Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has released a list of USDA’s top achievements in 2015 in the areas of trade, food security, conservation, energy, research, rural development, and more.
“Even with challenges in 2015, including an unprecedented animal disease outbreak and lower commodity prices, America’s rural communities have proven once again that we are a nation of makers, creators and innovators, and our economy and security are stronger because of it,” said Vilsack. “As we look to 2016, USDA will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to expand opportunity for America’s farming families and rural communities.”
Among USDA’s 2015 highlights in the area of energy:
Made available $100 million in grant funds, with matching funds from state and private partners, which will provide $210 million to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply American-made renewable fuels, such as E15 and E85.
Through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, USDA provided assistance to 890 growers on 49,000 acres for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilities that convert biomass crops into energy.
Announced 10 Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, which, by 2025, will reduce net emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by the equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road.
Read more here.
POM Wonderful, the largest grower and producer of fresh pomegranates and pomegranate juice in the U.S., has extended its feedstock testing contract with Greenbelt Resources Corporation. Earlier this year, Greenbelt announced its confidential testing program, and the company has now released the news that POM Wonderful was one of its first clients.
© Olhaafanasieva | Dreamstime.com – Ripe Pomegranates On A Rustic Table
Using Greenbelt’s technology, the initial tests have successfully demonstrated the viability of two feedstocks to be converted into fuel, filtered water, and other valuable co-products, according to Greenbelt CEO Darren Eng. Pomegranate husk waste from POM Wonderful juicing operations is one of these viable feedstocks.
“Based on preliminary testing results, our calculations predict a likely ten-fold to possibly more than twenty-fold increase in per-ton-value of POM’s pomegranate husks through the integration of a Greenbelt system,” said Floyd Butterfield, CTO of Greenbelt Resources. “Our Solution has the potential benefit of being both sustainable and revenue generating.”
POM Wonderful recently commenced the next level of Greenbelt Resources feedstock testing service: Commercial-Scale Feedstock Testing (CSFT). CSFT entails running several truckload-sized batches to test multiple variables and their myriad impacts on process efficiency. The purpose of CSFT, says Butterfield, is to obtain data necessary for designing a specific system for a specific scenario in a specific location. The goal is to generate data from which an efficient system can be designed and its cost estimated.
Eng added, “POM Wonderful is a world class operation and a market leader with an ideal waste stream for use as a feedstock. Their commitment to the testing process and basing decisions on sound science, allows us to explore system tweaks designed to maximize value.”
A new study is raising doubts about future development of new fossil fuel resources. Published in Global Environmental Change and authored by Richard Heede and Naomi Oreskes, the report looks closely at the potential of global warming emissions that could be unleashed from carbon reserves held by the globe’s largest fossil fuel producers.
Some key findings of the study include:
- Burning the reserves of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers will result in emissions of 440 gigatons of carbon—far in excess of the 275 gigatons of carbon scientists say can be emitted this century if global mean temperature increases are to stay at or below 2 degrees Celsius.
- The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 28 state-owned entities, including the National Iranian Oil Company, Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Gazprom, collectively make up more than three quarters (76 percent) of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
- The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 42 investor-owned companies collectively make up 16 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
Funded in part by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also found that “profound risk” to the climate exists from the prospect of development of these reserves.
“This study shows just how important it is that the world reaches a strong international climate agreement in Paris next month,” said Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy at UCS who has been involved in the climate negotiations for 25 years. “The fact is, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing counties are continuing to ramp up production, despite the threat climate change poses to communities around the world.”
The study shows the reserves of most of the 42 investor-owned companies will be exhausted in 15 years or less. But oil and gas companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to explore for and develop new reserves to extend production in the decades to come. Heede says the threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves and he states the study’s findings can help inform shareholder action.
“The threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves, less so from their relatively small existing reserves,” said Heede, the principal of Climate Mitigation Services.
Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor and former exploration geologist, added, “The bottom line is that if we’re to have any hope of avoiding a 2 degree temperature increase, the largest state-owned companies cannot fully tap all of their proven reserves and the big investor-owned companies need to decrease rapidly, and ultimately eliminate, their capital expenditures for exploration and development of new reserves.”
Researchers at Texas A&M University are developing a crop that will double as a bioenergy and livestock forage source. This news release from the school says Dr. Russ Jessup, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research perennial grass breeder in College Station, is introducing a new biofuel-biomass feedstock hybrid that is a hybrid “similar to seedless watermelons, seedless grapes and other sterile triploid crops.”
Jessup is utilizing two grass species: pearl millet, a grain crop, and Napier grass, which is a very high-biomass crop that can be crossed to make progeny that are sterile triploids in the field.
“This is a dual-use crop with a low seed cost, high yield potential and quality perennial biomass suitable for both forage and dedicated biofuels,” he said. “So in light of current downtrends in oil prices, this crop can stand on its own as a forage crop in the interim, until that reverses.”
As a high-quality forage crop, Jessup said, it is sterile in the field but has seeded parents, unlike sugarcane that has to be planted from stocks.
To produce this hybrid he started with the larger seeded but shorter pearl millet to give it quality, large seeds and drought tolerance. Pearl millet is native to Africa and can be more drought tolerant than even sorghum, he said.
Then he crossed it with Napier grass, a closely related cousin of pearl millet that is grown in Africa for cut-and-carry silage and high biomass fodder.
“You can cross these two species and get ample seed off of the pearl millet parent,” Jessup said.
This year during the Expo Milano New Holland announced its “heros” as part of its “Seeds of Life Series“. One such hero was Brazilian Victor Campenelli, who grows 37,000 acres of corn and sugarcane and also has a cattle operation in Southern Brazil. Looking in to the future, Victor is looking forward to building a power plant utilizing cane straw.
He works as part of his family business dating back to 1982. Since 2002 their main crops are sugarcane, cattle and corn. He was proud to be a winner because he feels that it helps farmers in his country gain more respect for the work they do to feed, fuel and power the country.
Victor also noted that one thing Brazil hasn’t really capitalized is producing power from biomass. They have completed a project where the plant is able to produce 30 MW per hour and about 240,000 MW per year just using cane straw, a material he said is like trash, its just left behind on the field. He added that it’s good for the land because they only take a portion of the biomass from the field and the remaining cane straw puts organic matter back in the soil and protects from erosion.
There are plans to develop additional power plants using cane straw.
Listen to Cindy interview with Victor Campenelli here: New Holland Hero Victor Campanelli from Brazil
2015 New Holland Heroes & Bloggers Days
Leading up to World Bio Markets Brasil, taking place November 30-December 1, 2015 in Sao Paulo, GreenPower Conferences asked over 100 people their thoughts on the Brasilian bioeconomy and the factors influencing it, including: What the biggest change in the last 12 months has been; the biggest threat to the industry; and the most important factor over the next year. And the survey said…
Click here to see the full infographic.
PHG Energy (PHGE) will be constructing a new biomass gasification plant that will convert more than 30 tons of composted material per day into thermal energy and biochar. Sevier Sold Waste (SSWI), located in Pigeon Forge, TN, contracted the PHG Energy. SSWI operates a garbage composting plant that processes more than 10,0000 tons per year from the Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. All the municipal solid waste (MSW) is processed through the plant, with 60% of it being made into compost. The carbon footprint of the facility will be reduced by over 450 tons of CO2 emissions each year, according to EPA calculators.
PHG Energy’s Large Frame Gasification Unit (PRNewsFoto/PHG Energy)
“This new installation will help us reduce the amount of compost we need to transport by converting it into a biochar material, creating a new revenue stream for us,” said Tom Leonard, director of SSWI. “The energy from the gasification system will be used in a thermal oxidizer promoting odor control in the buildings and will allow us to defer other upgrades. This represents a significant savings from our current disposal and operating costs.”
PHGE’s gasification plants employ a thermo-chemical process that cleanly converts biomass to a combustible fuel gas. Around 90% of the biomass that is gasified in the PHGE system becomes fuel gas, and the only remaining residue is the charcoal-like biochar, that in SSWI’s case will be sold to a local industrial user as a renewable source of fuel to displace coal consumption.
The cost of the Pigeon Forge facility is $2.25 million. The project has been awarded a $250,000 Clean Energy Tennessee Grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The project will showcase PHGE’s second installation of its Large Frame gasifier, believed to be the world’s largest downdraft unit and capable of more than 60 tons per day throughput.
“This project is important to us for several reasons,” noted PHGE President Tom Stanzione. “This is our second municipal project to receive approval this year and demonstrates the growing confidence in our technology. We have a strong research and development commitment to converting MSW to energy and reducing landfill usage, and this is another significant step in that process. It is also very important to us that we have been able to prove the commercial value of our biochar as a commodity, and that it has become a positive factor in the economic equation of our systems.”
Enrollment is underway for farmers and forest landowners to get financial assistance for growing new sources of biomass for energy or biobased products. This U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) news release says the money comes from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
Biomass energy facilities or groups of producers may submit proposals for new BCAP project areas. Proposals will be accepted on www.grants.gov through Nov. 6, 2015. USDA will also allocate $7.7 million towards four existing BCAP project areas in New York, North Carolina, Ohio/Pennsylvania and Kansas/Oklahoma, targeting the establishment of an additional 10,500 acres of shrub willow, giant miscanthus, and switchgrass for energy. Project area sponsors include Chemtex International, Aloterra Energy LLC, Abengoa Biomass LLC and ReEnergy Holdings LLC. Farmers and forest landowners may enroll for biomass establishment and maintenance payments for these four sites through Sept. 25, 2015.
In June, USDA began accepting applications from foresters and farmers seeking financial assistance for removing biomass residues from fields or national forests for delivery to energy generation facilities; the deadline for those applications is Sept. 4, 2015. The retrieval payments are provided at a cost-share match of $1 for $1 up to $20 per dry ton with eligible crops including corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. The energy facility must first be approved by USDA to accept the biomass crop, and deliveries to the facilities can continue until Dec. 11, 2015.
So far, BCAP has provided incentives for producers across more than 48,000 acres in 71 counties and 11 different project areas.
Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are working on developing fuel cells made from natural, biological sources. This article from the school says Dr. Umit Koylu, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has received a six-month $50,000 Innovation Corps Teams (I Corps) Program grant from the National Science Foundation to accelerate tech-transfer and explore commercialization of a biology-inspired polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell.
“Nature perfected its natural delivery system,” Koylu says, glancing out his window. “Our team of researchers came up with an engineering version of it.”
The technology was developed during four years of research led by Dr. Ming Leu, the Keith and Pat Bailey Missouri Distinguished Professor of Integrated Product Manufacturing and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T.
Koylu currently works with Dr. John W. Sheffield, visiting associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, who is professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T; and post-doctoral Missouri S&T researcher Dr. Warren Vaz.
To get useable energy out of fuel cells, they have to be stacked together, which takes up a lot of space to produce minimal results. However, the bio-inspired fuel cells are expected to increase peak power density by up to 30 percent over conventional fuel cells, Koylu says. That means bio-inspired cells would take up less space than current models, or more could be stacked in the same amount of space, increasing power.
The research is set to end in December.
Genera Energy has developed a biomass app to use as a crop planning and learning tool for biomass farmers and landowners. The Biomass app has multiple features including a biomass crop library complete with detailed information, photos and range maps for the most utilized biomass crops in the U.S., along with the ability to overlap crop ranges in a live, interactive map function.
“We are very pleased with the Biomass app’s features,” said Sam Jackson, vice president of business development for Genera Energy, Inc. “The information that the app is built on is the result of years of research and development in the biofuels management industry.”
According to the company, another key function, is a multi-function biomass calculator that helps the user determine how much biomass they’ll need for their specific situation, including conversion technology, conversion rate, and location. The results can then be emailed to the user. People wishing to convert biomass to biofuels, biochemical, bioproducts, or biopower, the app will provide realistic projections and crop suggestions based on actual, in-the-field studies and crop outcomes.
Jackson added, “Probably the most important aspect in developing the app was working directly with biomass producers, project developers, and policy makers across the different aspects of the industry. This helped us to develop an app specifically targeted to what users actually needed and wanted.”
The free version of the app is available for both Apple- and Android-based devices. Visit the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store from your phone to download.