Page 1


Satellites Point to


Building Sites

US EPA is Using Google Earth to Encourage the Use Of Contaminated Sites for Renewable Energy Projects

Commercially viable?

© Novozymes A /S · Customer Communications · No. 2009-02010-01

Yes, sooner than you think. We’re close. We’re very, very close. But now that the right enzymes are ready, are you prepared for the really tough job? Novozymes low-dose, high-yield cellulase and hemicellulase for cellulosic biofuel production, are ready to revolutionize the industry. These enzymes are the highest performing solutions on the market, and they are ready for your ethanol plant. So now we need to make it happen. Let’s work together to make second-generation biofuels economical and sustainable. With your plant and our enzymes success is within reach.

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MARCH 2009



FEATURES ..................... 24 TECHNOLOGY The Art of Biomass Pelletizing Densification can make biomass into a more uniform and competitive fuel, but making pellets out of various biomass sources is not an exact science. By Ryan C. Christiansen

30 POWER Making the Switch Many coal-fired power companies are conducting research to determine whether it’s more environmentally friendly and economical to cofire or use 100 percent biomass to produce electricity. By Anna Austin

36 PROJECT DEVELOPMENT Contaminated Sites = Renewable Energy Hotspots The U.S. EPA is using Google Earth to encourage the reuse of contaminated lands for renewable energy production. By Jessica Ebert

42 Q&A Biomass: A Federal Perspective Valri Lightner, the new director of the U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Biomass Program, tells Biomass Magazine how the program is being used to meet the renewable fuels standard. By Ron Kotrba POWER | PAGE 30

46 PROCESS Anaerobic Options

DEPARTMENTS ..................... 07 Advertiser Index 08 Editor’s Note Solid Support for Renewable Energy By Rona Johnson

10 CITIES Corner Riding Shotgun With King Coal By Tim Portz

11 Legal Perspectives Plant Breeders’ Rights for New Feedstocks By Micheline Ayoub and Jeremy Lawson

15 Industry Events

The positive environmental impacts and easy scalability of anaerobic digesters make them a wise choice for small-scale waste reduction and energy production projects. By Barnett Koven

50 COMPLIANCE Controlling Emissions in a Growing Wood Pellet Marketplace While building the world’s largest wood pellet plant, Circle Bioenergy LLC looked to the panelboard industry to find a solution to emissions control. Now it is reaping the benefits. By Steve Jaasund

54 EQUIPMENT Biomass Equipment Options for Steam and Power Biomass is an abundant and increasingly economic option for power and energy producers. However, it’s also one of the most difficult feedstocks to handle. Technology is available, and new innovations are remarkable. By Arnie Iwanick

16 Business Briefs 18 Industry News 59 EERC Update In Troubled Times, Biofuels Could Be a Winner By Chris Zygarlicke

60 Marketplace


advertiser INDEX



2009 Canadian Renewable Energy Workshop




2009 Fuel Ethanol Workshop



2009 International BIOMASS Conference & Expo

12 & 13





STAFF WRITERS Susanne Retka Schill Kris Bevill Erin Voegele Anna Austin Ryan C. Christiansen



SALES MANAGER, MEDIA & EVENTS Howard Brockhouse ACCOUNT MANAGERS Clay Moore Jeremy Hanson Chip Shereck Tim Charles Marty Steen Bob Brown

Agra Industries


Bandit Industries, Inc.




BBI Bioenergy Australasia Magazine


BBI Engineering & Consulting

58 & 63

Bioenergy Canada Magazine


BRUKS Rockwood


Christianson & Associates PLLP


Continental Biomass Industries


Detroit Stoker Company


Energy & Environmental Research Center


Ethanol Producer Magazine





Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc.

Gas Technology Institute

6 40

Jansen Combustion & Boiler Technologies Inc. 55 SUBSCRIBER ACQUISITON MANAGER Jason Smith

ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Elizabeth Slavens Sam Melquist Jack Sitter

Subscriptions Subscriptions to Biomass Magazine are available for just $24.95 per year within the United States, $39.95 for Canada and Mexico, and $49.95 for any country outside North America. Subscription forms are available online (www., by mail or by fax. If you have questions, please contact Jessica Beaudry at (701) 746-8385 or jbeaudry@


Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. To place an order, contact Subscriptions at (701) 746-8385 or subscriptions@biomassmagazine. com. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact Christie Anderson at (701) 746-8385 or canderson@

Advertising Biomass Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biomass Magazine advertising opportunities or to receive our Editorial Calendar & Rate Card, please contact Howard Brockhouse at (701) 746-8385 or hbrockhouse@

Laidig Systems, Inc.


Mid-South Engineering Company






Percival Scientific, Inc.


Process Barron


Quality Recycling Equipment, Inc.


R.C. Costello & Associates Inc.


Robert-James Sales Inc.


Roskamp Champion


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US Energy Services


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Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Biomass Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or e-mail to jsobolik@ Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

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NOTE Solid Support for Renewable Energy


he federal government’s support for renewable energy seems to be stronger than ever, even as the world sinks into what is expected to be a deep recession. I believe President Barack Obama’s choice for U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was a wise one, especially in light of last year’s record-high oil prices. I don’t think there is any doubt that Chu understands the situation this nation faces and that he knows what needs to be done to face the challenges that lie ahead. As he said in his statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January: “Last year’s rapid spike in oil and gasoline process not only contributed to the recession we are now experiencing, it also put a huge strain on the budgets of families all across America. Although prices are now lower, providing some relief to American consumers, we know that our economy remains vulnerable to future price swings. We must make a greater, more committed push toward energy independence and, with it, a more secure energy system.” To give readers an even better idea of the administration’s support for renewable energy, Senior Staff Writer Ron Kotrba conducted an interview with Valri Lightner, the new director of the U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Biomass Program. The program, according to Lightner, is focused on next-generation technologies and driving down the costs of these processes so the new renewable fuels standard can be met. To find out more about the Biomass Program and its direction, read Kotrba’s feature, “Biomass: A Federal Perspective” on page 42. Time and the economic situation will tell what lies ahead for the biomass industry, but it’s comforting to know that the federal government still understands the dangers of heavily relying on foreign oil and that high gasoline prices had a hand in causing our current financial situation. I hate to end this column on a low note, but I’m not as confident that the U.S. Congress can help us out of this recession, judging by the trillion-dollar stimulus package that was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, our lawmakers need to stop worrying about reelection and their own futures, and start making decisions that are best for the future of the entire country. On the other hand, I was heartened to see that some Democratic senators are prepared to vote against the stimulus package despite the fact that it was crafted by their own party. This includes North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, who said he was going to vote against the project because he didn’t believe it was “fully targeted, timely and temporary.” Let’s hope they go back to the drawing board, put aside their partisan differences and come up with a stimulus package that will truly help the country out of this recession.

Rona Johnson Features Editor



June 15 - 18, 2009 Denver Convention Center | Denver, Colorado, USA

WHERE E T HANOL’S NE W ERA BEGINS No longer is the world of ethanol confined to grain. C ellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels are the future, and that future star ts now. For a quar ter centur y, the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo has delivered not only the largest ethanol event in the world, but the finest. Join the industry this summer for the FE W ’s 25th Anniversar y in Denver. I t ’s where the ethanol industr y ’s new era begins.

CITIES corner Riding Shotgun with King Coal


he Energy Information Administration reported that as of October 2008, more than 48 percent of the electricity produced and consumed in this country was derived from coal. The U.S. fleet of coal-burning power plants numbers over 100, and new plants are in various stages of development. Additionally, we’ve all heard that new coal-fired power plants come on line in China almost weekly. As a proponent of biomass and a professional working in the field, I initially regarded this statistic with some derision. I’m beginning to see, however, that partnering with the coal industry may be one way to expand the use of biomass as a power source. Coal-burning power plants in this country are supported by a massive infrastructure that harvests coal from the ground, delivers it to generation facilities via rail, and ultimately feeds it into power plants that are optimized to pulverize and combust the material to make electricity. Comparatively, the biomass industry is in the development stage at each and every step in that process. Equipment manufacturers are building prototypes to efficiently harvest not just grain but also crop residue. Studies are being conducted on finding better ways to move the less energy dense material, and technologies are


being developed to effectively harness the power bound up in our country’s vast biomass resources. The challenges presented will not be overcome simultaneously. As an industry, we need to welcome projects that provide us with an opportunity to confront these challenges, even if it is in an a la carte fashion. I look to my home state of Iowa and the opportunity presented to our industry by the coal-fired power plant planned for Marshalltown. The Iowa Utilities Board granted conditional approval of the Alliant Energy Corp. facility as long as it derives 10 percent of its energy from biomass. While I understand that many in the renewable industry will look upon a 650 megawatt coal-fired power plant as a perpetuation of the fossil fuel paradigm, I see it as an opportunity to develop and prove out a reliable biomass fuel infrastructure. Biomass’s time is definitely upon us and while we are not yet in the driver’s seat, we can learn a great deal riding shotgun. Tim Portz is a business developer with BBI International’s Community Initiative to Improve Energy Sustainability. Reach him at tportz@ or (651) 398-9154.



Plant Breeders’ Rights for New Feedstocks By Micheline Ayoub and Jeremy Lawson Ayoub


hile patents remain the principal form of intellectual property for protecting technological advancements in Canada, plant breeders’ rights can provide an alternative or complementary protection for new plant varieties. Species engineering has begun on heralded, under-researched plant feedstocks such as switchgrass, camelina and jatropha, and protecting the fruits of such research and development labor can be achieved in Canada through a combined strategy.

Criteria for Patents Versus Plant Breeders’ Rights A valid patent will be granted for an invention that is novel, useful and nonobvious. If the invention was disclosed by the applicant more than one year before filing a patent application, then it is considered unpatentable in Canada for lack of novelty. To qualify for a plant breeders’ rights certificate, a plant variety must be new, distinct, uniform and stable. A “new” variety must not have been sold in Canada before the filing of the plant breeders’ rights application and must not have been sold abroad for more than four years, or for more than six years in the case of woody plants and their rootstocks. A “distinct” variety possesses measurably different characteristics from commonly known varieties. For example, a

variety could be “distinct” because its seed oil content is higher than any known variety of the same species. Furthermore, a “uniform” variety exhibits predictable variation in its characteristics, and a “stable” variety has characteristics that remain unchanged over successive generations.

Subject Matter of Patents Versus Plant Breeders’ Rights The Canadian Intellectual Property Office currently holds the position that multicellular organisms are not patentable subject matter. It may be possible to patent new and inventive methods of genetic engineering, or individual cells of multicellular organisms, but any claims to a plant itself will be rejected by CIPO. The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act allows the exclusive right to a plant variety that is asexually or sexually reproducible. However, plant breeders’ rights cannot be obtained for fungi, algae or bacteria.

Duration, Scope of Patents Versus Plant Breeders’ Rights While the term of a patent is 20 years from the date of filing a patent application, the duration of plant breeders’ rights is 18 years from the plant breeders’ rights certificate issue date. The scope of a patent is defined by its claims and often allows broad coverage of an invention, such as a plant cell contain-


ing a new chimeric gene that is applicable to several plant species. Each plant breeders’ rights certificate, however, covers a particular variety belonging to a particular plant species. The plant breeders’ rights certificate holder may exclude others from selling the protected variety, producing it for sale and making repeated use of the protected variety as a step to commercially produce another variety.

Plant Protection in the U.S. In the U.S., breeders’ rights can be obtained for sexually reproduced (by seed) or tuber-propagated plants. It’s also possible to obtain a so-called “plant patent” for an asexually reproduced plant. The U.S. also allows regular utility patents for plants. Given the need for improved plant feedstocks in the energy industry and the particularities of the Canadian intellectual property system, neither patents nor plant breeders’ rights should be overlooked as valuable means of protection. Micheline Ayoub is a patent associate in the fields of biotechnology and plant varieties protection at Robic, a Quebec-based intellectual property and business law firm. Reach her at Jeremy Lawson is a patent agent in the fields of chemical and process engineering at Robic. Reach him at lawson@


industry events Canadian Renewable Energy Workshop

World Biofuels Markets

March 10-12, 2009

March 16-18, 2009

Regina Inn Hotel and Conference Center Regina, Saskatchewan This second conference will facilitate the continued development of Canada’s renewable energy industry. Agenda topics will include provincial renewable energy summaries and outlooks, waste resources, new ethanol and biodiesel feedstocks and technologies, and financing. Confirmed speakers include Denis Arguin, vice president of engineering and implementation at Enerkem Inc.; and Gerry Kutney, chief operating officer of Alterna Energy Inc., among many others. (888) 501-0224

Brussels Expo Centre Brussels, Belgium This is one of the largest biofuels events in Europe, and a key meeting place for industry experts looking to share best practices and attract new clients. Bioplastics and biobased chemicals will be addressed in pre-congress forums. Other agenda topics include cellulosic ethanol and biobutanol; waste and other feedstocks; biorefineries; and biofuels for airlines. +44 20 7099 0600

Algae Biofuels World Summit

The Future of Biofuels

March 23-25, 2009

April 4-8, 2009

Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel San Francisco, Calif. This event aims to bring together all the parts of the algae-based biofuels value chain, including carbon generators, technology developers, biorefiners, the financial community and the transportation sector. A pre-summit briefing will address the commercialization of algae-based biofuels, and the summit will conclude with an advanced biofuels market outlook from Will Thurmond, chairman of research and development for the National Algae Association. (818) 888-4444

Snowbird Resort Snowbird, Utah The goal of this meeting, which is being supported by DuPont, will be to share a broad perspective defining the critical needs of the biofuels industry, and to highlight cutting-edge research and development efforts that are defining the next generation of biofuel processes and products. Agenda topics will include next-generation advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol; and the feedstocks needed for those fuels. (800) 253-0685

BioPower Generation Americas

International Biomass Conference & Expo

April 22-23, 2009

April 28-30, 2009

Bourbon Convention Ibirapuera São Paulo, Brazil This inaugural event is the fourth edition of the global BioPower Generation series. It will highlight the developments and opportunities in Latin America’s biomass power generation market, and look at the entire biopower generation value chain to evaluate the main opportunities for this continually growing sector. Experts will provide insight into the biomass-for-power generation industry, and international case studies will show how Latin America can benefit from growing global markets. 55 (11) 2161 2200 biofuelsmarkets/biopower_generation_americas.html

Oregon Convention Center Portland, Ore. This event, sponsored by BBI International Inc., will focus on six major biomass sectors: crop waste, food processing residue, urban organic wastes, forest and wood processing residues, livestock and poultry wastes, and dedicated energy crops. Attendees will also be able to tour West Oregon Wood Products Inc., Summit Natural Energy Corp. and Clean Water Services’ Rock Creek Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. (701) 746-8385

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

European Biomass Conference & Exhibition

June 15-18, 2009

June 29-July 3, 2009

Denver Convention Center Denver This will mark the 25th anniversary of the world’s largest ethanol conference, which was recently recognized by Trade Show Week magazine as one of the fastest-growing events in the United States for the second consecutive year. The event will address conventional ethanol, next-generation ethanol and biomass. More details will be available as the event approaches. (701) 746-8385

CCH-Congress Center Hamburg, Germany This 17th annual event will highlight the latest breakthroughs in the biomass field. Agenda topics will include biomass resources; the conversion to heat, electricity and products; fuels from biomass; markets; and policy and sustainability. There will also be an exhibition featuring various companies and products in the industry. +39 055-5002174



BRIEFS EPA salutes landfill methane capture projects SlurryCarb process receives green award Atlanta-based EnerTech Environmental Inc. received the 2008 Global Frost & Sullivan Green Excellence Award for its SlurryCarb process, which creates a renewable fuel from sewage sludge and other high-moisture wastes. EnerTech has a 1.6-tonper-day process development unit at its Atlanta headquarters and a commercial-scale facility under construction in Rialto, Calif. The Rialto Regional Biosolids Processing Facility is designed to convert approximately 883 wet tons of biosolids per day into 167 dry tons of renewable fuel per day, which can be used as a coal substitute. BIO

The U.S. EPA recognized seven landfill methane capture projects at the 12th Annual Landfill Methane Outreach Program Conference and Project Expo in Baltimore on Jan. 13. Three were honored as LMOP projects of the year, including Granger Energy of Morgantown LLC’s Conestoga Landfill Gas Utilization Project in Morgantown, Pa.; the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio’s Green Energy Center Landfill Gas Energy Project in Grove City, Ohio; and a project undertaken by Greenville Gas Producers LLC and Greenville County in Greenville, S.C. For more information on the complete list of projects, visit lmop. BIO

Laidlaw acquires pulp mill in New Hampshire

Virtual Media Holdings changes name

Through its affiliate Laidlaw Berlin BioPower LLC, New York-based Laidlaw Energy Group Inc. announced its completed acquisition of the former Fraser Paper pulp mill in Berlin, N.H. The company is developing a 66-megawatt biomass-toenergy project on the site, including conversion of the boiler and related equipment. Once completed, the facility is expected to utilize approximately 700,000 tons of woody biomass annually, and directly employ 40 workers. Commercial operations are scheduled to begin in late 2010. BIO

Shareholders approved a name change for Virtual Media Holdings Inc., reflecting its merger with Biomass Waste Management and its plans to build biomass-to-power generation facilities across North America. The newly formed Biomass Secure Power Inc. is developing a 10-megawatt power plant in Abbotsford, British Columbia, which will provide water heat and carbon dioxide for collocated greenhouses, and electricity for BC Hydro. The plant plans to use trees destroyed by pine beetles as a feedstock, as well as other waste biomass streams. BIO

Former DuPont, BASF execs join BioEnergy International BioEnergy International LLC recently established a specialty chemicals division, and added two new executives from chemical giants DuPont and BASF to lead the new department. Cary Veith, formerly a vice president with DuPont, joined BioEnergy International as vice president of research and development. Cenan Ozmeral, who most recently served BASF as a vice president, joined BioEnergy International as senior vice president and general manager of specialty chemicals. BIO


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, ZEEP sign agreement Canada-based Zero Emission Energy Plants Inc. executed a global licensing agreement with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to build, operate and commercialize Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s compact gasification technology. The gasification systems are designed to convert low-value carbonaceous feedstocks into synthesis gas mainly consisting of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. ZEEP intends to develop a commercialscale demonstration plant and build several large gasification facilities throughout the world. Possible locations for a demonstration plant include China, Canada, the U.S. and Australia, according to ZEEP. BIO


BRIEFS Bruks Rockwood supplies biomass unloading systems


Bruks Rockwood Inc. is supplying its truck unloading equipment to two of Epcor Power LP’s power plants in North Carolina: a 52-megawatt cogeneration facility in Roxboro and a 103-megawatt combined-heat-and-power plant in Southport. At these locations, wood residues will be processed as feedstocks in conjunction with coal and tire-derived materials. Dominion Energy will also employ two of the unloading systems at its 585-megawatt clean coal power plant in Virginia City, Va. The facility produces 20 percent of its energy from woody biomass. BIO

The Startech Plasma Converter System

Startech gasifier to be used in Poland Startech Environmental Corp. will provide its Startech Plasma Converter System to SG Silesia, a wholly owned Polish subsidiary of London-based Waste2greenenergy Ltd., Startech’s exclusive distributor for Poland. The system, slated to come on line this year, will be owned and operated by SG Silesia at Polish chemical company Zaklady Azotowe Kedzierzyn SA’s production facility in Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland. It will convert up to 110 metric tons of industrial waste to synthesis gas daily for sale to ZAK. BIO

MonitorTech provides CEMS to Indeck Ladysmith plant MonitorTech Corp. is supplying the Indeck Ladysmith Biofuel Center, a 90,000-ton-per-year wood pellet plant under construction in Ladysmith, Wis., with its continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS). The system will monitor carbon monoxide and oxygen at the facility. Indeck Ladysmith is building a sister pellet plant in Magnolia, Miss., but MonitorTech President Robert Mullowney said his company won’t be supplying that plant with a similar system because the facility isn’t required to have a CEMS. BIO

Verdezyne, Genencor continue collaboration Verdezyne Inc., formerly Coda Genomics Inc., will provide its advanced computational algorithms for generating enzymes to Genencor, A Danisco Division to assist Genencor with its research initiatives, including enzyme product solutions for biofuels. Genencor and Verdezyne have been working together since October to create libraries of synthetic genes and proteins for Genencor’s future research. Verdezyne’s technology involves the evolution of metabolic pathways for the cost-effective commercial production of biofuels and platform chemicals. BIO

Dudek, Catalyx Nanotech to produce energy from landfills Environmental and engineering consulting firm Dudek and nanotechnology application developer Catalyx Nanotech Inc. have partnered to develop facilities adjacent to southern California landfills that will sequester carbon and convert methane gas into green hydrogen and nanomaterials. Catalyx Nanotech chairman Juzer Jangbarwala said the companies are currently focused on a pilot project but continue to plan commercial endeavors. “We are looking at 12 landfills that are already producing electricity,” he said. “Our option helps eliminate emissions, so we do not expect long permit [issuance] for retrofits. As soon as the pilot unit is up and running, we will proceed with all 12 permits.” The companies expect to eventually expand to other southern California regions. BIO

Sheehan joins university’s Institute on the Environment The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment welcomed renewable fuels veteran John Sheehan as scientific program coordinator for biofuels. He has much experience in renewable energy development, having spent nearly 20 years with the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducting work on system dySheehan namic models for strategic and policy decision-making related to ethanol and biodiesel. In his new position, he will focus on the direct and indirect consequences of biofuels production on land use across the world. BIO



NEWS Implementing a unique technology that has been in the works over the past six years, Quebec-based Enerkem Inc. began the start-up phase of its commercial-scale biogas plant in Westbury, Quebec. After a 14-month construction period, it will process biomass into synthesis gas, ethanol and methanol. Since 2003, the company has operated a pilot plant in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Enerkem President and Chief Executive Officer Vincent Chornet said he expects the commercial-scale facility to become fully operational within a few months after the alcohol modules are bolted to the syngas island. The company’s sequential gas conditioning and catalysis technology uniquely allows for the processing of certain types of demolition wood, such as decommissioned power poles and creosote-treated wood that most companies can’t process due to air or environmental permit limitations. The 1.3 MMgy facility in Westbury is collocated with a sawmill and will utilize waste materials to produce 365 liters (95 gallons) of ethanol per ton. Besides treated wood waste, the plant is also capable of processing sorted municipal


Enerkem commercial-scale biogas plant starts up

Enerkem has begun operation of commercial-scale syngasto-ethanol plant Westbury, Quebec.

its in

solid waste. “Forestry biomass is like butter for us, although the plant is designed to be flexible,” Chornet said. After the wood chips and other wastes are dried, sorted and shredded, they are stored in a container connected to the gasifier by a front-end feeding system. Slurries or liquids may also be fed into the gasifier through injectors. The carbonaceous materials, such as biomass treated with creosote, are converted into a syngas consisting mostly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen through a chemical gasification process.

The gasifier operates at low severities, temperatures of approximately 700 degrees Celsius (1,292 degrees Fahrenheit) and below 10 units of atmospheric pressure. During the gasification process, part of the creosote is broken down, forming a portion of the syngas. Other traces of impurities are captured as residues in the form of a neutralized ash, or through a wastewater treatment system for effective disposal through the syngas cleaning system. The gas is cleaned and conditioned for use with existing catalysts through a sequential conditioning system that includes the cyclonic removal of inerts, secondary carbon and tar conversion, heat recovery units, and the reinjection of tar and fines into the reactor. The gas that is produced at the end of the cleaning process is ready for conversion into liquid fuel and end products. The ethanol produced at Enerkem’s facility will be marketed and sold within Canada to refineries. Chornet said the company is currently in talks with refineries in the greater Montreal area. -Anna Austin

International Biomass Conference promises focus on feedstocks The 2009 International Biomass Conference & Expo, to be hosted by BBI International Inc. in Portland, Ore., on April 28-30, will feature 90 speakers and six feedstock-oriented session tracks to appeal to the most diverse of biomass interests. In addition, 150 exhibitors are expected. The tracks, which aim to focus the various areas of attendee interest, are: crop residues, dedicated energy crops, forest and wood processing residues, livestock and poultry wastes, municipal solid waste, urban wastes and landfill gas, and food processing residues. The general sessions will offer keynote speeches and presentations from industry leaders. One particular session will include panelists representing the spectrum of biomass-to-energy conversion technolo18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3|2009

gies available today. They will field questions from attendees who are looking for ways to best utilize their specific biomass feedstock streams. “This event, now in its second year, is unique because it appeals to a much broader audience than other bioenergy industry conferences,” said Tom Bryan, vice president of communications for BBI International. “We, as an industry, can’t afford to keep preaching to the choir. The growth of this industry is dependent on the commercial

production of power, fuels and chemicals from nonfood, non-feed raw materials.” Conference attendees can tour three facilities in the region for an additional fee. West Oregon Wood Products Inc. in Banks, Ore., uses forest and wood processing residues to create products such as fuel pellets. Summit Natural Energy Corp., which operates facilities in North Plains and Cornelius, Ore., uses food processing residues to produce more than 2 MMgy of ethanol. Clean Water Services’ Rock Creek Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in Hillsboro, Ore., is a treatment plant that utilizes anaerobic digestion and biogas recovery. For more information or to register, visit -Ron Kotrba


NEWS Biomass-to-energy projects are moving forward around the globe. Here, Biomass Magazine details the most recent ones: ► Scottish Water Waste Services plans to build a £7 million ($10.2 million) anaerobic digester at its Deerdykes composting facility near Cumbernauld, Scotland. It would produce biogas from recycled food waste to generate electricity and heat, beginning in April 2010. Two 500-kilowatt-hour generators will produce 6,000 megawatt-hours of electricity and 1.1 megawatts of heat annually. Monsal Ltd. is the anaerobic digester technology provider for the project. ► The Scottish Association for Marine Sciences was awarded €5 million ($7.4 million) from the European Union to determine the feasibility of producing renewable fuel using seaweed as a feedstock , which the association is calling the BioMara Project. In October, SAMS issued a report that stated kelp might be farmed off the coast for the production of biogas and ethanol.


Biomass-to-energy projects advance worldwide

The Deerdykes composting facility is located near Cumbernauld, Scotland.

► Gasunie, with more than 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) of pipeline in the Netherlands and Germany, will transport upgraded biogas through its pipeline for the first time at the end of 2009. The biogas will be supplied by Natuurgas Overijssel BV, which is building a plant with the capacity to produce 2 million cubic meters of biogas from organic household waste annually.

► Lurgi GmbH, a subsidiary of Air Liquide Group, plans to build a €24.85 million ($32 million) pilot-scale gasification plant at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. The facility, which is being built for Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH, will produce one metric ton of the company’s trademarked bioliqSynCrude synthesis gas per hour from dry biomass. The project is expected to be complete by 2012. ► Between 2005 and 2030, China is expected to receive approximately 23 percent of global investment in renewable energy, or approximately $1.2 trillion, according to a report, titled “China: Clean and Renewable Energy Report to 2010.” Published by Ireland-based Research and Markets, the report noted that China plans to produce 5.5 gigawatts of electricity from biomass by 2010, and 30 gigawatts by 2020. -Ryan C. Christiansen

According to Chuck Anderson, vice president of eco-market development for ImageTree Corp., deforestation contributes an estimated 20 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. On the upside, he believes interest in forest carbon sequestration is growing, as evidenced in the attendance of forestry sessions at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, in December. The U.N. is working toward bringing forest carbon into a traded and regulated marketplace as part of its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program. Dubbed REDD, the program aims to create incentives for countries to reverse deforestation and improve forest management. Anderson said Panama was recognized at the U.N. conference as the developing nation furthest along in readiness to address the issues concerning trading forest carbon credits. The issues include creating transparency and credibility in measuring reductions


ImageTree prepares to measure forest carbon change

A three-dimensional image of a tropical forest is created from laser-assisted remote sensing data.

in deforestation rates that can be independently reviewed, ensuring indigenous communities will benefit and addressing biodiversity concerns. ImageTree is working with Panama and the intergovernmental organization CATHALAC, a Spanish acronym for Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin American and the Caribbean. “Panama has said they

would like to participate in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases,” Anderson said. One of the challenges has been to find accurate methods to measure changes in large tracts of forests. ImageTree will use its technology to help establish the baseline data that Panama will need to demonstrate improvements in forest carbon sequestration. ImageTree has developed analytical tools that combine satellite images of forests with aerial laser-aided measurements to create three-dimensional models of forests in high resolution. The technology can measure growth in the layers underneath the forest canopy at a resolution in which changes can be tracked in small areas, almost by individual trees, Anderson said. The company began utilizing the technology for the forest inventories in the U.S. and Canada, and it sees an opportunity with wood-based biomass projects needing to inventory feedstock supply in a particular region. -Susanne Retka Schill



NEWS Four states award biomass energy grants Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska and Wisconsin recently awarded grants for projects related to producing energy from biomass. The following projects were funded by the Iowa Power Fund: ► Renew Energy Systems in Osage, Iowa, received $250,000 to build a mobile biomass briquetter for densifying biomass on-site for industrial and commercial heat and power generation. ► Amana Farms Inc. in Amana, Iowa, received $1.08 million for an anaerobic digester to generate electricity from biogas using cattle manure and organic industrial waste as feedstocks. ► Iowa State University received $2.37 million to replace the natural gas used by ethanol plants with synthesis gas produced through biomass gasification, and to examine converting syngas to ethanol. The following projects were funded by the Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy program: ► Colorado State University’s Golden Plains Area Extension Service received

$50,000 to evaluate how energy crops should be rotated on northeastern Colorado dryland farms. ► The Flux Farm Foundation in Carbondale, Colo., received $50,000 to study the effects of applying biochar, a byproduct of pyrolysis, to western Colorado pastureland. ► The International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology in Lakewood, Colo., received $50,000 to work with students at the Colorado School of Mines to design a machine that would produce briquettes from a mixture of cattle manure and woody biomass. ► San Juan Bioenergy LLC in Durango, Colo., received $50,000 to study the chemical composition of syngas produced from gasifying sunflower hulls at the company’s oilseed crushing plant in Dove Creek, Colo. ► Stewart Environmental Consultants Inc. in Fort Collins, Colo., received $50,000 to catalog and quantify the feedstocks that might be available in northeastern Colorado for anaerobic

digestion and biogas production. The following projects were funded by the Nebraska Value-Added Agriculture program: ► Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems in Oakland, Neb., in partnership with Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., received $8,000 to purchase technical reference materials and to market the Renewable Energy Training & Workshop Program, which gives college students hands-on training with renewable energy production systems. ► Tighe Biodiesel in Springfield, Neb., received $75,000 to build a farm-scale ethanol and biodiesel biorefinery that will also produce biogas through the anaerobic digestion of wastewater. The Wisconsin Focus on Energy program funded one project. Action Floor Systems LLC in Mercer, Wis., received $200,000 to replace the company’s natural-gas-fired boiler and 50-year-old wood-fired boiler with a woody biomass boiler. -Ryan C. Christiansen

States ratchet up RPS requirements, incentivize biomass utilization Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are being developed and proposed in Massachusetts and California, and Michigan passed a law that encourages biomass harvest, a possible step in meeting RPS goals. In January, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources released regulations that expanded support for renewable energy and alternative energy technologies mandated by the Green Communities Act, energy reform legislation enacted in July. The act called for changes to the state’s RPS that would double the rate of increase in the use of new renewable energy and create a new Class 2 RPS to support the continued operation of older (pre-1998) renewableenergy-generating facilities. Geothermal, hydroelectric and marine, and hydrokinetic energy are now eligible technologies under RPS Class 1. Liquid biofuels eligible for RPS Class 1 are required to meet life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions 20 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3|2009

and other standards set by the Clean Energy Biofuels Act of 2008. This includes algaebased fuel. RPS Class 2 is limited to generation that began on or before Dec. 31, 1997. Utilities and other electricity suppliers are required to purchase renewable energy credits from Class 2 facilities equal to at least 3.6 percent of sales, or make alternative compliance payments (ACPs) per megawatt-hour to meet the Class 2 RPS obligation. The initial ACP rate is $25 per megawatt-hour for 2009 and will be adjusted each year with the Consumer Price Index. Staying consistent with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order, which requires utilities to procure 33 percent of their electricity from renewable generation by 2020, Assembly Bill 64 was proposed in December. It would increase the current requirement of 20 percent renewable procurement by 2010 but maintain the

current standard for investor-owned utilities. It would also require publicly owned electric utilities to meet the 20 percent by 2010 target. Under current law, publicly owned utilities are required to have a plan in place for renewable procurement but are not required to meet a specific target. By 2015, utilities would be required to procure 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, with the percentage increasing to 35 percent by the end of 2020. In Michigan, farmers who purchase machinery that can harvest biomass material will receive a sales tax exemption under Public Act 415 of 2008. Introduced by state Rep. Dick Ball, the law provides a sales tax exemption on machinery such as combines that can harvest grain and other crops while collecting the biomass residue used to produce alternative energy. -Bryan Sims


NEWS Satellite data aids biofuel feedstocks research NASA researchers are completing a study that aims to predict the agricultural productivity of land in the Midwest that is being converted from traditional cropland to biofuel feedstock production. Christopher Potter, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and his colleagues presented preliminary findings of the biofuels crop research at an American Geophysical Union meeting Dec. 19. To complete the research, Potter and his colleagues are using satellite imagery data collected by NASA. The satellite images are used to make observations regarding vegetative cover on croplands, and to map aboveground and subsurface carbon pools. The data allows the researchers to track the amount of cropland that is being dedicated to crops that can be used as biofuels feedstocks, such as corn, soybeans and switchgrass. Potter said his team aims to

production on soil, taking into account biomass sources such as corn stover that are harvested rather than left in the field. Potter said the research alone won’t be enough to identify what percentage of each crop is planted for use as a biofuels feedstock. In order to make that determination, researchers would have to team up with economists and market analysts, who would bring in additional statistics. The research will produce an accurate estimate of the amount of land being brought into production each year and what kinds of crops are being grown on it. The team is analyzing satellite data spanning from 2000 to the present. The first stage of research is slated to be complete near the end of 2009.

determine how much of a particular crop is being produced on an acre-by-acre basis and how many new acres of each crop are being planted each year. To measure these aspects of crop production, Potter said researchers typically deal with statistics collected by county agencies. However, these statistics provide only a rough map of where the most productive croplands are located. Potter’s research should provide a clearer picture. “With the satellite imagery, we can see individual plots and how they are producing,” he said. “That gives a big advantage in understanding within a county where the best areas seem to be for generating high yields and sustaining those yields through several different kinds of years.” The data mined from the satellite images is fed into a computer model, which will be able to simulate the effects of feedstock

-Erin Voegele

Two companies are moving forward with respective plans to produce biobased chemicals in Brazil and France. A project being undertaken by Brazilian thermoplastic resin producer Braskem will manufacture green polyethylene from sugarcane-based ethanol, while a joint venture known as Bioamber SAS has begun construction of a biobased succinic acid plant in Pomacle, France. According to Braskem spokesman Nelson Lataif, the process to produce polyethylene from sugarcane is simple in concept. “Sugar in the form of sucrose is extracted from the sugarcane and fermented to produce ethanol,” he said. “This is dehydrogenated to ethylene, which is subsequently polymerized to polyethylene.” The proposed Braskem facility will be located at the Southern Petrochemical Complex in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and will have the capacity to produce 200,000 tons of ethylene and polyethylene annually. To do this, the plant will consume approximately 400,000 tons of ethanol each year. However, the polyethylene plant won’t be


Biobased chemical plants develop in Brazil, France

Construction of Bioamber’s biobased succinic acid plant has begun in Pomacle, France.

integrated with an ethanol plant. “Braskem will purchase [ethanol] as a commodity,” Lataif said. The conceptual and basic design phase of the project is complete. The detailing phase and construction are expected to begin in early 2009, with operational start-up scheduled for 2011. The Bioamber joint venture was formed by U.S.-based DNP Green Technology Inc. and French research and development center Agro-Industrie Recherches et Developpements. Its plant is expected to produce

approximately 2,000 metric tons (600,000 gallons) of succinic acid each year. The facility will utilize the U.S. DOE’s proprietary E. coli bacterium, which is under exclusive license to DNP Green Technology and has been optimized by Bioamber. The facility will utilize a fermentation process in which the E. coli feed on sugar and carbon dioxide to produce succinic acid. This can be completed using a wide variety of feedstocks. “Instead of using oil-based [chemical] building blocks … we found a way to make the same building blocks with the same functionalities, but using biological processes,” said Roger Laurent Bernier, DNP Green Technology’s vice president of research and development. According to Bernier, Bioamber’s production facility is being constructed to prove the technology and supply samples of the biobased succinic acid to potential customers. Rather than construct additional facilities, Bioamber plans to license the technology to its customers. -Erin Voegele



NEWS Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Environmental Power Corp. and Canada-based QuestAir Technologies Inc. have been ramping up their respective renewable natural gas projects that utilize anaerobic digestion technology. Environmental Power repaired and upgraded its Huckabay Ridge facility in Stephenville, Texas, and has resumed production of its trademarked pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG). The company also resumed delivery of RNG to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. under a long-term power purchase agreement that runs through December 2018. Under the agreement, Environmental Power will pipe 8,000 million British thermal units (Btu) of RNG to the California-based utility company annually. The Huckabay Ridge facility is owned and operated by Environmental Power subsidiary Microgy Holdings LLC. The plant, which started operation in January 2008, generates approximately 635,000 million Btu of RNG, enough to produce nine megawatts of electricity annually using manure from 10,000 dairy cows at local farms. Meanwhile, QuestAir Technologies deployed its M-3200 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) systems for two international anaerobic digestion projects—one in Korea and the other in Austria—that will produce compressed natural gas (CNG) from biogas. QuestAir’s M-3200 PSA “is a modular biogas conditioning system that’s skid-mounted for easy installation onto an existing an-


Companies tap into renewable natural gas markets

Environmental Power Corp.’s flagship Huckabay Ridge facility in Stephenville, Texas, can produce approximately nine megawatts of electricity per year using manure from 10,000 local dairy cows.

aerobic digestion operation,” according to Andrew Hall, president and chief executive officer of QuestAir. “Basically, we just take the biogas that comes out of the digester and purify it into CNG, which can be converted into an alternative fuel, power or electricity,” he said. In addition to Korea and Austria, QuestAir’s biogas purification systems are being employed in Ohio, California and Canada with more under development throughout the world, according to Hall. -Bryan Sims

Wood prices fluctuate; sustainable management practices available During the third quarter of 2008, the cost of wood fiber fell for the first time in years because of two main factors: a strengthening U.S. dollar and a reduced demand from pulpwood, according to Wood Resources Quarterly. The average global softwood pulp price fell 2 percent during the third quarter of 2008 to $110.43 per bone-dry metric ton (BDMT). During the same time, the average hardwood fiber cost was up almost $2, reaching a record high of $110.71 per BDMT, marking the third time in 20 years that the global average hardwood price was higher than the softwood price. Sawlog prices fell 5 percent to 12 percent worldwide in the third quarter of 2008, according to WRQ. This was due to the reduced consumption of lumber in North America and Europe. The largest declines in log prices occurred in western Canada, Sweden, Germany, the Baltic States and New Zealand. U.S. prices were down approximately 5 percent from the second quarter of 2008, while log costs in Brazil and Chile remained stable. The growing renewable energy industry continues to keep an eye on various wood prices. It may also be interested in a new report released by the Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force and compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Available at, it recommends 15 actions that should be taken to implement renewable energy technologies in the Atlantica region’s forest products industry, 22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3|2009

which consists of the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the U.S. state of Maine. The 15 recommendations include implementing sustainable forest management strategies, improving the transportation infrastructure and drafting biomass removal guidelines without delay. In regard to sustainable forest management strategies, the Forest Guild released an unrelated report in early January, titled “An Assessment of Biomass Harvesting Guidelines.” This document reviews the growing number of state biomass harvesting guidelines that advise how much woody biomass can be removed, and how much should be left in the forest to promote the health of watersheds, wildlife habitat and long-term forest productivity. The organization acknowledged that forest management guidelines developed years ago never addressed the removal of logging slash, small-diameter trees, tops and limbs because there was no interest. “New interest in woody biomass is a double-edged sword,” said Zander Evans, Forest Guild research director and author of the report. “If harvested sustainably, biomass can meet some of our energy needs and leave our forests healthier than they are now. However, without appropriate guidance, biomass harvests can seriously degrade our forests.” The report can be found at -Ron Kotrba


NEWS DTE Biomass Energy launches three projects in 2008 Residents of Bellefontaine, Ohio, have started using electricity generated by their own trash via a landfill gas project built and operated by DTE Biomass Energy, a subsidiary of Michigan-based utility DTE Energy Co. The Ohio project, with a 4.8-megawatt generating capacity, was the third in the past year built by DTE Biomass Energy. A 1.6-megawatt landfill-gas-to-energy facility in Denton, Texas, started generating power in December, and a 3.2-megawatt plant in Statesville, N.C., started up in mid-2008. DTE now has 22 projects in 13 states. DTE Vice President of Business Development Rick DiGia said interest in landfill-gas-to-energy projects is steadily growing as a result of the renewable power standards taking effect in several states. In addition, since 1998, the U.S. EPA has required landfills meeting certain criteria to capture their landfill gas emissions. DTE’s first installation in Riverview, Mich., celebrated its 20th year in operation in 2008. The original wells are still producing small amounts of gas at the active landfill, DiGia said, although new wells have been added over the years as the landfill expanded. Where there is sufficient rainfall, new landfills begin generating gas within a year for a lifespan of approximately 10 years. In dry areas, such as Arizona, it may be five to six years before gas is generated, and the gas production continues for approximately 20 years.

‘People think landfill gas is free. Generally speaking, to sink a well and connect it to a collection system costs $20,000 per well.’ “People think landfill gas is free,” DiGia said. “Generally speaking, to sink a well and connect it to a collection system costs $20,000 per well.” DTE uses standard compression, filtering and cooling technology to clean up landfill gas for three main products. For electrical generation, the gas is cleaned up and burned in a generator or turbine. For industrial applications, plant boilers are converted from natural gas or coal to utilize the landfill gas, which is a mixture of roughly equal parts of methane and carbon dioxide. The third application requires more complex technology to separate the carbon dioxide and other components to produce a pipeline-grade methane gas. -Susanne Retka Schill

R&A Solutions pyrolysis system turns trash to gas Ohio-based R&A Energy Solutions said it has developed a unique solution to transforming a multitude of waste materials into renewable fuels. Chief Executive Officer Joel Keller said the company integrated a commercial-sized, proprietary pyrolysis system with a modified internal combustion engine and generator set system. “We have successfully tested carpet scraps, sewage sludge cake, manure, wood waste, auto shredder residue, food waste and sorted municipal solid waste as feedstocks,” he said. One of the pyrolysis systems, which are available in different sizes, is capable of converting nearly 50 tons of waste per day into 600 to 1,280 British thermal units per standard cubic foot, according to Keller. “The syngas produced will generate between 1.5 and two megawatts,” he said. “In addition, significant amounts of pyrooils and pyro-char are produced. [Furthermore,] hot water, space heating or chilling, and steam can be made from the waste heat.” Before being processed, the feedstocks may need to be partially dried or mixed with drier materials such as crop waste, yard waste or forest residues. The feedstock is fed into the pyrolysis unit, where it’s heated in a zero- or near-zero-oxygen environment. The organic components rapidly vaporize to form a dry synthesis gas—consisting mainly of methane, ethane, propane and

butane—which is then used as fuel to run an internal combustion engine and generator set, or in a boiler to make steam. “Waste heat is recycled to augment the energy from the syngas in the production of power or to dry additional fuel,” Keller said. “The process is 85 percent to 90 percent efficient with ultra-low emissions.” Keller said depending on the feedstock, a variety of organic liquids may be produced through pyrolysis. “Many of these liquids may be used directly as transportation fuels,” he said. The resulting sterile ash may be used as filler for concrete, mixed with liquid asphalt for road repair, used for certain industrial or manufacturing operations, or applied to farm fields, depending on exact content, local needs and regulations. The systems are modular and scalable, he said. They may be applicable to the dairy cattle feedlot, waste hauling, municipal utility and auto shredding industries. Systems are available in 500-, 1,000-, 2,000- and 4,000-pound-per-hour sizes, producing between 20 kilowatts and six megawatts. Keller said R&A Energy Solutions currently has three projects in the financing stage, and another five or six moving to the financing state within six months. -Anna Austin






The of Biomass Pelletizing Pelletizing biomass can be challenging. The lack of a one-size-fits-all process means that it can be more art than science. By Ryan C. Christiansen


he cost to harvest, handle, transport and store low-density agricultural residue and other biomass materials often places biomass at a competitive disadvantage to fossil fuels. The variable and often high moisture content in biomass and its natural decay can lower its value. Fortunately, biomass can be condensed to produce a uniform, competitive fuel product. One of the methods for condensing biomass is pelletizing. Corn stover, for example, can be made 10 times denser if it is first ground to a five-thirty-seconds-inch particle before pelletizing, according to Alan Doering, associate scientist of coproducts at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute office in Waseca, Minn. The most common biomass pelletized for fuel is wood, mainly from sawdust, wood chips and shavings. Eighty wood pellet mills across North America produce

1.1 million tons of pellets annually and 23 fireplace manufacturers make pellet stoves and fireplace inserts for burning pellets, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute, a nonprofit in Arlington, Va., that serves the pellet industry. The institute says 800,000 homes in the U.S. use wood pellets for heat. Wood pellets are also used on a commercial scale. The institute cites a stage theater, prison and hydroponic tomato farm as examples. The wood pellet market is larger in Europe where 29 countries consumed 6 million metric tons of pellets in 2007, according to Force Technology, an industrial design company in Brøndby, Denmark. The company says Sweden was the largest consumer, followed by The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and France. Sweden was the largest producer of pellets, followed by Germany and


TECHNOLOGY Austria. The Netherlands and Belgium were large net importers, while Germany and Austria were significant exporters. Some countries import wood waste for pelletizing. Because wood pellets compete with fiberboard, particleboard and oriented strand board for raw materials, there have been recent reports of wood pellet shortages in the U.S. To satisfy demand for pellet fuels, agricultural residues and industrial food byproducts are being pelletized for fuel, although on a much smaller scale. According to Robert Hubener, sales manager for pelletizing equipment supplier Freedom Equipment LLC of Rockford, Ill., more customers are pelletizing products for fuel. “An interesting one is manure mixed in with wood pellets, basically [used] animal bedding,” Hubener says. “It’s a product that a lot of people [want] to get rid of.” At Colorado Mill Equipment, a Cañon City, Colo., supplier of pelletizing equipment, Marcel Madar, operations manager, says pelletizing operations used to be limited “pretty much to feed,” he says, “but now fuel—it’s very, very popular.” Madar says his company receives two to three samples weekly from companies interested in pelletizing. “It’s amazing what kind of materials we get in,” he says. “Everybody is trying to make a pellet out of whatever they can get their hands on. We are basically testing them to see how suitable they are for fuels.” Madar says his company assisted the U.S. military with pelletizing cafeteria trash—paper, plastics and Styrofoam—to make liquid fuels through pyrolysis. Agrecol Corp., a Madison, Wis., grower of native plants and seeds, began producing biomass pellets four years ago. According to Mark Doudlah, president of Agrecol, the company began making pellets to deal with the high quantities of MOG (material other than grain) byproduct produced during seed-cleaning. “It didn’t belong in a landfill,” he says, “and composting is quite messy. Land-spreading for us wasn’t a good option, either. We decided, let’s densify and burn it.” Doudlah says the company modified equipment from a retired feed plant to pelletize MOG, and later biomass from the 26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3|2009

Biomass Pellets in Europe Straw is not the only nonwoody biomass pellet in use in Europe. In a report for Pellets Atlas, dubbed pellets@ las, an Intelligent Energy Europe funded project for the European Union, Martin Junginger, a researcher at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, says there are small markets for mixed biomass pellets (MBP) throughout Europe. In the Czech Republic, for example, one company holds a patent for producing pellets from agricultural byproducts and has licensed its technology to pellet producers, he says. According to the Department of Energy and Raw Materials Statistics of the Ministry of Industry and Trade in the Czech Republic, the verified production of these pellets in 2006 was 167,000 metric tons, but the Czech ministry says the actual production might be 10 to 20 times higher. More than 100,000 tons were exported, the ministry says, mostly to Germany and Austria. “All in all, the market for MBP is small but developing,” Junginger says.

fields. Agrecol uses the pellets to heat its facility and sells the rest.

Challenges Pelletizing new forms of biomass is challenging. “We don’t have much hair left, that’s for sure,” Doudlah says. “It’s much more of an art than it is a science.” In a report for the European Biomass Industry Association, French agronomist Olivier Pastré says nonwoody biomass generally has more hemicellulose and less cellulose and lignin than wood, giving it less tensile and compressive strength. In Europe, the Danish Technological Institute has been testing which combinations of biomass are best suited for pellet production and combustion, he says. Doering says AURI has been doing some of the same for its clients. AURI tests how biomass must be pretreated and milled to produce a high-quality

TECHNOLOGY pellet. “We like to see a pellet with a pellet durability index of 92 percent or better,” Doering says, which is determined by tumbling pellets for a period of time to find the volume of fines produced. “You can make pellets that are 99 percent durable,” he says, “but then you typically sacrifice throughput in terms of tons per hour.” “It’s about having that high-gloss

Pellet Combustion Increased demand for nonwoody biomass pellets is leading pellet stove manufacturers to make programmable stoves that can handle the higher ash content, lower British thermal units and higher moisture content of many biomass pellets, says Robert Hubener, sales manager for pelletizing equipment supplier Freedom Equipment LLC of Rockford, Ill. Alan Doering, associate scientist of coproducts at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute office in Waseca, Minn., notes that wood pellets have a different ignition and combustion temperature than mixed prairie grass, corn stover or wheat straw pellets. “What we have found is that some of the forbs species, some of the wildflower species, actually burn slightly hotter because of their oil content,” says Mark Doudlah, president of Agrecol Corp., in Madison, Wis., which grows native plants and seeds and began producing biomass pellets four years ago. Hubener says some recycled paper pellets produce too much heat. Seraph Industries LLC, a pellet stove manufacturer in Caledonia, Ill., makes a stove that can be programmed to burn alternative fuels, such as switchgrass pellets. The company says it has developed a stove that minimizes ash fusion into clinker. “I’ve even got customers who run [those] stoves on manure pellets,” Hubener says. “As stove technology increases, the availability of other pelletized fuels is going to grow.”

sheen on the side of the pellet,” Doudlah says, “[so that] when it gets to the end user, it doesn’t contain a lot of dust.” Hubener says pellet quality needs can vary. “We have a long list of questions that we ask all of our customers,” he says. “Some customers plan to burn all of the fuel they make, in which case a low-quality pellet is perfect for them. [But] if they are planning on shipping it on a barge or shipping it overseas, they are going to have to produce a very hard pellet.” To make pellets, the biomass must first be cleaned to remove contaminants. The clean biomass is then ground in a hammer mill or chipped to a uniform size, which must be less than the thickness of the pellet that will be produced. Grinding down biomass helps to reduce the horsepower the pellet mill must produce. If the biomass is high in moisture, it must be dried to approximately 10 percent moisture content. While the lignin content in wood is generally enough to bind pellets, other forms of biomass require special conditioning to strengthen them. Sometimes binders such as starch, sugars, paraffin oils, or lignin must be added to make the biomass malleable. Before pelletizing, the mixture must be conditioned using water of varying temperatures or steam. “Corn stover has a lower glass-transitioning temperature than switchgrass,” Doering says. “You can get a very durable corn stover pellet at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas to get an equivalent pellet with switchgrass, you have to obtain temperatures greater than 200 degrees, oftentimes 210 or 220 degrees.” Once conditioned, the biomass is fed to a pellet mill. Inside the mill, rollers extrude the mix through a perforated flat or ring die, which effectively condenses the product into pellet form. The hot pellets must then be cooled to harden. They are then screened to separate residual fines, which can be reused. Changing the thickness of the pellet mill die and also milling speed, temperature, and pressure are keys to optimizing pelletizing efficiency and pellet quality. “The dies are all different,” Doudlah says. “The rollers that extrude [the biomass] 3|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 27


Scaling Up As more U.S. states and Canadian provinces adopt or increase renewable portfolio standards for electrical utilities, more power companies are looking at burning wood pellets in coal-fired boilers. Ontario Power Generation Inc., based in Toronto, Ontario, has been testing cofiring wood pellets with lowsulfur lignite coal at its Atikokan Generating Station in Atikokan, Ontario, with considerable success. But utilities are also looking beyond pelletized wood. Vattenfall AB, a European



through the die are different, too, and that’s important to watch.” Doering agrees. “All feedstocks pellet differently,” he says. “They require differentsized pellet dies or die thicknesses. One die doesn’t fit all.” Doudlah says because some biomass can be quite abrasive, additional products might be added to increase the service life of a pellet mill. “In any given seed cleaning day or week there might be six to eight different prairie species in that batch,” Doudlah says. “We don’t regularly pellet things twice the same way. If you can get 2,000 to 2,500 hours out of a die, you’re probably doing pretty well.” Doudlah says between pelletizing runs, Agrecol flushes the die by pelletizing grains, such as corn. “Those things also lubricate well because of the oils and things,” he says. The Amager Power Station in Copenhagen, Denmark, is being renovated to cofire straw pellets with coal. The plant, which supplies both heat and electricity, burns 70,000 metric tons of pellets with 700,000 metric tons of coal annually. The company expects to increase the pellet portion to 150,000 metric tons this year.

heat and electrical utility based in Stockholm, Sweden, has been renovating its 438-megawatt Amager Power Station in Copenhagen, Denmark, to cofire straw pellets with coal. The plant, which supplies both heat and electricity, burns 70,000 metric tons of pellets with 700,000 metric tons of coal annually. The company expects to increase the pellet portion to 150,000 metric tons this year.

In the U.S., AURI has seen a continual growth in interest from industries for pelletizing nonwoody biomass over the past six years, spurred in part by sporadic increases in wood prices, Doering says. “[They are] looking at pellet fuels to displace natural gas,” he says, “or looking at densified solid fuels to cofire with coal. We’re working with some utilities, investigating that potential.”


Small Versus Large Pelletizing Operations Small pelletizing operations might be more feasible than large ones, according to Alan Doering, associate scientist of coproducts at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute office in Waseca, Minn. “We’ve worked with some engineering firms to do the feasibility and economics of a biomass pellet plant,” Doering says, “and what that report showed is [that] actually smaller is possibly better. We live in an era where bigger is better—economics of scale—but for certain situations, it may be more cost-competitive to put two- or four-ton-per-hour pellet mills in throughout the country—50 miles apart—rather than building a 10- or 14-ton-per-hour mill in one central location, but then having to

“The big demand, as we see it right now, is going to be the electrical utility plants, the coal-burning plants,” Doudlah says. “We have been involved in some test burns [with] some power plants and they are trying to see what the emissions are going to be. So far they have come back quite promising.” Pastré notes that the fluidized bed combustion technology used at power plants is inherently flexible and can burn fuels with a

truck the raw material in from greater distances just to keep it busy.” In a report for the European Biomass Industry Association, French agronomist Olivier Pastré opines that a priority should be placed on biomass products that are “easily available, and in a sufficient quantity and that has no need of being collected, nor transported, and that can be easily dried before the pelleting process.” He says an alternative would be to use a mobile pellet mill. For example, Sweden Power Chippers AB in Borås, Sweden, manufactures its Kompakt line of pellet mills that are small enough to be used on a trailer.

wide range of calorific values, ash and moisture content and they have successfully been used to cofire wood, biomass and waste materials, in addition to coal. Before power companies can use biomass pellets, however, they must address emissions issues. Pastré notes that compared with wood, agricultural residues typically have higher nitrogen, sulfur, chlorine and potassium content due to increased use of

fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in agriculture. He says agro-pellets should primarily be used in large-scale combustion plants equipped with sophisticated combustion control and flue gas cleaning systems. In a report for Pellets Atlas, dubbed pellets@las, an Intelligent Energy Europe funded project for the European Union, Martin Junginger, a researcher at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, notes that unknown emissions from biomass pellets is one of the major factors preventing the development of a larger, nonwoody biomass pellet market. Doudlah says having a power utility as a client is critical for setting up large-scale pelletizing operations. “I think to get one of these large plants going—to spend between $5 million and $15 million—you need a substantial anchor,” he says. But like many renewable energy pioneers, Doudlah says economics aren’t always the main driver. “Our goal at Agrecol is not to see yet another monoculture across millions of acres,” he says, “but an ecologically sound and sustainable feed mix that, hopefully, includes enough lignin so that we can wean ourselves away from the amount of nitrogen used in this country.” BIO Ryan C. Christiansen is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at rchristiansen@ or (701) 373-8042.







Last year, a significant amount of coal-fired power plant proposals were shot down by regulators, and an increasing number of utilities are developing plans to convert to biomass. Is this a trend and, if so, will it continue?

Switch By Anna Austin




he end of the coal era is perhaps not in the foreseeable future, but biomass power is becoming an increasingly popular option for power providers. Before biomass can overtake coal, however, a solid infrastructure to support the biomass power industry must be developed. This effort would benefit from not only government support and tax incentives, but also the completion and evaluation of projects which will serve as forerunners in the nation’s energy transition.

Making the Switch According to the U.S. DOE, coal power plants account for 50 percent of power generation in the U.S., and more than 60 percent in the Southeast, which leads the nation in carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that wood and wood-derived fuels accounted for 39 million megawatt hours, or 0.9 percent of total net electricity generation for 2007 in the U.S. For the first time, these fuels were the largest sources of renewable electricity generation, accounting for 37.1 percent of total net renewable generation, excluding conventional hydroelectric generation. Woody biomass power has caught the attention of Southern Co., one of the largest power companies in the U.S. The company is currently conducting technical and economic studies at multiple plants to evaluate the impact of converting to woody biomass pow-

er. These studies will provide a basic analysis to indicate whether these projects are economically feasible. The Electric Power Research Institute is performing the studies and will compile data by investigating all relevant issues in full, including power conversion, unit operational changes, expected operation costs, new environmental controls, emissions, new fuel storage and handling equipment, required fuel supply, and local and regional fuel suppliers. Southern Co.’s largest utilities provider Georgia Power has a massive project underway—one that may serve as a model for others—that will transform the 164 megawatt coal-fired Plant Mitchell, which is near Albany, Ga., to a 96 megawatt, 100 percent wood-fired plant. Pending approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission, the transformation will create the largest operating biomass power plant in the nation.

Meet Plant Mitchell In recent years, Georgia Power has initiated a number of renewable action plans with Georgia Public Service Commission the state regulatory body. “In general, we want to pursue the benefits that renewable energy resources have to offer,” says Kenny Smith, Georgia Power project manager. An obvious benefit biomass has over coal, which is notorious for its negative environmental effects, is that it is clean burning. “This means significant reductions in certain emissions pollutants continued on page 34


Supporting Clean Energy in the South The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a regional organization focused on developing clean energy solutions in the Southeast, is watching Plant Mitchell and several other power plants that are in the process of determining the economic feasibility of converting from coal to biomass. The Electric Power Research Institute is currently investigating conversions for Gulf Power’s Plant Scholz and Mississippi Power’s Plant Sweatt, and Alabama Power is taking stock of the biomass supply in the state, which will help the company determine the most costeffective plants for conversion. In addition to these plants, John Bonitz, farm outreach and policy advocate for SACE, says several others are on their list—such as Northern Wood Power in New Hampshire and Coastal Carolina Clean Power in North Carolina. “We’re convinced there is a trend, albeit a limited one, judging by the size of our existing small coal plant fleet, and by the availability of the resource base,” Bonitz says. There are multiple reasons behind the conversion trend, Bonitz says. “From the power plant producer’s perspective, it may be capital and long-term economics and fuel cost projections,” he says. “It seems the trend is limited to these small coal-fired assets. I don’t think we’re going to start seeing newer coal plants being proposed for conversions.” Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are leading the states with coal-to-biomass power proposals. “This may be because of the concentration of wood waste in these areas,” Bonitz says.

Some conversions are being proposed in areas where the clean up of emissions is being enforced. Utilities commissions are issuing ultimatums telling companies they will be shut down if they don’t add new equipment to reduce emissions, Bonitz points out. “This might involve installing new scrubber technology and pollution control equipment— but it may be easier to just switch fuels.” Although biomass plant conversions seem to be chock full of incentives, Bonitz says SACE is concerned about concentrating too many biomass-fired plants in one geographic location. When you’re talking about a million tons of new demand a year, we may get into pulp wood when the supply of waste wood is exceeded, he says. “We just need to proceed with our eyes wide open—it probably would be a problem if there was a pulp mill nearby, which would suffer from an increase in demand,” he adds. SACE, which works to prevent new coal power plants from being built in the Southeast, is also mindful of the concerns of environmental organizations in regard to the potential long-term impact on soils and water quality. “We’re working with loggers, foresters, forestry commissions and woodland owners, to explore these issues of sustainability in the case of biopower,” Bonitz says. SACE is eager to see Georgia Power move forward with its proposal for Plant Mitchell, Bonitz says. “We are supporting it,” he says. “We also look forward to hearing about more proposals as they become official.”

POWER continued from page 32

such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and mercury, as well as being carbon neutral,” Smith says. In addition, Smith points out the transition of Plant Mitchell will also allow the plant to embrace fuel diversity, and reap the cost benefits of using wood biomass as a fuel compared with coal. “The cost of coal fuel has risen dramatically in the past year or so,” he says. “Not only that, but the projected cost for coal, natural gas and traditional fuels in 10, 20, 30 years has gone up substantially. That makes the idea of using wood chips as an alternative look more attractive than it did five or 10 years ago.” According to the U.S. DOE, the price of coal has gone up from about $30 per ton in 2000 to $150 per ton in September 2008. “In a nutshell, when we looked at renewable fuels, particularly wood biomass, there are a lot more incentives than there used to be—and as time goes on, renewable generation technologies continue to advance and become potentially more affordable,” Smith says. The incentives don’t end there. A project like this is also expected to result in a cost savings for customers, Smith points out, rather than a cost increase which many have been experiencing. In Georgia, although there are no renewable production tax credits in place, the purchase of biomass fuel is exempt from sales tax, whereas natural gas and coal aren’t. “Over the life of this new biomass unit, fuel cost compared with coal cost would be roughly 30 percent less per year on a cost per kilowatt hour basis,” Smith says. “Operating and maintenance costs would be about 13 percent less.”


Cost, Sustainability and More The costs of transitioning Plant Mitchell to biomass power have been carefully evaluated. Smith says capital costs will total $102.8 million, for 76 megawatts of net capacity. “Those numbers are not the full project, but the portion of the project that will be put into the retail, or customer base,” he says. “A portion of the plant has been committed to wholesale and has different numbers, but those are the numbers that are in the public venue, although the total project is 96 megawatts.” Although in terms of Plant Mitchell’s megawatt capacity, the number will drop significantly, Smith says in terms of energy— or kilowatt hours produced—it will produce more energy per year than the existing plant. “This is because we have it running a lot more, because wood fuel is expected to be much more cost-effective than coal,” he says. As far as feedstock sustainability is concerned, Smith says that shouldn’t be an issue. “We’ve had two separate external studies done to find out how much wood and wood biomass material is available in the region around Plant Mitchell because we wanted to make sure there was enough for us, existing users of the wood and other proposed projects similar to ours.” According to the sustainability studies there is a large amount of material available, somewhere in the neighborhood off 11 to 12 times what we would need for this project, according to Smith. “Georgia is rich in forestry and timberland resources, so there is more than enough available for this project.”

POWER According to the Georgia Forestry Association, the state has 23.8 million acres of commercial forest land, more than any other state. When the project is able to move forward, it is expected to create 50 to 75 new jobs related to waste wood recovery. A logging crew would collect tops, limbs and unmerchantable timber, transform it into woodchips and haul it back to the plant to be unloaded. Georgia Power expects to hear from the Public Service Commission by March 12, if it can go ahead with the project. Smith says he expects it will be a go. “There has been a lot of strong support for the project from the PSC and other groups as well, he says. “The next big step is getting an air permit approved by the state Environmental Protection Division, which could take anywhere from 15 to 18 months.” If the plan continues as scheduled, Georgia Power will receive an air permit between the spring and summer of 2010, begin the transition in 2011, and come on line prior to the summer of 2012. If the project succeeds, the company will look into converting more of its plants to biomass, Smith says. “It’s unique,” he says. “It’s the first one of its kind for our company—so we want to get some experience under our belt and see how it goes before we initiate others like it.”

standard will be passed within the next two to five years. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a renewable energy standard last year, but it failed to pass in the Senate. In a speech at Virginia’s George Mason University in January, President Barack Obama said he supported a 25 percent by 2025 renewable energy standard. The U.S. isn’t the only country trying to wean itself off coal. The province of Ontario, Canada, passed coal phase-out legislation, which calls for the end of coal-based power production by 2014. In Australia,

the Australian Greens party is proposing to phase out coal power stations. Although slow, the dominance of clean, renewable energy seems to be coming. It will be a long road full of challenges, but as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” BIO Anna Austin is an Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at aaustin@ or (701) 738-4968.

Combating Coal More states are becoming aggressive in regulating emissions and approving proposals for building new coal plants. Washington currently prohibits coal plants with emissions exceeding those of natural gas plants. Maine has enacted a law requiring the Board of Environmental Protection to develop greenhouse gas emissions standards for coal gasification facilities, which has led to a moratorium on constructing any new coal gasification facilities until the standards are developed. Texas and California have implemented similar legislation. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (see sidebar on page 33), which has been an advocate for the Plant Mitchell project, believes that a federal renewable energy 3|2009 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 35




Contaminated Sites


Renewable Energy Hotspots

To encourage the reuse of contaminated lands for renewable energy production facilities, the U.S. EPA has developed an interactive Google Earth map that tracks these sites and provides information on the potential of each property for biomass energy, solar or wind development. By Jessica Ebert



tive Web site encourages states and energy companies to put previously contaminated properties back to work.” The maps merge data collected by the EPA and NREL and screen the sites for criteria including: distance to electrical transmission lines, distance to roads, renewable energy potential and site acreage. Sites with the potential to host a biomass energy facility are broken down into two categories: a biopower facility, which is a site with cumulative biomass resources of 140,000 metric tons per year or greater within 50 miles, or a biorefinery facility, which is a site with cumulative crop residues of 333,000 metric tons per year or greater within 50 miles. “The EPA looks for opportunities to encourage the cleanup of contaminated sites, recognizing that some contaminated properties have attributes that could make them attractive candidates for the siting of renewable energy production facilities,” explains EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway. “EPA partnered with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify candidate sites

The Google Earth Renewable Energy Interactive Map allows users to identify contaminated lands across the U.S. that hold promise for renewable energy development.



he U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Administration estimates that the demand for renewable energy will grow by 31 percent over the next 25 years. During that same time period, renewable energy generation is expected to increase by 45 percent. One way to meet the energy needs of a growing population without encroaching on productive farmland is to turn current or previously contaminated sites into renewable energy hotspots. To that end, the U.S. EPA has teamed with the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify nearly 10,000 contaminated lands and mining sites that hold potential for renewable energy development. To help developers, environmental managers, land managers and local, state and federal energy officials as well as private industry and communities track these sites, the agency has generated interactive maps using Google Earth, a virtual geographic information program. “The EPA is putting renewable energy production on the virtual map,” says EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. “Our new interac-



Zoom in on the Google Earth Renewable Energy Interactive Map and view individual sites identified with a colored circle. Clicking on a circle pulls up information about the site including its name, location, size, the EPA program that manages it, the status of site cleanup, and a detailed description of the renewable energy potential.


Contaminated Sites Defined Abandoned Mine Lands: The EPA defines AMLs as: the lands, waters and surrounding watersheds contaminated or scarred by activities associated with the processing of ores and minerals. Brownfield: These properties hold industrial and commercial facilities that are abandoned, idled or under-used, according to the EPA. In addition, these are facilities where “expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.” Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: Congress enacted this legislation in 1976, “to provide a framework for the proper management of currently generated hazardous and nonhazardous waste.” In the event of a release from a treatment, storage and disposal facility, the act carries amendments that make owners or operators responsible for investigating and cleaning up the release. Superfund: This environmental program was established to identify and manage the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites. These sites are assessed and those that pose the greatest threat to human health and the environment in the U.S. are placed on the National Priorities List. As of December 2008, there are more than 1,200 sites on the NPL; most of these are nonfederal Superfund sites, but about 150 are considered federal Superfund sites because they are located in the jurisdiction of a federal agency.

and make the information publicly accessible.” To access the Google Earth tool, users can follow the step-by-step directions found at: Once Google Earth has been loaded on the computer and the Renewable Energy Interactive Map has been launched, a bright blue, virtual, 3D orb— i.e. the Earth—spins into view. The initial image is a satellite picture of North America. Navigation tools can be used to zoom in from the continent view to street level. As the outline of the U.S. takes shape, dots peppered across the states are evident. Each circular label represents a contaminated site recognized by the EPA as a potential host for bioenergy, solar or wind power facilities. Zoom in even further, and the individual states become apparent. At this point, clicking on one of the yellow, purple, red, orange or gray circles pulls up

‘I think this research will help the argument that these lands can be put to some productive use. There are more sites out there than people think.’

all sorts of information about the site including: the site name and location, acreage, the current environmental status of the site, information about the renewable energy potential of the site, and links to additional details such as incentive sheets that describe the availability of federal and/or state monies for renewable energy generation and contaminated land redevelopment. The color-coded dots identify the EPA program that manages the site. For instance: a yellow circle represents sites managed under the Abandoned Mine Lands program; purple is used for brown-




This is a panoramic view of field plots on the Rose Township Dump site. Over the past three years, the use of this land to grow five different bioenergy crops has been studied by researchers at Michigan State University.

field sites; red is used to label sites managed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; pink and gray signify federal and nonfederal Superfund sites respectively. One of these gray dots is the Rose Township Dump in Oakland County, Michigan. The site is about 40 miles northwest of Detroit and one mile west of the town of Rose Center. It spans about 100 acres and consists of undeveloped rural land surrounded by wetlands, lakes and hardwood forest. The site originally served as farmland but in the 1960s it was abandoned and illegal dumping ensued. Over the next decade, an estimated 5,000 drums of liquid industrial waste were buried or deposited on the surface of the site. It is suspected that some of the waste, which included solvents, paints and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are organic compounds used in transformers, coolants, pesticides and sealants, was dumped directly onto the ground or into pits so the drums could be recycled. The waste leached through the surface soils to ultimately contaminate the subsurface soils and groundwater. The cleanup process started in 1980 with the removal of more than 5,000 drums. In 1982, the site was placed on the National Priorities List, and over the next several years, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA initiated cleanup actions. Today,



PROJECT DEVELOPMENT scientists have found that the crop yields are comparable with those achieved on nonmarginal lands. The researchers found no significant difference in the ethanol yield or total oil content of the oilseeds. Although a small difference in the fatty acid profiles of the oilseeds grown at this site versus those grown on typical farmland were found, Thelen explains that the difference was so slight it would not alter the quality of the fuel. In addition, on one plot with slightly elevated levels of PCBs and

heavy metals, the team did not detect the contaminants in the grain harvested from the crops planted in these soils. “We’re encouraged by the data we’ve generated,” Thelen says. “I think this research will help the argument that these lands can be put to some productive use. There are more sites out there than people think.” BIO Jessica Ebert is a freelance writer for Biomass Magazine. Reach her at jebertserp@

Thelen harvests canola from the Rose Township Dump site.

much of the contamination has been reduced to nondetectable levels, although groundwater continues to be monitored. This site is one of thousands that the EPA has identified as a potential biopower or biorefinery site. As it happens, over the past three years, researchers from Michigan State University have been proving the concept. With funding and acreage provided by Chrysler LLC, Kurt Thelen, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at MSU has been growing bioenergy crops on the Rose Township Dump site. “Our main objective was to prove that you can logistically and economically go into these marginal lands close to urban areas and raise crops in a sustainable manner,” Thelen explains. To that end, Thelen’s group has been studying five different crops—corn for ethanol; canola, sunflower, and soybeans for biodiesel; and switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol. Although all brownfield, Superfund, or other contaminated sites will be different depending on weather, soil and the type of contamination, at this site, the MSU




A Federal Perspective By Ron Kotrba




or those familiar with the “Billion Ton” study, the Biomass Program under the U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program should ring a bell. The Biomass Program has been responsible for many important research and development breakthroughs in the area of biomass conversion to fuels. The U.S. DOE grant funding for commercial-scale biorefineries and the 10 percent validation plants; a series of grants for cellulase and hemicellulase development; funding for advancements in thermochemical processing; and the report titled “Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends on Legacy Vehicles and Small Engines,” are all products of the Biomass Program. Valri Lightner, formerly the strategic planning designated federal officer for the program and now acting director, spoke with Biomass Magazine shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Q: I think the question on everyone’s mind is how is the Obama administration is going to affect the Biomass Program? A: I think time will tell on that. It appears that he supports renewable energy, biofuels and the work we’re doing in the biomass program as part of that, and the program continues to have bipartisan support, so we’re expecting we’ll continue getting support.

that would enable those technologies to compete with those in place so those goals can be met. There are different analyses that can be done— inclusion of different policy incentives and scenarios that enable different numbers. The numbers did fall a little short but they weren’t too far off the mark from the RFS.

Q: Recently the Energy Information Administration predicted that the U.S. would likely fall short of its aggressive biofuels targets under the new renewable fuels standard, commonly referred to as RFS2. What is the Biomass Program doing to ensure those goals are met? A: We’re mainly focused on next-generation technologies—for the advanced biofuels portion of the renewable fuels standard goals. Our program is focused on doing the research, development and demonstration to drive down the cost

Q: One of the program’s goals is to make cellulosic ethanol cost competitive by 2012. Do you think this is something that can still be done? A: Let me just clarify what that goal is. That is a research and development goal, based on pilot-scale and bench-scale data put into a model projected to get to commercial scale, so we don’t think we’ll have commercial facilities operating and producing advanced biofuels at $1.33 a gallon by 2012. But we do expect to have research that shows if you projected the scale and integrated,


Q&A you could achieve that. At this time, we’re currently on target but we continue to evaluate our progress every year. It does require that some breakthroughs occur over time, but we continue to evaluate those numbers each year. Q: You mentioned breakthroughs. Specifically, what kind of breakthroughs? A: We do tend to focus on two primary routes, although different technologies can be mixed and matched so things can be done slightly differently. The enzymes are one area we focus on—trying to drive down the cost. That is probably one of the key areas but we’re also looking at some of the pretreatment technologies for the biochemical route, as well as fermentation organisms. On the thermochemical side, the more expensive area tends to be the cleanup of the synthesis gas, so finding catalysts that have lifetime and reduced cost, and also, converting that clean gas into fuel—the fuel synthesis piece. Those are some of the key areas we are working on to drive down the cost. Having said that, one of the areas that is probably least demonstrated is the ability to take these cellulosic biofuels from the field to the plant gate—we call that feedstock infrastructure. This includes harvesting, storage, transportation and collection systems. Demonstrating that is going to be critical also. Q: I understand many of the national labs are working on these issues, but as far as infrastructure is concerned, is the Biomass Program conducting any work on the finished fuel end of distributing the product more efficiently? A: Within the past year-and-a-half or two years we started working on the back end of the infrastructure—getting the fuel product from the plant gate to the vehicle tank. Our current focus has been on testing blends of ethanol that are greater than 10 percent and less than 85 percent, to evaluate the impact on legacy vehicles and small engines, and that’s primarily where we’ve been focused. The DOE


has done some feasibility work on pipelines, and we’ve done a lot of work evaluating that … so it’s an area we’re following, and we’re trying to determine exactly what our role in that research and development would be, and trying to enable pipeline use for biofuels in the future. Right now we’re primarily focused on the ethanol, but we’re also expanding to fuels other than ethanol that might be compatible with the existing infrastructure. Q: What about biomass to power, cofiring biomass or green chemicals? Are these areas the program is involved in and, if so, to what extent? A: Not at this time really. The only time we’d do a project like that is if it’s also producing fuels, such as our integrated biorefinery activities where the primary product is a biofuel, but some of the biomass is also being used to provide power and heat back into the process. That’s part of our activity, but we don’t have any projects looking at cofiring coal and biomass independently at this time, and really that’s because of the previous administration’s priorities on fuels. That’s where our researchers are dedicated at this time. Q: How is the indirect land-use issue going to affect the future of the biomass industry and the Biomass Program? A: The EPA has the lead on that because there are some requirements within the RFS. In order to be counted against the RFS, you have to have a certain greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and within that, indirect land use is taken into account. I know EPA has been drafting a rulemaking to issue publicly and get feedback on how they would propose that this be monitored and counted. That’s going to be very important—it’s really going to determine what qualifies under the RFS, so it’s going to be critical how that whole issue is handled. Q: Have you got any insight into what EPA might determine? If you had a crystal ball, what would you see?

Q&A A: I don’t have a crystal ball on this one. I know there’s been a lot of input into the process across the federal government, and EPA is taking in all of that information and is trying to put together a rulemaking for how they would monitor what they believe is in the best interest of the country. We’re trying to provide analytical support for that.

now have four commercial-scale biorefineries that we’re working on. And of the four, two of those are still in Phase I (BlueFire and Abengoa), which is the engineering, design and environmental compliance phase, so they haven’t been awarded funds to begin construction. The other two have been awarded Phase II funds (Poet and Range Fuels), which includes the beginning of construction.

Q: Regarding all the grants for commercial-scale biorefineries and 10 percent validation plants, when DOE issues these multimillion dollar grants, to what extent is the Biomass Program involved? A: We work very closely with our Golden, Colo., field office, which cuts the checks, but that’s after a pretty lengthy process of selection. Our office is ultimately responsible for selecting grant winners, but we work very closely with the Golden office in that. But just to make sure you’re aware, there is a pretty thorough merit review process. All of the proposals that come in are evaluated by people, mostly outside the government, for technical merit, and scored on their technical merit. Then, there are other points that may be outlined in the solicitation process. And before checks are cut, there’s a negotiation period and an agreed upon statement of work. There is certain due diligence the government has to do to verify that the work has been accomplished according to the original agreed upon scope before we reimburse the funds.

Q: Are you getting any feedback from the industry about what they like and dislike about the Biomass Program? A: We have a formal peer review every two years, and it’s coming up again this spring. The last one was about 18 months ago. What we heard then, and what we’ve been trying to implement, is that industry saw that we need to do more in the thermochemical area, but not at the expense of biochemical work. They also indicated that work in the feedstock, infrastructure, and feedstock production—the planting of crops—needed more emphasis and that we need to do more in cooperation with USDA. And, they recognized and applauded that we were starting to look at end-use distribution—getting biofuels from the plant gate to the vehicle tank, but it was also suggested that we do more in that area. We’ve been trying to follow through with those recommendations.

Q: Have there been any issues with funding of the original six biorefineries (Abengoa Bioenergy, Iogen Corp., Alico Inc., Poet LLC, BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc. and Range Fuels Inc.), and what happens if a project falls through? A: There hasn’t been a case where we’ve negotiated an award and then the award falls through, but two of the projects have withdrawn their applications during the negotiation process (Iogen and Alico) and have decided not to go forward with their projects, so we

Q: Is there anything else you would care to add? A: One thing that has come up lately as being a really important and critical area is sustainability. We are really working hard across the fellow governments to make sure what we are doing in biofuels is sustainable, meaning it does not harm the environment, or that it is good for the environment, good for people. We just want to make sure we are doing the right thing—that is very important. BIO Ron Kotrba is a Biomass Magazine senior writer. Reach him at or (701) 738-4942.



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Controlling Emissions in a Growing Wood Pellet Marketplace A large wood pellet plant looked to experience in the panelboard industry for a proven approach to controlling its emissions. A reliable technology provided the answer for its low emissions goal. Steve Jaasund


he drive for carbon-neutral energy sources has given rise to increasing focus on biomass for energy. A large component of the world’s biomass energy resource is wood, and pellets are a logical form to provide heat and power. The U.S. has a great potential to meet the growing demand for wood pellets. Because of its favorable climate and topography, growing enough trees is not a problem. Also, both the pulp and paper and panelboard industries are mature with well-established markets and technology for the harvesting, transportation and processing of wood. This situation makes pellet production in the U.S. an attractive option.

The green chip drying and handling area of a wood pellet production facility includes a complex array of machinery and choices that can be integrated to work together.

That’s how Green Circle Bioenergy LLC saw it. Beginning in 2006, Green Circle began the process of planning a major pellet facility in order to meet the market demand for green fuel in Europe. Because of the value of carbon dioxide emission offset credits within the European Economic Community, green fuels such as wood pellets command a market premium over traditional fuels such as coal. In early 2007, Green Circle began construction on its facility in Cottondale, Fla., approximately 25 miles north of Panama City. Start-up occurred in the spring of 2008. At full production, Green Circle produces 550,000 tons of pellets per year, making it one of the largest pellet manufacturing plants in the world. Most of the pellets are shipped to Europe for use in powergenerating boilers.

Pellet Manufacturing Emission Challenges The green chip drying and handling area of a wood pellet production facility includes a complex array of machinery and choices that can be integrated to work together. For emissions control, gases from the dryer and the heat energy system must be cleaned in order to meet local, state and federal requirements. Basically, this comes down to meeting the standards for emissions of volatile organic

compounds and particulate matter. Included in these two categories are special categories of emissions known as hazardous air pollutants that generally have even more restrictive requirements for abatement. For example, formaldehyde in the gas stream is part of the general category of volatile organic compounds and is considered a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. EPA. Similarly, manganese will be present as a particulate and is also considered a hazardous air pollutant. The drying process described above creates significant quantities of all these pollutants. More specifically, the combustion of wood and the subsequent intimate contact of the hot flue gases with green wood chips for drying results in an emission profile that has three main categories of particles: inorganic fly ash from combustion, organic condensibles from the green wood chips, and coarse wood particles from the tumbling action of the dryer. Each of these particles must be abated in a single piece of equipment before the gas stream is treated for the volatile organic compounds. This contaminated gas stream profile presents a complex emission control challenge. The cornerstones of the emission control system that answers this challenge are two technologies designed for different, yet synergistic, duties.

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



The first is the wet electrostatic precipitator, whose main function is to reduce the concentration of particulate matter in the gas stream to levels that are both acceptable for discharge to the atmosphere and suitable for treatment in downstream volatile organic compound control equipment. The second technology is the regenerative thermal oxidizer, whose main function is to destroy the volatile organic compounds with high temperature combustion.

Panelboard Industry Experience Since the early 1990s, regenerative thermal oxidizers have been employed for emission control from wood dryers used in the manufacture of panelboard products such as plywood, particleboard and oriented strand board. Regenerative thermal oxidizers effectively incinerate volatile organic compounds using a minimum of energy. Volatile organic compound-laden gas is routed into a heat recovery chamber that is filled with ceramic media. By passing through the inlet heat recovery chamber, the emission stream is preheated to a temperature near that of the combustion chamber, in which a natural gas burner maintains the temperature to approximately 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature required for complete thermal oxidation). Upon exiting the combustion chamber, the emission stream enters the outlet heat recovery chamber. The gas stream passes through the outlet heat transfer media bed where the heat energy gained from the inlet heat recovery chambers and combustion chamber is transferred to the ceramic heat exchange media (heat sink). This is the final step in the regenerative process. Typical


This back-and-forth, regenerative operation allows the regenerative thermal oxidizer to recover up to 95 percent of the heat generated in the combustion chamber to greatly minimize fuel costs.

discharge temperatures from regenerative thermal oxidizer systems are approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit above the inlet temperature. Finally, the emission stream exits the regenerative thermal oxidizer system through the outlet diverter valves and is transferred to the stack via the induced draft fan. After a prescribed period of time (typically two to six minutes) the gas stream is reversed. This back-andforth, regenerative operation allows the regenerative thermal oxidizer to recover up to 95 percent of the heat generated in the combustion chamber to greatly minimize fuel costs. Unfortunately, much of the early regenerative thermal oxidizer experience in the panelboard industry was not good. Most wood dryers in this industry are directly heated with flue gas from the combustion of wood. The inorganic fly ash particles in the flue gas are comprised principally of oxides of sodium and potassium, compounds that proved to cause great harm to the internal


components of regenerative thermal oxidizer. In addition, other particulate contaminants such as condensed tar from the drying process were also found to be troublesome because they tend to build up and foul the regenerative thermal oxidizer. To counter these problems the panelboard industry employed wet electrostatic precipitators as a solution for the collection of particulates. Since the 1980s, dozens of these units have been used at plywood, particleboard, medium density fiberboard and oriented strand board plants and are presently considered the technology of choice for abating particulates in the dryer off gas streams. Wet electrostatic precipitators work by first cooling the hot gas stream with water sprays. This step serves two functions. First, it cools the gas to the lowest practical temperature to help condense high molecular weight organic compounds, turning organic vapors into liquid particles. It also serves to preclean the gas stream by scrubbing out coarse dust particles. The next step is treatment in an electrostatic precipitator for the collection of the condensed organic particles and the remaining fine, inorganic, fly ash particulate. The final step is the removal of the collected particulate matter from the system. Once the gas stream has been cleaned of most of the organic and inorganic particulate matter it can be treated in the regenerative thermal oxidizer for the destruction of volatile organic compounds and organic hazardous air pollutants. The adaptation of the wet electrostatic precipitator/regenerative thermal oxidizer technology combination has proven to be successful in the panelboard industry. Many facilities now operate in complete compli-

ance with restrictive volatile organic compound emission limitations without the requirement for costly down time to clean or replace regenerative thermal oxidizer media.

Green Circle’s Green Decision For emission controls Green Circle selected E-Tube wet electrostatic precipitators and GeoTherm regenerative thermal oxidizers supplied by the Geoenergy Division of A.H. Lundberg Associates. The combination emission control system at the Green Circle plant is designed to reduce particulate emissions to less than 0.01 grains/scfd (approximately 20 milligrams per Nm3) and destroy the volatile organic compounds by 95 percent. Included in these design emissions levels is compliance with regulations for hazardous air pollutants emissions. In summary, treatment of these gases with the combined wet electrostatic precipitator/regenerative thermal oxidizer system results in a gas stream that exceeds all modern standards for the emission of particulate matter volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. In addition, energy consumption is minimized and operational reliability is assured through the use of technology that has been demonstrated in similar wood drying panelboard installations. BIO Steve Jaasund is manager of the Geoenergy Division of A.H. Lundberg Associates Inc. Reach him at steve. or (425) 283-5070.





Biomass Equipment Options for Steam and Power The potential to use biomass as a low-cost fuel that reduces carbon footprint is growing. The equipment options for firing biomass to replace fossil fuel in plant operations are equally vast. By Arnie Iwanick


ost types of organic material can be burned for steam and power. In the final analysis, the choice of feedstock comes down to a matter of economics. Technology is currently available and new innovations are remarkable. Various types of wood waste have been burned in the forest products and pulp and paper industry for decades, if not centuries. Some locations are using agricultural wastes and products such as rice straw, rice hulls, corn stover, distillers grains, animal bedding waste, manure, and bagasse as boiler fuel. Although applications exist to convert biomass to biofuels and chemicals, the intent of this discussion is to convert biomass for steam and power. Biomass can be burned directly in a boiler, or a gasifier can be utilized to produce syngas that can be used for a substitute fuel.

Fuel Handling A robust material handling feed system is required to ensure the efficient operation of any of the combustion devices. Biomass is one of the more difficult materials to handle, and is especially obedient to Newton’s first and third laws: “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” This means there are multiple external forces that prevent biomass from staying in motion. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” which means that once in place, biomass tends to stay in place. Biomass presents a variety of interesting challenges and takes special handling. Wood chips or wood waste materials tend to hangup and bridge. After the bridge forms, bio-

Screw conveyor design is critical in handling biomass. Material handling is significantly different for biomass versus coal, gravel and ash applications. Biomass will compress, compact and gain strength in compression. Screws are tapered to improve flow characteristics.

Boilers, Gasifiers Figure 1. Fuel storage silo with traveling screw SOURCE: HARRIS GROUP INC.

mass is difficult to move. Compaction makes the material stronger and must be avoided to ensure uninterrupted operation. As a part of a good boiler or gasifier operation, getting fuel to the plant reliability is key. The following is an example illustrating methods of handling biomass material. It is important to employ good fuel feed and conditioning systems. There should be enough “take away” capacity in order that fuel handling systems do not jam and plug. Materials must be screened adequately to remove sticks, oversize material, stones and tramp metal. Non-magnetic materials need to be detected to prevent damage to downstream systems. Equipment must be accessible for lubrication, inspection and maintenance programs. Appropriate cleanouts should be designed where systems might plug. Storage vessels should be designed to prevent bridging. Bins may be tapered slightly outward to avoid compaction and help prevent bridging. Also, the outlet screw discharge rotates around the bin to ensure uniform flow through the bin and first-in/first-out operation.

Stoker-fed units, bubbling fluidized bed boilers, circulating fluidized bed boilers and gasifiers are available for burning various biofuels. Let’s review their operating characteristics to understand which applications are most appropriate for biomass. Stoker-fed units were one of the first technologies to fire biomass. Still used today, they are reliable and efficient and can use a variety of fuels, including wood waste, municipal solid waste, and agricultural materials such as corn stover, straw and animal waste. The stoker can also handle sludge and combination fuels, including coal and tire-derived fuel. Improvements have been made with computer fluid dynamic modeling, improved overfire air systems, deep bed burning and emission controls. Older units have had small inefficient overfire air systems, which can result in lower efficiency, low steaming rates, poor carbon burnout, and high carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate emissions. All boiler manufacturers and other suppliers now have improved combustion air systems to mitigate these issues. Stokers can burn many types of fuels individually or in combination. Some operate similar to a gasifier with a deep bed of fuel on the grate. The bed can be burned in a low oxygen environment with undergrate

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



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Figure 2. Nexterra’s gasifier SOURCE: NEXTERRA

air. Overfire air completes the combustion higher in the furnace. The advantage is a reserve of fuel in the boiler, ready to pick up an increase in steam demand. A rapid decrease in steam demand is attained by reducing undergrate air and fuel under controlled conditions. Stoker boilers are capable of handling many fuels. Their advantage is lower capital cost for clean biofuels with no sulfur. With sulfur-bearing fuels, a sulfur dioxide scrubber would be required. These are used extensively in forest products, pulp and paper, and in power plant applications. The boilers have application in small- to large-sized industrial applications for firing many types of biomass and solid fuels. Bubbling fluidized bed boilers are applicable for specific fuels, such as agricultural wastes and for combinations such as wood waste and paper mill sludge. Well-designed systems have low carbon monoxide and NOx emissions. Medium-size applications range between 100,000 to 250,000 pounds per hour of steam generation for bottom supported units and large applications to 700,000 pounds per hour for top supported units. The bubbling bed of sand provides a heat sink which allows the boiler to handle various types of fuels and somewhat variable moisture contents. At a paper mill in Wauna, Ore., Georgia-Pacific operates and maintains a bubbling fluidized bed boiler owned by a local public utility district for power generation. The boiler, installed in 1995, produces 120,000 pounds per hour of steam from wood waste and paper mill sludge. The boiler has an excellent reliability and supplies steam to a steam turbine generator and the paper mill on a continuous basis. The unit has ammonia and flue gas recirculation for NOx control, limestone for sulfur dioxide control, and baghouses for particulates. The baghouses also remove some sulfur dioxide. A circulating fluidized bed boiler works well with multiple fuels and mixed fuels. As it relates to alternate fuels and moisture content, this type of boiler is quite forgiving. Typically, the boilers are not used for biomass, but biomass can be considered in combination


Figure 3. Gasifier/ oxidizer biomass cogeneration plant SOURCE: NEXTERRA

with fuels such as coal. In general, the boilers would be used for large industrial applications and utility boilers with steaming rates of 250,000 to 1,500,000 pounds per hour. The capital cost is reduced for back-end emission control equipment because sulfur dioxide control can be accomplished with lime within the circulating flue gas. The unit has low emissions for NOx due to lower firing temperatures. Gasification is an old technology used with coal to form producer gas, mainly carbon monoxide, and is now back in favor and considered “new” technology. There have been many improvements to this technology, which can be adapted to allow biomass to replace fossil fuels. A gasifier is a piece of equipment that burns organic fuel in an oxygen-starved environment. This produces carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane, and small amounts of other organic products. The carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane are the main components that are subsequently oxidized as fuel to produce heat. Carbon reacts with water to form carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen at elevated temperatures. Shown in Figure 2 is a gasifier by Nexterra, which produces syngas. The syngas temperature is controlled between 700 and 900 degrees Fahrenheit with 25 percent moisture fuel. Temperature is affected by moisture content of the fuel and controlled by varying the amount of flue gas recirculation and oxygen to the gasifier.

Gasifiers clearly have some advantages. The gasification process operates at low firing temperatures, which results in less slagging in the gasifier furnace. The ash is light and feels similar to ash in a fireplace. The

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syngas is clean and also fires at a low temperature due to its low British thermal unit content. This also results in less slagging in the superheater and generation banks of the downstream boiler. This type of gasifier is good for single fuel applications. It produces lower NOx due to low furnace temperatures. The oxidizer burns the syngas and other organics and provides low carbon monoxide and particulate emissions. Small units are available for low steam production rates in the range of 20,000 to 200,000 pounds per hour. Multiple gasifiers are used to attain the higher production rates. An example installation is shown in Figure 3. The gasifier is designed to produce 60,000 pounds per hour of steam and 1.4 megawatts of electricity. Three gasifiers supply a single oxidizer. A waste heat recovery boiler produces 600 pounds per square inch, 740 degree Fahrenheit steam. The steam turbine generator exhausts to the 110 pounds

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Figure 4. PulseEnhanced Heat Exchanger for bubbling bed steam reformer

per square inch steam system to heat the university campus. Capital cost of the facility, installed in 2007, was $20 million and reduces the campus annual energy costs by $2 million. In addition, it generates approximately $600,000 per year of electrical energy. Other gasifiers can produce a syngas of higher Btu quality by not using air in the gasifier. For instance, a bubbling bed steam reformer can produce a higher Btu syngas with superheated steam converting the biomass to carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reaction is endothermic. Shown in Figure 4, pulse combustion heaters (PulseEnhanced Heat Exchangers) burn a portion of the syngas to provide indirect heat to a bubbling bed of alumina oxide and biomass. Excess syngas would be available for steam and power generation or other uses.

Combustion Controls

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Proper combustion controls are required for efficient operation of all boilers and gasifiers. Good oxygen control is necessary for safety, proper combustion and efficiency. Fuel-to-oxygen (or air) ratio is measured and controlled. Flue gas oxygen levels are measured and used for trim control. Programmed controls may be installed for startups, shutdowns and special transitions to avoid hazardous explosive conditions. Improved efficiency can be attained utilizing carbon monoxide controls and good overfire air distribution systems. Overfire air

systems are often designed using computer fluidized dynamics design.

Contaminants, Emissions Contaminants such as potassium, sodium, chlorides, silica and phosphorus can create havoc in a boiler without proper design and chemistry. Variation in fuel type, fuel quality, season and moisture will create operational issues. Sodium, potassium and phosphorus can cause slagging due to the reduction in the ash melting point. Chlorides from salts or plastics can cause corrosion, slagging and hydrogen chloride emissions. Silica may cause slagging and erosion. Sulfur produces sulfur dioxide emissions, sulfur trioxide emissions and cold end corrosion. It is recommended to analyze the fuel ash for low fusion point and mix fuels or add materials such as lime to mitigate sticky ash. Sootblowers in specific boiler areas may be required to keep heat transfer surfaces clean. Where possible, contaminants should be removed from the fuel. How are emissions kept under control for sulfur oxides, NOx, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulates and possibly other emissions? Sulfur dioxide can be reduced internally with lime addition in fluidized bed boilers and circulating fluidized bed boilers. Otherwise backend equipment is needed using lime in a wet scrubber, or a spray dryer absorber with a baghouse.


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Figure 5. Carbon monoxide emissions SOURCE: HARRIS GROUP INC.

NOx can be reduced with overfire air controls, selective catalytic reduction, selective non-catalytic reduction and overfire air controls. Thermal NOx can be reduced with lower firing temperatures and with flue gas recirculation. Ammonia or urea is used to convert the NOx to nitrogen. Carbon monoxide and volatile organic hydrocarbons are reduced with good combustion controls and good design with computerized fluid dynamic modeling. Minimal air leakage with proper seals is helpful in reducing emissions and improving thermal efficiency. Combustion air systems must be controlled to ensure that the air is added in the proper ratios to the various injection points. Note in Figures 5 and 6 that the fluidized bed boilers have lower carbon monoxide emissions due in part to better mixing and lower NOx emissions due to lower firing temperatures and low excess oxygen. Particulate emissions are typically controlled with a baghouse or an electrostatic precipitator.

Operating Costs One of the goals is to reduce fossil fuel use in our steam and power plants. Biomassfueled boilers or gasifiers can be used to replace fuel oil or natural gas as one method to accomplish this goal. For a 100,000 pound per hour steam boiler, operating costs can be reduced by more than 50 percent depending on the cost of fuel.

One option would be to use a gasifier to produce syngas or producer gas, which could be burned in a retrofitted existing boiler. An example of such a plant is Chippewa Valley Ethanol Corp. in Benson, Minn. The gas is burned through a multifuel Coen burner on a conventional power boiler. Burning biofuels can be accomplished economically and can help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. For a 100,000 pound per hour boiler, natural gas at $8/MMBtu would have an annual fuel cost of $8.2 million. Biofuel costs could be half compared to natural gas. At the same time, should we consider power generation? Extraction power from a steam turbine generator could be produced at less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour. Based on a cost of a steam turbine generator at $1,000 per kilowatt and a fuel cost of $50 per bone dry ton, a 5-megawatt generator could provide additional revenue of $2.3 million with a payback on capital of less than 2.5 years. Condensing power is more expensive to produce due to the lower efficiency for condensing power generation but also for the higher cost of fuel. The fuel to the plant would be delivered from a greater distance for incremental power generation. Fuel for power might cost 4 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour and would most likely not be economical.

Since 1976, Jansen Combustion and Boiler Technologies, Inc. (JANSEN) has provided customized engineered solutions to owners/operators of boilers in the Forest Products and Waste-toEnergy Industries. Our mission is to improve the operating performance (fuel burning capacity and economy, efficiency, and emissions performance) of existing boilers that burn difficult fuels such as biomass, chemical spent liquors, municipal solid waste (MSW), refuse derived fuel (RDF) and tire derived fuel (TDF). JANSEN has conducted engineering performance evaluations of over 300 boilers, worldwide, and has provided combustion system and/or superheater upgrades of over 80 biomass, chemical recovery, MSW, and RDF boilers. JANSEN has the capability and experience to function as your one-source solution to boiler retrofit projects. With the ability to define, engineer, contract and manage design-construct projects, we offer Engineer-Procure-Construct (EPC) capabilities. A synopsis of our broad range of services: > Full service engineering design for steam, power, and combustion systems > Biomass, MSW, RDF, TDF, fossil fuel, and chemical recovery boiler performance evaluations > Effective overfire air (OFA) delivery system upgrades on biomass and other waste-fueled boilers > Replacement or upgraded superheater design and supply > Boiler circulation analyses > Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling > Feasibility studies and cost/benefits analyses > Emissions reduction (CO, NOx, PM, SO2, TRS, VOC) > Operations support and training

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Figure 6. NOx emissions SOURCE: HARRIS GROUP INC.






STEAM TURBINE GENERATOR ANCILLARY (OTHERS) 10% Figure 7. Capital cost for a biomass-fueled boiler


Capital Costs Compared to natural gas, capital costs are higher for handling solid fuels and producing steam and power. The equipment is larger and more complex. More emission control equipment is also needed. The question becomes one of obtaining an acceptable return on investment with proper design of the equipment, a reasonable cost for biomass, and acceptable revenues for steam and power. 56 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3|2009

For a greenfield plant, such as at University of South Carolina project shown in Figure 3, the simple payback could be five to eight years on the $20 million investment, which isn’t suitable for an industrial facility. Grants from the U.S. DOE, utilities and other programs would be needed to make the facility viable. The objective here would be to look for utilities that require green power for increased revenues. Industrial facilities may

have some infrastructure in place whereby the plant could modify existing equipment. Options may include cogeneration for increased efficiency, or adding extraction power tied into the plant process. In addition, thermal efficiency of existing industrial processes can be improved to reduce operating costs. Improved thermal efficiency can also be gained by reducing moisture in the fuel and reusing waste heat where possible. Shown in Figure 7 is a breakdown for the capital cost of a biomass-fired boiler for steam and power. The capital cost for a greenfield steam and power plant is high and may not be justifiable. As a result, existing infrastructure should be utilized wherever possible. Since the boiler is the largest capital cost, one should evaluate modifying an existing boiler to accept syngas to replace natural gas or fuel oil. Other considerations include utilizing existing precipitators, existing solid material or fuel handling facilities, or existing steam turbine generators. Can the facility produce other valueadded products from the syngas such as biofuels, ethanol or chemical products? If any parts of the existing infrastructure are not fully utilized, a gasifier can help supplement fuel systems and reduce energy costs. Financing your combined heat and power (CHP) project independently may be difficult. Review third-party financing either from a private developer or a utility that wants “green power” development. The payback on CHP projects is more than five years and requires special financing. Most biofuel plants cannot justify a greenfield steam and power plant on their own, unless there are other mitigating circumstances. For instance, a plant can burn sludge to reduce high landfill costs. Alternately, a plant could obtain tipping fees to burn sludge, biomass or municipal solid waste. If a utility needs to purchase green power as mandated by the state, such as Washington, Oregon and others, the utility may pay for a significant portion of the power plant. Grant money also may be available for new technology development.


Plant Experience Fuel plugging and feeding issues can impact newly designed plants. Design of the fuel system by an experienced supplier. can mitigate this risk. Stoker-type boilers have many years of operating experience. Older boilers have room for improvement with better combustion control systems and overfire air systems. Reliability still remains excellent for most units. Circulating fluidized bed boilers are usually very large and are seldom used for biomass fueled applications. Bubbling fluidized bed boilers have a history of high reliability with satisfactory emissions. Items to be careful of include tube erosion from excessive velocity and turbulence, and sintering. Sintering can occur from high firing temperatures or low melting point eutectics due to sodium, potassium, chlorides, phosphorus or other non-process elements. Upset conditions and induction draft fan limitations can occur due to low temperatures,

high moisture fuels and low heating value fuels. Be watchful of corrosion or erosion issues due to boiler configuration and plant design, resulting from unusual flue gas and combustion air distribution in tubular air heaters. Gasifiers are becoming more popular for certain applications. Refractory design is important and appears to be holding up well. The ash from the gasifier is light and fluffy, similar to that in a home fireplace. Observations show it is not sintering in downstream equipment. Long-term reliability and availability issues are yet to be determined but shortterm operation is looking promising. Longer term operating experience will confirm the reliability of these processes.

Conclusions For firing biomass, good systems are available for many applications. From small to large units, almost any type of organic material, in one form or in combination, can be handled. Some fuels and combinations of fuel may need special treatment.

The economic solution is key to making the project successful. Boilers of different types make sense for medium to large projects while biomass gasifiers are making an impact in the small to medium size project range. The cost of biomass fuel has a major impact on the return of investment. Fuel collection, delivery and storage at minimum costs are needed to make the large capital investment of the projects worthwhile. Power generation can improve the project’s return on investment. Cogeneration, where possible, produces power and exhausts the steam to a plant process. This may be a more economical solution compared to condensing power. Integration into an existing facility, grants from U.S. DOE or utilities, green power credits, and carbon credits all can make a project more feasible. BIO Arnie Iwanick is a senior process engineer with Harris Group Inc. Reach him at arnie.



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In Troubled Times, Biofuels Could Be a Winner It’s a new year, there’s a new U.S. president, and there is a new climate for biomass energy and fuels. Last year at this time, the biofuels industry had just seen some of the best economic times in its young history, but trouble was brewing with sky-high commodity prices. Just after biofuels survived worldwide blame and criticism for driving up the price of food, markets collapsed, fuel prices fell and, by the way, food prices remained the same. Eventually, several ethanol companies went into bankruptcy, biofuel plants under construction were put on hold, and designs for new plants were filed in the “wait until whenever” file. However, this is a new day. Before the economy collapsed, close to a dozen so-called second-generation biofuel projects were funded with federal dollars and matching industry investment. In addition, a loan guarantee program was established for these high-risk projects. Most of these projects continue to go forward and hold promise for demonstrating the technical and economic viability of revolutionary new approaches to making renewable fuels. This viability will have the snowball effect of raising the biofuel bar and should bring confidence to lenders and investors. Enter the new president. In an attempt to stimulate the U.S. economy, President Barack Obama proposed a multibillion dollar rescue plan. The final details of this plan were not known at press time, but language thus far indicates billions of dollars in support of renewable energy and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for biofuels and infrastructure development. Several billion dollars will also be added for loan guarantees related to alternative fuels and energy. Added to the financial incentives are the strong biofuel positions of the president’s selections for heads of the U.S. DOE, EPA and USDA. Things are looking up. So is it thumbs up for the future of biofuels? I say we really only have one direction to go, and that is up. Current annual biofuel production in the U.S. is approximately 8 billion to 10 billion gallons, primarily from corn ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel. As part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, a Renewable Fuels Standard Program was established that requires progressive increases in

biofuels (for motor vehicles) production to a level of 36 billion gallons by 2022. With corn ethanol and soybased biodiesel capped at 15 billion gallons because of cropland availability and food woes, around 21 billion gallons will have to be supplied from biomass sources. We are required by law to increase biofuel production—and fast. Biomass from residues of agriculture, forests, manufacturing and energy crops must be utilized. We have discussed in this column and numerous other articles in this magazine over the past two years many different technologies Zygarlicke and biomass feedstocks that are being used for producing a variety of different biofuels. The number of approaches is dizzying, but in the race to develop efficient and cost-effective technologies for cellulosic ethanol, non-methyl ester diesel, renewable jet fuel and green gasoline, there will be winners. I heard a colleague call it the $50 billion worldwide prize—in reference to the first technology to truly produce renewable biomass-derived liquid motor fuels at a comparable cost to corn ethanol or biodiesel. In this new year, the United States is getting close to a renewable liquid fuel prize. As mentioned, the economy does not seem to be hindering the opening of a window of perhaps one to three years, wherein technology winners for viable biofuels will be evident. I say faltering economy be damned! Let’s get a winner. Maybe it’s the EERC renewable diesel/jet fuel process that converts any type of vegetable or animal triglyceride oil to a hydrocarbon-only fuel with the same properties as petroleum diesel. The EERC is very close to inking a deal for commercial production. Whoever wins, we will all win. Let’s pace ourselves, stay on course and run for the prize. BIO Chris J. Zygarlicke is a deputy associate director for research at the EERC and is also vice chairman of the National Hydrogen Association Renewable Hydrogen Working Group. Reach him at czygarlicke@ or (701) 777-5123.




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