Power Generation Fueling Global Biomass Growth

woodpelletsThe global biomass market has been growing and will continue to do so, thanks to power generation. This analysis from P&S Market Research says increased use of biomass pellets in power generation, along with increased government initiatives and stringent environment regulations, are the key drivers promoting the growth of the global biomass pellet market.

The power sector application segment is expected to witness the fastest growth (12.4% CAGR) during 2015 – 2020, in the global market. Based on application, the heat sector segment held the largest market size, with 14,256.0 million tons volume in 2014, and it is expected to reach 27,122.3 million tons by 2020, growing with a CAGR of 8.7% during the period 2015-2020.

The global biomass pellet market was valued at $6,976.3 million in 2014, and it is expected to grow with a CAGR of 11.1% during 2015 – 2020. Europe accounted for the largest share of the global biomass pellet market with 20,000.0 million tons consumed in 2014. The major reasons behind growth of the market in the region were low GHG emission from biomass and increased government initiatives for renewable technologies. The market in Europe is expected to maintain its growth rate, mainly driven by various subsidies and legislation.

In 2014, North America accounted for the second largest share in the global biomass pellet market, in terms of value and volume. The major reason behind growth of the market in the region were increasing demand of biomass pellets in industrial sector, strict environmental regulations, and increasing concern for global warming. Therefore, the high rate of depletion of fossil fuels and increasing demand for the reduction of greenhouse gases are indirectly creating ample opportunities for the growth of the North American market.

The report adds that higher levels of investments in the biomass industry are helping advance the technology, making biomass more competitive against conventional fossil fuels.

ExxonMobil, Wisc. Partner on Biomass-Biofuel Project

exxonmobilOil giant ExxonMobil has partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison on a project to turn biomass into biofuel. This article from Lab Manager says the two inked a two-year research agreement.

UW–Madison long has been known for its expertise in biomass conversion, and the project leverages the university’s expertise alongside the resources and technology development of ExxonMobil. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW–Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.

“The science of biomass conversion is very complicated,” Huber says. “In this project we are doing the long-term fundamental research to understand the chemistry involved in the catalytic process of converting biomass into diesel and jet fuel. Our goal is to generate knowledge about what’s possible, and what’s not possible.”

Researchers have used expensive precious metal catalysts such as platinum for biomass conversion. Huber’s group, however, has been working to develop new catalytic materials that are orders of magnitude cheaper than precious metal catalysts.

“The challenge is to make biomass-derived fuels cost-competitive with petroleum-derived diesel fuels,” says Huber, who also is affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW–Madison.

The project allows extensive collaboration between ExxonMobil scientists and UW–Madison students, who will gain experience collaborating with an industrial partner.

“This agreement continues ExxonMobil’s commitment to partner with top universities and scientists to research and discover next-generation energy solutions,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company. “We are continuously investigating new ideas and technologies and we are looking forward to working with the team at the University of Wisconsin on this project.”

This is the latest in a series of research partnerships ExxonMobil established with some of the leading universities around the world, including MIT, Princeton, Michigan State, Northwestern, Stanford and Iowa State University.

Report: Renewables Fastest Growing US Power Source

According to GlobalData, non-hydro renewable energy will be the fastest growing power source in the U.S. through 2025. Installed capacity is expected to increase from 121.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 216 GW in 2025. “US Power Market Outlook to 2025, Update 2015 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape,” finds the strong rate of growth suggests that the current U.S. government fully supports the growth of clean generation technologies. The U.S. was one of signers of the most historic climate treaty agreed upon in Paris earlier this month during COP21.

GlobalData logoChiradeep Chatterjee, GlobalData’s senior analyst covering Power, warns that this positive forecast for non-hydro renewables could be subject to the result of the 2016 US presidential election, with a Republican victory likely to mean considerable changes to present policies due to the party’s lower support for green energy projects in general.

“There are several renewable power regulations that have been implemented or revised by the Obama administration in 2015 that will aid the production of renewable energy,” explained Chatterjee. “For example, the Fannie May Green Initiative provides smart energy through financing solutions, while the Weatherization Assistance Program, instituted by the Department of Energy, offers grants to improve the energy efficiency of resident low-income families. Such initiatives are positive steps to achieving green targets established by US states.”

Targets take the form of Renewable Portfolio Standards programs, state policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy supplied to consumers by a utility within the state should come from renewable sources.

“Generally, the objectives are ambitious, ranging from 10% to 40%, with a variety of target dates. However, there is considerable variation between individual states, as Hawaii is aiming for renewables to constitute 100% of all energy use by 2045, while South Carolina is targeting just 2 percent by 2021.” Chatterjee concluded, “Attitudes towards the growth of green energy differ throughout the US, and it must be acknowledged that other sources of power will remain dominant throughout the forecast period.”

Emerging Nations Hit Record Clean Energy Investments

According to the new report Climatescope, developing nations have surpassed the world’s wealthiest countries in securing more renewable energy investments. Climatescope is a clean energy country competitiveness index, interactive report and online tool supported by the U.S., U.K. and Inter-American Development Bank Group. The report unveils a portrait of clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America Climatescope2015and the Caribbean. The group includes major developing nations China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as dozens of others. Energy solutions reviewed included solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal, biomass, and other zero-carbon emitting technologies (excluding large hydro).

The news came shortly before a round of UN-organized climate negotiations kicked off in Paris prior to the start of COP21. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which released the report, says these talks often focus on the question of how much capital wealthier countries should make available to lesser developed countries to address the climate challenge.

Climatescope’s key findings include:

  • For the first time ever, over half of all new annual investment into clean energy power generating projects globally went toward projects in emerging markets, rather than toward wealthier countries.
  • New investment in renewables soared in 2014 in the 55 Climatescope countries assessed to hit a record annual high of $126bn – up $35.5bn, or 39%, from 2013 levels.
  • The results were substantially bolstered by the remarkable growth in China, which added 35GW of new renewable power generating capacity all on its own – more than the 2014 clean energy build in the US, UK, and France combined.
  • Meanwhile, “South-South” investment (funds deployed in Climatescope nations from banks or other financial institutions based in those countries) surged to $79bn in 2014 from $53bn the year prior.
  • Continuing declines in clean energy costs appear to be driving growth. Costs associated with solar photovoltaic power have ticked down 15% year-on-year globally. Solar is particularly competitive in emerging markets which often suffer from very high power prices from fossil generation while also enjoying very sunny conditions.
  • A total of 50.4 gigawatts (GW) of new clean capacity was built in Climatescope countries, marking a 21% uptick from the prior year. In another first, renewables capacity deployed in emerging markets topped that in wealthier Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.
  • On a percentage basis, clean energy capacity is growing twice as quickly in Climatescope nations compared to OECD ones.

The report found that progress was achieved during 2014 despite a number of countries in the survey seeing economic growth rates slow. Average gross domestic product growth across Climatescope nations slipped to 5.7 percent in 2014 from 6.4 percent in 2013 with the slow-down most apparent in major nations, Brazil, South Africa, and China. Despite the pullback, these three countries attracted a total of $103bn in new clean energy investment in 2014.

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 MassLive.com 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.