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INSIDE ¦ ADVERTISER INDEX¦ 2014 International Biomass Conference & Expo


2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo


Airoflex Equipment


Amandus Kahl GmbH & Co. KG


American Pulverizer Co.


Bois Energie


BRUKS Rockwood


CPM Roskamp Champion


CPM Wolverine Proctor, LLC


Detroit Stoker Company


Dieffenbacher Elliot Group Fagen Inc.


Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc.


Idaho National Laboratory


Iowa Economic Development Authority


Iowa Northern Railway Co.


Mayfran International, Inc.



By Tim Portz


2 36

Northeast Biomass Heating Expo

06 EDITOR’S NOTE Celebrating the Groundbreakers


GEA Westfalia Separator

New Holland Agriculture


POWER 10 NEWS 11 COLUMN Biomass Growth in 2014: Will the Trend Hold? By Bob Cleaves

9 32 4

Process Barron


TerraSource Global


Tramco, Inc.


Turboden S.r.l.


West Salem Machinery


Williams Crusher


Wolf Material Handling Systems


14 DEPARTMENT Dually Renewable Cellulosic ethanol producer Abengoa Biomass Energy of Kansas has deviated from the norm of natural gas power. By Anna Simet

COPYRIGHT © 2014 by BBI International

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) March 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 3. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

14 March 2014



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

Sky Candy Multiple Cellulosic Ethanol Plants Near Completion

Work is nearly complete at Poet-DSM's cellulosic ethanol plant, Project Liberty, in Emmetsburg, Iowa. PHOTO: POET-DSM

Page 40


Biomass Brings Heat to Vermont’s Capitol City Page 24


U.S. Pellet Industry BuildOut Continues Page 16







16 FEATURE A Giant Step

33 COLUMN Considerations for Biogas Projects

The pellet industry will grow by nearly 33 percent during the next two years, as foreign demand drives investment in new capacity and distribution infrastructure. By Tim Portz

By Kyle Goehring

34 DEPARTMENT Biogas Power in the Valley Hometown BioEnergy LLC’s freshly commissioned LeSueur, Minn., anaerobic digestion facility is the largest system of its kind in the U.S. By Susanne Retka Schill




38 NEWS 39 COLUMN Urging the EPA to Reconsider RFS Targets

23 COLUMN Fanning the Northeastern Biomass Flame

By Michael McAdams

By Joseph Seymour

40 DEPARTMENT The Year is Here

24 FEATURE Montpelier’s Pipe Dream After years of development, Montpelier, Vt., is bringing on line its upgraded and expanded district heating system. By Anna Simet


Developers today are in the midst of proving that commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol is no longer a distant dream. By Chris Hanson



Celebrating the Groundbreakers On March 25, I’ll have the unique privilege of bestowing the third annual International Biomass Conference & Expo Groundbreaker of the Year Award. From a professional standpoint, this is one of the best moments of my year. Building a biomassto-energy project is hard. Even small TIM PORTZ projects require significant amounts VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT of capital, face arduous permitting & EXECUTIVE EDITOR processes, often involve the first time deployment of new technologies, and, once complete, will have to compete in a commodity energy market awash with well-entrenched incumbents. Despite those hurdles, groundbreakings and project announcements still find their way into the inboxes of our team. These types of projects and the teams that drive them deserve to be celebrated. Doing just so, this month’s project development and plant construction issue is an annual tradition at Biomass Magazine,e and has been strategically printed in time to be included with proceedings at the International Biomass Conference & Expo. While working on this issue, it was important to our team to highlight construction in each of the five segments we cover each month. We were able to do precisely that, and each story conveys the massive efforts it took to get its featured project where it is today. Interestingly, it became difficult to keep each story inside of its respective segment box. For example, Chris Hanson’s comprehensive update on the final construction stages of three different cellulosic ethanol facilities, “The Year is Here,” (page 40) dips both into power production and anaerobic digestion. Anna Simet’s “Dually Renewable” (page 14) looks closely at the power generation component of Abengoa Biomass Energy of Kansas’s cellulosic ethanol facility. In the piece, Abengoa’s Chris Standlee highlights the value of electricity as a coproduct. “It [power] also spreads risk—it’s another product to sell, and you’re able to get long-term contracts in the power market,” he says. The cross pollination doesn’t stop there, and I’m excited by the increasing number of biomass projects that are turning to other biomass technologies to either contribute needed heat and power or manage production waste streams. In short, our industry continues to look inward and leverage proven technologies to de-risk the less proven ones. While I don’t yet know who the winner of the 2014 Groundbreaker of the Year Award is—but wouldn’t reveal it if I did—I am continually learning more about the long road they have traveled. That kind of dogged commitment to biomass energy projects deserves celebration, and we’re humbled to be able to do it.





EXTERNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS Timothy Cesarek, Enerkem Inc. Shane Chrapko, Himark Biogas Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Benjamin Anderson, University of Iowa Gene Zebley, Hurst Boiler Andrew Held, Virent Inc. Kyle Goerhing, Eisenmann Corp.

INDUSTRY EVENTS¦ International Biomass Conference & Expo

MARCH 24-26, 2014

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

Pellet Supply Chain Summit MARCH 24, 2014

Orange County Convention Center Orlando, Florida As the pellet export production capacity is set to more than double in the next 18 to 24 months, this summit will investigate the contributions of each stakeholder group along the supply chain and the challenges they’ll have to overcome as production and export capacity ramp up. This event is a must-attend event for landowners, local and regional economic development officers, loggers, logistics providers, pellet manufacturers, commodity brokers, shipping companies and port professionals. Co-located with the 2014 International Biomass Conference & Expo, being held in Orlando, Fla., the Pellet Supply Chain Summit is a compelling combination of the right topics being discussed at the right place, at the right time. 866-746-8385 |

Bioenergy Project Development Seminar MARCH 24, 2014

Orange County Convention Center Orlando, Florida Designed to walk attendees through the project development life cycle, this preconference seminar will feature presenters with deep experience in moving projects from the concept phase to the construction phase. Attendees will learn about early project feasibility work, the role that economic developers and host communities can and should play, how project capital is accumulated and the importance of a quality offtake agreement. This seminar is a must for anyone in the conceptual stage of a bioenergy project. 866-746-8385 |

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

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana Now in its 30th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest running ethanol conference in the world—and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. 866-746-8385 | MARCH 2014 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7


Canada funds biomass trade initiative The Canadian government has awarded $250,000 funding through the Western Diversification Program to enable the Life Science Association of Manitoba to organize and deliver a targeted biomass trade initiative that will establish a brand for biomass products, expertise and raw material. LSAM will develop and produce an interactive pavilion and participate in international trade shows to maximize exposure and impact.

Kai Sipilä of VTT Finland, who led the program since 2010.

ACORE appoints CEO The American Council on Renewable Energy has appointed Michael Brower as president and CEO. Brower has served as the interim president and CEO since July. He has been an ACORE Brower member since 2002, is EERA elects new program a member of the board of directors and is coordinator a long-time leadership council member. He Juan Carrasco was elected as the new most recently served as senior federal policy joint program coordinator of the European director at Mosaic Federal Affairs, a wholly Energy Research Alliance Joint Program owned subsidiary of Hiscock and Barclay for Bioenergy. Carrasco, who is based at LLP. He is a retired career Navy officer Ciemat in Spain, has extensive international and aviator who served in the Secretary of experience in bioenergy research and Navy’s personal office as special assistant development. He is currently scientific for air warfare communicating United States coordinator of the CEDER-Ciemat Navy legislative policy to the Congress for Biomass Program. Carrasco replaces three Secretaries of the Navy.

Rotary Dryer

m rgy Syste e n E t a e H

Reverdia appoints president Reverdia has appointed Marcel Lubben as president. Reverdia is a joint venture between Royal DSM and Roquette Frères for sustainable succinic acid. Lubben will report to the Lubben Reverdia board and is responsible for developing and managing the company into the next phase of growth. He replaces Will van den Tweel, general manager, who led the company’s start-up. Lubben joined DSM in 1994 and has held positions in research, business development, and marketing and sales in DSM Pharma Chemicals and DSM Biologics. In 2009, he was appointed managing director of licensing for DSM and became managing director of venturing and licensing in 2011. In 2012, he was promoted to vice president of biobased chemicals and materials. He served on the


Biomass Pelletizing & Energy Systems Pellet Plants | Dryers | Furnaces | Steam Boilers | Thermal Oil Heaters | Cogeneration Dieffenbacher USA, Inc. 2000 McFarland 400 Blvd. | Alpahretta, GA 30004 Phone: (770) 226-6394 | 8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MARCH 2014


board of Reverdia from mid-2012 through the end of 2013. Vermont Wood Pellet makes leadership change Vermont Wood Pellet Co. has announced that cofounder and CEO Chris Brooks will be stepping into the dual role of president and CEO. Brooks’ cofounder Katie Ewald Brooks Adams will move into a more strategic role as chief marketing officer. Adams will remain active in promoting the VWP brand. When VWP prepared to open its facility in 2009, the two partners set a goal of producing Adams 10,000 tons of wood

research enhancement subsidiary of the pellets per year. Now in the fourth year of French National Institute in Agronomic operation, they have nearly doubled that goal and are exploring the construction of a Research, that will cover the improvement of isoprenoid biosynthetic pathways. The second mill. company will implement the technology Michelin, Tereos form partnership in the Deinochem program to strengthen To strengthen the upstream phases the Deinococcus bacterium’s capacity to of the BioButterfly biosourced butadiene produce chemicals from biobased raw production project, Michelin and Tereos materials. have signed a partnership agreement pertaining to the industrial transformation of agricultural raw materials. The two companies will pool their skills and capabilities to jointly develop innovative biomass transformation processes capable of supplying the alcohol required by the BioButterfly project at industrial scale. Michelin’s BioButterfly project aims to develop a green alternative for tires. Deinove announces license agreement Deinove has announced the signing of a license option agreement with Génoplante Valor via INRA Transfert, a

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©2014 CNH America LLC. New Holland is a registered trademark of CNH America LLC. NHBM01148928

PowerNews Wood, waste biomass consumption expected to increase The U.S. Information Administration provided its first shortterm 2015 forecasts for wood biomass and waste biomass energy production in the January issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook. The EIA predicts that wood biomass will be used to generate 120,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per day of electricity across all sectors in 2014, increasing to 123,000 MWh per day in 2015. Waste biomass is expected to be used to generate an average of 56,000 MWh per day this year across all sectors. That level is expected to be maintained in 2015. According to the STEO, the industrial sector will continue to be the largest consumer of wood biomass in 2014, consuming an estimated 1.234 quadrillion Btu (quad) of woody biomass fuel. In 2015, the sector’s consumption of wood fuel is expected to increase, reaching 1.25 quad. The electricity sector is expected to be the largest consumer of waste biomass, consuming 0.263 quad this year, and increasing to 0.264 quad in 2015.

Biobased fuel consumption (in quadrillion Btu) 2013



Wood biomass




Waste biomass




Wood biomass




Waste biomass




Wood biomass




Waste biomass




Wood biomass




Electric power sector

Industrial sector

Commerical sector

Residential sector SOURCE: U.S. EIA, JANUARY STEO

Plainfield, Conn., renewable plant complete, operational, and for sale Ledios Holdings Inc. has announced the Plainfield Renewable Energy plant in Plainfield, Conn., is substantially complete and operational. The 37.5-megawatt, biomass-fired plant takes in a variety of fuel sources, including wood from construction and demolition debris, recycled wood pallets and land clearing materials. Connecticut Light & Power is purchasing 80 percent of the power produced at the plant under a 15-year offtake agreement. The facility is one of the only Class 1 renewable biomass plants in Connecticut.


The facility was originally under development by a subsidiary of Enova Energy Group. Leidos, a company formerly known as Science Applications International Corp., announced its plans to assume ownership of the plant in October. Acting in its capacity as a secured lender, the company pursued a consensual foreclosure. With the plant now substantially complete, Leidos said it will operate the facility and commence marketing efforts to sell the facility to renewable power plant investors.


Biomass Growth in 2014: Will the Trend Hold? BY BOB CLEAVES

Recently, an energy insider who has been in the business a long time asked me the following question: With all the recent development in the industry, can the trend continue? I thought about it for a minute, and reviewed the list we put together of all the projects that came on line during 2013. It was a wide spectrum of projects, from the 103-MW Gainesville Renewable Energy Center to EDF’s twin 17.8-MW facilities in South Carolina. These were South Carolina’s first biomass facilities, and Virginia, Wisconsin and Georgia saw completion of first facilities as well. All told, new biomass facilities in 2013 accounted for 627.5 MW, enough to power close to half a million homes and businesses. My friend observed that last year’s biomass growth was at least double the growth of any year in recent memory. My answer to his first question was a little nuanced. Industry growth won’t continue at the same pace every year for the foreseeable future. That’s just not realistic, nor is it sustainable. However, there are several indicators that support a long-term biomass growth outlook: • Inconsistency of gas prices. During the nationwide cold snap throughout January, the value of biomass has really come into focus in places like New England. While energy prices skyrocketed due to high demand, fossil fuels weren’t able to keep up. Biomass power became an essential resource, and without it, prices would have spiked even higher. Biomass will never be the primary energy source for any region of the country, but the polar vortex showed us that it is a reliable backup plan during severe weather. • A new emphasis on forestry and better forest maintenance. The USDA and U.S. Forest Service are increasingly acknowledging the significant benefits of—and even urgent need for—consistent and thorough forest maintenance. Of course, forest maintenance comes with a byproduct, forest trimmings, that must be disposed of somehow. Luckily, biomass offers a productive outlet for these materials. Rather than open burning or landfilling them, trim-

mings can be used to produce clean energy. Add to this the mountains of research that have come out recently on the benefits of forest maintenance. For instance, University of California, Berkeley, forester Bill Stewart found that forest management, despite its removal of carbon stocks from a forest, does nothing to reduce that forest’s overall carbon content over the long term. Findings like this support a large-scale commitment to improved forestry, which can only benefit the biomass industry. • Biomass sustainability and benefits are consistently reinforced by science. After beginning a conversion project of four facilities in Northern Canada from coal to biomass, Ontario Power Generation conducted a study with the Pembina Institute to “determine if biomass sourced from Ontario’s forests would be renewable; to better understand the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction benefits of biomass; and to estimate the socioeconomic benefits that would result from electricity production from biomass.” What they found was remarkable: When practicing sustainable forestry, the carbon supply of the forest was not reduced, even when factoring in the use of 2 million tons of wood pellets each year for biomass. Beyond sustainability, biomass was found to be a major boon to reducing GHG emissions: “Averaged over the period, there is an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions for biomass compared to the base case of natural gas electricity.” My answer to my friend’s second question was an unequivocal, “No.” I am not pessimistic at all about biomass growth. On the contrary, I think last year's new projects, combined with renewed support from science and government sources, signal an overall move toward embracing sensible biomass facilities. In other words, where they make sense relative to available forest and urban wood residues. For all of these reasons, biomass is here to stay. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association



POWERING UP: Abengoa recently brought the power component of its Kansas cellulosic ethanol facility on line. PHOTO: ABENGOA

Dually Renewable Abengoa Biomass Energy’s cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kan., also produces power. BY ANNA SIMET


lose to 90 percent of first-generation U.S. ethanol plants are dependent on natural gas to power operations, but the new generation of ethanol plants coming on line may deviate from that trend. Not only is Abengoa Biomass Energy LLC forging the path to commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol, it is taking a new road when it comes to fuel. Besides cellulosic ethanol, the Hugoton, Kan., facility, located in the southwest corner of the state, also produces power, a segment of the facility that was brought on line in December. Abengoa began conceptualizing a plan for a joint power and cellulosic ethanol plant about 10 years ago. While navigating through


pilot- and demonstration-scale developments, the master blueprint, which was modified over time, began to take its final shape. The initial plan was to produce a significantly greater quantity of electricity—with the majority sold to the grid—but the U.S. DOE, which provided Abengoa a $132 million loan guarantee in August 2011, wanted a greater volume of liquid fuel production, says Christopher Standlee, executive vice president of operations. “We worked closely with the DOE, which has supported the project from day one, and they wanted the focus to be a little more on ethanol,” Standlee says. “But, they understood the desire to have a power side to provide our energy needs—both electric and steam.”


A POWERFUL MIX: Chopped corn stover—and lignin residue left over from the cellulosic ethanol production process—are used as a power source at Abengoa Biomass Energy of Kansas. PHOTO: ABENGOA

So rather than generate 120 MW of power and 17 MMgy, the facility modified plans to produce up to 22 MW and 25 MMgy ethanol. Construction began in spring 2012, and a milestone was reached in late December, when power operations commenced at the plant, and a small portion was sold to the grid. “This was a test—we needed to start it up and make sure it works before the rest of the plant comes on line, which we’re getting ready for,” Standlee says. The power source will be primarily corn stover—the same feedstock used for liquid fuel production—wheat straw, prairie grasses, and, potentially, some dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass, as there is a switchgrass farm in the area, Standlee says. Once fuel is brought on site, it will be treated and stored similarly, but some will be processed for ethanol and some for power. First, baled biomass is unloaded onto conveyors supplying grinding lines, or at a biomass storage field, both of which are constantly active. A grinding process begins with delivering bales to a single-process, in-feed conveyor line consisting of a pan-style chain conveyor capable of moving two side-by-side bales. The two grinding lines are equipped with an automatic bale destringer, rotochopper grinder with discharge conveyor and conveyor magnets, and dust hood on the in-feed. Next, displacement blowers pneumatically transfer the ground biomass to either the enzymatic hydrolysis plant weigh belt or biomass-fired boiler metering bins.

In addition, the remaining lignin from the ethanol production process—what’s left over after sugars are extracted from the feedstock—will be recycled back to the boiler as fuel. Fuel requirements for both the power and fuel component of the facility will top out at about 320,000 dry tons per year, with nearly 300 tons per day being combusted for power, plus the ethanol-making residues. The power component setup consists of a Factory Sales & Engineering-supplied water tube stoker boiler, with a GE steam turbine that drives one GE-supplied generator. In its final move toward power production, wet stillage cake, or lignen, is fed by conveyors into vibrating grates and into the boiler, and lignen syrup is sprayed into the grate overfire air stream. So why power up with biomass, rather than natural gas? “It’s just something we wanted to do,” Standlee says. “It’s always been our intention to produce renewable power, but it also spreads risk—it’s another product to sell, and you’re able to get long-term contracts in the power market. Primarily, we wanted to make sure we’re independent and not subject to natural gas markets. We have feedstock coming in, and lignin is a byproduct that is a good source for power, so it just seemed to make sense for us.” Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


PelletNews Report predicts increased use of ag residue

RAPIDLY IMPROVING Research Herty’s new mobile pellet development unit will provide benefit to the expanding pellet industry. PHOTO: HERTY ADVANCED MATERIALS DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Herty offers new mobile pellet equipment The Herty Advanced Materials Development Center has added a new mobile pellet development unit (MPDU) to its facility. As a research tool, the versatile pellet system is designed for rapid screening of a variety feedstocks and range of optimum processing conditions. The mill can be deployed at Herty, or at a client’s site as a skid mounted unit. The MPDU offers an option of six compression ratio dies and has the capac-


ity to produce 200 pounds of pellets per hour. While the unit minimizes the need for large quantities of feedstock for scoping studies, it provides realistic operational parameters that are relevant at the commercial scale. Herty obtained the MPDU through a donation from La Meccanica s.r.l., an Italian-based company that specializes in the design and manufacture of pelletizing equipment.

A recent report by the Netherlandsbased Rabobank predicts that agricultural residues will pay an increasingly important role in European bioenergy production. Although wood is expected to continue to dominate the sector, Rabobank indicated that increasing global demand for solid biomass is expected to increase prices for current feedstocks, including pellets and wood chips. Agricultural residues would help meet bioenergy demand. The report notes there are several challenges associated with using agricultural residues in place of wood pellets, including a lack of high-volume suppliers, which complicates the supply chain in terms of logistics and contracting. In addition, agricultural residues have generally not been pelletized and are less efficient for use in cofiring applications. While solutions for these problems exist, the report stresses that it will take investment to achieve them. By 2020, Rabobank predicts that the revenues and cost savings resulting from the use of agricultural residues will more than compensate for higher supply risks and investments.


Software project supports pellet plant development

FILLING EQUIPMENT NEEDS CBI indicated that each of the three systems will be capable of processing up to 120 tons of biomass per hour. PHOTO: CONTINENTAL BIOMASS INDUSTRIES INC.

CBI supplies equipment to Rentech facilities Continental Biomass Industries Inc. has announced it is building three flail debarking and chipping systems for Rentech Inc.’s Canadian wood pellet facilities. The equipment is scheduled to be installed this spring. Rentech is converting two decommissioned wood fiberboard mills in Ontario for pellet production. As part of the conversion of these facilities, the CBI systems will deliver uniform microchips of 6 to 8 millimeters in size in a dingle pass. The microchips can immediately be dried and

milled into feedstock for pellet manufacturing. Two of the systems will be installed at Rentech’s Wawa, Ontario, plant. The third system will be located at the company’s Atikokan, Ontario, facility. “Traditionally, debarking and chipping in front of a pellet operation has been done with drum debarkers and disc chippers,” said Anders Ragnarsson, founder and president of CBI. “These systems are overall more expensive and have a tougher time debarking frozen wood.”

Construction project management software developer Aconex has announced it is supporting the development of Zilkha Biomass Energy’s 275,000 black pellet fuel plant. The facility is expected to be fully operational in early 2015. Zilkha is using the Aconex Online Collaboration Platform to manage project information and processes across a multi-company team of contractors, consultants, subcontractors, and vendors involved in the construction of the facility. The Aconex platform is designed to provide a secure, neutral collaboration system for managing workflows, processing documents, drawings, and correspondence. According to Clyde Stearns, vice president of engineering at Zilkha, up to 20 different organizations will review, mark-up and approve documents and drawings and communicate with each other on the Aconex platform. “Having a central location for all project data and workflows saves time, improves accuracy and reduces overall project risk. In the future, we expect to use Aconex on more complex projects with larger teams and greater volumes of information,” Stearns said.



STRONG PROGRESS: The 125,000-metric-ton Vulcan Renewables pellet production facility in St. Augustine, Fla., was nearly complete in early February. Vulcan’s capacity will flow to markets through the Port of Jacksonville in containers until bulk infrastructure at the port is complete. PHOTO: VULCAN RENEWABLES



A Giant Step The pellet industry will grow by nearly 33 percent during the next two years, as foreign demand drives investment in new capacity and distribution infrastructure. BY TIM PORTZ


ore than 4 million metric tons of new wood pellet production capacity are currently under construction throughout North America, over 3 million tons of which are scheduled to come on line this year, and 600,000 tons by spring. Such capacity growth is unprecedented in the North American pellet industry, which is comprised of some 160 facilities, with a total installed capacity of around 13 million metric tons. Not only will the capacity added this year grow the industry’s output by nearly 25 percent in just one year, but facilities scheduled to come on line in 2015 will bring the two-year expansion closer to 33 percent. While unprecedented within the pellet sector, this kind of monumental growth is not without antecedent in the broader renewable energy sector. In 2007 and 2008, the ethanol industry grew from around 6.5 billion gallons of production capacity to over 9 billion gallons. By 2009, the industry had brought on line enough production capacity to achieve over 10 billion gallons of production in the industry’s history. While growth in the ethanol industry’s construction capacity was characterized largely by the construction of scores of facilities with similar capacities, growth in the pellet sector is largely coming from the construction of a much smaller fleet of supersized plants. Whereas the average installed capacity in the pellet industry’s existing 159 operational plants is under 80,000 tons per year, the planned capacity at the production facilities scheduled to come on line in the next two years is 350,000plus metric tons per year.

Experienced Producers, New Capacity The vast majority of under-construction capacity is represented by producers already engaged in pellet production. ––Fram Renewable Fuel LLC, Enviva LP, German Pellets GmbH, Drax Biomass, and Zilkha Biomass Energy––developers who are engaging in follow-up efforts to add to their existing capacities. Still, there are plants under construction that represent a company’s first production effort. Vulcan Renewables, with an initial planned capacity of nearly 150,000 metric tons, is Vulcan’s first facility. Christopher Kim, president, acknowledges that



RAIL REQUISITES: Pellet facility construction often includes vital rail load-out infrastructure, such as this railcar hopper at Georgia Biomass. Pellets produced at Rentech’s Wawa production facility will travel over 1,100 miles to the Port of Quebec, and production facilities being built by Drax are also linked to ports by rail. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL

Call Toll Free: 1.800.STOKER4 18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MARCH 2014

Vulcan’s facility isn’t coming on line without tremendous input from experienced vendors like pellet mill manufacturer Amandus Kahl, or his more experienced colleagues. “Industry leaders such as Harold Arnold of Fram and Ken Ciarletta of Enova, back when he was with Georgia Biomass, gave us valuable advice that really helped. Being able to go to these veterans for advice when you are just coming online is priceless for a startup [company] like ours,” says Kim. Vulcan’s planned capacity is unique amongst the projects currently being built. The veterans, alongside whom Kim and other newcomers are building capacity, come from an anchor of experienced producers with nearly 2 million tons of North American production capacity already to their name. And while Drax—with more than 1 million tons of capacity under construction—has no current North American capacity, the company built, owns and operates a 100,000-ton-per-year pellet facility just down the road from its massive power station in Yorkshire, England. This facility in the town of Goole converts mostly straw and energy crop inputs into pellets,


leaving Drax atop a very short list of producers with deep experience processing those feedstocks.

Drax Moves Upstream Drax will not have to rely upon straw or miscanthus inputs for either of its production facilities in the U.S. The two facilities under construction near northern Louisiana’s Bastrop, and Gloster, in southeast Mississippi, are being built in robust wood baskets. While the United Kingdom-based power producer’s foray into U.S.-based pellet production may have surprised some, Drax saw it as a part of a natural progression to become the world’s largest producer of biomass-derived power. “A secure supply chain is key to Drax’s biomass strategy to become a predominantly biomass-fueled provider of renewable power,” notes Matt Rivers, director of fuel procurement at Drax. “It was evident that investment was needed throughout the entire supply chain. The self-supply of some proportion of the needed biomass makes good business sense if Drax is to secure the total volume required to fuel three converted units at Drax Power Station.” Construction of the two facilities began in the second half of last year and both are scheduled to come on line in 2015, with the Amite BioEnergy facility in southwestern Mississippi scheduled to begin operations during the first quarter, and Morehouse BioEnergy facility in the second quarter. The Drax team will draw on both the experience of building the pellet facility in Goole and continued capital projects at the power station to guide them as they select technology vendors to establish their pellet production facilities stateside. “Although not at the scale of those being built in the U.S., much experience was gained through constructing and operating that [Goole] plant to make us well-placed to select the right partners to work with,” says Rivers.

The average planned capacity for the 14 pellet facilities currently under construction is 347,172 tons per year.

347,172 The average output capacity of the 149 operational pellet mills in North America not built to satisfy the export market is 58,563 tons per year.


Repurpose on Purpose The Drax production sites, a welcome addition to the job-hungry rural communities in which they are being built, are both greenfield construction sites with ready access to both abundant feedstock and robust existing and planned freight infrastructure at the Port of Baton Rouge. MARCH 2014 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 19


BRUNSWICK TO GET BUSIER: As Fram completes each of five production lines at its Hazlehurst, Ga., facility, the Port of Brunswick stands ready with a recently deepened shipping channel that allows larger bulk vessels to berth and accommodate the port’s rapidly growing pellet business. PHOTO: TIM PORTZ, BBI INTERNATIONAL

Other producers have shown an appetite for acquiring cast-off forest product

JETBELTTM An efficient system requiring less horsepower than other systems. Used for dry bulk handling requirements in a variety of products.

facilities or the abandoned efforts of earlier pellet developers. Two facilities currently un-

MODEL G Built standard with 10-gauge construction to accommodate large capacities of free-flowing materials. Provides years of trouble-free service under extreme applications.

TRAMROLL™ Enclosed belt conveyor with innovative features such as self-reloading and self-cleaning tail section, and multiple inlets. The heavest-duty design in the industry.

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der construction by Rentech Inc. are both conversions of decommissioned Weyerhauser fiber mills in Ontario, Canada. The German Pellets Louisiana facility under construction near LaSalle, La., is a conversion of a previous fiberboard facility, and the Zilkha Biomass-Selma facility was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2010 from Dixie Pellets. For pellet production newcomer Rentech, these reclamation efforts are just one piece of a carefully executed strategy that aligns existing production resources of opportunity, the right supply chain expertise and exclusive port infrastructure with an executed off-take agreement with a creditworthy buyer. The majority of the planned capacity of both Rentech’s Wawa and Atikokan production facilities is already spoken for in two separate offtake agreements. Virtually all the production at Wawa will make its way to the boilers at Drax’s power station, and 45,000 tons of production at Atikokan will stay in Ontario, feeding the recently converted Ontario Power Generation station in Atikokan.

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PELLET¦ To Market, To Market For pellet producers, brownfield redevelopment offers a number of advantages, including built-in access to vital transport and shipping infrastructure. Virtually all of the pellets produced by the facilities being built in the next two years will be burned in foreign boilers. As a result, well-considered and cost-effective pathways to ports are crucial. In many instances, producers are also making investments in infrastructure at the ports their pellets will move through. In the case of Vulcan Renewables, production capacity will come on line before ports are ready to handle the new volume. Until the Port of Jacksonville is ready to handle and load pellets into bulk cargo vessels, Vulcan Renewables will utilize an interim shipping strategy of filling shipping containers and loading pellets onto container vessels the plant is capable of loading. The output from Fram’s Hazelhurst, Ga., facility will move through the Port of Brunswick, which handles the production from its Appling County facility. Pellet storage and handling services at the Port of Brunswick are handled by Montrealbased stevedoring company Logistec. Recognizing the existing channel depth would eventually create a bottleneck, the Georgia Ports Authority recently added six feet of depth to the shipping channel, which will allow a larger class of bulk vessel to berth and take on these new tons.

siliency of this marketplace momentum are beginning to surface. The required volume from U.K.-based power producers is significant, but the risk of having demand tied up in one or two planned facilities is already apparent. In December, the conversion of the massive Eggborough Power Station, which would have created another infusion of Drax-like demand, was omitted from a list of projects deemed provisionally affordable. Stakeholders are already working to get the Eggborough conversion back on track, but

demand volatility of this sort is certain to impact the development of projects not yet underway. Eggborough’s fate will have little bearing on the production class of 2014, however, and regardless of demand trajectory at the year’s conclusion, it will go down as a year of unprecedented expansion in the biomass industry’s hottest sector. Author: Tim Portz Executive Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4969

Looking Forward The massive capacity build-out the ethanol industry experienced in 2007 and 2008 was marked by a relatively abrupt slow-down, and just three short years later, the number of ethanol plants under active construction was less than 10. The installed capacity began to equal, roughly, the size of the mandated market and groundbreakings naturally slowed to a trickle. The funnel of pellet production projects under development but not yet under active construction numbered as high as 27 facilities with more than 7 million tons early last year. As the industry continues to grow, however, questions about the reMARCH 2014 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 21

ThermalNews Estimated annual average air quality impacts (for first year life of each wood heater) Appliance type

PM2.5 (tons)

VOC (tons)

CO (tons)

Baseline Revised NSPS

Emission reduction

Baseline Revised NSPS

Emission reduction

Baseline Revised NSPS

Emission reduction

Wood heaters










Single burn rate heaters










Pellet heaters/stoves










Furnace: Indoor, cord wood










Hydronic heating systems











EPA proposes new woodstove, heater standards for 2015 The U.S. EPA has released its New Source Performance Standards proposed rule for new woodstoves and heaters. The new requirements would apply only to certain appliances manufactured beginning in 2015. They would not affect heaters and

stoves already in use or currently for sale. The proposed rule applies to several types of wood-fired heaters, including pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts, indoor and outdoor wood boilers or hydronic heaters, forced-air furnaces and

masonry heaters. The EPA said most residential wood heaters already meet the first set of proposed standards, which would be phased in over five years to allow manufacturers time to adapt emission control technologies to their models.

New York launches biomass thermal initiative for heating technologies New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released plans to launch a biomass heating initiative as part of his 2014 agenda. The program, Renewable Heat NY, would aim to raise consumer awareness in its first year and develop larger-scale anchor customers that energy firms need to begin the transition of their heating oil delivery fleet to bulk biomass.

The program will also facilitate workforce training and manufacturer support for field testing, equipment certification and early-stage product development. A state policy roadmap will be issued to assist in accelerating the use of biomass heating using efficient, low-emission technologies. It will also identify pilot products that are well-suited for biomass conversion.

Easily move materials of any size from powders to wooden pallets to heavy metal pieces– on a conveyance area with no moving parts.

In addition, the program will offer a competitive grant program to communities and will aim to develop long-term, reasonably priced private sector financing to cover the up-front cost of qualified biomass heating systems in buildings outside the municipal sector.

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Fanning the Northeastern Biomass Flame BY JOSEPH SEYMOUR

Bill Strauss, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council’s chief economist, recently reported that 1.34 million jobs would be created if the 6 million rural homes using expensive fossil fuels like propane and heating oil switched to domestically produced wood pellet fuel. Migrating 1 million homes to biomass heating fuels is optimistic—let alone 6 million—but recent developments in the northeastern U.S. are driving this vision ever closer to reality. One sign came in January with the rollout of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State. In his address, Cuomo announced “Renewable Heat NY: The Low-Emission Biomass Heating Initiative,” a program designed to mainstream heating with biomass. Aspects of the program include fuelswitching at institutional- and commercial-scale facilities, and growing the state’s market for bulk delivery of biomass fuels. As novel as the program is, what I found most interesting was the way in which the program was pitched, as an economic development tool. It is designed to help create financing mechanisms, bolster markets, and then back away to allow for the private sector to drive future development. New York appears to be seeing the thermal policy forest through trees. Massachusetts is yet another northeastern state pressing forward on biomass thermal policies. By this column’s publication, the state’s Department of Energy Resources will likely have announced the recipients of its renewable thermal business program. Also, supporters of the Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition breathed a sigh of relief when their namesake bill passed through a key state Senate committee unanimously. If enacted, the bill would include thermal energy from qualifying biomass installations in the state’s alternative portfolio standard alongside geothermal and solar thermal technologies. Although the bill contains fuel-sourcing and emissions requirements for biomass systems, the conces-

sions were needed to advance to the bill. Legislative hurdles remain, but passage this summer is expected. Maine rounds out the list of states that are pressing forward on thermal. Though the Pine Tree State cannot boast the legislative momentum of Massachusetts—though it is trying—it beats the others on thermal economics. The January polar vortex sent propane prices soaring across the country and consumers searching for alternatives. In Maine, the state’s energy office reported that in January, heating oil prices were up 4 percent and propane prices were up 23 percent compared to the same period in 2013. Local fuels like wood pellets and cordwood were running more than $20 cheaper per MMBtu than propane, and around $13 less than heating oil. Maine’s math is in biomass’s favor, even before factoring in Efficiency Maine’s new $5,000 pellet boiler rebate program. A word to the wise, however: Homeowners should act quickly to secure the rebate; the last pellet boiler rebate program was exhausted in 48 hours. There are numerous notable state efforts that will go unmentioned, but their effects are felt beyond New England, as confidence in modern biomass heating grows. Together, the Northeastern states are addressing issues like the government’s role in the biomass heating revolution, environmental compliance, system installation best practices, insurance and real estate considerations, forest health and fuel production, and broader access to markets. Each of these items will addressed, explored and acted upon during the Northeast Biomass Heating Conference and Expo, April 9-11, in Portland, Maine. Come to Portland and feel the heat of the thermal industry. It is getting hotter by the minute. Author: Joseph Seymour Executive Director, Biomass Thermal Energy Council 202-596-3974





Montpelier’s Pipe Dream Vermont’s capitol city is readying to fire up its modernized and expanded district heating system. BY ANNA SIMET




LAYING PIPE:The city's new hot water distribution pipeline loop, installation of which began in April of last year, is now complete. PHOTO: CITY OF MONTPELIER

t’s been a long road for those who have spent the past several years working to see Montpelier’s biomass district heating system through to success, but the light is shining bright at the end of the tunnel. After a couple of decades of research, feasibility studies, discussion and planning, the system will enter full operations this fall. The plant, located at the site of the state’s existing boiler facility, includes two new 600-horsepower, hybrid watertube/firetube, dual-fueled boilers rated at 20.1 MMBtu per hour. As backup, the newest existing oil boiler has been modified to operate on No. 2 fuel oil, rather than No. 6 fuel oil. Connected to the plant is an existing steam distribution system that has heated 17 state building complexes since the 1940s but was not modified due to its good condition, and a new hot water distribution loop that will deliver heat to city buildings, including fire and police stations. The new loop has been designed to allow potential connections for additional commercial and residential structures, with an expectation that the system will eventually heat 1.8 million square feet of the community.

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Contractors began tearing up concrete for the distribution system in late April. According to William Fraser, city manager, the distribution line is complete and functioning, with just minor items such as final paving to be completed this spring. The heat plant is expected to be completed by March or April. “We will be testing the two systems together in late spring, with a full, integrated system startup in October,” Fraser says. Early models of the facility proposed the plant as a cogeneration facility that would generate a small amount of electricity for government buildings, but plans were modified to focus on heat generation. The possibility of expanding only the distribution system was also initially explored, but it was found that using the existing plant as-is wasn’t feasible. “It was concluded that unless the state’s plant capacity was expanded, a shared system would not work,” Fraser says. “That led to the application for a U.S. DOE grant for both plant expansion and distribution system.”

In the midst of a major feasibility study performed by Veolia Energy, the project was granted $8 million in Recovery Act funds through the DOE’s Community Renewable Energy Deployment program, an event that nearly sealed the deal. The state and city made a deal to share remaining costs, which have totaled about $20 million. The final price tag for the plant ended up exceeding the initial estimate by about $6 million, for several reasons including redesigns during the development process and component part costs, according to Fraser, but the city’s distribution system ended up very close to the initial estimate of $5 million. Besides cost sharing, according to the deal, the state and the city have each taken on specific, separate roles. The state’s included the sole responsibility of planning, designing, and constructing the heating plant, and it will operate and maintain the boilers, boiler auxiliary equipment, fuel conveyance and storage, ash collection

and disposal systems, thermal conversion units and building structures that house all components. The city had the role of designing and constructing the city distribution system, and will own and manage the piping system, steam-to-hot water energy conversion equipment and all other components involved in the connection of city buildings.

System Narrative As described in engineering plans, whole green chips will be delivered to the site by live bottom trailers, unloaded onto a hydraulically operated walking floor, and discharged onto a vibrating conveyor belt at a rate of 20 to 25 tons per hour. The conveyor, which is fitted with a screen section to prevent oversized material from entering storage, sends oversized material through another size reduction before being pneumatically returned to the fuel receiving system. After metal is removed from the oversized component of the fuel with a perma-





GOING VERTICAL: An October construction photo shows progress of the city’s heating plant project, which is nearly complete PHOTO: VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS AND GENERAL SERVICES

nent magnet, screened chips are moved by a series of covered screw conveyors and an enclosed bucket elevator into two fuel storage bins, which can hold 366 tons of capacity. Stored chips in the fuel bins are extracted by reclaim screws and discharged onto vibrating conveyors that transfer fuel onto a series of screw conveyors in the basement of the facility, which feed a bucket elevator. The bucket elevator raises chips up to the boiler room operating level, and a screw conveyor moves fuels to a reversing conveyor that will service surge bins—which are set into a process line to change an inconsistent flow of material into a controlled or consistent flow—for either biomass unit. Distribution screws at the bottom of the surge bins feed into a rotary valve that seals and meters the fuel flow into 12-inch stainless steel stoker screws on each of the under-fed combustion units. The plant will consume around 12,000 tons of wood chips annually.

Benefits and Challenges

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The city government specifically will see long-term savings in heating costs, as will the connected customers since wood prices have historically grown at much lower rates than oil, Fraser points out. Using wood chips will replace about 300,000 gallons of oil per year. Fraser adds that the

THERMAL¦ community will have improved air quality since 16 individual chimneys have been functionally replaced with one state-ofthe-art chimney at the heat plant, and in a flood prone city, downtown basements will be safer, due to the fact that many private oil furnaces and underground fuel oil storage tanks will be removed. The fact that this project was the first of its kind in the region was a challenge, Fraser points out, but there were some other hurdles as well, one being a back-andforth vote by the city council. “[Council objections] had to do with specific provisions within our agreements with the state and some financial concerns,” Fraser says. “Once those concerns were addressed, the council supported the project.” Community support for the project was consistent, as it voted on the project three times with about a 60 to 40 percent approval each time. “Generally, people in Montpelier are supportive of renewable energy efforts,” Fraser says. “Most criticism of the project has been concern that it is a lot of money and effort for a small amount of users. However, the projected long-term energy savings for the city government and its taxpayers resulted in basic support.” Realizing that tearing up roads in a busy downtown would wreak havoc on traffic, the city took a few measures to make information more readily available to citizens, including an information hotline. “This was a big disruption, particularly because of the length of time to complete the project (April through November),” Fraser says. “We have a small, picturesque downtown, and local businesses reported big drops in sales during the construction period. The city tried to manage the project through a weekly recorded message, weekly updates on our website, press releases, attending merchant meetings and direct email messaging. In retrospect, I think we could have done even more to keep people fully informed.” On advice to other cities contemplating or interested in doing something similar that Montpelier has, Fraser says, “Make sure you know your financials. Make sure you have fully investigated the system’s

benefits, as well as how it stacks up against other heating alternatives.” Understanding the customer base and what it takes to make the project work is also important, according to Fraser. “If you are working with partners—like we did with the state—be sure to have those relationships and agreements in place before going too far too fast,” he adds. “Our DOE grant was from ARRA money, which meant that there was a lot of pressure to get the job done fast. Therefore, we tried to manage a lot of these issues at once, which

resulted in some moving targets and misunderstandings—hence the reservations by the city council.” Finally, retaining a firm that has been through it before to serve as a guide is a must. “We worked with Ever-Green Energy from St. Paul, and their advice, business planning and experience was essential.” Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


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BiogasNews NYC program benefits biogas During the final week of Global solid waste composition

2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the city’s new commercial organic waste policy into law. The initiative aims to reduce New Other 18% York City’s greenhouse gas Metal 4% emissions from waste disposal while producing useful Organic 46% resources, such as biogas and Glass 5% soil amendment products. The Plastic 10% law essentially requires certain businesses within 100 miles of the city that generate food Paper 17% waste to divert that waste to anaerobic digestion or composting facilities, beginning in SOURCE: WORLD BANK, "WHAT A WASTE: A GLOBAL REVIEW OF SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT" 2015. reliable supply of compost, and biogas “NYC’s extraordinary action will be a shot of adrenaline to the facilities can continuously produce biogas and digested materials for gardening and growing biogas and compost industries which are ready, able and willing to man- agriculture,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogasage organic wastes as a resource. This new policy fulfills a fundamental need for Council. “Project financing also flows biogas and composting project develop- more readily with more certainty in feedstock supply, and will create jobs, renewment: a predictable and reliable source able energy and soil amendment products of organic feedstocks. With it, compost while reducing greenhouse gases.” manufacturing facilities can produce a


Missouri biogas system to process manure Murphy-Brown of Missouri, the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., and Roeslein Alternative Energy announced plans to develop a $100 million biogas project in northern Missouri. The project will initially take in manure as feedstock. The project will also consider the use of waste feed and other sources of biomass in the future. Biogas will be harvested from MBM finishing farms using anaerobic digestion technology developed and installed by Roeslein. Impermeable synthetic covers will be placed on existing nutrient treatment lagoons, and barn scraper technology will be utilized to deliver raw nutrients of livestock waste to covered lagoons. The anaerobic digestion modules will be fabricated by Roeslein & Associates’ wholly owned subsidiary Roeslein Manufacturing. Construction is expected to begin in the spring. Murphy-Brown LLC also recently announced that a biogas project with Circle 4 Farms and Alpental Energy Partners LLC in Utah is now producing electricity via two methane digesters.


Considerations for Biogas Projects BY KYLE GOEHRING

The past several years have been good for the biogas industry. States are passing favorable legislation toward organic waste diversion, the permitting process is becoming more navigable, projects are utilizing nontraditional feedstocks, anaerobic digester-derived energy has become more attractive, and some very large systems are getting realized in notoriously difficult-to-permit areas and urban environments. Biogas industry awareness has grown, resulting in increased lobbying power and a shift in the perception of waste-toenergy projects. Unfortunately, even with all the positive momentum, a project’s success is still dependent on its sole quality. A welldeveloped project does not just come together; it takes a great deal of planning, design and execution. Location, permits and distances. A well-developed biogas system begins with the project site. It should be secured in a long-term agreement, either a lease or purchase, in an area that can be permitted. It is highly recommended to introduce your organization to the permitting agencies and incorporate them into development plans. Environmental permitting bodies can provide a roadmap or blueprint on how to turn an idea into reality. Distance from potential feedstock sources is another factor to consider. The greater distance from the organic waste the higher the transport costs, as well as the risk for competition. A project in development must consider transport costs at preliminary stages, as the financing party will bring this up during due diligence. Feedstock volume, availability and quality. To avoid the risk of developing a system based on volumes that may not be available in the future, create a matrix or spreadsheet of available feedstocks and design around multiple blends based on readily available organics. If a system is dependent on a single or only a few sources of material, it increases project risk. Feedstock quality and composition are also vital to a project’s success, as undesirable contaminants or inert material will hinder production or efficiency. Relatively clean feedstocks that are high in volatile solids percentage, consistent and possess high biogas yield per unit will help a facility operate at optimum levels. Organic material should be secured under a long-term agreement or multiple agreements. Ideally, a contract can be realized with an entity that generates the requisite composition and volume of materials for a successful anaerobic digester. This entity will vary depending on the location, biogas

technology and economics driving the project. For example, in some recently developed systems, the primary feedstock was biosolids, while it has been manure, food waste or green waste in others. Build your team for success. Once a suitable site and feedstocks are identified and secured, assemble a team. The biogas technology provider, biogas utilization technology provider, engineering firm and construction company may all be one organization, or each may be different. Choosing the right team is essential. The financeability, success history and references for each organization must be considered by a prudent developer. Attractive outcomes, biogas conversion. There are two primary byproducts from an anaerobic digester system: digestate and biogas. Digestate may or may not be a commodity, depending on the feedstocks, location, digestion process and market conditions. Biogas is typically more valuable, but utilization varies and carries significant impact on a project’s success. Traditionally, biogas has been converted into electricity via combined-heat-and-power technology. Electricity can either be used on site or sold under a power purchase agreement (PPA) to a utility. Recently, upgrading biogas into compressed natural gas equivalent has gained interest. Upgraded biogas may be utilized as vehicle fuel or injected into the pipeline. When utilized as vehicle fuel, a PPA is not required, making this option a viable alternative. Additionally, several states have regulations in place favoring natural gas as vehicle fuel, which can lead to additional project funds. Financing. Following federal, state and local funding opportunities such as grants, loans or tax incentives is encouraged. New programs are being developed for biogas systems and should be applied for. There are several grant writing and accounting agencies that specialize in biogas programs and can be a great aid. In summary, the biogas industry is burgeoning and will witness an explosion of systems in the second half of this decade. Successful projects will have the same characteristics: site control, sourced feedstocks, a capable team, secured financing and an ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit bringing it all together. These systems are not easy to realize, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Author: Kyle Goehring Regional Sales Manager, Eisenmann 815-900-1443



PIT TO POWER: Repurposing a spent gravel pit, Hometown BioEnergy’s anaerobic digester powers four 2 MW Cummins gensets that provide electricity to LeSueur, Minn. PHOTO: AVANT ENERGY

Biogas Power in the Valley Vegetable-processing waste and livestock manure feed digesters to power LeSueur, Minn. BY SUSANNE RETKA SCHILL


elsey Dillon’s description of the construction schedule at Hometown BioEnergy LLC as “aggressive” is an understatement. The project broke ground in December 2012, in the midst of a Minnesota winter, and was completed one year later, in the middle of a very cold December. “We had a very aggressive construction schedule. We had to work long hours and weekend schedules to get it done,” the vice president of bioenergy for Avant Energy Inc. explains. “We pushed hard because we qualified for a 1603 grant [under the Recovery Act] and we had to be complete by the end of this year.” The grant isn’t finalized yet, she adds, but the developers hope to receive between $8 million and $9 million to help with the overall $45 million project cost. 34 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MARCH 2014

Minneapolis-based Avant manages the day-to-day operations for the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, a group of 12 municipal electric utilities formed in the 1990s. Avant began looking at all types of biomass technologies in 2009, ultimately settling upon anaerobic digesters (AD) and Denmark-based Xergi A/S as the technology provider. Barr Engineering was the engineer for the project. The renewable power from the Hometown facility will help MMPA meet its renewable portfolio goal of 17 percent by 2016, adding to the wind generation already in service. Minnesota’s renewable portfolio standard calls for 25 percent renewable power by 2025. The Hometown BioEnergy anaerobic digester on the south edge of LeSueur, Minn., is the largest system of its type in the U.S., Dillon says, rated at 8 MW of electrical power from food


processing and agricultural waste. To meet the startup goal, construction was first completed on the receiving bays and AD so that dairy manure could be delivered starting in October to get the unit going. “Dairy manure is very good for startup of these kinds of facilities,” she explains, “because as a ruminant, a dairy cow has the kind of microbes in its stomach that you need in a digester. We also have other vegetable processing residues we’re processing, primarily sweet corn silage from the canneries.” With LeSueur the home of the Green Giant Co., canneries processing sweet corn and peas have long been part of the local landscape, including the piles of silage requiring disposal. The facility can handle 45,000 dry tons of food-processing wastes and animal manures annually, trucked in from a 60-mile radius around the plant that sits about 60 miles southwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The facility can process about two trucks per hour, with most feedstocks coming in at roughly 10 to 45 percent solids. Trucks dump their loads of solid biomass into a pit in the receiving hall where an automated crane moves the material into the processing area for size reduction with a shredder and mixing. Then, it gets conveyed into the feeding modules. Liquids are dumped into concrete tanks and also pumped into the feeding modules where the feedstocks are mixed and heated before being loaded into the digesters. The feeding modules are a unique part of the AD design from the biogas technology provider, Xergi, Dillon says. Xergi was chosen primarily because of its experience in designing plants utilizing multiple types of feedstocks. Xergi also supplied the control system for the plant.

Homegrown Power Hometown BioEnergy has two 1.6 million gallon digesters with center-mounted agitators slowly stirring the tank, with an average residence time ranging between 30 and 45 days in the continuous process. “You are always pulling material out and [the digester] is always full,” Dillon explains. Hydrogen sulfide is first cleaned out of the biogas, which is then stored in domes. “One of the reasons we’re very interested in biomass plants, and anaerobic digesters in particular, is that it enables us to have a renewable resource for MMPA that is dispatchable,” Dillon says. “The domes enable us to store about 12 hours of gas so we can produce electricity in the daytime when the power has more value.” The physical power generated in the four 2-MW Cummins gensets goes to LeSueur, population 4,000, connecting directly to the city’s distribution system. “There’s a lot of efficiency in just using the power locally,” Dillon says, “rather than putting it out on the large transmission lines.” The Cummins engines can handle the raw gas from the digester, although the facility opted to clean out the hydrogen sulfide to eliminate its corrosive effects. The gensets have the flexibility to accommodate methane levels between 50 and 60 percent, without the carbon dioxide being removed. As important to the facility design, Dillon explains, is

the Cummins system’s heat recovery capability. “We use the jacket water heat from the engines to bring the biomass up to temperature. We also recover heat from the exhaust to dry the solid fuel byproduct on the backend of the process.” The facility expects to produce about 7,000 tons of solid fuel that will be used for biomass power or as a renewable offset in coal generation. The liquid byproduct stream will be stored onsite for land application in the spring and fall as a fertilizer. “The liquid stream has a very high fertilizer value,” she adds. “It’s quite a bit better than the manure that would have otherwise been land applied that we are processing in the plant.”

Neighbors in the Valley As Hometown BioEnergy ramps up its feedstock acquisition and finishes filling the digesters, the neighbors are getting a good sense of what having an AD power facility next door is like. With no examples nearby and the technology provider having most of its facilities in Denmark and Germany, there was nothing to show people. “We spent a lot of time working with community leaders and state regulators to get them comfortable with the type of facility, the type of technology,” Dillon says. Indeed, the facility completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency did not require the facility to undergo a state Environmental Impact Statement. “Overall, I think it went well, and people today, now that the facility is up and running, are seeing that it’s not disruptive,” Dillon says. “Visually, it’s quite in keeping with the agricultural landscape. As you’re driving down the road, it almost looks like another farm structure you would see around LeSueur.” Concerns about potential smells have been allayed as well. The air in the fully-enclosed receiving area is routed through a biofilter comprised of layers of wood chips and other organic material. Microbes in the biofilter eat the volatile organic compounds that cause odors. “With that biofilter, odors haven’t been perceptible whatsoever on the boundary lines of the property,” Dillon says. “And it’s not too bad in the building. Once in a while it smells like silage, but it is an ag processing facility.” When asked about the payback potential for this sort of facility, Dillon explains that as a municipal power provider, the concern isn’t the return on investment. “MMPA is trying to provide competitively priced electricity on the wholesale level to its member communities, and comply with the renewable requirement.” At $50 per megawatt hour, Dillon says the biogas power is competitive with wind. “One of the reasons it’s competitive is that you can control the time of day you are producing the power to the higher value hours.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Senior Editor, BBI International 701-738-4922


Setting the Record Straight on Algae Separation 3. G-forces over 10,000 allow for production of pastes that are 11.5% drier. 40 38 36 34 32 30 10 8 6 4 2 0

11.5% Difference 34 31.5

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Boeing pursues biobased aviation fuels Boeing, Etihad Airways, Takreer, Total and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are collaborating on a new initiative to support a renewable aviation fuel industry in the United Arab Emirates. The program, known as “BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability,” aims to develop a comprehensive framework for a U.A.E biofuel supply chain. It will focus on research, development and investments in feedstock production and refining both in the U.A.E.

and globally. As part of the effort, Etihad Airways completed a 45-minute demonstration flight in a Boeing 777 fueled in part by biojet. Boeing also recently announced that it has identified green diesel as a significant new source of sustainable aviation biofuel. The company is working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders to gain approval for aircraft to fly on the fuel.

New sugar platform shows promise Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a process that uses gamma valerolactone (GVL) to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels. The team is expected to begin scaling up the process later this year. GLV is created from plant material. In addition to being renewable, it’s more affordable than conversion methods requiring expensive chemicals or enzymes. According to the researchers, the process can convert 85 to 95 percent of the starting material to sugars. To demonstrate the economic viability of the process, the researchers were able to concentrate the sugar, remove the GVL for reuse and show that yeast could successfully generate biofuel from the sugar stream. An initial economic assessment has indicated the technology could produce ethanol at a cost savings of about 10 percent compared to current technologies.


Urging the EPA to Reconsider RFS Targets BY MICHAEL MCADAMS

The Advanced Biofuels Association recently submitted our formal comments on the U.S. EPA’s proposed 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations. Nothing is more important to the continued future growth of advanced and cellulosic fuels than convincing the EPA to reconsider the arbitrary and insufficient targets it proposed for 2014. The full text of our comments covers more than 25 pages, but I’ll summarize a few key points. Policy reversal falls disproportionately on advanced biofuels. The proposed rule represents a significant reversal of the EPA's support from previous years for the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industries. The intent of Congress with the renewable fuel standard (RFS) was to encourage the development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels, and this proposed rule undermines the ability of our member companies to deliver upon that vision. The agency’s proposed RFS cuts fall disproportionately on advanced biofuels and fail to maximize the energy security and greenhouse gas benefits as intended by the statute. The proposal would cut the volume requirements for advanced biofuels by more than 40 percent when compared to the requirements written into the RFS statute. In contrast, the EPA is proposing a less than 10 percent reduction to volume requirements for conventional renewable fuels. We acknowledge that the conventional pool boasts more than 13 billion gallons of production and that a 10 percent cut represents more than 1 billion gallons. However, a cut of 40 percent from an intended pool of only 3.75 billion will send a significant signal that the government is backtracking from its interest and support of the advanced biofuels industry. This setback comes at a time when the advanced industry has had just four short years to develop, as compared with the almost 40 years the first-generation ethanol industry had to establish itself. Proposal backtracks on commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. ABFA wonders why EPA would deliver such a large blow to the category of renewable fuels that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent, while at the same time, the administration has doubled down on its effort to reduce climate change emissions. Questionable legal authority likely results in “suspended animation.” EPA's contention that it has sufficient authority to waive the renewable mandate for conventional ethanol based on the demand of gasoline, rather than the production of the biofuels, appears manifestly contrary to the statute. This contention will most likely wind up in fed-

eral court, further leaving the country and the advanced and cellulosic industry in suspended animation concerning the overall direction of the RFS. This lack of clarity and uncertainty will stifle the ability of many smaller companies to acquire the financing necessary to build out the advanced biofuel sector envisioned in the 2007 law. Let’s get real about RINs. Opponents of the RFS have made a great effort to suggest that the price of renewable identification numbers (RINs) is passed directly onto consumers in the price of gasoline. This assertion has been vastly distorted, and ABFA research shows a lack of correlation between the price of the RINs in the biomass-based diesel pool and the price of diesel. Due to the economics of scaling up innovative technologies, advanced and cellulosic producers rely heavily upon RIN values to offset the high up-front costs of producing first-of-a-kind fuels relative to incumbent players in the fuels market. The intent of RINs is to provide value to the producer and to encourage industry, not undermine it. By reducing the 2014 advanced biofuel standard to below actual production in 2013, EPA runs the risk of becoming the agent of a self-fulfilling prophesy, where under-projecting production limits the potential for RIN generation, and therefore reduces producers' ability to increase production and grow the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industry. Our ask of EPA. As a matter of policy, EPA should set RFS standards that encourage production and consumption of all available advanced biofuels. Setting a target below current production is highly destructive to the industry, and an arbitrary and capricious application of its statutory authority. Considering that in 2013, this industry generated more than 3.2 billion RINs qualifying as advanced under the RFS, around 500 million of those RINs will be available to “carry over” into 2014, and further production is anticipated to come on line, ABFA believes the 2014 statutory target for advanced biofuels of 3.75 billion is appropriate. We will continue to work with all policymakers to see that the rule is modified moving forward. Your engagement will be most important and helpful. Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuel Association



ROUNDING THIRD: Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels will complete construction of its Emmettsberg, Iowa, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility this year. PHOTO: POET-DSM



THE YEAR IS HERE 2014 will bear witness to the commissioning of some of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic plants. BY CHRIS HANSON




hose in the cellulosic ethanol industry know “five more years down the road” as a phrase that’s been associated with commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production for a very long time. With the close of 2013, it’s safe to say that timeline is no longer relevant, as the time has finally come. In the advanced biofuels arena, no cellulosic ethanol projects have been watched more closely than those being built by Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, Abengoa Bioenergy and DuPont Industrial Biosciences. Together, these cellulosic ethanol plants rise from the plains and fields, acting as beacons to the advanced biofuel industry that is just pulling its ship to shore.

Abengoa Bioenergy The Abengoa cellulosic plant in Hugoton, Kan., began construction in July 2011 and is one of the first cellulosic plants expected to begin its commissioning process in

2014. “We are just on the verge of a startup here,” says Christopher Standlee, executive vice president at Abengoa Bioenergy. “We started commissioning the boiler and electric cogeneration unit and sold our first power back to the grid on Dec. 27.” Another highlight was the big construction push that began last summer. “Starting in about July, we had the big final push to get construction completed,” Standlee says. “So starting in July and running through this month, we had more than 1,000 full-time construction workers onsite. That’s a pretty massive undertaking.” Attending a morning safety meeting and seeing more than 1,000 workers donning reflective vests at the plant is an awe-inspiring site, he adds. The plant's second phase, initiating the overall startup, was conducted from late January through early this month. “We certainly expect to have some production,” Standlee says. “I mean certainly not consistent production, we expect a ramp-up period, a de-

bugging period and that sort of thing, but we certainly expect to have some production in January and March.” For the most part, all major construction is complete, Standlee says. The next step for the facility is the commissioning processes that are expected to take some time. “I don’t think we’re going to finish our commissioning for a while,” he adds. “It could very well take a period of months. But we’re going to start that process clearly in the first quarter of 2014, probably sometime in February.”

Project Liberty with Poet-DSM Project Liberty broke ground in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in spring 2012, and is the second commercial-scale cellulosic plant that will complete construction and commissioning phases this year. The plant, which sits adjacent to Poet’s biorefining ethanol plant, has taken shape over the year and is now visible in the sky from within Emmetsburg.

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STOVER SCIENCE: Abengoa went the extra mile to ensure area farmers know how to avoid overharvesting corn stover, the feedstock for its Hugoton, Kan., cellulosic ethanol plant. PHOTO: ABENGOA

Since 2013, the site has transitioned from a few tanks and construction activities to a structure that resembles a cellulosic plant, explains Steve Hartig, general manager of licensing at Poet-DSM. “When you’re in Emmetsburg, it kind of looms in the skyline,” he says. “Looking at photographs of the site, people can observe the fermentation and enzymatic hydrolysis tanks, but can also witness units and facilities being built that are unique to cellulosic ethanol production, such as the biomass receiving area where the plant completes feedstock pretreatment and the anaerobic digester that handles the liquid waste stream from the ethanol process.” As construction projects are completed, personnel begin the commissioning process on the unit, Hartig explains. The startup ability and functionality of the pretreatment equipment have been tested, and the main hydrolysis and fer-


¦ADVANCED BIOFUELS mentation tanks are, for the most part, mechanically complete and have been filled with water to test the pumps and scan for leaks. At the end of January, the front-end pretreatment system, a solid-fuel boiler and the anaerobic digester were nearly complete. The boiler and digester will utilize the liquid and solid waste streams to generate steam for both the cellulosic and neighboring ethanol plants. “Basically, the plant will be mechanically complete at about the end of [Q1 2014], and we’ll be starting up in second quarter,” Hartig says. “As we finish a piece of the plant, we start doing the testing and the work on that piece. So it’s kind of a rolling process.”

DuPont Industrial Biosciences DuPont broke ground its facility during a chilly, late-November morning in Nevada, Iowa. Since then, the facility has undergone construction phases to bring its concept to fruition. The facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will utilize 590,000 bales of corn stover each year to produce 30 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol. DuPont has been a bit quiet in sharing its plant updates and playing its cards close to the chest, due to its intense focus on delivering a stellar project, according to Wendy Rosen, global public affairs leader at DuPont. “I think the team is almost singly focused on getting this plant up and running in 2014 and meeting that milestone,” she says. The company is working with its teams, Fagen and


KBR, in addition to its own internal team, to start producing cellulosic ethanol once that last projects are finished, she adds. “We’re pretty happy that construction is continuing in staying on track, and we’re going to deliver this in 2014.” As construction progresses, it certainly catches the attention of those passing though. “Folks that are in the area, they drive by and say, ‘Wow! This is incredible,’ because it is an enormous undertaking, and we have state-of-the art technology going into this plant,” Rosen says. The plant is still expected to finish construction during the fourth quarter of this year, Rosen says. “This team is incredibly focused on hitting these marks because all of that plays right into our capital expenditures here, and we’re very good at keeping ourselves to what we said we are going to do,” she says. “We did a groundbreaking when we said we were going to do it, and we’ll see an opening when we said we are going to do it in 2014.”

Building the Feedstock Community One of the most daunting tasks in bringing a cellulosic facility on line might not be so much the technology and equipment challenges, but the procurement of feedstock. “We’ve built numerous ethanol plants of our own and we know what the construction process is like,” Standlee says. “We know our technology works, we’re comfortable with our ability to handle the product once it’s there, but one of the biggest challenges is the massive amounts of feedstocks that you have to deal with.”

ADVANCED BIOFUELS¦ For the past four years, Abengoa had experts in Hugoton, negotiating and visiting with growers to develop mutual understanding about how to be good stewards of the land and avoid overharvesting corn stover. “We certainly don’t want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building a facility and shoot ourselves in the foot by having a farmer find out he’s taking too much stover off his land and didn’t leave enough to stop erosion and leave some of the nitrogen and nutrients back in the soil.” In addition to the summer construction push, Abengoa’s other milestone was harvesting more than 100,000 tons of stover by the end of last November. “As you imagine, that is a massive amount of feedstock that required a lot of coordination to get it off the land and into some sort of storage. We’re very proud of that milestone,” Standlee says. Abengoa’s plant can operate on less than 15 percent of the available corn stover within a 50-mile radius, which allows the facility to exist in a noncaptive market situation, he adds. Feedstock procurement is a major feat Poet-DSM and DuPont also strove to achieve, and succeeded. A group called Poet Biomass has been working for Poet-DSM’s outreach the past seven years to develop the stover collection procedures, and has been stepping up its efforts each year to collect additional biomass, Hartig says. “This year, we have about 200 farmers under contract to supply biomass and we’ve harvested about 100,000 tons of biomass,” he adds. “That’s enough to get us really up and running through the next harvest. It’s going well, but it’s taken a lot of time because it’s a new crop.”

Poet-DSM are completing multiple angles of outreach to local farmers in order to secure its corn stover. In addition to brochures and informational videos for farmers dropping off corn at the neighboring ethanol plant, the company engages with local universities to complete independent studies surrounding corn stover harvesting and manages booths at local county fairs to meet local citizens. “It’s a lot of different outreach, teaching and talking,” Hartig says. Using its expertise and existing relationships through Pioneer, DuPont also had a successful year in securing corn stover for its cellulosic plant and had more than 200 farmers participate in its procurement process. “This is our fourth harvest and we have had incredible response year over year,” Rosen says. “The best thing I can say about it is that we practically have a 100 percent return rate on folks that have participated the year before.” DuPont is on track to have enough supplies once the plant opens, Rosen adds. “When we license this technology, a lot of potential licensees and customers will feel really solid about our expertise in the supply chain piece,” she explains. “That is a very complicated piece in this whole puzzle, which is figuring how to build a sustainable supply chain to fuel a plant that is going to be producing 30 million gallons of fuel per year. It’s a big deal.” Author: Chris Hanson Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4970

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