripplinger recalls. “Initially, they thought there would be no more than a few sites,” he adds. “By the time they were done, they realized there were five sites that were possibilities.” The project developers toured the sites in January and March, evaluating possible locations and engaging sugar beet growers on the possibility of growing the beets as an industrial crop. “The purpose of both of those meetings was really to gauge grower interest,” Ripplinger says. “Without growers willing to commit, there really isn’t a project because it’s dependent on locally available feedstocks. There is no alternative, you can’t easily store and transport them, so that became a key.” The proposed 20-MMgy refinery would require roughly 750,000 tons of beets primarily sourced within 20 miles of the facility, and is expected to be built as soon as 2016. The project developers hope to finalize processing and commercialization strategies, which includes feedstock commitments and capitalization. Author: Chris Hanson Staff Writer: Biomass Magazine 701-738-4970


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June 2014 Biomass Magazine