INSIDE: U.S. ARMY, PURDUE DEVELOP TRASH-POWERED GENERATOR October 2008
Power and Fuel From Waste Plastics An Estimated 200 Billion Pounds of Plastic is Produced Annually, Prompting Researchers to Develop Environmentally Friendly Disposal Processes
2 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 3
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10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 7
The future of fuel Transforming corn and other grains into biofuels is a major industry today . But what about tomorrow? The future of biofuels will also rely on the next generation of raw materials – biomass. At Novozymes we’re taking a fresh look at all types of biomass, and © Novozymes A /S · Customer Communications · No. 2007-35469-02
considering how we can turn it into something useful. And you know what? Corn cobs and wheat straw are just the beginning. Who knows what other types of waste we can transform into fuel? Novozymes is the world leader in bioinnovation. Together with customers across a broad array of industries we create tomorrow’ s industrial biosolutions, improving our customers’ business and the use of our planet’ s resources. Read more at www .novozymes.com. 8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
Novozymes North America, Inc. 77 Perry Chapel Church Road · Franklinton, NC 27525 Tel. +1 919-494-3000 · Fax +1 919-494-3485 email@example.com · www .novozymes.com
FEATURES ..................... 34 ENVIRONMENT Building Powerful Relationships—It’s the Talk of Tualco Valley Dairy farmers, environmentalists and local Indian tribes work together to develop an anaerobic digestion system that benefits all parties involved. By Ryan C. Christiansen
40 CELLULOSE Building Better Energy Crops Ceres Inc. is preparing for the advent of the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol by developing high-yielding energy crop seeds. The company is concentrating its efforts on switchgrass, miscanthus and sorghum. By Kris Bevill
46 TECHNOLOGY Trash Tactics in Iraq The U.S. Army and Purdue University are developing a mobile biorefinery unit to safely and efficiently dispose of garbage by converting it into fuel for stoves and generators. By Anna Austin
52 INNOVATION Giving Back
CELLULOSE | PAGE 40
DEPARTMENTS ..................... 10 Editor’s Note Can We All Just Work Together? By Rona Johnson
13 Advertiser Index 14 CITIES Corner Trash Talk By Art Wiselogel
17 Industry Events 18 Business Briefs 22 Industry News 83 EERC Update Sustainability of Biofuels: Future Generations By Tera Buckley
Manoj Sinha found a way to help poor villages in his native India, where there is limited or no electricity. He and his partners formed Husk Power Systems to provide those communities with rice-powered generators. By Bryan Sims
58 ANAEROBIC DIGESTION Waste Not, Want Not Researchers in California have developed an anaerobic digestion system that converts organic solid and liquid wastes into compost and biogas for the production of electricity, heat and transportation fuel. By Jessica Ebert
64 PLASTICS Power and Fuel From Waste Plastics What can be done with the billions of pounds of waste plastic that don’t make it into the recycling bin? Biomass Magazine looks at a couple of different projects aimed at using waste plastic to produce power and fuel. By Ron Kotrba
72 LEGAL Determining the Ownership of Landfill Gas Methane collection and utilization from landfills is growing throughout the country. But who owns the valuable byproduct? By James E. Goddard and Patrick Beaton
76 EMISSIONS Knocking Down the Dust A primarily European biomass processing technology―electrostatic precipitators―is quickly gaining popularity in North America. By Petru Sangeorzan
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 9
NOTE Can We All Just Work Together?
here was no shortage of feature ideas to choose from to address the waste-to-energy focus of this month’s magazine. Turning waste into something useful just makes good sense. However, as those of you in the business probably know, it takes more than just good intentions. Sometimes, as in the case of this month’s feature, “Building Powerful Relationships—It’s the Talk of Tualco Valley,” it takes people understanding each other’s needs and working together. This feature is about a dairy farmer who wanted to increase his herd size to remain competitive but was environmentally constrained. It’s not that people in the Pacific Northwest have anything against dairy farming. In fact, the local American Indian tribes prefer having farmers as neighbors as opposed to dealing with urban sprawl. The problem is that dairy manure was being blamed for water-quality problems in salmon streams. Although some environmentalists wanted to ban farming in the area altogether, cooler heads prevailed. Farmers, an environmentalist who had worked with farmers on other salmon-friendly projects and local American Indian tribes got together, and decided that the manure could be put to good use as an environmentally friendly energy source. I think that in a lot of cases, environmentalists and farmers paint each other with broad strokes. Environmentalists think farmers only care about the bottom line with no concern for their surroundings. I realize that not every farmer is an environmental steward, but I think it’s safe to say that a great deal of them care about the land they farm and want to leave it in great shape for their children. On the other hand, environmentalists are often viewed by farmers as extremists with no common sense. I believe this project—and there are probably several others—proves that this isn’t always the case. The result in this instance is the building of an anaerobic digester with the capacity to process manure from 2,200 cows, allowing participating farmers to increase their herds, and produce 450 kilowatts of power. It’s anticipated that revenue from the digester will be used to fund more salmon protection projects, which pleases the environmentalists and American Indian tribes. As you can see, it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved and could serve as a model for other projects.
Rona Johnson Features Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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PUBLISHING & SALES
MANAGING EDITOR Jessica Sobolik email@example.com
PUBLISHER & CEO Mike Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRIBUTIONS EDITOR Dave Nilles email@example.com
PUBLISHER & PRESIDENT Kathy Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org
FEATURES EDITOR Rona Johnson email@example.com
VICE PRESIDENT OF MEDIA & EVENTS Joe Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org
SENIOR STAFF WRITER Ron Kotrba email@example.com
VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS Tom Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org
STAFF WRITERS Jerry W. Kram email@example.com Susanne Retka Schill firstname.lastname@example.org Kris Bevill email@example.com Erin Voegele firstname.lastname@example.org Anna Austin email@example.com Ryan C. Christiansen firstname.lastname@example.org
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10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 11
Subscribe to Ethanol Producer Magazine and receive: " 12 print issues of Ethanol Producer Magazine " Instant access to ALL ONLINE content " 1 FREE Ethanol Industry Directory (printed annually in the spring) " 2 FREE Fuel Ethanol Plant Maps (printed each spring and fall) " 1 FREE Subscription to Distillers Grains Quarterly print issues
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10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 13
CITIES corner Trash Talk
y the time this column appears in Biomass Magazine we will all be tired of hearing the trash talk on countless political TV ads, but as I write, the Democratic National Convention is in session―just down the street from my office― and the Republican National Convention will soon be held in St. Paul, Minn. Both events were being touted as the greenest conventions each party has ever held. By all accounts, that would not be a difficult feat. It’s interesting, however, to see the publicity, number and types of greening efforts and how they were implemented. I would say that they fall pretty much along typical party approaches, but you decide. The information that will probably never be tabulated is just how successful the vastly different approaches were in reducing fossil fuel use, carbon footprint and trash going to the landfill. The Democratic Convention highly publicized its greening efforts. From having its own green Web pages, complete with an environmental starlet and videos, to trying innovative “green” products, the Democrats put their efforts out there for all to see and critique. Some were successful, such as delegate participation in the carbon offset program for air travel, while others, such as the splintering hotel door key cards made from recycled wood, had less spectacular results. Additional Democratic Convention greening efforts worth noting were the goal of reducing by 85 percent the amount of waste going to the landfill and promotion of lowcarbon ground transportation. To meet the landfill reduction goal at the Pepsi Convention Center monitors were standing by waste bins to insure nothing went into the wrong container. Biodegradable utensils and balloons were purchased, and signs and banners were to be recycled. The effort even extended to the local hotels, restaurants and other venues.
14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
For the low-carbon ground transportation hybrid and biodiesel vehicles were to be used when possible. Also, ethanol derived from beer waste powered many of the large SUVs used to transport dignitaries. Interestingly, the ethanol was produced by Coors Brewing Co. The Coors family is well known in conservative political circles. In fact, Pete Coors unsuccessfully ran for the Senate as a Republican in 2004. Who would have figured that Republican-produced beer would be used to transport presidential hopeful Barack Obama around Denver. The Republican National Convention was lower key in publicizing its greening efforts. While doing many of the same things as the Democrats—purchasing wind energy from Xcel Energy, providing bicycles for conventioneers to use, using hybrid vehicles, renting office space in energy-efficient buildings, using recycled products when possible, printing only when necessary and turning out the lights—the Republican Convention’s approach was to rest more with the individual. Matt Burns of the Republican Convention Committee stated, “I think we need to focus on how we can be good stewards and do the little things that add up and change people’s habits, but we’re not going to shamelessly pander.” At the end of the day, both parties made efforts to be greener. The real question is, will the greening of the conventions eventually reflect change in government policy? Whether it is showy or quiet, promoted from the top down or the bottom up, government mandated or socially conscious, it is progress and provides hope for the future. Art Wiselogel is manager of BBI International’s Community Initiative to Improve Energy Sustainability. Reach him at email@example.com or (303) 526-5655.
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industry events Bioenergy: From Words to Actions
Clean Energy Asia
October 6-8, 2008
October 7-10, 2008
The Westin Ottawa Ottawa, Ontario The aim of this annual conference, hosted by the Canadian Bioenergy Association, is to identify package solutions for communities exploiting biomass for energy and to examine policies needed to make this happen. It will feature sessions on developing biomass supply chains, and solid fuel development and utilization. It will include tours of the world’s longestoperating, fast-pyrolysis bio-oil plant; a biomass cogeneration unit at a pulp mill; and an ag waste operation. (647) 239-5899 www.canbio.ca/events.html
Grand Hyatt Singapore This event is broken into four topics: ethanol and biofuels, carbon finance, waste to energy, and solar energy. The ethanol and biofuels segment will discuss new-generation biofuels, while the waste-to-energy segment will address the outlook of such projects in Asia, as well as ag waste, municipal waste, and energy from landfill gases and food waste, among other topics. +65 6322 2771 www.terrapinn.com/2008/clean
Energy from Biomass and Waste
Global Biogas Congress
October 14-16, 2008
October 27-29, 2008
David L. Lawrence Convention Center Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania More than 1,000 people are expected to attend this event, which will address sustainable waste management, the commercial viability of wasteto-energy and biomass-to-energy technologies, positive effects of energy from biomass and waste programs, domestic and international markets, business opportunities, and legal and financial issues. More than 100 exhibitors will showcase the latest in sustainable energy production and safe waste handling, as well. +49-2802-948484-0 www.ebw-expo.com
Crowne Plaza Europa Hotel Brussels, Belgium This event is designed to inform biogas industry executives how to optimize production in order to meet pipeline-quality-gas and transport-fuel requirements. It will begin with a one-day seminar titled “Optimizing Production and Upgrading of Biogas.” Speakers will report on global biogas production in Europe, Asia and the United States, and also examine the use of biomethane in commercial diesel engines and gas recovery at landfills. +44 (0) 20 7017 7500 www.agra-net.com
World Ethanol 2008
Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition
November 3-6, 2008
February 25-27, 2009
Le Méridien Montparnasse Hotel Paris, France This 11th annual event, hosted by F.O. Licht, offers in-depth ethanol market analysis. The conference will open with an ethanol production workshop that will detail how to maximize ethanol production efficiency for beverage, industrial and fuel uses, and an ethanol risk management seminar that will address how to manage price and margin risk for renewable fuels in a volatile and expanding market. +44 (0) 20 7017 7499 www.agra-net.com
Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas, Nevada This event includes a business conference, a trade show and several side events. The business conference will address the status and outlook of renewable energy. Breakout sessions will focus on biomass and biofuels, among other sources. The biomass and biofuels sessions will address sustainability, feedstocks, financing, ethanol production technology, biobased products, biopower and biorefineries, among other topics. (805) 290-1338 www.retech2009.com
International Biomass Conference & Trade Show
International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo
April 28-30, 2009
June 15-18, 2009
Oregon Convention Center Portland, Oregon This event, sponsored by BBI International Inc., will address the latest technologies and business considerations for bioenergy projects. Breakout session topics will include cellulosic ethanol, biopower, ag and wood waste, next-generation biofuels, anaerobic digestion and biogas, biobased chemicals and coproducts, biomass gasification, water issues, project finance, and permitting. Attendees will also be able to tour the Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Cornelius Summit Foods ethanol plant and the Beaverton Material Recovery Facility. (719) 539-0300 www.biomassconference.com
Denver Convention Center Denver, Colorado This will mark the 25th anniversary of the world’s largest ethanol conference, which was recently recognized by Trade Show Week magazine as one of the Fastest 50 events in the United States for the second consecutive year. This event will address conventional ethanol, and next-generation ethanol and biomass. More details will be available as the event approaches. (719) 539-0300 www.2009few.com
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 17
BRIEFS Helius Energy, Credit Suisse enter agreement Helius Energy PLC, a U.K.-based company that specializes in biomassfired power plants, has entered into an equity subscription agreement worth £2 million (US$3.1 million) with Credit Suisse, a Switzerland-based global financial services company. According to the agreement, Credit Suisse will obtain 14.8 million new ordinary shares in the company at 13.5 pence (26 cents) per share. Helius’ 65-megawatt power plant under construction in Stallingborough, North East Lincolnshire, will utilize much of the funds. BIO
NREL under new management The U.S. DOE has selected the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC to be the next management contractor for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. The five-year contract contains an option to extend the agreement an additional five years, and included a 60-day transition period, which began July 29. The alliance took over full management responsibilities Sept. 30. The new management entity consists of two nonprofit organizations: the Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. The Midwest Research Institute formerly managed NREL. BIO
Lignol sites demo facility in western Colorado Lignol Innovations Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Vancouverbased Lignol Energy Corp., is moving forward with plans to locate a demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Grand Junction, Colo. Lignol and its project partner Suncor Energy USA Inc. chose Grand Junction for its proximity to ample woody biomass. Lignol will provide biomass process technology, while Suncor will operate the facility. The U.S. DOE issued a $30 million grant to the $88 million project and recently gave its approval. BIO
DSE receives Spanish monitoring contract DSE A/S in Horsens, Denmark, has agreed to provide inline moisture monitoring equipment to a Spanish combinedheat-and-power (CHP) plant. According to DSE, the equipment uses microwave technology to continuously measure moisture in straw to be used for energy production. The company said its contract will be delivered and commissioned between this fall and the spring of 2009. DSE moisture measurement systems are installed in several other CHP plants worldwide. BIO
USSE, founder face charges In August, U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp. Chairman and Founder John Rivera was arrested on charges of felony grand theft between $1,500 and $20,000. He was released shortly thereafter. This was the latest incident in a string that included Rivera being arrested July 31 in Baytown, Texas, on charges of grand theft worth more than $20,000 stemming from a relationship with “a previous company at which [Rivera] was an officer in Palm Beach, Fla.,” according to Rivera’s attorney Richard Cutler. Rivera was released on bond that same day. Also, a civil complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp. and Rivera for allegedly making more than $721,000 on the company’s own stock. According to the filing, USSE used false and misleading statements, press releases and oral statements to inflate its share price between October 2006 and February 2007. BIO
18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
Poet announces plans for cellulosic facility At the American Coalition for Ethanol’s conference and trade show Aug. 13, Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Poet LLC announced that construction of a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Scotland, S.D., is underway and slated for production by the end of 2008. The 9 MMgy plant will utilize corn cobs and corn fiber as feedstocks. The facility will allow Poet to make final improvements to its process technology before construction begins in 2009 on Project LIBERTY, the company’s commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to be located adjacent to its currently producing corn-based ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. BIO
BRIEFS DuPont Danisco names president DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC has named Joseph Skurla as its new president. Skurla will help lead the company in commercializing cellulosic ethanol using nonfood feedstocks. He has 30 years of experience in the oil refining and chemical sectors, most recently leading the development of DuPont Clean Technologies. DuPont Danisco is a joint business venture between DuPont and Genencor, a Division of Danisco A/S. BIO
BlueFire gains technology rights BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc. has signed an agreement with Amalgamated Research Inc. for the exclusive right to its simulated moving-bed (SMB) chromatographic separation technology, wherein feed valve locations are occasionally switched in the same direction as the liquid flow to simulate resin movement. The SMB technology will aid BlueFire Ethanol’s acid hydrolysis process, which converts cellulose to ethanol, by recovering 99 percent of the entrained sugars in the acid/sugar stream. BIO
SunEthanol collaborates with MBI SunEthanol Inc. has formed a partnership with MBI International to scale up a fermentation method that utilizes SunEthanol’s trademarked Q-Microbe to produce ethanol from nonfood agricultural feedstocks. Bobby Bringi, president and chief executive of MBI, said his company will minimize risk by demonstrating the technology’s commercial viability on a pilot scale. SunEthanol was recently awarded its fourth U.S. DOE grant this year. The $750,000 award will fund steps toward commercialization. BIO
Mascoma expands leadership team Jim Schumacher has been promoted to senior vice president for corporate development at Mascoma Corp. He will work on new production facility projects, capital raising and strategic partnerships with leading companies across the cellulosic product value chain. After joining Mascoma in June 2007, he led the establishment of a strategic partnership with General Motors Corp. Richard Forrest has joined Mascoma as vice president and corporate counsel. He has experience in representing emerging growth companies, most recently serving as lecturer at Harvard Law School to teach a course on legal issues relevant to venturebacked technology companies. BIO
Canadian biofuels fund solicits applications Sustainable Development Technology Canada is seeking applicants for its NextGen Biofuels Fund, established to support groundbreaking cellulosic ethanol and next-generation biodiesel demonstration facilities. Applications are being accepted year-round. Qualified applicants must be located in Canada and have previously demonstrated their technology at a demonstration-scale, first-of-its-kind facility that uses feedstocks representative of Canadian biomass. The $500 million fund will finance up to 40 percent of recipients’ project costs. Applications and more information can be found at www.sdtc. ca. BIO
Neste Oil’s renewable diesel earns healthy margins Finland-based Neste Oil Corp. saw healthy margins in its renewable fuels division, reporting second-quarter 2008 profits of €13 million ($20 million). That compares with a €5 million ($7.8 million) loss over the same period a year ago when its first NExBTL renewable diesel unit began production. Neste’s renewable fuels division reported an 8 percent rolling 12-month return on net assets at the end of June. The six-month comparable operating profit in renewable fuels was €15 million ($23.5 million). BIO 10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 19
Corn LP is a 55 MMgy coal-ďŹ red facility using Davenport steam tube dryers. Using clean coal technology or biomass as an energy source offers reduced energy costs and a stable supply of energy. And steam tube dryers are safer and easier to operate.
Davenport Dryer, an independently owned company, is the leading supplier of steam tube dryers in the ethanol industry with installed steam tube dryers in more plants than any other manufacturer. Call us to learn how your biomass plant can beneďŹ t from our steam tube dryers.
NEWS Thune holds forest waste hearing The definition of “renewable biomass” and the Black Hills Forest Resource Aswas the subject of a Senate Agriculture Com- sociation, a private forest landowner, and mittee’s Energy Subcommittee hearing Aug. KL Process Design Group LLC President 18 in Rapid City, S.D. As ranking member of Randy Kramer. Thune told hearing attendees that the the subcommittee, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., final definition of “renewable bioheld an open forum to discuss the mass” as written in the 2008 farm definition of the term and how it bill failed to include material reapplies to potential feedstock in moved or harvested from federal the nearby Black Hills National lands, including national forests, Forest. because the U.S. House of Rep“Modifying the definition of resentatives changed the wording ‘renewable biomass’ to include “behind closed doors” in the final cellulosic ethanol manufactured days of debate before the bill’s from forest byproducts would Thune passage. Thune’s Senior Advisor provide a critical tool to better manage private lands and national forests, Jon Lauck said the definition was changed while also producing additional homegrown due to environmental concerns on behalf and sustainable sources of energy,” Thune of some representatives. Testimony given at the hearing proved said. Senate Energy and Natural Resources that any environmental concerns are bogus, Committee member Tim Johnson, D-S.D., according to Lauck. “[Witnesses] said it’s attended the hearing, as well as representa- actually worse for the forests to leave the tives from the Black Hills National Forest waste there,” he said, adding that the current
removal method involves burning unusable piles of woody biomass, which emits carbon dioxide into the air. Witnesses at the hearing testified that approximately 200,000 tons of wood waste are available annually in the Black Hills National Forest. Thune noted that one ton of woody biomass could produce up to 105 gallons of renewable fuel. He has introduced a bill that would amend the “renewable biomass” definition to include woody biomass from national forests. According to Lauck, the bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for review. The senator’s definition has also been included in the recently formed Gang of 10’s energy bill, called the New Energy Reform Act. At press time, the senator was optimistic that the bill would begin making its way through the legislative process when Congress reconvened in the fall. -Kris Bevill
Biomass power plants to be built in Europe La Rochette, France-based Cascades S.A., the European division of Canadian boxboard company Cascades Inc., and Denmark-based Babcock and Wilcox Vølund A/S, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Babcock and Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc., have recently announced plans to construct separate biomass power plants in Europe. Cascades will build France’s first wood gasification facility in La Rochette in the Savoie region of France. Cofathec, a subsidiary of energy producer Gaz de France that specializes in energy management, installation and maintenance services, will manage the plant. Gaz de France will cover the €30 million ($47 million) cost to build the facility. The plant will be operational in 2010 and is expected to reduce the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Cascades’ La Rochette division by 7,500 tons annually. It will also generate 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. The project was initiated as part of the 22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
Woody biomass will be used to generate electricity at a Cascades wood gasification facility in France and 25 small-scale power plants in Italy owned by Advanced Renewable Energy.
second call for cogeneration power plant bids that the French Energy Regulation Commission issued in an effort to meet the country’s renewable energy production objectives. Babcock and Wilcox Vølund reached
an agreement to supply Italy-based Advanced Renewable Energy Ltd. with up to 25 small-scale biomass power plants over the next 10 years. Each of the facilities will have the capacity to produce four megawatts of electricity and five megawatts of heat using locally obtained wood chips. The first facility is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2010. The technology supplied by Babcock and Wilcox Vølund significantly reduces heat loss and will allow the plants’ owners to achieve electrical efficiency of approximately 45 percent. The contract agreement between Babcock and Wilcox Vølund, and Advanced Renewable Energy is valued up to $156 million (€300 million). Advanced Renewable Energy expects to generate a quick return on investment and plans to install the smallscale power plants in as many locations as possible. -Erin Voegele
NEWS Landfill gas powers U.S. ethanol plants, residential areas The power of landfill gas is being demonstrated in three U.S. locations. Ethanol plants in Nebraska and Missouri are using landfill gas to replace natural gas, while a North Carolina project plans to generate electricity. Mid-Missouri Energy Inc., a 40 MMgy ethanol plant in Malta Bend, Mo., plans to displace more than 90 percent of its natural gas usage with landfill gas supplied by Johnson County Landfill in Shawnee Mission, Kan. The deal signed in July requires the landfill to provide the ethanol plant with up to 3,300 million British thermal units per day of pipeline-quality biogas. The gas will be transported from the landfill through the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline to the ethanol plant 150 miles away. U.S. Energy Services Inc. developed the economic use impact analysis, negotiated the offtake agreement that was concluded in August and will provide thermal value management.
Mid-Missouri Energy will be able to capitalize on a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that allows any ethanol plant that replaces 90 percent of its direct fossil fuel use with a waste-derived fuel source to be eligible to receive an extra 1.5 renewable identification numbers (RINs) per gallon of ethanol produced. Mid-Missouri Energy can then sell these additional RINs. Siouxland Ethanol LLC, a 50 MMgy ethanol plant in Jackson, Neb., has used landfill gas piped in from the L.P. Gill landfill a mile away since December, and U.S. Energy Services was assisting the landfill in selling six months worth of carbon credits at press time. “Without the sale of methane and carbon credits, a collection system was simply too expensive for a medium-scale operation such as ours,” said Leonard Gill, owner and operator of the landfill. U.S. Energy Services is monitoring the plant’s landfill gas usage and dispatching just enough of the higher-
priced pipeline gas volumes required to meet pipeline balancing rules and avoid penalties. The energy company also coordinated the qualification of the project as a “carbon offset provider.” In North Carolina, Duke Energy Carolinas announced in August that it had reached an agreement with Methane Power Inc. to purchase two megawatts of electricity generated from the methane released at the landfill in Durham, N.C., which closed in the mid1990s. Currently, landfill gas at the Durham site is being burned off. Under the agreement, Methane Power will install internal combustion engines and generators to burn the gas, produce power and deliver it to the Duke Energy Carolinas system. The project is slated to begin producing power by May 1 and will generate enough electricity to serve approximately 1,600 residential customers. -Susanne Retka Schill
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10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 23
NEWS HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy LLC will be converting an idle coal plant in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, into the HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy Facility, which will produce 24 megawatts of electricity from locally grown biomass. It will be enough to power approximately 18,000 homes, or approximately 7 percent to 10 percent of the main islandâ€™s energy demand. The facility will burn sustainable, locally grown crops and waste biomass, the company said. HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy expects the plant to stimulate the local forestry and agricultural industries, and also prevent tens of thousands of tons of biomass waste from being deposited into Hawaii Countyâ€™s landfills each year. The conversion is expected to be completed by 2010. HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy is co-owned by Ethanol Research Hawaii LLC in Oahu,
PHOTO: MMA RENEWABLE VENTURES LLC
Idle Hawaiian coal plant to be converted to biomass
HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy LLC will be converting this idle coal plant in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, into the HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy Facility.
and MMA Renewable Ventures LLC in San Francisco, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity LLC in Baltimore. According to MMA Renewable Ventures, the state of Hawaii relies on imported fossil fuels for 90 percent of its energy
needs. Therefore, local support for the project has been overwhelming with more than 95 percent of the areaâ€™s residents having signed a petition in support of the facility. â€œLike its name, which means â€˜to come out of the earth,â€™ HĹŤ Honua turns to the land to effectively and sustainably meet Hawaiiâ€™s power needs,â€? said Dan KenKnight, director of HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy. â€œProjects like the HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy Facility play an important role in shifting Hawaiiâ€™s energy mix away from imported petroleum toward renewable sources.â€? The HĹŤ Honua Bioenergy Facility is the first bioenergy project in MMA Renewable Venturesâ€™ portfolio of solar power, wind power, bioenergy and energy efficiency projects. -Ryan C. Christiansen
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NEWS Metabolix grows plastic (producing) plants Bacteria have been genetically engineered to produce bioplastics for many years, but someday production may be as easy as watching the grass grow. Cambridge, Mass.-based Metabolix Inc. has created a variety of switchgrass that produces significant amounts of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) bioplastic in leaf tissues. The company incorporated multiple genes into the switchgrass genome, resulting in a functional multi-gene pathway in switchgrass. This is significant, the company said, because instead of adding one or two new genes to create a new compound, Metabolix inserted all of the genes necessary to create an entirely new metabolic pathway into the plant. To accomplish that feat, not only does each of the genes have to work properly, but they all have to work together to change sunlight and nutrients into bioplastic. Metabolix put its new switchgrass varieties to the test in greenhouse trials, which demonstrated that the plants could create sig-
nificant amounts of PHB bioplastic in their leaves and stems. In fact, the plants produced as much as 3.7 percent of their weight in PHB. The company said it will have to get the plant to produce 5 percent or more to make commercial production viable. “Metabolix has been developing technology to produce PHB polymers in switchgrass for more than seven years,” said Oliver Peoples, chief scientific officer for Metabolix. “This result validates the prospect for economic production of PHB polymers in switchgrass and demonstrates for the first time an important tool for enhancing switchgrass for value-added performance as a bioenergy crop.” Metabolix President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Eno said this technology could advance the development of cellulosic biofuels. Adding new products that can be made from cellulosic crops such as switchgrass could allow cellulosic biofuels producers to diversify their income streams, which could also make switchgrass a more lucrative crop
for producers to grow. Metabolix partnered with Archer Daniels Midland Co. in 2007 to create a joint venture called Telles that aims to produce PHB through fermentation marketed under the brand name Mirel. A facility in Clinton, Iowa, will produce 110 million pounds of Mirel PHB per year and is expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2009. According to the companies, Mirel bioplastics differ from other bioplastics in that they have excellent strength and toughness, and can resist heat and hot liquids. Mirel plastic resins can be used in standard plastic applications from lipstick tubes to disposable coffee containers and lids to agricultural mulch. A detailed scientific paper on this technology, titled “Production of Polyhydroxybutyrate in Switchgrass, a Value-Added Coproduct in an Important Lignocellulosic Biomass Crop,” was recently published in Plant Biotechnology Journal. -Jerry W. Kram
NEWS Company to produce chemicals from sugarcane-based ethanol During a Renewable Energy Stocks Green Investor podcast on Aug. 18, Andy Badalato, chief executive officer of Floridabased Industrial Biotechnology Corp., detailed his companyâ€™s plan to manufacture biobased polymers and plastics from ethylene derived from hydrous sugarcane-based ethanol. The project is being instigated through one of Industrial Biotechnologyâ€™s two operating subsidies: Renewable Chemicals Corp. According to Badalato, the company plans to use preexisting chemical infrastructure to replace petroleum-based ethylene with hydrous-ethanol-based ethylene. To that end, Renewable Chemicals has formed a joint venture with Brazilian-based sugar and ethanol producer Cosan S/A to solidify a feedstock supply for the project. Badalato said his company is looking to use sugarcane-based ethanol because sugarcane is most affordable, but the company is open to using other ethanol feedstocks such as corn and biomass if it makes financial sense.
Industrial Biotechnology Corp. plans to manufacture biobased polymers and plastics from sugarcane-based ethanol.
Renewable Chemicals is currently in the process of completing feasibility studies and identifying a site for a facility. The company is targeting U.S. locations but hasnâ€™t ruled out Brazilian locations. â€œWe believe we can procure and finalize [the site location] within the next six months,â€? Badalato said. The company has been working on this project for approximately 18 months. According to Badalato, the biggest challenge right now is making sure the project can pro-
duce competitively priced materials. On Aug 26, Industrial Biotechnology announced a partnership with The Plastics Exchange, a plastics trading organization that provides research and news coverage on the resin marketplace. â€œWhat the plastics exchange provides is the ability to look at historical data and future predicted data utilizing a combination of both physical and futures market hedging to mitigate risk,â€? Badalato said. Industrial Biotechnologyâ€™s second subsidiary Renewable Fuels of America Inc. is working to import sugarcane-based ethanol from Brazil. Because the Caribbean Basin Initiative provides an exemption to the 54-centper-gallon U.S. tariff currently imposed on Brazilian ethanol imports, the company is currently seeking a Caribbean Basin country with dehydration capabilities. -Erin Voegele
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NEWS Cambridge, Mass.-based Verenium Corp., a cellulosic ethanol producer and enzyme developer, has conducted a recent series of deals that has brought the company much publicity and funding. In August, petroleum giant BP Corp. agreed to invest $90 million in Verenium over the next 18 months in exchange for rights to current and future technology held within the partnership, production facilities and agronomics expertise. Upon closing the deal, BP handed over an initial $24.5 million with three additional installments of $20.5 million to follow over the next year. Verenium will also be receiving monthly payments from BP at a rate of $2.5 million per month in order to fund the company’s ongoing initiatives. A BP executive said Verenium’s demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol production plant in Jennings, La., which is projected be in the process optimization phase by year’s end, was a major factor in BP’s decision to
PHOTO: KRIS BEVILL, BBI INTERNATIONAL INC.
Verenium acquires oil partner, expands worldwide availability
Verenium Corp.’s demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Jennings, La., was the driving force behind petroleum giant BP Corp.’s decision to invest $90 million into the company.
partner with the company. “Not all biofuels are created equal,” said Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America. “This deal puts us at the front of the cellulosic biofuels game.” Ellerbusch added that BP sees
miscanthus, sugarcane bagasse and energy cane as ideal feedstocks for sustainable biofuel production. Verenium is experimenting will all three of those feedstocks at its Jennings facility. Prior to the BP announcement, Verenium had expanded its global reach by collaborating with Tokyo-based Marubeni Corp. to provide its proprietary cellulosic technology for a 790,000-gallon-per-year ethanol plant currently operating in Thailand. Marubeni had previously licensed Verenium’s technology for another small production facility in Osaka, Japan. In New Zealand, Verenium and its research partner Scion received a three-year, $5.4 million grant from the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, which will be used for the continued development of a research collaboration. -Kris Bevill
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NEWS University of Georgia studies biomass In July, the U.S. DOE and USDA awarded 10 grants totaling more than $10 million to universities and research institutes to accelerate the fundamental development of cellulosic biofuels. Two of those grants, totaling nearly $2.5 million, will go to research projects at the University of Georgia. Steven Knapp, Jeff Dean and Joe Nairn of the University of Georgia, Mark Davis of the U.S. DOE, and Laura Marek of the USDA received $1.2 million to study the genomics of sunflowers. In addition, Knapp is working with Davis at the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to study the biofuel properties of sunflowers. “Certain wild species of sunflower produce woody stems and high biomass yields, often reaching heights of 18 to 21 feet,” Knapp said. Jeffrey Bennetzen, the Norman and Doris Giles/Georgia Research Alliance profes-
sor of molecular genetics at Franklin College, received the second grant for nearly $1.3 million. It will fund a cooperative project with Katrien Devos, a University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences professor of crop and soil science, and plant biology. The project will create genetic and genomic tools to study foxtail millet, a close relative of switchgrass. “Ethanol from switchgrass is a very different story from ethanol from maize grain,” Bennetzen said. “Ethanol from maize grain requires large inputs and produces no net carbon capture to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Switchgrass captures carbon dioxide very effectively and won’t lead to increased food costs because it doesn’t take acreage away from food production.” Researchers need to find more efficient ways to convert lignocellulose—the material that makes up wood, leaves and stems—into
ethanol. Learning more about foxtail millet, which is easier to study than switchgrass, will help, Bennetzen said. “Once the foxtail millet genome is sequenced, we will be able to quickly find the genes involved in making lignocellulose in foxtail millet, and this will make them easy to find in switchgrass, as well,” he said. The foxtail millet, or Setaria italica, genome will be sequenced this year by the DOE’s Joint Genome Institute. This sequence will enhance further study and understanding of the genetic basis of biomass production, according to the researchers. For a complete list of grant recipients and more information on the DOE-USDA biomass genomics research program, visit http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/research /DOEUSDA/index.shtml. -Jerry W. Kram
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industry AgBioworks, an initiative of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, has recruited a small group of farmers to participate in its new 25Farmer Network. The 25 chosen farmers will help to evaluate new opportunities in novel oilseed crops and new bioenergy crops by growing new crops, participating in value-added processing, and partnering with companies producing biofuels and biobased products. “We realized very early that to launch any of these new projects, bringing in the farmers very early is the best way,” explained Pete Nelson, director of AgBioworks. The organization held a series of public meetings this summer to explain the program and identify the “first mover farmers,” he said. A total of 34 farmers applied, representing 60,000 acres of land. Among the “first movers” are farmers who have been involved in various value-added ventures in the past. “Our farmers are eager to see what will work with the land and equipment they have,” Nelson said.
PHOTO: MAURY RADIN, AGBIOWORKS
Tennessee group launches 25Farmer Network
Hillary Spain of AgBioworks, left, explains the 25Farmer Network to a Benton County farmer at the Milan Field Day held in Milan, Tenn., this summer.
In the first year, the farmers will receive $500 per acre for up to five acres per farm to experiment with new crops. Nelson said they will be exploring two categories of alternative crops. The first category includes crops that are new to the region such as canola, sunflowers or switchgrass. “Typically, those crops already have companies backing them, and the barriers are transportation issues,” Nelson said. Overcoming those barriers
requires working out economical transportation to oilseed crushers, for example, or building new crushing facilities. Crops new to the region with viable markets are likely to grow from a few hundred acres in production to thousands of acres within a few short years, he added. The second category includes crops new to agriculture such as miscanthus, lesquerella and camelina, among several others. Along with the payment for acres dedicated to field trials, the farmers will be asked to attend one national conference with AgBioworks representatives and three, one-day workshops during the winter. AgBioworks, in turn, will support the network with business development and leadership training, facilitate the development of new farmerbased businesses, and introduce network members to companies seeking agricultural products that can be grown in West Tennessee. -Susanne Retka Schill
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 29
NEWS Maryland institute to contribute to biomass research Stemming from BP Corp.â€™s 10-year, $500 million research partnership with the University of California, Berkeley in 2007 aimed at developing new sources of energy and reducing the impact of energy consumption on the environment, the school has awarded a $575,000, three-year subcontract to the University of Maryland Biosciences Institute. The contract, implemented in August, will fund the development of efficient ways to convert lignocellulose to ethanol. Experiments at UMBI will utilize wood residues such as municipal paper waste, energy crops such as woody grasses and agricultural wastes such as corn stover. In 2007, UC Berkeley joined forces with BP, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to form the Energy Biosciences Institute, housed in dedicated facilities on each campus. â€œThrough highly collaborative, intensely interactive research, we will strive to make the scientific and technical breakthroughs that will lead to environmentally sustainable, economically viable transportation fuels to replace fossil-based fuel,â€? said Rob Kolb, communications manager for EBI.
Kolb said the initial thrust of EBI research is the development of commercially viable, highly productive and environmentally benign transportation fuelsâ€”including cellulosic biofuelsâ€”from biomass. â€œThis involves identifying the most suitable species of plants for use as energy crops; improving methods of breeding, propagation, planting, harvesting and storage; and developing processing methodologies that ensure a sustainable fuel product,â€? he said. To accomplish this, Kolb said research is divided into several areas of inquiry such as feedstock development; biomass depolymerization (breaking down the plant cell walls into fermentable sugars); biofuels production; and the social, environmental and economic dimensions of biofuel development. From an initial list of more than 250 pre-proposals from researchers at the three institutions, EBI management narrowed the field to 49 high-priority research efforts, which received institute funding in 2008, the projectâ€™s first year. Kolb said research is taking place in both California and Illinois, with most of the agricultural test fields in the Midwest. -Anna Austin
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industry Anaerobic digestion projects move forward Several large- and small-scale anaerobic digestion projects are in the planning stages. Here’s a brief rundown of what Biomass Magazine has come across recently: Tiru, a subsidiary of Electricité of France, plans to begin construction of a large-scale anaerobic digestion plant in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, in March, according to Belgium-based Organic Waste Systems NV, the company that will supply the technology for the plant. The facility will process 90,000 tons of mixed household waste and 15,000 tons of green waste yearly, producing 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. The plant will use OWS’ Dranco thermophilic anaerobic fermentation, and its Sordisep sorting, digestion and separation technologies. Environmental Power Corp. in Tarrytown, N.Y., along with its subsidiary Microgy Inc., has received $26.1 million from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee to help finance its Bar 20 renewable natural gas project in Fresno, Calif., according to the company. The project will consist of large-scale anaerobic digesters that will process manure from two adjacent dairies, and other food and agricultural waste materials, to produce 601 billion British thermal units of renewable natural gas per year to be conditioned and sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved Idaho Power Co.’s application to purchase electricity from the Big Sky West Dairy Digester Generation Facility, which is being built at Big Sky Dairy near Gooding, Idaho, according to the commission. The facility will be owned and operated by a partnership between Dean Foods Co. and AgPower Partners LLC, and will supply 1.5 megawatts of electricity to the power company. Approximately 4,700 dairy cows at the farm will supply manure for the digester, which is scheduled to begin operations Feb. 14. Bach Digester LLC in Dorchester, Wis., will receive $800,000 in loans and grants from the USDA Rural Development’s Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program
to build a 300 kilowatt-hour anaerobic digester. The facility would convert manure from 1,200 dairy cows into electricity to be sold to Dairyland Power Co-op in LaCrosse, Wis., according to the USDA. Bach Digester was awarded an $180,000 grant through the USDA program for this same project in 2004. The city of Gaylord, Minn., has received a $7,550 grant from the West Central Region Clean Energy Resource Team to study the feasibility of building an anaerobic digester to convert local and regional organic waste into methane biogas. Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., an engineering firm based in St. Paul, Minn., has been contracted to determine the availability of feedstock, as well as regional interest for the digester and biogas, according to Mark Broses, an engineer for the firm.
NEWS The South San Joaquin Irrigation District, which provides irrigation water for the agricultural areas surrounding the cities of Escalon, Ripon and Manteca, Calif., has begun a feasibility study to determine whether the district should build an anaerobic digester. The facility would assist area dairy farmers, and produce and sell electricity, according to district General Manager Jeff Shields. The Lake Champlain Restoration Association in Bridport, Vt., received $10,000 from Central Vermont Public Service to study the feasibility of harvesting and transporting the nuisance aquatic weed Eurasian watermilfoil from Lake Champlain, and putting it into an anaerobic digester, according to Chip Morgan, president of the association. -Ryan C. Christiansen
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31
NEWS Multitude of MSW projects underway A large number of companies in the renewable fuels and energy industries have recently announced plans for new facilities that will convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into ethanol, electricity, synthetic diesel fuel, and organic chemicals and products. On Aug. 20, Indianapolis-based Agresti Biofuels announced it would begin negotiations with officials in Pike County, Ky., for a 20 MMgy commercialscale MSW-to-ethanol facility. Zig Resiak, program director of Agresti Biofuels, said that after five months of significant due diligence, including the commissioning of a technical evaluation of Agresti’s process by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pike County reached the decision to move Caribbean tropics
forward with this project. “We are firmly committed to building a state-of-the-art facility for their community and making Pike County a better place to live,” Resiak said. Wayne Rutherford, an advocate of the project, expects the Central Appalachian Ethanol Plant to position the county as a leader in waste management technology, as well as enhance the local economy. “It’s a win-win situation for every party involved,” he said. In early August, Green Star Products Inc.’s associated consortium of companies and EcoAlgae USA LLC announced a partnership to construct a combined algaeto-biodiesel and next-generation wasteto-energy complex in Saline County, Mo. County commissioners approved $141 Sahara desert
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million in industrial development revenue bonds to complete the project, which is anticipated to create 40 new jobs. A target completion date is slated for 2010. The facility will incorporate technologies from Green Star Products, Pure Energy Corp., MKW Biogas and Biotech Research to produce oil, cattle feed, electricity, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and steam. BioGold Fuels Corp. recently completed agreements with Harvey County, Kan., to convert the county’s waste into engineered fuel cubes, synthetic diesel fuel and organic chemicals, according to BioGold Fuels Chief Executive Officer Steve Racoosin. The company plans to build a facility next to the county landfill that would process 33,500 tons of MSW yearly. The waste will be hauled to the plant using county equipment and vehicles for one dollar per year. The amount of waste added to the Harvey County landfill is estimated to be reduced by 85 percent to 90 percent. In late July, W2 Energy Inc. entered into an agreement with Combustibles Alternativos Chile, also known as Cobal Chile, to construct a waste-to-energy plant that will convert 80 tons of MSW into electricity and synthetic diesel using W2 Energy’s plasma and gas-to-liquid technologies. David Freund, W2 Energy director of marketing, said the best feedstock to use—considering today’s economic conditions and shortages of commodities worldwide—is something that nobody wants: waste. “I used to live in the Caribbean, and there is a landfill there that was scheduled to close 12 years ago, but it hasn’t,” he said. “There may be federal mandates, but there is just nowhere else to put the waste.” -Anna Austin
800.695.2743 | www.percival-scientiﬁc.com 32 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
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environment page tag
Relationshipsâ€•Itâ€™s the Talk of Tualco Valley In the Pacific Northwest, a cooperative effort among environmentalists, dairy farmers and local Indian tribes to produce renewable energy is proving that we can all just get along.
By Ryan C. Christiansen Photos by Matt Hagen
Crews build the Qualco Energy Corp. anaerobic digester on the 280acre site of the former Washington State Reformatory Dairy Farm, which for 60 years was a prison farm. The farm closed in 2002.
10|2008 10|2008 BIOMASS BIOMASS MAGAZINE MAGAZINE 35
he windward side of the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington is awash with the names of the indigenous people. The Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skagit, Sauk, Suiattle, Samish, and Stillaguamish rivers each make their way down the mountainsides against the salmon run into the Puget Sound; and each year, the native fish fight against the current to return to their ancestral homes to spawn, and then collapse in death. As long as anyone can remember, these indigenous peoples— now organized as the Tulalip Tribes—have fished for the Chinook, a Pacific Ocean salmon dubbed by modern tongues as King, Tyee, Columbia River, Black, Chub, Hook Bill, Winter, Spring, Quinnat, and Blackmouth salmon. The Tulalip culture is intertwined with the waters that they have lived upon: the marine waters, tidelands, wetlands, forests, and freshwater creeks and lakes that make up their homeland—now reserved as 22,000 acres between the Puget Sound and the Snohomish River west of Marysville, Wash. A landmark 1974 decision by U.S. District Judge George Boldt said the tribes’ 1854-1855 treaties with the federal government give them a 50 percent stake in the salmon harvest. However, the Chinook have been declining. In recent years, the number of tribal commercial fishing permits has been reduced by more than 75 percent. Urban sprawl from Seattle has been deemed the culprit. In 2001, the tribes sued the state for mismanagement, citing that improperly built and maintained culverts block salmon from returning upstream to spawn. Environmentalists, too, pursued lawsuits to stop the harvesting of trees that provide shade to cool salmon streams.
River to form the Snohomish River near Monroe, Wash., in Snohomish County. Between the two tributaries is an area of relatively level farmland known as the Tualco Valley and is the center of the county’s rich agricultural heritage. For settlers, dairy farming has played an important role in the local economy. However, some dairies in the county have fallen victim to urban sprawl. Because of waste disposal limitations, the farmers are already at a competitive disadvantage with dairies elsewhere. Unable to increase their herds, many farmers sell out to developers.
Tualco Valley The North, Middle, and South Forks of the Snoqualmie River drain the western side of the Cascades near North Bend, Wash. The forks join near the city of Snoqualmie just above Snoqualmie Falls to form the main waterway. The Snoqualmie joins the Skykomish
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Dairy farming has traditionally played an important role in the local economy of Snohomish County, Wash.
environment Snohomish County has stepped in. Its Purchase of Development Rights program provides farmers with cash in exchange for development rights to their land, preserving the land for agriculture. The 42-acre Werkhoven Dairy near Monroe signed on. “It gives hope that there will be ground still left to farm,” says Andy Werkhoven, who operates the dairy with his brother, Jim.
Dairy Waste and Salmon Habitat In 1991, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service received a petition to list Pacific Northwest salmon under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, the organization has been working to determine which salmon populations might be endangered. A 1995 Washington State Department of Ecology report said the most common water quality problems in salmon streams were caused by an increase in fecal coliform levels and a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels, attributable to dairy wastes. Some environmentalists cried foul—but not all. “You had a number of people jump on farmers, saying we want to turn the clock back 100 years,” says John Sayre, executive director of Northwest Chinook Recovery, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to protect salmon habitat in the Puget Sound region. “That’s not realistic.” Sayre says he has worked with farmers on a number of salmon-friendly projects, including the Haskell Slough project where Dale Reiner, a local beef cattle farmer, sought help after being flooded in 1990 and again in 1995. Reiner, who lives and works on land that his great-grandfather homesteaded in 1873 in the Tualco Valley on a bend in the Skykomish River, worked with Sayre and also federal, state and tribal agencies to build a natural barrier that prevents flooding but also reconnects three miles of slough and 11 ponds with the river’s main channel, providing slow-water rearing habitat for salmon. Werkhoven says it was through Reiner, his neighbor, that he met Sayre and also leaders of the Tulalip Tribes. “Dale was the one
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who said, ‘Hey, you got to meet these guys. They would rather work with us than against us,’” he says. “We started meeting with the Indian tribes and had clandestine meetings in people’s houses on the reservation or elsewhere,” Sayre says. “You’d have two or three farmers and two or three members of the tribal council and out of that developed a friendship, and then eventually partnership and trust.” “We spent a lot of time with each other, getting to know each other, and talking,” Werkhoven says. “It’s a whole lot different to argue with somebody if it’s the same person that you have dinner with. You work with them.” Werkhoven says it was at one of those meetings that someone from the tribes suggested that an anaerobic digester might be built to produce electricity using manure from dairy operations. “They had a simple theory: cows are better than condos,” Werkhoven says. “Not only do you have fewer landowners to deal with, but you have landowners who have a vested interest in protecting [the environment]. We have more in common, oftentimes, with the tribes than we have apart; and we have a tremendous amount in common with [environmentalists] like John [Sayre]. It’s a real blessing to be able to work with folks like that.” “I have been involved in salmon protection and restoration for more years than I care to admit, probably about 35,” Sayre says. “In the process, I realized that you don’t save salmon or anything in a vacuum. Farmers and the farmlands along rivers have the best potential to restore salmon habitat. Farmers are not the enemy; they are potentially the best friend that salmon could have.”
Enter the Qualco Energy Corp. In 2003, the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, Northwest Chinook Recovery, and the Tulalip Tribes “put a little sweat into the game,” Werkhoven says. They agreed to work together on an anaerobic digester project. The tribes received a $256,000 grant from
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environment the U.S. DOE to conduct an environmental assessment for the project, which was completed in September 2005. The partners then formed Qualco Energy Corp., a nonprofit organization where the groups are equal partners. The tribes were awarded a $1.5 million loan in 2006 from the state’s Energy Freedom Loan fund for the project. Werkhoven says the tribes have led the effort. “They have provided excellent project management,” he says. “They have very good people and they hire the best. It’s a real privilege to be working with them.” Crews began building the anaerobic digester in July on the 280-acre site of the former Washington State Reformatory Dairy Farm, which for 60 years was a prison farm. The farm closed in 2002. The anaerobic digester will have enough capacity to digest feedstock from 2,200 cows. The Werkhoven Dairy with its 1,000 milking cows and two neighboring dairies will collect manure from approximately 1,500 cows to supply feedstock for the digester, which will take six weeks to fill and rise to the required temperature for digestion. Each of the farms involved currently flush manure into lagoons or scrape manure from stalls to manage the solids on-site. The manure is later applied to fields. The waste collection systems at the farms are being adapted to pump fresh manure from the farms to the digester where methane
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gas will be produced. The methane will be burned by combustion engines to generate electricity. The remaining liquids and solids will then be separated. The digested liquid effluent will be pumped back to the farms to be applied to fields as fertilizer. The digested solids will be dried and marketed as compost or animal bedding. The digester was expected to be ready to accept feedstock by the end of October. If all goes as planned, generators at the Qualco facility will begin producing electricity in January to be sold to the Snohomish County Public Utility District. The genera-
tors will produce 450 kilowatts of power, enough to power approximately 300 homes, says Neil Neroutsos, a spokesman for the PUD. He says the PUD and Qualco continue to negotiate a power purchase agreement. The PUD became involved in 2004 soon after the project was initially proposed, Neroutsos says. “We look at the project as an opportunity to educate the public about how this power source works,” he says, “and to conduct educational tours and increase overall understanding of biogas generation.”
At the Werkhoven Dairy, manure is flushed into a lagoon and later applied to fields. The waste collection system at the farm is being adapted to pump fresh manure from the farm to the Qualco Energy Corp. anaerobic digester, where methane gas will be produced.
environment Neroutsos says the biogas digester will help the PUD to meet a portion of the utility’s renewable portfolio standards requirements.
Future Plans Using the digester might eventually allow Werkhoven and the other farmers to be more competitive. “This project will allow participating dairies to grow their herds to the size that best fits their business plan, management style and future goals,” Reiner says, “without being restricted by the number of cows allowed on a per-acre basis.” “We hope to be able to continue to expand our dairy,” Werkhoven says. “We would love to have the opportunity to build additional digester capacity.” Sayre says Qualco could build anaerobic digesters at the site to serve more than just dairy farmers. “There are a whole bunch of other things that are now going into landfills that can go in there to produce methane,” he says. “Since we are close to Seattle, I think there is going to be a lot of other sources of feedstock that are going to come forward.” Sayre says examples include whey from cheese makers, waste eggs from chicken farms and other food waste. “Look at all of the food that gets wasted in this country on an annual basis,” he says. Revenue from the Qualco digesters might also help to fund more salmon habitat
Pictured are, left to right, Dale Reiner, Jim Werkhoven, and Andy Werkhoven of Qualco Energy Corp., a nonprofit organization that is an equal partnership between the Sno/Sky Agricultural Alliance, Northwest Chinook Recovery, and the Tulalip Tribes.
protection projects, Sayre says, and will also serve as a demonstration site. “This project has turned into far more than an anaerobic digester,” he says. “This is a site that we want to use to demonstrate some of the answers that we have. It really is a demonstration site for, hopefully, a new way of thinking, and a new approach. It’s not just talking or producing another damned report. It’s a demonstrable solution.” Werkhoven says the group has been working to bring together other Indian tribes
and groups of dairy farmers. He says building a working relationship is a lot like a long courtship that ends in marriage. “It’s kind of like the way old-fashioned people used to get married,” he says. “It’s a good thing, you know? It’s a very good thing.” BIO Ryan C. Christiansen is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at rchristiansen @bbiinternational.com or (701) 373-8042.
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Building Better Ener gy Cr op s Seeds will play a vital role in the advancement of the crops needed to produce second-generation biofuels. Biomass Magazine talks to Ceres Inc., a seed plant genomics firm, about the switchgrass seed it is offering for the 2009 planting season. By Kris Bevill
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 41
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eferring to his slender 6-feet6-inch frame, Ceres Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Hamilton says that he personifies two of the traits his research team would like to perfect in switchgrass and other energy crops. The taller and skinnier each plant is, the more yield farmers will be able to coax out of every acre. So short plants beware—if Hamilton and his staff have their way those plants’ days are numbered. That’s the gist of genetic engineering. Got floppy plants? Make them more rigid. Need them taller, shorter, greener, disease or drought-resistant? No problem. Well, it’s not quite that easy. However, when listening to Hamilton talk about the work of the 120 employees at Ceres’ laboratory in Thousand Oaks, Calif., it’s all in a day’s work. Researchers in the Los Angeles suburb spend their time examining specimens and altering genes with the goal of making significant changes to the way crops grow and respond to environmental factors so that farmers can grow more productive crops—and in turn provide the world with more efficient, cost-effective fuel.
During a tour of the laboratory, Hamilton explains that by applying the same technology used in the Human Genome Project, Ceres researchers have sequenced more than 70,000 plant genes since the company was founded in 1997. New technology continues to speed the process of gene sequencing, allowing for ever-increasing numbers of genes to be sequenced on a daily basis. Gary Koppenjan, Ceres corporate communications manager, says there are machines available today that can sequence 1 million base pairs per day, compared with the 1,000 base pairs per week that Hamilton was able to sequence as a graduate student two decades ago. That means ethanol producers have a better chance of one day having a constant supply of the perfect energy crop. Hamilton says that the perfect crop has optimized architecture (the tall and skinny part), and is a deep-rooted perennial that is easily propagated. He’s confident Ceres is close to producing seed for the perfect energy crop. Ceres’ modified Human Genome Project process begins when researchers sequence the plant DNA. After discovering the plant’s genes and their functions, scientists can then determine the gene’s continued on page 44
PHOTO: KRIS BEVILL, BBI INTERNATIONAL.
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Hamilton is pictured next to stand of mature switchgrass at the company’s greenhouse in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Collaboration and Competition The advancement of the cellulosic ethanol industry will require the work of many organizations and researchers, as will the development of feedstock to produce the fuel. Ceres has a long list of collaborators, including the Chinese Academy of Ag Sciences, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the USDA. Below are details on two of Ceres’ most notable multiyear collaborations. ICM Inc.: As part of this collaboration, announced in early February, Ceres will provide seed to area farmers who will then sow thousands of acres of switchgrass and other energy crops over the next three years at ICM’s St. Joseph, Mo., biorefinery. The plant will be a demonstration-scale facility designed to test the crops’ conversion efficiency, fuel yield and economic viability. Samuel R. Noble Foundation Inc.: First established in 2006, this longterm collaboration was designed to develop and commercialize new biomass feedstock crops. As part of the agreement, Ceres has access to switchgrass varieties developed by breeders at the Noble Foundation. Ceres is not the only company developing cellulosic feedstocks, other U.S. companies are also involved in the advancement of energy crops nationwide. Mendel Biotechnology Inc.: Mendel is Ceres’ closest competitor. The Hayward, Calif.-based company is also working toward the production of energy crops, but is focusing its efforts on miscanthus and sorghum. Company President Neal Gutterson says he thinks the two crops will make an excellent package to offer for farmers and refineries in the future. “We have identified our first seed and clone products of miscanthus and those are in an experimental product development phase,” he tells Biomass Magazine. Product trials are being conducted on those specimens throughout the Midwest. Gutterson sees energy crop seed production as a long-term game and projects the market for those products won’t really develop for the next three to five years. “Early to the middle of the next decade we see an increased demand for the product and we’re preparing our miscanthus products to be able to deliver when the market begins to grow significantly,” he says. Sorghum seeds could be available next year, but Gutterson doesn’t see the demand for it. Mendel will market its seeds under the BioEnergy Seeds brand, and plans to begin making its products available early next decade. More information about Mendel Biotechnology can be found at www.mendelbio.com. Monsanto Co.: The giant of the genetic agriculture world, Monsanto has for years produced cotton, corn, oilseed and vegetable seeds. According to the company, Monsanto is committed to broadly licensing its technology to other companies around the world and providing farmers with seeds that are genetically superior with unique biotechnology traits. More information about Monsanto can be found at www.monsanto. com.
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 43
PHOTO: CERES INC.
Ceres stores tens of thousands of seeds for experimental plants.
continued from page 42
potential use. Improvements can then be made to the plants genetic make-up—one gene at a time. It’s a painstaking process, but “we’re scientists,” Hamilton says. “We like to control everything.” Since 1997, Ceres researchers have discovered genes that boost biomass yields, reduce nitrogen applications and increase tolerance to drought, cold and salt. The company owns exclusive rights
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to more than 40 U.S. and foreign patents and has applications pending for hundreds more patents.
Focus on Energy A healthy international debate has been waged for some time now concerning the use of genetically modified crops. Hamilton is not bothered by skeptics because he
believes the public can draw a distinction between modified plants that are grown for food and those that are grown for fuel. When confronted with that skepticism, Hamilton argues that gene modification is necessary. No agriculture is natural, he says. It’s a uniquely human activity that has been under development for only the past 10,000 years. Considering that land plants first appeared 400 million years ago, Hamilton makes his point that agriculture is a recent phenomenon that should be continually improved. At Ceres the focus is on energy, but that’s not to say the company has never worked with traditional row crops. In the beginning, researchers at Ceres worked with more traditional crops such as corn and soybeans and served as a gene and trait provider for traditional row crop seed companies. But Ceres’ specialty has always been developing technology, Koppenjan says. The focus of that work has shifted toward the development of seed for energy crops. “We’ve always been more of the technology development platform company,” Koppenjan says. “Now we’re taking that same technology and applying it to crops that historically haven’t received a lot of plant breeding and technology.” Switchgrass, miscanthus and sorghum are the energy crops that Ceres’ researchers believe have the most potential and are the focus of current studies.
cellulose The advancements made by Ceres’ researchers will contribute greatly to the advancement of energy crops and secondgeneration biofuels. Hamilton’s resolution and commitment to the matter is clear when he speaks about the future of biofuels in the United States. He compares the establishment of cellulosic biorefineries to the flat-screen TV market. “The first few are going to be very expensive, but the key is to get the first few built so we can work to drive down the cost,” he says. If comparing biorefineries to televisions, then a steady supply of feedstock would be the electricity needed to turn them on.
What Comes First? The balancing act between creating a new feedstock supply and building a new biorefinery poses the “chicken and egg” question. Which comes first? Ceres employs the philosophy that “seed in the ground” and “steel in the ground” happen simultaneously. According to its plan, identifying the location for a cellulosic ethanol production facility and feedstock should be done in conjunction. The first year of a plant’s existence will consist of the construction of the facility, while the growers are establishing the perennial feedstock. Year two will be the start-up. The plant will run start-up phases while the growers harvest the first year of feedstock, which will amount to ap-
proximately 50 percent of the crop’s potential. By year three, the operation should be up and running on both ends. The biorefinery will be able to reach its full capacity and growers will be able to harvest the top yields available from their crops. That’s the plan anyway. Questions remain on both sides of the cellulosic production chain. Biorefineries want to be reassured that ample feedstock supplies will be available. Farmers want a signed contract to supply a business with the crop before they invest their efforts and bankroll into planting and harvesting. One possible solution to the standoff could be the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. This new program is part of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, more commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. The program aids in the establishment and production of crops that will be used to produce energy. After the producer’s potential BCAP project area has been approved, funding will be provided to the producer on an annual basis and will cover up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing a perennial crop, including the cost of seeds and planting. BCAP contracts will be valid for five years for perennial and annual crops, and 15 years for woody biomass. However payments to the grower will be reduced once the producer begins delivering crop to a biorefinery, or uses the crop for
anything other than energy production. Koppenjan says BCAP could certainly help Ceres’ business and the sale of its seeds. At press time, the company was preparing to debut its Blade Energy Crops seed business. Koppenjan says Ceres expects to sell its energy crop seeds to growers who “want to get ahead of the curve” as well as to biorefineries interested in testing the product. The company is offering five seed varietals of switchgrass this fall so that crops can be planted during the 2009 growing season. The EG 1101 and EG 1102 varietals have been bred to prosper in lowland ranges, while the Blackwell and Trailblazer varietals are intended for the southern upland range. One varietal, Sunburst, is a winter hardy switchgrass seed that was designed for the northern Great Plains region. In addition to providing seed, Ceres plans to establish a grower’s guide to assist its customers as they establish these new crops. It will take two years for switchgrass stands to become fully mature, but Hamilton says they do expect some commercial harvest to occur in the fall of 2009. At press time, a selling price for the seed had not been established. BIO Kris Bevill is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at kbevill @bbiinternational.com or (701) 373-8044.
As would be expected, the 140,000 U.S. troops stationed overseas generate a lot of trash. To help bases dispose of that trash, scientists from Purdue University teamed up with the U.S. Army to develop a generator that runs on packaging and food waste and produces fuel and power. By Anna Austin
The tactical garbage to energy refinery (TGER) uses trash to produce energy and fuel for troops stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. PHOTO: U.S. ARMY
46 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
Tactics in Iraq
10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 47
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ne of the biggest logistical problems the U.S. Army has to contend with is garbage, according to James Valdes, scientific adviser for biotechnology for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). Typically, local contractors are hired to come on base and haul trash away, which causes a security risk and requires military personnel to follow them around to ensure base safety. In some cases, the trash is burned in large incinerators, which use a considerable amount of fuel. Fortunately, a mobile biorefinery unit has been developed that can transform the waste into fuel for stoves and generators and help the U.S. Army get rid of the garbage safely and efficiently. The tactical garbage-to-energy refinery (TGER, pronounced tiger) was developed jointly by RDECOM, Defense Life Sciences LLC of McLean, Va., and a team of Purdue University researchers. Purdue scientists were intimately involved in the inception, design and fabrication of TGER, says Jerry Warner, founder
â€˜The syngas produced is similar to low-grade propane and is blended with the ethanol, then aspirated into a 60 kilowatt generator, which produces the electrical power. The power is then used directly or is put into a power micro-grid.â€™
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Warner mans the TGER at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq.
PHOTO: PURDUE UNIVERSITY
Mosier adjusts the TGER prototype settings.
improvements and lessons learned, the second prototype was built in March during a two-week period, and has been undergoing testing since the TGER was transported to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, in May.
Invention Anatomy Though much of the engineering and research was performed at Purdue, a number of other companies were involved in the development process of TGER. Bowen Engineering Co. of Indianapolis supplied engineering and much of the equipment assembly for TGER, and Community Power Corp. of Littleton, Colo., provided the gasifier. The mobile TGER, often described as the size of a small moving van, can handle nearly a ton of garbage daily and effectively run a 60 kilowatt (kW) generator. Valdes hopes as improvements continue, the output can be doubled. The TGER system is a hybrid design that uses thermal gasification to produce synthetic gas, or syngas, from paper, ammunition wrappers, Styrofoam and plastic garbage, and a fermentation process to produce ethanol from a mixed waste stream of food slop and juice waste. Valdes says the troops consume a lot of high sugar and carbohydrate drinks and foods. TGER takes six hours to reach full power, Valdes says. During that time, it runs on diesel. As it is brought to full power it uses less diesel fuel, until it is down to 5 percent—from 5 gallons hourly to 1 gallon. The other 95 percent of the energy it produces comes from the waste. At a bloggers round table in June, Valdes described the wet waste as being “washed off,” and then taken into a tank where yeast and enzymes are added. “The other waste gets ground up, then pelletized into little fuel pellets that are about an inch long and quarterof-an-inch thick. Those pellets then go into the down-draft gasifier and are heated up and broken down.” 10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 49
PHOTO: U.S. ARMY
The system may eventually be used in hospitals, at camp sites, and during and after disastrous events such as hurricanes where there is a lot of trash and little or no power.
Valdes at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq.
“The syngas produced is similar to low-grade propane and is blended with the ethanol, then aspirated into a 60 kilowatt generator, which produces the electrical power,” Valdes says. “The power is then used directly or is put into a power micro-grid.” TGER’s design has two main advantages over unitary designs that use only gasification. “The system can convert a broader range of wastes into energy—gasification doesn’t do well with liquid wastes, whereas fermentation loves them—and the ethanol, which is 15 percent water, adds power and reduces engine knock, allowing the generator to run at full power,” Valdes says. With only syngas, the TGER runs at approximately 75 percent power, and will top out at 40 kW and overheat. “The ethanol adds a lot of power,” he says. “It’s also got water. It cools it down. So as it worked out, this blend of the syngas with the hydrous ethanol is a really nice fuel for generators.” To test the TGER in extreme weather conditions it was sent to Iraq, where temperatures can swell to well-over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The gasifier, distillation column and tanks have sensors that collect data and show how effectively TGER is operating. This data will be used to make further improvements to the system. Surprisingly, the top three consumers of fuel in the U.S. Army are stoves, generators and the trucks that carry the fuel, not tanks and helicopters. “If you look at fuel, about 50 percent is used to transport more fuel,” Valdes says. “That’s a big waste right there.” Unlike tanks and helicopters, which require high-quality fuel, stoves and generators will be the primary consumers of the fuel produced by TGER.
Projecting the Possibilities Prototype deployment, which ended Aug. 10, has generated positive results so far. “Despite some mechanical problems, TGER 50 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
PHOTO: PURDUE UNIVERSITY
The TGER team poses for a photo at Purdue University.
has demonstrated excellent waste processing throughput and a very high level of net power efficiency,” Warner says. With improvements, he sees broad uses of the systems by the U.S. Army in the future. “We are in the process of designing a fixed, on-grid system for large buildings and complexes that will provide on-site conversion of waste into energy for thermal utilities, rather than electrical power,” he says. On the other side of the spectrum, TGER may also be economical for civilian
use. “The technology is easy to scale up,” Valdes tells Biomass Magazine. “The hard part was scaling down.” He says that the system may eventually be used in hospitals, at camp sites, and during and after disastrous events such as hurricanes where there is a lot of trash and little or no power. “We’ve also had some people from the U.S. Navy very interested because you could put something like this on board a ship,” Valdes says. Another option is that it may be able to charge batteries. “Economically, we like to say that we
measure the cost of fuel in blood, not dollars,” Valdes says. He adds, however, that data on the cost is currently being analyzed and isn’t presently available. “These have been prototypes … prototypes break, have problems, etc., which we have had to work through,” Valdes says. “They are hand built with parts that really were not primarily meant to do what those parts are doing now.” For example, one part on the TGER is an auger that grinds up waste. It’s an agricultural auger though, which wasn’t originally designed for that purpose. “I can say that we demonstrated proof of scientific and engineering principles underpinning TGER, and identified a host of mechanical issues which we will be addressing in the next phase, along with better automation,” Valdes says. As the U.S. Army and Purdue University scientists continue to tweak the TGER prototypes, this trash-to-treasure technology may be a key factor in solving some of today’s landfill, fuel production and environmental issues. As for relatives sending care packages to their loved ones overseas, they’re providing more than just comfort to those soldiers as every bit of that package, even the materials typically thought of as garbage, can be utilized for a number of purposes. BIO Anna Austin is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach her at aaustin@bbiinternational .com or (701) 738-4968.
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Giving Back Manoj Sinhaâ€™s dream of providing power to areas of his native India where limited or no electricity is available has become a reality. He and his partners started Husk Power Systems to develop a process to convert rice husks into electricity to supply impoverished rural Indian villages. By Bryan Sims
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innovation page tag
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innovation hen Manoj Sinha arrived in the United States came to mind involved solar and wind power. Both technologies could from his native Bihar, India, village five years easily convert the husks from the 100 million tons of rice harvested ago he had a plan. First, he wanted to further each year into a producer gas. That gas could eventually be turned into his college education in America, as that would clean, readily available electricity for rural villagers. In 2006, during the have been difficult to do from the impover- heat of their brainstorming, Pandey left the United States and went ished Indian village where he spent the major- back to India where he spent nine months researching technologies that would best suit that country. In the meantime, Sinha stayed in the ity of his childhood and adolescent years. After earning an undergraduate degree in electronics engineering United States. Although the solar and wind technologies sounded good at the at one of India’s Institute for Advanced Technology schools, Sinha received a master’s degree in electric and computer engineering at the time, the two eventually decided on a different approach. In the spring University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He then went to work at several electronics companies making microprocessor chips. One of those companies was Intel Corp. where he currently holds 10 patents. While attending Umass Amherst, Sinha rekindled a friendship with Gyanesh Pandey, whom he had known since 1995, as both grew up in Bihar. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, Pandey moved to Los Angeles to pursue a job. The two kept in touch and eventually came to the conclusion that they needed to devise a way to deliver affordable electricity to impoverished villages in India that desperately need it. “Our relatives still don’t have electricity there,” Sinha says. “We started talking about how we can give back to the community where we grew up since we clearly knew that there is a tremendous need because most of the people there are extremely poor.” Because they understood the situation in Ransler, left, and Sinha met at the Darden School of Business and formed Husk Power Systems with poor Indian communities, the first ideas that another partner, Pandey, who is not pictured.
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PHOTO: DAN ADDISON
innovation generators would operate eight to 10 hours per day. The generators would also offset about 200 tons of carbon emissions per village, per year in India. “The reason we started looking at rice and rice husks was because the villages within the Bihar area have an abundance of rice production, growing about 500 tons per annum,” Sinha says. About 5 percent of the rice husks are burned for cooking purposes and the rest is just burned or left in the field to rot, he says.
A Foundation for Expansion
PHOTO: SCOTT MELCER
In September 2007, Sinha attended the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia to pursue a master’s degree in business. While there, he met Charles “Chip” Ransler. Sinha, Ransler and Pandey formed Husk Power Systems to provide power to some 350 million rural villages in eastern India’s “Rice Belt” where the villagers are “rice rich and power poor”, according to Sinha. after winning the “The way [Pandey] and I were thinking about it initially, was just to do maybe two or three [processor units] with the money we made in the U.S. and give back to our community [in India] and be happy with it,” Sinha says. “But, when I went to school at Darden I talked to Chip and then we figured out that it actually could be initiated as a business; as it can be profitable and it can be expanded.” India has been particularly fertile ground for experimentation with renewable energy initiatives. The latest edition of Ernst & Young’s renewable energy country attractiveness indices ranks India as the third most attractive market for renewable energy investment. “India’s rise to third overall … has been precipitated by excellent national and regional government support for both foreign and local investment in
In May, Ransler, left, and Sinha were awarded $50,000 in prize money prestigious Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas.
of 2007, Sinha and Pandey began collaborating with several gasification manufacturing companies and even talked to an Indian diesel generator maker about tweaking their generators so that they could run on producer gas, or syngas. Sinha says they decided to refine the generator concept and raise money to donate rice husk generators to two or three villages near where they grew up. In the summer of 2007, using their own money, they installed two “mini power plants” in Bihar to provide 35 to 50 kilowatts of off-grid power. The electricity was offered to villagers as a pay-for-use service. Each unit can process about 110 pounds of rice husks per hour and supply electricity to about 300 to 500 rural Indian households. The
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innovation In addition to power generation and the silica byproduct produced by burning the rice husks, the processing units could potentially be paid for by reducing carbon emissions through a trading program established by the Kyoto Protocol.
renewable technologies. Consequently, rapid growth is expected to continue in this market,” the report states. The report further notes that “installed renewables capacity in India—currently standing at 8GW (gigawatts)—is now expected to double every five years, and is forecast to reach 20 gigawatts by 2012, twice the government’s target.” India is the world’s sixth-largest energy consumer, using about 3 percent of the world’s total energy per year. With a population of more than 1 billion people, it is the second
most populous country in the world behind China. So, what can we expect in the future from Husk Power Systems? Currently, there are four rice husk processing units installed in India. According to Ransler, Husk Power Systems intends to install 15 to 20 more units in villages this year and the company plans on installing 100 in 2009 and 2,500 by 2013. The lack of reliable electricity is one of the biggest obstacles to small business growth in rural India, so providing villages with rice-husk power can enable dozens of other small business ventures, Ransler explains.
Taking on Challenges Although Sinha and Pandey were able to self-fund much of their business, Husk Power Systems must amass significantly more capital to expand its business. “We have gotten requests from different regions in India to expand [our business],” Sinha says. “We’re not limited by customer demand. We are mostly limited by the funds we have. Once we get sufficient funds, we will be able to expand very quickly.” To showcase their business to American academia, Ransler and Sinha entered several prestigious college-level business competitions this year. In April, the two picked up a $10,000 check for winning Darden’s annual business plan competition, and they were selected as one of 10 finalist teams among 245 entries from 23 countries in the Global Social Venture Competition hosted by the University of California, Berkeley. In May, Husk Power Systems won second prize at the 2008 Ignite Clean Energy competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Ransler and Sinha competed for the $125,000 grand prize. Later that month, they took home $50,000 in prize money after topping the prestigious Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas. According to Ransler, with more research and feedback from the competitions, the team learned that the silica byproduct produced by burning the rice husks could be converted into a valuable ingredient for cement production. “We’ve actually spoken with a number of U.S. companies that are doing business in India, to be able to provide that to them,” Ransler says. “Some of those things are already shored up, but we hope to 56 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
innovation get the rest of the supply chain aspects down these next few months.” In addition to power generation and the silica byproduct produced by burning the rice husks, the processing units could potentially be paid for by reducing carbon emissions through a trading program established by the Kyoto Protocol. “One of the big steps is getting certified, and we’ve already started that so we’re ahead of the game there,” he says. “It probably doesn’t make much sense until we’re in more villages, but we hope to have that done by the end of next year.” With conservative electricity consumption, revenue from the three sources—electricity generation, silica and carbon credits—each rice husk generator could be paid for in about two and a half years, Ransler says. Finding funds hasn’t been the only challenge the entrepreneurs have faced. They have had to address logistical issues, such as how to get the electricity to its various destinations, irrigation and water purification issues and competing with other local business to name a few. “It’s tough doing this in India because it’s a completely different ballgame with regard to laws, restrictions and the politics associated with it,” Ransler says. “It’s definitely intimidating, but we’re figuring it out.” Previous electrification projects in India have generally provided villages with intermittent power—often only an hour per day. The power comes from distant coal-fired power plants and travels through miles of wire to reach small villages, where average personal incomes are less than $20 per month. In many cases, Indian villagers would illegally tap into the main power lines for free electricity, which is often referred to as defaulting, and sometimes large sections of power lines have been cut and sold as scrap metal. Husk Power Systems has developed a strategy to circumvent those kinds of problems by requiring pre-payment for all electricity sold and using double-insulated wire that is more difficult to tap into than standard wire. The company has also tried to be a lowcost electricity supplier. Instead of paying $10 to $15 for an electrical meter for every household, Husk Power Systems uses a $1 circuit breaker to distribute electricity to a
branch line serving four or five households. The company also uses locally-based employees to operate and maintain the rice husk processing units, Sinha says. “It takes a lot of convincing to change the mindset and charge them money for the services they are getting from us,” he says. “It’s not their fault. Politicians use the electricity for things to their advantage there. The only thing is they don’t get it. Even if there is a public grid, the power would only be available for a few hours every week, let alone every day.” As for Sinha, supplying his homeland
with affordable electricity far outweighs the profits the company will reap. “This was completely humanitarian,” Sinha stresses. “[The creation of Husk Power Systems] had nothing to do with profit at the time. But, when we started we figured that actually many people need the same kind of services and we cannot do that all across India with limited funds so the only way we could accomplish that is to reap a profit.” BIO Bryan Sims is a Biomass Magazine staff writer. Reach him at bsims@bbiinternational .com or (701) 738-4950.
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California researchers and technology developers are commercializing a process that treats solid organic wastes such as grass clippings, food scraps, food processing byproducts, crop residues and animal wastes, and converts the materials into biogas that can be used to generate electricity, heat and transportation fuel. By Jessica Ebert
Not ach year, Americans generate more than 200 million tons of solid wastes. Although communities across the country are intensifying efforts to recycle elements of household trash, these programs generally work with the dry and easily separated materials like plastics, metals, glass and newsprint. More often than not, the wet, soggy and sometimes rotting organic portions of garbage such as food scraps and animal wastes are left to be hauled away to the landfill. For the past eight years, however, researchers at the University of California, Davis have been developing and fine-tuning a method for the anaerobic digestion of organic solid wastes and liquid wastes into compost and biogas for the generation of electricity, heat and transportation fuel. “The new technology brings many benefits to the public, including improvement of environmental quality and public health and production of renewable energy,” says Ruihong Zhang, the inventor of the new system and a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at UC-Davis. This is “an effective method for solving organic waste dis-
posal problems through converting the waste into clean biogas fuel, compost and other valuable products,” she adds. Zhang, who has worked in the areas of animal waste treatment and wastewater treatment digesters for nearly 20 years, started thinking about anaerobic solid waste digestion after moving to UC-Davis in 1995. “I realized there was a lot of solid waste around like rice straw, for example, that had not been looked at much from a digestion and biogas conversion standpoint,” Zhang explains. But at that time, “There was no efficient digester design available that would handle solid waste,” she says. Although researchers attempted to tackle the solid waste digestion problem throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Zhang explains that their approach required an extensive pretreatment of the solids that included separation, particle size reduction and the addition of a lot of water. This turned the solid waste into a kind of wastewater pulp that could be handled with digesters designed for wastewater treatment. An energy intensive pretreatment is a significant drawback, however, so reducing this was one of the criteria that Zhang aimed to meet with the design of her digester system.
Loads of food processing waste from a Campbell Soup Co. manufacturing facility is delivered to the UC-Davis Biogas Energy Project. PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
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anaerobic digestion In addition to a low energy requirement for pretreatment, Zhang set out to conceive a process that could handle large particles of solid waste and process it more quickly and in smaller digesters than are used in typical wastewater systems. This process would reduce capital costs and the physical footprint of the system as well as destroy any pathogens associated with the waste, which would allow the digested residues to be used as organic fertilizers. The innovation that meets these criteria has been in development for the past several years and is dubbed the anaerobic phased solids (APS) digester technology. “The APS digester technology has overcome the deficiencies of existing anaerobic technologies and has proven to be a much more efficient and versatile technology for treating a variety of organic wastes including both wet and dry materials,” Zhang says. The technology consists of two stages of digestion. In the first stage, a hydraulic piston pump pushes the solid waste into tanks colonized by a mixture of anaerobic
bacteria that break down the solids to organic acids and hydrogen-rich biogas. The biogas stream that is extracted at this point in the process is a first for solid organic waste digestion. “There are no commercial systems right now that can produce hydrogen stably via biological reactions,” she says. “This is the first commercial system to provide hydrogen production as well as methane production.” The latter is generated in the second step after the organic acids from the first stage tanks are separated from the residual solids and transferred to a second-stage tank. Here the organic acids are transformed into methane gas by a specific group of anaerobic, methane-producing bacteria. After digestion, the residual solids are separated from liquid and removed for composting material while the remaining liquid is recycled and reused in the digester system. The bacteria characteristic of both stages in the process are naturally occurring microbes that were initially isolated from existing sewage digesters, Zhang explains. The environmental and process conditions
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The demonstration plant on the campus of UC-Davis is being used to test the anaerobic phase solids digestion technology for the conversion of everything from food processing and animal wastes to grass clippings and crop residues to a biogas.
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PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
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The Biogas Energy Project located on the campus of the University of California, Davis processes 8 tons of food processing waste each day to produce biogas via an anaerobic digestion process.
within the digestion tanks have been tested, tweaked and fine-tuned to achieve optimum growth of the bacteria, which favors the fast and efficient conversion of organic solid wastes. The APS digester technology has been scaled up twice over the past eight years from its laboratory prototype. The latest iteration in this scale-up, the first commercialsize facility of its kind called the UC Davis Biogas Energy Project, has been operating on the school’s campus since October 2006 with support from the California Energy Commission, the California Integrated Waste Management Board and UC-Davis, Onsite Power Systems Inc. and several other companies. “This plant has provided a platform for demonstrating the new technology and also to test larger quantities of organic waste,” Zhang explains. The facility is 28,000 times bigger than the laboratory-scale technology with a materials handling system that can handle 60 tons of waste per day. The plant houses five-digester tanks sized to treat 8 tons of solid waste per day, which is sufficient for producing enough biogas to power 80 homes. “It’s of a real size to show people who are interested in using the technology as well as giving us a research demonstration capability to test real materials and to get
data to support commercial development,” Zhang says. This data, which are used to measure the technical performance of the technology, includes biogas production rate and yield, the composition of hydrogen and methane in the biogas, waste reduction, energy conversion efficiency and economic and environmental impact analyses. “The research results have proven that the APS digester is a more energy-efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly waste treatment technology, compared with existing waste conversion technologies,” Zhang says. This includes composting and combustion, which are conventional, alternative technologies for managing organic solid wastes. However, the significant energy inputs required for composting and the air quality issues associated with the gases and particles emitted during combustion are drawbacks. The Biogas Energy Project, on the other hand, demonstrates the steps involved in the feeding of solid wastes into sealed, emission-free tanks, the digestion of that waste and the collection of biogas generated in the two stages, the cleaning of the hydrogen and methane produced in the process and the use of that biogas in an engine generator to make electricity or a boiler for heat. “It’s a
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complete demonstration system for wasteto-energy conversion,” Zhang says. Food scraps collected from cafeterias around campus and from several Bay Area restaurants were initially processed at the plant. After six months of testing, the facility was shut down and improvements made including increasing efficiency of the material handling equipment and insulation for the tanks. The goal of the biogas project is to show that the demonstration facility uses less than 20 percent of the energy it produces, which was an initial goal of the project, Zhang explains. The remaining energy can then be exported as a biogas energy product, she says. Currently, the plant is processing food waste from a Campbell Soup Co. manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif. “The demonstration plant has been running very well and continuously for biogas production,” Zhang says. Zhang and colleagues will continue to collect data on the processing of the soup waste, and plan to eventually test a mixture of corn waste and food waste and then green waste such as grass clippings. The researchers are also taking a closer look at the microbes involved in digesting the solid wastes and doing DNA sequence analyses to determine the major players in the process. The ultimate goal is to develop seed cultures of high performing microbes able to grow and maintain stable populations in commercial systems. Meanwhile, Onsite Power Systems Inc., a privately held company that provided significant funding for the Biogas Energy Project and has licensed the technology from the university, is currently developing several commercial projects including a 250-tonper-day system that would process a mixture of food and green waste for a local waste management company north of Los Angeles and a 30-ton-per-day system to process chicken waste from a local farm. “These exciting projects are already in the development phase,” Zhang explains. “We’ve made excellent progress and we’re very happy with what we have so far.” BIO Jessica Ebert is a freelance writer for Biomass Magazine. Reach her at jebertserp @yahoo.com.
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from Waste Plastics An extraordinary amount of plastic occupies landfill space worldwide. Like a time capsule this could tell future generations an awful lot about us. Work by a few creative and resourceful people may change the message we choose to leave. By Ron Kotrba PHOTO: ELIZABETH SLAVENS, BBI INTERNATIONAL
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stimates suggest 200 billion pounds of plastic is produced every year. Due to the technical limitations or inconvenience of recycling, only a fraction of that material resurfaces in new plastic products. It takes no imagination whatsoever to throw away plastic and doom it to the fate of a thousand years in a landfill, but plastic waste doesn’t just threaten terra firma. The Pacific Ocean is home of the world’s biggest landfill: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Air and ocean currents form a huge, slow-moving spiral of debris—mostly plastic—accumulated from all corners of the globe through decades. And unlike biological material, plastic doesn’t biodegrade and decompose. Instead, plastic photodegrades, meaning it shatters infinitely into smaller and smaller pieces without actually chemically breaking down. Because of this, the amount of plastic debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch only grows. The tiny plastic bits, called nurdles or “Mermaid tears,” are reported to outnumber plankton in the vast region six-to-one and are mistaken as food by bottom feeders and other filter feeders,
which poses a threat to the entire food chain. The water-bound garbage dump has gotten so large it has split into eastern and western patches. Reports indicate the eastern patch, located between Hawaii and California, is twice as big as the state of Texas. Plastic used specifically for agricultural purposes is called plasticulture (plastic and agriculture), much of which cannot be or is not recycled for various reasons. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo professor Sean Hurley compiled survey data from California farmers earlier this year, regarding their use of plastics in agricultural operations. According to Hurley, 43 percent of California growers indicated that they use some form of plasticulture in their operations. Hurley estimates California growers dispose of more than 55,000 tons of plasticulture every year. Earlier this year Biomass Magazine reported on work conducted by Pennsylvania State University professor James Garthe, who has developed a prototype machine to convert waste plasticulture into Plastofuel—the trademarked name for the dense, plastic nuggets intended eventually for cofiring with coal at a power plant. Garthe, on extended leave until mid-October, was unavailable for a Plasto-
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fuel update but his PSU colleague, professor William Lamont, says Garthe is working on the fourth edition of the Plastofuel maker and when he returns from leave will complete that work and then testing will begin. “We hope to then take nonrecyclable waste plastics from the university and convert them into Plastofuel in quantities that can be burned in a small power-generating facility,” Lamont says. “We really need to convert all the plastic waste except for PVC which, at this point, cannot be recycled into fuel.” PVC, or poly vinyl chloride, is considered by many experts to be the most toxic plastic of all because of its high chloride content. While Garthe strives to streamline the Plastofuel production process, a related PSU project nearing the commissioning phase is underway.
Gasifying Granulated Waste Plastics In 1999, GR Technologies Co. Ltd. in Seoul, South Korea, invented a hightemperature burner designed to be fueled by plastics. A relationship with the Korean company and PSU developed. After years of working together in varying capacities, a subsidiary of GR Technologies Co. was formed earlier this year in Pennsylvania, Eco-Clean Burners LLC, with the purpose of deploying the plastic-burner technology in the United States. It’s not combustionoriented like the Plastofuel nuggets, but rather this project involves gasification of granulated waste plastics. Industrial makers of plastic parts generate a lot of plastic wastes, which sometimes is granulated before being dumped into a landfill so companies are not paying to dump airspace. The burner project is headed up by John Joseph Shea, a PSU economic and community development extension associate. “The Plastofuel project and this project are closely related but don’t really touch each other,” Shea says. While the burner was developed in South Korea, Shea has been working to turn the technology “into a user-friendly machine for the United States,” he says. According to a PSU document, stack tests conforming to U.S. EPA standards were conducted on the burner unit by an
Shea is working to deploy the GR Technologies Co. Ltd. burner, which gasifies granulated waste plastics, first in Pennsylvania and then elsewhere in the United States. The first U.S. system is being commissioned at a greenhouse in Burgettstown, Pa.
independent testing company based in the United States. The emissions testing evaluated the burner fueled with pelleted No. 4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE) from Korea; granulated No. 2 high-density polyethylene from discarded plastic barrels; and granulated, dirty No. 4 LDPE mulchfilm. Three main categories of pollutants were tested: particulate matter; gases (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide); and dioxins/furans. “Test results proved that this is an extremely cleanburning system,” the document states. “It’s complete gasification,” Shea tells Biomass Magazine. “There’s no melting or slagging. The burner takes the granulated plastic, sized in diameter between 2 and 10 millimeters, from a solid to a liquid to a gas immediately in the combustion chamber, Shea explains. “That gas is actually producing the heat we need to transfer into the boiler system.” During the gasification of the granulated waste plastic, temperatures are so high—1,850 degrees Fahrenheit— the studies indicate emissions profiles cleaner than that of natural gas. “It’s amazing,” Shea says. “I’ve run this machine for
PHOTO: PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
years—demos and such—and you could stand right next to it and there’s nothing coming out of that barrel but a flame and heat.” In Pennsylvania, the department of environmental protection doesn’t regulate emissions from combustion units with a heat-input rating less than 2.5 million British thermal units an hour (MMBtu/ hr) and, therefore, units sized less than 2.5 MMBtu/hr require no permits to begin burning, or gasifying, waste plastics. Eco-Clean Burners and Shea are finishing installation of an 800,000-Btu/hr plastic-burner unit at a greenhouse called Iannetti’s Garden Center in Burgettstown, Pa. “Here at Iannetti’s is the first place we’ve installed one of these burners,” Shea says. “We haven’t actually run it yet. We’ve been installing it all summer and now we’re waiting for some cold weather to try it out and do some heating. By next spring we should be able to tabulate the numbers and see how effective it will actually be.” He says the system is designed to gasify 30 to 33 pounds an hour of granulated waste plastic.
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plastics Catalytic Pyrolysis of Waste Plastics While interest in combusting and gasifying plastic appears to be growing, there is another route to making practical use of all the waste plastics modern society produces. Through what it calls catalytic pyrolysis, Polymer Energy LLC, a division of Northern Technologies International Corp., has developed a system to convert waste plastics into liquid hydrocarbons, coke and gas, which can then be used as boiler fuel for power generation. “The technol-
ogy uses lower temperatures than gasification—significantly lower—so it’s more energy efficient to produce,” says Kathy Radosevich, business development manager with Polymer Energy. Through “random depolymerization,” or selective breaking of carbon-to-carbon bonds, in addition to feeding in proprietary catalytic additives, the reactor melts and vaporizes waste plastic in one step at temperatures between 840 and 1,020 degrees F. The company reports that, on average, 78 percent of every pound of plastic fed into the Polymer Energy system
is converted to liquid hydrocarbons, coke and gas. The resultant coke can be further processed to produce additional fuel oil. Polymer Energy’s catalytic pyrolysis system processes polyolefins like polyethylene and polypropylene with up to 5 percent other plastic materials, plus up to 25 percent additional nonplastic waste, such as paper, glass, sand and water—making it ideal for processing municipal wastes. Radosevich says the company has already sold nearly 20 of these systems in Europe, India and Thailand. “The interest in the United States and Canada is huge but I expect that we won’t be marketing units in North America until next year some time,” she tells Biomass Magazine. Hitherto the markets for these units outside North America have been “more conducive” mainly because higher fuel prices in places such as Europe and India have increased the desire for such alternative-fuel production units. “In the United States I’m doing preliminary testing for EPA approval, although I don’t anticipate we’ll have any problems … The only item that would be of interest to EPA that I can think of would be any type of contaminants in the ash.” According to Polymer Energy, the output oil contains no chlorine, sulfur, nitrogen or heavy metals. Any of that material would remain in the ash, which Radosevich says would differ on an individual usage basis depending on the average makeup of the plastic-waste feedstock. “What we would do is sample the input plastic and the [postprocessed] ash, and cross-check that with local requirements the community has for permit approvals,” she says. Clearly there is growing interest in doing something different with waste plastic than dumping it in landfills or the oceans. The global community must force itself to change its present path and become truly concerned about the environment in which its descendents will be raised, for what people do today affects everyone tomorrow. BIO Ron Kotrba is a Biomass Magazine senior writer. Reach him at rkotrba @bbiinternational.com or (701) 738-4942.
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Determining the Ownership of Landfill Gas The process of collecting methane from landfills is gaining momentum throughout the country. The question remains: Who really owns the gas? By James E. Goddard and Patrick Beaton
magine the following situation: You of these principles are equally applicable to a have just completed the installation of number of states that recognize the “split esdozens of methane collection wells tate” concept of the separate ownership of and a state-of-the-art gas collection the surface estate and mineral estate. and processing system on your landfill, and A number of factors militate in favor of are now ready to sell landfill gas. Then you the conclusion that the landfill owner is the receive a “cease-and-desist” letter from an owner of the landfill gas. First, while the minoil and gas company claiming to have an oil eral estate includes the “oil, gas and minerals and gas lease on the property. The oil and gas in, on and under, or that may be produced company asserts that the oil and gas lease has from” the land, it should not be considered granted it title to all of the gas in, on or under to include gases that were never part of a the landfill, and that which may be produced geological reservoir associated with the land, from wells on the landfill property. but instead are the byproduct of The company alleges it is entitled a commercial use of the surface. to all of the landfill gas produced Second, by way of analogy to cases from the landfill. This mineral lesdetermining the ownership of resee demands either a hefty royinjected gases, the landfill gas is an alty on all landfill gas produced or, “extraneous” rather than “native” worse yet, that it takes over operagas, and thus its extraction should tions of the collection wells pursunot be considered a diminution of Beaton ant to its right to operate under the the mineral estate. Finally, from an oil and gas lease. economic incentive viewpoint, the It may surprise many that there is very policy concerns stated in certain legislation little legal authority addressing the issue of that encourage the capture and use of landfill who actually owns the methane gas produced gas can realistically only be realized by recogfrom landfills. The purpose of this article is nizing the owner of the landfill as the owner to discuss the scant authority on the topic of the landfill gas. and to address analogous situations that lead to the only logical conclusion on the issue: Defining Landfill Gas the owner/operator of the landfill, not the When organic-rich solid wastes are demineral owner or its lessee, has title to and the posited in a landfill and left to decompose right to produce the landfill gas. Because Tex- outside of the presence of oxygen, the matas is the top-producing state of both oil and ter will be partially transformed by microgas and a large number of landfills identified organisms into a mixture of gases. One of by the U.S. EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach which, methane, is also the chief component Program are located in Texas, this article re- of natural gas. The organic material is segrefers mainly to Texas legal principles, but many gated from the lower layers of the soil by a The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
liner, which helps prevent the migration of various contaminants. The gas, which would otherwise likely be vented or flared for safety reasons, is generally collected by a series of wells drilled into the landfill. It is then compressed, dried and filtered and either used in a low-Btu gas turbine electric generator or further processed and sold to third-party industrial users and used to fuel furnaces and boilers.
Surface Estate Versus Mineral Estate For the purposes of this article, we assume the landfill owner/operator is either the owner or lessee of the surface of the land on which the site is located, but not the owner of the minerals of such land. Purchasing or gaining control of the mineral estate would eliminate the problem, but this is not always an option for the operator of a landfill. Leaving aside for the moment who owns the landfill gas, the owner of the minerals does have certain rights to access the surface in order to extract its minerals, which is another reason the landfill owner should seek to control the mineral estate as well as the surface. An in-depth discussion of the “dominance” of the mineral estate is beyond the scope of this article. Many states recognize the mineral estate of a particular tract of land may be owned by someone other than the owner of the surface. In states such as Texas, the mineral estate is a corporeal, or possessory, interest in real property. Because a mineral estate is a corporeal interest in the real property of the minerals “in place” on the land, it should not include gases or any other minerals that are created 10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 73
legal as a byproduct of some use of the surface estate at some point after the severance of the estate. In the context of a bankruptcy case, one federal court in Illinois Goddard opined that is was “very unlikely” that a contract for the extraction of landfill gas from a landfill would be viewed as a mineral lease under Illinois law, in part because the gas was “a hazardous byproduct of a commercial activity,” unlike the oil and natural gas contained in the land that is normally the subject of a lease. The mineral estate owner or its lessee may argue that since landfill gas has a high concentration of methane (usually 45 percent to 55 percent), which is the primary component of natural gas, and since the landfill gas is “produced” from wells on the “land” (albeit out of the lined portions of the landfill, segregated from the other layers of soil), it should be part of the mineral estate. However, such an argument ignores an important difference between landfill gas and natural gas, in addition to the obvious fact that natural gas contains approximately twice as much methane as landfill gas (In re: Resource Technology Corp., 254 B.R. 215, 225 n.8 (N.D. Ill. 2000)).
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Unlike “native” natural gas located in formations that are sometimes thousands of feet below the natural surface of the earth, landfill gas was never “in place” at the time of the mineral severance; it never existed in a geological reservoir of naturally-occurring hydrocarbons. In fact, landfill gas was never located under the surface of the earth. It is created above the landfill liner, which was placed on top of the then-existing surface of the land when the landfill was first formed. Instead landfill gas is created within the landfill as a “hazardous byproduct” of commercial activities carried out by the surface estate owner running the landfill. Carried to its logical conclusion, an argument that the landfill gas belongs to the mineral estate would require that almost any product produced from an activity on the surface that created a “mineral” in the plain and ordinary meaning of the word, that had not already been found to belong to the surface estate, should belong to the mineral estate. For example, if a waste disposal company were to solve the alchemists’ puzzle and discover a way to produce gold out of garbage, the gold would, under this argument, belong to the mineral estate—clearly not the just and equitable result. Yet, except for a difference in the value of the mineral at issue, the extraction of landfill gas is very much the same.
Additionally, allowing the mineral estate to own the landfill gas would essentially destroy the utility of the use of the surface as a landfill, which is not normally contemplated in the severance of a mineral estate. To allow the mineral owners access to the landfill to exploit the landfill gas would clearly destroy the utility of the surface for the landfill owner, not just of a preexisting use of the surface, but for a use that in itself creates the very gas for which the mineral estate owner would be drilling.
Native Gas Versus Extracted Gas By way of analogy to case law interpreting the ownership interest of re-injected natural gas, landfill gas should not belong to the mineral estate because it was never part of the “native gas” in the reservoir. Case law in Texas has developed a distinction between “native” natural gas in the reservoir and “extraneous” natural gas produced elsewhere, then injected into a depleted reservoir or other non-porous geological structure (Lone Star Gas Co. v. Murchison, 353 S.W.2d 870 at 879). Once natural gas has been produced from a reservoir the first time, it changes from real property to personal property. Therefore, the owner of the produced gas does not lose title to it by storing it in a well-defined storage facility, even if such a facility is a depleted oil-and-gas reservoir. The producer of such
legal natural gas does not owe royalties to the gas royalty interest owner on gas that had been produced elsewhere, injected into a reservoir for storage, and then extracted. Similarly, landfill gas cannot be considered “native” gas because it does not come from a geographic reservoir on or under the land, nor could it have been captured by drilling into any preexisting reservoir. Thus, even though it is arguable that landfill gas has been “created” on the same tract of land, it should be considered “extraneous” to any gas that might be found in the reservoirs on the land, which belongs to the mineral estate. In that sense, landfill gas, presumably not having been injected into a reservoir, should be even less likely than “re-injected gas” to be considered part of the mineral estate, because there was no commingling of the gas from the different estates. Therefore, landfill gas, being “extraneous” to whatever gas exists in the mineral estate, is outside of the contemplated grant or reservation of minerals that created the mineral estate, and the landfill owner’s interest in the landfill gas should be unaffected by the conveyance creating the mineral estate.
legislature clearly stated its intent “that by Jan. 1, 2015, an additional 5,000 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable energy technologies will have been installed in this state (Texas Utilities Code Annotated § 39.904(a), (d) (Vernon 2002)).” The term “renewable energy technologies” is defined to include landfill gas production and utilization in generating electricity. The Texas legislature’s intent to develop landfill gas, however, clearly depends upon the involvement of the landfill owners and operators. It would be unlikely that a landfill owner would invest money and undertake other risks for the extraction of landfill gas if it did not expect to maintain an ownership interest in the landfill gas once it was “produced.” If the landfill owner or operator knew it would receive no revenue from collecting the landfill gas, landfill owners and operators would be economically better off flaring the gas in accordance with existing guidelines, rather than financing the construction of collection systems.
When lawmakers make an explicit declaration of public policy in a statute, the statute at issue should be interpreted to give effect to such policy. Therefore, the economic reality that the landfill owner must be considered the owner of the landfill gas cannot be ignored in the interpretation of these statutes. As the country struggles to develop new sources of renewable energy and reduce its reliance on foreign oil, the potential of landfill gas must be realized. For this to happen, the question of who owns the landfill gas has to be settled in favor of the landfill operator. As this article has discussed, this is the only logical conclusion that can be reached. BIO James E. Goddard and Patrick Beaton are attorneys practicing in the energy section of the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP. Reach Goddard at jgoddard@ lockelord.com or (214) 740-8461. Reach Beaton at email@example.com or (713) 226-1602.
Statutes and Policy Statutes and regulations governing the safe venting and flaring of landfill gas are typically aimed at the owners and operators of the landfill, and do not mention the owner of the mineral estate. This implies that the state considers the owner of the landfill (presumably the surface owner or licensee) to be the owner of the gas, rather than the mineral estate owner or his or her lessee. It would appear to be somewhat inequitable that, after not having shared in the environmental, health and safety regulatory burdens that have been traditionally placed upon landfill operators in regards to landfill gas, and the costs to install the landfill gas collection system, the mineral estate owner should be considered the owner of landfill gas now that it has been shown to be commercially valuable. Explicit policy statements in a Texas statute concerning the harnessing of landfill gas can realistically only be realized by recognizing the landfill owner/operator as the owner of the landfill gas. In the Texas Utilities Code, the 10|2008 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 75
76 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
Knocking Down the Dust European companies that burn biomass have been managing emissions for decades. Now a common device—the electrostatic precipitator—is increasingly being used in North American biomass processing. By Petru Sangeorzan
iomass combustion and gasification plants have become more economically desirable due to rising energy prices. By its nature, combustion always results in a certain amount of undesirable pollutants in the flue gas. However, pollution control equipment is used to prevent pollutants from entering the atmosphere. One example of control equipment, the electrostatic precipitator, can comply with pollution control regulations while protecting the sensitive downstream components in a biomass plant. The most important decision in designing an electrostatic precipitator for a specific application is the selection of the basic plant size. This requires a fundamental understanding of the physi-
cal and electrical processes taking place, along with an extensive data bank of relevant experiences. No single theory adequately incorporates the many process variables that have to be considered. Perhaps the best-known theory is the Deutsch Model, which is summarized in the following formula: Fractional collection efficiency= 1-e-k. The variable “e” equals the Naperian Log Base and “k” is a constant for a particular application, which equals plate area multiplied by effective migration velocity divided by gas volume.
Compatible with Biomass Experience shows that effective migration velocity is not a constant but rather a function of the dust and gas proper-
The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
ties unique to each material burned in a boiler. Modifications to this basic formula may be necessary when low emissions are required. The design criteria for an electrostatic precipitator are directly related to the process characteristics, including emission, gas volume and temperature, dust concentration and particle size, dew point, dust resistance and chemical composition of the gas, among other factors. The dust resistivity is an important factor for the dust separation. The temperature influences the amount and composition of the adsorbed substances as well as the electric conductivity of the solid body. Once these parameters are known, the design of the electrostatic precipitator can move forward. Biomass gasification is experiencing a renaissance as a result of cogeneration.
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Breaking Down the Basic Functions
Microprocessors allow electrostatic precipitator users to reach optimal operating conditions over a wide range of waste gas applications. SOURCE: WEIS ENVIRONMENTAL LLC
In a time of increasing fossil fuels prices, even small-scale biomass gasification plants are now economically feasible. Biomass is carbon dioxide-neutral and converts a nearly unlimited and locally available waste product into a valuable source of unlimited energy. Offsetting these favorable developments are more stringent pollution control requirements for small-scale boilers (and other combustion plants) that require the use of filtering or electrical separating systems. For biomass combustion applications, dry electrostatic precipitators are more commonly specified. Wet electrostatic precipitators are used when the waste gas includes liquid particulates, in addition to the dust.
78 BIOMASS MAGAZINE 10|2008
The dry electrostatic precipitator includes self-cleaning mechanisms that remove dust in continuous operations. Electrostatic precipitators have proved successful for many years in the European woodworking industry to remove dust from flue gas produced by wood-fired boilers and dryers. The dry electrostatic precipitator is operated to reduce fly ash and dust particles as small as 0.1 microns in the waste gas. This proven dust control technology has been introduced into the North American biomass industry to meet and/or exceed most pollution control requirements.
The basic function of the dry electrostatic precipitator is simple. Dust-laden gases are pushed or pulled through the electrostatic precipitator to remove dust and other contaminants from the flue gas before entering the environment. The dirty air flow enters the electrostatic precipitator filter and is channelled through lanes formed by the collection plates where two mechanically separated fields, arranged one behind the other, are fed by several high-voltage converters. The high voltage applied to the discharge system (70 kilovolts to 100 kilovolts) leads to negative charging of the dust particles. The dust-laden particles in the flue gas migrate to the positively charged collecting plate and adhere to it. The dust is separated from the plates periodically by a mechanical rapping system. The separated dust falls through the electrostatic precipitator and collects in a chamber located on the bottom of the unit. This collection chamber also has a self-cleaning mechanism that removes the dust from the electrostatic precipitator. The pressure loss across the electrostatic precipitator is only 2 to 2.5 millibar (1 millibar equals 0.0145037738 pounds per square inch). The electrostatic pre-
emissions cipitator is able to withstand flue gas temperatures of up to 790 degrees Fahrenheit. The use of modern high-voltage converters with microprocessor controls permits optimization of operating conditions across a wide range of waste gas applications. The energy required to reach these efficiencies is extremely low, between 1.7 and 3 kilowatts per hour depending on the type and size of the electrostatic precipitator. To continuously protect downstream components, it is important that any electrostatic precipitator or other filter provide low maintenance and high availability. Tar in the waste gas complicates the maintenance of the electrostatic precipitator, plugging in-line process equipment and hampering the operation of prime movers that use the gas (e.g., a gas engine). In this situation, it is critical that any gas-cleaning system be able to remove the tar from the waste gas. A wet electrostatic precipitator can perform this function. The basic principle of a wet electrostatic precipitator is as follows: The process gas enters the electrostatic precipitator either horizontally or vertically. The gas is spread to a uniform flow profile across the entire filter cross-section by means of a gas distribution system. The gas flow direction through the electric field is always opposite to the direction of gravity. The process gas and the dust particles are electrically charged by means of the high voltage (75 to 135 kilovolts) applied between the corona discharge electrodes and the honeycomb-type collecting electrodes. The charged ions are produced in the corona discharge and then attach themselves to dust particles or droplets of tar and water. These particles and droplets are negatively charged and are attracted to the positively charged electrode. The precipitated dust and liquid flows downward (pulled by gravity) to the bottom of the electrostatic precipitator for removal. The purified gas leaves the filter through the gas outlet hood. The wet electrostatic precipitator captures
tar aerosols and dust particles, thereby protecting downstream equipment from potential damage. Wet-gas cleaning has successfully been applied in electricity generation with gas engines in applications such as updraft and downdraft gasifiers, and with circulating fluidized bed gasifiers. Unlike many forms of gas-cleaning technology, both types of electrostatic precipitators can be custom designed to achieve any required efficiency while operating at most emission levels. Burning
biomass can present a special environmental challenge well suited to the use of a custom-designed electrostatic precipitator. Picking a knowledgeable electrostatic precipitator vendor with extensive experience in a wide range of industries will ensure a successful design for your facility. BIO Petru Sangeorzan is the national sales manager for Weis Environmental LLC. Reach him at p.sangeorzan@weisenvironmental. com or (901) 531-6081.
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WE KNOW CELLULOSE TO ETHANOL
With over 40 years of combined “hands-on” experience in conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to ethanol at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, BBI is your best resource for cellulosic project evaluation and development. Our experts understand the critical technical and economic issues related to feedstock collection and storage, biological and thermochemical conversion technologies and downstream processing. Our direct experience includes the design and engineering of concentrated acid hydrolysis, dilute acid pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and fermentation processes for converting a broad range of feedstocks to ethanol. Whether it’s a feasibility study, feedstock assessment, due diligence, process design or complete project development, BBI is the definitive source of answers for your cellulose-toethanol questions.
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2 N D A N N UA L March 9 - 11, 2009 Hosted at IPSCO PLACE, Regina, Saskatchewan
ABSTRACTS DEADLINE: November 10, 2008
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UPDATE Sustainability of Biofuels: Future Generations
generation its traditionally defined as the average length of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring. Considering today’s birth rate, a generation is about 30 years. Biofuels have also been lumped into first-, second- and third-generational categories. We use first-generation biofuels in our fuel tanks today, so do we need to wait another 30 years until we fill up with second-generation biofuels and another 30 years for the third? Luckily, human and technology generations don’t exactly correlate. Let’s consider where we are with each of these generations. First-generation biofuels are created largely from feedstocks that have traditionally been used as food. Today’s first-generation biofuels (ethanol from corn and biodiesel from vegetable oil and animal fats) have taken a lot of heat in the media as being the culprit behind rising food prices. Although they may contribute to higher food prices, it is a very small effect, and the debate doesn’t consider the environmental and energy security benefits of biofuels. Because there are limited quantities of low-cost options for feedstocks, first-generation biofuels have nearly reached their maximum market share in the fuels market. Second-generation biofuels are made from nonfood feedstocks using advanced technical processes. Cellulosic ethanol is the most developed second-generation biofuel and is produced from the cellulose or cell wall of plant cells. Examples of potential feedstocks for the next generation of biofuels include forest residues (sawdust), industry residues (black liquor from the paper industry), agricultural residues (corn stover), municipal waste and sustainable biomass (jatropha, camelina and switchgrass). Feedstock costs remain high which is often due to processing (shredding, densifying, pulverizing and handling) and transportation, and not necessarily due to growing them. Also, market accessibility and acceptance are hurdles that need to be addressed. Despite these challenges, second-generation biofuels can widen the feedstock options and produce a much greater amount of fuel for the market, with the potential for great-
er greenhouse gas emission savings compared to first-generation biofuels. Third-generation biofuels, like second-generation biofuels, are made from nonfood feedstocks, but the resulting fuel is indistinguishable from its petroleum counterparts. These fuels are also known as advanced biofuels or green hydrocarbons. In the future, algae will be a likely feedstock for these fuels. Several technological and economic challenges exist to bring thirdgeneration biofuels to market. Paving the pathway to third-generation fuels, the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota developed a Buckley process that produces combinations of biofuels, such as propane, gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, that are equivalent to petroleumderived fuels, enabling direct substitution with existing fuels and providing renewable options across the spectrum of fuel needs. Direct substitution means the biofuels could be used in cars, airplanes and military vehicles without modifications or additional logistical needs. The feedstockflexible process can use various crop oils, waste greases and algae. The key challenge for developing the next generations of biofuels is acquiring economical feedstock. Feedstock cost contributes 80 percent to 90 percent of the final fuel price for most processes and is critical to the economic viability of future generations of biofuels. There is likely room in the marketplace for all biofuel generations, with each broadening the feedstock and technology options and improving fuel performance. This article is the second in a series dedicated to helping readers develop informed opinions about biofuels. BIO Tera Buckley is a marketing research specialist at the EERC in Grand Forks, N.D. Reach her at tbuckley@ undeerc.org or (701) 777-5296.
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I N T E R N A T I O N A L
DISTILLERS GR AINS CONFERENCE & TRADE SHOW
a BBI International event October 19 â€“ 21, 2008 Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
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g " kin e of o 24 c o St rang 1 /2" t in ull a f plex Du 5 0
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