2019 September/October Biomass Magazine

Page 1

September/October 2019

FROM BARREL TO BBQ Energex Excels in Growing Grilling Pellet Market PAGE 12


Exploring the Value of Digestate PAGE 18

AND: Biochar's Many Markets PAGE 28


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Adding to Bottom Lines


By Anna Simet


Cracked or damaged barrel pieces used in the making of Jim Beam bourbon are removed from inventory and shipped to Energex Inc., and via a licensing agreement, are used to manufacture Jim Beam grilling pellets.

06 Biomass Policy on Capitol Hill By Bob Cleaves

08 Should Dartmouth Heat its Campus with Wood Chips? By John Ackerly

09 India’s Nascent Crop Residue Supply Industry


By Aru Mangla



12 COPRODUCT Blending Passion with Flavor Heating pellet manufacturers with the right expertise and knowhow are capitalizing on the growing grilling pellet market. By Anna Simet

18 COPRODUCT Get With the Program


Biogas producers striving to generate revenue from digestate may find opportunity in a new program developed by the American Biogas Council. By Ron Kotrba


24 TECHNOLOGY Chicken Manure to Megawatts Güres Group is turning a liability into an asset with Organic Rankine Cycle technology. By Ilaria Peretti

26 STORAGE Alternatives to Traditional Silo Design

The benefits of a horizontal silo system are worth considering for producers manufacturing more than one product. By Joel Dulin

28 BYPRODUCT Biochar: If You Make it, Will They Come? Global markets for biochar, most commonly produced as a gasification or pyrolysis byproduct, are expanding. By Kathleen Draper

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Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) September/October 2019, Vol. 13, Issue 5. Biomass Magazine is published bi-monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.



Adding to Bottom Lines



Among the many benefits of the industry segments we cover in Biomass Magazine is that most often, the feedstock or fuel source would otherwise go unused—waste wood, food waste and other organics, municipal solid waste, biogas and the list goes on. But now, it's being used to create heat, power or other fuels. What’s really exciting is that we’re seeing some real innovation on the backend of these bioenergy processes—in short, the “waste” leftover from the waste is being used, too. A perfect example of that is discussed in detail in Ron Kotrba’s page-18 feature, “Get With the Program,” which underlines the value of digestate, a post-anaerobic digestion product that is rich in nutrients. Despite that value, there is not yet adequate awareness amongst consumers and potential buyers—but the American Biogas Council is working hard to change that via its Digestate Standard Testing and Certification Program. Says Patrick Serfass, executive director of the ABC, “Few people recognize its incredible nutrient and agronomic value today. It’s a perception issue.” On the theme of byproducts, another topic that always creates a buzz in this magazine is biochar, a carbon-rich product that remains after biomass gasification or pyrolysis, the markets for which are growing steadily. Our page-28 contribution, “Biochar: If You Make it, Will They Come?,” by Kathleen Draper, mentions Aries Clean Energy, a plant in Tennessee that is generating power via gasification, and as a result, 1,000 tons per year of consistent, high-quality biochar. The facility is a tour site at the International Biomass Conference & Expo in February, where attendees will have the opportunity to see it in person. Being that coproducts is a topic in this month’s issue, I felt compelled to cover the impressive growth the barbeque pellet market has experienced over the past few years. While making these pellets isn’t as easy as it might seem, when done right, the margins are good, and potentially, could help offset weak heating seasons. That said, the past few heating seasons have been strong, so many of the producers newer to the barbeque pellet game haven’t had a chance to experience that just yet—a good thing, of course. All of the stories in this edition are tied together in that they are focused on making each operation more profitable through resourcefulness and innovation. While they are all quite different, the versatility of the biomass industry is what makes it so unique and fascinating.



EDITORIAL EDITOR Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com SENIOR EDITOR Ron Kotrba rkotrba@bbiinternational.com ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele evoegele@bbiinternational.com COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann jtellmann@bbiinternational.com

ART ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com PRESIDENT Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES & MARKETING John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Howard Brockhouse hbrockhouse@bbiinternational.com


SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com

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Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies. www.fuelethanolworkshop.com | 866.746.8385

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Biomass Policy in Washington BY BOB CLEAVES

In the past couple months, several noteworthy policy developments have happened in Washington, D.C. The following is an overview. If your company is not involved in the Biomass Power Association, we welcome your participation. The more voices being heard from the biomass industry and the closely related forestry, landowning and logging industries, the better chance we have for positive outcomes.

Renewable Fuel Standard

The U.S. EPA released its draft rule that will set the market for 2020 for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Known as the renewable volume obligation (RVO), this is an annual rule that the EPA is required to promulgate, and sets targets in several biofuels categories for obligated parties to purchase credits for or blend with fossil fuels. Disappointingly, the 2020 RVO did not include any volumes for available electricity generated from qualifying renewable sources like biomass, or even a mention of the status of including electricity. As a reminder, earlier this year, along with the American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council, we set up the RFS Power Coalition to challenge the EPA’s failure to include electricity in the RFS, as mandated by Congress in 2007. All three organizations’ members should be able to participate in the program, and we are grateful for support from other groups that are affected in the supply chain, such as the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the American Loggers Council. The coalition filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit court of appeals to challenge the 2019 RVO, and we are looking at options for taking legal action to challenge the 2020 RVO as well. We are also working with the other members of the coalition to submit comments to the EPA, making the case that they are setting up the RFS as a delicately balanced “house of cards” that could easily fall if they continue to exclude electricity. Despite the lack of movement by the EPA, we continue to believe that electricity’s inclusion in the RFS is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s not only mandated by Congress, but the availability of renewable electricity to power EVs is crucial for their sustainability to reach its full potential. We are hosting an RFS-focused fly-in on Sept. 26 for


biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy industry members to help us continue to call attention to this issue. It’s a fight we can win, and we need help from everyone in this sector to win it. Send an email to Carrie Annand at carrie@usabiomass.org if you’d like more information.


After many years, we are finally seeing some movement on tax incentives for biomass. In August, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, a longtime champion for renewable tax parity, and Rep. Scott Peters, D-California, also a strong advocate for renewable incentives, introduced the Renewable Electricity Tax Credit Equalization Act. The bill will bring the biomass sector, along with the hydropower, waste-to-energy and biogas industries, up-to-date with tax credits by offering retroactive production tax credit and investment tax credit eligibility for 2018 and 2019. It also advances the cause with five additional years of credit at double the previous rate. After many years of being disadvantaged by short-term extensions at half the value of competing technologies, this bill is a welcome change and would help biomass projects get off the ground. Tax incentives for renewable energy will likely be a hot topic this fall, as House Democrats look for ways to show voters their support for clean energy. The Stefanik-Peters bill is not a guarantee by any means, but it gets biomass in the conversation.

Get Involved

Finally, National Bioenergy Day is coming up on Oct. 23. It’s a great opportunity to remind your community of the economic and environmental benefits of biomass. Again, we welcome support and involvement from all across the biomass power sector. Reach out to us for more information on how you can help. Author: Bob Cleaves President, U.S. Biomass Power Association bob@usabiomass.org www.usabiomass.org


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Should Dartmouth Heat its Campus with Wood Chips? BY JOHN ACKERLY

When I went to Dartmouth in the late 1970s, I learned about the dangers of splitting atoms in a reactor to heat water into steam that turned generators to make electricity. We all joined the Clamshell Alliance, piled into cars and went down to Seabrook, New Hampshire, to protest the building of a new reactor. There, 550 people were arrested and held for 13 days. My grades were shaky enough without missing two weeks of classes so I didn’t get arrested, but I learned more about energy, activism and politics than I ever could have in a classroom. Meanwhile, no one questioned the No. 6 heating oil that was heating the campus. That was a nonissue. The smokestack loomed over the south side of the campus and was known more among my rock-climbing friends as one of the scariest things to climb in the dark. None of us had ever heard of climate change. While the science of climate change began unfolding in the 1970s as scientists began putting the puzzle pieces together, it wasn’t until the 1990s that studies and computer models were proving the connections between carbon and the gradual warming of the earth. And New Hampshire was part of the problem. It wasn’t just the rapid increase of cheap fossil fuels. In 1900, as a result of massively unsustainable deforestation across the New England, Europe and other areas, global warming had very slowly begun. Around our house in New Hampshire in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, hundreds of fields were still in the process of being absorbed back into forest. Today, New Hampshire’s forests are crisscrossed with old stone walls—a silent, enduring testament to a state that was rapaciously logged for sheep farms, lumber and fuel. Before he died, one of the only things my father made me promise him was to keep our field mowed every year so it didn’t become forest. By 2010, climate change was accepted by virtually all scientists, and like many movements, students on campuses across the country were on the forefront of pushing their institutions to do something about it. Dartmouth is not among the top 10, or even top 20, on most lists of campuses tackling climate change, but by 2017, it came up with an ambitious roadmap that included switching from No. 6 heating oil to wood chips. The project is steadily moving forward, but in July, several prominent Dartmouth alumni published an open letter calling on the college to scrap plans for a biomass heating plant. The letter mostly addressed carbon issues and concluded that switching to biomass would increase Dartmouth’s carbon emissions. While anti-biomass activists have had some success with the slogan that biomass is worse than coal, the real question has a lot do to with timing. Few scientists question that biomass, if harvested sustainably,


has solid, long-term benefits in reducing carbon compared to fossil fuels. Carbon benefits start accruing between five and 100 years, depending on who you talk to, and where the wood chips come from. If your sole source of wood chips was from standing, old-growth forests, a 100-year payback may not be an outrageous claim. If you rely on waste wood from lumber operations, five years is more realistic. Dartmouth has done its homework and is in this for the long-term. It has based its projections off peer-reviewed scientific assessments of biomass heating, and it understands the capacity of local forestry operations to provide low-grade wood that will be losing its carbon content quickly, whether it’s used to offset fossil fuels or not. Middlebury College has a similar system, as do many other northeastern colleges. My family’s house is only about 15 miles north of the Dartmouth campus. It’s on a dead-end dirt road, and every year, hundreds of trucks loaded with sawmill-grade lumber pass our house to help meet our nation’s demand for wood products. A lot of it ends up in the walls of our homes, on our floors and in our furniture. When it’s processed, it makes mountains of sawdust—and mountains of chips. On our dirt road is also more than a hundred homes, and probably about half have wood stoves for primary or secondary heating. Some of our neighbors used wood to cook their food and heat their water, and there a few of them left. They delayed becoming part of the generations of people who joined the fossil fuel revolution, living on land that produced wood for hundreds of years, going through the “carbon debt” cycles many, many times. But the wood smoke produced by each of their homes, including ours, is far, far worse than what will be coming from the new Dartmouth heating plant. If people around Dartmouth are concerned about particulate matter in wood smoke, they can tackle it more easily by reducing residential wood heating, rather than worrying about the incredibly high-tech scrubbers that will make the Dartmouth plant run without visible emissions other than steam. The open letter by Dartmouth alumni opposing the biomass heating plant raises some good points, and one I want to wholeheartedly endorse: Before sizing the plant, the college should engage in aggressive energy efficiency measures to reduce the amount of heat needed by each building. That, together with a renewable source of heat, will help set Dartmouth on a path of responsible sustainability for decades to come. Author: John Ackerly President, Alliance for Green Heat jackerly@forgreenheat.org www.forgreenheat.com

India’s Nascent Crop Residue Supply Industry BY ARU MANGLA

Crop residue-based biomass, such as paddy straw and sugarcane trash, are some of the best sources of biomass available for any industrial or energy generation use, since unlike maize and coconut, they do not fall in the purview of the food versus fuel debate, and unlike woody biomass, there is no argument of forest ecology deterioration. Punjab and Haryana, the two major agrarian states adjacent to New Delhi, the capital city of India, generate about 25 million to 30 million metric tons of crop residue each year, which makes its availability abundant in relation to its demand by industries. Thus, it is a very low-cost fuel with moderate to high calorific value in comparison with coal, the price of which is increasing rapidly, and carries an obvious tag of being a nongreen fuel. In India, these crop residues have not been able to achieve the economic potential they possess, primarily owing to the lack of a reliable supply chain mechanism for its collection and processing, which is quintessential for any biobased industry to succeed. As reported by Task Force on Biomass Management, set up by the government of India's think tank NITI Ayog, power plants and industries are unable to utilize this residue due to a fragmented and mismanaged biomass supply chain. As a result, several biomass plants across Punjab and Haryana have been discontinued, or are not operating, due to viability issues arising from the biomass supply end. In addition, challenges faced by biomass power plants in securing favorable power purchase agreements from the concerned state electricity regulatory commissions—which give preference to other renewable sources of power such as solar, wind and hydro from Himalayan rivers, as they are cheaper than power generated using biomass—have further made the case against such plants. The industry and government are now encouraging the setting up of a large number of bio-compressed natural gas (bio-CNG), biofuel plants and industries of straw board, paper pulp, building construction material, furniture, etc., to utilize the vast amount of crop residue available. The push from public sector undertaking oil marketing companies such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Indian Oil Corp. in the bioethanol and bio-CNG sectors, is also fueled by concerns arising from the high oil and gas import dependency of India.

Moreover, cogeneration plants operated by Indian sugar mills are dependent on their milling byproduct, bagasse, a relatively inferior biomass because of its near 50 percent moisture content. There is huge potential, however, to utilize sugarcane trash (dry leaves of sugarcane crop) in an appropriate proportionate mix with bagasse, which will expand the operational period of such cogeneration plants to off-season as well, and thus increase their revenue. Despite the favorable economic and regulatory environment for all these emboldened plants and industries, procurement of biomass remains the most difficult challenge. The biomass supply sector in India has largely remained dependent on unorganized and unprofessional local players who operate with very low degree of reliability, and supply inexpertly processed biomass that negatively impacts its quality and reduces the energy output of plants. This has caused viability issues for several major plants and resulted in subsequent shut downs. There is a ray of hope for upcoming bioplants and industries, however, as the biomass supply chain industry has begun turning professional and organized with the entry of companies like RY Energies and others, which provide professional and reliable supply services. These companies assume the responsibility of establishing the supply chain infrastructure in the vicinity of the plants and enable them to conveniently procure biomass at sustainable prices, with zero capital investment and zero down time. This assured biomass availability leads to an increase in profits and enables them to fulfill their renewable purchase obligations. The supply chain companies work in close collaboration with farmers and regional agricultural departments to procure biomass in a timely manner, preventing open burning of crop residue. Owing to its low cost, good properties and significant positive environmental impact, crop residue is the fuel of today and future for India and other developing agrarian economies. Author: Aru Mangla Cofounder and Director, ReneYou Greentech Private Ltd. www.ReneYou.in



Bossler joins FutureMetrics FutureMetrics is proud to announce that Annette Bossler has joined its consulting team as a market intelligence expert. Bossler has over 25 years of experience in international business development for priBossler vate and public entities in countries all over the world. She is the founder of the consulting firm Main(e) International Consulting LLC, which provides market intelligence and business development services in the renewable energy sector. MIC will continue to operate and serve its clients while Bossler provides focused wood pellet sector market intelligence research and analysis for FutureMetrics. Bossler holds a Master of Arts from Bonn University, Germany, in Japanese studies and public and international law. She was the 2013 recipient of the President's Award from the Maine International Trade Center. In addition to her native language German, Bossler is fluent in English and Japanese and has basic knowledge of French and Chinese.

Evergreen Engineering expands

Evergreen Engineering Inc. is adding another new location in the Seattle, Washington, area to better serve its major wood products and pulp and paper clients in the state. Professional Engineer Kevin Tangen, formerly based at Evergreen’s Eugene office, will lead the staff as project and office manager. He will be joined by Mechanical Engineer Erik Lasher, PE, also formerly of Eugene, and newly hired Senior Project Manager Jeffrey Tuma of Port Orchard, Washington. A complement of locally hired designers and drafters will round out the team. The physical expansion coincides with the redesign of Evergreen’s website, www.evergreenengineering.com.

US Stove Company Partners with Anvil Canada

US Stove Company, Anvil Canada, and Acadia Hearth are pleased to announce a new partnership that will bring the full line of US Stove and Acadia Hearth products to Canadian customers. On July 24, the companies announced finalizing of the partnership, which will enable Anvil Canada to distribute US Stove and Acadia Hearth products into the specialty hearth market across Canada. The partnership with US Stove maintains a variety of wood and pellet fuel brand names, including Ashley, Vogelzang, and US Stove, which will be supplied to the Canadian market, via the new Anvil partnership. Canadian consumers will also be introduced to the full Acadia Hearth

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and Breckwell product lines, premium products for the specialty hearth channel. US Stove’s Newmac product line—a solid, well-supported multifuel furnace option—will be included in the partnership as well.

Bloxom joins Advanced Biofuels USA board

Jenna Bloxom, a political scientist from Colorado State University, has joined nonprofit organization Advanced Biofuels USA’s board of directors. Bloxom has 14 years of combined professional and research experience specific to bioenergy, biofuel policies and technology, and brings to the organization practical training in both domestic and international (Honduras, Argentina, Mexico) arenas related to advanced biofuels and sustainable development. Bloxom has executed strategic public outreach in the private sector and for interest groups, including the American Council on Renewable Energy. She taught bioenergy policy graduate courses and will contribute to Advanced Biofuels USA’s involvement with other universities’ biofuels-related educational initiatives. Bloxom replaces Shannon Hollis of Ohio State University, who resigned as she moves into a new position at Ohio State that moves her away from the biofuel industry.

Bioenergy Infrastructure Group makes senior appointments

Bioenergy Infrastructure Group, an independent power producer specializing in energy-from-waste and biomass, is pleased to announce two new senior appointments, Ben Williams as head of transactions and Helena Barrett as head of synergy. Williams will lead the conversion of the company’s pipeline of opportunities to expand its asset platform, and support BIG’s ongoing funding activity, underpinning its commitment to be the leading owneroperator of U.K. bioenergy assets. Williams was most recently an associate director at Gravis Capital Management, an infrastructure investment firm. Previously, he was an associate director in structured finance at MUFG and infrastructure corporate finance at KPMG. Barrett will lead on unlocking the intrinsic value from within BIG’s existing platform and optimizing synergies as the platform expands. She joins from John Laing, the listed infrastructure investment fund company, where she served as investment manager, leading project development opportunities in the renewable energy sector across Europe. Prior to John Laing, Barrett was a business development manager and technical advisor at Fichtner Consulting Engineers.

DRYER ONE is a drying machine, which dries the wet products at low temperatures, like 85-90°C / 210°F range. DRYER ONE is designed to meet the increasing demands for the safe and economical dryers, which meets the higher productivity requirements, higher quality & standards, energy savings, flexibility and safety. The design of operation of DRYER ONE considerably reduces dust emissions and VOCs pollution. DRYER ONE dryers can easily adapt to all situations, especially when used as annexed unit to a gas burner, biomass burner or cogeneration unit. Today in Europe the major companies in the pellets industry are choosing and many of them have chosen DRYER ONE over other types dryers.

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Energex has partnered with Jim Beam to utilize damaged barrel pieces for production of grilling pellets, a brand the company debuted earlier this year. PHOTO: ENERGEX INC.



Blending Passion with

r o v a l F

The grilling pellet market has experienced exponential growth over the past few years, a trend likely to continue. BY ANNA SIMET


fter the “high wine” production process at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, it’s tapped into 52-gallon American White Oak barrels and left to rest. As the seasons change, according to the bourbon maker, Kentucky’s climate expands and contracts the barrel, allowing it to seep into the wood and extract the caramelized sugars and oak flavor, for a minimum of four years. When the final product is removed from the barrels, they are not reused to age bourbon, but are sourced by breweries and wineries, repurposed by specialty furniture markers, or—if any of the boards are cracked or damaged—they are shipped north to Pennsylvania, to Energex’s wood pellet manufacturing plant. There, the stays, or barrel planks, are protected from the elements until it’s time to turn them into grilling pellets. “Being bourbon drinkers and lover of Jim Beam, we reached out to them to find out what they did with their spent barrels and steam of materials,” says Kenny Lisle, Energex business development manager.. “Turns out that they have a large supply of unusable barrel pieces—thousands of tons of barrel stays in their inventory. We secured a licensBIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 13

¦COPRODUCT Growth of the grilling pellet industry of the past few years has been momentous, with some pellet and grill manufacturers reporting triple-digit growth, but jumping into the game isn’t as easy as it might seem, Lisle points out. “It’s definitely a different world than heating pellets.”

Grilling vs. Heating

Green Mountain Grills released its enhanced Prime models this year, which offer luxury upgrades from Choice models including pellet hopper and food viewing windows, a front shelf, thicker legs, bottom storage shelf, 12-volt hookup and shop-vac burn pile cleanup capability. PHOTO: GREEN MOUNTAIN GRILLS

ing agreement them and began taking shipments directly from Kentucky.” While Energex’s Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, plant has been making fuel pellets since 2000, the company began experimenting with grilling pellets a few years ago, Lisle says. “We didn’t think there were a lot of options in our area, and we found some brands that would say hickory on the bag in bold letters, but then 100 percent hardwood at the bottom. Eventually, we learned how small the per-

centage of the wood species were actually in them—most had the same filler wood, and just trace amounts of the wood they were advertising.” Wanting to make a genuine, authentic brand, Energex began with 100 percent hickory, and besides its Jim Beam pellets, added 100 percent apple. “Here in Pennsylvania, we got hooked up with an orchard that wanted to tear down, so we chipped it all up on-site, and hauled it to our plant to make grilling pellets.”


Despite perceptions that they are quite similar, grilling and heating pellets have many preparation, production and market differences. “First, we’re a lot more careful making barbeque pellets, and there are certain lubricants we require to made food grade wood pellets,” Lisle says. Fiber storage is also different. “We really only run the Jim Beam material whenever there isn’t rain—when we chip it, we need to make sure it stays dry and isn’t saturated with water, as we want the bourbon in the wood to remain as pure as possible. It can’t be out in the weather.” A fuel pellet producer might receive materials from hundreds of suppliers with a main requirement of ash content and hardwood species, but for grilling pellets, it is much more specific, and that could becoming even more challenging in difficult times for the fiber supply market. “Coming off a year where we saw

COPRODUCT¦ the Mid-Atlantic wood shortage—we couldn’t get any wood to make heating pellets—for most of the winter, we were sitting on a higher inventory of tonnage of Jim Beam barrel pieces than material to make heating pellets,” Lisle says. “When you’re looking for specific wood species and going outside of your territory, it creates a new challenge than you’re used to.” Besides storage and having to segregate wood species, says Stephen Faehner, president of American Wood Fibers, time in the production schedule must be set aside to functionally feed and control the grilling pellet process. “Some do this in a very rough way, but we do it in a very controlled, blended way, and it takes more equipment to do that,” he says. American Wood Fibers makes fuel and grilling pellets at its Ohio and Virginia plants, beginning production in 2005 and 2013, respectively. Its grilling pellet brand, America’s Choice Grate Flavors, includes flavors mesquite, apple, hickory and a hickory, maple, and oak blend. There is a challenge in manufacturing when minor ingredients and different woods are introduced, Faehner says. “How you manage all that, there is an art and trick to it, as well as controlling the manufacturing process and delivering on your product features and claims—are

you really putting in the right percentage? There are challenges to it all.” There are also logistics differences when it comes to shipping product—the customer radius of grilling pellets can extend far beyond that of heating pellets, and still be economical. “We’re going from heating pellets being fairly regional to national, and some cases, it’s international,” Lisle says. “We get requests all the time from outside the country for cooking pellets. There is that element with some of the heating pellet market—the export market—but in this situation, everything is just in a lot smaller quantities. We can ship to California, all of the West Coast, and in the past with heating pellets, that’s not something we could even come close to. If you’re shipping a user of barbeque pellets a bag or two across the country, they might have a dollar or two in logistics costs, but on a heating pellet, buying two or three tons, they could spend $100 on freight themselves.” As for margins, it’s difficult to put into numbers as several variables come into play. “Fuel pellets are a feast or famine margin,” Faehner says. “There are some good years, there are some bad years, and sometimes, trying to find the margin is tricky. Barbeque pellets have potential for a better margin, but they are tricky to make—to get the right blends



takes a good bit of expertise and equipment, and you really have to know what you’re doing. Can you get a better cost for them? Yes. A better margin? Hopefully, but again, you have to know what you’re doing or you will spend all your time switching your formulas, and cleaning, resetting and starting up again.” The margins are definitely higher, but maybe not as high as people think, Lisle says. “If you’re an existing heating pellet manufacturer, you can go one of two ways, possibly both—copacking for the big guys, or developing your own brand. Copacking may be easier—you don’t need to develop a marketing strategy for a new brand—but the margins are way less.” The other strategy is brand development, which Lisle says might have a more profitable outcome, but requires much more time and investment. “There are a lot of upfront costs, you need to developing your own packaging bags, brand, trademark—so there is an added cost; it’s not as easy as everyone thinks—you have to be committed if you want to do it. I have walked into many retail stores and told them we are a heating pellet manufacturer but have started making cooking pellets, and they think they’re the same thing and we’re just looking to make more money.”

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The strong growth and demand for grilling pellets is the direct result of more grills sold, a technology that is commonly referenced as one that once consumers try it, they are hooked.

Market Dynamics

American Wood Fibers, a producer manufacturing heating pellets at plants in Ohio and Virginia, has been making grilling pellets under its America’s Choice Grate Pellets for longer than a decade, as well as many other coproducts including animal bedding, cat litter and potting soil.

“I don’t want to say pellet grilling technology is flawless, because it has its quirks, but if you want really good grilled food—even if you think you don’t really know what you’re doing, the wood pellet grill makes you a barbeque master,” Faehner says. “I have done turkeys for Thanksgiving, salmon for Mother’s Day, briskets for birthdays—there is a theme here—it’s year-round.” Those in the pellet grill business have been busy. “They’re selling grills faster than they can make them,” Lisle says. “A lot of pellet grill manufacturers are sold out. They wait on ships that come in from overseas, and the containers are gone as soon as they arrive. That

definitely speaks to the growth.” Green Mountain Grills’ products are some of the fast-selling models Lisle refers to—the company, which released its first edition in 2008, has only 30 employees in the U.S., but is on a well-known name among manufacturers. GMG also manufactures several blends of grilling pellets—the side of its business on which the company initially had a primary focus. “We have added lots of models and pellet blends over the years,” says Jason Baker, GMG business development. “As the company and market grew, people began wanting lots of different flavors of pellets, and there has been lots of clever marketing toward certain pellet flavors for certain foods.” As for its grills, which are manufactured overseas, the most significant innovation GMG integrated into its designs, says Baker, is a WiFi chip. “We were the first to put it on pellet grills and make it mainstream—we kind of perfected


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COPRODUCT¦ it from an app perspective, being the first to run it through iOS and Android,” he says. It’s been a differentiator for us, and flattering to see so many emulate that. We knew it was a good strategy to start with. The side of innovation is where we live—the customers are always asking for new and better, and we try to deliver that. We spend a lot of time engineering what’s next, and we’re focused on what we’re doing tomorrow.” Demand has been strong and steady, Baker says, but as a small company, it is difficult to parallel the market’s explosive growth. “We’re very comfortable in the sense that we can only grow so much,” he says. “Even though we’ve seen situations where we could have been up 50 percent, we just don’t have the investment strategy to accomplish that.” As for the biggest challenge, Baker says it’s being priced out by those supplying to big box stores like Wal-Mart and Amazon, as the company has a business model of only doing business with brick and mortar retailers. “Our business model is different than a lot of folks—we sell through a dealer network,” he says. “They have the overhead and the knowledge. Unfortunately, customers are very comfortable pushing a button and getting it at the door. It’s a challenge, and though we don’t want to make a relationship with Amazon to compete, one day we may have to. We’ll all have to figure it out one of these days.” A potential leg up brick and mortars may have over big box stores is that most large retailers are seasonally driven, and in many regions—even ones with harsher winters—grilling is almost year-round. “There are maybe a couple of months in

the year that I’m not grilling,” says Faehner. “One of the challenges is getting more retailers to carry through the year, and not do the seasonal in and out thing they do with heating pellets. I see it as a year-round product—I think that’s part of the power of the technology.” That year-round quality could also mean pellet manufacturers are running at times when heating pellets aren’t being made, thus softening the blow of off years. “If you’re having a warm winter, during those months of January through March, you can start gearing up for the barbeque market,” Lisle says. “The timing works pretty well. Is it going to take up your entire production facility as far as volume? No, probably not. But it will help financially, help keeps people employed, minimizes layoffs and help ease those off years. We haven’t been in that position yet though, as we haven’t had a weak pellet heating business since we have been making them.” Consumers are slowly pulling away from gas, Lisle adds. “With [gas grills], you burn it until it tastes good. I couldn’t tell the difference having a burger from a gas grill, then I started cooking with pellets. Years went by, and I went to a cookout where a gas grill was being used, and I could taste the propane. Even if I leave the pellet business, I’m never moving away from a pellet grill. There’s nothing like cooking over wood fire.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961 asimet@bbiinternational.com




PROGRAM Biogas producers struggling to generate revenue from their digestate may find an opportunity to turn this around through the American Biogas Council’s Digestate Standard Testing and Certification Program. BY RON KOTRBA


tonyvale Farm is family-run dairy operation in a remote part of central Maine, near Exeter. “It was started by my grandfather in the 1950s,” says John Wintle, project and facilities manager for Exeter AgriEnergy, a spinoff of Stonyvale Farm. Although Stonyvale Farm was officially formed in the mid-20th Century, its ancestors had been practicing crop and livestock husbandry in Maine since the 1800s. Today, the farm centers around roughly 1,800 cattle, including 1,000 milking cows and hundreds of calves and dry cows. In addition, Stonyvale Farm grows corn, grass, haylage and alfalfa to feed its livestock. Exeter Agri-Energy was formed to run two anaerobic digesters built at Stonyvale Farm in 2011. “We built two anaerobic digesters to process cow manure and food waste,” Wintle says. “At first, we thought if we built one to process food waste, there would be waste haulers to bring us the food waste. But we quickly realized that’s not how it works. As a result, my brother formed Agri-Cycle Energy, which sources food waste and hauls it here to our site and to other digesters around New England.” Approximately 25,000 gallons of food waste and 30,000 gallons of cow manure are fed daily into the digesters at Stonyvale Farm. “The food waste and manure are mixed together in the digesters and are digested together,” Wintle says. “They don’t come into contact with

each other until they’re in the digester.” The biogas produced by Exeter Agri-Energy from the anaerobic digestion (AD) of food waste and cow manure fires three 1-megawatt cogeneration units that turn generators in order to make power for Stonyvale Farm. Any power left over is sold to the utility company. The process is continuous based on hydraulic retention time, pumping in material to be digested and pumping out raw digestate, which is the leftover, nutrient-rich material undigested by the microorganisms used in the AD process. Raw digestate is a mixture of liquids and solids. In Exeter Agri-Energy’s process, the raw digestate is pumped out of the digesters to a separator for removal of undigestible fiber, which is stockpiled in a building near the digesters and used as cattle bedding. The remaining liquid that comes off the separator is stored in a 10,000-gallon tank on-site, some of which is reused in the process. “The [food waste] organics tend to be thick, so when we get to the point when we need to pump it, we add digestate, so it is pumpable,” Wintle says. “We also mix some with the manure. Anything left over is stored in a lagoon until it’s ready to spread.” Once ready to spread on the field as a soil amendment, tanker trucks are loaded with digestate and driven to the fields for application. “We usually spread with tanker trucks,” Wintle says, “but if


it’s too wet, we’ll offload the liquid digestate into tanks pulled by tractors and spread it that way.” All of Exeter Agri-Energy’s digestate is used locally. “I tried to figure out how many millions of gallons of digestate we make in a year, and I don’t really know—but it’s a lot,” Wintle tells Biomass Magazine. “We grow corn, grass, haylage and alfalfa, and we rotate crops with a local potato famer, so some of the digestate is spread on their field too. We don’t sell any at this point. I don’t think

Stonyvale Farm, a dairy operation in Exeter, Maine, uses fiber separated from Exeter Agri-Energy’s digestate as bedding for its roughly 1,800 cows. PHOTO: STONYVALE FARM

we’re at the point yet where people are willing to pay for it. As far as the reason, it’s hard to say.”

Many Uses, Little Value

Patrick Serfass, the executive director of the American Biogas Council, says digested manure from 1,000 cows on average will produce roughly 50,000 tons per year of raw digestate. Some fraction of digestate is always used as a soil amendment, Serfass says, with liquid being the most common because of its

weight and expense to transport. “There is usually a symbiotic relationship between a digester site and a place to use the liquid digestate,” Serfass says. According to Wintle, digestate is an even better fertilizer than cow manure for a variety of reasons. “We feel that we generate better crop yields as result—but to quantify this is a tough thing to do,” he says. One reason Stonyvale Farm likes digestate over manure as a fertilizer is the odor. “Digestate odor is much less offensive,” Wintle says. “It’s a subtler odor

and goes away quicker.” He says the farm could not spread manure in summer because windows are open, and the odor would create issues with neighbors. “But we can apply digestate any time,” he says. The other benefit of digestate over manure is its inorganic nitrogen content. “Nitrogen can take two forms, organic and inorganic, and crops can only use inorganic nitrogen,” Wintle says. “During the digestate process, nitrogen is converted from organic to inorganic, so as soon as it is applied, crops can take it up, BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 19

The ABC’s digestate certification program has two levels of certification for biogas producers— “generally unrestricted” and “restricted”—dictating which tests are run on any given digestate to achieve certification. PHOTO: AMERICAN BIOGAS COUNCIL

which reduces the risk that it will run off the field or go away before the plants can use it. Organic nitrogen has to be broken down before crops can take it up.” Solids are usually separated from digestate with a screw press or centrifuge.

“It may or may not be dried further to reduce weight and make more transportable,” Serfass says. “Sometimes the fiber is further separated from the solids, which would be hay that wasn’t digested. It has a sawdust consistency, dark in color. It’s



odor-free and earthy.” Sawdust and sand are the two most popular materials on which to bed dairy cows. “It keeps them comfortable,” Serfass says. “The fiber can be used to replace buying sawdust or sand to bed animals, so not only are they using a coproduct from biogas production, but they’re replacing a cost on the farm. Then, when they scrape the [manure-laden] material up after use, it’s very compatible with the digester.” All kinds of interesting products can be made from digestate fractions beyond its most common uses as a soil amendment and animal bedding: Fiberboard, flower pots, peat moss replacement, fertilizer granules of various sizes, and much more. The problem, however, is that digestate has a low perceived value ranging anywhere from zero to $50 a ton, depending on what the digestate is replacing. “If you’re replacing a very specialized fertilizer, then companies are willing to pay a premium for it,” Serfass says. Generating revenue from selling digestate is “a lot more difficult than it should be,” Serfass says. “Few people

COPRODUCT¦ recognize its incredible nutrient and agronomic value today. It’s a perception issue.” As a result, in order to build biogas systems, project developers must rely solely on revenues from gas sales and tipping fees while trying to bring the cost of managing digestate as close to zero as possible. “We’ve got work to do as an industry to help educate consumers,” he says. “They just don’t know what it is. It’s not a known name. That’s why products don’t use ‘digestate’ in their name—it’s not a recognized word. ‘Hey, want some digestate?’ ‘What is that?’ It’s the lack of awareness, that’s the biggest reason its value is so low.” The annual revenue-generating market potential for digestate when just three aspects of the material are considered—its nutrient-enriched fiber and recovered phosphorus and nitrogen—is roughly $1.4 billion, according to Serfass. Too often, however, managing digestate is an expense to producers, not an income generator. How, then, can the biogas industry effectively relay the true value of digestate to consumers and,

more importantly, get them to pay for the product? The answer, according to Serfass, is by convincing them the product is safe to use, that it comes from a good source—digesters—and that it has the nutrients the producers say it does. Accomplishing this is the reason why ABC launched a brand-new effort: The ABC Digestate Standard Testing and Certification Program.

Program Details

The program is industry-led and creates a voluntary, third-party verification system of “quantifying, characterizing and communicating the physical and chemical qualities of digestate,” according to ABC. “The program provides standardized terminology, quality management systems and test methods administered by program-certified laboratories for characterizing digestate. The characterization allows digestate producers to relay important information regarding composition and appropriate beneficial uses of digestate to regulators and users of digestate. The program en-

ables the biogas industry to effectively communicate the valuable environmental and agronomic benefits of digestate to key stakeholders and to serve as a model for any future local, state or federal regulation of digestate, not otherwise addressed by existing statute or voluntary compliance programs.” Serfass tells Biomass Magazine, “We’ve looked at what’s preventing digestate from being sold more. It’s definitely a perception issue. There’s not enough awareness of what digestate has in it. Customers don’t necessarily need to know what digestate means, but they need to know what nutrients are in it, and that it’s safe. We designed this program to address those issues—to provide customer assurance that the product they’re buying has the ingredients the seller says it has in it and trust it’s safe.” How the program works for biogas producers is simple. The first step is to achieve steady-state digester operation. Next, they sign up for the program and pay a fee based in part on digestate volume in order to access the program


ÂŚCOPRODUCT details and choose a lab. The fees range from four-tenths of a cent to 6 cents per ton. “The bigger a system is, the lower the cost is per ton,â€? Serfass says. The third step is to have the digestate tested, and the chosen lab determines if the product passes or fails. “We test for a few elements just like U.S. EPA does with wastewater products—pathogens, viruses, physical contaminations and heavy metals,â€? Serfass says. “If the product passes the tests, the customer can be assured it’s safe to use. Then we test for a number of agronomic levels—nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK)—and others like organic ammonia, nitrates, micronutrients, pH, the moisture content of the material, stability and a few other things. For someone who wants to know what they’re placing on their field or garden, this is really important. When a producer sells digestate as a certified product, then the customer can be assured and trust what’s on the label—that it’s safe and ready to use.â€? If a producer fails because, for example, heavy metal content is too high, then a protocol is in place to address this. “Based on what test the digestate fails, this will tell us what’s wrong with the biogas system,â€? Serfass says. “Digestate from any well-operating system will pass. They only fail if the digester is not running well or accepted feedstock that

they didn’t know had some bad stuff in it. When it fails, we look at what part failed. Then we go back to the digester, talk with the operator, determine the cause and test again. They are suspended after a failure until a pass result is gained. Then they must test periodically, more frequently until a history of passing is built.� Once a producer passes, the fourth step is following program instructions on logo use and marketing for the product’s applied use, including whether this is “restricted� or “generally unrestricted.� “If you are just land-applying digestate broadly, then you don’t need all the tests in the unrestricted category,� Serfass says. “We wanted digesters that are never going to sell their product and just land-apply it to be able to show regulators or neighbors that the material is safe.� If, however, the digestate will be used to grow crops that people eat, for gardens or other uses in which more intimate contact with customers will be made, then the “generally unrestricted� category is recommended. “We just test for few additional things such as volatile solids, micronutrients, pH, soluble salt,� he says. “But if it’s just being applied to land for crop growth later, this is not as important, so the ‘restricted’ certification will save money.�

Laboratories that wish to be part of the program must first sign up and pay an annual fee of $1,300. Then, a thirdparty verifier validates registration and responds to the applying lab and the administrator if the quality assurance and control procedures are approved. The program administrator then adds the applicant to the list of certified labs. Afterwards, the newly certified lab is directed to follow program instructions. Finally, an inter-lab validation must be completed in the next 12 months. The inter-lab validation is run by a third-party verifier. The validation process entails one liquid sample be sent to all labs with instructions on the tests needed to be performed, or the product’s intended end-use classification. Once testing is complete, the results are sent to the third-party verifier, which confirms the test results and advises a pass or fail to each lab and ABC. Brian Langolf, director of the biogas program at the University of WisconsinOshkosh, is on ABC’s board of directors and digestate standard committee. Langolf was integral in developing the digestate certification program and runs the supervising lab used for third-party verification. “Program development stemmed from what ABC and the digestate standard committee saw as a need for indus-

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COPRODUCT¦ try to help create the market and add value to digestate, which adds value to projects in general,” Langolf tells Biomass Magazine. “The program sets standards for people to follow to operate properly, ensuring the material meets those standards in order to provide assurance in quality and value when digestate is used in fertilizer or as a soil amendment. I definitely think it’s important to the industry, and to the future of biogas projects. It will help in securing funding from project developers as well, if they make sure they’re ABC-certified and meet industry standards. The big thing is getting more word out, advertising the certification program and its benefits, and getting more people signed up.” So far, the program is being received positively, according to Serfass. “The challenge is just starting out,” he says. “We need a lot more producers so we can share their experiences with others. We’re looking forward to developing a body of data to show how consistently valuable and safe digestate is. Over time, even though the data we collect is confidential, we will aggregate it and show what the performance of digestate is, build more trust and show customers how valuable it is.” Program benefits go beyond increasing the awareness, salability and marketability of digestate. It is also a way

for the industry to self-regulate without policymakers jumping in and creating additional regulations with which producers must comply. “It is a standard to which [government officials] can refer without creating additional regulations,” Serfass says. Biogas producers unable to sell their digestate now could sell it for $1 to $20 a ton once the market develops and certification provides added value. For small producers, this may mean $5,000 a year, and for the larger ones, maybe $20 million. If ABC has its way, producers such as Wintle should find value in ABC’s digestate certification program. And while Wintle couldn’t say for sure why consumers are unwilling to pay for digestate despite its benefits, he has some guesses. “Purchased fertilizer from fossil fuels is still cheap enough that it’s not worth the effort,” Wintle surmises. “To make a more salable product, especially in Maine where we are—it’s very remote—we would have to dewater our digestate further in order to haul it more cost-effectively. We have a separator that removes the fiber material, and we use that for bedding for cows, but that’s the only step we do at this point. We’ve looked at technologies to take this further, and we may end up there at some point, but it’s still in its infancy, at least

for dairy-farm applications. For dairy farms, it’s still new and expensive, but we’ll keep our eye on it.” Langolf certainly understands this perspective. “We’re competing against fossil fuel-based products—natural gas-derived fertilizers—so compared to products derived from renewable natural gas or digestate, it is definitely a challenge,” he says. “But there are other ancillary benefits from digestate that petroleum-based fertilizers don’t provide. If you add digestate, you’re adding organic content. Studies show improving the organic makeup of soil improves moisture and provides for a better microbial population so less fertilizer has to be added in the future. It’s about the long-term health of the soil from digestate versus the short-term benefits from fossil fuel products.” Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine 218-745-8347 rkotrba@bbiinternational.com





A Turboden 2.3-MWe Organic Rankine Cycle system at Güres' chicken plant in Turkey utilizes thermal energy from the combustion of chicken litter to generate hot water and electricity. PHOTO: TURBODEN

Chicken Manure to Megawatts Güres Group is turning a liability into an asset via clean energy technology.


üres Group, the largest integrated egg plant in Turkey, has an annual production of about 1 billion eggs. The company was founded by Ahmet Remzi Güres in 1963 with only 600 hens, and today is the country’s largest, fully integrated egg production plant under a single roof, hosting 4 million laying hens in 35 hen houses with varying capacities of up to 155,000. Its combined structure hosts an egg production plant, feed factory, egg tray factory, broody hen, pullet and productions plants, fertilizer productions plants, and a technology factory, totaling 7 million square feet (SF), with a closed area of 2.5 million SF. After several years of R&D activities undertaken by Güres to turn a major environmental issue into clean energy, the company signed an order with Italy-headed

BY ILARIA PERETTI Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbo generator manufacturer Turboden S.p.A., a group company of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for the supply of a unit to be installed at the company’s main production site in Manisa, Turkey. The 2.3 MWe ORC at Güres, which began operations in 2018, converts the heat from the combustion of chicken litter into hot water that is employed in tailor-made dryers specifically designed by Güres to dry the chicken litter prior combustion, and power that is sold to the grid at a feedin tariff (FIT) rate specific for bioenergy. About 300 metric tons of chicken litter per day are sourced entirely from Güres’ egg production.

Liability to Asset

The main components of Turboden’s ORC units are produced locally by the com-

pany’s Turkish subsidiary Turboden Turkey A.Ş. This is beneficial to Güres—a result of using locally fabricated components, Güres qualifies for a higher feed-in tariff for electricity sales, $153 per megawatthour (MWh), rather than $133 per MWh. Gures Group has been in the eggproduction business for longer than 50 years. Extensive knowledge, knowhow and experience have been acquired through the years, not only regarding egg production, but also manure handling. The first and the most important step in developing a project to manage and utilize the manure for clean energy was to define what type of system was the most convenient and feasible. To begin, thorough research, literature review and investigation was done on both commercial and noncommercial systems around the world, including gasification, pyrolysis, biogas, combustion and fermentation sys-

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


CONTRIBUTIONŒ tems. After the advantages and disadvantages of all those systems were compared, combustion was selected. Although gasification and pyrolysis are very efficient methods, the processes do not run stable with poultry manure. Biogas-to-energy is a process that’s very easy to operate, but the manure requires additional mass— such as diary manure or sludge—to increase its low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for efficient biogas production. This also results in the need to handle and dispose of a large volume of mud after the biogas production complete. Combustion of manure is very challenging from a technical perspective. Due to its high amount of ash, alkaline, chlorine, tar and wet content, the combustion system must be designed and developed very carefully, considering all of those aspects. If not properly done, the system can fail within a short period of time due to high-temperature corrosion, thermal efficiency may be very low, emissions may be over regulatory limits, or the system may require frequent maintenance due to ash agglomeration. The system may also end up needing extra fuel such as gasoline to maintain the required temperature inside the boiler. In the past five years, we have performed R&D work to solve the aforementioned issues, building a prototype two and a half years ago to perform functional and performance tests. As a result of testing, it was learned that the manure, especially layer manure, requires pre-drying for optimum combustion efficiency, so Turboden developed a new generation manure dryer that can be run with a low-temperature heat source,

such as 70 degree Celsius (C)hot water. This dryer can dry any manure from 75 percent wet content down to 25 percent wet content in 24 hours by only using this low-temperature heat source. Besides ease of operation, safety and modularity, a significant reason Gßres chose an ORC system is that it is able to run with a heat source less than 350 degrees C, with more than 20 percent electricity conversion efficiency. Its fluidized bed combustion boiler heats the thermal oil up to 300 degrees C, and it is then delivered to the ORC’s evaporator, returning to the boiler at 260 degrees C. Therefore, the metal surface temperature in their heaters can be kept less than 350 degrees C. This is very important to high-temperature corrosion on the metal surfaces, or the system is susceptible to failure in just a few years. Carrying out its activities and production compatible with environment legislation and internationally accepted environment management systems—including production of most of its energy demand via solar—Gßres Group’s most important mission is to leave a livable and clean environment to future generations. The system installed at the egg plant is one of 10 that Turboden has in various stages of development in Turkey, with an overall power capacity of 35.7 MWe. The company has nine installations in Canada (36 MW) and 3 in the U.S. (21 MW).


Author: Ilaria Peretti Sales Area Manager, Turboden Ilaria.peretti@turboden.it www.turboden.it

Project Poultry Power ORC Model: Turboden 22-CHP Client: GĂźres Tav. A.Ĺž. Location: Manisa, Turkey Start-up: Second half 2018 Fuel: Chicken litter (from egg production) Electric power: 2,300 kWe System efficiency: 21% electric, 77% thermal; 98% global efficiency Thermal power: 8,500 kWth supplied as hot water, 70°C, used for drying





Biomass Engineering & Equipment's modular SMART Container systems are designed for producers with different biomass storage requirements for multiple products. PHOTO: BE&E

Alternatives to Traditional Silo Designs BY JOEL DULIN


e understand the advantages of vertical silos: they allow people to store goods vertically with a limited footprint. They provide first-in, first-out turnover of material. They have thus been a go-to storage solution for some 3,800 years. But they’re not without drawbacks and limitations, the recognition of which has led to the development of alternative storage methods for those with different needs. During the past century, these solutions

have become increasingly popular because they eliminate many of the issues associated with vertical silos.

Disadvantages, Limitations of Silos

Among these issues, perhaps the most obvious is cost. Vertical silos require a large investment, the depreciation of which will last decades. Adding to that expense is insurance, an air permit (if needed), a building permit, and tall conveyors or elevators to bring material to the top of the silo.

Besides cost, vertical silos do not allow manufacturers to divide storage. One silo stores one product. While this may be sufficient for a manufacturer that plans on producing only one product, it limits those experimenting with coproducts or who plan on expanding their line of coproducts, as silos cannot be expanded. Manufacturers must therefore estimate future production needs when sizing a silo. If they overestimate their needs, they will oversize the silo and waste money. If they underestimate,

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


CONTRIBUTION¦ they will have to construct more silos. age when they need it in the future. ProThus, if a manufacturer wants to scale back ducers also save money on material hana product, add additional products, or ramp dling systems, as there isn’t the need for tall up production over time, silos are not ideal. conveyors or elevators. With systems that involve moving Adding to the disadvantages of vertical silos is safety. Although rare, deadly floors in buildings, producers have the accidents involving silos still occur. These option of converting an existing building accidents typically involve a worker who is into storage space. In doing this, manufactrying to break up a bridge or rat hole. Flow turers not only forego the cost of a new issues can be avoided by installing cannons building structure but costs associated with or other devices to break up the material, maintaining a wheel loader (and the damthough for certain goods, the material’s age incurred during its operation) used for tendency to knit makes a silo an ineffective loadout, as the moving floors automate this process. storage solution. With container systems, producers Other potential issues with silos inhave the benefit of an increased depreciaclude repair—when the reclaim system %LRPDVV 0DJD]LQH SDJH LVODQG & fails, it is all but impossible to repair it while tion rate, as containers are machines, not the silo is full—the inability to mix materi- fixed assets. If the containers are moveable als upon output, and a lack of redundancy. or built on a trailer, depreciation rates may further increase. Other advantages match one-to-one Horizontal Storage Systems Two alternative systems that address with the limitations of vertical silos: storthese issues are containers and horizontal silos, also called bunkers or low-level silos. Because these terms mean different things across industries and regions, this article will refer to both containers and horizontal silos as horizontal silos and will refer, specifically, to those equipped with moving floors. Horizontal silos are popular alternative to vertical silos because they offer cost savings and greater flexibility. They’re best for small to medium storage requirements, though large capacities are certainly possible with such systems. The downside is that they require more ground space. Many of the disadvantages and limitations of vertical silos are addressed in horizontal systems. Financially, producers have more options to limit their expenses. Many horizontal systems are modular— containers can be stacked and stored side by side, and buildings can be equipped with moving floors one section at a time and expanded. For producers, this means they can invest in the storage they need for their current requirements, and only add additional stor-

age can be divided, horizontal systems allow for redundancy, they don’t bridge, and they allow for mixing material upon output. Personnel can perform maintenance on key systems while the horizontal silo is full, and they can repair hydraulics, for example, even while the unit is active so no downtime occurs (assuming the hydraulics are set up to run independently). If you need to store a large volume of goods and limit your footprint, a vertical silo may still be your best choice. But the benefits of a horizontal system are well worth considering for your next storage project.


Author: Joel Dulin Marketing Manager, BE&E joel@veneerservices.com 317-346-0711




Aries Clean Energy utilizes a unique downdraft gasification system to process waste wood and wastewater sludge for production of electricity, as well as valuable biochar. PHOTO: ARIES CLEAN ENERGY



arkets for biochar, most commonly produced as a gasification or pyrolysis byproduct, are expanding. When you ask someone if they have heard about biochar, more often than not, you will get a quizzical stare. Fortunately, though, this is beginning to change, as the variety and scale of potential markets for biochar continues to expand.

Biochar is one of the products produced from thermochemical conversion (TC), the baking of organic material using little or no oxygen. TC can, depending on the particular technology used, also generate heat, electricity, bio-oil and wood vinegar. It is increasingly viewed as a cost-effective option for diverting and reducing organic materials currently sent to landfills, which is beginning to take on in-

creased urgency as landfills fill up and organics mandates are adopted by more and more states. Depending on the temperatures used, volume reduction of 75 to 95 percent can be achieved. Imagine reducing a gallon of biomass to a quart (75 percent reduction) or a cup (93.8 percent reduction). Unlike incinerated material, however, the leftover solids do not have to be shipped off as toxic waste. On

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


CONTRIBUTION¦ the contrary, the highly stable carbon material can be used to improve soils, purify water, reduce flooding, remediate brownfields, harvest excess nutrients, lighten up concrete as well as a host of other applications. The type of biomass being carbonized has a significant impact on the properties of the resulting biochar, as does the temperature, hold time, and technology used to convert the biomass. As an example, research has shown that woody biomass tends to have high carbon, but low nutrient content. Manures and sewage sludge, on the other hand, have lower carbon but higher nutrients. Other variable properties that impact end use and performance include surface area, bulk density, pH, electrical conductivity, nutrients and heavy metals. Increasingly, biochar producers are learning how to produce “fit for purpose” biochars by varying the organic material, processing parameters, and optimizing pre or post processing to adjust the chemical, biological, physical and electrical properties. A commonly posed question is “What is the difference between charcoal and biochar?” Many use the words interchangeably. Generally speaking, charcoal is used for energy production, whereas biochar is a term used to refer to high-carbon, charred materials that

are not subsequently burned but are added to soils or other longlived products with a goal of preventing the carbon from returning to the atmosphere. Recently, biochar was highlighted Draper as one of only six negative emissions technologies recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as providing significant opportunity for mitigating climate change. Charcoal is most often made from wood or woody byproducts, while biochar can be made from a much broader range of organic materials including crop residues, food waste, digestate, manures, seaweed, invasive species, and, of course, wood. Another difference is the processing temperature. Yields for charcoal are generally higher than biochar due to lower temperatures. This maximizes heating value but produces carbon with lower surface area and more volatiles. The most common TC technologies used to produce biochar are pyrolysis (no oxygen) or gasification (limited oxygen). However, a much broader array of technologies, some



ancient, some cutting-edge, can be used. Perhaps the oldest technique is a kiln that has been used for millennia to produce charcoal as well as bricks, pottery and more. Hydrothermal carbonization, which works well with high-moisture feedstock is one of the newer carbonization technologies. One of the better-known combinedheat-and biochar projects is known as the Stockholm Biochar Project. An initial pilot plant used a pyrolysis technology from Germany (Pyreg GmbH) to convert green waste from the city into heat that was utilized in the district heating system, and biochar that was used for urban tree planting and stormwater management. Based on the success of the pilot, the system is being replicated in other cities in Sweden, Europe and beyond. Electricity production via gasification with a biochar byproduct can be found at a growing number of installations. Since 2016, Aries Clean Energy has been running a plant in Tennessee that provides electricity to a nearby wastewater treatment facility. This power is generated using wood waste that was previously sent to landfills. The plant can annually produce 1,000 tons of consistent, high-carbon biochar that meets the International Biochar Initiative standards for use in soils.

The Total U.S. Wood-Burning Appliance Market (including fireplaces, freestanding stoves, and inserts)

13% Market Share Pellet Appliances*

87% Market Share Briquette-Friendly Appliances*


Versati wood and biomass briquettes are quickly becoming Versatile ag go go-to o-to biofuel for consumers all over the U.S. They are clean, clea eaan, af affordable, and can be used in any wood-burning device from from fr om fireplaces fireplace and stoves to fire pits. Briquettes will open doors to new fi markets and growth oppo opportunities for your business, and because they can be made from materials you already process (and then some), it’s simple to get started. Plus, with substantial savings on energy, maintenance, and labor, briquettes are cheaper to make per ton than pellets! What are you waiting for? For more information call 440-365-0400 or visit www.ruf-briquetter.com and catch the market share you’ve been missing! *Source: Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association – based on appliance shipments from 1998-2011.


ÂŚCONTRIBUTION Syncraft, an Austrian company making gasification equipment, has units that provide enough electricity for a small village, and the ability to vary biochar output according to market conditions. The biochar produced in their European locations is of sufficiently high quality that it is sold as an animal feed additive (something which is not currently legal in the U.S., though many in the industry are working to change this). Oregon Biochar Solutions and Pacific Biochar both promote products which result from biomass to energy production. One of the original markets for biochar was agriculture. This still remains a large mar-

ket, though the economics can be challenging in certain farming scenarios. The impact biochar has on soils and different crops is inconsistent, as it tends to have a greater yieldboosting impact on poorer soils and in regions where it is difficult to build a deep organic soil layer. Promising ag markets for biochar must necessarily focus where the economic impact is higher than the cost of biochar. In droughtchallenged areas where farmers pay for water, biochar can help improve water management. In certain types of perennial agriculture, biochar use can get trees into fruit or nut production earlier. As certain types of biochar can

reduce plant uptake of metals, biochar use could mean the difference between being able to market your products or not when farmers find they have toxic soils. Much of the more recent focus for biochar has been nonagricultural markets where activated carbon (AC) has traditionally been used such as filtration, remediation, animal feed and more. Biochar can often compete effectively with AC from a cost perspective. It is now being looked at as a replacement for carbon black which is used as a filler and dye in various types of plastics and in tires. Currently, perhaps one of the biggest markets by volume in the U.S. is composting. While some may perceive biochar to be competitive with composting, the two are actually synergistic. Adding 10 to 20 percent biochar in the early stages of composting can reduce processing time, increase heating temperatures which kills of more pathogens or weed seeds, retain more nutrients and boost long-term carbon content, all of which translates into highvalue compost. Another high-volume, though low-value market that is beginning to emerge is in livestock farming. Biochar can be used as bedding or as part of a manure management system to reduce odors, retain nutrients and improve the carbon content in the manure. Stormwater management is likely to be a large market for biochar as cities and residents look for ways to increase infiltration of water while reducing toxins. Research at the University of Delaware concluded that biochar could effectively compete with many of the current best management practices in stormwater management. These and other evolving markets take time to develop at a local and regional level. One challenge for those making biochar as a byproduct of biomass energy production is that these are new products and new markets that are not well understood. To alleviate this challenge, some biochar technology vendors are offering to buy all biochar produced, as they are interested in waste mitigation as well as biochar marketing. Author: Kathleen Draper U.S. Director, Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence Kdraper2@rochester.rr.com www.biochar-journal.org


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