Page 1

September 2012

Power on the Rise A Retrofit Project Restores Economic Order In A Struggling Paper Town Page 24


Bringing Algae To Iowa's Ethanol Country Page 22

Insight from an Upstart Biomass Supplier Page 32

And: Biobased Syngas Technology Goes Modular Page 38

INSIDE ¦ ADVERTISER INDEX¦ SEPTEMBER 2012 | VOLUME 6 | ISSUE 9 2012 Algae Biomass Summit


2012 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo


2013 International Biomass Conference & Expo


Algae Biomass Organization


Amandus Kahl GmbH & Co. KG


BBI Consulting Services


Biomass Magazine


BRUKS Rockwood


Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy


Clariant Produckte (Deutchland) Gmbh


Continental Biomass Industries, Inc.


CPM Roskamp Champion


Detroit Stoker Company




Fagen Inc.


Haldor Topsoe A/S


Himark bioGas


ICM, Inc.


KEITH Manufacturing Company


Keller and Heckman


Millard Maritime


National Biodiesel Board


Pellet Mill Magazine







22 ALGAE Algae Blooms on Iowa's West Coast

Necessity Is Not the Only Mother of Invention By Tim Portz

Perspective from a leading algae cultivation and harvesting company. Interviewed by Tim Portz


24 RETROFIT From Paper to Power

Communities Across the Country Embrace Biomass By Bob Cleaves

A New Hampshire biomass power retrofit project provides a blueprint for successful site renovation, repurposed equipment and job creation. By Anna Simet

08 ADVANCED ADVOCACY Advanced Biofuel Industry Gaining Momentum By Michael McAdams


Retsch, Inc.


ThermoEnergy Corporation


Twin Ports Testing


West Salem Machinery


Wolf Material Handling Systems


32 SUPPLY Committed to Cofiring


An upstart supply and procurement company talks about breaking into biomass and why cofiring facilities will help their company grow. By Luke Geiver

Advanced Biofuels, a Transformative Industry By Bruce C. Folkedahl

12 FEEDSTOCK FOOTNOTES The Fearless Emergency of Now By Todd Atkinson

38 DISTRIBUTED ENERGY Demonstrating Portable Energy Coming soon: modular syngas production technology for on-site, ondemand bioenergy. By Erin Voegele


CONTRIBUTION 42 COFIRE Conquering Cofiring Flow Challenges

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) September 2012, Vol. 6, Issue 9. Biomass Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/ Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

September 2012

A thorough discussion of potential hurdles associated with cofiring biomass with coal, and how to prevent and overcome them. By Jayant Khambekar and Roger A. Barnum

Power on the Rise A Retrofit Project Restores Economic Order In A Struggling Paper Town Page 24


Bringing Algae To Iowa's Ethanol Country Page 22

Insight from an Upstart Biomass Supplier Page 32

And: Biobased Syngas Technology Goes Modular Page 38

ON THE COVER: A shuttered Paper Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire will begin operation as a biomass power plant starting in 2013.




Necessity Is Not the Only Mother of Invention


Regardless of what opponents or skeptics of biomass-derived energy might say about our industry, they certainly cannot argue with our opportunistic nature. I suppose this is the result of building an entire industry within the margins or shadows of “conventional” power, heat, fuel and chemical markets. As biomass professionals we have to be opportunistic. Our feedstocks are typically the coproducts and castoffs of other agricultural or industrial processes, our conversion technologies are often initially optimized for other inputs, and our energy products face massive and deeply entrenched competitors, yet we continue to force the issue while pursuing and winning real market share. Every time a biomass input is converted into an energy product, it occurs because someone saw an opportunity for biomass and engineered their way over the hurdles that continued to fall into their path. With a focus on cofiring, co-location and repowering, this month’s issue of Biomass Magazine is an examination of the kind of opportunism I find so exciting about our industry. In Anna Simet’s piece “Paper to Power,” she examines how a shuttered paper mill in New Hampshire is being recast as a stand-alone biomass power facility, consequently putting local residents back to work and adding value to the area’s abundant biomass supply. Luke Geiver examines the opportunity created for a small Minnesota trucking company that paid attention to local industrial sites that began to fold cofiring into their operational strategy. Their knowledge of available biomass and ability to guarantee on-time delivery has their business growing. Finally, in a Q&A with BioProcess Algae Senior Scientist Toby Ahrens, we learn about the opportunity he and his organization see in carbon dioxide exiting the stack of a host facility, and their plan to capture and convert it into a valuable biomass stream. An argument could be made that the projects outlined in this month’s issue aren’t necessary. The paper mill in Berlin, N.H., could remain shuttered, the steel operation in Minnesota could operate exclusively on coal and the Green Plains ethanol facility in Shenandoah, Iowa, could continue venting CO2 into the atmosphere without wondering about the lost opportunity. But, you are reading about them today because our industry is populated by folks listening for even the faintest rap of opportunity at their door.



ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie




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¦INDUSTRY EVENTS Algae Biomass Summit September 24-27, 2012 Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel Denver, Colorado Advancing Technologies and Markets Derived from Algae Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. (866)746-8385

You deserve consistency and quality through your entire biomass pelleting process —from chips to load-out. Get it with CPM. U Equipment for your total biomass process U Integrated biomass expertise U Engineered for quality, durability and consistency U Energy efficient Look to your Partner in Productivity—CPM—for your biomass pelleting solutions.

National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo November 27-29, 2012 Hilton Americas - Houston Houston, Texas Next Generation Fuels and Chemicals Produced by BBI International, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleumderived products. Early bird registration rates expire October 16. (866)746-8385

International Biomass Conference & Expo April 8-10, 2013 Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Building on Innovation Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, the International Biomass Conference & Expo program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to pyrolysis and combined heat and power. This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. (866)746-8385

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 10-13, 2013

800-428-0846 6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | SEPTEMBER 2012

America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri Where Producers Meet Now in its 29th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world—and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. (866)746-8385


Communities Across the Country Embrace Biomass BY BOB CLEAVES

No doubt most Biomass Magazine readers are familiar with the Wall Street Journal biomass story that ran in late July. While the story presented evidence of regulatory noncompliance at a few facilities—some due to standards that have been nothing less than a moving target—it revealed scant evidence that when done right, biomass is not a clean, renewable source of energy. The story failed to capture examples of the many proud, compliant facilities in our industry. The very same week the WSJ article was published, many exciting biomass developments took place across the country. These projects are not only significant for breaking new ground, they are also noteworthy for the recognition and favorable media coverage they are generating on a local level. It is truly encouraging to see local communities embrace the positive impact of biomass. Here are just a few examples: • New York – ReEnergy Holdings held Demo Day at its facility based in Lyons Falls, N.Y. Local sawmill loggers were invited to tour the facility and enter into contracts to sell ReEnergy the low-grade woody waste material they would typically leave on the forest floor. According to the Watertown Daily News, the innovative event attracted more than 100 participants, and resulted in at least 13 new suppliers for the facility. The story included a quote by a local supplier on the ReEnergy offer: “I’ve been in this business for 30 years. I’ve never had any company offer me the deal ReEnergy has,” said Ronald G. King Jr., shortly after deciding to join the program. • Texas – On July 25, the largest biomass facility in the country officially began producing power on the grid. This 100 MW facility, operated by Southern Power in Nacogdoches, Texas, will power 70,000 homes in Austin and the surrounding areas. Next year, this facility is expected to share the largest-in-country distinction with a facility in Gainesville, Fla. A local newspaper, the Jacksonville Daily Progress, reported that the “facility is expected to burn about a million tons of wood fragments, which will be purchased from local landowners and businesses within a 75-mile radius from the plant… it will burn non-merchantable wood products from saw mills and other wood production waste, forest waste, precommercial thinning of cultivated trees and other noncommercial tree species.”

The Daily Progress quoted Texas state Rep. Chuck Hopson on the facility’s local benefits, who said, “They are going to buy all these wood products that we are now scrapping or we are having to burn and they are going to buy these products from 75 miles away. So for the people who are raising timber, it's another way that they can get some more money out of their product. It takes away a lot of biomass that we have left laying on the ground before and it's jobs for east Texas.” • Tennessee – The U.S. DOE recently dedicated a new biomass steam facility at its Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Local newspaper the Oak Ridger reported in a story about the new plant, “The biomass gasification technology and elimination of four fossil-fuel boilers reduces greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of 4,500 automobiles per year and models a sustainable solution to the nation’s energy needs.” The Oak Ridger included a quote from Johnny Moore, ORNL site office manager who said, “This project demonstrates that public institutions and private companies can partner to supply innovative clean-energy technologies on a large scale. The biomass plant will also provide an opportunity for researchers to gather important data from a large-scale biomass process.” • Ohio – A Veterans Affairs medical center in Chillicothe, Ohio, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its brand new biomass plant, which will provide steam heat and electrical power. According to the Chillicothe Gazette, the facility—the first operational biomass plant in the VA system—“is expected to create five to 10 jobs in the community, as well as reduce the VA’s carbon footprint by about 4,060 pounds per year.” The VA received federal stimulus money to assist in the building of the plant, which is expected to save the center more than $100,000 per year. Finally, in an effort to aid communities in taking full advantage of all that biomass has to offer, in late July the U.S. Forest Service announced nearly $4 million in grants for 20 wood energy projects across the country. We are looking forward to even more positive biomass news in the coming years. Author: Bob Cleaves President and CEO, Biomass Power Association



Advanced Biofuels Industry Gaining Momentum BY MICHAEL MCADAMS

On Aug. 2, the advanced biofuels industry had its best day in a long time. Both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee passed bills containing provisions that move the ball forward for the industry. In what has been a difficult battle, the discussion surrounding the memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Defense, the USDA and the U.S. DOE has spurned great controversy between key Republicans, Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus and his supporters on Capitol Hill. To give credit where it’s due, Mabus, Sen. Inouye, D-Hawaii, Sen. Cochran, R-Miss., and Sen. Murray, D-Wash., led the effort to provide the funding to advance the program. In the end, the committee provided the full $170 million in funding, $70 million more than the DOD's own request. This essentially ignores an effort by Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Inhofe, R-Okla., to place provisions in the defense authorization bill that would render the program virtually inoperable. When Congress returns, it is expected that the defense authorization bill will be brought to the full Senate floor for consideration. Given the less-than-stellar provisions supporting the authorization in the House version of the bill, it is essential that the Senate provisions are stricken or significantly modified in order to provide a strong base for the program moving forward. The bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee vote was a good start, however. This effort drew many supporters, including a group of more than 50 organizations that came to the defense of these provisions. Virtually all of the organizations that support biofuels, along with the airline industry and a number of defense-related organizations, actively supported the effort to fully fund


the MOU. This is a model that will have to be replicated to defend the renewable fuel standard (RFS) moving forward. In the finance committee, a bipartisan group vote of 19 to 5 approved a number of key provisions sought by the advanced biofuels industry. The committee extended the cellulosic production tax credit through the end of 2013 and added algae-based fuels to the credit. Additionally, the committee extended the biodiesel, renewable diesel and the alternative fuels tax credits until the end of 2013, and the Section 168 first-year depreciation allowance for cellulosic property was expanded to include algae, and extended until the end of 2013. The House has not taken action on any of the above provisions and has no schedule to do so as of this writing. Expect this to be an issue that, if it gets addressed, will take place following the election in a lame duck session. For those of you already producing gallons, with the exception of the alternative fuels mixture credit, all of the other provisions are retroactive back to Jan. 1. As I have written before, elections have consequences, and those of you in the biofuels space need to be actively engaged and remind all politicians that advanced biofuels should be part of a portfolio approach to our nation's energy policy. It should not be a partisan issue. Make your voice heard, and in every conversation remind them that the RFS is the bedrock of our nation's renewable fuels policy. It must and should be supported for our nation moving forward. Get ready for an active fall. Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuels Association

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Advanced Biofuels, a Transformative Industry BY BRUCE C. FOLKEDAHL

At the recent U.S. DOE-sponsored Biomass Conference 2012: Confronting Challenges, Creating Opportunities, much of the focus was on liquid fuels from biomass. Several presenters, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, mentioned butanol as a highly-regarded advanced biofuel. As part of the ongoing research at the Energy & Environmental Research Center, we have been developing a catalytic pathway to convert ethanol or mixtures of methanol and ethanol to higher alcohols, including butanol, through Guerbet condensation reactions. Simply stated, cellulosic biomass such as wood chips can be converted into a mixture of gases in a gasifier, and the resulting syngas can be passed over a catalyst and converted to alcohols like ethanol. The goal of EERC’s research is to alleviate one of the major challenges and costs involved with cellulosic ethanol production, which is the coproduction of undesired quantities of methanol with the ethanol product. Current biorefinery processing technology and associated commercial catalysts render the production of unwanted concentrations of methanol unavoidable. Methanol production is undesirable, as it is not an ideal gasoline additive because of its water affinity, corrosive nature, volatility-raising impact when blended with gasoline, and low volumetric energy content versus gasoline. Two potential solutions to the methanol problem are to limit its production, and/or separate it from ethanol. Both of these potential solutions present economic challenges. Rather than fight methanol production during the syngas conversion process, the EERC is developing technology to capitalize on it. Utilizing an easilyproduced, mixed-alcohol product from a biomass-derived syngas—about 60 percent methanol, 30 percent ethanol, 10 percent higher alcohols—as feedstock to a condensation reaction yields a mixture of branched alcohols, or isoalcohols, comprising at least 65 percent isobutanol and significant quantities of higher isoalcohols including isohexanols and isooctanols. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, use of cellulosic ethanol to displace gasoline reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 85 percent. By exten-


sion, the use of cellulosic isobutanol and higher isoalcohols to replace gasoline should reduce GHGs by a similar amount. Because isobutanol offers gasoline compatibility advantages versus ethanol, gasoline– isobutanol blends may be transportable via pipeline, which would further reduce GHG emissions. The EERC technology will maximize the yield of mixed alcohols and subsequent isobutanol from biomass while also generating replacements for highvalue, normal alcohol- and isoalcohol-based chemical intermediates and solvents currently derived from fossil fuels. The flexibility to produce fuel and higher-value normal alcohol and/or isoalcohol chemical intermediates represents a commercial advantage that should serve as an offset to the financial risk of building a cellulosic fuel plant. Propanol, butanol, isobutanol and isohexanol have broad markets, carry a higher price, and are renewable in derivation, making them eligible for various credits and incentives worldwide. Of course there is the added branding of lower-carbon-footprint fuel and chemicals that can displace appreciable volumes of their petroleum-derived counterparts. Additionally, this technology could take ethanol produced in current grain-based plants and react it with higher alcohols, commanding a greater return when compared to fuel-grade ethanol, enhancing profitability at these plants. David Danielson, U.S. DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, believes that building a substantial and clean renewable energy industry in the U.S. will be transformative, and once again prove that the country is capable of anything. The EERC plans to be part of that transformative industry. Author: Bruce C. Folkedahl Senior Research Manager (701) 777-5243

Algae The first wonder of the world

In addition to creating most of the planet’s oxygen, algae are now creating tremendous opportunities in markets for sustainable fuel, food and other products.

If you are in the algae business, or plan to be, there is no better place than the Algae Biomass Organization to gain access to new markets, a voice on policy, and new connections for business opportunities. | | (877) 531-5512


The Fearless Emergency of Now BY TODD ATKINSON

Since the 20th century, scientists have worked to cure cancer. They have yet to succeed. Many researchers develop hypotheses that end in disappointment, with the death rate from cancer remaining a challenge. Yet the public sector continues to invest billions of dollars toward a cure. That’s because Americans don’t give up. Despite the costs, the stakes are too high. But most important, from each setback along the journey blooms multiple avenues of discovery, generating possibilities that we ask doctors to implement at once, especially when the prognosis is dire and time is running out. My point is when Americans try, Americans achieve, moving the needle forward, and bringing the final destination within reach. That confidence in American ingenuity is absent in recent efforts to block the U.S. Navy from acquiring biofuels for our military fleet with the notion that biofuels are too expensive, and thus questionable to pursue. Unsurprisingly, researchers often argue that more study is needed. But sometimes there is a time to think, and a time to act. Yes, federal investments in energy technologies entail risk, and that’s the point. It must strike that sweet spot between what the public will tolerate and what banks cannot, sometimes getting it wrong. Even one isolated misstep can unleash a swarm of criticism that can sting decision makers into stasis. But the time has expired for blocking American innovation that will pull our country into the future.


Microwaves, cellphones, GPS devices and digital photography, all once unaffordable national security technologies originating with the military, today are affordably commonplace among civilians. Are domestic biofuels less important to national security, or somehow impervious to cost reductions? Five years ago, the leadership of the 110th Congress created the updated renewable fuels standard to add 20 billion more gallons of biofuels by 2022 than is in the marketplace today, plus the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to begin growing the non-food crops for these fuels. Now these groundbreaking policies, too, face opposition, while special breaks for century-old, mature fuel industries continue. Biofuels are too expensive? Pew Charitable Trusts reports the Pentagon spent $8 billion on 130 million barrels of oil in 2005, a cost that doubled in three years for the same volume. Discontinue federal efforts on biofuels, and we’ll learn more about real fuel costs. The American people have little appetite for inaction. That’s why USDA keeps moving forward on domestic bioenergy investments because success is achieved only when the “impossible” is pressed into service. We’ll never catch lightening in a bottle if we refuse to stand in the rain. Author: Todd Atkinson Senior Energy Advisor, USDA Undersecretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service 202-720-2797




Attending Pittcon, the world’s largest annual conference and exposition for laboratory science, gives you the power to get a hands-on look at innovative equipment, learn about industry trends and discover new applications and methodologies used in the biomass industry. Technical sessions related to fuels and energy include the latest in mass spectroscopy, separation sciences, LC/GC and more.

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ReEnergy assigns facility manager ReEnergy Holdings LLC appointed William M. O’Reilly as facility manager for ReEnergy Black River, which is located at Fort Drum, near Watertown, N.Y. O’Reilly has more than 20 years of experience in the power generating industry. In his new position, he will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the facility. ReEnergy Black River was acquired by the company last year after being idled by its former owner. The power plant used to take in coal as its primary fuel. ReEnergy is investing more than $30 million this year to convert it into a biomass-fired power plant. Once operational, the facility is expected to produce 400,000 MWh of power per year.


GE Energy engines power Cambodian project GE Energy signed a contract with the Cambodian industrial conglomerate Soma Group to supply two engines that will be installed at a new biomass gasification facility. Soma Group’s Hak Se mill biomass gasification project is located in Kamphong Cham, a rural rice milling region. India-based Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies Pvt. Ltd. is developing the facility, which will gasify rice to power two GE VHP 5904 Waukesha engines. Once operational, the facility will generate approximately 1.5 MW of electricity. A portion of the power will support the rice mill’s operations, while surplus electricity will be sold to the local grid.

UK establishes bioenergy research hub The Supergen Bioenergy Hub was founded in the U.K. through a €3.5 million ($4.3 million) grant awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the Research Council’s U.K. Energy Program. Organizations participating in the hub include six research universities and 10 industrial partners. The hub is expected to initially take on 10 research projects, including those related to biomass combustion, torrefaction, biogas, biomass gasification, fast pyrolysis, and biofuels. The collaboration is directed by Patricia Thornley of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester.


Metabolix, Antibioticos partner for bioplastic production Metabolix Inc. signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Antibioticos S.A. for the production of Mirel biopolymer resin. Antibioticos will produce the material at its manufacturing facility in Leon, Spain. Under the terms of the LOI, the two companies will immediately begin conducting a series of validation production runs to demonstrate fermentation and recovery of Mirel biopolymer resin on full production-scale equipment at the Leon facility. Matabolix and Antibioticos plan to enter into a definitive contract manufacturing agreement following the

NAABB selects division leader Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Executive Director José Olivares was selected to serve as division leader of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts’ Bioscience Division. The NAABB is a consortium of leading scientists and engineers from universities, private José Olivares industry and national has considerable experience in algal laboratories that is biofuels research. led by the Danforth


validation production runs and completion of economic and engineering feasibility studies.

Center. The Bioscience Division of the alliance is based at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In his new position, Olivares will lead a team of 180 researchers and staff within the disciplinary groups that include genome science, biosecurity and public health, bioenergy and environmental science, and advanced measurement science. The Bioscience Division executes a portfolio of more than $70 million in research each year.

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

BiomassNews OriginOil supplies systems to Ennesys, Idaho National Laboratory California-based OriginOil Inc. has shipped its first production model of the Algae Appliance harvester to Ennesys, its urban algae joint venture in Paris. Ennesys is utilizing OriginOil’s entry-level Algae Appliance unit, the Model 4. The system can process up to 4 liters (1 gallon) of dilute algae water per minute into an algae concentrate, without the use of chemicals. The company also received an order for two of its test-scale units

Navy’s Great Green Fleet exhibits advanced biofuels

from the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. One of the units, an Algae Appliance Model 4, is designed to dewater algae on a continuous basis using very low amounts of energy. The other, a Solids Out of Solution Model 2K, is capable of removing contaminants from frack water. The order will be completed via an in-kind transaction under the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between OriginOil and INL.

Comparison of algae dewatering processes

Chemical-free Low-energy Continuous-process Low-cost Dewatering + cell-rupture





yes yes yes no no

yes yes no no no

no yes yes no no

yes no yes no no

* Information sourced from OriginOil Inc.


OriginOil's Single Step Extraction yes yes yes yes yes

Advanced biofuels were an integral component of the U.S. Navy’s Rim of the Pacific training exercises in July. As part of a two-day demonstration, the Great Green Fleet successfully demonstrated the use of 50/50 blends of advanced biofuels via both air and sea platforms. Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels LLC and California-based Solazyme Inc. provided algaebased fuel for the demonstration. “One point I want to make is that absolutely no modifications were required or made of any of the engines that were burning biofuels,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The Navy has been criticized over the high cost of the biofuel used in the demonstration, which cost approximately $26 per gallon. “If we only looked at cost, we still wouldn’t be buying nuclear subs,” Mabus said. He has also stressed that the cost of advanced biofuels will come down in the future.


Southern Co. brings 100 MW biomass power plant online The nation’s largest biomass power plant began operations this summer. Southern Co. announced that its 100 MW Nacogdoches Generation Facility began putting electricity into the Texas grid in July. Austin Energy is receiving energy from the plant through a power purchase agreement. The plant occupies a 165-acre tract in northeast Texas near Sacul and represents a capital investment of approximately $500 million. The facility will take in non-merchantable wood waste as feedstock, primarily saw mill and wood mill production waste, forest waste, pre-commercial thinning of cultivated trees, and diseased and other non-commercial tree species. Southern Co. also notes there is potential to utilize urban wood waste, tree limbs and branches produced by storms, and other non-commercial logging-derived biomass in the future. The Nacogdoches Generating Facility is owned and operated by Southern Co. subsidiary Southern Power, which acquired the project from American Renewables LLC in 2009.


KiOR permitted to sell cellulosic gasoline A new benchmark for the cellulosic biofuel sector has been reached by Kior Inc. The U.S. EPA granted the company the necessary permit to sell cellulosic gasoline in the U.S. market. “KiOR’s gasoline is the first renewable cellulosic gasoline that the EPA has registered for sale in the United States,” says Fred Cannon, the company’s president and CEO. KiOR’s biofuel will be fueling American cars this year. The Clean Air Act requires importers and refiners of gasoline and diesel to register fuel set for sale with EPA before it can be sold. Fuel manufactures are required to analyze combustion and evaporative emissions, survey existing scientific information and, in some cases, conduct tests to screen for potential adverse health effects. With the permit now in place, KiOR can sell fuel produced this year at its plant in Columbus, Miss.

Renewable Fuel Standard cellulsoic biofuel requirements (in billions of gallons) Volume established in original regulation

Volume finalized by EPA yearly rulemaking































COUNSELING RELATED TO: • Environmental liabilities and indemnifications for transportation, distribution and blending services

• Managing chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing

• Nationwide audits of oil storage and distribution facilities

• Environmental Protection Agency premanufacture notification requirements for fuel production strains, fuel intermediates, and fuels

• RFS and RFS2 regulations, registrations, and Renewable Identification Number (RIN) transactions

• Clearance needs related to uses of biomass and processing aids SEPTEMBER 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 17

¦BIOMASSNEWS Coskata shifts focus to synfuels Unveils process; announces partnership with General Motors


Demo plant celebrates startup



Shelves biofuels, IPO plans


Selects Madison, Pa. for demo plant

2012 Files registration statement for proposed IPO

Illinois-based Coskata has shelved plans to pursue cellulosic biofuel production. Instead, the company will focus on the production of synfuels using natural gas feedstock. In addition, Coskata has elected not to complete an initial public offering (IPO) at this time. Regarding the move to natural gas-based synfuels, Coskata CEO Bill Roe says his company made the decision due, in part, to lower risks and lower production and capital costs. “We made this decision because we see an enormous opportunity to upgrade natural gas into higher value transportation fuel,” he says. “Natural gas is a huge opportunity owing to its abundant supply and historically low price, and we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of it with our syngas fermentation technology.” Roe also notes that Coskata isn’t entirely abandoning the potential to use biomass feedstock in the future. “We still intend to build a biomass facility in the future if the economic and regulatory conditions are right,” he says. The company is also leaving open the opportunity to complete an IPO in the future.

Coast Guard looks to replace heating oil with pellets in Alaska The U.S. Coast Guard and USDA’s Forest Service are collaborating on efforts to reduce heating costs at the Coast Guard’s larger Alaskan facilities by converting from heating oil to wood pellets. Under the agreement, Coast Guard engineer and agency biomass expert Robert Deering, along with Dan Parrent, USFS Wood Biomass and Stewardship program manager, will work closely with the USDA’s Southeast Alaska forest products and renewable energy workgroups, the Alaska Division of Forestry, Alaska Southeast Conference and the Alaska Energy Authority. Deering is tasked with developing a strategy and action plan to facilitate conversion of oil heat to biomass. He will also initiate implementation of priority projects identified in the plan.


For F Fo or mo more re iinformation nfor nf for orma rma mati tion ti on email ema e mail ma il or visit our website at


BIOMASSNEWS¦ UK announces Renewable Obligation subsidy levels

Weltec develops biogas plant in Switzerland

U.K. Installed biomass power capacity (in MW) 2007





Dedicated biomass power






Cofiring, biomass portion






*Data sourced from U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change

The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change has published level of financial support that will be available for large-scale renewable power generators from 2013-’17 under its Renewables Obligation subsidies program. An altered definition of biomass conversion and cofiring will increase incentives for existing plants to use more biomass. Under the new subsidy levels, support for the conversion of coal-fired plants to biomass-fired plants has been maintained at one Renewables Obligation Credit per MWh. The subsidy for cofiring has been modified to stepped levels that more accurately reflect the cost elements of different cofiring levels, and what is affordable for both enhanced and standard cofiring. Existing plants are able to gain credit for cofiring and conversion on a generating-unit basis, which allows more flexibility for generators to move to full conversion over time. It is estimated that the revised banding levels could spur between £20 billion ($31 billion)and £25 billion of new investment between 2013 and 2017.

Germany-based Weltec Biopower GmbH is building a 370 kW biogas plant in Bure, Switzerland, for Bio.Etique.Energy SA. The facility is expected to begin operations in November. Once the plant is running at capacity, it will feed approximately 3 GWh of electricity into the grid per year and supply 2.6 GWh of excess heat to military barracks. The facility will take in agricultural waste as feedstock, including liquid manure, dung, green waste and grain waste. Weltec said that the plant will utilize a wet fermentation process, which is suitable for processing heterogeneous wastes. The biogas facility will feature a 3,994-cubic-meter fermenter, a 45-cubic-meter solid matter dosing feeder, and a gas-tight storage unit with a capacity of 4,078 cubic meters. Weltec also recently announced that its client Fernbrook Bio won the 2012 UK AD & Biogas Association’s Best Biogas Project award for its 1.5 MW biogas plant in the U.K.

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Q&A Algae Blooms on Iowa’s West Coast BioProcess Algae’s Toby Ahrens reflects on the algae of his youth and the role algae may play in everyone’s energy future. BioProcess Algae Senior Scientist Toby Ahrens notes that while carbon dioxide may not yet be an official liability, any CO2 exiting up the stack of an industrial facility is, at the very least, a missed opportunity. Pointing also to the high cost and difficulty of sequestering carbon, Ahrens and BioProcess Algae seek not to sequester carbon dioxide but to utilize it to create a biomass stream that can be converted into high-value feed, fuel and specialty coproducts. This month, we catch up with Ahrens and inquire about his history with algae, the advantages of algal cultivation and BioProcess Algae’s progress at its pilot facility in Shenandoah, Iowa.

You grew up on an island in Maine. How did this experience shape your interest in marine science? I certainly spent a lot of time on the water. I loved growing up on the coast. But before we get too romantic about my island life, a bridge connected us to the mainland because Maine’s largest fossil-energy power generation facility is on the island as well. I also believe it was the last oil-fired generating facility commissioned in the US. Maybe the CO2-to-algae seeds were planted in my brain earlier than I thought.

Can you recollect the first time you thought about, or studied algae? Well, macroalgae was hard to miss growing up, especially when my mother made us haul it from the beach up to her garden. My first introduction to microalgae must have been when my Uncle Bert gave us a microscope―I must have been five or


six at the time. That was really cool, but rotifers (essentially miniature buzzsaws with big appetites) were far more popular with me then than they are now! I also spent a few days at the Maine’s Department of Marine Resources in high school learning about monitoring for harmful algal blooms, and that was probably the first time that I really got hooked from a scientific perspective. I worked in Dr. Peter Siver’s phycology laboratory at Connecticut College and he was my first true mentor in research science.

During a portion of your education, you studied conventional production agriculture, nutrient usage by wheat, I believe. In that context, why are algae such a good fit for production agriculture? Nutrients are an expensive input to any agricultural system, and I always liked the 4R’s concept: the right source, at the right place, at the right time, in the right amount. In conventional agriculture, logistics (and economics) prevent you from applying every day in small doses as the plants need them. As a consequence, applications are grouped throughout the season and some nutrients are lost to the atmosphere, in surface runoff or leached through the rooting zone. Algae is unique in that nutrient delivery can be monitored and maintained in real time as the crop needs it. Nutrientuse efficiency can be extremely high.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? Typical? Not sure I know what that means―I haven’t had one of those in a long time!


Q&A ¦


Fair enough. Let me rephrase. What responsibilities at BioProcess Algae take up the lion’s share of your time? Making sure R&D priorities are aligned with commercialization efforts, but that is a broad umbrella. I work closely with the biology group to make sure strain selection and bench experiments match product demand. I also work a lot with downstream partners. Various animal feeds have taken up the bulk of my time in recent weeks.

BioProcess Algae has been paired with Green Plains Renewable Energy in Shenandoah since its beginning. What makes that corn ethanol facility such a great venue for continued R&D and the company’s continued commercialization efforts? The ethanol industry understands how to scale biological cultures as well as the importance of coproducts in making biofuels economically viable. We certainly share that sentiment. From a commercialization standpoint, it also means that we have access to very high-quality CO2, waste heat in the winter. Commercializing in the Midwest has also given us access to some of the premier research groups in the country for traditional food crops and oilseeds processing.

algae attach, which lets us maintain much more biomass per unit area in thin biofilms that minimizes shading and translates into higher productivity. We can then harvest more biomass into less water, so the culture coming out of the reactor are several times more dense than is typical. This means lower-cost dewatering―smaller systems and lower operating expenses. The gas transfer is an interesting one. CO2 can be one of the most expensive nutrients in liquid cultures, but in our system, the CO2 can be added directly to the headspace as a gas. This is a big cost savings by not having to get it into solution.

Whenever commercialization challenges in the algae industry are discussed, harvest and dewatering seem to come up pretty quickly. What makes those two so difficult and how is BioProcess Algae tackling them? A typical harvest is more than 99 percent water. We are harvesting at concentrations two to eight times more dense than typical systems, which means we have to handle two to eight times less water during dewatering. This translates to lower capital costs for smaller dewatering systems and less energy to run them. BioProcess Algae grew out of a wastewater treatment company, so we have great in-house experience removing suspended solids from water.

At the heart of the BioProcess Algae cultivation technology is a biofilm where the algae grow. What advantages does this approach offer?

What has to happen for algal protein to become regularly included in livestock rations?

The three biggest advantages are light penetration, high-density harvests and efficient gas transfer. Our substrate has an enormously high surface area on which the

We have had great early results from poultry trials suggesting that the algae we tested was highly digestible, rich in protein and high in the appropriate amino acids.

Studies on palatability, inclusion rates and any regulatory concerns need to be addressed before the product can be commercialized. We are working with groups on all of these fronts, as we speak.

You have two offtake products, as I understand it: oil and dried powders. Is it possible to optimize your system and strain selection in order to pursue one more diligently over the other? One of the nice things about our production system is that it is highly flexible and we can dedicate different reactors to grow up material for different markets at the same time. The strains themselves can always be improved, and our biology group works closely with downstream partners to make sure we are selecting strains and optimizing for product quality as well as robust culture characteristics for mass production.

It's been an incredibly hot summer. Climate scientists are reminding the general public that carbon emissions are altering the planet’s climate and the carbon capture and sequestration has never been greater. Is algal cultivation amongst our best chances to begin to tackle carbon emissions and turn the ship around? From an environmental standpoint, CO2 mitigation is certainly a huge service provided by algae farms, but the farms also score well in terms of resource-use efficiency, including nutrients, energy and, last but not least this year, water. But even in a resource-constrained future, these benefits are meaningless unless the technology is profitable, socially acceptable and equitable.



INNOVATION THROUGH RENOVATION: Burgess BioPower is being constructed at the former site of a Berlin, N.H., landmark.



From Paper

To Power

The closure of the last paper mill in Berlin, N.H., was devastating, but its ongoing transformation into a biomass power plant is revitalizing the region. BY ANNA SIMET PHOTOS BY MARK R. DUCHARME



WALL IN BERLIN: Construction workers at the Burgess BioPower site have begun erecting steel walls.


ucked into northern New Hampshire’s lush forests along the Androscoggin River lies the city of Berlin, a picturesque town that was once thriving as a result of the early twentieth century pulp and paper industry peak. Nestled in a heavily-wooded area


near a plentiful water source, the town was an ideal location for mills, and became home to several during the mid- to late 1800s. Though the paper industry boom has long since dwindled, the town of roughly 10,000 still proudly embraces its tagline “the

Than Just


city that trees built.” At times that may have been more true than some residents would prefer, particularly those who became jobless when the last paper mill—the largest source of employment in Berlin— was shut down several years ago.

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RETROFIT¦ But things have turned around since then, and a tree-based business will soon serve as an employment and economic boon to the town. Berlin’s paper mill is alive again, undergoing a major transformation into a wood-fired biomass power plant.

Something Old to Something New Originally part of Berlin Mills Company, the mill was renamed Brown Company during World War II because of anti-German sentiment. It changed ownership multiple times over the years, last operating under ownership of Fraser Paper, according to Alexandra Ritchie of Cate Street Capital. For many years, it was the biggest job and revenue source in the area. Cate Street Capital, an investment firm focused on financing green projects, acquired the mill in 2008, acting on the opportunity to convert the existing infrastructure into something else—something the city and region could both benefit from. “It [the 2006 mill closure] was a devastating blow to the area, because there were so many people employed there,” explains Ritchie. “During the [early] development process, we were able to see firsthand what happens when a mill closes, as another area mill temporarily closed.” Fortunately that mill has since reopened, but Ritchie points out the trickle effect these kinds of closures have on the

HEADS UP: Burgess BioPower is requiring a substantial amount of new construction, but Cate Street Capital is utilizing much of the former paper mill's existing infrastructure.


¦RETROFIT area economy. “In these towns, the restaurants feel it, the grocery stores feel it, everyone is affected.” Because Cate Street Capital expressed interest in purchasing the property, the existing infrastructure narrowly escaped deconstruction as it was temporarily owned by

a dismantling company. What remained at the heart of the facility was particularly appealing to Cate Street: a Babcock & Wilcox black liquor recovery boiler that had strong retrofit potential. “We realized that would improve the economics and timeline associated with the project,” Ritchie says.

Babcock & Wilcox, which was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract, installed the boiler in 1993, replacing two black liquor recovery boilers that needed retirement after a few decades of operation. “So it [the boiler] wasn’t that old,” Ritchie says, adding that it is currently

BACK IN THE GAME: Locals who may have lost their jobs when Berlin's paper mill closed its doors in 2006 are finding work again at Burgess BioPower.


RETROFIT¦ being converted into a bubbling fluidized bed boiler. “It is saving us dollars and time, and it’s an added bonus that Babcock was familiar with the existing infrastructure,” she says. Existing boiler conditions will be upgraded to 575,000 pounds of steam per hour, a near 40 percent increase in steam flow when compared to the original boiler capacity, and the superheater will be completely replaced and upgraded from the original 825 degrees Fahrenheit to 925. Boiler outlet steam pressure will increase from 850 pounds per square inch to 900 psig. Other systems needed to transform Burgess BioPower into a fully functioning biomass power facility included a new turbine/generator, cooling towers, electrical switchgear with associated supporting auxiliaries, state-of-the-art air quality control systems, and a new wood yard. About 100 truckloads of fuel will be delivered to the wood yard each day as woodchips, dumped into a fuel storage system that sends fuel directly to a boiler via underground reclaimers. “We might explore the option of chipping on site down the road, but the contract we have in place delivers fuel to the site via truck as chips,” Ritchie says. Aside from attractive existing infrastructure, replacing jobs that were eliminated with the demise of the area’s pulp and paper industry was another appealing aspect of the project.

750,000 tons of biomass fuel that the plant will require annually represents an incredible amount of jobs in the woods for loggers, foresters and truckers who have seen work opportunities dwindle over the years, Ritchie says. Berlin is situated in the middle of a 6 million-acre wood basket within a three-hour radius of the site, she points out, and it has an established, motivated and highly-skilled workforce that has been involved in paper production for years. A subsidiary of Delta Power Services LLC, a Babcock & Wilcox company, has

been awarded a six-year contract worth more than $19 million to provide operations and maintenance services to the plant, and they will take charge of hiring and training required workers. “There will be a lot of synergies with jobs,” Ritchie says, “but Delta will be taking applications in early 2013 to assemble an operating team for when it goes online later in the year.” That team will consist of about 40 full-time, benefitted workers. Cate Street put forth all efforts to communicate its plans to the public during the

Jobs And Public Perception The 75 MW plant will be one of the largest biomass power facilities in the country when complete, and one of the most important components required to stay on time during the construction of a project of that caliber is manpower. “Yesterday [Aug. 10] there were 275 workers on site, many of them local hires,” Ritchie says. “We’re not at peak numbers yet—that’ll be closer to the 400 mark—but we’re inching up there every week. It’s a very active construction site.” Not only are hundreds of area construction jobs being generated, but the



MORE AND MORE MANPOWER: At peak construction, there will be over 400 workers on the site of Burgess BioPower.

COMING SOON: Burgess Biopower has been under construction for over one year, and is due for commissioning during fall of 2013.

development process, an essential, but often tumultuous and time-consuming piece of a successful project. Ritchie says how residents have reacted has been very fortunate. “It’s three-plus years in the works, and we have been really lucky to have a great core support system, people who understood the vision.” 30 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | SEPTEMBER 2012

They [area residents] have been dependent on paper production for many years and have seen it start and stop so many times. They could see that this was a new and viable industry that would operate on long-term offtake agreements to provide some stability in terms of employment and revenue generated.”

The education process not only included listening to citizens and understanding their concerns, but getting to know local officials, including the town mayor.

PPA’s, Financing and the Future Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier, a champion of the project who was recently elected for a

RETROFIT¦ second term, has voiced his strong support throughout development of the project, describing the city of Berlin as a regular, bluecollar-folk community that would prosper from the plant’s development. “The fortunes of this property will dictate the strength of the city,” he said during a tour of the plant site. “This property will never be a beautiful housing project; this property will always be a means of putting people back to work, so we can prosper as a blue-collar community again.” Grenier was a driving force for the project and saw what it meant to the area, according to Ritchie. He played a role in helping Burgess BioPower secure a 20-year power purchase agreement with Public Service New Hampshire, which was a temporary hiccup in development. A handful of independent biomass power producers in the area were afraid the new plant would prevent the PSNH from purchasing their power due to the way the state’s renewable portfolio standard is set up, but the issue was

million financing package and it incorporates the use of senior debt, New Market Tax Credits and also the Section 1603 [cash grant exchange] program,” Ritchie says. “We capitalized on the different tools available to us to assemble a really unique package that would get us funded and across the finish line.” While the plant still has roughly one year of construction left before its operating, great progress has been made, and it’s continuing every day. “We’re finishing up foundation work, and steel and boiler work

is being done right now,” Ritchie adds. “It’s a busy, bustling site.” Author: Anna Simet Contributions Editor, Biomass Magazine (701) 751-2753

'This property will never be a beautiful housing project; this property will always be a means of putting people back to work, so we can prosper as a blue-collar community again.' collectively resolved through an agreement between the power producers, PSNH and Cate Street. The facility itself will use about 10 MW for operations; the remainder will be sold to the PSNH. Further demonstrating the solid economics of the project, Cate Street was able to secure what is known as an investment grade rating (BBB-), which is challenging to obtain in today’s market. “It’s a very complex, $275 SEPTEMBER 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 31


OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Russ Anderson spearheads Advanced Biomass Solutions' day-to-day operations that include locating biomass for power producing customers. PHOTO: ADVANCED BIOMASS SOLUTIONS



A Strategy for Supply The Anderson brothers broke into the biomass supply industry by contracting with power production facilities in search of short-term contracts. The company hasn’t stopped profiting since. BY LUKE GEIVER




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omewhere in Northern Minnesota, timber residue slash piles litter the grounds at a logging operation. Russ Anderson, president of Advanced Biomass Solutions knows about it. Across the border, hundreds of miles away on the Canadian prairie, a mound of oat hulls is accumulating at a crushing mill. Anderson knows about that, too. As part of the Advanced Biomass Solutions team based in Greenbush, Minn., his job is all about finding biomass (woody, crop residue, even ground-up railroad ties) and finding the end-user who wants to buy it. A self-proclaimed farm boy who “knows how to get stuff done,” Anderson’s official title in the world of biomass would be more along the lines of biomass procurement and supply officer mixed in with logistics manager and contract negotiations specialist. With the help of his brother Reed and a few others, Anderson has made the small northwestern Minnesota town a profit center off of one-time and short-term biomass supply contracts combined with some impressive long-term deals, serving both the animal ingredient markets and the competitive, growing biomass-infused power generation markets.

After a few years in the biomass supply game, the team has unique perspectives on the 50-mile radius rule, the key to forming new supply agreements, and, whether the practice of biomass cofiring for power production will create a positive financial atmosphere for the industry and for Advanced Biomass Solutions at a time when natural gas prices are tough to beat. (Here’s a hint: the small company is already hiring).

Mode of Operation Russ may be a farm boy at heart, but he works a desk job. Each day he calls elevators, mills, logging operations and other facilities, looking for movable biomass. After dabbling in the cattle business, the small-time manufacturing business and even the wheat screening business, he’s found what it takes to survive with biomass. Reed, Mark Melby, Rod Thompson and Russ have created a supply network consisting of nine trucks, 15 trailers, seven staff drivers and an always expanding rolodex of industry contacts. “My day consists of sitting on the phone and finding loads,” he says. “Some are long-term, others are day-to-day loads.” Ask anyone on the team about their



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immediate success with biomass and they will point out their ability to enter into short-term, sometimes one-load contracts. Because the team has operated nearly debt-free and lean from day one, has purchased used trucks and even started hauling with rented trailers, Russ explains that the team can afford to enter into short-term deals because the obligation to pay down truck debt (they don’t drive brand-new Kenworths according to Russ) or other lingering operating expenses just doesn’t exist. “We have a processing plant out in Western North Dakota,” he cites as an example of their sporadic load schedules. “It can be up to 8 loads per day. They give us about a day’s notice and we just have to be there. Does every load make us money? No it doesn’t,” he adds, “it is more about the service and the long haul.” It’s the long-haul vision for the team that has made providing biomass to power production facilities a goal and in some cases a reality for the company. “We are delivering to power plants now on a consistent basis,” says Reed Anderson, CEO. The team’s ability to do so offers a glimpse into how others like the Andersons, people trying to build a business in the supply market, can do the same, and why there might also be the financial opportunity to do so in the future. The first thing to know about supplying biomass to a cofiring facility is that the industry is competitive and secretive. “It is such a secretive business,” Russ says, regarding the source of a biomass load and where that load eventually ends up. “It is competitive enough that if I tell you that we are bringing biomass into location A, people will know where we are getting it,” Reed says. Other companies in the biomass cofiring market throughout the same region also share the sentiment of the Andersons.

A BROTHER'S PERSPECTIVE: Reed Anderson believes his Northern Minnesota company can grow through power-producing customers the team is already in talks with.


¦SUPPLY Courtney Boone, public affairs specialist for U.S. Steel, a steel production company that is cofiring biomass at two different taconite mine and steel production facilities in Minnesota, can attest. The use of woody biomass fuel to power either facility can make or break the company’s bottom line, Boone says, so the subject of biomass, although important, is tough, due to the company’s stake in the use of the renewable fuel. The team from Greenbush has been in contract negotiations for a long-term supply agreement with a regional power production facility for over a year, Reed says (and of

course, he won’t tell you which facility). Those negotiations prove out, the Andersons believe, the difficulty of profiting from those who cofire. But, Reed and Russ also believe they’ve found a successful path to meet the supply requirements of cofiring, regardless of their current negotiations.

Insider Perspective The simple answer from Russ on how to establish a financial relationship with a cofiring facility is to talk the talk, then walk the walk. That means when he tells an oat hull supplier in Canada he can have a truck there in the

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morning, the truck will be there, for example. For forming long-term contracts, Russ says, it’s a proving game. By proving out the ability of the company to perform well in other operational settings outside of a cofiring operation looking for biomass, Russ believes Advanced Biomass Solutions has been able to grab the attention of cofiring facilities. And, by diversifying its supply agreements with various biomass feedstock acquisitions and numerous contract lengths ranging from day loads to daily loads, Russ says a biomass supplier trying to break into the cofiring world can survive the tough times and the waiting game with smaller revenue streams coming in more frequently. According to Reed, the power production facilities the team has worked with have been good once the contracts are formed. Making phone calls and plant visits in addition to formal applications for advertised biomass contracts has worked for the company in securing its supply agreements. But to stay profitable during the waiting period typically linked to a cofiring facility, diversity is the key. That means hauling nearly every possible form of biomass and disregarding the notion that a load is ever out of range. “I find it kind of funny about this 50 or 75 mile radius,” Reed says in reference to the distance a power facility should acquire cofiring feedstock. Reed lives in Florida, a huge biomass producing state he notes, and he is currently working to secure a long-term supply contract. In his experience, a procuring agent at a cofiring facility will look past that the distance factor if the supplier is dependable, the feedstock is at the right price, the moisture content is within their specifications (typically below 15 percent moisture) and the supplier can, as Russ says, “walk the walk.” As for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program or any other federal- or state-based aid, Reed says his team stays away from it all. “It is more hassle than it is worth to us.” The do-it-yourself attitude also extends to their maintenance and logistics. Mark Melby, chief operation officer for the company, lines up the routes for drivers, arranges pick-up and drop-off times, and when the trucks return he performs maintenance to keep the fleet healthy. Rod Thompson, CFO, analyzes the numbers of each load Russ finds, but he does

SUPPLY¦ it a bit different than most. First, Thompson and the team discuss the potential that a single load might have for the future. If a load doesn't create a profit the first time, or appears to be too far away, the team may still form a contract with the hope of a long-term relationship. All operations might not have a Mark Melby, but Russ says along with having a strong resume of biomass supply, those looking to bust into the cofiring industry need to understand the basics of the power production facilities. “There are companies like ours because they don’t do it (procure biomass). It is out of their services, they are busy running their power plants,” he says. Through negotiating and completing contracts with power production facilities, the Andersons say they’ve learned that a company cofires to comply with state-based renewable energy mandates or because it has chosen to play the green angle, and has actually advertised that they are looking for renewable energy alternatives (the Andersons have worked with cofiring advertisers). But, even without a state-mandate required to meet a renewable portfolio standard, a company looking to go green, or as Boone says at U.S. Steel where biomass can save money in production costs, Reed says the biomass cofiring market is legitimate. “This is something that can hold its own, it is a legitimate power source.” Russ agrees. “No doubt about it,” he says on the idea of retiring on the business of supplying biomass to power producers that cofire. “I don’t think biomass is going away and somebody needs to be buying and selling it.” That sentiment however, doesn’t come without a catch. “Its tough right now as it sits with natural gas,” Reed adds. “As long as natural gas prices are low, I think it is going to be lean.” There is no arguing Reed’s point, but the Anderson example highlights the interwoven relationship that exists between people like Russ and Reed who make calls and visits everyday to establish a customer base, people at a cofiring facility and the general public looking for cheaper energy bills. The outlook for biomass-based cofiring certainly depends on a state-based obligation, individual company agendas to lower greenhouse gases, and the

price of natural gas. But, the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012 shows that economic demand still plays a large role. Although coal-based power facilities in the U.S. will be reduced by one-sixth by 2020 due to federal mandates, the economy also plays a role in how much energy comes from boiler-based energy applications. “Economic growth significantly affects generator retirement decisions by influencing electricity demand,” the EIA says. When economic growth is strong (and Russ would add winters are cold), the demand for electricity rises and

the financial justification for maintaining operations at coal-based facilities is stronger, according to the EIA. The Andersons however, most likely won't be affected by what the EIA says. They believe biomass cofiring practices will continue to expand and their company will grow at the same time, at least the new hires the Andersons just brought on to find more biomass might hope so. Author: Luke Geiver Features Editor, Biomass Magazine (701) 738-4944



Demonstrating Success: The University of Minnesota Morris hosted a demonstration of the PowerTainer in June. PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MORRIS



Demonstrating Portable Energy

A modular gasification technology produces on-demand, biomass-based syngas. BY ERIN VOEGELE




ortable gas and diesel generators help power many aspects of the global economy. Construction companies and the remote communities depend on gensets to provide heat and power in areas where connecting to the grid is not possible. They are also used to power outdoor events, concerts, military operations or provide a critical source of power in disaster areas. In the developing world, generators also help to overcome issues associated with unreliable, outdated and non-existent electricity grids. The vast majority of commerciallyavailable generators are designed to run on fossil fuels. However, a new equipment package could change that by allowing these gensets to be fueled with biomass-based syngas. Funding for the project was provided the the U.S. DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. An ongoing project led by the University of Minnesota Morris and Californiabased All Power Labs LLC has resulted in a fully integrated solution that combines All Power Lab’s unique gasification system with a genset, a system housed in a single 20-foot shipping container. The result is the PowerTainer, a portable system that allows a diesel generator to run on more than 90 percent biomass syngas. Additional organizations participating in the project include Cummins Power


Generation and the University of Minnesota Center for Diesel Research, and HGA Architects and Engineers. According to Jim Barbour, a staff scientist at UMM, Cummings provided the genset to the PowerTainer project, offered engineering consultation services, and participated with the integration of the genset with the gasification system. The Center for Diesel Research helped optimize the operation of the diesel engine on syngas.

Syngas Genset Technology The heart of the PowerTainer is a multi-staged biomass gasification system developed by All Power Labs. According to Jim Mason, company founder and director, the innovative system is a modified version of a fixed-bed, down-draft reactor. “We have separated the drying from the pyrolysis, and drive those off of waste heat from the engine,” he says. The multistate heat exchange system, Mason continues, functions to return all the waste heat flows from the gasifier and the engine to the appropriate process points within the reactor. “This is how we create temperature conditions that take care of the tar in the reactor,” he says. The tar treatment method is one element that makes the gasification system unique. Rather than dealing with tar removal downstream, an aspect of operation that

can complicate the system and also requires bulky equipment, the technology deals with tar in the gasification system itself. “We do that by the separation of different process stages within the reactor,” Mason says. The gasification system is overlaid with a highly effective automation system that works with maps of the reactor that specify where tar is and is not generated. The automation system can operate the reactor with a high degree of sophistication to control, within certain parameters, where gasification occurs. The automation system, combined with the heat-exchanger that pushes a large quantity of heat back into the system, allows for tar production to be minimized. The gaseous fuel that results is produced through an on-demand basis for the genset. The gasifier responds to the load variations of the engine, Mason says. The syngas produced by the gasifier is not very energy dense, which makes storing it inefficient. The syngas can fuel both spark-ignited engines and diesel engines. When the syngas is fed into a spark-ignited engine, it can replace 100 percent of the fossil fuel that would normally enter that system. When the syngas is fed into a diesel generator, such as the one contained within the PowerTainer, the producer gas must be mixed with a small injection of diesel fuel. Current

DISTRIBUED ENERGY¦ evaluations show that it should be possible to replace more than 90 percent of the diesel with biobased syngas. Other than changing the speed control of the engine, Mason says that no other changes were made to the Cummins genset that is a part of the PowerTainer. In addition to the gasification system and Cummins genset, the standard 20-foot shipping container also houses a small filter train, a hopper and an electronic automation system. Mason notes that the inclusion of a hopper in a demonstration-scale operation is unique. However, he says the team did not want that component of the project to be an afterthought. Rather, the goal was to fabricate an entire, compact, fullyintegrated system that could encompass all aspects of operation, from fuel-feeding to power-generation. Regarding feedstock, the PowerTainer has been optimized to gasify corn cobs. All Power Labs has also designed similar gasifiers that are optimized for wood chips. Mason says the gasification system does have some limits regarding how small the biomass can be. Specifically, it cannot take in shredded or granular fuels.

will include comparisons to more conventional means of small-scale power generation, such as the steam turbine found on campus. The ultimate goal of the project is commercialization. While specific plans for commercialization or licensing haven’t been released, Mason is able to provide cost estimates for a future commercial version of the PowerTainer. Based on gasification systems fabricated and sold by his company, the estimated cost would be within the $1 to $2 per watt range, most likely between $1.30 and $1.70 per watt. Theoretically, using these figures, a 100 kW system could represent between $130,000 and $170,000 in capital expenses. All Power Labs has been supplying gasifier experimentation kits on a commercial basis for approximately four years. For the past year and a half, the company has also sold larger-scale integrated gasifier-genset skids, called PowerPallets. Overall, Mason

estimates his company exports 60 percent of the systems it builds. Regarding the PowerTainer project, both Mason and Barbour stress that the distributed power generating potential of the system is one of the most important aspects of the system’s development. Distributed power generation helps overcome some of the logistical problems associated with biomass procurement, shipping and storage. In the form of a portable system, like the PowerTainer, distributed power systems that are capable of operating on biomass fuel also offer contractors, farmers, and others more control over the source of power they use. In addition, the use of locally-sourced biomass can help insulate those who own the systems from price shocks in the commodity market. Author: Erin Voegele News Editor, Biomass Magazine (701) 540-6986

The PowerTrainer Goes Public UMM hosted a demonstration of the PowerTainer in June. “The engine ran just beautifully,” Barbour says. “It performed well.” Approximately 50 people attended the event, representing a wide variety of interests, from university researchers to industry professionals, farmers and entrepreneurs. The two-year project is now in its last six months, and is scheduled to conclude in December. During the final stage of the project work will focus on emissions evaluations. The work will be completed using university lab equipment, including gas analyzers. “We also have an instrument that actually measures soot, which is an important emissions issue with diesel engines,” Barbour says. UMM Economics Professor Arne Kildegaard will also develop an economic model that will address equipment and operational costs, Barbour says. The analysis

The forest industry isn’t just about lumber and paper. Wood can also be integrated seamlessly into products that are currently made using oil and other fossil fuels. From car parts to children’s toys, bio-composite materials are helping reshape the forest-based economy in Northern Ontario. By pairing forest materials with innovation, we create a brighter future for the North. CRIBE is proud to support bio-composite research and the commercialization of new uses for wood in Ontario.

Have an idea you’re looking to grow? Find out more at SEPTEMBER 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 41


Conquering Cofiring Flow Challenges Cofiring biomass with coal is an attractive method of meeting renewables goals, but several material flow-related issues may occur during handling and storage. BY JAYANT KHAMBEKAR AND ROGER A. BARNUM


tate renewable portfolio standards, limited ability to increase solar, wind or hydro power, and broad public support for renewable initiatives have sparked strong interest amongst U.S. utility companies to utilize biomass fuel. While cofiring biomass may be an appealing way to reduce coal consumption, there are challenges associated with handling and storing biomass. Generally speaking, biomass storage systems can be divided into two groups: gravity-discharge systems and mechanicalreclaim systems. As the name suggests, gravity-discharge systems rely on the force of gravity to promote the flow of material, whereas mechanical-reclaim systems use

a mechanism to assist material discharge from storage facility. Depending upon the plant’s needs, this storage facility can be a stockpile, a storage silo or both. Stockpiles have surface reclaimers or gravity reclaim systems, which typically use a bottom screw reclaimer or reclaim hoppers with belt feeders. Biomass storage silos often have a bottom reclaimer for discharging material. Once reclaimed, biomass is conveyed from the storage facility to the boiler-feed bins, which are usually gravity-discharge and meter biomass into the boiler using screw feeders. Several material handling steps are involved in a biomass cofiring process. If the material storage and handling equipment is

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).


not designed properly, material flow issues can occur, some more common than others.

Common Flow Problems A no-flow condition can result either from arching—also known as bridging—or ratholing. Arching occurs when an obstruction in the shape of an arch or bridge forms over the hopper outlet, due to the cohesive strength of the material or the mechanical interlocking of large particles. When material forms a stable arch above an outlet, discharge is prevented and a no-flow condition results. For materials such as milled biomass and sawdust, ratholing may occur as a result



In general, when flow problems such as the aforementioned occur, valuable generation capacity and production time are lost, excessive maintenance and housekeeping costs are incurred, and health and safety issues arise. Flow problems and their solutions can be best understood by first learning how bulk solids flow.

RATH OF BIOMASS: For materials such as milled biomass and sawdust, ratholing may occur as a result of flow channeling.

of flow channeling. During this condition, material moves toward the outlet through a steep, funnel-shaped flow channel surrounded by stagnant material. Hopefully, as the level of material in the flow channel drops, layers of material from the top surface of the stagnant region will slide into this active channel. If this fails to occur, the flow channel empties and a stable rathole forms, resulting in a no-flow condition. Whenever stagnant material is present inside a bin or silo, it will result in limited live storage capacity during flow. Such stagnant material can be a result of ratholing or steep drawdown angles; this material will not discharge by gravity, thus occupying valuable storage space. Another common flow problem is the tripping of feeder and bottom reclaim drive motors. When tripping occurs, the device cannot operate, resulting in the inability to discharge material from storage facility. The only way to address this problem, which typically occurs if the material consolidation pressures acting on the feeder or reclaimer are not properly calculated, may be to vacuum out the entire contents of the silo. Other flow problems that could occur include transfer chute pluggages, attrition and dusting of pellets, and particle segregation. Equipment wear can also be an important issue due to abrasive nature of woody biomass, particularly if it contains bark.

Flow Patterns, Properties

age time at rest. Flow property tests must be run at representative handling conditions and include the following tests: cohesive strength, interlocking strength, wall friction, compressibility, permeability, chute angle, angle of repose, and drawdown angle (see sidebar).

Achieving Reliable Material Flow

When properly designed, the compoAs bulk solids discharge by gravity nents of a handling system will be able to from a storage system, two types of flow store and reliably feed difficult-to-flow mapatterns can develop: funnel flow and mass terials, whereas poorly designed equipment flow. In funnel flow, only a portion of the may not be able to do the same, even with material is in motion during discharge, which flows toward the outlet through a channel that forms within the stagnant material. Funnel flow occurs when a hopper is not sufficiently steep and smooth to ensure flow along the walls, or when the hopper outlet is not fully activated. In mass flow, all of the material is in motion whenever any is discharged; there is no stagnant material. Mass flow occurs when the hopper is sufficiently WITH THE FLOW: As bulk solids discharge by gravity from steep and smooth to en- GO a storage system, two types of flow patterns can develop: funnel sure flow along the hopper flow and mass flow. walls. Shallow valleys—at SOURCE: KHAMBEKAR & BARNUM the intersection of adjacent hopper sidewalls—cannot be present, free-flowing materials. and the outlet must be fully active. For gravity discharge systems such as The flow pattern in which a bulk solid boiler-feed bins, selecting the appropridischarges from a storage system strongly ate flow pattern is critical for reliable perinfluences the flow problems that may oc- formance. Mass flow is recommended for cur. fine, cohesive materials such as sawdust and For the reliable storage and feeding milled woodchips; funnel flow is suitable for of biomass, the type of handling system coarse, free-flowing, non-interlocking, nonused— including its geometry and materials degrading materials in cases where particle of construction— must be designed to suit segregation is not important. the flowability of the material. Whether it is For mechanical reclaim systems such mechanical-reclaim or gravity-reclaim, char- as silos using bottom screw reclaimers, the acterization of flow behavior is necessary in discharge pattern is almost always funnel order to design features of the system. Vari- flow. The key for designing a mechanical ous flow property tests can be performed to reclaim system is selecting the right type determine flowability, which is influenced of mechanism that will work reliably for by moisture content, fines content and stor- the particular application. There are variSEPTEMBER 2012 | BIOMASS MAGAZINE 43

¦COFIRE Flow Property Tests Cohesive strength: Used to calculate opening sizes to avoid flow stoppages due to cohesive arching and ratholing. Measured as a function of consolidating pressure in accordance with ASTM Standard D6128.

Interlocking strength: Used to calculate opening sizes to avoid flow stoppages due to mechanical interlocking of its particles. Characterized by particle size, particle shape and elasticity behaviors.

Wall friction: Measured as a function of consolidating pressure in accordance with ASTM Standard D 6128. Information obtained from this test is used to determine critical hopper angles for achieving mass flow. The wall material of construction and surface finish must match what will be used for design or analysis purposes.

Compressibility: Measures the change in its bulk density as a function of consolidating pressure. Used to determine storage capacity of equipment and to calculate material-induced material induced loads; measured in accordance with ASTM Standard D 6683.

Permeability: Measure of material resistance to gas flow through it, particularly important when material contains a significant portion of fines. Data obtained is used to calculate the critical, steady-state, flow rate of the material that can occur during discharge as a function of outlet size and consolidating pressure.

Chute angle: Determines the minimum (shallowest) required chute angle to maintain flow after impact of a material stream with its surface. Angles are measured as a function of impact pressure.

Angle of repose and drawdown angle: Measured to help determine the total and live storage capacities of a

can be used in this regard. Additionally, for gravity discharge systems where mass flow is required, the hopper angles must be steep enough to promote flow along the walls. Material handling is a key component to successful biomass cofiring. Technology is available for analyzing storage and handling systems to eliminate or minimize flow problems in existing facilities, as well as for designing new installations to avoid such problems in the first place. Flow property test data is a key component in the process, as it will ensure the reliable storage and flow of biomass materials.

system; these tests provide no further insight regarding material flowability for design purposes.

ous types of configurations available for mechanical reclaim systems, such as a flat bottom silo with a rotating screw or sweep arm reclaimer, a revolving screw reclaimer within a conical bottom silo, a flat bottom silo with a top screw reclaimer, etc. Using flow property test results, the right type of mechanism can be selected so that the sys-

tem is not over- or under-designed for the application. The test results can also aid in the design of mechanism features. The storage system should be designed so as to minimize the consolidation pressures acting on the feeder or reclaimer. The compressibility and wall friction information obtained from flow properties testing

Authors: Jayant Khambekar Project engineer, Jenike & Johanson Inc., (978) 649-3300 Roger A. Barnum Senior consultant, Jenike & Johanson Inc., 978-649-3300

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September 2012 Biomass Magazine  

September 2012 Biomass Magazine

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