INSIDE: SOLVING BIOMASS HARVEST, TRANSPORT, STORAGE ISSUES
Aggregators PowerStock Relies on its Agricultural Roots to Conquer Biomass Supply Chain Challenges Page 24
Plus: Why Pelletizing Crop
Residues Makes Sense
How Crop Residues Increase Methane Production in AD Systems Page 36
Why China is a Hotbed for Bioenergy Development Page 42
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INSIDE: SOLVING BIOMASS HARVEST, TRANSPORT, STORAGE ISSUES
Pellet Power Biomass Briquettes: Turning Waste Into Energy Page 24
New Hampshire expands pellet heat incentive Page 30
Also: ISU ponders permanent biomass cofiring after test burn Page 36
Federal export initiative targets wood pellets and chips Page 42
MARCH 2011 | VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 3
FEATURES 24 SUPPLY Supply Chain Champs PowerStock is using its vast experience handling ag residue and forage to develop supply chain logistics for the bioenergy industry. By Anna Austin
30 DENSIFICATION Pellet Ingenuity Making pellets from crop residues is challenging but well worth the effort when considering feedstock abundance, cost and the manpower to harvest it. By Lisa Gibson
36 ANAEROBIC DIGESTION Codigesting Crop Residues Using crop residues in anaerobic digestion systems can boost methane production and thereby increase feedstock availability. By Anna Austin
42 INTERNATIONAL China’s Crop Residue Capacity
DEPARTMENTS 04 EDITOR’S NOTE
Solving the Crop Residue Conundrum By Rona Johnson
06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 08 POWER PLATFORM
A National Clean Energy Standard By Bob Cleaves
10 THERMAL DYNAMICS
The DOE Biomass Program: A New Focus? By Charlie Niebling and John Karakash
12 ENERGY REVIEW
Powering an Engine Generator with a Biomass Gasifier By Phil Hutton
13 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE
Learn What Regulations Apply to Your Project By John Eustermann
14 BUSINESS BRIEFS 16 EVENT COVERAGE
Biomass developers find China to be a hotbed for activity due to its ample supply of crop residues and the need for clean centralized power facilities. By Lisa Gibson
CONTRIBUTIONS 48 FEEDSTOCK Crop Residues: Issues Relating to Collection, Transportation and Storage To ensure a reliable, long-term feedstock supply, developers looking to use crop residues must develop close, cooperative-like relationships with farmers. By Kate Bechen
50 MISCANTHUS Field Day Explores Energy Crop Production Miscanthus field day features information about the planting, harvesting and utilization of the perennial crop for bioenergy production. By Cheree Franco
ON THE COVER: PowerStock senior managers Steve Van Mouwerik (left to right), CEO; Harrison Pettit, vice president; Bill Levy, president; and Rod Phelan, vice president harvest operations, all have experience in the agriculture industry. PHOTO: FOTONOVELLA.NET
20 FIRED UP 52 MARKETPLACE 53 ADVERTISER INDEX MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 3
Solving the Crop Residue Conundrum
RONA JOHNSON Editor email@example.com
The bad news is that the infrastructure for utilizing crop residues for bioenergy production has a ways to go before it can be cost effective for large commercial-scale plants. The good news is that there are a lot of smart, experienced people working on this and I’m confident they will succeed. Before this can happen though―and I’ve said this a million times―farmers must be convinced that this is a profitable use of their time and energy. It’s difficult right now to make the case because farm income is high and they aren’t really looking for ways to enhance their income. But this could change in a heartbeat as farming success largely depends on the weather, federal farm policy and input costs (fuel, fertilizer, seed, etc.). Although we can’t predict the weather, we can presume that the new Congress will likely make cuts to all federal programs including the Farm Bill, which expires in 2012, and input costs aren’t likely to drop anytime soon. This means that the biomass industry must be prepared for the time when farmers are actively seeking ways to supplement their income, and is why this month’s magazine is dedicated to the collection, transport, storage and densification of crop residues. According to a USDA study, “Biomass from Crop Residues Cost and Supply Estimates,” crop residues have the potential to displace 12.5 percent of petroleum imports or 5 percent of electricity consumption in today’s markets. The study found that the total biomass supply in the high-density crop production areas of the country ranges from 297 billion to 313 billion pounds, depending on the price level. The researchers also surmised that this figure could grow to 500 billion pounds in the next two decades based on trends from the past two decades of increased crop yields and declining livestock demand for forage. The study also concluded that crop residues are probably the lowest cost form of biomass supply. “Throughout the Corn Belt, residue costs have a narrow price range, from $16 to $18 per ton, even after making allowances for delivery to a large plant,” according to the study. “The range of costs is wider in the Great Plains due to diverse growing conditions, conservation requirements, and forage demands. The eastern section of the spring wheat area has extensive residue supplies at moderate costs. Also, the eastern section of the winter Wheat Belt has a cost advantage when feed grain residues, wheat straw, and residues diverted from feed are combined.” Of course, the researchers took into account the impact of crop residue removal on soil fertility and the farmer’s bottom line. They deduced that reduced tillage and partial residue harvest may maintain soil quality and increase producer profits. Several researchers at colleges and universities across the U.S. have done studies on this and have made recommendations based on the conditions in the areas where the crops are produced. I would suggest if you are looking for that type of information that you reach out to your local institutions of higher learning. The USDA study has a lot of information that I couldn’t possibly fit in this column, so if you are looking for more details, go to www.usda.gov/oce/reports/energy/AER819.pdf.
For more news, information and perspective, visit www.biomassmagazine.com
Contributing Writers In the Energy Review column Phil Hutton, research manager at the Energy & Environmental Research Center, summarized the center’s experience with internal combustion engines in its effort to develop distributed biomass gasification systems for a variety of applications.
Bob Cleaves, head of the Biomass Power Association, writes in his Power Platform column about the role of biomass in President Obama’s national goal of 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035, advocating for a broad definition of clean energy in order to garner bipartisan support. BOB CLEAVES
4 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
EDITORIAL EDITOR Rona Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin email@example.com Lisa Gibson firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann email@example.com
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Subscriptions Biomass Power & Thermal is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for any country outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico. To subscribe, visit www.BiomassMagazine.com or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Power & Thermal 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 email@example.com. Advertising Biomass Power & Thermal 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 Power & Thermal advertising opportunities, please contact us at (701) 746-8385 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Power & Thermal Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or e-mail to email@example.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.
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MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 5
¦INDUSTRY EVENTS International Biomass Conference & Expo May 2-5, 2011 America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri The largest, fastest growing biomass event was attended in 2010 by 1,700 industry professionals from 49 states and 25 nations representing nearly every geographical region and sector of the world’s biomass utilization industries―power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. Plan to join more than 2,500 attendees, 120 speakers and 400-plus exhibitors for the premier international biomass event of the year. (701) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com
Join the discussion about the role of biomass in federal energy policy
With President Obama’s goal that America produce 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 still fresh in everyone’s minds, how the biomass industry can help meet that challenge will be a hot topic at the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo May 2-5 at the America’s Center in St. Louis. To keep the industry up to date about what’s happening on Capitol Hill, event organizers have developed a plenary session of biomass industry advocates who lobby for biomass interests in Washington. “We are bringing back the legislative panel where executives from various biomass associations come together to discuss what has transpired in the past year,” says Tim Portz, BBI International’s program director. “It’s been a big year for the industry, what with the development of the boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule and the release of the final Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule and the U.S. EPA giving its blessing for some vehicles to fuel with E15.” Although this plenary session will have some of the same participants as last year, the format will be a little different. “We are going to allow people to submit questions for the panel online, right on our agenda,” Portz says. “If there is a question that someone wants to ask a particular person or the group they can submit that question online.” The questions will be reviewed by an internal team at BBI International and will then be shared with the panelists so they have time to prepare visual aids or background information. “I think this is going to be interesting,” Portz says. “I hope our audience finds it interesting and I hope for some good participation and some questions online.” Conference organizers are also making the show’s agenda more accommodating for attendees. “We’ve made good on our commitment to have the show accessible from two different directions,” Portz says. Attendees who only want to listen to panels that address a certain feedstock will have that option, as they have in past years. “This year we will also have an energy production focus approach to the agenda. We’re preparing agendas for a thermal focus, a power focus, a biorefining focus and a project development focus. This takes the work away from our attendees, so if they just want to be in biorefining-related panels all day they can grab that agenda. This fourth annual conference will be coproduced by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine. For more information or to sponsor, exhibit or register, go to www.biomassconference.com.
6 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 27-30, 2011 Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana The FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world, and is renowned for its superb programming which focuses on commercial-scale ethanol production― both grain and cellulosic―operational efficiencies, plant management, energy use, and near-term research and development. (701) 746-8385 www.fuelethanolworkshop.com
International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show September 14-16, 2011 Hilton Americas – Houston Houston, Texas Organized by BBI International and produced by Biorefining Magazine, the International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste and petrochemical professionals to explore the value-added opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (701) 746-8385 www.biorefiningconference.com
Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show October 11-13, 2011 Westin Place Hotel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast― from Maryland to Maine―the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show is a dynamic regional offshoot of Biorefining Magazine and Biomass Power & Thermal magazine’s International Biomass Conference & Expo, the largest event of its kind in the world. The 2nd annual conference will connect current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utilities, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. (701) 746-8385 www.biomassconference.com/northeast
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 7
A National Clean Energy Standard BY BOB CLEAVES
The 112th Congress is hardly in gear, and already pundits in Washington are speculating about the future of a national energy policy. The debate was heightened with the president’s State of the Union speech, which called for a national goal of 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035. So what exactly is clean energy and what role will biomass play in the legislative debate? First, let’s talk about clean as opposed to renewable. In the last Congress, Biomass Power Association joined with solar, wind, waste to energy and other renewable trade associations to advocate for a strong renewable energy standard. As we all know, the House passed an aggressive standard, along with cap-andtrade legislation, which failed to get traction in the Senate. Indeed, many new members of Congress ran on an anti-cap-and-trade platform. Significantly, this legislation disqualified any nonrenewable energy such as nuclear or coal with carbon capture and sequestration, thus alienating political support from coal states and the Southeast. In addition, those opposing a federal renewable energy standard claimed that the initiative would end up costing consumers at a time when the economy could ill afford higher energy costs. What has changed? Well, the November elections, for starters, created a new political landscape that must be negotiated. No matter who occupies the role of Speaker of the House, promoting alternative energy sources is a bipartisan issue that enjoys widespread support across the political spectrum. Surely, cap and traders and those who support a rigid definition of renewable have lost the political debate for the time
8 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
being. David Hamilton, director of global warming and energy programs at the Sierra Club, perhaps said it best: “As an environmental group we don’t have the luxury of being one-dimensional about what is clean energy or not.” (This sounds strangely similar to what we have been saying all along when it comes to a broad and common sense definition of biomass. But I digress.) So, we suspect that if a national energy policy is to receive Congressional support, it must be broad, and the definition of clean must incorporate a wide array of sources. That means all the traditional renewables including biomass, but also nonrenewable and low- or no-carbon sources such as nuclear. As advocates of biomass, we intend to support a national energy policy, and assure that the policy fully embraces our form of energy while promoting other clean sources. At the same time, we want to make sure the policy is meaningful and will serve as a catalyst for growth, which means taking a hard look at what is considered clean and to make sure that valuable state programs are not eliminated. The definition of clean energy should remain broad; there is plenty of space for many different types of energy. As a nation, we need an energy policy that moves forward, and promotes energy independence cost-effectively and cleanly. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association www.USABiomass.org
Biomass Power & Thermal’s Spring 2011 Map
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Deadline: April 4th, 2011 Biomass Power & Thermal’s Spring 2011 U.S. Biomass Power Map will identify proposed, under construction and operational dedicated power plants―1 MW or greater―utilizing, or proposing to utilize, solid biomass fuel (wood processing and forestry residues, C&D, MSW, ag residues and dedicated energy crops). More than 100 facilities will be conveniently color coded (by status) for quick reference. Listings will include: Facility Name City State Size (MW) Feedstock(s) Conversion Technology
Plus, the map will identify facilities that are co-firing biomass with coal and those that are employing CHP. Distribution: • Mailed to all Biomass Power & Thermal subscribers • Mailed to all biomass power facilities • International Biomass Conference & Expo • Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show • International Fuel Ethanol Workshop • International Biorefi ning Conference & Trade Show Contact us today: 866-746-8385 firstname.lastname@example.org
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The DOE Biomass Program: A New Focus? BY CHARLIE NIEBLING AND JOHN KARAKASH
U.S. DOE Biomass Program officials tell us candidly that policy directives limit their activities to liquid transportation fuels development and electricity generation or combined heat and power. They claim not to be authorized to offer more than verbal support for advancement of other biomass energy technologies, regardless of the potential for energy self-reliance, cost reduction, local employment, climate change mitigation or wildfire danger reduction. The agency’s limited focus neglects other opportunities, notably the commercialization of the low-hanging fruit of sustainable and local biomass energy: advanced combustion of biomass materials for heat, service hot water and direct cooling for buildings and process heat for industry. This potential was described and highlighted in the article “Wood Energy in America” published March 2009 as the Policy Forum in Science. It would be valuable for the DOE to explain why biomass thermal is unsupported since no other renewable energy technology offers the short-term recovery of invested capital or long-term benefits including jobs and reduced dependence on imported fossil energy. The DOE’s research and development focus is critical here. Recent research shows a need to overcome barriers of perception and systems integration to gain mainstream acceptance of the professionals who specify heating and cooling equipment1. The concept has support from energy design professionals; 78 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they would like more information on using wood energy to heat and cool commercial class buildings. Most were energy engineers—and members of the Association of Energy Engineers or the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Agency support is needed to both help the biomass thermal energy industry respond and adapt to concerns identified by the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) design engineer respondents. The logical placement for building heat and cooling applications for biomass is within the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy commercial buildings section alongside solar thermal, conservation and efficiency improvement. DOE officials stated specifically: To reach DOE target energy consumption and carbon emissions limits in renovated building stock
10 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
by 2030, the U.S. will need more than just solar thermal, wind electric, photovoltaic, insulation and HVAC controls upgrades. Wood and agricultural residues combustion can help solve this problem and save money. But when asked about biomass applications, these officials had no answers because they were unaware that the technology had applicability to the sector. Both wood and agricultural residues are, by definition, carbon-neutral, stored forms of solar energy. Although some refinements are needed in combustion process, controls and operating practices, that is all the more reason for DOE research and development support in importing and licensing demonstrated technologies or adapting them as needed by site in this country. What can wood energy advocates do to help themselves? • Do not say “I’m in biomass.” Be clear when telling people what you do. If you efficiently convert wood fuels into clean heat for buildings and process, use that as your tag line. • Join associations working to benefit your industry, such as BTEC, through which elected officials, regulators and reporters get a unified picture of what you need to grow and the value to them if you are successful. • Work with energy design professionals by joining associations where you can meet, influence and learn from the energy design professionals trusted by developers and owners to specify heat and cooling equipment for buildings. The Heating the Northeast with Renewable Biomass Conference in April (www.heatne.com) will provide opportunities to discuss and begin moving ahead on these and other issues. Consider attending and urging participation by your elected officials and their staffs. They depend on you for information they do not get from the DOE. Perhaps we can help change that. 1 Karakash and Richter, 2010. Report of Key Findings: Architects and Energy Professionals—The Missing Link in Wood Energy
Authors: Charlie Niebling Chairman, Biomass Thermal Energy Council John Karakash Founder, Resource Professionals Group www.biomassthermal.org
Powering an Engine Generator with a Biomass Gasifier BY PHIL HUTTON
The Energy & Environmental Research Center is developing distributed biomass gasification systems for a variety of applications, the most common of which is electricity production. The EERC has investigated system designs that employ internal combustion engines, high-temperature fuel cells and microturbines. This article summarizes our experience with internal combustion engines. Future articles will discuss our experience with high-temperature fuel cells and microturbines. The system designs originated during World War II, when the shortage of petroleum fuel in Europe sparked a wave of innovation on ways to use locally available biomass, primarily chunk wood, to fuel internal combustion engines for transportation. Those designs are still being employed to power internal combustion gensets. Biomass is gasified in a downdraft gasifier, which is then wet-scrubbed to condense tars and reduce syngas temperature for the internal combustion engine. A series of filters is used to reduce particulates before the engine generator. A downdraft gasifier is often employed because it produces the lowest amount of tars of all the gasifier types. This system is simple and has worked to produce power from syngas for more than 50 years. However, even after a half-century of development, key technoeconomic barriers have yet to be resolved that would make it commercially viable. The first is environmental. While downdraft gasifiers produce the lowest amount of tars of all the gasifier types, they still produce tars. These have to be scrubbed out or they eventually plug the piping. The problem is that scrubbing the tars does not get rid
12 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
of them. It produces a tarry effluent, much like oily water, that must be disposed of. Oftentimes, this can be a deal breaker for a small commercial entity hoping to convert its waste wood into power. Another issue is that the syngas has high nitrogen dilution when air is used for the gasification process. This reduces the energy content to approximately 110 Btu per standard cubic feet (scf). Most modern engine generators are rated for 300–1,000 Btu per scf. Trying to operate the engine generator on 110 Btu per scf derates the engine by more than 75 percent. This means a 100-kilowatt (kW) engine generator will produce only approximately 25 kW when run on syngas alone. It also significantly reduces the reliability of the system. Any drop in syngas quality shuts down the generator, requiring manual restart. This requires an operator to constantly watch the system, which significantly increases the operating costs of a distributed-power system. One method to overcome this latter barrier is to cofire the engine generator with petroleum fuel. When this is done, both engine reliability and power increase. However, the economics must now account for the cost of petroleum fuel, and the overall system is not as “green” as it would have been with just biomass alone. While these barriers are significant, the EERC is working with Cummins Power to develop an engine generator designed to operate on low-Btu syngas. If this project is successful, one of the largest barriers for this type of system in 50 years will be overcome. Author: Phil Hutton Research Manager, Energy & Environmental Research Center (701) 777-5204 email@example.com
Learn What Regulations Apply to Your Project BY JOHN EUSTERMANN
Today's push to bring biomass energy projects on line and changes in environmental regulations have created some uncertainty for parties seeking to secure waste/fuel supply agreements. For example, the U.S. EPA's newly proposed definition of “solid waste” may reveal issues that may warrant consideration by the project developer (see 75 FR 31,844, Proposed June 4). Concurrently with the boiler MACT proposal, the EPA proposed a new definition of solid waste. The definition is key to distinguishing between “industrial commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters” and “commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators” because the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate as an incinerator “any facility which combusts any solid waste.” The relevant definition of solid waste is in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and covers “any discarded material.” Though initially drafted to limit against “sham” fuels, wherein the combustion or use of certain materials as an ingredient or component of a power facility's fuel supply is nothing more than waste disposal. In response, the EPA created new limitations on biomass materials that can be used as fuel. Understanding how this rule distinguishes between "traditional fuel," "legitimate fuel" and solid waste is critical to distinguishing between biomass that can be used as a fuel in an industrial boiler (subject to MACT) and biomass considered a solid waste (subject to Incinerator New Source Performance Standard and MACT). Solid waste cannot be used in commercial or industrial boilers, including power plant boilers. This reconfigured definition of solid waste can impact a project's fuel/waste supply agreements and material-handling activities. In brief, traditional fuels are not considered solid waste, and include not only fossil fuels, but also "clean cellulosic biomass." The EPA provides a list of clean cellulosic biomass materials that qualify as a traditional fuel, described as materials that have not been altered, such that they contain contaminants at concentrations normally associated with virgin biomass materials.
EPA’s proposal seeks to clarify whether solid waste includes certain nonhazardous “secondary materials”— materials that are not the primary product of a manufacturing or commercial process that may be discarded but later reused as fuel or ingredients in another process. EPA’s proposed rule would exclude secondary materials from the definition of solid waste if they are combusted by the generator, used as ingredients in another manufacturing process or processed into a fuel or an ingredient. Sources must also meet “legitimacy criteria,” confirming that use of the material is not a sham for disposal, or submit a petition to EPA for a nonwaste determination. “Legitimate fuel" is nonhazardous secondary materials that are not the primary product of a manufacturing or commercial process that may be discarded but later reused as fuel or ingredients in another process. Such secondary materials are not considered solid waste and are excluded if they are either combusted by the generator, used as ingredients in another manufacturing process, or processed into a fuel or an ingredient. Additional legitimacy criteria must be met to confirm that use of the material is not a sham for disposal. If determined to be solid waste, the material is subject to handling and reporting requirements promulgated by the RCRA. Further, such materials can only be combusted in regulated solid waste incinerators. Using solid waste improperly as a fuel may result in a fine or an order to cease production. The above determinations are not easily made, and a full analysis of the applicable decision tree is beyond the scope of this article. An analysis should be performed, however, so that allocating the underlying risks associated with acquiring off-site materials and setting forth appropriate representations and warranties in one's fuel/waste supply agreement is managed accordingly. Author: John Eustermann Partner, Stoel Rives LLP (208) 387-4218. firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 13
Business Briefs PHOTO: VERMEER CORP.
PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
WOOD CHIP WARRIOR: The WC2300 wholetree chipper was designed for efficiency.
Vermeer enters whole-tree chipper market Vermeer Corp. has introduced the WC2300 whole-tree chipper designed specifically to produce chips for the growing biomass industry. The WC2300 features many proven technologies developed by Vermeer. The heart of the WC2300 is its innovative in-feed system that includes variable-speed, dual in-feed conveyor chains, a conveyor head pulley with integral grip bars and an aggressive large-diameter in-feed roller with crush capability. These design elements provide efficient feeding of difficult material types, reducing the number of times an operator has to handle the material. In addition, the in-feed conveyor chains are individually tensioned to accommodate unequal chain wear, allowing the operator to replace a single chain at a time. ADI Group creates new position Hollis Cole, CEO of ADI Group Inc., announced the addition of Joséf Leão to the ADI team. ADI Group created the new position of manager of biogas applications for ADI Systems Inc., one of the ADI Group of companies. This position allows ADI to place greater emphasis on worldwide opportunities of utilizing biogas, a viable source of green energy. Leão comes to ADI with more than 30 years experience in engineering, logistics and operations plus strong academic and profes-
sional credentials. Fluent in six languages, his background in biogas utilization and green energy systems complements the technical abilities of existing ADI staff. Metso to supply biomass plant in Estonia Metso will supply Oü Helme Energia with a biomass power plant for combinedheat-and-power production in the township of Helme, Estonia. The power plant will be delivered by the Metso-Wärtsilä joint venture MW Power. The value of the order is more than €15 million ($20.7 million). Scheduled for start-up the third quarter of 2012, the plant will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology using a combination of spruce bark, chipped logging residue and wood chips or milled peat as the main fuels. The plant will produce 15 megawatts (MW) of heat and 6.4 MW of electricity, which will partly be utilized in the customer’s own pellet factory and the rest will be distributed into the national grid. Oü Helme Energia is a subsidiary of AS Graanul Invest, which is a private capital-based company dealing with bioenergy and renewable energy production. Natgun and Dyk merge and form DN Tanks Natgun Corp., Wakefield, Mass., and Dyk Inc., El Cajon, Calif., jointly announced the merger of their companies and the formation of their new parent company DN Tanks Inc. Both companies specialize in the design and construction of prestressed concrete storage tanks used for potable water, wastewater, chilled water and other liquids. The merger of the two companies, with more than 130 years of combined experience, creates the largest producer of wire and strand-wound prestressed concrete tanks in the world. Initially, Natgun and Dyk will operate under their existing names, as divisions
14 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
of DN Tanks. As the integration process takes place, they will evolve into a single operating company. A four-member board of directors, comprised of Charles Crowley, William Hendrickson, William Crowley, and David Gourley, will lead DN Tanks. Charles Crowley and Hendrickson will serve as co-CEOs. Howard joins Ze-gen as CEO Ze-gen Inc., a developer and integrator of advanced gasification technology to convert waste streams into synthesis gas, has hired Walter Howard as CEO, replacing Bill Davis who Walter Howard, founded Ze-gen in 2004. who has extensive experience in An industry veteran, power project with more than 30 years development, has of global power project been hired as the CEO of Ze-gen. development experience, Howard has held executive positions with utility leaders. Davis will remain on Zegen's board of directors and stay actively involved as an adviser to Ze-gen focused on special projects. DP CleanTech appoints board chair, extends European manufacturing capacity Zhang Shengman was appointed chairman of the board for DP CleanTech Group Ltd. Shengman is the chairman of Citigroup in the Asia Pacific, which employs more than 50,000 people in 19 countries generating revenues approaching $15 billion. Shengman is also on the board of directors of Guangdong Development Bank. DP CleanTech recently made its first significant investment in Poland by building a workshop in Jędrzejów to manufacture boilers and pressure parts to serve the European biomass and waste-to-energy market. The
investment is a reflection of the increasing demand for DP CleanTech’s products in Europe. Biomass power has been identified as an effective and affordable means for meeting renewable energy targets in Eastern European countries and DP CleanTech is developing several projects. NEF, Spriggers Choice develop miscanthus production equipment
ENERGY CROP INNOVATIONS: An energy crop company and an equipment manufacturer have developed equipment to plant and harvest miscanthus.
New Energy Farms, a miscanthus developer, and Spriggers Choice, a Georgiabased manufacturer of sprig and rhizome harvesting and planting equipment, have developed equipment for growers to lift and plant miscanthus rhizomes. NEF is developing miscanthus as an energy crop for combustion and liquid biofuel uses across North America and the European Union. Spriggers Choice has been developing and manufacturing sprig and rhizome harvesters and planters for 22 years, embodying the knowledge acquired from 26 years of experience in the custom sprig and rhizome harvesting and planting business. Successful collaboration has resulted in the development of two new machines to lift and plant miscanthus rhizomes, which will be available in time for the current rhizome planting season. SACE relocates headquarters After more than five years on the 100 block of Gay Street in downtown Knox-
ville, Tenn., the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s headquarters has moved to 3804 Middlebrook Pike. The recently purchased office provides more space for SACE’s expanding staff, and allows for SACE to demonstrate energy efficient technology and renewable energy generation. SACE has begun instituting energy efficient retrofits, and will showcase a clean and efficient businesses operation. Updates on the building modifications will be available through SACE’s website, www. cleanenergy.org. MHG provides Bioenergy ERP to Spain’s largest biomass supplier MHG Systems Ltd. has started the first phase of MHG Bioenergy ERP implementation with FactorVerde SA, the largest biomass supplier in Spain. With MHG Bioenergy ERP, FactorVerde will be able to control and monitor the whole biomass delivery chain from small roadside storages, through transportation and terminals, all the way to the power plant silos. FactorVerde CEO Roberto De Antonio Garcia says the company chose MHG Bioenergy ERP, because of the strong bioenergy focus of the system and possibilities to control and manage the scattered workforce in an easy and reliable manner. Capstone’s Crouse appointed to REEE advisory committee Capstone Turbine Corp., a manufacturer of microturbine energy systems, announced that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke recently named Capstone Executive Vice President Jim Crouse to a national advisory committee that will promote U.S. exports of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. The 29-member Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency advisory committee will advise Locke on the development and implementation of programs and policies to help
expand the competitiveness of the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. Crouse and other committee members also will develop strategies to identify and expand export markets for the industries, both in the short- and longterm. NY Biomass Energy Alliance selects new leadership The New York Biomass Energy Alliance has selected a new slate of officers to advance low-value wood, biomass crops and waste material as an affordable source of local energy to meet the Jim Waters is is state’s heat, power and fuel executive director of needs. Jim Waters, execu- the Catskill Forest tive director of the Catskill Association, a nonprofit dedicated Forest Association, will to enhancing all serve as the organization’s aspects of forest in chair. The organization’s the state's Catskill region. new president is Charlie Niebling, general manager of New England Wood Pellet, a supplier of biomass fuel, with two pellet production facilities in New York. Joseph Visalli will serve as the organization’s issues coCharlie Niebling is ordinator. The New York general manager New England Biomass Energy Alliance of Wood Pellet, which is a membership organiza- has manufacturing tion, operating under the plants in Schuyler formal sponsorship of the and Jaffrey, N.Y. New York Farm Viability Institute in Syracuse. For more information, go to www.newyorkbiomass.org. SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Industry Briefs, Biomass Power & Thermal, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also e-mail information to email@example.com. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 15
EventCoverage Bio-Initiative Washington’s commissioner of public lands announces aviation biofuel project during biomass conference keynote. Peter Goldmark, commissioner of Public Lands for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, kicked off the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show REFUELING Jan. 11 in Seattle by WITH BIOMASS: announcing phase two Goldmark of his Forest Biomass announced a bill to build an aviation Initiative. biofuel pilot facility Goldmark said he that would use planned to roll out a bill biomass from state for an aviation biofuel trust lands and help clean up emissions pilot facility. The project from a growing will use biomass from aviation industry. state trust lands and help clean up emissions from an industry that continues to grow exponentially. “There’s ample market here, folks,” he said, citing increased numbers of airline passengers and amounts of fuel used. The bill will not only establish an aviation biofuel pilot facility, but will mobilize stakeholders in developing a woody biomass supply chain. Phase one of the initiative involved the establishment of four pilot projects, two of which have been successful. One is a combined-heat-and-power plant at the Port Angeles Nippon paper mill and the other, in Borgford, produces wood oil through pyrolysis. The others hit insurmountable challenges and are not proceeding, Goldmark said. The initiative was launched with multiple goals in mind including job creation and clean energy production. Goldmark also took advantage of the opportunity to announce a supply study by Washington State University. “It will help landowners realize how much they can use sustainably,” he said. “And I say that word ‘sustainably’ over and over again.” —Lisa Gibson
LEARNING CURVE: Schwartz (left to right), Costello, Claiborn and Hardcastle discussed the importance of preparing an educated workforce for the growing renewable energy industry.
Bioenergy Basics Colleges and universities need to prepare students for employment in the renewable energy industry. The handwriting is on the wall for renew- ton State University on a project aimed at anable energy, and the message indicates that the aerobic digester operational and maintenance clean energy industry is in need of employees skills. “A lot of students say they want to be in renewable energy without having an idea of with a strong understanding of sustainable what that means,” Costello said. The certificate energy, according to Alan Hardcastle, senior research associate at Washington State Univer- program will help students gain a better, more applicable knowledge of what sustainable sity. energy means. Hardcastle and the other speakers who Like Costello, Daniel Schwartz, the formed a panel, titled Higher Education as director of the bioresource-based energy for Industry Catalyst: Bioenergy Education in sustainable societies interdisciplinary doctoral the Pacific West, suggested that while the bioenergy economy is growing, the labor force program at the University of Washington, is needed for the industry may be falling behind. working with students to develop bioenergy“There is a concern that there is a lack of related skills. Schwartz has started a doctoral program for students that could be similar to a renewable education at all levels,” Hardcastle biomass consulting company. During one projsaid, and employers are starting to voice that concern. Several renewable energy companies ect, the students performed feasibility studies on sourcing biomass for a cogeneration facility and other organizations are making an effort that would use wood waste. The group also to become more sustainable and that has performed biomass assessments and biomass created a “green” skill set he called the new cost estimations during the project. basics. “A green job may require more skills Candis Claiborn, dean of the college of and an understanding of knowing what is engineering and architecture at Washington going on in clean renewable energy and this will be an important trend in our universities,” State, explained the university’s efforts to develop students capable of working at an he said. Fortunately, educational facilities will benefit from the new skill set required by some integrated biorefinery. The program includes work on fungal catalyst development, algal bioemployers. mass, feedstock pretreatment, thermochemiRob Costello, the dean for trades and cal conversion approaches and several other technology at Bellingham Technical Colbiorefinery-specific areas. Claiborn also said lege, spoke about a new sustainable energy the school has instituted an entrepreneurcertificate offered to all students. Technicians in-residence program that helps students will leave the program with an enhanced skill developing innovative products or processes set in sustainable energy that includes the fundamentals of sustainable energy along with to meet other entrepreneurs in the community, all of which will help the bioenergy industry an understanding of various technologies, he said. The school has partnered with Washing- grow. —Luke Geiver
16 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Emission Remission Convincing NIMBYs that WTE project emissions aren’t harmful is a labor-intensive task.
Emissions are no longer an issue when building waste-toenergy (WTE) facilities today, thanks to technological innovations. Rather, one of the most challenging issues today is public perception and/or NIMBYism (not in my back yard). That was one of the key points made during the plenary panel called Maximizing an Embattled Biomass Stream: Waste-toEnergy Developments in the Pacific West. Panelists discussed the benefits and advancements of WTE and the nation’s increasing demand for it, the challenges involved, and some examples of successful projects and investments. Panel moderator Robert Grott, executive director of the Northwest Environmental Business Council, said that many landfills in the Pacific West and across the country are at or nearing capacity and options to reduce waste are limited. “We have technologies in development to convert trash into chemicals, heat, fuel and power but we face regulatory environments that make deployment of them nearly impossible,” he said. So for now, and some time to come, WTE is the best available option. Self-proclaimed garbage engineer Damon Taam, system contract manager for the Spokane (Wash.) Regional Solid Waste System, said Spokane accounts for about 300,000 tons of the 5 million tons of waste Washington generates each year. Taam has spent more than 30 years in the WTE industry and played a significant role in the development of Spokane’s WTE facility, one of only three in the state. “It is very clean and very efficient and solves multiple problems for Spokane,” he said. Taam said garbage is an attractive renewable energy resource for developers. “It is [attractive] because people pay you to take it, and you get energy from it and then people pay you for that,” he said. “The development of renewable energy costs money and this is a way to generate extra revenue.” With garbage there are constraints, Taam said, but these have to be overcome because the population is increasing and so is the amount of waste generated. “It’s a lot like a wastewater plant—it’s coming down the pipe, and you better take care of it,” he said. Waste Management-Pacific Northwest Area Vice President Dean Kattler discussed the company’s current waste-to-energy capacity, its investments in emerging technologies and plans for the future. Waste Management’s Wheelabrator division currently operates 17 WTE facilities across the U.S. The company is also involved in 124 landfill gas projects, is co-owner of the largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant in the country, and has investments in or partnerships with five WTE technology companies in North America. One of the investments is a partnership with plasmaenhanced melter technology company InEnTec, to form joint
ENERGIZING WASTE: Grott (left to right) moderated a panel consisting of Taam, Kattler and Fichtner, who shared their insight into waste-to-energy development in the Pacific West.
venture company S4 Energy Solutions. Together the companies have constructed a 25-ton-per-day (tpd) pilot facility in Arlington, Ore., at a Waste Management landfill, which will open for testing this year. The facility may be small, but Kettler says that with WTE comes trial and error. “Scalability is a major concern with plasma gasification, so that’s why we’re taking very small steps with a 25tpd facility,” he said. “You might have heard that plasma gasification is becoming the buzzword and there are some plants being built that are 200, 300 and 400 tpd, but we truly believe they are not sustainable and that technology isn’t ready for that size of commercial application at this stage.” The final presenter, Conrad Fichtner of AECOM, discussed a study the company performed for Metro Vancouver looking at waste treatment, energy recovery and disposal solutions. Several options were explored, he said, including mechanical biological treatment, WTE (mass burn), a new, remote landfill 200 miles away and various combinations. AECOM found that WTE was the most economical option, and provided the best carbon dioxide benefits compared to landfilling. “Can you build a WTE facility in a big city? You bet you can,” Fichtner said. “We don’t need to be afraid of WTE from an emissions perspective anymore. There’s this perception that we kill babies, but we don’t. In Canada, it isn’t regulatory issues, it is public perception.” On regulations, Taam said the U.S. EPA is now a proponent of WTE facilities, rather than a hindrance. He said he gives more than 300 presentations a year to the public to inform them of the benefits of WTE. “We have to educate, educate, educate,” he said. “The community first needs to make the decision that this is a positive thing.” —Anna Austin
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 17
Steam for Seattle District heating system supplies steam to several downtown buildings.
Weaving their way through a maze of piping, knobs and gauges, tour participants at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show saw firsthand how steam is produced and distributed to more than 200 downtown Seattle buildings. Seattle Steam is a privately owned district heating system that supplies 600,000 pounds of steam per hour to hospitals, hotels and other structures through an 18-mile pipeline to Seattle Central Business District and First Hill Neighborhoods. The plant uses a 60 percent waste wood feedstock, the rest comprised of natural gas and oil. During the tour, Seattle Steam President Stan Gent took the participants to the large, round combustion chamber, warning them of the high temperature even on the outside of the chamber. “The combustion of the fuel is probably the easiest part of what we do,” Gent said. Participants also got a look at the plant’s storage, handling, grinding and screening processes located across the street from the
plant. A grey silo dwarfing all the buildings around it holds 250 tons of wood, roughly one day’s worth of feedstock. Each truck load brings in 20 to 25 tons, emptying it inside the cemented and unheated drop-off area adjacent to the silo. The facility also controls odor and dust, Gent said. Attendees descended a grated stairway into an area where machines grind and screen the biomass until all the material is three inches or smaller. From there, the tour continued through a tunnel where the feedstock is blown under the street to the combustion chamber. The pressure, power and force of the equipment could be felt through vibrations throughout the room. Seattle Steam also has a natural gas-fired plant just blocks away that Gent hopes will be an operating combined-heat-and-power plant by 2012. The company has a federal grant for $19 million to help with the costs and hopes to produce 35 megawatts of electricity and 25 megawatts of heat at about 90 percent efficiency, he said. —Lisa Gibson
PRESSURE COOKER: Seattle Steam is a privately owned district heating system with the capacity to supply 600,000 pounds of steam per hour to local hospitals, hotels and other businesses through an 18-mile pipeline.
Biogas Benefits Anaerobic digestion project in Washington’s Tualco Valley is paying off.
In Washington’s Tualco Valley, the Qualco Energy Corp. anaerobic digester in Snohomish County has come a long way since the project was conceived in 2003. Qualco Energy Corp., a nonprofit organization formed by representatives from the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, Northwest Chinook Recovery and the Tulalip Tribes, began operating the digester in 2008. The digester was first proposed to help consume waste from local dairy operations and to prevent runoff into salmon streams on land that formerly housed a correctional facility. According to Daryl Williams, environmental liaison for the Tulalip Tribes, Qualco uses a modified mixed plug flow mesophyllic digester capable of producing 600 cubic feet per minute of biogas that powers its 450-kilowatt generator. Manure is collected from Werkhoven Dairy’s three farms and piped to Qualco’s 2 million gallon digester tank. Qualco sells electricity to Puget Sound Energy Corp. and is negotiating a power-pur-
COW POWER: The anaerobic digester at Qualco Energy Corp. in Washington’s Tualco Valley uses manure from area dairy farms and other waste material such as expired beer and soda, and waste trap grease.
chase agreement with the Snohomish County Public Utility District. The solids left over from the anaerobic digestion process are used as compost material, Williams said. Qualco currently gives its digestate material away for free, but they will charge a fee once a market for it is found. “We’ll hopefully sell the solids for about $10 per yard,” Williams said. Waste liquid from the digester gets piped to a nearby lagoon and is utilized for irrigation.
Qualco was awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. DOE to conduct an environmental assessment and feasibility study in 2005, and received $500,000 from the USDA to help pay for the digester. Williams said the economic and environmental impact of the anaerobic digester has been a boon for the county, adding that Qualco intends to expand operations to include more generators and solar panels. —Bryan Sims
FiredUp Potential Game Changer The new Republican Congress will likely make changes to federal renewable energy policies.
Significantly different than the 111th Congress, the new Republican-controlled 112th Congress will likely implement many changes to the country’s renewable energy policies. This is largely because there are different committee leaders, many new members and key staff in positions relevant to the renewable energy and biomass sector, and that Obama is moving to the middle in preparation for 2012 elections, according to Patrick Rita, founder and principal of Orion Advocates, a Washington, D.C.-based government relations consulting firm. Rita explained his outlook during a webinar held by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council in January. A priority of the new Congress will be oversight, according to Rita. “Already, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power Ed Whitfield from Kentucky, a coal-state legislator, is expected to summon [U.S.] EPA to the hill shortly to defend their efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act,” he said. “That issue will be hotly debated with lots of legislation already in the hopper.” Another key issue will be how new energy programs are funded. “Under the Democratic-controlled Congress, funding for programs was pay as you go,” Rita said. “The funding mechanism now will be spending cuts identified in existing programs.” So what can such a divided government produce? Not any sort of sweeping climate and energy laws like we saw in the 111th Congress, according to Rita. “What we’re seeing is some real interest in the concept of a clean energy standard, unlike a renewable energy standard, it would include coal carbon capture and storage technology, nuclear power, natural gas and the like.” Tax reform is also a priority, Rita said. “We’re hearing there is an effort to get back to the concept of moving away from tax incentives that attempt to pick winners and losers, and more toward an outcome-based tax policy. ”
20 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
ON THE HILL: A new Congress could mean changes to federal renewable energy policies and the way they are funded.
Rita said it appears as though the 1603 Program will not be renewed for 2012, and the Farm Bill will be heavy-laden with renewable energy programs such as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The definition of biomass will also be at large, he said, and boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology will continue to take center stage. “The EPA was granted a one-month reprieve, and we don’t know what the reconsideration process will yield, but the EPA will be exploring a legislative fix,” he said. “A major issue coming down the pipe is the utility MACT, and I think that will have a major effect on all players in the renewable energy space.” —Anna Austin
Turning Up the Heat The U.K. is developing a program to incentivize renewable heat generation and use.
To replace the system in which renewable heating process equipment is purchased through capital grants, the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is developing the Renewable Heat Incentive to encourage the purchases through tariffs. Implementation of the program is expected in June, and while final details have yet to be released, the public consultation document outlines its key aspects: • Support a range of technologies including air- and groundsource heat pumps, solar thermal, biomass boilers, renewable combined heat and power; and use of biogas, bioliquids and the injection of biomethane into the natural gas grid. • Support heating at all scales including households, businesses, offices, public-sector buildings and industrial processes in large factories. • Tariff levels have been calculated to bridge the financial gap between the cost of conventional and renewable heat systems at all scales, with additional compensation for certain technologies for an element of the nonfinancial cost; and a rate of return of 12 percent on the additional cost of renewables, with 6 percent for solar thermal. “I certainly expect it to have a significant impact on the use of heat,” says Geoff Hogan, information officer and researcher for the U.K.’s Biomass Energy Centre. “It obviously depends on how generous it is, but if it’s reasonably generous, as figures suggest, then we do expect quite a reasonable incentive for people to install renewable heat of one kind or another.” The DECC does, however, specifically propose the exclusion of wood-burning stoves, saying they present practical difficulties such as monitoring how much they are used and to what extent they are used with renewable fuel rather than coal. Under the current proposals, qualifying systems completed after July 15, 2009, will be able to claim
the RHI, according to the consultation. The document also specifies that payments can only be made to the owner of the renewable heating plant, to a producer of biogas or biomethane or to a producer of biofuel for generating heat. The DECC also proposes that RHI beneficiaries receive support over a number of years rather than in the form of a single upfront payment, encouraging owners to keep their equipment operating and well-maintained. For small-scale applications of up to 45 kilowatts (kW), the agency recommends 9 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) for solid biomass and a tariff lifetime of 15 years, and 5.5 pence per kWh for biogas on-site combustion for a lifetime of 10 years. For large-scale applications of 500 kW and above, the DECC proposes between 1.6 and 2.5 pence per kWh with a tariff lifetime of 15 years. For qualifying applications in between, solid biomass would receive 6.5 pence per kWh for 15 years, with on-site biogas receiving 5.5 for 10 years, as proposed. “We are trying to meet various commitments to our lower carbon future,” Hogan says. The U.K. has a renewable energy goal of 15 percent by 2020, aiming for 80 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2050, as well as other international obligations. In 2009, the U.K. used more than 895,000 metric tons (986,500 tons) of oil equivalent from biomass to generate renewable heat, according to statistics compiled by the DECC. “We’re not as advanced as many other European countries in terms of percentage of heat generated,” Hogan says, explaining that the country has an extensive gas grid, along with cheap gas prices and cheaper gas combustion equipment compared to solid fuel combustion equipment. “So without some sort of incentive, we haven’t had the extensive rollout of biomass heat that they have in other countries.” —Lisa Gibson
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 21
Mighty Mississippi Mississippi is poised to take advantage of its abundant biomass resources.
Soon, Mississippi may be known as a biomass energy hub, as its wide availability of low-cost resources is being highly recognized and developing projects are plentiful. For example, a biomass power project proposed in Port Gibson in southwestern Mississippi has generated a lot of attention. National Clean Fuels Inc. has partnered with the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy and the City of Port Gibson to build a 10-megawatt biomass power facility that will gasify sawdust and wood chips. With this and many other biomass projects, Mississippi officials have realized there eventually needs to be a cap on its resources to ensure sustainability. Currently, there is no estimate to quantify the capacity potential of biomass energy in the state. To remedy that situation, the Mississippi Development Authority’s Energy Division announced it was making $400,000 available to develop a biomass feasibility study. Submission of proposals were due in December; the final report is due in 2012. According to the Mississippi Technology Alliance Strategic Biomass Initiative, an organization that tracks renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, there are almost 50 biomass-related projects in the state, says director Sumesh Arora. Brent Bailey of the 25 x ’25 Alliance says the major biomass resource in Mississippi is its forestlands, which covers about 65 percent of the state’s land area. “Other resources include municipal solid waste, animal manure, agricultural products and residues, and poultry litter, as
nearly 8,000 poultry houses exist around in the state,” he says. Biomass developers are also attracted to Mississippi because of its excellent transportation system. The state is surrounded by waterways—the Mississippi River, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico. Each has superior port and navigational attributes that are key for material import and export, says Pete Weisenberger, president of the Mississippi Biomass Renewable Energy Council. Weisenberger says the state has outstanding university research support and several state incentive programs have been developed to spur research, development and commercially viable utilization of renewables. In order to attract the private equity capital needed to support the industry, Weisenberger says investors must be able to pencil in solid and stable rates of return on investment. “The state’s taxpayers have demonstrated their willingness to tee it up and front the costs of attracting many of these companies to Mississippi, putting us at the forefront of the industry,” he says. “In the long run, private investment has to take the lead and run with it.” In short, Mississippi needs a long-term, comprehensive energy plan that makes biomass a significant component of the state’s energy portfolio. “Mississippi and the mid-South is the sweet spot for biomass resources, and we have the people, the raw material, the research facilities, the know-how and the willingness to put all the parts together for success in this industry,” Bailey says. —Anna Austin
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Acquisitions Atmosphere Greenleaf Power LLC has accumulated a biomass power portfolio of just more than 100 megawatts through the purchase of three operating plants in California. Although it is one of a few companies with a business plan that focuses on acquiring existing plants in lieu of building, Greenleaf President Hugh Smith says he doesn’t see an industry-wide trend of consolidation. It’s opportunistic, he says, and John Eustermann, partner with firm Stoel Rives LLP, agrees. “They’re doing it because I think they have the ability to balance-sheet finance it and the ability to either take over good PPAs (power purchase agreements) or acquire good PPAs from those entities that want to make sure they’re in compliance with the RPS (renewable portfolio standard),” Eustermann says of the numerous companies pursuing the acquisition strategy. He adds that he hesitates to think a consolidation is brewing, but it wouldn’t be bad to create a portfolio of assets in a state subject to an RPS. Smith echoes that opinion, saying a state RPS, like California’s of 33 percent by 2020, undoubtedly plays a crucial role in deciding which plants to purchase. Greenleaf is open to purchasing plants all across North America but has remained in California because opportunities so far have been there, Smith explains. Smith has seen no apparent trend in the reasons why companies choose to sell their plants, simply revealing that plants often don’t fit the core interests of the company. That’s not to say Greenleaf
PHOTO: GREENLEAF POWER LLC
Despite a number of energy companies purchasing biomass power plants, a consolidation trend is likely not on the horizon.
CALIFORNIA CONNECTIONS: Greenleaf Power LLC has purchased three California biomass power plants, including this one in Mecca.
hasn’t had to work to improve aspects of its acquired plants such as operations, feedstock contracts or PPAs, but each has been capable of continued operation at the time of purchase. “We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made to date,” he says. “We haven’t accomplished everything we’re hoping to accomplish at those three, but we’re working both on improving the operations of those facilities while continuing to look for additional opportunities in the market as well.” —Lisa Gibson
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CORN STOVER BALES: PowerStock has 18 balers, which is currently the nation's largest single entity fleet. PHOTO: POWERSTOCK
24 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
When it comes to harvesting, collecting, storing and transporting agricultural biomass, PowerStock has decades of experience. BY ANNA AUSTIN
owerStock founders and affiliates, who were instrumental in helping to build Oregon’s straw export market and the Western U.S. hay industry, formed the company to address a growing demand for agricultural biomass as an energy source. With more than 25 years of experience in collecting, baling, shipping and storing agricultural residues, parent company Pacific Ag Solutions, the largest ag residue and forage harvest company in the country, realized that it was uniquely positioned to provide supply chain solutions to the biomass energy sector. In fact, members of the company’s senior management team have spent the bulk of their careers in ag or ag-related industries. Bill Levy, president of Pacific Ag Solutions and PowerStock and a fourth-generation Oregon farmer, founded the company in 1998 while attending college at Oregon State University. The company's vice president of operations, Rod Phelan, has been in the business since the 1980s and has har-
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 25
¦SUPPLY vested millions of tons of ag residue in his career, sending it through a supply chain to Asian markets. While supplying biomass for energy production is different than supplying it to the customers and markets that Pacific Ag Solutions traditionally serves, each supply chain segment comes with benefits, not just for the company but also the economy, says Harrison Pettit, PowerStock’s vice president of business development, who joined the company early last year, after working at Pacific Ethanol Inc. One of those benefits is massive job creation. An element of the ag biomass industry that has not been widely understood is the economic impact just from employment around harvest, collection and storage of biomass for a large-scale project, Pettit says. “For example, a big project using corn stover could easily require 400 to 500 employees just for the harvest portion. It’s almost 10 times the amount of conversion jobs—sure they’re not as well-paid or as
highly skilled—but it’s a very large number of people.” Harvesting also requires a lot of machinery. “We currently have the nation's largest single entity fleet of large square balers at 18,” Pettit says. “That number is small compared to what a full-scale biofuels or bioenergy project would require, so it speaks to the fractured nature of the traditional Western export feed and forage industry. It also speaks to the importance of having a good working relationship with equipment manufacturers so that we can make sure to have the right amount of equipment when it is needed.”
Demand Leads to Supply Thus far, the company has been hired mainly by large-scale project developers or technology providers rather than individual farmers, but there’s a reason for that, according to Pettit. “The demand side for the project needs to exist in order to develop that supply chain,” he says. “The corn sto-
ver exists because the corn is being raised, but there needs to be more substantiation in harvest and delivering it.” On the flip side, supply uncertainty must be reduced. In the biofuels sector, PowerStock is currently engaged in a few commercialscale projects. One is the Spiritwood Energy Project in Jamestown, N.D., which is a 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant that will use an as of yet undecided biomass feedstock gathered from a 70-mile radius around the plant. Last fall, PowerStock and North Dakota State University in Fargo completed a feedstock feasibility study for the project. On the power production side, PowerStock has done some work with Portland General Electric, which operates a 585-megawatt coal-fired power plant in eastern Oregon. “It’s the only [coal-fired power plant] in the state, so it’s a bit of a lightening rod,” Pettit says. “PGE has an agreement with the [U.S.] EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to close this plant by 2020, so we’re working
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SUPPLY¦ with them to figure out if they can convert some or all of this facility to biomass.” So far, PowerStock has helped PGE test-fire corn stover pellets at the facility at blend rates of 3, 5 and 7 percent. In smaller projects, PowerStock is working with Novus Pacific, which secured a USDA Rural Energy for America Program loan for an anaerobic digestion facility that may be sited at the Port of Morrow in eastern Oregon. The digester will utilize local crop biomass and a small amount of livestock manure to generate 1,000 MMBtu of methane gas to heat an existing ethanol plant, according to Pettit.
The development of feedstock supply chains for these projects must be carried out similarly to technology processes, going from bench to pilot to demo to commercial stages, Pettit says. “The same phased development has to occur when building a large-scale feedstock supply—[the project
RESIDUE RECOVERY: Harvesting corn stover is labor-intensive and would benefit local economies by providing much-needed jobs.
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developer] can’t just get 100,000 acres under contract and know the cost of delivering that in a year,” he says. “It’s a multiyear process where you increase the scale each year to find out where the sensitivities are and where you can reduce cost.” Another caveat when developing a supply chain is that despite the great amount of anticipated demand for ag biomass, there’s still no infrastructure. “You couldn’t have coal-fired plants if you didn’t have railroads,” Pettit says. “This infrastructure still needs to be created, and the first stage is to build these first plants and demonstrate a system. There will be a commodity market for ag biomass just like there is right now with wood biomass.” The first step in developing a supply chain is performing a feasibility study prior to an experimental harvest. Developers need to study the composition of the harvested feedstock during storage to determine how it weathers and how much degradation is occurring. The constituent matter in the stored material must also be indentified and then harmonized to the end use, whether that involves collecting and storing feedstock for a digester, a cellulosic ethanol plant or for combustion at a power plant, Pettit says. “It’s often not well understood. Each has its own requirements based on maximizing the value of the feedstock for the end use. For example, for the fermentation process for fuels, you don’t want anything nonfermentable in that bale. You’re just carrying something of no value, or negative value. If you’re going for a power process, you’re looking for Btu.” Another issue is that existing harvesting and collecting equipment wasn’t developed for bioenergy, rather it was designed for the feed and forage industry. “While our understanding can make a significant difference, the equipment will need to adapted,” Pettit says, adding that the company works closely with equipment manufacturers when making modifications. “Equipment alone is a huge potential area of optimization and cost savings,” he says. “That’s somewhat obvious, but a very important variable is the density of the material you’re handling, and that’s very much related to equipment.”
SUPPLYÂŚ When formulating a supply chain, project developers also need to consider the distance from the fields to the plant, or size of the project radius. â€œAcreage has a big influence on project feasibility,â€? Pettit says, as well as the participation of local growers. â€œThe further you go, the more miles you have to go to deliver it. It also spreads your equipment out and youâ€™re less efficient in your asset utilizationâ€”youâ€™ll need more, which adds to the cost. It really all comes down to the number of acres required, but there are a lot of variables that affect a delivered dry ton and it changes with every project.â€? PowerStock also offers a proprietary design for storing large, square bales of ag residue, which it has coined StackPad. Its design involves a storage base that is built up so the bales arenâ€™t contaminated from the ground and are stacked in a stable fashion, Pettit says. The company has also developed a tarping system that protects the feedstock. â€œWeâ€™ve developed this system over many years of doing this, making plenty of mistakes along the way,â€? he says. â€œIt is not really a technology, rather, it is know-how.â€?
early years of a project, and itâ€™s better to have it than not to have it, but you canâ€™t build a project with the assumption that something will be thereâ€”youâ€™ve got to have other possible financing to support your project.â€? Perhaps most importantly, according to Pettit, for a project to move forward successfully, everyoneâ€”the growers, the harvesting companies, the project developersâ€”needs to be rowing in the same direction. â€œOur main emphasis is that we can utilize our experiences of scale, understanding the lo-
gistics, the handling, and operating practices of what was traditionally a feed and forage industry, and apply them to new, unique market requirements,â€? he adds. â€œBecause of the potential scale, itâ€™ll be a much larger one. To us, itâ€™s another leg on our forage and fiber markets stool.â€? Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal firstname.lastname@example.org (701) 738-4968
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Building Momentum In terms of future activity, Pettit says the companyâ€™s legacy business remains strong, but PowerStock is mainly focusing on the bioenergy industry. â€œThatâ€™s the larger opportunity, and we really see the momentum starting to build on projects,â€? he says. PowerStock predicts that a lot will happen in terms of facility development in 2013 and 2014. â€œOn the feedstock supply side, 2011 will be very busy, especially in the Midwest,â€? he says. That potential for activity is largely dependent on government policy, Pettit says. â€œWeâ€™d like to see more clarity, less uncertainty and stronger policy signals,â€? he says, adding that the company is supportive of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. However, uncertainty regarding the funding and duration of the program could erase some of its initial benefits. â€œYou canâ€™t build a 20year asset based on a program that lasts two years,â€? he says. â€œIt may be very helpful in the
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MILLING AROUND: While pellet mills are generally similar, the die and feed systems vary when making pellets from crop residues versus wood. PHOTO: PELLET TECHNOLOGY
30 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Ingenuity While wood and crop residue pellets have largely the same end uses, vast differences surface in comparing their energy content, feedstock pricing and production components. BY LISA GIBSON
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 31
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one of the customers interested in licensing pelletizing systems from Nebraska-based Pellet Technology will be pelletizing wood. Instead they will be pelletizing a resource that is more abundant, cheaper and requires less manpower to harvest. Corn stover, along with some other agricultural residues, is becoming more plentiful with the increase in yields of traditional crops. Pellet Technology has equipment capable of pelletizing wood, switchgrass, wheat and soybean stubble but corn stover is by far the company’s primary material. Every pound of corn leaves a little more than a pound of biomass, says Russ Zeeck, Pellet Technology president and COO, and harvesting that residue can help farmers solve build-up problems that come with excessive accumulation. “We can pelletize wood for those people who want it,
but with the numbers and cost, users are focused on stover,” he says. The company serves industrial cogeneration users, mainly in Europe.
Process, Pricing and Equipment While pellet mill processes are generally similar, the inner workings can differ with the type of feedstock. “Ours is patented and a completely different design,” Zeeck says of Pellet Technology’s proprietary system. “While you still have a pellet mill machine, the die and feed system of that pellet machine vary [with wood versus crop residue feedstock].” The equipment requirements in handling systems are different for the two raw materials, and added drying equipment is necessary at most wood pellet plants. Because of those variations on the basic design, wood pelletizing facilities have a
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RIPPED TO SHREDS: The front-end system for a crop residue pelleting facility requires the use of shredders to rip up bales of crop residue before they are pelletized.
32 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
DENSIFICATION¦ capital cost around 40 percent higher than that of agricultural residues, Zeeck says. Ballparking, he says a 175,000 ton-per-year wood pellet plant could cost between $20 million and $25 million, compared with $15 million to $17 million for a similar-sized stover pelletizing plant. Subsequent to contrasts in essential equipment comes a change in permitting requirements and timelines. The lack of drying systems in a corn stover pellet plant means those facilities can be permitted in 90 days. “You have a much more limited permitting requirement,” Zeeck says. Those benefits and others, including price stability, influenced heavily by demand in existing and future markets, contributed to Pellet Technology’s decision to feature corn stover in its applications. For example, raw wood feedstocks currently have competition in the pulp and paper industry as well as the housing industry and off-shore uses, Zeeck explains. “That puts a lot of pressure on a feedstock,” he says. “And if you step back and look at the volume needed, and if we were to complete 50 percent of the liquid fuel pilot plants that have been announced, that biomass demand shoots up dramatically.” On the other hand, though, with that wood demand and multiple end uses comes a market that’s better developed. But corn stover’s superior price stability comes into play once again when considering financing for plant construction. The feedstock takes at least one risk variable out of the development process with its longerterm price security. “We can work with customers and lock stover in for a secure price for seven years,” Zeeck says. “Our financing groups like that because of the fact that the feedstock has a fixed price.” Wood prices become difficult to secure past one or two years because of their variability, he adds.
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If that doesn’t satisfy curiosity about Pellet Technology’s choice to feature corn stover systems, Zeeck would add that the feedstock brings with it a consistent chemistry profile that helps stabilize the entire pelletizing process. “If you take a White
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PELLETIZING PRACTICE: Pellet Technology designed its proprietary pellet system specifically for crop residue because the company says it is more abundant, cheaper and requires less manpower to harvest.
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34 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Scotch Pine that is in Arkansas versus one that is in Oregon, you are going to have a totally different chemistry makeup of the wood itself because they bring their nutrients from the soil,” he says. But farmers maintain a certain chemistry profile for their corn, regardless of the state it’s grown in, translating to stabilized per pound Btu values between 7,100 and 7,300. “All this comes down to the chemistry, especially in the combustion world,” he says. “For the past three years, we’ve stayed very consistent on that Btu value.” In addition, corn stover feedstock realizes an 85 percent net Btu gain between energy going into the pelletizing process and energy coming out, as it uses about 60 to 70 percent of the energy required in wood pelletizing processes. But neither wood nor corn stover wins the comparison across the board. While stover offers consistency in Btu, that value falls well short of some wood species. Not to be outdone, wood can offer a Btu value of between 7,000 and 11,000, according to Jim Brown, salesman with Wood Grain Mill Works and former project manager of Atlas Pellets. “Almost all wood fiber has higher Btu content than agricultural pellets,” he says. “There may be some switchgrass varieties that come close, but typically wood has more Btu.” In addition, wood pellets have consistently lower ash content. Earthtech Energy Inc. ran into problems with ash content in most of the recipes it concocted for ag residue pellets, according to CEO Marion Mast. “Most of them burned but would not come to the 1 percent ash requirement,” he says, adding that issues in transporting the crop residues to the plant can make the feedstock unusable. The company had a list of resources it had hoped to use at its own crop residue pellet plant, but hit a wall with the U.S. EPA when trying to sell to district heating companies, he says. The EPA requires a stack test for all new formulas and each test needs about 200 tons of feedstock. Because of that and other factors, Earthtech does not make its own pellets. Instead, the company offers consultation on processes and equipment for solid biofuels.
DENSIFICATION¦ As Earthtech Energy learned, pelletizing agricultural residue isn’t always as simple as pelletizing wood. Corn stover is particularly hard to densify because of its light bulk density once it is ground, Zeeck explains. “It’s kind of a unique animal,” he says, adding that a multitude of attempts by numerous companies to pelletize the material have failed. “We’ve been able to come up with a design that allows a process to pelletize seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is really what is needed, especially in liquid fuels and electric utility industries,” he explains. “They need a product that’s at their door seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” The company’s proprietary process also makes particle sizing customization possible, which is crucial for a consistent quality parameter, he adds.
But in the meantime, slow progress is better than none and more feedstock options could help develop that infrastructure and increase pellet use in electrical and thermal applications. Infrastructure is not so much an issue with corn stover pellets, as they can use existing storage and transportation means, Zeeck says. “Once this product is pelletized, that allows easy transportation through existing corn grain infrastructure systems,” he says. An increase in biofuel facilities will increase demand for pellets from both wood and agricultural feedstocks, and the supply needs to be closely evaluated and reviewed, Zeeck cautions. He adds that Pellet Technology evaluates projects on a case-by-case basis to determine which feedstock is appropriate.
While residential users would undoubtedly see more benefits with wood pellets because of their higher Btu value and less ash, industrial users will want to weigh those factors against the cheaper cost of crop residue pellets, Brown says. “You’re going to have to buy ag pellets at ‘x’ amount cheaper to justify higher ash and lower Btu.” It’s clear that pellets made from wood and those from crop residue take turns leading the race to an efficient and desirable feedstock, but they seem to finish neck and neck. “There are a lot of positives both ways,” Zeeck says. Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lagging Behind Even with such efficient systems available, the U.S. has yet to realize a substantial uptake in the pellet market beyond residential use. Europe has the most extensive industrial and commercial pellet use and Asia is following suit. “There is very little commercial or industrial use of pellets in the Americas,” Brown laments, adding that the U.S. government incentives currently favor liquid biofuels over other biomass applications. “There seems to be very little help in the biomass area and until that attitude changes; until natural gas triples its current pricing, there probably won’t be much commercial or industrial pellet use. So I don’t see a big need for agricultural pellets.” Mast echoes the complaint about meager government investments of both money and effort, saying the lack of a solid biofuels infrastructure is the U.S.’s shortfall, stemming from resistance to promote them on a government level. “There is huge potential in solid biofuels but also some yellow flags that need to be addressed [including] maintaining commodity pricing, EPA testing, service centers and certification of products,” he says, adding that it will take more than just one person or company to establish the necessary infrastructure.
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 35
36 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Residues Research shows that codigesting crop residue with manure can boost methane production, and new technology is expanding its use in digester systems. BY ANNA AUSTIN
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 37
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rom sewage sludge to food waste to grass clippings, it seems every organic waste stream under the sun is or has been a potential candidate for anaerobic digestion (AD). The whole process isn’t as simple as dumping any amount of manure or food waste into a pit, however. Adequate ratios and the right mix of each feedstock must first be determined in order for a digester to achieve maximum performance. Researchers today are working to determine what that recipe is, and how AD systems can be improved and optimized to generate the most energy while allowing for flexibility in feedstock input capabilities, including the use of cellulosic biomass such as crop residue. According to Jun Zhu, professor of renewable energy and environmental engineering at the University of Minnesota , there are issues associated with using manure alone for AD, due to its low carbon to nitrogen (C/N) ratio. Introducing crop residues into the mix can not only enhance methane production, but at the same time reduce the volume of residue materials for disposal, he says. Zhu’s conclusions were determined through experiments with three crop residues—corn stalks, wheat straw and oat straw. When added to swine manure, all increased the total daily volume of methane gas production, though corn stalks performed the best, followed by oat straw. The only preparation done to any of the feedstocks was the chopping of the straw to allow it to be passed through a 40 mesh sieve, which has 40 wires per inch. Zhu says the optimum amounts of crop materials added to swine manure were determined by the desired C/N ratios of the mixture, but the ratios change with the amount of manure— the nitrogen source—and each type of ag residue—the carbon source. The importance of getting the C/N ratio right is that the microbes that eat the substrates, or feedstock, need a sufficient concentration of each to achieve optimum growth for the digestion process, hence producing the most methane in the shortest period of time. Typically, somewhere between a 16-1 to a 30-1 C/N ratio is the AD microbial sweet spot. “We tested C/N ratios of 16-1, 201, and 25-1, and found that 20-1 was the best,” Zhu says. There are at least two characteristics of these feedstocks that make them perform better than wheat straw, Zhu says. “Since wheat straw has significantly higher carbon content than corn stalks and oat straw—46 percent versus 39 percent—the quantity of wheat straw added is less than those of corn stalks and oat straw,” he says. The quantity reduction for wheat straw means a reduction in the amount of easily degraded materials—or food— for digestion, hence resulting in reduced biogas productivity. The second reason is because crop residues are primarily composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, among which lignin is the least degradable material in AD. This is due to the shielding effect of lignin resulting from the intense cross-linking with cellulose and hemicelluloses. “As such, crop residues with
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METHANE BOOST: Adding corn stalks to swine manure produced the most methane per day, compared to oat and wheat straw. SOURCE: JUN ZHU, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
higher lignin content will limit the degradation of such fibers,” Zhu explains. “According to [information published by academics] the lignin content in wheat straw, corn stalks and oat straw is 18, 8.4, and 13 percent, respectively. The high lignin content in wheat straw makes its sugars more difficult to use by microbes than that of the other two residues, leading to lower productivity of biogas and methane. Interestingly, the lignin content of these crop residues appears to well explain why corn stalks performed the best in biogas and methane production, followed by oat and wheat straws.” While adding crop residue to a digester may seem like a simple concept, it isn’t that easy, as most digesters on the market today are traditional liquid-state digesters and are not designed to handle more than 15 percent solids. Günther Bochmann, a project manager at the Biogas Research & Consulting Group in Austria, says he thinks the biggest factor in utilizing ag residues or energy crops in livestock AD systems is process engineering. “Here, a lot of mistakes can be done,” he says. “Some plant manufacturers think they know everything, and that all plants match to every substrate.” A researcher at Ohio State University is taking AD system engineering to a new level, by developing a (patent-pending) AD technology that integrates a traditional liquid anaerobic digester with a solid-state anaerobic digester to allow for the expanded use of cellulosic biomass feedstocks such as crop waste and yard clippings, as well as a substantial increase in digester performance.
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‛If we can include lignocellulosic biomass into the digester, it will increase the available amount of feedstocks within a specific transportation range.’ ―Yebo Li, OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
A Step Further
DIGESTER DEVELOPMENT: Quasar energy group plans to install an innovative AD technology at its biogas plant in Zanesville, Ohio.
40 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Assistant professor Yebo Li, who works in OSU’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, has more than 15 years of experience with process and system development for the production of biofuels and biobased products. He recently scored a $2 million grant from the state of Ohio’s Third Frontier Advanced Energy Program to further develop his system, dubbed integrated anaerobic digestion system or iADs. Explaining how the technology works, Li says the effluent from the liquid anaerobic digester (less than 15 percent solids) is mixed with lignocellulosic biomass such as corn stover and yard waste and fed into the dry digester. Before being put into the system, the cellulosic biomass generally needs to be shredded or ground to around 1-inch particle size. “The effluent from the liquid anaerobic digester is performed as inoculum and a nutrient amendment for the dry digestion,” he says. In other words, the effluent left over from the liquid AD process is used to treat the solid waste in the solid-state digester. “Most of the lignocellulosic biomass has a high carbon content, and needs a nutrient amendment— supplementation of nitrogen.” AD systems on the U.S. market today can only process up to 14 percent solids compared to Li’s, which has demonstrated capabilities of processing from 20 to 40 percent solids, resulting in substantially increased biogas production.
“The finished material of the dry digester is stackable and like compost, and the biogas produced in the solid-state digester can be combined with that from the liquid phase digester to be converted in one combined-heat and-power unit,” Li says. Importantly, the system allows for the use of various sources of cellulosic biomass such as yard trimmings and crop residue. “If we can include lignocellulosic biomass into the digester, it will increase the available amount of feedstocks within a specific transportation range,” Li says. Among feedstocks tested in the iADs, crop residue such as corn stover and wheat straw performed better than yard waste, he says. Like Zhu, Li adds that the composition of the cellulosic biomass influences the performance of the digester. “High cellulose and hemicellulose content will be beneficial, while high lignin content will have a negative impact,” he says. Other benefits of the system include the elimination of effluent management, and the solids that are left over in the process can be sold as natural fertilizer. In order to demonstrate the technology on a large scale, Li and OSU have partnered with Ohio-based biogas company quasar energy group, formerly known as Schmack Biogas, to install it at one of the company’s facilities. “What we came to realize last year, when Dr. Li approached us about the technology, is that it will increase the feedstock types that we can accept in our systems, and it will pretty much double the energy output of a typical system,” says Caroline Henry of quasar. “We’ll be able to accept cellulosic biomass, which in a regular liquid digester we can’t.” Henry says the initial plan was to install the iADs in its facility in Wooster, Ohio, where the company has an operating digester on the OSU campus, but it will likely be moved to its plant in Zanesville, Ohio, instead. Quasar also has an operating facility in Akron, Ohio, a facility under
construction in Columbus, Ohio, and has designed a project for an ongoing five-farm digester project in Rutland, Mass. Henry was unsure of the distance from the facility the crop waste could be hauled and remain economical, but says feedstocks typically accepted at quasar’s facilities come from a maximum of 60 miles, usually between 40 and 50 miles, to be cost-effective. She says the state’s Third Frontier Advanced Energy Program, which is providing the $2 million grant to fund Li’s research and quasar’s project, will help make that and similar determinations as the technology is commercialized. Current plans are to initiate installation of the digester this year, according to Henry, and some of the initial planning and engineering has been done already. When
complete, the integrated system will be able to process more than 30,000 wet tons of biomass annually and produce more than 750 kilowatts of electricity. Henry adds that crop waste is abundant in Ohio, where quasar has sited all of its facilities. “The Ohio agriculture industry produces nearly 5.3 million dry tons of sustainable corn and wheat crop residues annually,” she says. “That’s waste that we can start accepting and using in the iADs.” Author: Anna Austin Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4968 firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 41
42 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
Capacity Although using crop residues for centralized power facilities in China would bring higher costs than their continued use in households, the prospect has enormous potential that is already being realized. BY LISA GIBSON
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 43
astern China’s prime cropland and agriculture-friendly climate make it a great place to farm traditional crops such as wheat, rice, corn and cotton. Is it possible, then, that the region could represent a prime location for centralized power facilities that run on crop residues?
from cotton, corn, wheat and rice. Keeping the development alive and speedy, the company is offering solutions for several more similar facilities across the country. DP Cleantech is one of a few engineering, procurement and construction contractors to break into the elusive Chinese
Apparently so, as numerous plants have sprung up there and around the country, jump-starting a growing market for the raw material. Power solutions provider DP Cleantech has helped establish 25 power plants in China that are currently operating on ag residues, mostly straw
Cost estimates to reduce carbon emissions above baseline per year Options
Residue as Fuel (t/ha)
Total C replaced (tC/ha)
Additional C replaced (tC/ha)
Lost Grain revenue ($/ha)
Tree planting ($/ha)
Collection, drying & storage ($/t)
Marginal cost ($/tC)
Household Stoves Wheat and rice Wheat and corn
Village Facility Wheat and rice Wheat and corn Forest on croplanda
8 12 12.5
0.57 0.57 0.68
1.6 2.4 3.6
0.2 1.0 2.2
0 137 1,138
4.8 4.8 2.4
0 0 2.7
192 195 559
Centralized facility Wheat and rice Wheat and corn Forest on cropland
8 12 12.5
0.86 0.86 0.94
2.4 3.6 5.0
1.0 2.2 3.6
0 137 1,138
9.6 9.6 4.8
0 0 2.7
77 117 350
NOTES: a The TCEC for firewood is 0.61 (RERPC, 1990). FSF: Fuel substitution factor C: Carbon tC: Ton(s) of carbon SOURCE: "AN ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF USING CROP RESIDUES FOR ENERGY IN CHINA"
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INTERNATIONAL¦ bioenergy sector, with an 85 percent market share, and sees almost endless potential for the 800 million tons of agricultural residues produced in the country annually. Crop residues in China are traditionally collected and burned in the open, used in animal husbandry or in rural households for cooking and heating. In the past few years, however, centralized power facilities are offering a better, cleaner and more profitable solution for disposing of agricultural wastes.
Studying the Impact “The Chinese biomass markets are excelling rapidly such that I think it’s realistic to assume that there will be anywhere from 22 to 35 plants contracted to start work this year,” says Simon Parker, CEO of DP Cleantech. Besides the 25 operating power plants—nine 12-megawatt (MW) and 16 30-MW— the company is contracting 12 more that are under construction currently, along with two 30-MW facilities in active development stages for Zunhua City in Hebei Province and Sihong City in Jiangsu Province, both in eastern China. Those plants are expected to consume around 250,000 tons of local crop residues each year. The potential for these facilities, especially in productive, rural areas, is enormous, but will not come without a high cost, according to “An economic analysis of using crop residues for energy in China.” Additionally, that study says 60 percent of China’s crop residues are already used in rural households to replace coal in cooking and heating appliances, and new centralized facilities would cut into that supply. On the other hand, though, they would provide an extra source of revenue for farmers. “The rural parts of China have been using crop residues for years,” says Robert Mendelsohn, study co-author and
professor of forestry at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “Now there’s an opportunity cost where you’re taking away from something that already has a use.” But Parker says that problem is not one of the main issues DP Cleantech and its partners have faced in establishing centralized facilities. “A lot of that fuel is used in rural China and whenever you find a higher-value use for it, that would potentially take away from that other source, but that’s not our primary challenge.” He also reiterates Mendelsohn’s point that as residents of rural China begin to realize higher disposable incomes, household use of those residues decreases, and the fact that farmers are paid for their residues further increases that disposable income. Instead, the biggest challenge is collecting the fuel, Parker says. “It’s quite
expensive to collect because there isn’t industrialized farming in China in the same way there is in other countries,” he explains. The lack of industrial baling machinery means that work has to be done by hand, far less productively than could be accomplished with machinery. Parker says the ag residue harvest machinery sector in China is “absolutely negligible” and an order for a mere 60 balers would more than double the existing capacity of baling equipment in the country. “That’s why the price of crop residue is higher than the competing use in households,” he says. The logistics for that residue supply vary for existing centralized biomass plants, Parker says. Some operate through a middleman who helps harvest residues and then transports them to the collection centers, usually owned by the plant
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 45
¦INTERNATIONAL operator. Increasingly common though, is the development of cooperatives to eliminate the middleman and ensure that more of the profit goes to the farmer.
A Little Figuring China contains 96 million hectares (237 million acres) of cropland, most of which is concentrated in the Eastern portion of the country along fertile river valleys, according to Mendelsohn’s study,
which he cautions is only representative of rural, highly-productive areas in China. Specifically, it revolves around one village: Sunyang Village of Jiangsu Province. The province lies in the northern subtropics along the Yangtze River and belongs to one of the major agricultural production zones of China with prime ag land and rich water resources. “We argue that although only a humble starting point, the study makes a serious contribution
46 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
by providing at least a first estimate of biomass production potential and cost,” the authors write. Centered on possible carbon mitigation above the baseline already mitigated by replacing coal in household appliances, the study examines using crop residues in a 100-kilowatt trigeneration village facility, as well as a 40-MW centralized electrical plant with commercial or near-commercial technology. The village facility would produce gas for cooking, hot water for heating, and electricity for the grid. The study recommends growing wheat and corn to produce the most residues possible, but also takes into account costs and carbon mitigation of wheat and rice residues, as well as growing trees for energy on prime agricultural land. Needless to say, transportation costs are nonexistent with household use of wheat, corn and rice, but jumps to $4.80 per ton for a village trigeneration facility, and $9.60 for a centralized power plant. Transportation costs for wood are just half that, although wood has an added drying and storage cost of $2.70 per ton in both scenarios. “Transportation costs are higher for the larger facility because it needs more fuel and therefore the crop residue has to be gathered from a larger circle,” Mendelsohn says. “We looked at least-cost options for transport.” The centralized facility would require about 240,000 tons of residues and about 30,000 hectares of cropland. So assuming that 75 percent of the land around the facility is cropland, supplies would have to be drawn from a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius, the study cites. In comparison, 600 tons of crop residues would be necessary for the village facility and, under the same assumption, that could be sourced from a 0.6 kilometer circle around the plant. Parker says most operating centralized biomass power plants in China target an area of about 40 to 50 kilometers,
INTERNATIONAL¦ depending of course on the calorific value and density of the fuel. But don’t jump on the village plant bandwagon just yet. It would possess an electrical efficiency of just 20 percent, 10 percent lower than that of the centralized facility. “The additional efficiency gain of the centralized facility outweighs the increased transportation costs compared to the village option,” Mendelsohn says. Furthermore, using wheat and rice in the village facility would replace 1.6 tons of carbon per hectare and the centralized facility would replace 2.4 tons per hectare. Subtracting the amount already mitigated by household use, that yields a net contribution of 0.2 tons of carbon per hectare and 1 ton of carbon per hectare respectively, according to the authors’ calculations. For wheat and corn, the net contributions are even greater, at 1 ton for a village facility and 2.2 for the centralized plant. Taking costs and carbon mitigation into account, the study found that using wheat and rice residue in a village facility instead of households would come with a marginal cost of $192 per ton of carbon. Wheat and corn in a village facility in lieu of households would come with a marginal cost of $195 per ton of carbon. Figures for the centralized facility are considerably lower, at $77 for wheat and rice and $117 for wheat and corn. “These do not look like attractive options for China,” Mendelsohn says. “The current social benefit of removing carbon is estimated to be between $10 and $30 per ton of carbon so spending $77 to $190 per ton is high for the moment.” In addition to high costs, Bill Holmberg, chairman of the Biomass Coordinating Council, predicts densifying all that crop residue for centralized or village facilities would be a barrier. But on the contrary, Parker says densification is, in fact, not a problem at all, as China is installing more efficient systems that
don’t require it. Instead, raw residues are fed directly into the systems, completely bypassing the need for energy intensive pelletizing processes. “If you can actually take the raw fuel and burn it as is, it’s a more efficient system and that’s what all the power plants in China are moving toward,” he says. The Chinese government is pushing the efficient use of centralized systems around 30 or 40 MW, located strategically to prevent transporting the electricity
over long distances to reach rural China, Parker says. Thus far, that push has been effective and Parker says the growth rate is explosive, giving way to a rapidly maturing market that is beginning to gain notice from other China-based contractors and developers. Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Crop Residues: Issues Relating to Collection, Transportation and Storage Bioenergy producers looking to purchase crop residues must understand and be willing to work with farmers to determine the most viable options for harvesting the feedstock. BY KATE BECHEN
rop residues, such as corn stover (leaves and stalks of corn plants left in the field after harvest), are poised to be a significant source as a feedstock for biofuel production and as biomass for creation of electricity, but prohibitively high collection and transportation costs are often cited as major impediments to completion of projects. Despite these issues, crop residues offer significant benefits as a feedstock. First, crop residues are, as the name suggests, waste that is left over after harvesting the primary crop. This waste can be significant. Corn stover, for exam-
ple, makes up about half of the yield of a corn crop. Second, use of the crop residue, rather than the primary crop, avoids the food vs. fuel debate. Third, the feedstock can come from a variety of crops (including corn, wheat or sorghum, just to name a few). Any biomass project requires a reliable, long-term and economically viable feedstock agreement. To ensure a significant and reliable feedstock supply, developers looking to utilize crop residues must develop close, cooperative-like relationships with local farmers. Project developers often
The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Power & Thermal or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
48 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
utilize a spoke and hub arrangement for the collection and storage of crop residues. The costs associated with transportation necessitate that the end user (or intermediate collection facility) be centrally located in the heart of a biomass zone. In general terms, transportation of crop residues in excess of 100 miles will likely be cost prohibitive.
Availability and Pricing Since crop residue is a byproduct of the primary crop, the quantity available from any given grower is dependent upon the success of the harvest. Further, a certain amount of crop residue must be left on the ground to ensure soil health. The amount of residue that must be left behind
FEEDSTOCK¦ is somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent, depending on the type of crop and yield, topography, climate, management and tillage practices, soil type and other factors. Further, many growers find that leaving the entire residual amount in the field every few years or so offers additional soil enrichment benefits. Farmers must also factor in crop rotation (some crop residues yield more biomass than others), delay in fall tillage, erosion, decreased habitat for wildlife (especially game birds), soil nutrient issues and the alternative uses of crop residue, such as feed for livestock, when considering the amount of feedstock the farmer can supply and the purchase price. A 2008 report by the Biomass Research Development Board estimated that farmers will need to receive between $40 and $60 per dry ton of crop residue biomass. Densified crop residue would likely be closer to $60, if not higher. Further, issues such as baling and hauling responsibilities must obviously be factored into pricing.
Collection Satellite processing may save costs by allowing certain preprocessing of crop residue feedstock to occur before transportation to the biorefinery or conversion facility. Drying and densification of the feedstock with mobile equipment that can be located close to the feedstock can reduce transportation costs. The establishment of regional processing centers that aggregate, process, store and supply biomass to the region could also provide significant cost reductions. In addition to drying and densification, regional aggregators could perform other preprocessing procedures to homogenize feedstock from several sources. Project developers often find that using a combination of crop residues offers significant benefits. For example, combining wheat straw and corn stover creates a higher yield biomass. Further, having a second source of feedstock protects the end user against crop failure and provides the logistical benefits associated with a broader harvest window, such as decreased storage costs. Larger developers may be able to decrease expenses associated with having multiple feedstock agreements. The aggregator, given its size, may be able to provide a more reliable sup-
ply, as a result of the large quantities it can handle. Denser fuel pellets can offer some cost savings in transportation and storage but the drawback is that often the pelletization process results in feedstock loss. At the same time, the storage and transportation costs of denser pellets are significantly lower than other options, such as baling. Corn stover is typically compacted into large, round bales on the farm. The cost of a round baler is actually significantly less than the cost of a standard small, square baler. Further, developing synergies between harvest and transport, for example by using self-compacting wagons for both harvesting and transportation, may also provide cost savings. Depending on the size of the end user and the feedstock involved, storage may be needed anywhere from six months to one year. In addition, storage issues will depend largely upon the climate. In the Midwest, crop residue must weather ice, rain, snow and humidity. Wrapping large, round bales with mesh offers some protection from the elements. Water tends to bead up and roll off the mesh-wrapped bales. If the bales are stacked, some of this water repellant effect is lost, so a tarp over the top bales may add additional protection. The mesh wrap and tarps obviously add additional cost, but the avoided feedstock loss may offset the costs. Indoor storage is another option, although that usually results in more densely packed bales, which increases the risk of loss due to fire. Improper storage techniques can result in potentially significant biomass loss. The longer dry biomass sits, loss due to aerobic biodegradation will occur. If the biomass gets wet, you will also have loss, including methane. These emissions, when added to the energy expended in harvest, collection and transportation can result in significant greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to feedstock loss and emissions, wet bales can heat up to the point that fire becomes a realistic concern.
Transportation and Delivery Transportation is arguably the single most important cost factor in the entire biomass supply chain. The transportation costs can make or break a project’s margin. Transportation cost is directly associated
with the form of feedstock, with pellets, bundles, bags and bales offering more efficiencies than loose feedstock. Transportation may occur in stages, such as from field to aggregator and then aggregator to end user. Transportation by tractor-trailer is most common, although train or water as the primary transport mechanism should also be considered. Delivery schedules must be negotiated and will depend upon the requirements of the purchaser, its storage capacity and the type of feedstock. Further, if large round bales are being delivered, the receiving area must be large enough and organized in a way that avoids truck congestion. The parties involved should consider how emergency deliveries will be handled and whether either party has the right to cancel or postpone a regularly scheduled delivery. Further, the time of day during which delivery will occur must be considered so that deliveries do not disrupt operations. Depending upon the facility design, the type of feedstock and the storage capacity of the facility, deliveries may be to a storage area or a staging area. The facility may want some flexibility in delivery location depending upon the time of year or other factors, such as facility maintenance or use of a secondary feedstock.
Conclusion Because crop residue is a byproduct of the grower’s primary business, it is not often the focus of a grower’s attention and business plan. As such, growers may be less willing to make changes to their underlying business and practices simply to develop a supply of crop residues. Therefore, purchasers of crop residues must be willing to work with growers to determine what collection and transportation options will work best. Depending on the underlying feedstock and its geographic location, different collection and transportation techniques may be needed. Author: Kate Bechen Attorney, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP’s Energy & Sustainability Industry Group firstname.lastname@example.org (414) 225-4956
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 49
PHOTO: MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY AG COMMUNICATIONS/KAT LAWRENCE
GIANT GRASS: Freedom Giant Miscanthus was developed at Mississippi State University and is licensed exclusively to Repreve Renewables, a joint venture between sod entrepreneur Phillip Jennings and publicly traded textile company UNIFI Manufacturing.
Field Day Explores Energy Crop Production Miscanthus field day attendees learn how to plant, grow and harvest the perennial grass, a popular source of energy in Europe that has great potential in the Southeast U.S. BY CHEREE FRANCO
n a January morning in Soperton, Ga., farmers mingled with academics and investors in a large steelbeamed barn, sipping coffee and brainstorming biomass. As they chatted about the search for clean energy, thermometers registered a rare (for south Georgia) 27 degrees, at-the-pump gas prices hovered just under $3 per gallon and deepwater oil drilling lawsuits dotted the headlines. But among those gathered for Repreve Renewable’s first-ever field day, optimism was palpable. A joint venture between sod entrepreneur Phillip Jennings and publicly traded textile company UNIFI Manufacturing Inc., Repreve holds the exclusive license to Freedom Giant Miscanthus. A handful of people—among
them Jill Stuckey, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Industry—believe that this particular strain of miscanthus could be America’s most promising energy solution. “This is all about tons per acre per year,” Stuckey says, adding that with the resources used to grow those tons—the water and fossil fuels—and planting and harvesting costs, Freedom could yield more tons per acre with less inputs than other energy crops, she says. A perennial grass native to the Asian Pacific region, giant miscanthus has been a popular source of energy in Europe for decades. In addition to copowering the largest coal-fired generator in the U.K., it’s used extensively in Denmark and Sweden. Worldwide, at least a dozen countries are experimenting with mis-
The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Power & Thermal or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
50 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | MARCH 2011
canthus as a premium biomass feedstock. “If you’re looking for a crop that reaches heights of 10 to 12 feet and you don’t want that 15-year lag time, this is it,” says Brian Baldwin, a researcher with Mississippi State University’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the developer of the Freedom strain. “In every test I’ve performed or read about, the yield on giant miscanthus doubles that of switchgrass.” There are other strains of miscanthus, but in the sandy soil and subtropical climate of the Southeastern U.S., Freedom has higher yields and dried quicker—a bonus because dry harvests are cheaper to transport and process. In its best year, Baldwin’s oldest test plot yielded 20 tons an acre. Twenty-five tons is enough energy to power two U.S. households for an entire year.
PHOTO: MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY AG COMMUNICATIONS/KAT LAWRENCE
ROOTING IN: Freedom Giant Miscanthus reproduces via rhizome division. Freedom field day participants learned about planting procedures and handled the rhizomes.
Giant miscanthus has additional advantages, as well. A single planting yields about 20 years of harvest, the species thrives in and even enriches low-grade soil, it increases biodiversity by providing animal habitat, and it tolerates drought, cold and excessive rain. Despite its benefits, U.S. growers have plenty of questions. “People contact me asking if equipment even exists to harvest such a tall grass,” Jennings says. “Part of why we set up this field day is to show people how to plant giant miscanthus, and that yes, it can be harvested, it can be baled.” Giant miscanthus reproduces via rhizome division so it won’t become an invasive species the way that fertile-seed strains of miscanthus would. It also means giant miscanthus is more difficult to plant. “We had field demonstrations, we had presentations from big equipment people, reps from companies like AGCO and Case IH,” Jennings says. “And we have video. So now no one can say, ‘you can’t get that out of the field.’”
Developing a Market Many of the farmers and investors who attended the field day shared a more immediate concern. “I’m interested in planting our old timber land with miscanthus,” says Wade Reese,
a farmer from Whitesville, Ga., who attended the event. “But who’s going to buy it?” Even Jennings admits that the industry has a lack of “off-takers,” or external buyers. “But we’ve come a long way in a short time,” he says. “The field day was about getting these concepts together—farmers, government, financiers. We continue to put money into commercializing this thing. We know a lot more than we knew a year ago.” And a growing collection of investors and entrepreneurs refuse to be deterred. “We are making this economically viable,” says Bruce Meyer of Georgia Clean Energy Solutions, who works as a consultant and liaison between growers and end users. “End users go beyond utility companies,” he says. “They include any energy-intensive business that runs solid-fuel boilers. But for the industry to view this as a viable fuel there has to be a reliable supply chain. Farmers have to organize and make a commitment to plant enough acres each year to meet a supply contract. And the utility needs to be willing to enter into an eight- to 10-year contract. Right now in the state of Georgia, we’re spending huge amounts buying coal from other states. We could keep that money in-state and even have a multiplier effect, while reducing our carbon footprint.” “The end users are ultimately everybody here,” Baldwin says.
Government Support For now, the industry’s success is partially dictated by government policy. Until 2012, the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program will offer matching payments and establishment and annual payments to approved growers. “We have government incentives,” says Craig Patterson, Repreve’s manager of commercial operations. “These are not long-term subsidies. If you want to take advantage of BCAP, the time is now.” “It all comes down to government policy,” says Chase Kasper, director of technology commercialization at Mississippi State University. “Do we want to drill off our shores? Do we want to burn clean fuel and get off foreign oil? Once the government supports the initial investment, the market accepts it, and it takes off on its own.” “If you look at individual clean-energy mandates state by state, they reach their peak in the early ’20s. 2022 is the date of the federal mandate,” says Ronald Smith, CFO of both UNIFI and Repreve. “Right now we have significant demand and not a lot of supply. We’re participating in the market at a premium.” Stucky agrees. “The infrastructure is already in place,” she says. “I’m dealing with seven companies right now that turn biomass into transportation fuel. These systems can work with any kind of dry biomass, and they are actively seeking suppliers.” UNIFI considers itself a socially responsible operation, but Smith is upfront about the company’s primary interest—Freedom’s eventual financial payoff. “UNIFI is a publicly traded company,” he says. “So if we’re participating in this, we have to believe in the return. We made this investment because the literature strongly suggests that perennial grasses are going to support world energy demands of the future. And among perennial grasses, Freedom is the best option out there.” Author: Cheree Franco Writer, Office of Agricultural Communications, Mississippi State University email@example.com
MARCH 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 51
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