Research aims to help dairy farmers generate sustainable energy

By University of Nevada, Reno


A new, collaborative grant at the University of Nevada, Reno will further research into biomass conversion by developing a cost-effective process for large-scale dairy farmers to generate energy from manure.
The University’s new grant, “Sun Grant: Power/Waste Biomass,” totals more than $600,000 over two years, with the bulk of the funds coming from the USDA.

The grant is from the Western Sun Grant Consortium, one of five regional consortia funded by various federal agencies for the purpose of developing a bio-based economy. Together, the consortia form a nationwide network of land-grant universities and laboratories working in agriculture and renewable energy. The organization aims to support farmers by funding research that supports rural economic development through the production of bio-based renewable energy.
“On campus, we are working with researchers in CABNR, Cooperative Extension specialists, and researchers in the College of Engineering,” said Charles Coronella, principal investigator of the project. “This type of collaboration is possible only at a land grant university.”

The research underway at the University of Nevada, Reno could help dairy farmers with two of their biggest economic challenges: cost of manure disposal and cost of electricity. Coronella, associate professor of chemical engineering, estimates a typical dairy farm could generate twice the electricity it consumes in a year by converting manure to power.
The project is a collaboration between the University of Nevada, Reno, the Desert Research Institute, a California-based company specializing in biomass-fueled generators, and an entrepreneur with experience commercializing new technology for agriculture.

The research builds on existing work Coronella and his collaborators have done in hydrothermal carbonization of biomass, in which heat is used to convert biomass into carbonaceous char. Most of Coronella’s previous work has been on lignocellulosic biomass, but his lab has applied the process to manure and found that the resulting bio-carbon pellets have the characteristics of a good fuel, similar to lignite.

The research team will be adapting existing technologies used in hydrothermal carbonization and gasification of biomass pellets with an eye toward developing commercial reactors and generators that meet the needs of Nevada dairy farmers.
The researchers will work with the University’s Cooperative Extension unit as well as Reza Shekarriz, an entrepreneur with experience in technology development and commercialization, to reach out to Nevada’s dairy farmers and develop a business model for the technology.

Additionally, researchers plan to evaluate how by-products from the carbonization process, which are rich in sugars and organic acids, can be converted into valuable chemicals such as fertilizers.

Coronella believes the research has the potential to significantly reduce a farm’s greenhouse gas emission.
“I’m excited to help the dairy industry grow toward sustainability, by helping to convert an environmental liability into renewable, distributed power,” Coronella said.

The research team includes Coronella and co-principal investigators Hongfei Lin, assistant professor of chemical engineering; Victor Vasquez, associate professor of chemical engineering; and Sage Hiibel, research assistant professor in environmental engineering.

The research team also includes one full-time graduate student researcher, two part-time undergraduate students and one post-doctoral scholar as part of the team’s goal to contribute to an educated renewable energy workforce in Nevada.

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Benefits of Pellets


There are numerous benefits achieved by utilizing pellet fuel, including economical and environmental.  Pellet fuel is utilized in a varied settings and applications, such as home heating appliances and large scale boilers in commercial operations.

There are an estimated 1,000,000 residences/businesses in the U.S. currently heating with pellets.

A typical homeowner uses 3 tons of pellets per heating season at a cost of about $825. At an average retail price of $250/ton, pellets offer a fuel cost per million BTU of $19.05.  To offer a fuel cost of $19.05 per million BTU, # 2 fuel oil and propane would have to be priced at $2.05/gal and $1.36/gal, respectively!  (Fuel Value Calculator, USFS, 2008)

One ton of wood pellets has the energy equivalency of 2.8 barrels of #2 fuel oil. (Energy Information Administration)

Direct thermal conversion of 3 million tons of wood pellets displaces the equivalent of almost 8.5 million barrels of #2 fuel oil. That is 356 million gallons!  (Energy Information Administration)

Direct thermal conversion of pellets has an efficiency level of approximately 80%.

Pellet stoves have extremely low particulate emissions due to their high burn efficiency and the density of the fuel (<1 gm/hr). (Environmental Protection Agency)

Every ton of pellets used vs. oil reduces CO2 emissions by about 1.5 tons.  Total emissions offset this year will be nearly 4.5 million tons of CO2.

Pellet distribution costs less than the cost of distributing wood chips.

Wood pellets have a fossil energy ratio (net energy output/fossil energy used) of 12:1.   (Net Energy Value Study, University of Wisconsin Green Bay)

As of 2009, pellet manufacturing directly employs approximately 2,300 people in the U.S. and supports thousands of industry-related jobs in fields such as transportation and logging.  (North America’s Wood Pellet Sector, Spelter & Toth, 2009)

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EIA predicts higher natural gas, electricity prices this winter


From Biomass Magazine
By Anna Simet

The U.S. EIA has released its short-term energy and winter fuels outlook, which predicts that, albeit paying higher prices for natural gas (6 percent) and electricity (4 percent in the Midwest, 2 percent in the Northeast), homeowners will enjoy overall lower heating expenditures this winter.
Lower prices will be paid for propane and heating oil, and users can expect to see bills 27 percent and 15 percent lower, respectively.

Though prices for natural gas and electricity are expected to be higher, homeowners can expect to see lower overall heating bills in accordance with milder weather predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as much as 27 percent less for propane users and 2 percent less for electricity users.

The report indicates that while there are no readily available sources for estimating wood consumption or prices at the regional or national level, as of 2013, 2.5 million U.S. households use wood as a primary heating fuel, a 38 percent increase since 2004. About 8 percent of households use wood as a secondary source of heat, making wood second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel. New England’s wood home heating percentage is nearly twice the national rate at 20 percent, or 1.1 million homes, according to the report, mainly rural households.

EIA projects that total renewables used for electricity and heat generation will grow by 2.2 percent in 2014. Conventional hydropower generation is projected to fall by 4.2 percent, while nonhydropower renewables rise by 5.6 percent, surpassing hydropower on an annual basis for the first time.
U.S. wood heat consumption is expected to top out at a 2.16 quadrillion Btu in 2014, and a slightly lower 2.14 quadrillion Btu in 2015.

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EPA: 3.5 million cellulosic biogas RINs generated in August

By Erin Voegle


From Biomass Magazine

The U.S. EPA has published renewable identification number (RIN) data for August, reporting that nearly 3.5 million cellulosic RINs were generated during the month. More than 1.44 billion RINs were produced across all five biofuel categories.

According to EPA data, more than 3.49 million D3 cellulosic biofuel RINs were generated in August, bringing the total for the first eight months of the year to nearly 3.57 million. Approximately 32,742 were generated for ethanol, with 44,168 generated for cellulosic renewable gasoline. More than 1.64 million were generated for renewable compressed natural gas, along with 1.85 million for renewable liquefied natural gas. So far this year, all 3.57 million D3 RINs have been generated by domestic producers.

EPA data indicates 5,532 D7 cellulosic diesel RINs were generated in August, bringing the year-to-date total to 17,315. About half, 8,859, of those RINs were generated for cellulosic diesel, with 9,343 generated for cellulosic heating oil. So far in 2014, 8,859 D7 RINs have been generated by domestic producers, with 9,343 generated by importers.

More than 4.57 million D5 advanced biofuel RINs were generated in August, bringing the total for the first eight months of the year to 115.16 million. Nearly 74.89 million were generated for ethanol, with 20.35 million generated for biogas, 10.09 million generated for naptha, and 9.9 million generated for non-ester renewable diesel. Approximately 57.52 million D5 RINS were generated by domestic producers so far this year, with 57.72 million generated by importers.

Nearly 1.22 billion D6 renewable fuel RINs were generated in August, bringing the year-to-date total to nearly 9.52 billion. Most, 9.29 billion, have been generated for ethanol, with 34.12 million generated for biodiesel and 197.07 million generated for renewable diesel. More than 9.29 billion D6 RINs were generated by domestic producers, with 32.2 million generated by importers and 197.07 million generated by foreign entities.
Approximately 215.69 million D4 biomass-based diesel RINs were generated in August, bringing the total for the first eight months of the year to nearly 1.71 billion. Most, 1.28 million, were generated for biodiesel, with 423.29 million generated for non-ester renewable diesel. To date this year, 1.35 million D4 RINs were generated by domestic producers, with 96.64 generated by importers and 255.76 million generated by foreign entities.
As of the close of August, the EPA estimates nearly 11.35 billion RINs have been generated so far this year. Approximately 266.38 million have been retired, with 390.37 million locked and available and 10.69 billion unlocked and available.

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Pellet Heat for the Pink Building


From Biomass Magazine via Pellet Mill Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill

An Alaskan boiler retrofit illustrates the potential for biomass heating in other federal buildings.

The pink, six-story Ketchikan Federal Building is a landmark in the southeastern Alaskan community of Ketchikan, population 8,000. When it came time to replace the original 1938-vintage steam radiators—the kind that clank and bang all winter long—the building not only got a more efficient hydronic heating system, but a state-of-the-art pellet boiler to match. 

As the first pellet boiler among 1,500 federal buildings managed by the General Services Administration, the Pink Building (as it is known locally) has become a case study. The GSA’s Green Proving Ground Program asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to study the potential for biomass heating in other federal buildings. The study shows positive results for pellet heating systems and identified 150 buildings as possible candidates for biomass heating across the nation. That was in spite of the fact that NREL found the payback for Ketchikan boiler system was going to be much longer than ideal, at an estimated 30 years, due to the high cost of removing and replacing the original steam-heat radiators and installing a back-up oil boiler. Of the total $4.7 million project cost, NREL researchers estimated $450,000 was directly associated with the biomass heating system. Another factor increasing this system’s payback was the installation of an oversized pellet boiler and the relative high cost of pellets due to the remote location.

“This was a new technology for us, we’re learning,” explains Jim Langlois, Alaska-based property manager.  “This is what it was all about.” Planned before he became property manager, he explains the America Recovery and Investment Act helped move the project forward. The retrofit was completed in January 2012 and, after a year’s operating experience, NREL conducted efficiency testing at the site and evaluated the lessons learned.  

NREL’s efficiency tests were done during an unusually warm period in the winter of 2013, when daytime highs were in the mid-50s. Even though the boiler was running at just 45 percent of full load, NREL calculated an 85.6 percent efficiency factor, verifying the manufacturer’s claims.

NREL’s overall assessment was quite positive: “The biomass system works well, needs very little maintenance or attention of any kind, and performs well within the efficiencies put forth by the vendor. These biomass hot water heating systems are efficient, cleaning burning and provide a reliable source of renewable energy.” 

The biggest issue identified in the Ketchikan installation is that at 1 MMBtu per hour output, the pellet boiler is oversized with a system capacity factor of about 13 percent, according to the report.  “Since there was a large amount of capital expended for a system that is often idle or at low load, the payback is high at approximately 30 years. Additionally, the payback is calculated using the most current price for pellets in the area, which is approximately $250 per ton.”  The report goes on to say that in other installations, the backup oil-heating system, as required in federal buildings, could help meet peak heating demand. “A typical rule of thumb is to design the system output for 60 percent of the peak load,” the report says, while adding that a higher percentage may be warranted in areas with a flatter heating load profile. 

Points for Evaluation

While detailing the Ketchikan installation, the NREL researchers discuss the technology and multiple points applicable to other potential installations. “This type of technology has been commercially available for many years,” the report says, describing pellet boilers as a mature technology. “However, small biomass systems that require little operator attendance are relatively new.”  Other points made in favor of pellet heating include: 

• The availability of multiple vendor sources should aid competitive pricing. 

• Biomass fuel pricing has remained stable compared to fossil fuel. 

• Recent improvements in biomass systems and the implementation of pellet fuels has made the required maintenance and operational attendance minimal.
The report also makes a number of observations and recommendations:

• Biomass heating systems be considered for buildings with hydronic heating, as the conversion from steam heat to hydronic is not likely to offer a reasonable payback. Generating steam with biomass on a small scale is feasible, although hot water systems are more common and less expensive. 

• Deployment economics will vary from building to building depending primarily on the size of the biomass system, the hours of operation throughout the year and fuel costs. Candidate buildings will have a substantial heating load and an extended heating season.

• Energy savings due to the difference in efficiencies between the old and new technologies can be an advantage.

• A major consideration will be the proximity to fuel sources. Several suppliers that are relatively close would be preferable, since relying upon a single supplier could introduce supply risk. Also, transportation comprises a large percentage of fuel cost. A current rule of thumb is that transportation cost is about 15 cents per ton-mile and, if the project is remote, bad roads and high fuel prices could double the transportation cost.

• Candidate buildings will be located where natural gas is expensive or not available.

Unique Location
 Ketchikan is also a case study in how each location will be unique.

The community is located on the coast of a large island in Southeast Alaska, 679 miles north of Seattle and 235 miles south of Juneau.  Average low temperatures during January and February are just under freezing and record lows hover around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. While Ketchikan may not meet the criteria for extreme cold, it does meet the criteria for lacking inexpensive natural gas for heat. “Everything here is brought in by barge or airplane,” Langlois explains. The federal building typically required 9,000 gallons of fuel oil each winter. In contrast, the new, efficient pellet boiler required just 83 tons of pellets for the first fiscal year. That was not for an entire heating season, though, but rather from startup in January 2012 through Sept. 30. 
Initially, bulk pellets were brought up from the lower 48 which added substantial transportations cost, but Langlois reports the Ketchikan Federal Building now has a contract with a local pellet producer.

Tongass Forest Enterprises is a new pellet producer, starting quite small to meet the initial limited local demand—the federal building, the city library and a handful of others. The company specializes in producing custom building products, such as flooring, trim, paneling and decking, and it manufactures outbuildings like saunas and small green houses. It works in four woods that come from the Tongass National Forest,  including Sitka spruce, western hemlock, yellow and red cedar. 

“We build up enough sawdust and make pellets,” says Larry Jackson, owner. The pellet operation runs one 1-ton-per-hour unit that, if it ran 200 production days a year, would produce roughly 2,000 tons annually. “It’s not profitable,” Jackson says, but it has helped turned a liability into a positive, taking a waste stream and making a new product. “Right now, we’re running 10 percent capacity because we don’t have the demand. We’re trying to grow with demand in the region.”  All of the business is bulk, delivered in a used feed truck the company located in Iowa. 

Fostering the growth of a pellet industry was one of the initial goals of the project, Langlois adds. “Southeast Alaska is trying to develop a pellet mill industry. There’s a push here and people are being proactive in trying to get this going. If we can establish fuel suppliers locally, it generates jobs.”

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UK’s renewable energy lobby sets requirements for political parties ahead of election

From Biofuels Digest
By Isabel Lane

In the UK, leading renewable energy trade bodies have come together to launch a series of “tests” for the political parties to encourage them to support renewable energy ahead of the next election.

The six key tests laid out by the grouping are:
1. Support the Climate Change Act to keep us on course to meet our carbon commitments and back global efforts to tackle climate change.
2. Set a new renewables target for 2030 of 30% of UK energy
3. Back the Independent Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to set a binding target for low carbon electricity by 2030.
4. Fund the Renewable Heat Incentive for new applications after 2016.
5. Boost the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to reach the 10% renewable energy target for transport by 2020.
6. Reform the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure the market takes account of all sectors’ polluting cost of carbon emissions.

The group, which includes ADBA (Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association), BHA (the British Hydropower Association), the British Photovoltaic Association, the Renewable Energy Association, RenewableUK, Scottish Renewables and the Solar Trade Association, has launched a campaign encouraging members of the public to write to the different party leaders to encourage them to take forward the principles into the General Election.

Earlier this year, the Renewable Energy Association expressed their disappointment in the Department of Transportation, as the group has failed to outline how it will meet its binding 10% 2020 renewable transport target. The current RTFO obligation level is set at 4.75% by volume, or approximately 3.5% by energy, so a nearly three-fold increase in biofuel supply is needed by 2020.

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Grants for Biomass Energy Offered in Nebraska

By John Davis


The home state for Arbor Day, the national holiday honoring trees, is handing out some money to help develop woody biomass into energy. The Nebraska Forest Service is offering two cost-share assistance grants that could cut utility costs for private, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Part of the new TREES Heat Nebraska program, these grants are designed to help establish woody biomass utilization markets, specifically for heating and cooling and for generating electricity…
Organizations that could benefit include municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, livestock and agricultural facilities and horticulture greenhouses.

“The grants will help cover the upfront costs of installing wood-fueled energy systems,” said Adam Smith, NFS forest products utilization team leader. “Historically there has been a lack of capital assistance for the development and installation of these energy systems, often derailing potential projects. Utilizing these grants will allow organizations to more quickly benefit from fuel savings—potentially realizing a 50 percent energy savings per month,” Smith said.
Two different types of grant funding are available:

1) cost-share assistance to public, private, for-profit and not-for-profit agencies or organizations located in Nebraska to purchase and install woody energy systems, including the construction of new systems and the renovation or expansion of existing energy systems;
2) cost-share assistance for contractual services for technical engineering feasibility studies that investigate the potential for wood energy use. NFS encourages facilities to engage with NFS early in the project planning process.

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NY Commits $27 Million to Build Wood Heat Industry

From the Washington Times
By Mary Esch

    TROY, N.Y. (AP) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched a $27 million initiative to build the market for high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating systems in the state.

The program, launched Tuesday at Troy-based Evoworld, a maker of high-efficiency wood-pellet boilers, is aimed at developing more clean technology manufacturing in the state along with a skilled heating system installer base and sustainably harvested wood fuels from state forests.

The money is coming from New York’s share of proceeds from the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

John Rhodes, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the program will lower costs for efficient, low-emissions wood heating systems for residential and commercial installation.

“In rural New York, many homeowners spend up to 30 percent of their income just heating their homes,” said Matt McArdle, chairman of the New York Bioenergy Alliance. He said the technology exists today to provide a renewable, lower-cost alternative to fossil fuels.

The Renewable Heat NY program will offer incentives to retire and recycle highly polluting outdoor and indoor wood boilers and stoves and replace them with efficient, low-emissions wood heating systems.

A new residential pellet heating system costs about $2,000 to $6,500. NYSERDA is offering a $1,000 incentive for homeowners who buy a new, high-efficiency, lower emissions pellet stove and recycle an existing, highly polluting wood stove. Financing is available for the remaining cost. A small commercial pellet boiler costs about $22,000, and NYSERDA will provide an incentive equal to 25 percent of the installed cost. Large commercial installations can receive an incentive of 25 percent of the installed cost, up to $150,000.

“NYSERDA will jump-start the initiative with large anchor projects, which will help increase demand for wood pellets and decrease the costs for smaller residential and commercial customers as the market grows,” Rhodes said.

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Pressing for Success


From Biomass Magazine
By Tim Portz

Focused on innovation, reliability and efficiency, pellet press manufacturers are keeping pace with demands of rapidly expanding pellet markets.

Machine design and manufacturing history books are littered with stories of machines that were initially designed for a particular task in a particular industry, but were modified to perform a similar task in an altogether different industry. The story of wood pelleting presses is one of them. The idea of compressing materials into a pellet originated in the feed industry as a way to conglomerate a variety of feed ingredients. Livestock farmers were discovering that their animals were picking out and eating only certain ingredients from feed bunkers and leaving behind other ingredients, including important nutrients. Pelletizing presses emerged as a means of solving this problem, as these varied components were pelletized forcing livestock to consume every component of the ration.

“In the late ‘80s, those presses underwent some modification so that they could handle the stress of pelletizing wood. Pellets made from feed products pelletize much easier than wood,” says Mike Curci, capital sales manager of biomass for Andritz. Scott Anderson, general sales manager for CPM, echoes that sentiment. “Pelleting wood is not a single thing. It is one of the most difficult things that you can attempt to pelletize,” he says. “The customers have very tight quality specifications. It is a real challenge taking a natural product with the variations that you are going to get in nature and spitting out a consistent, tightly controlled final product.”

The fundamentals of making a wood pellet are common throughout the industry. Essentially, making a pellet is an exercise in extrusion. Woody material is driven through a die under extreme pressure and cut to length. Material is forced completely through the die by new material entering the other end of the die.

It is here that the commonalities end and the differences between pellet presses begin to become evident. While subtle variations abound from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally pellet presses can be distinguished from one another in two ways. The first is the means by which power from the motors is delivered to the pellet press. The second is the shape of the die itself.

Gear Driven vs Belt Driven

All pellet presses rely on horsepower generated by large electric motors. The manner in which this power is delivered to the press itself is where the differences can be found. The power from these motors is transferred either by gears or a belt. Both gear-and belt-driven pellet presses can be found throughout the industry, and the manufacturers of each stand ready to articulate the value of their approach.

“We are a gear-driven pellet mill,” says Anderson. “Some customers, many users, have a feeling that a gear drive is a less desirable design than a belt drive design. That’s a situation that we frequently have to overcome. We talk about the robustness, the lower overall maintenance cost of a single reduction gear drive, versus the cost of replacing belts, even if it’s just the preventative maintenance aspect and the energy efficiency of a gear drive versus a belt drive, which can be substantial.”

 Manufacturers of belt-driven pellet presses are quick to remind their prospects and customers of the risk of  using gear-driven presses: the shock that results when wet material or tramp metals show up in the pelleting chamber and that sudden energy is transferred directly back to a gear box. “The v-belt drive protects the pellet mill from severe shock loads and pelleting surges, thus reducing potential damage to the motor and machine,” says Curci about Andritz’s belt-driven approach.

Gear-driven manufacturers note that belts cannot completely transfer the energy from the motor without some loss, while belt-driven manufacturers assert that the power loss with belts is modest. Jase Locke, the biofuels application manager at Ponca City, Okla.-based Bliss Industries says of Bliss’s belt-driven presses, “We feel that with our machine the way it is set up and driven, our belt is 95 percent efficient transferring that horsepower from the motor down to the front end.”

Ring Die vs Flat Die

A difference that is easier to visually discern is the shape and position of the pellet die itself. The names of the dies aptly describe their differences in shape, but there are also differences between the two approaches that are not immediately evident. In ring die pellet presses, the die itself moves around a series of rollers, whereas in flat die pellet presses, the die is stationary and the rollers move around a vertically oriented shaft and deliver power downward onto the die.

Patrick Clark, Amandus Kahl vice president of sales and marketing, points to the advantages of this die orientation, saying, “feedstock that is light and fluffy and has difficulty flowing can create problems for pellet producers. With a flat die press the material comes straight into the pelleting chamber via gravity. We also have an excellent transfer of energy for hard materials; the woods, and the hulls off of cereal grains.”

Normal Wear and Tear

For pellet producers, the name of the pellet-press game, regardless of style, is to keep them up, on line and making pellets. Any downtime a producer experiences, whether planned or unplanned, means lost revenue. Pellet press original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) know and keep this top of mind as they design and build their machines. “I think the biggest key to a pellet producer’s success is efficiency and reliability,” says Curci. “We all know that margins are very slim and if we can help protect those margins for the producer, that is key.”

Pellet press OEMs deploy a number of design strategies to extend the lifetime of the wearable parts while also trying to synch up component life cycles so that items are ready to be serviced or replaced at or around the same time.

Amandus Kahl extended the life of bearings by slowing down the main shaft. “Our main shaft speed is approximately four times slower than others, so we’ve got increased bearing life,” says Clark.

For Bliss Industries, distributing roller wear evenly in its three-roller presses synchronizes roller wear for the 33 plants that operate their presses. “If you look at a two-roll press, the leading roll gets about 70 percent of the material, and the back roll gets 30 percent,” says Locke, “so that leading roll wears out faster than the back roll. With the Bliss three-roll press and the way we feed it, each roll gets about 33 percent of the material. In pellet facilities, down time means lost money, so we want everything to wear out those rolls evenly.”

In an increasingly competitive environment, press OEMs are acutely aware of the ongoing costs of operating their and their competitor’s presses. “If our capital expense is higher,” says Anderson, “we’ve got to demonstrate our value through a lower overall operating expense.”

Robust Demand Across Entire Industry

Articulating their competitive advantages is top of mind for OEMs as the pellet market continues to experience a robust period of growth. For CPM, the robust activity in planning and building of export-scale facilities drove a decision late last summer to put together a sales and marketing team with an exclusive focus on this market. “That demand is certainly one of the things that showed us that we need to carve out a group dedicated solely to the wood pellet industry,” says Anderson. “That was a decision that was made due to two main factors. One is the predominance of European companies that are either partially or wholly owners of new industrial wood pellet plants that are being built in the Americas, as well as that group’s broader experience with modern pellet plants.”

Curci, too, sees increased activity with producers and developers eyeing the growing export market. “What we’re seeing is a trend where we’re moving away from the infancy of the industry and we are starting to mature,” he says. “With that maturity we’re seeing a lot of activity with large-scale producers.”

While all OEMs are aggressively calling on and targeting the up-and-coming fleet of export-scale facilities, no one is overlooking the continued opportunities amongst existing, operating pellet mills that service the residential market, particularly after last winter’s heating season. “Some of these smaller facilities, especially with last year’s heating season being as strong as it was, now have the opportunity and the ability, both financially and marketwise, to add a little extra capacity,” Curci says.
Clark agrees. “That 50,000 to 100,000 ton a year market is still there with last winter’s extreme cold and extreme fuel prices, the wood pellet market is still there to offset that,” he adds.

Locke notes that existing Bliss customers are thinking similarly. “We’ve seen our existing customers adding capacity going into this year’s heating season and we’re very hopeful that they do so.”

Still, the market inertia delivered by the rapidly growing demand for wood pellets overseas is moving press OEMs to react, with both organizational changes and design changes. Dieffenbacher has introduced a pellet press that is capable of producing up to 20 tons of pellets per hour from a single unit. CPM continues to support four manufacturing centers globally and has just opened a parts and service facility in Jackson, Miss., to support customers in the Southeast U.S. Bliss Industries, while admittedly a much smaller organization, is feeling the market pull created by this export market after having won the business for pellet presses at the recently built and commissioned, Go Green International pellet facility, a 200,000-ton facility near Paige, Texas.

Growing industries generate profits and drive reinvestment within their supplier base. As the pellet industry grows, innovation will undoubtedly continue to emerge from the industry’s enviable stable of pellet press OEMs.

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USDA, DOE and EPA release Biogas Opportunities Roadmap

From Biomass Magazine
By Erin Voegle


The USDA has published its Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, a document that builds on progress made to date to identify voluntary actions that can be taken to reduce methane emissions through the use of biogas systems. It outlines strategies to overcome barriers limiting further expansion and development of a robust biogas industry in the U.S. The USDA also noted that the roadmap supports the U.S. dairy industry’s 2008 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by 2020.  The Biogas Opportunities Roadmap is related to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was released in June 2013, and the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, which was released by the White House in March.

As part of the March 28 release of the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the White House indicated the USDA, U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Energy would release a biogas roadmap this summer, an action that has now been completed with the Aug. 1 publication of the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap. In March, the White House’s strategy also noted the EPA would take action to reduce methane emissions from new landfills. Proposed rulemaking to do that was released on June 30.  
The roadmap estimates there are currently approximately 2,000 sites in the U.S. producing biogas. With proper support, more than 11,000 additional biogas systems could be deployed in the U.S. “If fully realized, these biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more than 3 million American homes and reduce methane emissions equivalent to 4 to 54 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the annual emissions of between 800,000 and 11 million passenger vehicles,” said the authors in the report.

Within the roadmap, the USDA, EPA and DOE outline four specific actions the federal government will take to increase the use of biogas. First, the USDA, EPA and DOE will promote biogas utilization through their existing agency programs by ensuring that existing criteria for technical and financial assistance considers the benefits of biogas systems. This includes leveraging more than $10 million in research funding to enhance the economic viability and benefits of biogas systems and coproducts and strengthening programs that support the use of biogas for clean energy, transportation fuel, renewable chemicals and biobased products.

Second, the initiative will foster investment in biogas systems. To help overcome the financial barriers to widespread investment in biogas systems, the USDA will lead efforts to improve the collection and analysis of industry financial and technical data needed to track the performance of anaerobic digesters, evaluate current loan and grant programs for opportunities to broaden the financing options available for biogas systems and review federal procurement guidelines to ensure products of biogas systems are eligible for and promoted by applicable government procurement programs.

Third, the USDA, DOE and EPA will aim to strengthen markets for biogas systems and products. This includes the review of opportunities to overcome barriers to integrating biogas into electricity and renewable natural gas markets, including the modernization of existing federal incentives provided for renewable energy generation.  In addition, USDA, EPA and DOE will drive the creation of tools to help industry broaden the market development for energy and non-energy biogas systems products.
Finally, the USDA will establish a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Working Group that includes participation from the DOE, EPA and dairy and biogas industries. In collaboration with industry, the working group will publish a progress report in August 2015 that identifies and prioritizes policies and technology opportunities to expand the biogas industry and reduce GHG emissions.

Representatives of the American Biogas Council have weighed in on the release of the roadmap, noting its potential to boost current efforts to expand the biogas industry. “Federal agency commitments in the biogas roadmap will boost industry efforts already underway to grow U.S. biogas business,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the ABC. “Biogas system technologies are commercially proven but certain existing policies, plus a lack of awareness and recognition of biogas system benefits, limit industry growth. The activities outlined in the Biogas Roadmap, when properly executed, will take a large step forward to remove obstacles currently limiting construction of new biogas systems.”

“While the roadmap appropriately increases federal and local government focus on the significant environmental benefits biogas systems bring to air, water and soil, we in the industry also see the opportunity to build strong businesses,” said Wayne Davis, chairman of the board of the ABC. “The policy adjustments and new voluntary initiatives in the biogas roadmap will help create a more fertile environment to stimulate business growth using programs and resources already in place, but better coordinated and utilized.”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federal, said the roadmap will help stimulate the merging biogas market in ways that could provide revenue-generating opportunities for dairy farms. “This validates the proactive and voluntary path the industry is already taking to reduce methane emissions, and provides direction for future actions and opportunities,” he said.

A full copy of the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap can be downloaded from the USDA website.

Read the original here.