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May/June 2017

URBAN INNOVATION Saint Paul’s Evolving Waste-based District Energy Plant Page 22


First US Trash-to-energy Facility Built in Decades PAGE 36


Organic Waste Laws Spur Project Development PAGE 30

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05 EDITOR’S NOTE Our Most Abundant Feedstock By Tim Portz

08 COLUMN RFS: New Revenue Stream for Biomass Facilities? By Bob Cleaves

10 COLUMN BTEC Update: Top Priorities for 2017 By Aaron Aber

12 COLUMN One Step Forward

By Michael McAdams

14 COLUMN Ideology and Science in Residential Wood Heating By John Ackerly



22 FEATURE At the Intersection of Biomass & Urban Ecology

Since its launch in 1983, District Energy St. Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota, continues to innovate through increased efficiency and biomass utilization. By Ron Kotrba

30 FEATURE Diversion Dynamics

Organics diversion laws are in place in many states and municipalities, but they do not absolve area developers from following crucial biogas project fundamentals By Tim Portz

36 FEATURE A First in 20 Years

The Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 is the county's most recent addition to its waste-based renewable energy park. By Anna Simet

42 CONTRIBUTION The Evolving World of Wood Shredding


Because technology has evolved, biomass plant developers should think beyond tradition, and look at ways to improve energy efficiency, plant safety and more. By Peter Streinik

44 CONTRIBUTION Sponsor Spotlight: Komptech Americas

Specifically for the biomass market, Komptech has developed several machines that address material supplier and energy producer needs. By Todd Dunderdale

46 CONTRIBUTION Solid Organic Waste Conversion in Small Communities A case study investigates primary technologies suitable for converting solid organic waste in small and medium Alberta communities to heat, power and value-added products. By Babetunde Olateju, Xiaomei Li and Axel Meisen







EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Ben Anderson, University of Iowa

Our Most Abundant Feedstock Waste is this industry’s most available and most widely utilized feedstock. To be fair, it is also the most broadly defined. Standard curbside household garbage is everyone’s mental picture of waste, but raw sewage, construction and demolition debris, urban wood waste, TIM PORTZ restaurant food waste, waste greases, unopened and VICE PRESIDENT OF CONTENT EXECUTIVE EDITOR spoiled food products, oat hulls, barley residuals and in- & numerable other materials fall into this broad category. All of these are generated in great quantities, and their collection and disposal strains puts strain on conventional waste management infrastructure. Finally, and paradoxically, the public wants and needs all of these materials to “go away,” but almost no one wants that “away” to be anywhere near them. Fortunately, all of these waste streams possess massive amounts of bound-up energy and waste-to-energy (WTE) practitioners use combustion, pyrolysis, organic decomposition and anaerobic digestion to capture and process these materials, mining them for their Btus. Absent this energy, these materials would offer no value, and many of our cities would already be buried in massive piles of them. Look no further than Managing Editor Anna Simet’s page-36 feature, “A First in 20 Years,” which highlights the construction of the first WTE facility built in the U.S. in 20 years, in Florida’s Palm Beach County. The county is one of the fastest-growing in the entire country, adding about 22,000 residents annually. Like many other counties in Florida, Palm Beach County was already utilizing WTE to manage waste and prolong the lifetime of hard-to-come-by landfill space. Simet’s story reports that without its first WTE plan, the county’s landfill would reached capacity within eight years from now. Built to accommodate new population growth and relieve pressure on the existing facility, the solid waste authority now estimates that the landfill will not reach capacity until 2049. Near the end of Simet’s interview with Patrick Carroll, director of facilities development at the county’s solid waste authority, he pointed to a real waste management challenge that is looming wherever WTE is the preferred option. A large share of the existing WTE facilities were built in the 1980s, and are near the end of their useful lives. “They need to make a decision—refurbish or rebuild the WTE capacity, find new landfill capacity, or do something else,” he said. In many places, new landfill capacity simply isn’t an option. That leaves refurbish, rebuild or “something else.” All options provide incredible opportunity for the industry, as it’s clear the waste is going to keep on coming.

Justin Price, Evergreen Engineering Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center


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¦ADVERTISER INDEX 2017 International Biomass Conference & Expo 20-21 2017 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo 3 AB Bruzaholms Bruk 28 Agra Industries 27 Amandus Kahl Gmbh & Co. KG 25 Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S 33 Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation 19 Astec, Inc. 52 Biofuels Financial Conference 15 Biomass Engineering & Equipment 32 Continental Biomass Industries, Inc. (A Terex Brand) 17 D3MAX LLC 13 Evergreen Engineering 38 Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc. 34 KEITH Manufacturing Company 16 Mole Master Services Corporation 35 Pellet Fuels Institute 9 ProcessBarron 18 Qila Energy 2 Rotochopper Inc. 24 Siemens AG 6 SonicAire 26 SUMA America, Inc. 40 SWANA Solid Waste Association of North America 29 Tramco, Inc. 39 Varco Pruden Buildings 41 Vecoplan LLC 49 Williams Crusher 11

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Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) May/June 2017, Vol. 11, Issue 5. Biomass Magazine is published bi-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.


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Subscriptions Biomass Magazine is free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to Biomass Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 701-746-8385 or 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.

2017 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo JUNE 19-21, 2017

Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, MN With a vertically integrated program and audience, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels including cellulosic ethanol, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. (866) 746-8385 |

Christianson PLLP Biofuels Financial Conference SEPTEMBER 27-28, 2017

Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota Produced by Christianson PLLP and organized by BBI International, this year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to explore new options in today’s changing ethanol and biodiesel industries. By understanding risks associated with various technology and marketing initiatives, and by exploring various options for making the best use of capital and resources, attendees will learn how to create a well-managed plan for growth and change—a plan that maximizes profitability while ensuring future stability and meeting the expectations of all stakeholders. (866)746-8385 |

2018 International Biomass Conference & Expo APRIL 16-18, 2018 Cobb Galleria Centre Atlanta, Georgia

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 |


RFS: New Revenue Stream for Biomass Facilities? BY BOB CLEAVES

Many in the renewable fuels sector are familiar with the Renewable Fuel Standard, known as the RFS, adopted by Congress in 2005 and implemented by the U.S. EPA. The intent of the law is to incentivize the production and use of renewable fuels alongside traditional fossil fuels. The most famous example of this is corn ethanol, which is mandated by the RFS to be 10 percent of the gasoline blend sold at the pump. Unbeknownst to many in the biomass power sector, there may be a role for biomass power producers to play in the RFS. Electric vehicles (EVs) represent an increasing share of the automotive market, with sales rising 37 percent in 2016 over the previous year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that this trend will continue—in 2040, EVs will account for 35 percent of all new vehicles sold. But the only way that electric vehicles are truly carbon friendly is if their power comes from a nonfossil fuel source. If EVs are powered by electricity produced from a biomass—the same ingredients that go into liquid transportation fuels—shouldn’t those biomass facilities be eligible to sell the same credits awarded to, for example, ethanol producers? We think they should, and the EPA agrees. The way the program works is that biofuels producers sell credits known as RINs (short for renewable identification


numbers), which fossil fuel producers must purchase. The last hurdle for biomass power producers to take part in the RFS program is for the EPA to make a final ruling in our favor, and create a pathway for biomass power producers to sell RIN credits. This seemingly simple change could have dramatically positive benefits for all involved. Biomass power producers will have a new and growing source of revenue as the EV market continues to thrive. EV drivers can rest assured that the power they are using to plug in their cars is low-carbon. And the EPA will be able to count biomass power toward cellulosic biofuels production, which has lagged far behind the targeted amount set by the agency. The Biomass Power Association has been advocating for the EPA to finalize the rule. We are hopeful that they will do so soon. Author: Bob Cleaves President, Biomass Power Association


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oin us this summer for two days of educational sessions, industry exhibits, extensive networking opportunities, and a golf tournament on a top-notch course. The PFI Annual Conference highlights the various applications of densified biomass, as well as trends and best practices within the densified biomass industry. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see you in Stowe!

BTEC Top Priorities for 2017 BY AARON ABER

The first few months of the new presidential administration have left the legislative future for biomass thermal energy uncertain. However, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council sees opportunities to advance biomass thermal adoption through updating technical codes and standards, and expanding markets for biomass through policy and legislative initiatives. The Farm Bill is one of BTEC’s top priorities this year. Although it is not up for reauthorization until 2018, there are extensive preparations that go into the legislation’s energy title. BTEC, along with strategic industry and U.S. Forest Service partners, is advocating for: • A community wood energy program that would fund biomass thermal projects in low-income or lowenergy access communities. • Reform to the Advanced Biofuels Program to ensure more equitable payments to producers of densified wood pellets. The funding of these and other initiatives would help expand the market for biomass thermal technologies, foster energy independence, and encourage rural and local economic growth. Another policy priority for BTEC is the establishment of a wood-to-energy commodities checkoff through the USDA. In this program, eligible companies would pay a certain amount of sales to fund economic and environmental research, public education, and for-


est health initiatives. Stakeholders from the biomass thermal, power and fuel sectors are spearheading this effort, and the process for establishing the program could be completed by this fall. BTEC continues to support a change to ASHRAE SSPC 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. The standard would allow biomass to qualify as an on-site renewable energy resource in high-performance buildings. This would expand the market for biomass thermal in commercial and institutional settings, and reinforce its clean energy potential. This standard is an aspirational building code, and based on current and potential future technologies, BTEC has recommended that the standard include a minimum efficiency of 80 percent, and maximum particulate emissions of 0.1 pounds per MMBtu for pellet-fueled systems, and 0.15 pounds per MMBtu for chip-fired systems, in order for installations to qualify. The standard still faces a long road to adoption, but BTEC will continue to work to build support for it among ASHRAE and other highperformance building stakeholders. Author: Aaron Aber Project Assistant, Biomass Thermal Energy Council 202 596-3974

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On March 21, the 2017 renewable volume obligation (RVO) mandates under the Renewable Fuels Standard quietly became law. With no fanfare, nor a press release from the U.S. EPA, the mandates officially took effect after being caught up in the 60-day regulatory hold enacted by President Trump on his first day in office. This is certainly a welcome event for those of us in the biofuels industry—we have finally gained long-sought certainty about the program and its requirements through the end of 2017. Naturally, the next shoe to drop will be the proposal for the 2018 RVOs. Moving forward, the EPA will need to answer an important question for those concerned with the future of the program: Will it continue to rinse and renew the 2018 mandates with the same basic principles as the past two cycles? The advanced biofuels industry had another victory this month, as rumors dissipated surrounding a potential executive order (EO) that would have directed EPA to shift the point of obligation under the RFS. At least for now, the point of obligation will stay with the refiners, where it currently resides, instead of being shifted to the rack by unilateral action from the White House. In a rare moment of unity, most of the major trade associations in the renewable fuels and oil industries signed a letter in opposition to the change. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has now indicated that EPA has a process in place to review the comments submitted on the EPA’s denial of the petition, prior to finalizing the proposal to deny the request. The rumored EO garnered a significant amount of press attention, and the EPA rules on the pending proposal to deny the request, our industry must remain engaged and vigilant, in order to defeat the proposed change. Having successfully navigated these two thorny thickets—at least for the moment—we must continue to address other contentious issues creating factions within the industry. I can tell you firsthand that for the first time in four years, both House and Senate staff are pushing all stakeholders to come to the table to discuss RFS reform. In a public statement, E&C Subcommittee on Environment Chairman Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, stated that he would like to have a bill moved out of the com-


mittee by August. This means the committee must begin crafting a package this spring. The Senate, on the other hand, has made slower progress. This is no doubt due, in part, to many Senate staffers having left for new positions at the EPA. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, must hire new counsel to handle the RFS. Despite this challenge, members in both chambers and both parties see political opportunities in making changes to the RFS. The time is ripe for reform. Speaking of reform, another key issue for the spring will be tax. While Congress is currently tied up with healthcare, tax reform is the next big-ticket item on their agenda—hopefully for April—so stay tuned. It remains unclear what the House Ways & Means Committee intends to do on the biodiesel blenders credit, which expired at the end of 2016. Further complicating this issue, the National Biodiesel Board continues to lobby to change the blenders credit to a producers credit, a shift opposed by a number of major trade associations such as the American Trucking Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, and National Association of Truck Stop Operators, all of whom benefit from the existing blenders credit. We remain hopeful that the Senate Finance Committee will continue its support for the existing suite of credits, which includes the blenders credit, the second-generation credit for cellulosic fuels, and the alternative fuels tax credit. Inevitably, all of these issues will be addressed. What remains troubling is that the industry continues to be so factionalized on each of these issues, which will impact the future of advanced biofuels. If the U.S. is to see the use of more advanced and cellulosic fuels, we have to provide more certainty and less friction to create a stable environment for investment in these companies. To that end, we all need to continue to reach out and give a little room to encourage growth for the industry as a whole. Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuels Association

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Ideology and Science in Residential Wood Heating BY JOHN ACKERLY

It’s tempting to think that the best technological innovations gradually spread across the globe, as evidence of the improvement spreads. In the case of residential wood and pellet heating, however, some innovation spreads, and some is spurned. One of America’s greatest claims to fame in this sector is the invention of the pellet stove in Washington State in the 1970s and ‘80s. The pellet stove is an example of a technology that was readily adopted by European countries that have now overtaken us in R&D, production and deployment. The U.S. now imports most of its pellet boilers from Europe, as our innovation and production has lagged. In the case of pellet stoves and boilers, the more rapid uptake in Europe has a pretty simple explanation: the higher cost of fossil fuels makes renewable technology far more affordable, even without government subsidies. A million Americans heat their homes with pellet stoves, fewer than the number of homes in Italy. But is this just because our fossil fuel prices are low? Or does ideology also play a role? Let’s look at another example. If you asked the average American who the greatest inventor of stove technology in the U.S. was, they would likely say Ben Franklin, who came out with the Franklin stove in the 1770s. This shows the power of myth, which has little basis in reality. Franklin’s “innovation” didn’t spread to Europe, because virtually the entire continent had surpassed that level of heating technology decades earlier. Franklin did not even invent a stove. He improved the fireplace, and later innovators added a door to his design, which significantly increased efficiency and turned it into a stove. So why does he get so much credit? Much can be explained by the fact that ideology can often trump science. Franklin knew that far higher efficiencies could be achieved by adding a door to his fireplace, but he came from an Anglican tradition that valued seeing the flames, and he believed that an open flame fire was good for health. He vigorously opposed the Germanic tradition of closing the firebox, even though closed fireboxes used far less wood, and were badly needed by lower-income families who not afford 20 to 30 cords of wood each winter like he could. Ben Franklin’s America was one full of immigrants who often banded together to promote their own cultural beliefs, and the technological knowledge that they brought from their homelands. In many cases, America was the place where innovation could flourish, freed from the stifling ancient traditions of Europe. To this day, one reason high-efficiency designs have not caught 14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MAY/JUNE 2017

on in America is that we have such abundant wood supplies. But it’s also because some technology does not get adopted, even when it makes all the sense in the world. In Europe, high-efficiency and low-emission masonry and tile stoves were becoming widespread in the 1800s. Why didn’t the culture of masonry stoves cross the pond to the U.S.? Was it just the abundance of wood in the New World compared to Europe? One expert believes that the highly skilled masons who made these stoves were in such demand in Europe that virtually none immigrated to the U.S. To this day, masonry stoves occupy a small niche among energy experts and green builders. Their demand is small enough that the U.S. EPA couldn’t justify the resources to establish a certification program, hindering their sale in some states. The Masonry Heater Association has been begging to be regulated, and is finally in the process. Today, mostly as a result of EPA regulations, many American wood stoves are some of the most efficient and cleanest in the world. These regulations require emission control systems that are not as strictly required in most other countries. But while our stove industry continues to improve stove technology, some companies exploit loopholes and unregulated areas, giving rise to a generation of terribly polluting outdoor wood boilers and exempt, unregulated wood stoves. Ideology may again be one of the greatest threats to residential wood heating, and all renewables. If the Trump administration undermines renewable energy policies, there may be less momentum to make our stoves even cleaner and more efficient. Other countries are investing in the future, in cleaner and more efficient renewable technology, including high-efficiency stoves and boilers. If the Trump administration bets on the past—coal and other fossil fuels—our country will be left behind. States can pick up some of the slack, but effective national emission regulations are good for industry, consumers and the environment. Many states are committed to advancing pellet stove and boiler technology, particularly the Northeast. But will that be enough to help the U.S. pellet stove and boiler community build the infrastructure necessary for this technology to take off ? Author: John Ackerly President, Alliance for Green Heat





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Newman appointed to NIST-MEP National Advisory Board Matt Newman, director of business management at Covanta, has been appointed Newman to the advisory board of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Newman will join a team of 10 manufacturing professionals nationwide chosen to provide advice and guidance to NISTMEP. The board is expected to assist in identifying proactive actions that will enable small manufacturers to successfully address and implement changes in technology and the business environment in the future. In his current position at Covanta, Newman is responsible for all business mat-


ters pertaining to the financial management and public affairs initiatives of Covanta Tulsa, an energy-from-waste facility that serves the city of Tulsa, neighboring communities and area businesses. Newman is also charged with leading special projects that advance Covanta’s strategic growth strategy in the U.S. His career has focused on business development, turnaround projects, modernization initiatives and sustainability, leveraging and improving energy conversion assets, management of construction projects and mission-critical initiatives. Boivin named president of Northeast Wood Products Mohegan Holding Company LLC has named Mark Boivin as president of Northeast


Wood Products. In this position, Boivin will act as corporate liaison to the Northeast Wood Products board of directors, and will develop, implement, monitor and measure strategic plans; identify opportunities to improve projected returns; develop and manage budgets; and negotiate company agreements. Boivin succeeds Guy Mozzicato, who has been named managing director of the organization. “We are thrilled to have Mark join the Northeast Wood Products executive team,” said Jeannette Ziegler, chief operating officer for Mohegan Holding Company. “We are confident that Mark’s experience and background in the renewable energy business will allow Northeast Wood Products to grow and thrive into new regions.” Boivin brings to the role over 14 years of experience in leading manufacturing, chemical, and renewable energy businesses. Most recently, he served as CEO of Wood-


A Salesperson of the Year award was presented to Ryan Puckett, area manager at Henderson, Colorado-based Power Screening LLC. Puckett is the first two-time winner of this award, which originated in 2008 and recognizes the Komptech Americas dealer representative with the highest total machine sales volume each year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ryanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leadership skills and accomplishments with the Komptech product line are all that you could ask for in a dealer,â&#x20AC;? said Komptech Senior Area Sales Manager, Todd Dunderdale. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Year after year, Ryan has demonstrated an ability to build customer relationships and sell a wide Brandon Lepsys, & Mike Smith, & Keith Hennen range of product types into the marketplace, Ryan Puckett Todd Dunderdale which is a testament to his work ethic and dedication.â&#x20AC;? Komptech names employee Mike Smith, sales representative at Caliaward winners Komptech Americas recognized the fornia-based Bejac Corp., was honored with achievements of three exceptional individu- the first annual Spirit of Komptech, award als during a recent company customer ap- which was created in memory of Komptechâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s late founder, Josef Heissenberger. This preciation event. Fuels Companies in Quincy, Massachusetts, for three years, where he merged and led two companies to launch a renewable energy business focused on supply chains of biomass from the U.S. to Europe. Prior, he served as vice president at Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts.

distinction recognizes the dealer representative who best demonstrates the ideals and passion of Komptech. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mikeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s willingness to always go above and beyond to support his customers, coupled with his vast product knowledge and passion for the industry is exemplary,â&#x20AC;? said Dunderdale. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He embodies what this award is all about and we could not have a better representative as the inaugural recipient.â&#x20AC;? The award for Service Technician of the Year was presented to Keith Hennen, owner of Hennen Equipment in Chaska, Minnesota. Hennen is a two-time winner of this award, which recognizes service excellence, technical expertise and an unwavering commitment to the industry. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Keith is a true professional with an outstanding work ethic and deep knowledge of the Komptech product line,â&#x20AC;? said Garrett Lapsys, Komptech are a sales manager. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He works closely with his customers to consistently provide reliable


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support and does whatever it takes to make sure their equipment is running smoothly.” BTEC appoints new technical engagement manager BTEC is pleased to welcome David Bancroft as its new technical engagement Bancroft manager. David has a broad range of experiences in government, nonprofits, and renewable energy over a 30-year career. In addition to augmenting BTEC's management team, he will be the lead on technical projects, including completing BTEC’s Commercial Thermal Efficiency Protocol, the first U.S. efficiency test standard for commercial-sized biomass boilers.

Through his experiences in the wood energy sector and association management, David will also be looking for new technical areas in which BTEC can engage. His work in developing technical codes and standards will help move the industry forward towards higher efficiencies, gain recognition for biomass thermal as a clean form of energy, and engage new industry stakeholders in the high-performance building and engineering communities. David has served in executive roles in multiple environmental and energy nonprofits, including the Council for Environmental Affairs, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Environmental Business Action Coalition, American Consulting Engineering Council, Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Council of Great Lakes Governors. He was also director of Washington, D.C., relations for the University of Wis-

BIOMASS to ENERGY ProcessBarron is there every step of the way.

consin Foundation. He is also the author of Obama Green, an examination of President Barack Obama’s environmental leadership and the policies implemented during the first two years of his administration. He has also been appointed to numerous environmental boards by the governor of Maryland. He holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and a master’s degreein technology and policy from Washington University in St. Louis. PHG Energy rebrands to Aries Clean Energy PHG Energy has rebranded itself and changed its name to Aries Clean Energy, in a move to introduce an expanding future for the gasification company, which has already installed multiple commercial energy projects. “The old name, PHG Energy,

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worked well for us when we basically offered industrial fuel gas conversion equipment,” said CEO Greg Bafalis. “By design, we have evolved into a clean energy and sustainable waste disposal company.” The company holds eight patents in the biomass and biosolids gasification field, and has deployed those for both industry and city governments. Aries Clean Energy’s most recent installation was commissioned in late 2016, and cleanly converts a mixture of commercial wood waste, municipal biosolids and scrap tires to electricity. The company deployed the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit in that project. “Our downdraft and fluidized bed gasification projects have proven themselves viable with over 50,000 hours of commercial production,” Bafalis said. “Putting these clean and sustainable energy innovations to work in more locations, and bringing some of

our latest research and development efforts to the marketplace this year, are going to be exciting for our company. We believe the name Aries Clean Energy and the new pulsar icon logo clearly say energy, innovation and commitment to sustainability.” 2017 National Bioenergy Day planned for October The fifth annual National Bioenergy Day will be held Oct. 18, an event that aims to unite businesses, organizations, stakeholders and communities across the country that support bioenergy, as well as showcase its benefits and educate the public on how it works. The goal of National Bioenergy Day is to increase awareness that, in addition to serving as a major domestic energy source, bioenergy generates tens of thousands of jobs, many of them in rural communities,

and industry stakeholders work together to keep American forests healthy, putting organic byproducts like forest trimmings, industry byproducts and agricultural residuals to good use. “This year, our focus will be on the role of bioenergy in a larger forest products economy that promotes forest health,” said Carrie Annand, Biomass Power Association vice president of external affairs. “We invite you to participate by holding a facility tour, panel discussion or other event focused on bioenergy and its many benefits.”

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



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LOCAL ENERGY: District Energy St. Paul combusts roughly 250,000 tons of locally sourced urban wood waste in a CHP system to provide district heat to more than 200 buildings in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, plus 300 residential homes, townhomes and small residential public housing complexes. PHOTO: DISTRICT ENERGY ST. PAUL



At the Intersection of Biomass &

Urban Ecology

In downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, District Energy St. Paul continues to find new ways to innovate through increased efficiency and biomass utilization. BY RON KOTRBA


n spring 2015, Minnesota’s capital city of nearly 300,000 people, Saint Paul, launched what it calls the EcoDistrict, a four-block section of downtown along the Mississippi Riverfront designed to educate people on the benefits of environmentalism and showcase Saint Paul’s energy innovation. The EcoDistrict features multiple solar installations, district energy, heat recovery, combined heat and power (CHP), composting programs, and other renewable energy and advanced technology solutions. “With over half of the world’s population currently living in urban areas, cities are critical players in the fight to address climate change,” says Chris Coleman, Saint Paul’s mayor since 2006. “We need to engage the public in a meaningful way, and to create hands-on tools for people to explore how companies and organizations within our city are advancing ideas and solutions.” According to the city, the EcoDistrict is part of a national effort to focus urban planning on sustainable development and to create places within a city in which environmental principles are integrated into spaces where people live, work and play. EcoDistrict partners include the city of Saint Paul, District Energy St. Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul RiverCentre and

Xcel Energy Center, and Visit Saint Paul. In the EcoDistrict, multiple solar photovoltaic (PV) collectors contribute electricity to the Science Museum, a parking ramp, an electric vehicle charging station, and can also send electrons back to the grid for use around the city. PV solar panels are different from solar thermal technology, which converts heat from the sun into hot water for thermal energy. For solar thermal, a pump pushes water through pipes in the solar panels, and the hot water returns to inside the building. The water flows in a continuous loop, getting heated, distributed and used, and then the lower-temperature water returns to the rooftop panels to be heated back up. The installation on the Saint Paul RiverCentre generates hot water for the building, and the extra hot water is sent into a citywide grid of pipes for use in other buildings—part of the district energy system.

District Energy St. Paul

According to a 2012 paper by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, more than 5,800 district energy systems operating in the U.S. today serve roughly 7 percent of commercial buildings, downtown districts, campuses, military bases, research facilities, and even some residential locations.



SUNNY ADDITION: Although the energy provided by District Energy St. Paul’s solar installations is small compared to biomass’s contribution, it’s all part of the utility’s diverse mix of renewable energies and efficiencies. PHOTO: DISTRICT ENERGY ST. PAUL

Launched as a demo project in 1983, DESP—a public-private partnership between the city of Saint Paul, the state of Minnesota, U.S. DOE, and the downtown business community—was the city’s response to the energy crises of the 1970s. DESP is said to have been built from the vision of Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer, who served as mayor 1976’90. Under Latimer’s leadership, the city lobbied

state and federal governments for assistance in adopting technology developed in Europe that could solve the city’s heating problems. Using the expertise of Hans Nyman, DESP’s first president, the system was designed to be energy-efficient and fuel-flexible. The utility that eventually became DESP was originally established a century ago, and relied solely on coal. As the demo project launched in 1983,

one of the first transitions was from steam to hot water, followed by incorporating natural gas into its coal-dominated fuel mix. Nina Axelson, the vice president of public relations for DESP, says first-generation district energy systems relied on once-through steam, but recovery was difficult. “Secondgeneration systems recoup some energy from the condensate line,” which was an improvement, but later-generation systems utilize hot water, which she says enables a continuous loop. Water is sent out from the plant at 250 degrees Fahrenheit where it travels via underground piping to customer buildings. Heat exchangers help transfer the heat to the indoor environment as needed, and the water received back at the plant comes in at around 160 degrees, Axelson says. Newer systems—third- and fourth-generation iterations—are even more efficient, as they send out lower-temperature water, since the often newly constructed buildings served are higher-efficiency, lower-energy structures. “These new buildings may not need 200-degree water because they are better insulated and have a better energy profile,” Axelson

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says. “High-efficiency buildings are designed so their energy demand is less, so production and distribution are programed in district energy systems to meet the lower temperature point needed.” Today, DESP boasts the largest hot water district system in the U.S., serving more than 200 buildings with heating in downtown Saint Paul, plus 300 residential homes, townhomes and small residential public housing complexes, Axelson says, through 42 miles of supply and return piping. The system circulates 1 million gallons of water per hour, with a supply temperature of 250 degrees in the winter and 190 degrees in the summer. DESP heats nearly 32 million square feet of indoor space throughout Saint Paul. In 1993, 10 years after the DESP’s heating system startup, the utility began offering cooling service to downtown buildings. Today, 60 percent of downtown is connected to a district cooling system. DESP produces chilled water and distributes it through underground pipes to buildings where the chilled water removes heat from the internal spaces, cooling the air. The heat removed from the buildings is cap-


BIOMASS POWERHOUSE: The St. Paul Cogeneration facility uses biomass to produce about 65 MW of thermal energy for District Energy St. Paul and 33 MW of electricity. PHOTO: DISTRICT ENERGY ST. PAUL

tured in the return water and piped back to the plant for chilling. DESP serves more than 100 buildings with cooling in downtown Saint Paul through 13 miles of supply and return piping. DESP circulates 2.5 million gallons of chilled water per hour, with a supply temperature of 42 degrees. Chilled water is produced at night using off-peak electricity and stored in two large thermal storage tanks.

Axelson says DESP has an 80 percent market share for heating in Saint Paul’s central business district, and a 65 percent share for cooling. Xcel Energy is its main competitor, but it’s also a partner since DESP buys electricity from the utility and, through a power purchase agreement, sells much of the electricity generated at its CHP plant, named St. Paul Cogeneration, back to Xcel Energy.

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SOLID MARKET SHARE: Today District Energy St. Paul has an 80 percent market share for heating in Saint Paul’s central business district and a 65 percent share for cooling. PHOTO: DISTRICT ENERGY ST. PAUL

In 1997, DESP began cofiring wood chips with coal, Axelson says, but “the most substantial shift was when we started up the cogeneration unit in 2003,” she adds. In 2003, DESP commissioned a CHP system fueled by urban wood waste. “The boiler was by Foster Wheeler and the turbine by GE-Thermodyn,” Axelson says, adding that Trigen-Cinergy Solutions was the original business partner to Ever-Green Energy for development and ownership of the St. Paul Cogeneration facility. “This ownership stake has since been acquired by DTE [Energy Resources through its subsidiary DTE St. Paul LLC],” she says. Ever-Green Energy serves as the operator and manager, and it oversaw design and construction of the facility. A CHP system combusts fuel to create steam that pushes a turbine. While the leftover steam does not have enough energy to be effective in the turbine again, plenty of thermal energy remains and is captured for its heating value. St. Paul Cogeneration produces about 65 megawatts (MW) of thermal energy for DESP and approximately 33 MW of electricity. Up to 25 MW of this biomass power and 153,000 MW-hours are supplied to the local electric utility—enough electric supply for up to 20,000 homes. The CHP system consumes about 800 to 1,000 tons of wood waste per day, averaging about 250,000 tons per year, says Jeff Guillemette, biomass fuel manager for Environmental Wood Supply, which supplies wood to St. Paul Cogeneration. Axelson says biomass provides 90 percent of the fuel to the cogen boiler. “The heat captured from the cogeneration process only makes up approximately 40 to 50 percent of our overall heating load,” she says. “The rest is sourced from natural gas boilers.” St. Paul Cogeneration states that natural gas is mixed with the wood chips in the boiler to increase the combustion temperature and add stability. According to DESP, St. Paul Cogeneration is the largest wood-fired CHP plant serving a district energy system in the U.S. 26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MAY/JUNE 2017

PROFILE¦ Biomass Procurement

EWS was formed by Ever-Green Energy and DTE St. Paul LLC as the biomass procurement arm of St. Paul Cogeneration, about a year after the CHP system went into operation. “They had issues with procuring enough wood locally,” Guillemette says. “That went on for more than a year, if not longer, and then the decision was made to take ownership of procuring wood and to get more aggressive with our own equipment to do offsite grinding. The processing yard was already in place, but the mechanism to procure wood locally wasn’t there. That’s when EWS was created. They built relationships and a network to capture the offsite grinding.” Guillemette says while some of the regional urban wood waste in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul was utilized for mulch and other purposes, much of it was truly a waste—going to construction and demolition landfills. “We work in a 50-mile radius with an offsite grinding crew to capture as much wood waste as we can,” he says, adding that EWS has built a network of 40 to 50 municipalities from which EWS routinely procures biomass. “We have a tree brush drop-off for residents,” Guillemette says. “At some locations, we grind once a year, but at others maybe we do three to four grinds a year. It depends on volume.” Then there is a main yard, Guillemette says, where wood waste is collected from industrial or commercial companies that do tree removal, trimming, land clearing and refuse disposal. “In addition, we work in an area outside the 50-mile radius with subcontractors, some of the larger cities there, and we charge a mobilization fee to make that more cost-effective for us,” he says. That covers the cost to move EWS’s equipment to the site and back to the wood yard. “It’s expensive to move tub grinders and wheel loaders 75 miles away,” Guillemette says. “The city or private wood yard pay the fees. The wood is usually a ball of yarn when we show up—a big pile. They would usually pay a tipping fee to get rid of it. They all have options other than us, but they’re all more expensive than our mobilization fee.” Finally, a smaller percentage of waste wood EWS captures for St. Paul Cogeneration comes from loggers as forest residues. “We accept that material as well,” Guillemette says, “but our main focus is to capture as much urban wood waste as we can.” After the material is ground, it is transported to the wood yard and piled. After about two weeks, the wood is ground or screened once more before being loaded onto trailers by wheel loaders at one of three ramps throughout the wood yard, and trucked three miles to St. Paul Cogeneration. “There’s nothing too fancy at the wood yard,” Guillemette says. “There’s no dryer, no covered inventory, it’s all open to the elements. The moisture content varies throughout the year, but on average it is 35 percent.” He adds that the boilers are robust enough to handle variation in moisture content. The trucks drop off the ground wood waste using walking floor trailers, and the material is conveyed into one of two silos that are filled throughout the day. The plant is continuously drawing from the silos to combust roughly 1,000 tons a day.




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The Future

While DESP doesn’t have a hard transition date as to when natural gas was introduced into the fuel mix, Guillemette says from 1983 to 2003, coal was used 12 months out of the year. “Now we’re only usMAY/JUNE 2017 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 27

LOCALLY SOURCED: A vast majority of the biomass consumed at the St. Paul Cogeneration facility is procured within a 50-mile radius by Environmental Wood Supply, which built a network of more than 40 municipalities across the area. PHOTO: DISTRICT ENERGY ST. PAUL

ing coal for four to five months of the year,” he says. Axelson adds that DESP’s coal use is down to below 10 percent of the utility’s previous permitted level. “The only coal we’ve used this past winter was on test runs,” she says. “Last winter we used less coal than any previous year. We’re on the home stretch in getting off coal.” In late 2015, DESP announced plans to completely eliminate the use of coal for its heating system after the 2020-’21 season, further reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 27 percent, or 21,000 tons. The fuel transition is not mandated, DESP states, “but driven by


efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase system resilience, and deliver a value proposition that is in line with customer demands.” Ken Smith, CEO and president of DESP, says, “It is now time to phase out these assets and use this opportunity to modernize and diversify energy sources. Cities are the largest contributor to energy use and GHG emissions. It is our responsibility as a community energy system to find innovative solutions that lessen our impact, improve local resilience, and help create a city prepared for the future. The elimination of coal is an important step in the

evolution of our business, and we are already looking ahead to our next opportunity to save energy and reduce climate impacts.” Mayor Coleman adds, “In the face of a changing climate, the city of Saint Paul relies on its service partners to continue improving their environmental performance and deliver the next great energy solutions that reduce our carbon footprint and make us more resilient to changes in our environment and our economy.” To eliminate coal entirely, DESP plans for additional diversification to incorporate greater efficiencies, emerging technologies, and more renewable energy sources. Primary op-


portunities include incorporation of additional waste heat from the CHP system and waste heat capture from the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s systems. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have specifics,â&#x20AC;? Axelson says when asked exactly how DESP will eliminate coal. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an ongoing look at optimization of the plant. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot of moving parts. The cogen unit is more fixed, but weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking at optimizing elements of that as we look at our heating assets. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a big rangeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;cooling tower recovery vs. flue gas recovery, lowertemperature sources, or the ability to put a low-temperature loop on the system along the river, new construction developments. Right now, everythingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in the hopper.â&#x20AC;? As for what companies DESP is working with in its latest efficiency and optimization efforts, Axelson says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;All of our current planning is internal. Once specifics are determined, we will integrate partners.â&#x20AC;? With a new U.S. president in office and what seems an entire administration that, at best, is skeptical of climate change, Axelson says DESP remains committed to providing reliable energy from renewable, efficient and cost-effective sources. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We will not be changing our commitment to sunset coal, because this decision is the right option for our customers and the community,â&#x20AC;? she explains. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There is lots of excitement in the market to develop more wind and solar, which are important but variable sources. We hope policymakers and investors continue to see the importance of adding renewable sources to the baseload profile, which is a great fit for biomass, biomethane, combined-heat-and-power, and geoexchange projects that use the latent energy in sewer systems. We need to keep looking at readily available, localized resources that can bolster our energy systems as well as support development and jobs for the local economy. There is room for multiple solutions to solve our complex energy challenges and the more flexible and integrated we are, the more consumers and the environment will benefit.â&#x20AC;? Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine 218-745-8347

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DIVERSION DYNAMICS In Southington, Connecticut, two biogas projects are a testimony to both the catalyzing impact of new organics diversion laws, and their limits. BY TIM PORTZ

A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE: The Quantum Biopower anaerobic digester in Southington, Connecticut, is the kind of facility lawmakers were envisioning when they drafted the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organics diversion laws. For similar facilities to gain traction, their developers will have to complement the policy with projects built upon sound financial fundamentals. PHOTO: QUANTUM BIOPOWER






very year in New York, about 3.9 million tons of food waste are generated, nearly 400 pounds for every man, woman and child living there. That’s according to a recent report commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “Benefit-Cost Analysis of Potential Food Waste Diversion Legislation,” written by Industrial Economics, says that of that


massive volume, just 3 percent is diverted from the state’s landfills. The result is that the materials consume precious landfill space, decomposes and releases methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent that carbon dioxide. The report is the most recent contribution to an ongoing effort undertaken by cities and municipalities to better manage the organic materials currently collected with other municipal waste, and reduce the

negative impacts they have on landfills and greenhouse gas emissions. Some states and municipalities already have organic diversion laws on the books, while others, such as New York, are weighing the pros and cons of the policies, and their impacts on the generators of these feedstocks, their haulers and the industries that will ultimately be called upon to convert them into feed products, compost or energy, including biogas facilities. In July 2011, the state of Connecticut passed Public Act 11-217, possibly the nation’s very first organic waste diversion law. The law required generators of more than 104 tons of food waste per year to divert those wastes to recycling facilities, if within a 20-mile proximity of the point of generation. In July 2013, Public Act 13-285 was passed, reducing the hurdle to 52 tons a year, taking effect in 2020. Quantum Biopower is the first facility in Connecticut built to handle the food waste detailed in the state’s diversion law. The plant, located in Southington, was designed to process 40,000 tons annually, generating 1.2 MW of power that will be sold back to the city under a 20-year power purchase agreement. According to Brian Paganini, Quantum vice president and managing director, Quantum has been involved in material management and handling for 35 years, and started looking at ways to better handle and maximize the organic fraction of those materials in the mid-2000s, including anaerobic digestion (AD) technologies that and his team observed during trips to Germany and Switzerland. “Right around 2010 and ‘11, we started to pay more attention to the organics diversion law that was coming on line in Connecticut, and that was a piece of our decision to go full bore into an anaerobic digestion project on our site in Southington,” Paganini says. Paganini is only willing to call Connecticut’s legislation “a piece” of Quan-




FOOD WASTE DISTRIBUTION: NYSERDA's Benefit Cost Analysis of Potential Food Waste Diversion Legislation indicates there are currently 1,377 food donation facilities in the state, 44 composting facilities, 14 anaerobic digestion plants, 10 waste-to-energy facilities and 27 landfills. SOURCE: NYSERDA

tumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s go-forward decision, shedding some light on the impact that organics diversion laws both have and do not have on catalyzing biogas project development. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Was this something that, when we talked with our financiers, they said â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hey, this law is in place, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be happy to fully fund your project?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; No.,â&#x20AC;? he says. Rather, Paganini credits the law with starting the conversation with both the food waste generators and refuse haulers. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Not only do we have the food waste diversion bill, but weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got this higher goal of a 60 percent diversion rate by 2024, and everyone knows that if weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to achieve that, the best way is going to be to focus on organics, and get them out of the waste stream,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was those factors, together, that really helped us look favorably at the project dynamics.â&#x20AC;?

Another organics processing facility, Turning Earth Central Connecticut, is under development in the same community. In 2014, the company received permission to build a dry fermentation, high-solids AD and in-vessel composting facility, and has been working to move the project through the permitting phase since. In February, Turning Earth received its permit to construct and operate, and it plans to open during the middle of next year.

Turning Earth

Amy McCrae Kessler, head of environmental and regulatory affairs, founded Turning Earth before Connecticut passed its organics diversion laws. â&#x20AC;&#x153;At the time of our founding, the laws were not on the books,â&#x20AC;? she says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When we were de-







ciding where these projects made the most sense, we went through a process of looking at what would be important drivers. One of them was finding a state with really progressive environmental policies.” The Turning Earth team also worked through a checklist of other project drivers it felt were important, including electricity and gas prices, landfill tipping fees and population densities. Looking for loca-

tions where all three of these were favorable led them back to the Northeast. “The diversion laws came after we had already decided on these areas, and I think it was a great validation that we had made the right choice in our assessment of the regulatory environment that we were going into,” she says. McCrae Kessler and Paganini recognize that many of the law’s early supporters

had hoped its passage would have delivered more completed and operating biogas facilities by now. “There is a level of frustration from the folks that were behind the initial efforts to get these laws passed, because it has taken a long time to see an impact in terms of additional infrastructure being built and coming online,” McCrae Kessler says. For Paganini, however, the expectation that the law’s passage would immediately yield an array of processing facilities across the state was unrealistic, and ignored the unique permitting challenge facilities like Quantum Biopower and Turning Earth present to regulatory bodies. “Let’s face it, these are complex projects to permit,” he says. “We are asking our regulatory bodies to permit a solid waste facility, an energy facility—in some cases a discharge facility—that may emit something in to the air. You are asking a lot of these agencies to permit quite a bit of stuff in one package,” he says. In the Northeast, this process can take well over a year, and Paganini is quick to point out that once permitting is finalized and construction is completed, a plant may take six months or more to achieve the production levels articulated in the project’s financial assumptions. Marshalling some early projects along this pathway, and bringing them online, is vital if the organics diversion laws is to achieve the kind of momentum its proponents are hoping for. “It was the point at which we cut the ribbon on the plant and became operational that we got people’s attention,” Paganini says. “Now, the mandate becomes real. You’ve got interest from the generators and the haulers, because there is a destination point for organics in the state, and that is when they started to act, quite frankly,” Paganini says.

Piece of the Puzzle

Both Paganini and McCrae Kessler point out that the state’s organics diversion



law is just one piece of an intricate puzzle that developers are working to assemble in order to create an environment where projects like theirs can flourish. “In states that have food diversion programs, typically, there are other bolt-on incentives, such as clean energy offtake programs, to incentivize digester developments,” Paganini says. Still, while some states have net-metering laws that bolster the energy revenue from these projects, they are not yet in place in every market. “The energy revenue is a really important piece,” says McCrae Kessler. “Energy contracts are really important, and while Massachusetts has done a great job with net metering, Connecticut is really lagging behind. For us, that has certainly been an issue.” All of the states with food waste diversion laws on the books are hopeful that the laws will result in a continued increase in the amount of organic material diverted from landfills over time. In some instances, escalators are built into the laws via a gradual reduction in generation thresholds. Connecticut’s law applies to generators of 104 tons per year now, but by 2020, will apply to anyone producing more than one ton per week. Vermont’s organics diversion law has the state aiming for a total ban on organics in landfills by 2020. The goals outlined in these laws will require project developers to navigate factors that the laws don’t and can’t address. Organics diversion laws mandate that the generators of food waste divert those materials away from landfills once a local processing facility comes online. But the law does not state that generators must use the nearest facility, nor does it mandate a certain tipping fee. Further, the laws do not guarantee energy sales at certain prices, and they make no provisions about the sale of the nutrients harvested from facilities like those of Quantum Biopower or Turning Earth. Achieving the intended goals of these diversion laws will require biogas

operators to build facilities on a strong foundation of project fundamentals, commission them efficiently, and operate them consistently, once they come online. Organics diversion laws cannot guarantee any of that will happen. Still, developers like Paganini and McCrae Kessler find them invaluable as they work to get Connecticut’s first processing sites up and running.

Adds McRae Kessler, “I think organics diversion laws are just one spoke on a wheel of legislation that will ultimately result in the kind of build out people are looking for.” Author: Tim Portz Executive Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4969



A First in 20 YEARS Though a new waste-to-energy plant hadn’t been built in the U.S. in nearly two decades, the Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 is proving that it can still be done economically, innovatively and environmentally friendly. BY ANNA SIMET


he majority of the approximate 71 waste-toenergy (WTE) plants still operating in the U.S. at the end of 2015 were built in the late 1970s and ‘80s, at a rapid pace. The desire for new waste disposal solutions and alternative energy were at an all-time high, and the passage of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act solidified the financial case for these plants, mandating utilities to long-term contracts at attractive prices. The fleet of U.S. WTE plants is spread across 20 states, the majority in the Northeast and Florida, collectively capable of generating 2.3 gigawatts of power annually. The U.S. EIA estimates that these facilities combusted 29 million tons of MSW in 2015, 26 million tons of which was used to generate electricity, with the remaining being recycled, composted or landfilled. While a few have undergone expansions over the years, industry growth has remained stagnant until just recently. Florida’s Palm Beach County just became home to the first WTE plant built and brought online in 20 years, increasing the number of operating plants in the state to 12. 36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MAY/JUNE 2017

The 95-MW Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2, or REF 2, was the result of an extensive investigation regarding the county’s solid waste authority’s (SWA) next 20-year plan would entail, according to design and construction project manager Patrick Carroll. Carroll, who has been with the authority for 21 years, explains that the SWA recently came to the end of a $1 billion capital program. “So, we’ve been very

busy,” he says. That’s evidenced by the renewable energy park the SWA has created, consisting of two waste-to-energy plants, a landfill gas facility and a biosolids pelletization operation, all of which is colocated with a bird rookery. The SWA has mapped out what the next two decades of handling the county's waste will look like, and its most recent undertaking—construction of REF 2—has extended the county landfill by 20 years.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: The Palm Beach Solid Waste Authority’s Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 came online in 2015, joining an existing waste-to-energy plant and a landfill gas-powered biosolids processing facility. It was built to well-exceed the county’s needs, and is currently taking in waste from neighboring counties. PHOTO: SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

REF 1 and REF 2

The first WTE plant built by the SWA, a 62-MW plant known as REF 1, came online in 1989, Carroll says. “Back in the midand late ‘80s, there was a pretty big wave of construction of facilities of this type, especially in Florida,” he says. The refuse-derived fuel WTE facility—different from a mass burn facility at which waste is not presorted or treated—is operated by the Palm Beach Resource Recovery Corp., a subsidiary of

Babcock and Wilcox Corp. REF 1 processes in excess of 850,000 tons of MSW per year, and without it, the SWA’s landfill would close by 2025. An on-site biosolids processing facility (BPF) accepts wastewater treatment residuals from six local wastewater treatment facilities, drying the material into saleable fertilizer. Heat required for the drying process is derived from captured landfill gas that is compressed and sent to the BPF, an opera-

tion that came online in 2009. “It’s a great use for the landfill gas,” Carroll says. Finally, there is REF 2. “It’s the first green field project built from scratch in the U.S. in 20 years,” Carroll says. “The genesis of this whole project was long-term planning, which most public agencies do. Back in 2005-’06, we started looking hard at our 20-year plan—one was ending, so we were working on developing our next 20 years. We’ve always prided ourselves being on MAY/JUNE 2017 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 37


Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 Role

Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County The Babcock & Wilcox Co. (B&W) KBR Inc. B&W Power Generation Group ARCADIS

Plant owner Construction consortium leader; supplied combustion technology and major plant design Construction, engineering, and balance-of-plant equipment Operations and maintenance services provider under 20-year contract Owner's engineer; provided design criteria, environmental permitting, and monitored construction

B&W KVB-Enertec

Supplied continuous emissions monitoring system

B&W Volund CDM Smith Inc.

Supplied Ovation distributed control system Civil works, buildings, wastewater treatment, and fire systems subcontractor


Supplied Ovation distributed control system

General Electric

Supplied turbine and generator set


Supplied refuse cranes and crane automation system

SPX Cooling Technologies Inc.

Supplied air-cooled condenser


ALL ON BOARD: Many different companies were on the project team of REF 2, which took two years to construct. SOURCE: B&W

the cutting-edge, and we looked at a lot of things, including expanding the landfill.” If nothing had been done, the landfill would reach capacity by 2025. “We looked at a lot of different options—anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis, all of things out there,” Carroll says. “Through that detailed analysis, we decided that we would double down on WTE, and build this new facility.” REF 1 takes in curbside garbage, but before it’s sent into the boilers, it enters a front-end process that includes chopping, screening and removing noncombustibles. “The idea is that you get a higher Btu value fuel,” Carroll says. “We abandoned that process for the simpler and more efficient mass burn—we throw it all in the boiler and burn


it, then sift out the recyclables out of the ash and the noncombustibles. That was one major change with REF 2.” In a nutshell, at REF 2, MSW collected from homes and businesses in Palm Beach County—as well as a neighboring county— is delivered to transfer stations, and then transported via truck to the renewable energy park, for processing at either REF 1 or REF 2. Once waste is unloaded into a large pit in the refuse building, crane operators manage the waste deliveries from the control room, removing large objects that could potentially jam the processing equipment. MSW is delivered to the boilers through charging hoppers and is fed onto B&W Volund DynaGrate traveling grates, where it is

combusted. Process heat is converted into steam, which powers a turbine generate to create power that is sold to Florida Power & Light. One of the main components that helped move the project forward was installation of the most cutting-edge pollution control system available, according to Carroll. “We have the lowest permit limits of any WTE facility in the country, on REF 2,” he says. “One of the biggest features we incorporated is selective catalytic reduction (SRC) for NOx control. To my knowledge, we’re the only WTE facility in the U.S. that has employed that technology. It’s used extensively in coal-fired plants and in Europe, but as far as the WTE industry in the U.S., it’s

THE ORIGINAL: Palm Beach County's first waste-to-energy plant, known as REF 1, is a 62-MW plant that came online in 1989. PHOTO: SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

the first. Primarily, it allows us to get down to very low NOx limits. The other components of the air pollution control system are fairly standard, but the most up-to-date. All these things in total, allow us to get down to those low permit limits.” Following the combustion process, ash is conveyed to a sizeable ash management building where it is processed indoors. There, a rotary magnet and Eddy current separator removes ferrous and nonferrous metals from the ash to be resold on the scrap metal market. “We have extensive metal recovery,” Carroll says. “The facility is owned by the county, but it’s operated by a B&W subsidiary, and part of the contractual commitment to us is that they have to re-

cover 90 percent of the ferrous mental, and 85 percent of the nonferrous metal.” Bottom ash and fly ash are combined, and what remains is landfilled, at least for now. “We are currently working with the University of Florida, trying to develop some alternative uses for ash, primarily in areas like road base and concrete supplement aggregate,” Carroll says. “We’re working on those, but still a few years away. There are some research that needs to be done, as well as some convincing that needs to be done with the regulatory authorities before that will be something widely accepted. It’s been done in Europe for many years, and I think it’s just a matter of time before it’s happening in a big way here.”

In another bid to make REF 2 as environmentally friendly as possible, the other major change in REF 2 from REF 1 was its unique water conservation and recycling system. “We wanted to pay particular attention to water usage,” Carroll explains. “Believe it or not, even in south Florida, water is scarce.” REF 2 employs a rainwater capture system that encompasses 11 buildings and over 270,000 square feet. “There is a lot of rooftop, and we collect all of the rainwater off of them,” Carroll says. “We built a 2 milliongallon storage tank, so the rain water, along with some of the process wastewater from the existing plant, is the primary source for the process water for the new plant, which

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uses no new groundwater. We also incorporated an air-cooled condensing system, and after the water goes through the turbine as steam, it recondenses back into water and is reused. These three things together supply all of the water needs for the facility, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think has been done anywhere.â&#x20AC;?

Resource, Model for Others

CLAWING BTUS: From REF 2â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pit, waste is fed by grapples into one of three boilers. These grapples can hold 9 tons of garbage, twice the capacity of one full curbside truck. PHOTO: SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY



27+(5667,5Ç&#x2022;:(62/9( /(6$875(65(08(17Ç&#x2022;  128662/87,211216 680$$PHULFD,QF:RRG'DOH,OOLQRLV   JHQH#JRVXPDFRPZZZJRVXPDFRP 40 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | MAY/JUNE 2017

Overall, the facilities collectively process over 6,000 tons of MSW per day. The new facility was built well-over the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current capacity, a strategy that not only makes the county money by importing waste from Broward County via tipping fees, but as waste generation in Palm Beach County grows, the facilities will have the ability to take it in, eventually displacing the waste being imported. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good way to use spare capacity,â&#x20AC;? Carroll says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Usually, when these things are built, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re at capacity at day one. We wanted to look forward a bit, and now weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in good shapeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re utilizing all of the capacity, but about 200,000 tons [per year] or so are being imported from outside of the county.â&#x20AC;? As for the landfillâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capacity, when REF2 came online, its projected life was extended from 2025 to 2049. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re just putting ash in, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a big difference,â&#x20AC;? Carroll says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And, we also make money off the electrical generation sales.â&#x20AC;? With design, development and construction of a sizeable, monumental project, there are all kinds of associated challenges. Carroll says that one in particular involved siting of the new facility. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We wanted the WTE facilities to be colocated for a number of obvious reasons, but in order for that to happen, we had to reclaim a dredge lake that we had dredged 25 years earlier,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We actually filled in a 15-acre lake to make the land that we used to build part of the campus on. So that was surely a challenge.â&#x20AC;? And on successes, Carroll says, without a doubt, it was putting together the right team [Figure 1]. The amazing thing was that it was the largest project ever untaken in Palm Beach County history, and it came in on time, on budget, with no major technological hurdles. It was just amazing at how well it came together.â&#x20AC;?


Unsurprisingly, the facility has attracted interest from a stream of other public agencies, from the U.S. and all over the world. “It’s been unbelievable,” Carroll says. “Especially because of all of these facilities that we have in our complex here, it’s fairly unusual. Because of that, we’ve had a lot of visitors from all over the world, and this new facility has amped that up even more.” Carroll says part of the tremendous U.S. interest is that communities that built WTE plants in the ‘80s are in the same situation the SWA found itself in 10 years ago. “They’re reaching the end of those facilities’ useful lives, so they need to make a decision—refurbish or rebuild the WTE capacity, find new landfill capacity, or do something else. There are a lot of communities that are in that situation. A lot of policymakers, and even professionals, would shy away from pursuing WTE in the past, because there was always ‘you can’t get financing, it’s too expensive, you can’t get permitting, you can’t site one,’ all typical arguments, yet this project proves that you can do that.” Carroll admits the timing was ripe to develop the project—it was undertaken at the depth of the recession. “Because of that, there wasn’t a lot of lending going on, and we could float a bond at a very favorable rate,” he says. “With no construction going on, we had tremendous pricing, and the permitting part came together because we were willing to implement the SCR, water conservation and some of these other things. It was the perfect storm—it all came together.” Regardless of the opportune time, Carroll says the new facility shows that these plants can still be built today. “It makes sense for some communities where land isn’t necessarily abundant—there are a host of factors that should be looked at—but it can be done, and it can be done environmentally consciously, and economically.”

ALL ENCLOSED: Bottom and fly ash from the combustion process is processed in an enclosed building. Ferrous and nonferrous metals are removed from the ash, and what's left is landfilled. PHOTO: SOLID WASTE AUTHORITY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY


Whether you need a tasting room, barrel storage building, or beverage processing facility, Varco Pruden builders can provide a quality building at an affordable price. And it doesn’t have to be too big or too small. Every year, Varco Pruden provides steel-framed buildings for wineries and agricultural use in custom designs and dimensions. Options include: • Custom sizes to 1/16th”, from 20’ to 250’ Wide and 30’ to 750’ Long • Wide selection of colors with long-life warranties. • Delivery as soon as 4-6 weeks, depending on complexity. • Professional installation available through VP’s nationwide network of Authorized Builders.

Author: Anna Simet Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961



The Evolving World of Wood Shredding Wood shredding activity is on the rise, as is the number of operators rethinking their plant design. BY PETER STREINIK


he intelligent reuse of wood is not a new phenomenon. As one of the world’s oldest materials, this sustainable resource has been recycled or repurposed by mankind for thousands of years, but the wood processing landscape has continued to change extensively. In the U.S. and Canada, for example, preconsumer wood waste has been virtually eliminated, but the level of wood debris in municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition (C&D) streams show there is still room for improvement. There are at least 30 million metric tons of such recoverable material available in North America annually. Wood isn’t yet being best utilized

in this respect, but awareness of the opportunity is growing. In the United Kingdom, the Wood Recyclers Association has calculated that approximately 2.8 million metric tons, or 60 percent, of the country’s waste wood is being recycled. But according to the Health and Safety Executive, that figure, along with the number of companies involved, is expected to rise. In Austria, where forestry and wood processing industries are important elements of the country’s economy, biomass is widely regarded as the most important renewable energy source, with Austria’s ratio for biomass production and utilization above average.

A lack of uniformity surrounding global analysis methods means that it’s difficult to paint a conclusive picture of wood recovery worldwide. However, wood is increasingly being acknowledged as a valuable resource that needs to be comprehensively salvaged and processed. In some parts of the world, this acknowledgement is so great, that shredding capacity actually exceeds the amount that biomass plants can take.

Market Forces Shape Plant Design

It may sound odd that extraneous forces should influence a plant’s design at an operational level, but the careful selection of a plant’s component parts can have a signifi-

CONTRIBUTION: 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).



cant impact on a wood processor’s bottom line. The design of a plant and the procurement of specific technology can be a very strategic move. It is still possible to make money from wood processing for biomass, even in countries where capacity is high. In many areas, however, gate fees are increasing, and the commodity value of the processed material has dropped. In order to achieve maximum commercial viability from wood shredding, plants must be designed for easy operation, with low running costs and maintenance simplicity in mind. This will minimize biomass production costs per ton. If the wood can be shredded without the need for post treatment, such as a screen, this further streamlines the process, not to mention the need for additional capital expenditure.

Some manufacturers have long claimed to engineer “universal” machines capable of handling varied waste streams, but investment in a one-size-fits-all solution has often meant the need for operators to compromise on results. Technological innovation, however, has brought about the ability to design truly flexible shredding systems that can proficiently handle wood before being reconfigured, in two hours or less, to process other, very different waste streams. Such versatility may prove crucial for some operators during periods of market value fluctuation, not to mention the evolving nature of the waste landscape on the whole. Few organizations now stand still in terms of the wastes they produce, which means recycling and recovery firms need to adapt.

Considerations Beyond Capacity

Moving Away From Tradition

While wood processors have long focused on the impact that a shredder’s throughputs and capacity can have on their profitability, the gradual maturity of the market means performance is now being analysed slightly differently. For instance, particle homogeneity is becoming increasingly important. The biomass market demands a fuel manufactured to a defined specification, for maximum energy value. If a shredder produces fines (dust-like, nonspecification material) as low as 5 percent, it’s possible to yield up to 20 percent more saleable biomass material per ton than traditional machines on the market, often without the need for additional screening systems. The shredder becomes an even greater revenue-generating asset, while the disposal costs associated with these unwanted outputs is also reduced. Such cost-driven criteria are extremely important when designing new wood processing plants, and when replacing outdated shredding technology on existing sites. Some operators may even decide to redesign their plant purely for these fiscal reasons, recognizing that low whole-life running costs can reap significant financial and operational efficiencies in the longer term.

Need for Flexibility

It is perhaps because of these market forces that there has been a notable increase in the demand for flexible waste shredders.

In many parts of Europe, wood processors have long operated diesel-driven mobile shredders, with often questionable noise, pollution and energy efficiency statistics. Some would argue this is because it has been the only technology available, while others would suggest it has simply been regarded as the norm—if it’s what a competitor has traditionally used, they should, too. In truth, some firms don’t need a mobile machine, as it never moves from a sole location. With static wood shredding technology as advanced as it now is, there’s no need to buy mobile equipment if it’s always going to be in one place. In plants where mobility is important, perhaps due to safety or insurance reasons, it’s still important to assess what is available in the marketplace and what best fits a processor’s needs. At the very minimum, the shredder should be supplied on tracks, with an in-built magnet and conveyor, for convenience. Electric-driven, energy-efficient options are available, which save on power consumption while minimizing the environmental impact on staff and neighboring communities. And shredders with a quiet operation, ideally below 80 decibels, should be prioritized, to protect the hearing and well-being of staff.

Fighting Fires

The wood shredding market has been blighted with a number of devastating fires

that have put personnel, the business and the wider community at grave risk. In the U.K., for example, the Health and Safety Executive is urging processors to think carefully about plant design to ensure these risks are mitigated as much as possible. Thorough cleansing regimes are imperative to minimize the level of dust on-site, and the installation of sprinkling systems throughout a plant can help combat a fire if combustible material ignites. A number of shredder manufacturers have also acknowledged the support that they can provide to control the danger. Operators should think carefully about the machinery they procure to shred their wood. In-built fire suppression systems throughout a shredder’s hopper, cutting chamber and discharge conveyor can help to prevent hot, glowing or lit material from exiting the machine, thus reducing the risk of fire. That is consideration No. 1. A slowspeed shredder, which operates with high torque to ensure throughputs aren’t compromised, is consideration No. 2. With this technology, dust levels are significantly minimized, and the potential for a spark is also reduced, which drastically lessens the risk of fire when compared to other machines. Reduced levels of airborne dust would also protect the health of personnel continually exposed to the operational conditions of wood shredding.

Complex Considerations

Of course, every wood shredding scenario is different, and the considerations an operator must make can soon feel quite complex. That said, plant design has evolved from simply thinking about getting from point A to point B. It remains crucial to manufacture a high-quality biomass product, as cost effectively as possible, but because technology has evolved, one should think beyond tradition, and look at ways to improve energy efficiency, plant safety, personnel well-being and environmental impact. Do this well, and there will be multiple opportunities to improve the bottom line along the way. Author: Peter Streinik Head of Business Unit Waste, UNTHA +43 6244 7016 65



The Komptech Multistar XL3 is known for its high throughput and adjustability, essential requirements of biomass producers. SOURCE: KOMPTECH AMERICAS

Sponsor Spotlight: Komptech Americas In 1992, Komptech developed the TopTurn, one of the industry's original European windrow turners. Today, the company has more than 40 distributors worldwide selling the company’s trademark green waste and biomass processing equipment. BY TODD DUNDERDALE


n Europe, the biomass industry is further developed due to regulations supporting green energy. As with many other recycling sectors, the U.S. market is playing catch up with the levels and technology of industries that had a 15- to 20year head start. But as with many young markets, the level for growth is exceptional. According to the Biomass resource assessment of 2012: • Biomass resources totaling just under 680 million dry tons could be made available, in a sustainable manner, each year within the U.S. by 2030.

• This is enough biomass to produce more than 54 billion gallons of ethanol (four times as much corn ethanol as the U.S. produced in 2010, or 732 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (19 percent of total U.S. power consumption in 2010). • Biomass resources are distributed widely across the U.S., ensuring that communities across America can benefit both financially and environmentally from increased biomass production. Specifically for the biomass market, Komptech has developed several machines that address specific needs for the material supplier, as well as the energy producer.

Multistar Star Screens

The in-feed system of a biomass plant determines the size of feedstock that can be supplied. If the infeed system can only handle 3-inch-minus material, any pieces outside this spec can clog up the system and back up material resulting in a shutdown. For fuel suppliers or for the plant itself, this can be regulated by processing the material through a star screen first. This will ensure that the overage pieces get removed before being fed into the system preventing shutdowns.

CONTRIBUTION: 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 Komptech Crambo 6000 ideal for shredding stumps, a great source of biomass that is difficult for many machines to process. SOURCE: KOMPTECH AMERICAS

Crambo Wood Shredder

Most U.S. customers who produce biomass use a high-speed grinder to make their product. The reason for this is that the grinder can make a small product with high throughput rates. This done at a high cost to the producer, however, with large fuel consumption and downtime. The biomass plants prefer a shredded product that has more surface area and burns hotter, creating more Btus. The Crambo also has the advantage of producing less fines, which the biomass plants prefer. As for the biomass fuel producer, the Crambo provides the benefit of low fuel consumption, as well as resistance to dirt and rock, which is found in most of their feedstock. This means biomass is supplied at a lower cost, making this type of green energy attractive.

Stonefex Stone Separator

Rocks have always been a big issue for biomass plants. Rocks do not provide any Btu value, and cause wear on the equipment. They also create a waste product

that must be removed after the burn process. For years, the biomass industry tried water bath separators, and Komptech previously produced one. However, this technology used a lot of water, which was hard on the equipment, and also created a disposal problem. The big issue was that all the wood waste that went through this type of treatment was now wet, and didn’t burn as well. Komptech engineers decided to solve this problem with the Stonefex. This machine was built to remove rocks out of biomass using air instead of water, eliminating the problems of the water baths. Komptech Americas has been providing biomass solutions in the U.S. for over 10 years. With processes learned from a 20-year head start, Komptech can provide the mobile or stationary solution for the biomass industry.

Plexus Recycling Technologies

In 2016, the industry leaders at Komptech Americas formed the company Plexus Recycling Technologies. They had

one massive goal—to bring advance recycling technologies from around the world together in systems that solve entrenched problems. In addition to Komptech Stationary equipment, Plexus Recycling Technologies is the distributor for other global recycling solutions, such as Andritz, Matthiessen, waste treatment technologies and ZenRobotics. It’s a great fit, as these companies each offer unique technologies that can be combined to form custom solutions for the biomass industry. “We formed Plexus Recycling Technologies as a platform to create the finest systems with parts from world-class companies,” says CEO Marcel Vallen. “We are constantly searching for advanced technologies to bring to the North American market.” Author: Todd Dunderdale Vice President of Marketing, Komptech Americas 720-890-9090


Solid Organic Waste Conversion in Small Communities BY BABATUNDE OLATEJU, XIAOMEI LI AND AXEL MEISEN


lberta generates approximately 4 million metric tons of solid organic waste (SOW) per year, most of which is landfilled. This waste, with significant energy content, decomposes to generate leachates and methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Conversion into valuable products would reduce the amount of SOW landfilled, take advantage of its energy content, and mitigate other environmental problems. A study was conducted to identify the most promising technologies and their providers for converting 10,000 to 100,000 tonnes of SOW per year, generated by or in the vicinity of small and medium communities in Alberta. The identification is based on Key Intelligence Parameters, reflecting desired technology and provider attributes. A numerical rank-

ing method highlighted the most promising technologies and their providers. The driving forces influencing future developments of SOW conversion technologies were ascertained. The identification yielded over 700 SOW conversion technologies and their providers falling into two broad categories: biological and thermochemical processes. The ranking method, combined with our expertise, led to an in-depth appraisal of three representative technologies. While current technologies are expected to undergo further improvements resulting in reduced costs, there is an urgent need for new technologies yielding higher-value products than heat and power.


Alberta produces the highest amount of MSW per person in Canada. organizations operate 124 active landfills (86 MSW landfills and 38 industry sites, often oil and gas related) as well as 35 waste transfer stations. About 40 percent of Albertaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current active landfills will have to close within the next 10 to 20 years due to capacity constraints. The cost for siting, constructing, and operating new landfills under current environmental regulations will be two to three times greater than existing ones. In addition, gaining social acceptance for new landfills will become increasingly difficult, due to issues such as appearance, odors, leachates, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and impact on property values.

CONTRIBUTION: 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).


CONTRIBUTION ¦ As illustrated by Figure 1, over 57 percent of MSW generated from Alberta municipalities are biodigestible materials, including compostable organics (33 percent), household hygiene products (5 percent), and papers (19 percent). These organic components are a valuable resource, rich in nutrients and energy which can potentially be recovered using biological technologies. In addition, 27 percent of plastics and noncompostable organics have significant energy and chemical values, benefits that can potentially be recovered by thermal and chemical technologies. There has been a strong trend for diverting organic MSW components from landfills, driven by environmental concerns and underpinned by improving economics of waste treatment. However, modern waste treatment facilities have been largely limited to large urban centers. For example, the city of Edmonton will divert 90 percent of its residential waste from landfills to its waste-to-biofuels facility and a high-solid anaerobic digestion facility will be constructed in 2018. There is a great need to advance waste treatment facilities that address the needs of small and medium municipalities in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada and abroad. The utilization of solid organic waste for value-added products (heat, electricity, syngas, biogas, digestate, biochar, etc.) will relieve the pressure on Alberta’s existing landfills, and thereby reduce the need for new ones. Additionally, it will mitigate substantial GHG emissions, while enhancing energy security, creating jobs, and supporting the development of Alberta’s rural communities. The purpose of the present study, commissioned by Alberta Innovates and performed in partnership with Signals Analytics Inc., was to develop high-level intelligence on currently available and emerging SOW conversion technologies, together with their products and byproducts, that have the potential to function effectively under Alberta conditions. Signals provided technology data mining expertise for the study.


The study was carried out in five steps: developing a comprehensive WANT statement, conducting a computer-based key word search, identifying key intelligence parameters (KIP), ranking the technologies, and synthesizing the results. Once steps 1 to 3 were complete, data pertaining to the over 700 technologies and technology providers were tabulated as Excel spreadsheets, together with the cor-

Waste composition from Leduc and Red Deer regions of Alberta in 2013 8% 8% Compostable Organics H.Hygiene



Paper Plastics Non-compostable Organics Metals/Glass



5% 19%


responding KIP weights and scores. A total of 135 technologies and their providers were found to be in compliance with one or more of the KIPs. The 135 technologies and technology providers identified were ranked (in descending order) by using an objective function that represented the sum of the normalized numerical products of the KIP weights and scores. The top 20 technologies and their providers were selected for further assessment based on the view that this was a sufficiently large sample to reflect the range of technologies that met the conditions of the WANT Statement. These technologies could be grouped into the following categories: • Anaerobic Digestion2: A biochemical reaction process carried out in a number of steps, using several types of bacteria in the absence of oxygen and at temperatures typically below 60 degrees Celsius. The biodigestible materials in SOW are converted to biogas, which typically consists of 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide (on a volumetric and dry basis), while nondigestible materials and inorganics remain as a digestate. The composition and volume of biogas are functions of the feed SOW. Biogas can be converted into electricity, heat, renewable natural gas, and (using Fischer Tropsch synthesis or other processes) into valuable chemicals, including liquid hydrocarbons.

• Gasification3: A thermochemical process, operating at elevated temperatures (less than 900 degrees C), with a controlled amount of sub-stoichiometric oxygen and/or steam, yielding syngas consisting primarily of CO, CO2, CH4, and H2. Upon clean-up, the syngas can yield value added products, including heat, electricity, and chemicals. The inorganic materials in the SOW feed are converted to ash. • Pyrolysis: A thermochemical process conducted at intermediate temperatures (400 to 750 degrees C) in the absence of oxygen. Pyrolysis is based on the well-established process of charcoal production and involves reaction times ranging from minutes to hours. Principal products are syngas and various types of bio-oils and biochars. The bio-oils and biochar can further be processed into value-added products. • Torrefaction: A thermochemical process, similar to pyrolysis, but carried out at lower temperatures (typically in the range of 200 to 320 degrees C) and in the absence of oxygen. The process alters the chemical composition of SOW and leads to a major reduction in moisture content. The release of water vapor and lighter materials (volatile components) result in a biomass product with a higher calorific value than the SOW feed. The solid product is typically a dry, blackened material called torrefied biomass or bio-coal. The volatile components can be used for generatMAY/JUNE 2017 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 47

¦ CONTRIBUTION Technology Landscape 135 technology providers

2% 4% 9%


Anaerobic digestion Gasifiction Pyrolysis Torrefaction

It is important to note that the findings of this work are constrained by the availability of data in the public domain, and the degree to which technology providers were willing to share proprietary information. Additionally, the evolving nature of technological innovation presents another caveat to the present findings because the intelligence gathering process focused on technologies available at the time the study was initiated. It does not account for subsequent innovation and new market entrants.


Hydrothermal carbonation



ing the energy required to run the torrefaction process. The process is particularly well-suited for SOW with low moisture contents. • Hydrothermal Carbonation4: A thermochemical process for converting organic materials at intermediate temperatures and elevated pressures in the presence of liquid water. The resulting product is a coal-waterslurry. The coal fraction can be separated and differs significantly in chemical and physical properties from the SOW feed. The solid product has a similar calorific value to fossil fuels, such as coal. The produced water may be used for other purposes, such as processing wet (high moisture content) organic waste. The effectiveness of the initial literature review was constrained by the availability of data in the public domain. To improve the information and to mitigate data gaps, technology providers were sent a questionnaire and, in some cases, contacted by telephone. Examples of important data gaps that needed to be addressed included mass and energy balances of the technologies identified, as well as capital and operating costs. After the completion of the in-depth analysis of the top 20 technologies and their providers, three were selected for further study: Bekon Energy Technologies (anaerobic digestion), Chinook Sciences (gasification and pyrolysis), and Ensyn (circulating fluid bed gasification).

Overview of Technology Landscape

Figure 3 presents the current SOW technology landscape. Some 135 technologies met


the desired KIP values to at least some extent; 61 percent and 39 percent of these technologies are based on thermal and biological processes, respectively. Furthermore, 78 percent of the technologies are commercially deployed or deployable, while 22 percent are still in the prototype/precommercial stage. Additionally, 72 percent of the thermal conversion processes are commercial, while the remaining 28 percent are in the prototype/ precommercial phase. In the case of biological technologies, the share of commercial and prototype technologies is 86 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The majority of the technologies identified have large production capacities—42 percent have capacities greater than 100,000 tons per year (TPY) and therefore exceed the needs of small and medium Alberta communities. These larger plants are dominated by the thermochemical conversion technologies, which are more cost competitive due to economies of scale. Only 35 percent of the technologies/technology providers identified fall into the desired capacity range (10,000 to 100,000 TPY) of primary interest to the majority of Alberta’s municipalities. A lack of data availability was evident regarding plant scale—23 percent of the technologies shortlisted had unknown or unspecified capacities. A reason for this is that many of these technologies are in the prototype/commercial stage, and therefore do not report design capacities in the open literature.

The primary technologies suitable for converting SOW, which consists of 80 percent of MSW, in small and medium Alberta communities, are biological and thermochemical processes. Anaerobic digestion is one of the most promising technologies to convert SOW with high biodigestible content and high water content into valuable products, while preserving plant nutrients. A representative biogas technology provider is BEKON Energy Technology. Thermochemical technologies, represented by gasification and pyrolysis, are particularly suitable for converting dry SOW, such as paper, plastics, and wood waste into syngas and bio-oil. Representative thermochemical technology providers are Chinook Sciences and Ensyn Technologies. All technologies identified through this study require presorting of wastes. Most commercial technologies identified in this study are designed for large SOW feed rates, typically greater than 100,000 TPY. These plants are dominated by thermochemical conversion technologies. Less than 35 percent of the technologies/technology providers identified fall within the desired capacity range applicable to the majority of Alberta’s small and medium municipalities, i.e. generating 10,000 to 100,000 TPY.

Prospective Technology Intelligence

The aforementioned information and intelligence is evidence-based, and therefore inherently retrospective. It does not address the important question: What will be required of SOW conversion technologies in the future? Responding to this future-oriented question is the purpose of prospective technology intelligence. This question is important because future technologies may not only reflect incremental improvements in current proven technologies, but may also include quite different technologies. Future technologies may also have to reflect changing expectations of society and regulatory agencies.

CONTRIBUTION ¦ There is no hard data or information on 7. High capital and operating costs, cor- Reference in this report to any specific commercial the long-term future and extrapolation of cur- rosion and materials problems will remain product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise does not constitute or imply rent trends is of limited value. Insights there- major concerns for both biological and ther- its endorsement, recommendation or favoring by AI. fore depend on understanding the forces and mochemical conversion processes. The cur- The views and opinions of the authors expressed in this their interactions that drive the development, rent capital cost for anaerobic digestion is report do not reflect those of AI. deployment, and commercialization of SOW about $260 per metric ton (MT) to $790/MT, Author: Babatunde Olateju, Xiaomei Li and Axel Meisen conversion technologies. The consequences and operating cost is approximately $30/MT Alberta Innovates-Energy and Environment Solutions of key forces impacting the future of SOW under Alberta condition, where the electric 780.638.2866 conversion technologies: power market is less than 5 cents per kilowatt• No single technology will provide a fea- hour. Babatunde, O, X. Li and A. Meisen, 2016, Available Techsible alternative to divert MSW from landfills. 8. The range of products resulting from nologies for Converting Solid Organic Waste into Value Added Both biological and thermochemical technol- SOW conversion will increase. While this can Product in Small Communities – Technology Intelligence. ogies are required to convert all organic con- be achieved by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis or Rogoff, M. J. and F. Screve, 2011. Waste-to-Energy: Technolostituents of MSW. similar conversion of syngas and biogas, more gies and Project Implementation. Elsevier. New York. ISBN • Public awareness of the benefits of direct conversion routes that require less puri- 978-1-4377-7871-7. source separation of organics and other con- fication and chemical balancing of syngas will Basu, P., 2011. Biomass Gasification, Pyrolysis and Torrefaction – Practical Design and Theory. 2nd edition. Elsevier. New stituents in wastes will simplify pre-sorting. likely emerge. York. ISBN 978-0-12-396488-5. • SOW characteristics will increasingly 9. Plasma technology, a specific example Antaco Biomass to Energy, Hydrothermal Carbonisation determine the choice of conversion technolo- of thermochemical SOW conversion technol(HTC).]LQHSDJHLVODQG& gies, with: ogies with high conversion rates and efficien- carbonisation-htc a. biological processes being favored cies, holds considerable promise. At present, when the SOW moisture content is high and it is best-suited for high feed rates that exceed nutrient preservation or formation is impor- the requirements of most Alberta municipalitant. Combining anaerobic digestion and ties. Scaling-down and process complexity iscomposting is a necessary course of treat- sues remain to be resolved. ment. b. thermochemical processes being favored when the SOW moisture content is low and the production of syngas, petroleum-type 3HOOHWL]LQJ liquids and biosolids is desired. 4. The ability of microorganisms to con&+3 vert all SOW constituents (including specified risk materials, emerging pollutants, such as &HOOXORVLF personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and endocrine disruptors) will be challenging and (WKDQRO hard to prove, especially because new products are continuously introduced into the mar 5HFHLYLQJ ketplace and become part of SOW.  6L]LQJ 5. SOW conversion rates by microorgan &RQYH\LQJ isms are low compared with therm-chemical  6FUHHQLQJ rates, resulting in comparatively high process residence times and high space requirements.  6HSDUDWLQJ This favors their application in locations where  6WRUDJH land is readily available and feed rates are comparatively low. However, biological processes &DOOIRUD are relatively simple and can preserve plant IUHHEURFKXUH nutrients in organic wastes. Biological conversion technologies therefore have considerable potential for small communities, especially for converting wet-digestible SOW. 6. Thermochemical SOW conversion technologies have the potential of converting a wide range of SOW constituents at high rates. Elevated pressure operations will likely emerge since they have increased conversion rates and hence reduced space requirements. Due to their favorable economies of scale,  ‡YHFRSODQOOFFRP thermochemical SOW conversion technologies hold particular promise for larger cities. 1






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2017 May/June Biomass Magazine  

Waste-to-Energy: Resources PLUS Projects & Technologies

2017 May/June Biomass Magazine  

Waste-to-Energy: Resources PLUS Projects & Technologies