PHG Energy Kicks of Waste-to-Energy Project

Construction of a new gasification plant at Lebanon, Tennessee’s waste water treatment facility is underway following a groundbreaking ceremony held last week. Tens of thousands of tons of sewer sludge, used tires and industrial wood waste will be processed to produce electricity to help power the plant.  PHG Energy of Nashville is designing and building the new facility, which will include utilization of the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit with a full capacity of 64 tons per day through the system.

Lebanon Groundbreaking 11-12-15 smaller size

From left to Right: Chris Koczaja (vice president of implementation and engineering at PHG Energy); Tom Doherty (environmental specialist with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead; Lebanon Councilman Fred Burton, Ward 2; Lebanon Councilman Rob Cesternino, Ward 3, and Jeff Baines (public works commissioner for the city of Lebanon)

“This facility is going to be a model for waste-to-energy partnerships,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said of the project, “as well as the first stage in moving our city completely away from dumping waste into landfills.”

Gasification is a clean thermo-chemical process that breaks down biomass-based material in a high-heat and low-oxygen environment. According to a PHG Energy press release, there is no incineration or burning involved in the process. The only residue after production of synthetic fuel gas is a carbon biochar that has multiple agricultural, industrial and direct fuel uses.

Tom Doherty, Environmental Specialist with the Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said the new facility is an important step forward in efforts Tennessee and his department are fostering across the state. “When we look at the thousands of tons of wood waste and sludge this plant will cleanly process, that is a tremendous step forward. One of the most exciting parts of deploying this technology in Lebanon is that hundreds or tons of scrap tires will be put to beneficial use while saving Wilson County a considerable portion of their previous disposal expense.”

TDEC has awarded the project funding of $250,000 through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, and facilitated a subsidy of 70% of the $3.5 million financing’s interest cost through the Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds program.

BIO Applauds Renewable Chemicals Act Bill

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Coon (D-DE) and Al Franken have introduced a new bill, S. 2271 the Renewable Chemicals Act of 2015. If passed, the legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits for the production of renewable chemicals and investments in renewable chemical production facilities. The companion bill in the House is H.R. 3390.

bio-logoAccording to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) the Renewable Chemicals Act would create a targeted, short-term tax credit of 15 cents per pound for production of eligible renewable chemicals from produced from biomass-based feedstocks. Instead of the production tax credit that is currently in place, producers could choose to take a 30 percent investment tax credit for qualified investments for new renewable chemical production facilities.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said in response to the legislation, “Creating incentives in tax policy will help drive U.S. industrial biotech companies to continue to innovate and develop new renewable products in the chemical space. Incentives that support renewable chemicals will promote enhanced innovation in the chemical industry, the construction of next generation integrated biorefineries while creating new jobs and enhancing environmental benefits.”

“We thank Senator Stabenow for her leadership in support of initiatives that help grow the bio-based economy and boost the agriculture and manufacturing sectors in America,” Erickson continued. “This legislation will allow U.S. companies to better compete in a rapidly growing global chemicals market.”

Pacific Ag Harvests Record Wheat Straw Biomass

PacificAg1Crop residue harvest company Pacific Ag set a record with its most recent wheat straw biomass harvest. This news release says the company worked with more than 200 growers across seven states to harvest moree than 100,000 acres of wheat straw for use in bioenergy, among other applications.

“We’re able to aggregate more than 100,000 acres of wheat straw residue and convert it to a high quality, consistent and professionally delivered residue product,” said Bill Levy, CEO of Pacific Ag. “This builds confidence in end-markets, which helps drive consistent demand. That predictable demand, in turn, gives our growers confidence that they can rely on our program as they decide their equipment budgets and tillage resources.”

Owning and operating the single largest fleet of crop residue harvesting equipment in the U.S. gives Pacific Ag the ability to consolidate and simplify customers’ supply needs, while its decades of experience harvesting and marketing crop residues allows it to meet the product quality, specification and delivery demands of a diverse set of end-use customers across the regions in which it operates.

Pacific Ag works with growers on a field-by-field basis to leave them the right field conditions for their individual field and cropping needs. The company has been focused on residue harvests behind combines in wheat, corn, and grass seed crops for 17 years, providing a wealth of knowledge and in-field experience on which to help growers make individual, season-specific decisions about residue removal.

Additionally, the company’s proprietary PowerStock Pro™ supply chain management system provides a turnkey tool for managing every aspect of the complex feedstock supply chain from grower contracts to GIS-enabled field mapping to equipment deployment, harvest results and inventory management. This system is integral in ensuring the timely delivery of product to Pacific Ag customers.

Court Upholds Massachusetts Biomass Plant

massflagThe state Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has upheld the legality of a proposed biomass plant. This article from said the decision is the third one in favor of the $150 million project in East Springfield, but opponents swear they’ll continue the fight.

Palmer Renewable Energy, which has been pursuing the wood-to-energy plant at Cadwell Drive and Page Boulevard for the past seven years amidst legal challenges, said it looks forward to “bringing the project to fruition.”

One of the plaintiffs, Michaelann Bewsee, said the court fight appears to be over, but there are additional options available to challenge the project.

“We were disappointed but not surprised,” Bewsee said. “However we still have a few other cards to play.”

The Springfield Public Health Council is considering if it should conduct a site assignment hearing for the biomass project.

Thomas A. Mackie, a Boston lawyer representing Palmer Renewable Energy did not comment on the company’s next steps. The company had two building permits issued for the project that had been on hold during the legal challenges.

“This ruling closes an important chapter in our effort to bring a $150 million green energy project to the City of Springfield,” Mackie said, “The SJC’s decision clearly and emphatically reaffirms that Palmer Renewable Energy has complied with every legal requirement and met every environmental standard needed to move forward.”

Genera Partners with Drone Company for Biomass

generaBiomass energy company Genera has teamed up with a drone company to improve the efficiency and quality of sustainable biomass crop production and distribution. This news release from the company says it is working with PrecisionHawk to develop algorithms to assess crop health and productivity using aerial farm imagery collected by satellites and drones.

“Working with PrecisionHawk to develop advanced data collection and analysis tools elevates commercial-scale biomass supply chains to the forefront of technological innovation for crop management, risk reduction, and efficiency” said Dr. Sam Jackson, Vice President of Business Development at Genera. “PrecisionHawk is the leading company in remote sensing in a variety of industries, including agriculture. Partnering our agronomic knowledge and skills with their outstanding technology platform is a win not only for us, but for the entire biomass industry.”

Since 2008, Genera Energy has grown to be the industry leader in biomass supply and supply chain services. Its expertise in dedicated energy crops allows it to provide unique services and solutions to its customers. The first group of research tools to be developed under the new partnership will focus on lignocellulosic crops, core to Genera’s expertise.

“This partnership is a great opportunity to develop decision support tools that provide a more sustainable and efficient path for energy production,” said Dr. Allison Ferguson, Director of Education and Research Partnerships at PrecisionHawk. “Genera Energy has built an impressive reputation in agriculture and energy, and we look forward to offering this suite of useful solutions for the betterment of the industry.”

The technology uses the DataMapper software platform.

Texas A&M Developing Biofuel, Forage Crop

jessupamResearchers 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.

Canadian Province Puts in More Biomass Burners

canada flagThe government of a Canadian province is putting in more biomass burners at government facilities. This article from The Guardian says Prince Edward Island will have seven more biomass installations to go along with the 13 already in place at government properties.

“Biomass heat is a local, renewable, carbon neutral resource, and government is leading the way for biomass heat,” said [Energy Minister Paula Biggar].

Prince Edward Island’s total energy mix is made up of approximately 10 per cent biomass energy.

Biggar says Island biomass installations have displaced 2.4 million litres of fuel oil, which resulted in a reduction of 6,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas and cost-savings of more than $200,000 since 2012.

The installations planned for 2016 could result in a further reduction of 2.6 million litres of fuel oil and 7,200 tonnes of green house gas, per year.

One tonne of biomass chips can produce up to four megawatt hours of heat, which displaces approximately 580 litres of fuel oil.

The biomass is harvested through selective thinning of forests.

60% New Electricity Generation Renewable Power

Becoming a trend, renewable energy sources accounted for more 60.2 percent of the 7,276 of new electrical generation placed in service in the U.S. during the first three quarters of 2015. According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, 26 new units of wind totaling 2,966 MW of new electrical generation have been placed in service so far this year. This accounted for 40.76 percent of all new capacity brought online year-to-date.  Among renewable sources, solar followed with 1,137 MW (142 units), biomass with 205 MW (16 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit), and hydropower with 27 MW (18 units). Thirty-four units of natural gas contributed 2,884 MW.

wind power in Iowa

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Only 9 MW of new generation from oil and 3 MW from coal were put into production and there was no new capacity from nuclear power. In total, new capacity from renewable energy sources so far this year is 1,460 times greater than that from coal while new capacity from wind alone exceeds that from natural gas. In just September, wind (448 MW) again dominated, with 54.83 percent of new capacity followed by natural gas (346 MW), and solar (20 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.40 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.59 percent, wind – 5.91 percent, biomass – 1.43 percent, solar – 1.13 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.35 percent of capacity in September 2014 and 15.68 percent in September 2013). The share of total installed capacity from solar alone has more than doubled over the past two years (1.13% vs. 0.54%). Total installed capacity from non-hydro renewables (8.81%) now exceeds that from conventional hydropower (8.59%).

“With Congress and numerous states now questioning the ability of renewable energy sources to meet targets called for in the Administration’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP), the explosive growth of wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal in recent years confirms that it can be done,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “In fact, the latest FERC data suggest that the CPP’s goals are unduly modest and renewables will handily surpass them.”

Cellulosic Biofuels Celebrated at DuPont Plant Opening

DuPont cellulosic grand openingNevada, Iowa is officially home to the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery with the official plant commissioning. When the DuPont facility is at full production, in about a year, it will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues such as corn stover.

The celebration was kicked off with the National Anthem sung by music legend Simon Estes followed by nearly a dozen speakers. The first to take the stage was William Freehery, president, DuPont Industrial Sciences who discussed the theme of DuPont’s advanced biofuels production: “RE. FORM. ENERGY”. Freehery focused his remarks on how the company is changing the way the world thinks about biofuels. He explained how their technology is “reforming” how energy is produced and in the future and how they will “reform” ways to create new materials, “reform” new ways to use them and “reform” new ways to produce them.

“What is significant about today is that we’ve reinvented manufacturing itself,” said Feehery. “Feeding renewable biomass into a commercial scale industrial facility. We’ve also reinvented how we think of and supply energy, and our next act will be reinventing how we turn those same agricultural feedstocks into to new types of materials that people use everyday.”

Also speaking was an individual who came to Nevada to turn the dream of cellulosic ethanol production into reality: Terraun Jones, operations manager. He was lured to Iowa on the platform of his fascination of turning agricultural waste, something Iowa has too much of, into biofuel and bioproducts. When he arrived, his first task was to create the foundation for the plant -the pouring of concrete and adding steel. “It was not just the foundation of our facility, but it was the foundation of an entirely new industry and renewable energy,” said Jones.

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Event speakers included: Host: Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director, DuPont Biofuels; Simon Estes; William Feehery, President, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Honorable Terry Branstad, Governor, State of Iowa; Honorable Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor, State of Iowa; Honorable Chuck Grassley, U.S. Senator, State of Iowa; Honorable Steve King, U.S. Representative, State of Iowa; Honorable Bill Northey, Secretary of Agriculture, State of Iowa; Terraun Jones, DuPont Employee Representative; Honorable Lynn Lathrop, Mayor, City of Nevada; Dr. Johnathan Male, U.S. Department of Energy;  and Brian Sampson, Grower Harvest Program.

Listen to the full program here: DuPont Cellulosic Biorefinery Welcome Program

Renewable Industries Call on Secy of State for Support

COP 21 is fast approaching and the U.S. will be in the spotlight for its efforts to reduce climate change impacts. In anticipation of the worldwide climate event, leaders of the U.S. biomass, geothermal and hydropower industries are urging Secretary of State John Kerry to support a “pan-renewable technologies approach”. The National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association and Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said in the letter that today these technologies provide 86 percent of the world’s renewable power and this amount is anticipated to grow in the coming years.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.57.22 PM“As baseload renewable power technologies, our industries are particularly critical to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and we encourage Secretary Kerry to recognize the contributions our industries are making to fight climate change,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.

The letter highlighted some of hydropower, biomass and geothermal benefits:

  • Hydropower was the leading renewable power technology in each of the top five renewable electricity producing countries: China, U.S., Brazil, Canada and Russia.
  • Biomass provides a significant percentage of renewable power around the world, and was the leading renewable electricity source in Germany in 2014, providing 10% of the country’s electricity.
  • Geothermal provides power in 24 countries, including 51% of in-country power supply in Kenya, where these additions are credited with reducing consumer bills by over 30%.

Karl Gawell, GEA executive director, called on the Administration to increase its support of renewable electricity generation. “We are asking for a U.S. approach that recognizes hydropower, biomass power and geothermal power are also important contributors to avoiding fossil fuel emissions today and will be important contributors to meeting future climate goals.

The group stressed in the letter, “. . .[P]ower grids will continue to be a vital means for electricity delivery. Therefore, enhancing the grid and grid-connected technologies is important.

Bob Cleaves, president, Biomass Power Association, added, “Biomass power is recognized the world over for its many environmental and economic benefits. As a baseload power source, it’s an essential part of any renewable energy mix that uses low-value materials that often have no other use. Biomass will play an important role in reducing the use of fossil fuels.”