Project LIBERTY Field Day Underway

Jeff BroinPOET CEO Jeff Broin, seen here being interviewed in the field this morning, is glad for sunshine. At last year’s Project LIBERTY Field Day we had a wet one.

We watched several different equipment manufacturers display their latest products to handle collecting the corn cobs for use in cellulosic ethanol production. I’ve got video clips of them in action which I’ll be posting in coming days. In the meantime you can see photos in the photo album which I just updated.

POET Project LIBERTY Field Day Photo Album

Before we got started I interviewed Jeff about what we should expect. He emphasizes the importance of cellulosic ethanol production and what utilizing corn cobs as a biomass will mean to farmers and rural America. You can listen to my interview with Jeff below or watch the video:

WI Biomass Biodiesel Plant to Commission Next Week

A biodiesel plant that will make the green fuel from Wisconsin wood biomass is set for commissioning next week.

This article from Biomass Magazine
says the Flambeau River BioFuel LLC’s project will be commissioned using Honeywell Process Solutions’ supplies and automation equipment for what has been called the largest second-generation green diesel plant in the United States. The pilot testing is being done at the Southern Research Institute facility in Durham, N.C.:

“We need to operate [the pilot facility] for 1,000 hours to meet the requirements for a DOE loan guarantee and we need to prove the mass energy balance to make sure we have a project,” [Bob Byrne, president of Flambeau River BioFuels LLC, Park Falls, Wis.] said. “We need to know the economics are there.” An earlier proposal to collocate a cellulosic ethanol plant next to the paper mill at Park Falls was dropped because the economics proved unfavorable as the study progressed. This time, the developers are utilizing gasification and Fischer Tropsch technologies to convert woody biomass into biomass-based diesel and waxes.

The pilot facility at Southern Research Institute will be using Wisconsin wood to fuel a biomass gasifier designed by ThermoChem Recovery International Inc., Baltimore, Md. The syngas produced in the gasifier will be formed into liquids and waxes using catalysts developed by Emerging Fuels Technology, Tulsa, Okla., in a FT reactor. The $257 million plant in the engineering phase for Park Falls will produce 18 MMgy of FT liquids and waxes from 350,000 dry tons of biomass per year, according to Byrne. Depending on the pressures and temperatures of the FT reactor and the activity level of the catalyst, the plant will produce up to 10 MMgy of FT waxes and 8 MMgy FT diesel or 9 MMgy of each. The plant will also be supplying steam to the adjacent paper mill.

Company officials say the wax and steam produced pays the bills, and the biodiesel gives them operating income.

Switchgrass Varieties From Ceres

Cory ChristensenWe’ve certainly heard a lot about switchgrass as a biomass option for the production of ethanol. How many of you have seen it growing?

That’s it behind Cory Christensen, Director of Product Managment, Ceres, who was conducting Sunbelt Ag Expo presentations in the field. He says it’s a first season stand of their Blade energy crop. It was developed specifically for the southeast. Since it’s the first season for this crop they won’t harvest it at Sunbelt until next year. A mature yield for the crop is about 8 tons per acre of dry matter. By the second season next year it will be at 80 percent of maturity.

SwitchgrassSwitchgrass is native to the United States everywhere east of the Rockies. Ceres, has been working on varieties that will yield better in different growing environments though. Cory says that they don’t expect it to displace corn in Iowa but in the southeast with the difficulties in cotton and tobacco it becomes a viable alternative on open acres. He provides some estimates of what the crop can mean financially as the market for a fuel crop like switchgrass develops.

Cory describes the current market as a “developing market.” They have a map that shows developing opportunities where plants will be located to process energy crops. He says that biomass is a local business so you need to be located near a biorefinery. He also points to the USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program that provides monetary assistance to facilitate the transition of eligible land to energy crops.

You can listen to my interview with Cory below:

Companies Working on Cellulosic Technology

Two companies have formed an alliance to commercialize a patented process to economically and efficiently produce ethanol from cellulose feedstocks.

chemproThe ChemPro Group of New Jersey has joined with Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste) of Sikeston, Missouri on the project. According to Steve Lavorerio, President of ChemPro, the process can handle a full spectrum of cellulosic feedstock, from wood chips and pulp-and-paper-plant byproducts to corn stover, rice straw, grass, and even municipal waste.

“The process, which lends itself to modular construction, is also economical as an add-on to existing corn ethanol plants,” said Lavorerio. “It can process the low-value waste product with the potential to increase yields of ethanol by 15% and improve the value of by-products by 50%.”

The first step being taken by the alliance is the construction of a mobile feedstock testing unit that will be used to generate process data from various types of cellulosic feedstock. The unit is expected to be operational in early 2010.

Clemson Univ. Partners with Arborgen to Research Biomass

clemson_universityClemson University will be partnering with ArborGen LLC, a company who researches tree genetics, to form a cooperative focused on the growth of biomass for the biofuels industry. The two will develop woody biomass as feedstock for biofuel development.

According to Charleston Regional Business Journal, the research will focus on development and conversion of cellulose, such as switchgrass, wood chips and other fibrous plant matter, into ethanol.

arborgen“This kind of research has global implications for climate change, energy security and the long-term stability of our local and national economy, particularly as it can help develop the rural infrastructure and jobs we need,” said Barbara Wells, president and CEO of ArborGen.

Joint areas of research include exploration of possible sources of biofuel, such as sweetgum, loblolly pine and poplar trees; equipment engineering; field trials; and pretreatment of woody biomass.

“This relationship marks a big move for the collaborative into trees as a feedstock,” said Karl Kelly, director of corporate operations at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston. “ArborGen is a key industry leader — based in South Carolina — that can develop our existing switchgrass-to-ethanol program into other forms of biomass.”

Fibrowatt Contracts Fagen for Poultry Litter Plants

Waste from chickens and turkeys could soon become a power source in North Carolina.

fibrowattFibrowatt LLC, which opened the nation’s first poultry-litter fueled power plant two years ago in Minnesota, has contracted with Fagen, Inc. for the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of its first biomass-fueled power project in North Carolina.

fagen“We are delighted to work with the Fagen team,” said Fibrowatt CEO Rupert Fraser, “their experience as EPC contractors is very impressive and we are certain that we are moving forward with a contractor that understands the unique characteristics of our technology. This agreement is another step for us in North Carolina – helping the State move forward towards its goal of being a leader in the implementation of home-grown renewable energy.”

Fagen, Inc. is a leading national design-builder focused on renewable energy projects, and is headquartered in Granite Falls, MN. “We believe the Fibrowatt process for energy production is a large step in the right direction towards energy independence and we look forward to being part of their projects,” said CEO & President Ron Fagen.

The initial North Carolina project will produce 55 megawatts of renewable electricity, enough power annually to supply over 40,000 homes. In addition to poultry litter, the plant will have the design flexibility to blend wood and other biomass with poultry litter, thus reducing dependency on a single fuel type. Plans for two other plants are also in the works.

Renewable Energy Grants Available in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is now offering several Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) grants. Eligible projects include agricultural related renewable energy systems, feasibility studies and research projects. The ACRE program is a set of grants that provide funds to conduct feasibility studies, install renewable energy systems or do research into renewable energy projects.

microhydroGrant applications submitted must be for projects that will be completed withing two years of grant award. Examples of past projects that have been supported by the ACRE grant program include wind turbines, solar panels, micro-hydro systems, biomass systems, and biodiesel plants. Funds will be distributed in three categories.

1) Feasibility Studies –  must study the feasibility of an agricultural energy-related project. Feasibility studies may address the market for the product, engineering requirements, economic viability, environmental concerns, legal requirements, management, and other necessary study components. A maximum allocation for each study is $25,000.

2) Project Participation — for projects will completed feasibility studies, awards will be granted to assist with the project.. A maximum allocation of $100,000 has been established per project.

3) Research — applications for research of agricultural energy-related topics will be considered in an effort to bring new information to the marketplace. Research should be tied to a particular issue or problem in Colorado. A maximum allocation of $50,000 per project has been set.

Grant applications are being accepted through October 30th. Contact ROI for more information at 517-812-3285.

Biomass Feedstocks Research

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is studying the use of plant residues for biofuels.

biofuel cropsAt the University of Minnesota-Morris Biomass Gasification Facility, for example, gasification researcher Jim Barbour and ARS soil scientist Jane Johnson (pictured) are evaluating potential biomass feedstocks, including pressed corn stover.

The Agricultural Research Service has scientists in 18 states involved in the Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) which is trying to determine the balance between how much crop residue can be used to produce ethanol and other biofuels and how much should be left on the ground to protect soil from erosion, maintain soil organisms, and store carbon in the soil.

Because corn is currently the most widely used biofuel crop, the REAP team is especially interested in determining where, when, and how much corn stover can be harvested without harming soil productivity. The work involves not only looking at how much plant residue is needed to maintain soil carbon than to control soil erosion, but also using perennial groundcover roots and shoots as alternative sources of organic material to offset the carbon lost when stover is removed.

Read more about the project here.

Register Now For Advanced BioEnergy 2009

ABE-logo_webThe first annual Advanced BioEnergy 2009 Conference & Trade Show is set to happen in Sacramento, California on November 11-13, 2009. The focal point of the event is to explore emerging policies, business strategies and technologies driving the bioenergy industry. In addition, the conference will promote cooperation between this advanced bioenergy industry and traditional energy producers as well as offer paths forward.

Topics include emerging value chains, renewable hydrocarbons, electrical generation from biomass, MSW-to-Energy, dedicated energy crops, policy updates, and more.

Plenary speakers include:

  • *Doug Cameron Managing Director & Chief Science Advisor, Piper Jaffray & Co.
  • *Clark Brinkley Managing Director, International Forestry Investment Advisors
  • *Don Roberts Managing Director, CIBC World Markets
  • *Andrew Lear Manager of Partnerships, Planning & Analysis, Catchlight Energy LLC

Registration is $695 if you sign up by October 9, 2009. Click here to learn more information about the conference.

University of Georgia to Make Biodiesel from Biomass

TomAdamsResearchers at University of Georgia will be turning forest and agricultural waste into biodiesel.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the school has licensed technology to Sacramento, Calif.-based Tolero Energy LLC to turn the waste into the green fuel:

The process turned waste biomass — dead trees, agricultural waste and lumber byproducts — into a liquid fuel to power conventional engines. The biomass is heated at carefully controlled high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The vapors produced rapidly condense into a bio-oil that can be added to biodiesel or petroleum diesel. Other by-products are gas and bio-char, which can be used as a soil amendment.

The ultra-low-sulfur biofuel does not require additional refinement or processing before blending with biodiesel and petroleum diesel, UGA said.

Tolero CEO Chris Churchill said the company will focus on the transportation fuels market as it completes development of the UGARF bio-oil technology. He expects to make a product based on the technology available in the first half of 2010.

Tolero will also be turning cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural waste and waste wood pallets, into transportation fuels, heating fuels, soil enhancers and industrial products.

Studying New Feedstocks for Biofuels

The “World’s Largest Urban Farm and Research Test Facility” is studying a wide variety of new feedstocks that hold promise for future sources of both ethanol and biodiesel.

bioworksAgricenter International recently offered a closer look at the new crops being grown there by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation AgBioworks program and BioDimensions, Inc. Among the crops that were planted this season were sweet sorghum (pictured), switchgrass, castor, pearl millet and sunflowers.

“Our intent with hosting this new crops field day was to educate people on the opportunities for these crops in the region by inviting a range of speakers to talk about crops from the field to the factory and also showcase these crops in the field, “ says Hillary Spain, AgBioworks 25Farmer Network Coordinator.

Spain says about 50 farmers and other interested individuals from throughout the region attended the field day on August 15 to learn about each crop, ask questions and see the crop under actual growing conditions in the field.

Biotricity Turning Waste into Fuel

BiotricitySaying it is on a path less taken, a Houston, Texas company is looking for alternatives to alternative energy.

To that end, Biotricity Corporation has announced through this press release poster on that it is pursuing a strategy to make energy out of biomass:

Biotricity’s technology can take raw waste products such as sawdust, wood chips, corn stover or begasse and convert them directly into electricity. Our feedstocks are abundant and cheap, and our estimated future cash flow compared to capital costs exhibits a far superior return on capital invested. By keeping our feedstock costs relatively low, we plan to produce green power faster and
cheaper than our competitors.

“At Biotricity, we believe America needs practical solutions to generating its energy at home in order to reduce our enormous dependence on foreign imports,” stated Tyson Rohde, CEO. “Many ethanol and biodiesel processes make for an interesting story, but often don’t make sense with current economic conditions,” he added. Biotricity has developed a new combustion technology for the burning of woody biomass to generate electricity to address America’s growing demand for green power. Biotricity will generate green power from renewable energy sources and expects to reduce carbon emissions that would otherwise result from the natural decay of the biomass it burns.

Biotricity is also touting its proprietary Biotricity Power Generator that makes electricity from biomass.

Missouri Facility Gets First Biomass Assistance Payment

bcapA Missouri plant that turns agricultural waste products into fuel pellets is the first to receive a payment from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

This USDA press release says the Show Me Energy Cooperative of Missouri conversion facility will get the funds aimed at paying producers for biomass materials for collection, harvest, storage and transportation:

“As the Obama Administration continues laying the foundation for a stronger, revitalized economy, biomass has great potential to create new, green jobs for American workers,” said Vilsack. “Biomass also has important environmental benefits to produce cleaner energy and reduce greenhouse gases.”

“Show Me Energy completed an agreement soon after our July 29th announcement and had biomass producers waiting,” said FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess. “Agriculture Secretary Vilsack had a chance to see first hand the company’s successful operation during a recent visit to Missouri. He was impressed and excited about the opportunities that BCAP presents for agriculture, the
environment and the nation.”

According to Show Me Energy Cooperative CEO Kurt Herman, “Our plant produces fuel pellets from agricultural waste products, but could expand to produce cellulosic liquid fuels.”

The pellets, made from switchgrass, straw, corn stover, sawdust, woodchips and other biomass materials from more than 500 producers, will be used to heat homes and livestock facilities. It’s being tested at a power plant to see if it could supplement coal for electrical production.

FSA is urging other biomass conversion facility operators are encourage to sign agreements to get the same funds themeselves. MOre information is available at

USDA Hands Out $4.2 Mil for Woody Biomass Projects

usda-logo2Federal officials have handed out $4.2 million in grants for projects that will reduce the fuel for forest fires, while creating a green fuel source.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says
the grants to 17 small businesses and community groups will encourage development of woody biomass into fuel:

“By harnessing the full potential of woody biomass, America’s forests can produce renewable energy and new products and we can create new, green job opportunities for local workers,” Vilsack said. “These grants will help restore our forests by reducing hazardous fuels, handling insect and disease conditions, and treating forests impacted by catastrophic weather while creating markets for small-diameter material and low-valued trees removed from these areas.”

These funds are targeted to help communities, entrepreneurs, and others turn residues into marketable forest products and green energy. The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005 and has provided over $26.3 million towards various projects, ranging from biomass boilers for schools and prisons, to helping businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. During this time period, 110 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy and healthy communities.

You can see the complete list of grant recipients here.

USDA Highlights Missouri Biomass Plant

Show me energyThe Obama administration’s Rural Tour last week highlighted the Show Me Energy Cooperative in Missouri as an example of how crop residue can be used to create energy.

Tom Vilsack MissouriAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the biomass facility is taking wood, corn stalks and other crop residue and converting it into pellets that can be used to produce energy or a substitute for propane on the farm.

“We have seen plants like this one that are using it as a substitute for propane, we have seen plants that are in the process of trying to use corn cobs for producing anhydrous ammonia,” Vilsack said. “It is continually amazing to me how innovative this country is and how innovative rural America is and can be with a little bit of incentive.”

Vilsack says the small plant costs about $8 million to replicate. “It takes crop residue from about a 50-100 mile radius, creates a new market for farmers, an opportunity for them to increase their bottom line, and at the same time, a chance for a local utility to meet its renewable energy portfolio standard requirements.”

Earlier in the week, Vilsack took the Rural Tour to his home state of Iowa where he served as governor for eight years. During an interview with the Des Moines Register, Vilsack discussed a variety of topics, including ethanol. The secretary stressed the need for higher ethanol blends and more FFVs. “This is a supply issue. What we need are more vehicles that have flex-fuel capability (to use up to 85 percent ethanol), more retail stations with blender pumps that allow the motorist to adjust to the blend they want.”

The Administration’s Rural Tour has been traveling around the country since June.