November 2011 Biomass Power & Thermal

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November 2011

Energy Crops


Biomass Crop Assistance Program is Changing the Landscape

Plus: U.S. Makes Progress on

Page 26

Pellet Quality Control Page 32

Innovators Focus on Grass to Energy Page 38

U.S. DOE Updates Billion-Ton Study Page 44



FEATURES 26 PRODUCTION Miscanthus Mania Aloterra Energy is having no trouble signing up landowners to plant miscathus in its Biomass Crop Assistance Program project areas. By Lisa Gibson

32 QUALITY Making the Grade Global pellet quality standards would improve uniformity in mills' quality assessment and quality control. By Lisa Gibson


38 Greening Grass


Using grass to produce energy isn’t a new concept, but it’s becoming more popular in the face of rising fossil energy prices and the need to reduce our carbon footprint. By Matt Soberg


44 Billion-Ton Revisited The U.S. DOE updated and improved on its 2005 Billion-Ton Study, including more direct inventory analysis and focusing on resource sustainability By Matt Soberg

DEPARTMENTS 04 EDITOR’S NOTE Biomass Power Map Info Shows Progress By Rona Johnson

06 INDUSTRY EVENTS 08 POWER PLATFORM USDA and Biomass Energy Policy By Bob Cleaves

10 THERMAL DYNAMICS Putting Biomass Thermal on the Front Burner in DC By Stephen Gunther and Ellen Abramowitz

12 ENERGY REVIEW Torrefaction of Biomass Materials By Bruce C. Folkedahl

14 LEGAL PERSPECTIVE Densification: Associated Legal Challenges and Opportunities By Joe R. Thompson and Sara Bergan


CONTRIBUTIONS 50 POLICY Biofuels and Other Bioliquids—Facts and Perspectives Sustainablility is at the heart of the European Union’s plan for expanding the use of renewable energy and countries, such as Germany, are creating similar legislation. By Igor Dormuth and Elena Schmidt

52 DENSIFICATION Limitations of 24/7 Operation of a High-Capacity Briquette Plant for Binderless Fibrous Biomass With improved performance, briquetters can work with the new generation of fibrous biomass found in Europe and North America. By Priya Jain and A.K. Khater

ON THE COVER: Miscanthus produced at Aloterra Energy LLC's farm in Conneaut, Ohio, will be converted into pellets. PHOTO: ALOTERRA ENERGY LLC




Biomass Power Map Info Shows Progress


We just wrapped up the 2012 U.S. Biomass Power Map and although the number of proposed plants decreased from the previous map, that’s mainly because several of them are now under construction and were moved to the operational list. The map consists of biomass power facilities that use solid biomass fuel to produce 1 megawatt or more of power and supply all or a portion of that power to the grid. Also included are conversions from coal to biomass, coal plants that are currently or planning to cofire with biomass. The Spring 2010 U.S. Biomass Power Map indicated a total of 49 proposed and proposed conversions, compared with 39 on the current map, and 147 operational, under construction and idled plants, compared with 161 on the current map. If you look closely, you will see that there were only six plants under construction on the spring map and 15 on the new map. Although some of those were just added this year, it’s still a pretty impressive increase. I would imagine that the end of the year deadline for the U.S. Treasury’s 1603 program may have had something to do with the increase in plants under construction. California continues to be the state with the most biomass power facilities, followed by Florida, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Oregon. You may have noticed that I called this map the 2012 U.S. Biomass Power Map. No, that’s not a typo. We decided that we are only going to do the map once a year in the future. In place of one of the biomass power maps, we will be adding a pellet mill map. On the bad news side, the spring map only had three idled biomass power plants and the latest map has seven. I’m not sure if it is from a lack of feedstock because of the slump in the construction market, possibly some issues with power purchase agreements, or just competition with other energy sources. The operator of one plant that went from operating to idle told me that they are looking for a partner to help refurbish and operate the plant. So although that plant is idle now, there is still a chance that the plant will be operational once again when the next map is published.

For more news, information and perspective, visit Associate Editors Associate Editor Matt Soberg talks to companies touting the benefits of converting grass into energy. Some of these companies have overcome barriers to burning hay in boilers, mainly that it can cause slagging or clinkering. Soberg also reviews the updated Billion-Ton Study.

Associate Editor Lisa Gibson writes about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and how it is has helped attract producers who are willing to grow miscanthus for use in pellet production. Gibson also delves into the world of wood pellet standards and talks to the experts about what it will take to develop global specifications. LISA GIBSON



EDITORIAL EDITOR Rona Johnson ASSOCIATE EDITORS Anna Austin Lisa Gibson Matt Soberg COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann

ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie


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

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¦INDUSTRY EVENTS Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show November 1-3, 2011 Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Southeast—from the Virginias to the Gulf Coast—the Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect the area’s current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policy makers. (866) 746-8385

Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show

Biomass Event Hotspot: Atlanta in November go to one event in the Southeast this year, make it 11/01 IfBBIyouInternational’s Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show, produced jointly by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining Magazine. The Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show returns to Atlanta this year and will be held Nov. 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. The conference, one of three distinct regional offshoots of the International Biomass Conference & Expo, will feature more than 60 speakers in four tracks: • Feedstocks • Biomass power and thermal • Biorefining • Biomass project development and finance The Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect the area’s current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with: • Waste generators • Aggregators • Growers • Municipal leaders • Utility executives • Technology providers • Equipment manufacturers • Investors • Policy makers The Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show is designed to assist biomass industry stakeholders to identify and evaluate solutions that fit their operations. It’s time to improve your operational efficiencies and tap into the revenue-generating potential of sustainable biomass resources in the region. Register today at


January 16-18, 2012 San Francisco Marriott Marquis San Francisco, California With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect the area’s current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policy makers. (866) 746-8385

California Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Conference January 16, 2012 San Francisco Marriott Marquis San Francisco, California Presented by the California Biodiesel Alliance and Biodiesel Magazine, CBA will kick off its first statewide conference on Jan.16 in downtown San Francisco. This one-day event, with evening reception, will take place as part of BBI International's Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show to be held Jan. 16-18 at the Marriott Marquis. Details are being developed now and will be posted as they become available. (866) 746-8385

International Biomass Conference & Expo April 16-19, 2012 Colorado Convention Center Denver, Colorado Organized by BBI International and coproduced by Biomass Power & Thermal and Biorefining 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 onestop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. Presentation ideas are now being accepted online. (866) 746-8385


USDA and Biomass Energy Policy BY BOB CLEAVES

The original Biomass Crop Assistant Program, or BCAP, had all the hallmarks of a well-intentioned but poorly conceived federal initiative. Among other things, it provided matching payments for the collection, harvesting, storage and transportation of biomass materials to so-called biomass conversion facilities. We all know how this story ended—the USDA was deluged with requests for matching payments for material that was not economic for use in biomass boilers before the BCAP program was even instated. These requests caused huge market distortions and a significant fiscal drain on the public. Add to that the payments for business-as-usual activities, and you had a poster child for a government program run amok. Fast forward three years after BCAP was passed by Congress. USDA, working with the forest products industry and nongovernmental organizations, corrected earlier flaws in the program. Most importantly, material would only qualify if it didn’t have a higher commercial use in the market; waste products would qualify only if they would otherwise be openly burned or left to decay in landfills. Other important reforms were proposed and implemented by USDA, all with the support of the industry. Meanwhile, the corrected program was achieving its intended objectives by enabling the removal of tons of forest floor debris and other waste materials in places with a high risk of forest fires. Despite adjustments to the program, BCAP, like many other federal programs, increasingly became a


convenient target for elimination. It was defunded by the House earlier this year, with the fate of the program hanging in the balance through the work of the Super Committee for the 2012 Farm Bill. BCAP may have a new lease on life, however, through the efforts of Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., who sponsored H.R. 3111, the Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger Act of 2011, or REACH. A companion bill in the Senate by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., appears imminent. REACH codifies many of the reforms that USDA made to the program in the most recent rulemaking, including the need to demonstrate that biomass material when used for energy is “otherwise uneconomically retrievable.” In other words, a waste product that, but for BCAP support, would be left to decay or burn—causing forest fires and climate change. Also, REACH requires the Secretary of Agriculture to make BCAP payments based on the most cost-effective proposals, and further requires that collection of material be done sustainably. The federal government has a critically important role to play in the health of our nation’s forests. When properly implemented, BCAP matching payments are a cost-effective means of promoting healthy forests and supporting rural economies. Simply put, the BCAP provisions in REACH are worth fighting for. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association


More Information? Please call 770-849-0100 or email us at


Putting Biomass Thermal on the Front Burner in DC BY STEPHEN GUNTHER AND ELLEN ABRAMOWITZ

In recent months, renewable energy and energy investment have reemerged in the policy debate in Washington, D.C. Both Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., voiced their intentions in early October to address how the government should invest in energy. While Bingaman plans to hold a hearing on U.S. investments in clean energy in the coming weeks, Alexander intends to scrutinize permanent energy subsidies and focus investments in research for solar technologies, batteries, green buildings, carbon capture and storage, fusion, nuclear energy and biofuels. Once again, the importance of renewable thermal energy, specifically biomass, appears overlooked in the energy debate. To raise awareness on Capitol Hill of the importance of biomass thermal energy, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council and numerous renewable energy and environmental groups such as the Biomass Coordinating Council and the Pellet Fuels Institute are hosting a Biomass Thermal DC Summit on Nov. 16. This unprecedented event will unite the nation’s biomass thermal businesses and educate policy makers about the considerable potential of biomass thermal energy in meeting America’s growing demand for clean, reliable and domestic energy sources. The summit seeks to build upon the progress of numerous nonprofit organizations, community members, and businesses, in promoting biomass thermal energy. Nearly 20 biomass thermal-related groups and associations have already indicated their support for the summit, and the list continues to grow. As part of the summit, these organizations and their member companies will engage policy makers and demonstrate industry support for upcoming key legislative issues, such as energy provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill. Also, the summit will present the perfect venue for businesses and individuals to nurture or develop relationships with their members of Congress.


Strengthening relationships with one’s senators and representatives is especially important given the opportunity to grow the newly formed Congressional Biomass Caucus. It was only five months ago, that supporters of biomass thermal energy witnessed this significant accomplishment. The Congressional Biomass Caucus was founded to support the development of biomass and elevate this effectively forgotten renewable resource’s profile in Congress. As of mid-October, the caucus roster stood at 13, and the upcoming summit will help to grow support and membership. Strong constituent-torepresentative relationships and direct appeals are two of the most effective methods for increasing the size of the caucus and influence; the summit will facilitate both. Aside from displaying broad industry support, the summit will host several networking and informational activities for attendees, including a morning orientation on constituent-to-Congress communication “best practices,” a public biomass briefing with industry experts, and coordinated congressional and federal agency outreach. The summit will conclude with an evening congressional reception. It is BTEC and the participating groups’ goal that the summit will serve as a milestone for our often federally neglected industry. On Nov. 16, we will again place biomass thermal energy on our political leaders’ “front burners.” Your support and attendance will make our coalition even more effective. If you’re interested in joining us in Washington, D.C., visit http://biomassthermal. org/events/thermalsummit.asp for additional information. For other inquiries on the summit, its activities, and potential event sponsorship, contact Stephen Gunther, BTEC policy and governmental affairs fellow, at Stephen. Author: Stephen Gunther Policy and Governmental Affairs Fellow Ellen Abramowitz Education and Outreach Fellow Biomass Thermal Energy Council


Torrefaction of Biomass Materials BY BRUCE C. FOLKEDAHL

One of the largest impediments to utilization of biomass as an augment to fossil fuels in larger-scale utility-scale boilers (cofiring) is the handling and conveyance properties of the biomass material. Biomass is derived from a plethora of plants and organic materials, therefore, as a fuel, it is unlike more common solid fuels such as coal (see Biomass Power & Thermal, May 2011 issue, Energy Review column by Carolyn Nyberg, manager of EERC's Analytical Research Laboratory). The processing and handling of these various biomass types is not well-understood because such low volumes are consumed for utility power. In contrast, literally billions of tons of coal have been at the forefront of utility-generated electricity for more than a century. Utilities and coal companies are well-versed in mining, processing, handling and burning coal in boilers. Boilers are specifically designed for coals of certain ranks, such as bituminous, subbituminous and lignitic coal. There is no similar ranking for biomass. And since the physical properties of biomass materials are highly diverse, so are the costs for getting these fuels from the field or forest into the boiler. Most raw biomass has a relatively low-energy density and high- and variable-moisture contents, can be very hygroscopic. Because of high moisture and hygroscopicity, Biomass tends to rot during storage and has a tendency to have a fibrous nature that can make it difficult to grind into small particles with the conventional sizing technologies that are incorporated at fossil-fired utilities. Sizing biomass for use as a fuel can be a major expense and difficult, with each decrease in size adding attendant cost. Coarse biomass materials (greater than 1 inch), such as corncobs and wood chips, can be and are fired in stoker-feed and bubbling-bed systems, usually small industrial-sized systems. Circulating fluidized-bed systems and large industrial and small utility-sized systems require


additional size reduction (typically 6.4 millimeter (onefourth inch)). To use biomass in large industrial- and utility-sized, conventional suspension-fired systems or advanced entrained-flow gasification systems, the biomass must be significantly reduced in size. This facilitates efficient combustion, and the use of existing feed systems. For suspension-fired, coal-based power systems, the fuel is typically sized to 80 percent less than 200 mesh (0.003 inches). As most biomass material will have a lower density coupled with a higher reactivity rate, sometimes the biomass can be sized slightly larger, when compared to coal fired in the same system. One processing method that can actually increase the usability of the biomass in conventional fossil systems is torrefaction, a technology that has been more popular in Europe than in the United States over the past decade. Torrefaction can reduce the moisture of the biomass, increase the energy density, improve the grindability, and enhance the ease of conveyance, all of which are necessary for increased utilization of biomass in largescale utility systems. Most of the information coming to the public from torrefaction systems is derived from experimental or demonstration systems. Various entities, including the Energy & Environmental Research Center have developed these systems. Next month, we will highlight a type of torrefaction system being developed at the EERC and give more specifics on how these torrefaction systems may improve the use of biomass as a boiler fuel in utility boilers. Author: Bruce C. Folkedahl Senior Research Manager Energy & Environmental Research Center (701) 777-5243



Densification: Associated Legal Challenges and Opportunities BY JOE R. THOMPSON AND SARA BERGAN

Densification technologies aim to reduce the inefficiencies associated with transporting, handling and storing bulky biomass materials. Whereas the energy densities of coal and petroleum reflect the historical benefits of geologic densification, biomass has not been similarly subject to millions of years of heat and pressure. Instead, technology must be developed and employed to reduce the volumes of water and air contained in a biomass unit and improve its overall energy density. This need is made more dramatic by the fact that economies of scale continue to suggest that future facilities will be quite large and require significant amounts of biomass, which exacerbates the associated transportation, handling and storage risks. Contracting parties must continue to carefully consider these risks in conjunction with the densification technology being implemented, and the risks/benefits of the technology itself. Supply agreements address both security and availability of a continuous supply of feedstock, as well as the quality of that supply. The greater the feedstock requirements, the greater the potential exposure to risk of quality, supply and transportation costs. Even the same feedstock (corn stover) can vary widely in composition from simple variances in soil and moisture in a particular area. Thus, the farther the project reaches to ensure long-term supply and availability, the greater the chance for variability in fuel feedstock specifications. Some densification approaches, particularly those that include thermochemical technologies such as torrefaction, are uniquely suited to accept a wide variety of lignocellulosic materials and create a much cleaner, homogenous product. This is highly valued by the power generator because it reduces operation and emission risks. In addressing exposure to increases in transportation costs in power purchase negotiations, the power generator may want to pass through the delivered cost of the biomass feedstock or subject the power price to an inflationary adjustment reflecting the market price of transportation costs. The power off-taker will want to limit its exposure. This can be a critical negotiation, particularly for larger facilities pulling resources from long distances. If densification technologies can reduce transportation costs and exposure to transportation price fluctuations, the


change may have dramatic implications for negotiations and project economics. The introduction of densification into the process can also add significant complexity and additional legal issues to consider. Pyrolytic oils, for example, are somewhat caustic and tend to degrade quickly, creating additional transport, storage and liability concerns. Processes that aim to create a cleaner feedstock may have associated waste to deal with, implicating federal or state hazardous waste statutes and rules. Further, emerging processes may introduce new technology risks that create project financing complications. There are also fundamental transaction elements to consider. Where and how will the densification happen? Will it be in one or more centralized facilities close to suppliers, will it be in many small or mobile units utilized onfarm or will some of it happen in the field or as part of the harvest process? If much of the process is on-farm, do state right-to-farm statutes add protection, or are federal or state feedstock utilization incentives more accessible? Does the developer, feedstock supplier or another third party own and operate the densification equipment? Do title and risk of loss transfer from the supplier to the densifier and then to the developer, and at what point? Who maintains ultimate responsibility for the feedstock specifications? All of these issues are project and technology specific and cannot be easily addressed without an identified set of facts. While adding a densification step can add complexity and introduce additional legal challenges, those challenges will most often be variations of those already dealt with in other biomass transactions, and may be easily outweighed by the significant benefits the right densification process could bring to a particular project. Author: Joe R. Thompson Partner, Stoel Rives LLP (612) 373-8822 Sara Bergan Associate, Stoel Rives LLP (612) 373-8819

Announcing Pellet Mill Magazine’s 2012 Pellet Producer Map

Ignite Your Sales and Brand Ad Space is Going Fast!

Contact us today to learn how you can reach 8,000 Pellet and Biomass industry professionals. Deadline: Thursday, March 8th, 2011 Pellet Mill Magazine’s Pellet Producer Map is the only comprehensive and up-to-date producer map created today. This map identifies and documents current pellet producers in the U.S. and Canada. Listings include name of facility, city, state, feedstock and capacity. Pellet Producer Map is distributed to: • Biomass Power & Thermal subscribers • Pellet Mill Magazine subscribers • All International Biomass Conference & Expo attendees. (In attendee bags) • Pellet mill owners, operators & management • Regional biomass conference attendees. Including the Pacific West, Southeast and Northeast Conference & Trade Shows

Become a part of the premier trade journal for the biomass industry. Contact an account representative today. 866-746-8385 | |



Hudson Clean Energy Partners forms joint venture with Chinese city The Yangzhou Municipal Government Financial Affairs Office and Hudson Clean Energy Partners executed a memorandum of understanding to jointly establish a RMB fund (a fund set up in Chinese currency) to invest in China’s rapidly growing clean energy markets. Yangzhou, a city in Jiangsu, which is one of China’s most affluent provinces, and Hudson have developed a mutually beneficial relationship based on strategic cooperation. The joint venture will enable substantial new investment in China, help harness the country’s manufacturing prowess, and bring foreign technologies to China’s domestic market. Yangzhou and Hudson expect to formally establish the RMB fund in the coming months. Zhongmin Shen, who recently joined Hudson as head of operations in China, is leading the effort. Shen has more than 17 years of experience in the independent power, private equity and clean energy sectors. Hudson is opening an office in Beijing. Tometich joins CPM Roskamp Champion as test center manager CPM has appointed Patty Tometich as test center manager. Tometich will be responsible for all applications testing at CPM’s pelleting and particle size reduction test center Patty Tometich will be responsible for in Waterloo, Iowa. Tometich has more than testing at CPM's pellet and particle 16 years of experience size reduction center. testing materials and providing applications solutions for customers across various industries. Most recently she served as test lab manager for the University of Northern Iowa’s National Ag-Based Lubricants Center in Waterloo. As a test lab supervisor for Nestle Beverage, she was re-

sponsible for process evaluation and development for powdered drink mixes. CPM’s test center processes samples of customers’ materials in a lab that simulates full-scale equipment—pellet mills, hammermills, roll crushers and shredders—to determine the most cost-efficient and effective means to consistently produce customized pelleting and grinding solutions. MHG Systems develops tool for predicting biomass quality Finland-based MHG Systems has introduced a new feature for its popular MHG Bioenergy ERP (enterprise resource planning) service, which estimates the moisture content of biomass in storage. The estimate is based on an algorithm, which is built into the system. With this feature it is possible to accurately monitor the moisture content and value of the feedstock. Because of rapidly increasing feedstock purchases, controlling the moisture content of the feedstock in storage is important, not only because of economic efficiency, but also for ecological reasons. The higher the moisture content of the feedstock the smaller the compensation for the supplier when the billing is based on the energy content (megawatts). Additionally carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation and the amount of nitrogen and small particles during the burning process rise when transporting and using wet material. BinMaster introduces 3D MultiVision software BinMaster Level Controls has introduced 3D MultiVision, a Windows-based inventory management software for the 3DLevelScanner that enables users to view data for multiple bins in a single window. 3D MultiVision software can be used with all versions of the noncontact, dust penetrating 3DLevelScanner including the S, M, MV and MVL models. By clicking on a single bin, users can zoom in on detailed


information for the bin including minimum, maximum and average levels and see the 3D visualization of bin content for the MV and MVL models. The software allows multiple users at multiple locations to view bin level and volume data 24/7 via their local area network. 3D MultiVision software makes real-time bin data available across the entire organization to improve purchasing, logistics, operational decision making and financial management. Vecoplan is accepted into Rockwell Automation Machine Builder Program

VIC's parent company, Vecoplan LLC has been accepted into the Rockwell Automation Machine Builder Program, part of the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork framework of an elite group of companies and service providers that have demonstrated exceptional design, delivery and support competency. Vecoplan earned a membership into the program by demonstrating consistent innovation and reliability of shredding and recycling equipment incorporating Rockwell Automation solutions. As a member of this program, Vecoplan customers can expect the industries most advanced and reliable technology, backed by Rockwell Automation's extensive support and expertise. The Machine Builder Program also allows Vecoplan to collaborate with Rockwell Automation, working closely with Rockwell engineers with full access to new technologies from Rockwell to design and develop new product technologies.


Montgomery County Transfer Station recognized for health and safety Covanta Energy announced that the Montgomery County Transfer Station operated by Covanta Montgomery Inc. has earned star status in Maryland’s Voluntary Protection Program administered by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An official flag-raising ceremony was held on-site. VPP Star status is the highest honor given to work sites with comprehensive, successful safety and health management systems. Sites such as the Montgomery County Transfer Station have demonstrated their commitment to effective employee protection beyond the

requirements of state or federal standards and participants develop and implement systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to avert injuries and illnesses. Fulford appointed to ACORE advisory board The American Council On Renewable Energy has appointed Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr. U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) to its advisory board. In his 37 years in the Marine Corps, Gen. Fulford held numerous leadership positions, including Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Commanding General, I and III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Commanding Officer, Task Force Ripper during combat operations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-1991). He also served as the director of the Joint Staff and after leaving active duty, served as director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Department of Defense center focused on African security matters of importance to the United States. In 2006, he formed his own consulting firm and presently consults for U.S. government agencies and other private organizations on matters pertaining to U.S. national security. Metso to deliver biomass boiler to We Energies Metso will supply a biomass boiler to the Domtar Biomass Energy Project owned by We Energies. The biomass boiler is a key component of a major investment to build a new biomass-fueled cogeneration power plant that will be located at the Domtar Mill in Rothschild, Wis. The value of the order was not disclosed. The biomass boiler plant will utilize circulating fluidized bed technology and will use waste wood from logging and mill activity, tree trimming and sawdust as the main fuel. The plant will produce approximately 50

megawatts of renewable electric power and provide process steam to the mill. Foster Wheeler selects Emerson’s technology for biomass-fired boiler


Bandit welcomes three new dealers Three dealerships have joined the Bandit Industries dealer network, delivering the company’s handfed wood chippers and stump grinders to new locations in the West and Midwest. Diamond Rental, KC Bobcat and White Star Machinery combined bring more than 170 years of service and experience. Diamond Rental in Salt Lake City is one of the largest organizations in the area with 13 locations throughout the Wasatch front. KC Bobcat has three locations in eastern Kansas and western Missouri, including Olathe, Kansas, and Blue Springs and Platte City, Mo. White Star Machinery is a division of Berry companies of Wichita, Kan., that operates 22 separate compact equipment locations throughout the lower central Midwest. White Star serves Bandit customers in Kansas through four locations, including Wichita, Manhattan, Garden City and Topeka.

CAPITALIZING ON CONSTRUCTION: Emerson will provide the maintenance software for Foster Wheeler's 190-megawatt biomass power plant in Poland.

Foster Wheeler has chosen Emerson Process Management’s PlantWeb digital plant architecture with the Ovation expert control system and AMS Suite predictive maintenance software to control a new biomass boiler at the Polaniec Power Station in Poland. When operational in 2012, this will be the world’s largest 100 percent biomassfired boiler. Foster Wheeler is building the 190-megawatt-equivalent, biomass-fired, circulating fluidized-bed boiler island for plant owner GDF Suez. Poland has been investing in biomass power generation to achieve a target of producing 15 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Emerson’s Ovation system features embedded advanced algorithms and proven control routines that continually adjust the combustion process to account for the varying characteristics of biomass fuels.

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


FiredUp Going Global John Elliot, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County, Pa., kicked off BBI International’s Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show on Oct. 12 with in-depth discussion about the opportunities for worldwide export of biomass through the Great Lakes. “With Pennsylvania having over 14 million acres of forestlands and studies showing 6 million tons of biomass could be harvested sustainably each year, biomass caught our attention in a special way,” Elliot said. To take advantage of Pennsylvania's vast natural resources, the EDCEC is redeveloping two ports on Lake Erie in addition to improving inland railways to provide full transportation services to export biomass. With relatively the same travel time to Europe from the Port of Baltimore, “the St. Lawrence Seaway provides a tremendous inland waterway for export purposes,” Elliot said. “We see opportunity to develop biomass exports in Pennsylvania, helping biomass businesses significantly cut transportation costs by putting product on a ship set for export,” Elliot said. The EDCEC believes exports through the Great Lakes could substantially benefit the entire region. To further its export initiative and solidify the process, the EDCEC is building strategic relationships with inland rail transportation and port authorities. In addition, the group is developing partnerships in Europe with buyers, ports and businesses that want to buy biomass product from the Erie region. On a local level, the development group started the Erie Inland Port Initiative, which is a “transportation-based development strategy to grow the Lake Erie region’s manufacturing, timber, shipping and logistics industries,” according to the EDCEC. Fostering relationships overseas, Elliot visited Europe to connect the local wood supply with European markets. Through transportation-based investigative surveys, Elliot noted that transportation costs have become an overwhelming factor in the biomass trade. Research has shown that 23 percent of all intermodal transports in the region are filled with wood product, which Elliot believed is significant. Through the surveys, the group learned that


Great Lakes ports to prepare for biomass exports.

ERIE EXPORT INITIATOR: Elliot told attendees of the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show about the Erie Inland Port Initiative and the region’s efforts to connect the local wood supply with European markets.

many local companies transfer wood great distances to ports outside the region. The EDCEC is also developing specific real estate in close proximity to port locations that hold great potential for biomass businesses wanting to relocate. Elliot said that not only can the EDCEC provide information to potential businesses regarding biomass exports, but the group would be willing to discuss further incentives to help make biomass exports a reality for the Pennsylvania region. The conference was held Oct. 11-13 in Pittsburgh. —Matt Soberg

Wood-to-Energy Roadmap Industry experts discuss wood’s role in U.S. energy policy

A single, science-based and inclusive definition of biomass is perhaps the key focal point in the biomass industry’s efforts to bolster policy that can spur development, according to Charlie Niebling, general manager of pellet producer New England Wood Pellet. He spoke during a general session panel for the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show, held Oct. 11-13 in Pittsburgh. Niebling was among four speakers who examined the 25x’25 National Wood-toEnergy Roadmap, focusing on the report’s four main points—wood demand and supply, sustainability, carbon and climate change, and policy. 18 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | NOVEMBER 2011

Niebling focused on policy, letting attendees in on his opinion as to what areas will be the most important in the future. Besides a biomass definition, opposition of tax subsidies for fossil fuel energy, targeted extension of tax credits or authorization of new ones, and support for appropriations for specific programs will be crucial, he said. Glancing at fellow speaker John Ferrell, who is the chair of the U.S. DOE’s Woody Biomass Utilization Group, Niebling added that an expansion of the DOE’s Biomass Program to embrace thermal projects is also of utmost importance.



WOODY BIOMASS PROFILE: Arnold (left to right), Ferrell, Niebling and Tenny examined the 25x’25 National Wood-to-Energy Roadmap during a general session panel at the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show.

Comparing the biomass industry policy environment in 2010 to that of today, Niebling pointed out the burgeoning tax policies, Farm Bill, fiscal stimulus, and new investments of 2010. “It was a very rich and fertile period,” he said, adding later, “Things have changed rather dramatically in the past 18 months.” In the wood-to-energy roadmap, policy recommendations are general and include setting realistic energy goals with properly scaled mandates; keeping forests as forests; refraining from distinguishing between new and old investments; increasing the supply of wood; and ensuring sustainability. “That is a given in this industry,” he said of sustainability. Tasked with addressing the sustainability portion of the roadmap, speaker Bruce Arnold, consultant for Woody Biomass Pulp and Paper, said one of the main questions addressed by the sustainability working group in its research for the report was how to protect forest values in the midst of an increased demand for wood as an energy feedstock. Millenium Ecosystem Assessment recently came up with a definition of forest sustainability services that includes provisioning, such as food and water; regulating, including climate, floods and disease; cultural, including recreational and aesthetic; and supporting, including nutrient cycling. “Land conversion is the major threat to our nation’s forests,” Arnold said. Interestingly, he told the crowd that the same amount of forest cover from 100 years ago still exists today, although urban development is expected to reduce forest cover 4 percent by 2050. “Now the good news,” he continued. “Sustainable forest management is existing and it is widespread.” Removal of woody biomass for energy may actually improve forest health and help prevent or reduce wildfires, he concluded. Dave Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, followed Arnold and addressed the carbon and climate change aspect of the wood-to-energy roadmap. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re often times considered part of the problem, in terms of policy,” Tenny said, adding that life is better when you’re part of the solution.

He launched into an explanation of the ongoing forest carbon cycle, saying that looking only at the carbon dioxide release portion of the cycle, as the U.S. EPA’s Tailoring Rule did upon its release, portrays an incomplete picture. “When you only take that part of the cycle into account, you are part of the problem,” Tenny said. Tailoring Rule regulation is now deferred for biogenic emissions for the next three years, as the EPA employs a team of scientists to investigate the forest carbon cycle. During that time, it’s important for the biomass industry to be active in communicating its own benefits. “It’s time to start speaking up,” Tenny said. Key talking points to communicate to Congress, the USDA, DOE, White House and EPA include removing policy restraints from the scientific review of biogenic emissions, and ensuring consideration of new information regarding carbon life cycles and forest carbon. The DOE did have a presence on the panel in Ferrell, who addressed wood demand and supply. A few of the wood supply findings from the roadmap include the fact that wood for energy demand will be driven by short-term public policy. He also emphasized that the report’s sustainability working group found the future role of public lands in wood supply to be modest. He mentioned the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, released in August, which investigated biomass supply through 2030 under a number of scenarios. The baseline scenario with the cost of biomass at $60 per ton, found about 473 million dry tons in 2012, increasing to 1.1 billion in 2030. Ferrell also mentioned initiatives bolstering liquid biofuels and said logistics are the Achilles heel of biomass energy. Arnold said the National Wood-to-Energy Roadmap is crucial at a time when interest in wood energy is increasing, while private forest investment lags, forest health and fire threats present large concerns, and views of using biomass for energy differ. “There’s growing interest, clearly, in wood for energy in the U.S.,” Arnold said. —Lisa Gibson NOVEMBER 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 19


GREC Making Progress Since construction started in March, the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a 100-megawatt biomass power plant in Gainesville, Fla., is on track to being operational by the third quarter of 2013. “The project has enjoyed favorable summer weather for construction and is making great progress,” says Josh Levine, vice president, project development for American Renewables, the GREC development company. Minnesota-based Fagen Inc. is constructing the plant with engineering being performed by Zachry Engineering Corp. About 65,000 man hours of construction and 30,000 for engineering have been performed on the site as of the end of August, Levine says. “The project will use advanced combustion technology and the latest BIG IN BIOMASS: Favorable summer weather benefitted the construction schedule of the 100-MW GREC boiler and emissions control technolo- plant. gy to achieve best available emissions,” according to American Renewables. asset class,” says Chris Smith, GREC project financial advisor. The The GREC’s wood-handling system is being provided by Wolf combination of the power purchase agreement for 100 percent of Material Handling Systems of Elk River, Minn., Metso Power is supoutput with an established utility, proven technology, and firm-price plying a bubbling fluidized bed boiler, and a steam turbine generator construction contract gives the GREC project strong credit fundamensystem is being installed by Siemens Energy. tals, he adds. Project planning began in 2006 and, after a one-year negotiation Nearly 1 million tons of green woody biomass, or 600 million dry period with Gainesville Regional Utilities, the local utility provider, tons, will be needed to fuel the plant annually, which will be obtained a 30-year power purchase agreement was signed in 2009. The plant within a 75-mile radius of Gainesville. will provide enough electricity to power 70,000 homes, according to Gainesville-based BioResource Management Inc. will manage American Renewables. feedstock procurement for the facility. Wood Resources Recovery, also The permitting process was quite extensive, and local developin Gainesville, will provide a large portion of the biomass to fuel the ment site plans were required in addition to a state site certificate for facilities over 75 megawatts. Final state permits were obtained in 2010. facility. The GREC is co-located with GRU’s 235-megawatt, coalCost projections provide a capital total of hard and soft costs at just under $500 million, according to Levine. Close to its financial goal, powered facility on 1,046 acres near Gainesville, 131 acres of which the developers have successfully raised nearly $500 million in construc- are leased by GREC. With the local utility largely dependent on coal imports from outside the region, significant money and resources will tion financing to date. The ongoing involvement of capital partners be kept local as a result of the GREC’s efforts, according to Levine. and financiers has allowed the project to remain on schedule. Economic development projections show that the GREC will “Completion of construction financing allows GREC to move generate more than 1,100 direct and indirect jobs in the region, includforward without delay, ensuring that the Gainesville community will receive the many environmental and economic benefits of this renew- ing 400 construction jobs during peak construction. Once operational, the facility will include 40 full-time positions on site, and provide able energy facility,” says Jim Gordon, president of GREC. approximately 700 indirect jobs throughout the region in the areas of “The success of this transaction, completed on a tight timeline with the participation of eight sophisticated, renewable-project finance forestry, supply, transportation and other secondary industries. “In a county with high unemployment rates, this project is creatlenders, demonstrates that a well-structured biomass transaction is ing jobs where they are needed the most,” Levine says. —Matt Soberg understood by the project finance market and results in a marketable 20 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | NOVEMBER 2011


Gainesville, Fla., biomass plant construction is on schedule and promises to be a jobs creator


Deep Pennsylvania Pockets State provides funding for AD systems, feedstock growth, pellet and torrefaction projects.

In September, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Financing Authority approved a total of about $1.4 million for four biomass projects, adding to the already astounding dollar amount invested in the biomass industry in the state over the past few years. “This is nothing new for Pennsylvania,” says John Nikoloff, partner with Energy Resources Group Partners, a Pennsylvaniabased consulting group. “The state has put out tens of millions of dollars for biomass projects in the last five, six years.” The latest round of funding comes from the Renewable Energy Program and the Alternative and Clean Energy (ACE) Program. ACE was launched in 2008 with a budget of $180 million for renewable projects not relating to solar, wind or geothermal. The program still retains about half of its budget and has awarded more than $21 million in grants and loans to biomass projects around Pennsylvania, Nikoloff says, adding that the funding is ongoing and not limited to once per year. “Ever since the state set up the Alternative and Clean Energy Program, there has been an awful lot of ongoing support for biomass projects,” he says. The four projects include two anaerobic digesters and two biomass boilers, all qualifying for net metering, Nikoloff explains. A digester at Pleasant View Farms in Martinsburg, Pa., received about $790,200 in grants and loans to cover about half of its total project cost of $1.6 million. The dairy digester will create about 1.15 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of power each year, leaving plenty of extra electricity to sell to the grid. The other anaerobic digester will use manure and potato peelings from Herr Foods in the Chester County town of Nottingham to produce about 2.84 million kWh of power. That project received a $350,000 grant to put toward its total cost of $1.8 million.

The biomass boilers will be installed in the 7,000-square-foot McKanna Cooperage Building in extreme northeast Pennsylvania’s Wayne County, and in organic greenhouse company Peace Tree Farm in Bucks County. The McKanna Cooperage Building received $35,430, about half the project cost, for biomass heating and cooling to replace about 4,500 gallons of diesel, Nikoloff says. Peace Tree Farms received almost $230,000 for its $460,000 project that will generate 2 megawatts of power from 465 tons of wood pellets per year. ERG Partners has helped a number of projects gain funding from the ACE program and it’s not the only funding source available, Nikoloff says. The Energy Harvest Program was set up by the state departments of agriculture and environmental protection in 2003 and has since awarded more than $15 million to about 45 biomass projects including anaerobic digesters and combinedheat-and-power installations. The state has also funded feedstock growth, pellet, and torrefaction projects, realizing the benefits of endeavors that may not be as “sexy” as drop-in transportation fuels, Nikoloff says. “I think the state’s done a really good job of recognizing it, working with individual farms, small businesses and communities to help finance everything from anaerobic digesters to heating systems for regional hospitals in the state,” he says. —Lisa Gibson

Implementation Impediment The U.K.’s DECC has delayed the launch of its RHI program.

The U.K.’s Renewable Heat Incentive will launch two months later than planned, following concerns from the European Commission about the tariff level for large biomass technologies. When the program made its way through Parliament in July, it was still subject to approval from the European Commission. The U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change was ready to launch the first step of the program, dealing with nondomestic generators on Sept. 30. But the commission came back to the DECC with an approval that hinges on a reduction of the tariff for large biomass technologies, currently proposed at 2.7 pence per kilowatt hour. That means the RHI will need to be amended and submitted again to Parliament for approval. The RHI program offers long-term support to compensate for capital and operating costs, as well as to remove additional bar-

riers and ease financial costs, for thermal technologies classed as renewable under the U.K.’s Renewable Energy Directive. Support will be distributed in the form of tariffs based on technology and size. “We are fully committed to introducing the Renewable Heat Incentive,” another DECC spokesperson says. “However, we understand that the European Commission state aid approval for the RHI will be subject to a reduction in the large biomass tariff. We expect to receive written confirmation of this very shortly. This means we now need to change the regulations before the scheme can open to applications. We understand this is frustrating for industry who are already gearing up for the RHI. However, we hope to get this sorted out soon and open the scheme before the end of November.” —Lisa Gibson NOVEMBER 2011 | BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL 21


Cofiring Conundrum Australia explores whether emissions reduction can be achieved through cofiring.

The Rural Industries Research and Devel- Key barriers to biomass cofiring opment Corp., a research organization comCATEGORY BARRIER missioned by the Australian government, published a report, “Facilitating the Adoption of COFIRING ECONOMICS • The economics of biomass cofiring are marginal under current Biomass Co-Firing for Power Generation,” to policy settings. Consequently, the maximum price that generators ascertain whether emissions reduction can be can afford to pay restricts potential biomass sources to very low achieved through cofiring coal with biomass. cost materials The RIRDC says its mandate is to “achieve results from research and development for new ENVIRONMENTAL • Resistance to combustion of woody material for energy production emerging industries, specific established rural CONCERNS industries and national rural issues.” One of the most cost-effective ways to BIOMASS MARKET • Known availability of low-cost biomass falls short of volumes reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to required for continuous low levels of cofiring substitute a renewable fuel, such as biomass, • Lack of integrated biomass supply capability for a proportion of coal to generate power, • Lack of information on biomass resource availability according to Craig Burns, RIRDC managing • Lack of organized market for biomass director. Biomass cofiring is used worldwide in countries attempting to meet GHG reduction PERCEPTIONS AND • Perception that biomass cofiring is an established technology that goals. does not require policy support for commercialization ATTITUDES The Australian government is already in • Lack of interest in agroforestry within farming sector the process of directing emissions reduction • Community perception of plantations through legislation, which has been introduced into parliament, and may be enacted in July, ac- SOURCE: RURAL INDUSTRIES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. cording to the research organization. Researchers addressed barriers to adopting cofiring technology explore state-based renewable energy policy measures to bridge the within the real-world context of power generators, landholders, poli- economic viability gap for the benefit of biomass cofiring. Another concern was the nationwide resistance to combustcymakers and others in the supply chain, according to the report. The focus was on factors affecting adoption of cofiring and not the ing woody material for energy production due to perceived environmental effects. To overcome this barrier, researchers suggested technology itself, which is proven and commercially available, the the country convene a roundtable of key parties to discuss these report says. The barriers to cofiring were identified as economics, concerns, commission a science-based analysis of forestry manageenvironmental concerns, the biomass market, and perceptions and ment, develop a communications program to clarify the effects of attitudes. biomass, and to agree on a plan for future action. The researchers also considered various types of feedstocks Numerous barriers were identified regarding the potential including agricultural biomass, wood waste and urban waste. The cofiring possibilities were reviewed at low levels, 3 percent by energy biomass market including the lack of information on biomass availability, and lack of an organized market. The research recommended value, which is an entry level opportunity to reduce GHGs and the industry identify biomass sources, such as land-clearing residue would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.4 million metric tons and regrowth management, in the short, medium and long term. annually. The report also says that the possibility of one or more major The conclusion was that the logistics surrounding biomass generators expressing a genuine commercial interest in biomass cofiring present a multifaceted problem, where simply addressing one barrier would not result in resolution. Economics is a key driver, cofiring could serve as a focal point for industry development. Overcoming the perceptions and attitudes surrounding bioenmeaning if the economics do not exist to tempt investors, the motivation to proceed with a biomass project in Australia may not exist. ergy can be challenging, however, social research, community educaDespite the barriers, the report provides recommendations to make tion and outward support from biomass cofiring proponents may be paths to educate the detractors about the benefits of bioenergy. cofiring viable in Australia. The report, which was co-funded by RIRDC, the Queensland Regarding economics, researchers determined that biomass cofiring economics are marginal under current policy settings, and that Office of Clean Energy and three Queensland electricity generators, CS Energy, NRG Gladstone Operating Services and Tarong Energy, the prices generators are willing to pay may limit the market to extremely low-cost materials. They recommended that the government can be found at —Matt Soberg 22 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | NOVEMBER 2011


Comparing Costs Electricity study includes biomass in near- and long-term power generation analysis.

Laying out the costs, constraints and resources wrapped up in six different energy technologies, the Electric Power Research Institute has set out to provide an overview of the electricity generation options for utilities, as well as the general public, through 2025. Program on Technology Innovation: Integrated Generation Technology Options provides a near- and longer-term multifaceted overview of each technology, including a brief description of each; current and projected technology performance costs; major technical development direction and trends; fuel resource considerations; relevant business issues; and environmental concerns and considerations. Fuels taken into account include coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar and biomass. “We tried to take a comprehensive view of the power generation options that are most likely to play a significant role in the mix moving forward,� says John Hutchinson, EPRI senior project manager and principal investigator for the report. Geothermal was excluded this time, but may be included in future updates of the work, which began with an initial report in 2007, according to Stan Rosinski, program manager for EPRI. “It is a somewhat comparative view,� Hutchinson says of the report. In 2015, the total cost for a bubbling fluidized bed boiler biomass plant is estimated to be between $3,500 and $4,400 per kilowatt (kW), according to the recent report. Total plant costs for nonrenewable technologies, such as natural gas, at between $1,060 and $1,150 per kW, fell well below that. But nuclear was right up at the top with biomass at $3,900 to $4,400. The total plant cost per kW of coal is $2,000 to $2,300. Comparing biomass with other renewables looks much more promising. Off-shore wind is estimated to cost between $3,100 and $4,000 per kW in 2015, while concentrating solar thermal tips the scale at $3,300 to $5,300 with photovoltaic following close behind at $3,400 to $4,600. In 2025, solar, nuclear and wind power plant total costs are estimated to go down, as are biomass, estimated at $3,400 to $4,250 per kW. The total cost of nuclear power plants goes down slightly between 2015 and 2025, but coal plant costs are predicted to rise considerably when taking into account added carbon capture and storage technologies, according to the report. “When you consider what the electric utilities and that sector of the industry are looking for in terms of their future planning, they want to be able to compare for their planning purposes what they see as a potential scenario for the future cost of any particular technology,� Rosinski says. “They have to weigh the different factors of what kind of generation they want to continue to pursue.�

Comparing Energy Technology Costs in 2015 (per kilowatt) Solar Thermal Photovoltaic Nuclear Bubbling Fluidized Bed Boiler Biomass Plant Off-Shore Wind Coal Natural Gas

$3,300-$5,300 $3,400-$4,600 $3,900-$4,400 $3,500-$4,400 $3,100-$4,000 $2,000-$2,300 $1,060-$1,150


Biomass was considered a major fuel in the report because it offers the important benefit of cofiring a renewable fuel with coal while maintaining existing assets, Hutchinson adds. Key biomassrelated issues identified in the report include reducing costs and increasing fuel availability. Those costs can be reduced by mass application and economy of scale, the report adds. It would also help if biomass were consistently addressed in renewable portfolio standards. “Certainly renewable energy standards factor into the mix of which renewable energy technologies we included, given that some states require some specific renewable energy technologies in their renewable energy standards, biomass included,� Hutchinson says. The report provides an assessment, albeit a snapshot in time, based on how the EPRI researchers see the costs evolving, Rosinski says. “It’s really a tool the electricity industry can use to look at some of their future planning options for generating capacity. “It’s our intent to share some On the Web of this information with the public so that others that use this type of To access the report, visit www. information in developing long-term and type 1022782 into the energy economic studies have a view Search box. into the industry in terms of what we see as the cost for these technologies moving forward,� Rosinski says. —Lisa Gibson



Creating a Commodity INL explores challenges of transforming biomass into a feedstock commodity.

A workshop, “Transforming Biomass into Feedstock,” was held in August at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, and was sponsored by various organizations including the U.S. DOE’s Office of Science, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Biomass Program. The workshop was held to inform the bioenergy industry about preconversion and densification to increase biomass bulk and energy density for improved logistics and performance in bioenergy applications. Processing raw biomass can be difficult due to its variability, according to Kevin Kenney, an INL bioenergy researcher. The workshop was designed to enhance discussions about how to transfer raw biomass into high-quality feedstock, and presenters discussed three areas of feedstock preparation, namely, preconversion, formulation and densification. The event featured the new Feedstock Process Demonstration Unit (PDU) designed by the DOE’s Biomass Program to test and evaluate feedstock logistic technologies in the field. The PDU consists of a series of engineering-scale test units that integrate multiple steps of the feedstock logistics system, from collection

and densification of feedstock to storage, queuing and moisture management, according to the DOE. The unit physically tests formulized feedstock-related theories and ideas. The transportable PDU, which can process 5 tons of biomass per hour, provided first-hand demonstration of feedstock processing. A two-hour demonstration displayed an example of blending feedstocks, specifically corn stover, eucalyptus, pine and switchgrass, to produce an optimal fuel. Research has shown that some blends can be pretreated more easily than any one feedstock alone, Kenney says. Each session included discussion and feedback between researchers and industry professionals, identifying barriers to developing optimal biomass feedstock. The information will help the sponsors and DOE develop and update the biomass feedstock roadmap to describe the vision, barriers and plan for the next generation of feedstocks, according to the INL. Workshop materials and webinar links can be found at https:// —Matt Soberg




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W2E’s Flagship WtE Facility W2E Organic Power is building an anaerobic digestion facility in Columbia, S.C., which will be its flagship template for future waste-toenergy (WtE) projects. Construction is expected to start shortly and it is anticipated to begin operating in 2012 at a cost of $23 million. The project is a collaboration involving three companies, W2E, Ciycor LLC and Eisenmann, all specializing in various aspects of the renewable energy industry. “We have developed a significant group of partners with waste streams for our system and we look forward to beginning this brand new effort to process waste into energy,” says W2E CEO Daniel Rickenmann. Ciycor, a renewable energy and construction company, is a co-developer and financial partner with W2E on the project. “The strength of the project has been greatly enhanced by the addition of Ciycor to the team, and we couldn’t be more positive about the early completion of the Columbia facility,” Rickenmann says. Eisenmann, an engineering and renewable energy technology firm, will be designing and engineering the anaerobic digestion technology for the facility. Adam Halsband, Eisenmann business development manager, says that W2E and Eisenmann will partner to optimize the facility’s operations. “The W2E facility is a truly sustainable, renewable energy facility returning the nutrients from the organic waste back to the Earth,” according to Eisenmann. “Closing the loop, the soil amendment produced by the facility will be used for local agriculture as well as commercial and residential landscape applications.” The organics used for the anaerobic process will be food, grease, waste produce, yard waste and others. The company has received commitments for numerous commercial waste streams from large companies such as Walmart and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Because anaerobic digestion technology is relatively new to South Carolina, the permitting process took some time to complete, how-


W2E launches model anaerobic digestion facility in Columbia, S.C.

POWERFUL WASTE: W2E will be using many forms of organic waste in its AD system, and has received commitments for numerous commercial waste streams from large companies such as Walmart and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

ever, W2E did receive a solid waste permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in January, paving the way for construction to begin. The 3.2-megawatt facility will process approximately 48,000 metric tons of waste per year. A long-term power purchase agreement with Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned utility, has been obtained for supply of renewable electricity. Additional agreements are being negotiated according to W2E. “As the first of its kind in the United States, the Columbia facility marks a new way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing an alternative source of energy to the electrical grid,” Eisenmann says. With the Columbia facility as its prototype, W2E is planning and negotiating permits and PPAs for other facilities the company hopes to build in the next 24 to 36 months. Additional WtE plants are planned in Gastonia, N.C., and Baton Rouge, La., according to W2E. —Matt Soberg





Miscanthus Mania Aloterra’s BCAP project areas are promoting job growth and helping set the stage for a major miscanthus presence in the biopellet industry. BY LISA GIBSON




ust a few months into the development of its miscanthusgrowing Biomass Crop Assistance Program project areas, solid biofuels producer Aloterra Energy LLC sees the BCAP program’s job creation goal rapidly coming to fruition. Since the project areas were announced in June, inquiries about the program and how to get involved in the projects have come in from all over the country, as well as internationally, according to Scott Coye-Huhn, director of business development for Aloterra. And the rhizomes haven’t even been planted yet. “That’s part of the job growth in this,” he says. “We have many companies, even entrepreneurs, coming to us with ideas as to how they can support our project, which is really exciting.” Most of the BCAP project areas Aloterra has interest in occupy regions that have suffered from high unemployment rates, Coye-Huhn explains. So he doesn’t conceal his enthusiasm when discussing the new small businesses getting off the ground that will provide harvesting and trucking services for the farmers participating in those stricken project areas.

‘This is about sowing the seeds, pardon the pun, for the energy industry and getting the infrastructure in place and learning what works and what doesn’t work. All of these things are happening very quickly.’ —Scott Coye-Huhn, director of business development, Aloterra

Near Aurora, Mo., farmer Rusty Mulford says people are lined up to help harvest and transport giant miscanthus. “It’s just BCAP creating more jobs,” he says. But besides job creation, and perhaps equally important, the BCAP funding is also helping to establish the groundwork for a miscanthus-based bioenergy industry that maybe soon won’t need any financial help from the government. “We are looking at projections that we’ll be able to plant this incredible energy crop for the same price as corn in a few years,” Coye-Huhn says. “Anyone in America that wants an energy crop is going to have access to it because of BCAP.” The program is about more than just creating project areas and growing some energy crops, he emphasizes. “This is about sowing the seeds, pardon the pun, for the energy industry and getting the infrastructure in place and learning what works and what doesn’t work,” he says. “All of these things are happening very quickly.”

The Projects Of the nine BCAP project areas, Aloterra has four, spanning four states. The company will solely operate its project stretching across northeast Ohio and into a bit of northwest Pennsylvania. In Missouri, Aloterra is developing two areas—one near Columbia in the central part of the state and the other in the southwest near Aurora, with partner farmer cooperative MFA Oil Co. The


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PELLET CONVEYANCE: Aloterra and MFA Oil Biomass have the potential to produce 2.4 million tons of miscanthus pellets a year.

two organizations have formed MFA Oil Biomass LLC, which will handle the projects. MFA Oil Biomass will also be responsible for another project area in Arkansas. “To our surprise, there was a strong call from the farming community in northeast Arkansas,” Coye-Huhn says. The area has a number of unique problems, including significant underground water resource depletion and runoff. “And the farmers are looking for solutions and one of those solutions, as they see it, is our crop miscanthus because it’s very efficient in its water use and is a good alternative, an option, for them. So we agreed to start another project down there under BCAP and it’s actually ended up being one of our strongest areas.” In total, the four areas represent about 18,000 acres and more than 200 farming families who have dedicated their land to the perennial crop. “Our goal is 50,000 acres in each area,” Coye-Huhn says. “The government allocated us enough money to get us started this year with BCAP.” Those farm families are responsible for 25 percent of the planting costs out-of-pocket, but get a rent payment for their land and matching payments on the backend of up to $45 per ton of harvested and delivered miscanthus. Aloterra and MFA Oil Biomass are in the process now of completing the contracts and conducting rigorous environmental and conservation plans for each farm. “The expectations are fairly high,” Coye-Huhn says, adding that the government wants to be

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PELLET PILE: The commercial miscanthus pellet mill in Missouri currently produces small amounts of pellets for agricultural heating customers.

absolutely certain that it is not introducing a problem plant.

How it Works With environmental consideration plans in place, planting for the BCAP areas is set to begin in the spring. Aloterra and MFA will handle that aspect of the project with around 20 custom-made rhizome-tailored planters, as traditional seed-planting farm equipment will not be sufficient. “It’s a pretty massive logistical undertaking,” CoyeHuhn says. The farmers will then be responsible for growing and caring for the plants, which take two years to mature before a proper harvest can commence. Because the crop is so dense and cannot be easily harvested by most traditional farm machinery, Aloterra and MFA will have harvesting services available for their farmers, in addition to the independent local companies gearing up to provide jobs in harvesting and transporting. Farmers will transport the miscanthus not more than 50 miles to either Aloterra’s

pellet facility in Ohio or MFA Oil Biomass’s pellet plant in Missouri. The Ohio mill now produces small batches of pellets for testfiring using miscanthus from Aloterra's own non-BCAP Ohio farm. But the Missouri plant produces a modest several tons per hour, also with miscanthus pulled from non-BCAP participant fields, for a few customers under contract. The 18,000 BCAP acres are set to yield between 10 and 15 tons of miscanthus per acre, producing about 216,000 tons of pellets per year. But at full capacity, at the 50,000 acres-per-project-area goal, the facilities will together be pumping out around 2.4 million tons of pellets per year. Market opportunities for those pellets lie in combined-heat-and-power applications and commercial power plants, but primarily in agricultural heating markets, Coye-Huhn says. “With our farmer co-op in Missouri, we had a fairly large customer base built in,” he says. “We have a huge agricultural heating need in this country.” The need is massive in the sector, which currently relies on fuels


that fluctuate in price, such as propane. The miscanthus pellets, however, have a cost per Btu very competitive with propane. Coye-Huhn emphasizes energy costs as the No. 1 issue for farmers today and expects it to only get worse without more advancements such as this. He specifically addresses poultry farms and their need for barn heating that isn’t harmful to their animals. “The type of heating can actually influence the health and size of their birds,” he says. “We know that our pellets actually create larger chickens and create an environment more conducive than other heating fuels. So it’s not just about cost for these farmers.” Mulford, who will dedicate 90 of his 150 acres to MFA Oil Biomass’s Aurora project area, is one of those farmers. He runs a 360,000-chicken poultry farm along with a cow and calf operation of about 30 animals. “Energy is a huge cost on my farm,” he says. Situated in a logging industry region, Mulford has heated his six poultry barns with wood pellets made from sawdust since 2008, but the recent housing slump caused a shortage of feedstock. He plans to switch to about 120 tons per year of miscanthus pellets, knowing firsthand the feedstock is secure and furthering the advantages his BCAP participation will bring. “I really think it’s going to stabilize the source of biomass,” Mulford says. “That will give me a place to buy biomass every year that’s dependable and reliable. And I get to grow my own so that offsets the cost even more.” And such benefits aren’t lost on CoyeHuhn. “We recognized a couple years ago when we were assessing biomass projects that if you don’t have the ability to provide everything along the entire supply chain, you aren’t going to be successful.” While the focus for the miscanthus grown on MFA and Aloterra’s BCAP project areas is pellets for now, other options and products are being explored. Pellets, however, are a very deliberate model for the companies because the technologies and markets already exist, Coye-Huhn says.



ON THE FARM: Farmer Tom Beach (left) and Aloterra's Coye-Huhn stand in a young field of miscanthus that is about halfway through its growing season.

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“The bottom line is we need to make sure our farmers get the best return for their crop.”

BCAP in a Bind While Aloterra has good news to report from its project areas and the same can be expected from most, if not all the other companies involved in BCAP, it’s going to be a tough road ahead. The U.S. House has voted to defund the program for 2012 and BCAP’s fate now lies in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the 2012 Farm Bill with full BCAP funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the 2012 Farm Bill with full BCAP funding. Still, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced project areas after that devastating vote, including Aloterra’s and MFA’s, and has said he is working to convince the Senate to maintain funding. “BCAP is certainly on a respirator right now,” Coye-Huhn says. “I’m an optimist by nature and I believe our Congress is starting to see the benefits. I know the Senate gets it and the House is starting to.” Even if the program survives funding cuts, Coye-Huhn thinks the matching payment element is still in trouble.

“I can’t say strongly enough how important this program is,” he says. “And exactly what the government wants to happen is happening.” Rural communities are being redeveloped, money is being put in farmers’ pockets and we are beginning to grow our own energy, he says, and it’s all happening very quickly. Mulford would add that he sees no negatives coming from the program and it has spurred him and others to take hold of the bioenergy industry, growing crops for the very first time. “Without BCAP, I don’t think I’d participate in this,” he adds. The positive changes are coming about so quickly, in fact, that the point when BCAP funding isn’t needed to support a robust miscanthus industry may be right around the corner. “I really hope it gets to where we don’t need a BCAP program,” Mulford says, adding that he expects the price of rhizomes to decrease with the massive planting in the program, also influenced by Aloterra’s continued and growing supply. “If we can make it with [BCAP] just helping us get started, that’s a successful program,” Mulford says.

• Bunker discharge conveyor • Ash extraction through wet de-ashing systems • Lime handling

Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952


Phone: 800-553-7993 •




Making the Grade With a plethora of different wood pellet standard programs, mills’ quality measures vary depending on which set their customers adopt. BY LISA GIBSON




uality assessment and quality control (QA/QC) measures and parameters of wood pellet mills exporting their products and those selling domestically can vary widely and significantly. The mills’ quality management programs do have one thing in common, though: they all follow the standards and specifications of their customers. In fact, QA/QC in wood pellet mills all come down to standards, complicated by the fact that most pellet markets, and even individual customers, operate under a different set. U.S. residential heating pellet quality specifications differ from those of Europe, and European commercial and industrial power standards will differ even more from both. The U.S. will soon have a third-party verification aspect to its wood pellet standards, certified and marked clearly by a quality label on the bag. The Pellet Fuels Institute has been working diligently on the program, hoping it will be the framework for the U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standard for residential wood heaters. Ideally, pellet stove manufacturers will specify a certain

quality pellet for their equipment, voiding warranties where the specifications weren’t followed. “All producers who want to serve the domestic market are going to have to comply with that certification or accreditation scheme,” says Chris Wiberg, co-chair of PFI’s standards committee. “That’s quite different from what’s going on overseas for international trade.”

PFI Program While U.S. pellet producers shipping overseas are generally required to test their product while it’s being loaded onto ships, no industrywide uniform certification to bolster product quality currently exists in their markets. But such a program might make quality recognition and customer satisfaction much easier. PFI’s new standard program will do just that for the U.S. residential pellet heating market. Although many pellet companies tout the quality of their product and may claim they follow PFI’s current but nonaudited parameters, none have been subjected

to an official third-party inspection to test their claims. “Everybody is making an effort to maintain that quality,” Wiberg says. “What’s inconsistent is how often they test. Are they truly going to go with the recommendation of every 1,000 tons? Most people do not. Are they just getting a portion of the overall analysis checked?” PFI currently has nine quality tests and many producers could be performing just four or five, Wiberg explains, resulting in incomplete data. “It’s spotty as to how well different companies have been complying with the program.” “I think it’s a long time coming,” says Luann Lafreniere, project manager and quality manager for New Hampshire-based New England Wood Pellet, of the new certification requirement. New England Wood Pellet sells its product exclusively on the domestic market. “We are finally going to get recognition that we are a quality-controlled and bigger industry than they think we are,” Lafreniere says. It’s about consumer protection, she adds, and assuring them that the pellet they

QUALITY¦ use will perform as the producer promises. “I’m a consumer at the end of the day and I know if I buy something, I want to make darn sure I’m getting what I pay for. And right now, anybody can stick anything on their bag and there’s no double check from anybody. So I think this program is a great thing.” The PFI standards dictate quality parameters for premium, standard and utility grades, including crucial aspects such as ash content, durability, fines, size, moisture content and others. The three-step testing phase will start at the mills, followed by an on-site inspection once per month from an auditor, and ending with verification of the product quality from the accreditation body, the American Lumber Standard Committee. While internal laboratories at all mills are not required, it’s certainly encouraged for the producers’ sake. “Picture yourself in the shoes of the production facility,” Wiberg explains. “When that auditor shows up, you’re probably going to live and die by those samples and if you don’t have some level of assurance that

they’re going to pass, you’re putting yourself at quite a risk that those samples may fail and if so, how much of your product are you now going to have to pull off the shelf? That’s the risk you take.” PFI’s new program specifies that any nonconforming materials must be identified, documented, segregated, evaluated and disposed of. Mills without internal laboratories, therefore, must be extremely confident in their process, Wiberg says. The bottom line is, quality assessments need to be done on-site, whether they’re done in-house or outsourced, he emphasizes. Facilities that have a controlled feed stream may decide not to incur the cost of an internal lab, and instead choose to send out samples every couple weeks. But producers with multiple suppliers and any kind of ongoing issues are definitely encouraged to set up their own internal labs, Wiberg says. “And they may find that their auditors will say, ‘I’m not going to represent you if you don’t put something up inside your house.’” Auditors have a lot at stake in the proper deployment of the program and their inspections.

“It’s the auditors’ stamp that goes on the bag and when the accreditation body investigates a bad product, it’s not the producer they’ll be upset with,” Wiberg explains. “It’s the auditor because they allowed that product in the market.”

Quality Management To help prevent the dissemination of bad products, a quality management program is integral and includes multiple aspects such as training, documentation, records, management of change, raw material control, equipment and operating processes, inspection criteria, storage, handling, delivery and labeling, among others. To receive PFI quality certification, the documentation aspect of a quality management program must encompass administrative factors, raw materials receiving, production, quality verification of the finished product, periodic inspections and customer complaints. All those documents must also be kept for a minimum of five years, along with inspection instructions, standard operating and testing procedures, test reports and data generated.



PELLET HANDLING: Customers' pellet standards greatly influence QA/QC measures at pellet mills.

In addition, any producer or plant that wishes to qualify for PFI’s standards must appoint a quality manager, who is trained in quality control procedures and preferably is not responsible for production or finance. And New England Wood Pellet quality manager Lafreniere is confident the new standards won’t significantly change the company’s quality control procedures, which she says are already far ahead of the game. “We don’t feel like it’s going to make our product any better because we definitely already have a handle on that,” she says. “But now we just prove it. They want you to prove your process can’t allow you to make anything but your premium pellet.” New England Wood Pellet will soon put in place an internal quality manual to accompany the new standards program and help train operators to record testing results to auditors’ expectations. “We would like to be one of the first manufacturers to sign on to this pellet fuel auditing program and we’re very confident that we have all the quality steps in place to be able to pass the first audit,” Lafreniere says. “We’ve got all the equipment we need. There will be a little more training

maybe with the operators, but just having it in a manual is going to be a specification from the auditors to begin with.” New England Wood Pellet does internal sampling and testing twice per shift, and sends samples twice weekly to outside labs for verification of its own results. The company looks at fines, length, durability, ash content, moisture content, Btu value and raw material quality. “We pretty much have a handle on the entire process so that nothing gets by us and into the bag,” Lafreniere says. “QA/QC starts with monitoring raw materials and working with raw material suppliers,” says Greg Cabe, director of product quality for Enviva Biomass, which currently has a customer base composed of primarily European utilities, but could include expansion into the U.S. market. “Within the production process, there is a host of equipment settings that can affect many of the key finished goods properties, including particle size distribution, moisture content, durability, density, and so on.” One of the most important challenges is keeping production settings tuned to any variability in the incoming raw material, such as species or moisture content,


he adds. After production, storage methods and material handling can significantly influence potential product degradation and the generation of fines or dust. Cabe added that a host of tests along the way are involved as well. Finally, given that transactions with utilities typically involve tens of thousands of tons of pellets, a final quality compliance test for the customer most often happens concurrent with a shipment, as dictated by contract terms,” Cabe says. “Frequently, it will include testing both on loading and on unloading of the ship.” Fram Renewable Fuels LLC has testing at every stage of the process, as well, inspecting quality aspects for pellet sale and shipment to Europe. About 125 tests per week will assess quality parameters of the raw material before the dryers, after the dryers, after the hammer mill and again on the finished product, according to Harold Arnold, president and CEO of Fram. “Then, as a check against that, we send it to independent labs once monthly just to compare with what we’re testing,” he says. Fram supplies power utilities and combined-heat-and-power plants primarily in Belgium, and while its customers don’t require independent testing from a mill standpoint, they do require third-party sampling and testing during ship loading. Currently, those samples are also sent to Europe for testing, but with the opening this month of the Biomass Energy Laboratory in Georgia, more testing on exported U.S. pellets can be done in the U.S. “Part of the transaction settlement process is that you provide that analysis from a third-party lab,” Arnold says. “Having a U.S.-based lab that is doing that may be more convenient.” He adds that once the lab is up and running, he expects it will be used quite extensively. Wiberg is the new manager of BEL and says it will be able to assist pellet producers in their QA/QC measures, whether they’re working to comply with PFI’s standards, Europe’s EN+ certification, or specifications of certain European power producers.

Sharing the Standards Specifications of European power producers are crafted by individual companies

QUALITY¦ themselves and do differ, sometimes greatly. Wiberg says it can cause problems for the producers in their quality control. “There’s a lot of confusion there,” he says, adding that some differences are completely incompatible, deterring pellet producers from selling to certain combinations of power companies. “If you meet this spec, it’s mutually exclusive of the other spec,” Wiberg explains, adding that it causes trade barriers. “It just goes to show some of the specs aren’t necessarily well thought out.” Arnold says no customer specifications have completely conflicted with one another for Fram, and the company simply produces its pellets to the specifications of the strictest customer standard in each category. Still, it would be simpler if they all adopted a single set of standards. To remedy the problem, the seven largest power producers in Europe that import biomass are working together on a shared set of standards, but it won’t be the end of the problem for all pellet manufacturers. “That’s a really good start, but there are obviously more than

seven power companies out there,” Wiberg says. “Everyone else needs to gravitate to that spec.” Help is on the way. The European Committee for Normalization (CEN) has created 27 solid biomass specifications that are now being published as EN standards. Producers who meet them and are in participating countries will receive EN+ certification. Eventually, all European Union countries will replace their own standards with EN standards. CEN’s standards don’t currently account for the specifications of the large power producers, but that aspect is in the works, along with amendments to fit all the countries in the world. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is working with CEN to globalize them, requiring that all countries step forward and involve themselves in the process, Wiberg explains. “It’s basically the same [CEN] working product, but now opened up to all countries,” he says. “Come one, come all. The trick now is to take CEN standards and build in all the com-

ponents necessary for all the other countries in the world to say these are suitable as true international standards.” Ultimately, when the world standards are published, they’ll be known as the ISO/ CEN standards and while it’s not required that the U.S. sign on, groups like PFI will be encouraged to adopt their methods. That will come with some growing pains, however, as the specs will be slightly different from PFI’s, as will the test methods. “It’ll take a couple more years for the ISO to catch up, get all the information from all the different countries, revise them and have them re-issued,” Wiberg says. “Once all that happens, we’ll have dual designated ISO standards we would hope that everyone in the world gravitates to and says, ‘this is what we’re going to have for standards for solid biofuels.’” Author: Lisa Gibson Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 738-4952


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Greening rass G

With the availability of agricultural biomass, North American companies are promoting the benefits of converting grass into energy in an effort to spur the industry. BY MATT SOBERG





ith a multitude of economical and environmental reasons to utilize grass-to-energy technology, why hasn’t the industry become more prominent in North America? The U.S. DOE has identified millions of acres of land available for energy crops and predicts tons of biomass, including energy crops, would be available annually by 2030 in its 2011 Billion-Ton Update. Similarly, the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that significant potential exists for the Midwest region of the U.S. to capture its local agricultural base to reduce fossil fuel imports in its report “A Bright Future for the Heartland: Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy.” Innovative feedstock and boiler companies have taken advantage of agricultural resources. Feedstock companies are harvesting various grasses, including Giant King Grass and switchgrass, to manufacture products such as pellets, briquettes and logs. Other companies are developing technology to cleanly and efficiently process the agricultural products for power and thermal energy. With most wood waste already committed for pressed wood products and pellets, agricultural pellets are starting to emerge, according to Carl Kukkonen, CEO of Viaspace Inc., who projects the pellet market will grow to 46 million metric tons annually by 2020. Jim Trussler, co-founder and CEO of LST Energy, hopes agricultural biomass, specifically hay, will show up on the renewable resource radar in North America. Trussler notes that hay is a clean, cheap and local renewable resource that can cut consumers’ heating prices in half at current fuel prices. “We have the ability to build the industry from the ground up and do it right,” says Paul Cerosaletti, senior educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, when referring to the ag biomass industry. “We need to get more examples of heating with biomass out into the public and show its benefits.” Government agencies and research organizations are realizing the potential of agricultural biomass while private companies are

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INNOVATION¦ implementing business strategies in an attempt to kick-start the market. The industry sees the benefits of grass as an alternative fuel, but what will it take for the industry to get to the next level?

Grass Feedstock Innovative companies from across the continent are developing creative ways to grow grasses with bioenergy in mind. Grasses range from naturally grown to dedicated energy crops. Science has shown that grasses can be combusted effectively and efficiently to create energy and minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Renewable Energy Resources Inc. produces briquettes from switchgrass for thermal or combined-heat-and-power systems. The company is merging established briquette technology with switchgrass ecology to create a market-ready energy solution for small- to large-scale applications. The company is based in Vermont with a market emphasis on other states such as New York and Pennsylvania. RER manufactures briquettes from grass that can be burned in boilers and furnaces by itself or in combination with other fuels and used on farms and by institutional, industrial and utility customers. The company transfers grass from “field to flue,” says John Bootle, RER founder, with field inspection, harvest, transfer, compaction and delivery to the boiler as parts of their grass-to-fuel process. He says crop-derived biomass will be important as a future thermal heat source because studies project that the availability of ag feedstocks will be significantly higher than wood. The benefits of grass biomass, according to Bootle, include faster carbon emission reduction than wood, low-cost sustainability, local production and local economic development. Switchgrass will deliver about 14.4 million Btu per ton, and users can expect to save more than 50 percent on their fuel bills compared to oil, according to RER. Switchgrass may be chopped, burned or compacted into bri-

quettes. RER promotes its briquettes as having the advantages of more efficient combustion, lower particulate emissions and considerably reduced storage and transportation costs than simply chopped biofuel. Switchgrass grows well in poorer soils, and may be grown in most states east of the Rocky Mountains into Southern Canada. RER is seeking farmers and landowners who would like to plant biomass crops on under-utilized or unproductive land. Likewise, recognizing agricultural potential from the central region of the U.S., Missouri-based Show Me Energy Co-op is committed to establishing an innovative, profitable model for the production of biomass-based fuels. “This model may be replicated across the country by small producer-owned cooperatives that will provide a positive economic impact on the regions in which they are located,” according to Steve Flick, the co-op’s chairman of the board. The co-op started approximately five years ago, consists of farmer stockholders and its objective is to create jobs and economic development through agricultural innovation. The co-op purchases large round bales and turns the grass into a pellet product for combustion purposes. Without impacting the food supply for animals and humans, the group has benefited Missouri by increasing the value of farmland, creating green collar jobs and advancing rural economic development. On the West Coast, but with a similar perspective, Californiabased Viaspace Green Energy Inc. transforms Giant King Grass, which can grow 15 feet high, into pellets and logs. The company globally markets its harvest as a high-yield dedicated energy crop that is a low-carbon replacement for coal to generate power and heat. While dependence on coal and imported oil has led to a major increase in environmental issues, biomass is carbon neutral, according to Viaspace. The company explains that plant material burned in a power plant releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere but


it is reabsorbed when the next crop grows making it carbon neutral. Giant King Grass can be burned either directly or in pellet form as a replacement for coal or oil in power plants or used to produce biomethane in anaerobic digesters. Giant King Grass is a nonfood crop and can be grown on marginal lands not suitable for growing food crops. Viaspace says the grass is low cost because it yields more than 44 dry tons per acre annually. Combusting grass results in one-fourth the cost of solar or wind energy. Ag-to-energy is predictable and constant, as agricultural biomass can power a plant 24/7. “As pellet demand increases, agricultural pellets, especially pellets from dedicated sustainably grown energy crops will be in great demand,” Kukkonen says.

Combustion Technologies In addition to an existing supply chain, it is necessary to have the energy generation technologies to capitalize on biomass benefits. Various companies are actively developing boilers and furnaces compatible with agricultural feedstocks that minimize the challenges of slagging or clinkering. Skanden Energy is a start-up company, based in the Northeast U.S., which markets commercial- and residential-scale multifueled biomass boilers using gasification to process feedstocks such as agricultural bio-

mass in in loose, chip, pellet, briquette or bale form. In addition to the multifueled boiler systems that can process biomass with up to 50 percent moisture, the company markets residential pellet boilers. The boilers range from 30,000 to 10 million Btus. To ensure the feedstock gets to the boiler efficiently, Skanden also provides storage and fuel feeding equipment, including silos, bins, moving wedge floors, bale cutters, conveyors and automatic bale feeders. “We take automation to a new level,” according to Skanden. “We offer multiple cleaning devices that remove ash automatically from the combustion chamber, boiler tubes and exhaust gases.” The company provides control panels that can be connected to the BIOMASS BOILER: In 2010, Skanden installed a boiler at the Kingfield Elementary and Middle School in Maine, in Internet to notify the consumer 2010, that will save the school $34,000 annually in fuel costs. and the fuel supplier about fuel and maintenance issues. Skanden’s multifueled boilers are manufactured with stainless metals shown the boilers are more than 90 percent that eliminate corrosive tendencies and en- efficient. courage multifuel use. Laura Colban, SkanColban adds that although the interden’s CEO, says independent tests have est in agricultural fuels is increasing, some




INNOVATION¦ financial obstacles exist in the short-term with companies receiving renewable energyreleated grants that are restricted to woody biomass technology. “There is a need for agricultural biomass to be on par with other renewable energy sources,” Colban says. Canada, known for its well-established wood pellet industry, is also seeking to enhance agricultural biomass as a viable renewable fuel source. Nova Scotia-based start-up LST Energy has developed a pellet burning furnace with a specially designed burner pot that eliminates clinkers found in previously marketed biomass burners, according to Trussler. LST intends to manufacture and market a wide variety of clean burning furnaces across North America. Trussler believes the system is an enabling technology, facilitating biomass production by promoting problem-free burning. The use of hay as a heat source was inhibited by the formation of clinkers, which must be regularly removed to ensure efficient burning, thereby frustrating those utilizing biomass fuel, he adds. LST hopes its furnace technology creates a bridge between the vast benefits of biomass heat and usable industrial and residential applications. Trussler says the initial market will be the agricultural community, where the benefits of crop resources as a feedstock source can be utilized. The production of hay as a biomass resource would have a significant effect on rural economic development. According to Trussler, 70 to 80 percent of the money spent on hay fuel would be re-injected into the local economy versus only 10 percent for oil. Interest in LST’s boiler technology has come from Nova Scotia and the Northeast U.S. The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture independently tested the boiler and found that the grass pellets can be burned successfully and reliably in its furnace, according the ag department’s report. Also in the report, grass pellets were compared to wood pellets in regards to combustion performance and emissions, and showed similar performance to that of wood pellets. “No ash sintering was observed and ash discharge was in the form of powder instead of lumped particles, which are usually observed for high-ash biomass fuel,” the report says.

Future of Ag-to-Energy For the ag-to-energy industry to overcome challenges, Cerosaletti says that “just as people say eat local, we need to heat local,” meaning utilizing local resources, such as grass, when planning the future of thermal energy options. He also says the premise “build it and they will come” may hold true for the agricultural biomass industry. There is a need for a large anchor company or municipality to commit to agricultural biomass as a future energy source, and the result just might be development of more widespread technology and markets. Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has initiated a grass energy research project, the Catskill Grass Bio-Energy Project, through the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County. The pilot project was developed to analyze the production to consumption of grass biomass burning technologies and involves installing pellet furnaces and boilers on a small business scale.

As part of a report on combustion technology and the future of biomass thermal energy, Cerosaletti says that the energy content of agricultural biomass is 95 percent that of wood. In analyzing boiler technology, he says problems have arisen through clinkering and corrosion, and that manufacturers need to maintain service after the sale when mechanical problems arise. With a large population of people that want to be energy independent, the local agricultural market can support the local economy’s energy needs. Cerosaletti says there is an opportunity for the biomass appliance industry to develop heating units that work with a large range of feedstocks including agricultural resources. Author: Matt Soberg Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 746-8385

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REVISITED The 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update enhances its 2005 predecessor and finds potential for dedicated energy crops through direct inventory analysis and rigorous sustainability modeling. BY MATT SOBERG


he 2005 U.S. Billion-Ton Study was intended to estimate the biomass potential within the country based upon assumptions regarding then-current production capacity, availability and technology. It provided a starting point for U.S. analysis of biomass as a possible future alternative energy source. Expanding on the original, the “2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry,” known as the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, included more direct inventory analysis regarding primary feedstocks, focused on price and supply quantities, and conducted rigorous treatment and modeling of resource sustainability, according to the U.S. DOE. The update evaluated biomass resource potential nationwide and improved upon the 2005 study. The researchers hoped to quantify biomass supply under improved calculations and determine how biomass can be developed for future use. Understanding the importance of harnessing biomass data, the DOE exhibited a major effort in research for the first study, according to John Ferrell from the DOE’s Biomass Program, and again found the potential for a billion tons of available biomass annually by 2030.

Research and Analysis Providing the necessary broad depth of expertise to the 2011 study, approximately 50 people provided report research and analy-


¦STUDY sis while a total of 107 people contributed through review and other specialties. The primary research for the update was performed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Managed by UT-Battelle, a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, the ORNL has a broad portfolio, which includes programs that support the U.S. DOE in scientific discovery and innovation. The ORNL is the DOE’s largest science and energy laboratory. The update used the lower 48 states as a resource base, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. The forestland resources reviewed included 504 million acres of timberland and 91 million acres of other forestland. The agricultural resource base included 340 million acres of cropland, 40 million acres of idle cropland and 404 million of pasture. The study used scientific modeling methods to determine current agricultural

and woody biomass availability and also projected the supply to 2030. Robert Perlack, senior scientist at ORNL, says the Policy Analysis System (Polysys), an economic modeling simulator developed by the University of Tennessee, was used to estimate supply curve quantities and prices. The system operates at a county level and is supported by the USDA’s 10-year data projections extended to 2030. The update provided quantities based on two scenarios, the baseline, providing conservative calculations, and a high-yield scenario showing full potential. Focusing on more than just quantities, the update integrated environmental measures to ensure sustainability and also analyzed cost information and productivity, according to Perlack. Under the baseline scenario, for example, the current national corn yield is 160 bushels per acre, while the yield is projected


at 201 bushels per acre in 2030. This assumes energy crop yields increase 1 percent annually, which is attributable to the growth of industry experience in planting energy crops, Perlack says. Using the accelerated high-yield scenario, national average corn yields would increase to 265 bushels per acre in 2030 based upon the assumption of higher amounts of cropland in no-till situations to allow greater residue removal. Perlack says the study assumed energy crop yields would increase at up to 4 percent annually. The researchers reviewed forest and agricultural resources as feedstocks in the 2011 study, according to Bryce Stokes from CNJV, a company that provides engineering research services to the DOE. CNJV is a joint venture between Corporate Allocation Services Inc. and Navarro Research and Engineering Inc. Forestry feedstocks included a composite group (a combination of logging residues and forest thinnings), conventional and fuel wood, primary and secondary mill residues, urban wood residues, and pulping liquors. On the agricultural side, the study quantified crop residues, grains to biofuels, perennial grasses and woody crops, animal manures, food/feed processing residues, municipal solid wastes and landfill gases, and annual energy crops. Algae potential was not reviewed in the update. It was considered as an addition to the study approximately two years ago, and at that time, and even today, the researchers determined they could not perform a sufficient analysis of potential algae contributions due to insufficient data, according to Stokes. Other assessments, however, have been done on algae including the DOE’s National Algal Biofuels Techonology Roadmap, which can be found at www.1.eere. roadmap.pdf, and the National Microalgae Biofuel Production Potential and Resource Demand study done by Wigmosta, Coleman, Skaggs, Huesemann, and Lane, and referenced at node/322.


FINDING FEEDSTOCK: Researchers applied state-by-state analysis to determine biomass availability. This map shows the nationwide supply of woody biomass. SOURCE: U.S. DOE

Differences From 2005 With a sustainability component and more directed approach in 2011, the conservative results may show more accurate projections of what the industry can expect from biomass availability compared to 2005. In 2005, the study provided national estimates, however it lacked analysis on focused spatial information and cost analysis. Environmental sustainability was addressed from a national perspective. The study estimated current availability and then broadsweeping, long-term projections, 2025 through 2050, involving changes in productivity, efficiency and land use. By contrast, in 2011, a more systematic approach was taken with county-level analysis aggregated to state, regional and national levels. A more focused modeling of environmental sustainability was used for residue removal. Logically, updated data, the 2009 USDA agricultural baseline and 2007 forestry timber product output database specifically, was used as a starting point for the update. The timeline for the project was 2012 through 2030 with annual



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¦STUDY projections based on continuation of the baseline trends. In particular, the update separated feedstocks into “used” and “potential” categories to differentiate the biomass the nation was not yet utilizing. “In the 2005 study, feedstocks currently used for energy production or [that] could be shifted from another market to energy production were counted in the biomass potential,” according to the 2011 study. “In the update, the currently used biomass is clearly delineated from the potential.”

Researchers involved in the 2011 study made a concerted effort to review cost assumptions that include compliance with statutes, regulations and best management practices. For agricultural feedstocks, the study explicitly modeled crop residue retention, tillage, nutrient replacement and crop rotation to provide erosion protection and maintenance of soil organic carbon. Researchers included only accessible forestry feedstock, meaning little to no road building was anticipated and forestry-related feed-

Biomass (Outlines).ai 1 9/7/2011 10:27:36 AM

stocks located on steep slopes were not included. The major difference came from the modeling of energy crop potential at a county-level using Polysys in 2011. All estimates for energy crops assume that demands for food, feed, and exports continue to be met, according to the 2011 study. As the overall 2011 results showed, forest residue potential is less, compared to 2005, due to a decline in pulpwood and sawlog markets, removal of unused resources from review, and because the researchers were much more careful in separating used from potential forestry resources, according to Perlack. On the agricultural side, the total crop residue availability is less, due to consideration of soil carbon issues and the preclusion of residue from conventionally tilled acres. Energy crops, however, showed much more potential, Perlack notes, with the addition of pastureland in the model, unlike the 2005 study.

Emergence of Energy Crops Showing significantly different results than 2005, the update provided a current baseline scenario supply of 473 million dry tons-per-year with 45 percent consisting of currently used resources and the remainder being potential additional biomass. By 2030, there are estimated resources annually of 1.1 billion dry tons, consisting of 30 percent used and 70 percent potential biomass. For the high-yield scenario, total resources range from nearly 1.4 billion to more than 1.6 billion dry tons annually by 2030, of which 80 percent is potential additional biomass. The update found that enough resources exist to meet the 2022 advanced biofuel goals, that potential resources are widely distributed across the nation, and planned energy crops are the single largest source of new feedstock potential. The dedicated crops showed increased potential in the update, however, because of the focus on sustainability restrictions in the modeling process. The restraints in-


STUDY¦ cluded integrating best management practices, not allowing energy crops on irrigated cropland or pasture, and allowing only 10 percent of cropland and 25 percent of all lands within any one county to be used. Perlack says that the results show a lot of potential for dedicated energy crops, and added that they are grown where the land is available, including areas with large quantities of pastureland in the great plains and southern plains regions of the U.S. The crops reviewed were perennial grasses including switchgrass, woody crops (eucalyptus, southern pine, poplar and willow) and annual energy crops such as sorghum. Ferrell says the largest single resource, as time goes by, are the purpose-grown energy crops, which could be seen as an extension of the current farm system. He adds that the update is extremely important to the agricultural and forestry industries and landowners should be able to increase profits and create jobs.

can use the KDF to download report data, aggregate reports and complete high-level data sets. The KDF’s modeling page includes an easy-to-use data explorer that can be used to focus on specific information regarding feedstocks, projections to 2030, prices, type of spatial data such as production, and location (county or state level). Once the model is run, one should be able to look at the spatial data for the specific factors chosen, according to Crowell.

The KDF also includes forums that allow discussions with authors and contributors. The KDF modeling system can be found at Author: Matt Soberg Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal (701) 746-8385

A hammer blow to your operating costs. The hammer mill Granulex™ is the new dynamic grinding machine from Buhler. Designed for ultimate power, Granulex™ delivers high capacity grinding up to 15 t/h for wood and 75 t/h for biomass. Heavy design and supreme ease of maintenance minimize downtime, so you can make maximum use of this productivity. It’s an investment in quality that is sure to show a rapid return – and deliver a hammer blow to your operating costs.

Bioenergy KDF To maintain the 2011 update as a living, breathing document, the DOE created the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF), an extensive online tool kit available for industry professionals, researchers, policymakers and the public. For someone interested in pursuing their own high level of analysis of focused information, the KDF is the place to search, Perlack says. For professionals, the KDF provides the latest research data on biomass feedstock production and supply projections to identify business opportunities. For researchers, laboratories and academia, the KDF allows focused exploratory analysis and modeling. The public can gain much-needed education about biomass and feedstock availability nationwide using the operatorfriendly website. Policymakers can utilize the site to make strategic decisions at the federal, state and local levels, according to the DOE. Aaron Crowell from BCS Inc., a company that provides technical and engineering services to the DOE, says individuals

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Biofuels and Other Bioliquids— Facts and Perspectives New EU sustainability criteria for biofuels and other bioliquids must be complied with and verified by an independent third party at every stage of the production process. BY IGOR DORMUTH AND ELENA SCHMIDT


he current flagship report of the German Advisory Council on Global Change emphasizes the urgency of a sustainable economic strategy and demonstrates its feasibility. Central aspects include resource protection and decarbonization or low-carbon economy. Expansion of energy from renewable sources and of the required infrastructure should be the central interest. The EU has laid the basis for this expansion with its directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. Germany transposed the EU directive into its national legislation, the Biofuel Sustainability Ordinance (Biokraft-NachV), the Ordinance on Requirements Pertaining to the Sustainable Production of Bioliquids for Electricity Production (BioST-NAchV) and the German Renewable Energy Act, which is due for another revision in 2012.

Under the sustainability strategy of the EU and the German government, the production of electricity from bioliquids and biofuels is only eligible for support against the submission of sustainability certificates. The criteria are set forth in a host of regulations including the BioSt-NachV and the Biokraft-NachV. To be eligible for tax reductions and crediting to the national biofuel quota, each stage of the production and distribution pathways must be certified. This also applies to the remuneration of electricity from bioliquids under the German Renewable Energy Act. Certification assesses various aspects including emissions caused by the production of raw materials or the energy carriers used to produce bioliquids and biogas, and by transport. Further requirements include measures to protect land, water and air, restore degraded areas and avoid excessive water consumption. To be

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


recognized on the European market, biofuels must at minimum fulfill the criteria laid down in the EU directive.

Third-Party Certification Sustainability certification is conducted by independent auditing companies such as TÜV SÜD Industrie Service, which are accredited by organizations including the Federal German Agency for Agriculture and Food. All stakeholders or producers intending to benefit from funding under the EU support scheme in ways such as crediting to the national biofuel quota need to fulfill these criteria. As sustainability must be assessed across the biofuel's entire life cycle, the TÜV SÜD auditors examine all stages of the production processes: • Is the raw material cultivated in a sustainable manner? • Are areas of high conservation value protected? • Is the chain of custody traceable and verifiable?

POLICY¦ • What emissions are caused at each step of the production process? • Does the biofuel produce at least 35 percent emissions reductions compared to fossil fuels? By 2017, biofuel and other bioliquids, including bioethanol, biomethane or biodiesel, must slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50 percent—and from 2018 on by 60 percent—compared to fossil fuels. Steps to certification include selecting the right certification scheme, registration and an optional preliminary audit. Before a certificate can be issued, the biofuel or bioliquid must undergo conformity assessment to prove that the above criteria have been met.

Accounting Method and Systems To calculate GHG reduction potential, total biofuel emissions are compared against a fossil fuel comparator (reference value). The fossil fuel comparator of petrol, for example, is 83.8 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule (MJ) of energy. GHGs include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide with a global warming potential (in carbon dioxide equivalents) of 296, and methane with a global warming potential (in carbon dioxide equivalents) of 23. To facilitate the process, the directive provides standard values that can be used by biofuel producers, indicating the carbon emissions caused at various stages of the production process. If the individual value of a biofuel is more favorable than the standard value defined in the directive, separate calculation is recommendable. For this purpose, the auditors review all data submitted, for example the amount of fertilizer used in biomass production. In the case of highly efficient biofuel production, separate calculation may also be a good choice as low-energy consumption improves the carbon footprint. When certified and noncertified biomass are mixed, a mass balance system must be applied. In addition to the above aspects, emissions caused by changes in land use are included in the calculation of the reference value. To prevent these emissions, the EU defines the types of cultivation areas that are permitted for the cultivation of biomass. High-carbon-stock land and areas characterized by a high degree of biodiversity are excluded. However, as long

as sustainability criteria do not apply to the cultivation of other agricultural crops, indirect changes in land use will continue to be a problem. Displacement effects arise when biomass cultivated on areas with permission for cultivation replaces the original agricultural crop, which then in turn is cultivated on ecologically sensitive areas.

Abolishing the Blending Quota The EU aims to raise the percentage of energy from renewable sources in the transport sector to 10 percent by 2020. The German act on the biofuel quota, which came into effect in 2007, provided for biofuels to account for 6.25 percent of the fuel demand from 2010 on. As of 2015, the lawmakers intend to change the system from blending quotas (assessment of energy efficiency) to continuously rising GHG reduction targets. For example, biofuels are to reduce total GHG emissions from fuel combustion and production by 3 percent at the outset, by 4.5 percent as of 2017 and by 7 percent from 2020. This favors biofuels that involve a major reduction in GHGs, and the price will then be coupled to the GHG balance: the higher the reduction in emissions compared to fossil energy carriers, the higher the financial value of biofuel. This increases the pressure on the biofuel industry. Cost reductions throughout the production chain require innovations, a change in investment strategies and improved efficiency. The measures involved extend from larger production plants (economies of scale enable more cost-effective production) and more efficient use of process energy to changes in crop rotation within the scope of the cultivation of raw materials. Case Study: Bioliquids in the PaperPulp Industry: Waste liquor, a byproduct in paper-pulp production, can be used in industrial plants to generate electricity and heat. Electricity generated from waste liquor is eligible for remuneration under Germany's Renewable Energy Act. TÜV SÜD certified the use of the biofuel in accordance with the REDcert standard at all six major paper-pulp plants in Germany. As there has been no experience with the certification of waste liquor, TÜV SÜD aligned its certification process to the requirements of the standard. Sustainability certification covers

assessment of management criteria and production processes and the verification of the mass balance and GHG accounting. The production of electricity from waste liquor saves at least 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions compared to fossil fuels. As waste liquor is considered a residue under the BioSt-NachV, emissions from the upstream production chain need not be taken into consideration, providing waste liquor with an ideal carbon footprint. Case study: Biomethane: In accordance with its target of injecting 10 billion cubic meters of biomethane per year into the natural gas grid by 2030, the German government subsidizes the upgrading of raw biogas to natural gas quality under the Renewable Energy Act. Biomethane can be used to produce electricity and heat and as a fuel. Another possibility is to store large amounts of biomethane in underground caverns and convert it into electricity as needed. This solution would permit the natural gas grid to back up the electricity grid, improving the security of supply and of the grid. However, geographical separation of production and consumption makes assessment of the entire production and distribution chain an absolute must. To cater to this need, TÜV SÜD's biogas and biofuel experts developed the new "Green Methane" certification. Using a substantiated catalogue of criteria as basis, the experts certify not only production and upgrading but also the distribution and the products offered to end-consumers. The threestage process offers transparency along the entire value chain. From 2017 and beyond, when biofuels will save 50 percent instead of 35 percent of GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels, manufacturers will be forced to optimize their production processes further. However, biofuels and other bioliquids are subject to complex and multifaceted legal regulations. TÜV SÜD's independent and impartial experts can assist market players throughout all stages of the value chain. Authors: Igor Dormuth and Elena Schmidt Product Managers TÜV SÜD Industrie Service 089 / 5791-2246




Limitations of 24/7 Operation of a Capacity Briquette Plant For Binderless Fibrous Biomass How to improve briquetting operations to efficiently densify fibrous agricultural residues from crops, horticulture operations and forests. BY PRIYA JAIN AND A.K. KHATER


ress-to-log technology in North America and binderless briquetting technology in Europe were essentially designed to work with granular wood waste such as sawdust, wood chips and bark. Wood waste generated by wood processing plants is mostly dry (15 to 20 percent moisture) so briquetting plants are used primarily for waste

disposal. And in developing countries, most of the briquetting plants installed between 1985 and 2000, utilized residue from the agricultural processing industry such as rice husks, ground nut shells and husks from various other plants. Preliminary testing on almost 200 of these 90-millimeter (mm)-diameter presses with 15-cubic-meters per-hour

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


displacement indicates that they are under-designed for new-generation crop briquetting of the fibrous biomass found in Europe and North America. The challenge is to improve briquetting operations to efficiently utilize fibrous agricultural residues from crops, horticulture operations and forests. The limitations of briquetting fibrous biomass utilizing briquette presses and processes designed for granular biomass are addressed herein.


Preparing Fibrous Biomass for Briquetting Most types of fibrous biomass have low bulk density and normal- to mediummoisture content, so processing, including cutting/chopping and shredding at the harvest site, natural or mechanized drying, and grinding for increased bulk density are required prior to briquetting Also, the availability of these materials is seasonal so they may have to be stored for considerable periods prior to briquetting.

Binderless Briquetting 24/7 Even after grinding fibrous material through a 6 mm screen, the bulk density is only 286 to 310 pounds per cubic meter (lb/m3) as compared to 352 to 396 lb/ m3 for wood waste. Energy consumption is high and the briquette press is de-rated. Also, wear and tear on parts such as the ram, die, split die, wear ring, etc. is excessive. In developing countries, most of the briquette plants utilized to process fibrous material operate 10 to 12 hours per day with low productivity, low output per press and low output per person. Power consumption is also high.

Limitations of 24/7 Operation • Overheating: For briquetting, the temperature required to press the fibrous material is more than 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit). Cooling is required to maintain the briquetting head temperature below 100 degrees C. Most of the European presses in operation today do not have head cooling and will overheat after eight to 10 hours, at which time the operation must stop to allow for cooling and lubricating. • Low Output: Standard 90 to 200 diameter briquette presses are rated for outputs of 2 tons per hour on granular biomass with bulk densities of 352 lb/m3. However, processing unground fibrous biomass can de-rate the output to as low as 1.2 tons per hour. Another cause of low output is the alignment accuracy between

the ram and pressing parts. For optimum output, the desired accuracy is 0.2 mm, however, the highest accuracy of presses used in developing countries is only about 0.5 mm. This disparity increases wear and, as a result, replacement of wear parts is required within 100 hours of operation to maintain minimum production levels. • Low Productivity: A standard 90 to 200 diameter briquette press requires a minimum of three people to operate. To increase productivity to one person, the following improvements must be made to avoid jamming the die holder, which frequently occurs when briquetting material has not been preprocessed: re-engineering the die holder fixing and extraction arrangement, mechanized handling of 300-pound die holder; and automatic die holder pressure control.

Limitations of Design and Construction Briquette press outputs are size-specific. In most of the installations where manual firing is popular, the preferred briquette size is about 50 to 65 mm, thus the output of an extrusion briquette press is only about 1.5 to 1.1 tons per hour. Because this is typically adequate for developing countries some manufacturers tend to under-design high-output rated presses. Today, 90 mm diameter presses with 15-cubic-meters per-hour displacement are being widely marketed. Preliminary testing of almost 200 of these presses indicates that they are under-designed in the areas of power, centering accuracy, oil contamination, die holder fixing and heating. • Powering the Press: A standard 90 mm diameter press with 200 strokes per minute is powered by 95 horsepower (75 kilowatt) motor and can deliver up to 2.2 tons per hour using granular biomass with a bulk density of 352 lb/m3. These presses have been de-rated to 1.1 to 1.3 tons per hour with 75 horsepower motors. • Centering Accuracy: The presses must be designed with centering accuracy of 0.1 mm (in 90 mm diameter) for optimal throughput and the support system should be “slide” rather than “bush” for high cen-

tering accuracy. Most of the presses beingbuilt today have a much wider gap than 0.1 mm and they have a bush support system, which results in less output and decreased service life on wear parts. • Oil Contamination: Vital moving parts are exposed and not shrouded, resulting in oil contamination, increased oil consumption and increased wear on the pump. • Die Holder Fixing: For maintenance and service, die holder fixing and removal should be quick and easy. This should be a 15-minute task yet, in many presses this requires more than one hour to complete. • Heating the Briquette Press: The die holder is fixed with the briquetting head for support with close tolerance, and the die holder temperature is maintained around 300 degrees C for effective briquetting of fibrous biomass. To avoid production interruption due to overheating and to guard against burns at human touch points, the head temperature should be sustained at under 1,000 degrees C.

Preprocessing of Biomass Material Most of the biomass residues resulting from crop harvest or otherwise have the following characteristics. • Low bulk density of 88 to 132 lb/ m3 with odd sizes to handle. • High moisture upon harvest is 25 to 30 percent as compared to 12 percent moisture required for briquetting. To facilitate effective briquetting of these materials the following activities are required: • Mechanized Collection and Transportation: A high percentage of crop residue is left in the field because there is not an effective mechanism to collect it. Because of the variety of residue types and sizes, there are more than a dozen different mechanisms required to collect it. Following collection, the residue must be transported to a processing site, which is generally four to seven miles away. • Drying: Granular material at a size of 3 mm is the only residue that can be

¦DENSIFICATION effectively dried in a low-cost/low-temperature flash dryer. A rotary dryer must be used to dry larger fibrous materials, however, a rotary dryer is not economical to operate with these quantities. Solar drying is an alternative for drying, however, the extended drying time and large amount of space required are cost prohibitive. • Grinding of Materials: Grinding of material is optimal for increasing the bulk density and reducing sharp edges, which can cause wear and tear on the press, and for preventing heavy material such as rocks and bricks from entering the press. A critical problem with the process is that residue size should be relatively small for the drying process and the residue moisture should be low for the grinding process. Simultaneous drying and grinding is possible in a few cases.



Biomass residues are uneven in size and bulky in nature, so manual handling in larger operations is labor intensive and cost prohibitive. And, where there are long transport distances and higher elevations, mechanization can even be difficult. In large, integrated biomass processing plants, mechanization is critical and must be incorporated at all stages of the process from harvesting to primary storage, from primary storage to main storage and from main storage to the processing plant. An electrically powered tipper/extractor and a pneumatic conveyor system are more cost effective than diesel-powered equipment. Mechanization reduces processing time and labor costs as well as optimizing space utilization.

For 24/7 operation and high productivity, automation should be incorporated in these key areas: Process Control: • Drying: To maintain output moisture of around 15 percent, the temperature of the discharge flue gas should be maintained at 85 degrees C. This can be done by controlling the cold air injection into the hot air from the hot air generator. • Die Holder Temperature: For smooth production of briquettes, the die holder temperature should be maintained around 300 degrees C by regulating the water flow into the die holder. • Cooling Oil Temperature: The lubricating oil temperature should be controlled by an automated radiator fan. • Die Holder Pressure: The die holder pressure is similarly maintained at the desired level. Process Optimization: • Grinding: It is difficult to optimize loading of the grinding system, however, traveling bottom bins are effective. The bottom bin speed is adjusted and controlled in proportion to the desired input into the grinder and increases until the maximum grinding load is achieved. On/ off controls start functioning at optimum loading. • Densification Equipment: Controlling the material input flow from the storage bin into the briquette press is relatively easy. The input flow increases to maximum load per the load setting on the press.

Future of Biomass Briquetting Economizing on Power Consumption: The current practice for briquetters is to install multiple presses for bulk production. Few twin, die-holder briquette presses were installed in India but the power connection for twin presses was 1.5 times compared to double output. While no real-time recording was done, the following was concluded: • For a single 90 mm diameter press the connected load is 67.5 kilowatts (kW) for the main motor, 7.5 kW for the verti54 BIOMASS POWER & THERMAL | NOVEMBER 2011

DENSIFICATION¦ cal feeder, 1.5 kW for the pump and 3.5 kW for the feeding screw. It appears that besides the main motor, all remaining load is for 2.2 tons per hour production. • A no-load trial run indicated that 90-mm diameter presses consume about 15 kilowatt hour (kWh) units of power in one hour. While producing 1.1 to 1.3 tons per hour, power consumption is about 55 kWh units. This is comparable to the international norm for briquetting 40 to 45 units per ton of production. Higher per metric ton production is due to under-utilization of the press. If the briquette press is fed preprocessed material, it produces about 2.2 tons per hour consuming about 85 units of power. • The 90-mm diameter twin press will have 141 kW (main motor 125 kW+ vertical screw 2 x 5=10 kW+, feeding screw 2 x 2.2=4.4 kW to oil pump 1.5 kW). If briquette presses consume about 90 percent of connected power while producing 4 tons per hour of power; electricity consumption per ton will be just above 30 kWh units. In view of the above, it is expected that a well-engineered, twin briquette press can reduce power consumption from 45 to 50 kWh units per ton to 30 to 35 kWh units per ton. Economizing in Packaging: Briquettes are commonly used in Europe and North America as household fuel for winter heating, while commercial applications use compressed natural gas based on convenience and economics. Briquette packaging in 17- to 22-pound bags may be in demand in the future, therefore it’s difficult to estimate the packaging and shipping costs for European and North American markets. Briquettes are most commonly used in industrial boilers and shipped in bulk or in 110-pound gunny sacks. The gunny sacks are used only once for packaging and are thrown into the boilers along with the briquettes for convenience in charging. Today, small 8- to 10-mm diameter pellets in 11-pound bags are being marketed for residential heating. This fuel is inexpensive at about $5.50 for a 10-pound bag. An automatic robot system is necessary to pack briquettes for commercial production.

Higher Productivity: With better press design, it should be possible to operate a briquetting plant 24/7, and with mechanized coding of the grinder it is possible to operate a twin 90-mm diameter (4-tonper-hour) briquette press with three operators for mechanized feeding into grinder, briquette press and plant supervisor. Other requirements for higher productivity are: • Wear parts with a minimum life of 200 hours. • Reversible hammer mill for sustained operation for 150 hours. • Intermediate storage of the postgrind material to optimize the feed rate to the briquette press. • Automated controls to maintain constant die holder temperature, briquette head temperature and moisture in ground

material, which when optimized delivers nonstop briquettes. • An inventory of spare parts and replacement wear parts must be maintained to minimize downtimes. Raw Material: Chances are wood waste/biomass prices are still not established in your region and in many cases it is still a disposal problem. This is always a matter, however, of supply and demand. Check for availability of low-cost raw material in your area. Authors: Priya Jain Business Development Manager, Hi-Tech Agro A.K. Khater Founder, Hi-Tech Agro

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Visit Biomass Power & Thermal at Booth #110 for upcoming events.

A special thanks to our 2011 Exhibitors 3LOG Systems, Inc. Advanced Cems Solutions Amandus Kahl USA Corp. ANDRITZ Inc. ArborGen Inc. ASI Industrial formerly Agri-Systems Babcock & Wilcox Company Ballard Spahr LLP Biomass Power & Thermal Bliss Industries, LLC BRUKS Rockwood, Inc. CPM Detroit Stoker Company Dieffenbacher Inc. DOMTEC International Ecostrat Inc. Factory Sales & Engineering Firefly North America Garick Geo-Marine, Inc. GW Systems Harbison-Walker Refractories Company Hudco Industrial Products, Inc. Hurst Boiler & Welding Company, Inc. Jackson Lumber Harvester Co. Larson Engineering, Inc. Matrix Service Company Metso Power Midwest Towers, Inc. Mississippi State University Muyang Biomass Engineering Company

National Boiler Service Inc. Process and Storage Solutions Process Equipment - Barron Industries REPREVE Renewables Scheuch Inc. Screw Conveyor Corporation SHW Storage & Handling Solutions GmbH Siemens Stoel Rives LLP The Crom Corporation The Parton Group, Inc. Timber Products Inspection / BioEnergy Laboratories Trace Environmental Systems, Inc Tri-Mer Corp. Twin Ports Testing Inc Weis Environmental,LLC West Salem Machinery Wolf Material Handling Systems York Linings International Inc.

April 16-19, 2012

Colorado Convention Center Denver, Colorado

The Largest Biomass Industry Networking Event in the World! Sponsorships and Exhibit Space

Now Available

The International Biomass Conference & Expo is anticipated be even larger than last year’s successful event. With an anticipated 1,500 attendees, 230 exhibitors, 120 speakers and 60 sponsors, you’ll experience firsthand why the majority of our past exhibitors and sponsors have walked away with valuable contacts and sales leads. Register Today and Grow Your Future. CONTACT US: 866-746-8385 Follow Us:

A New Era in Energy: The Future is Growing Sponsors as of October 11, 2011

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