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3 Questions with

The National Wood Chip Heating Fuel Technical Quality Standard is done. How long has this been in development, and who has been a part of it—in terms of funding, providing input, and crafting it?
The project kicked off almost two years ago, with grant support from the USDA Forest Service. The project lead is the Biomass Energy Resource Center of the VT Energy Investment Corporation. Team partners include the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC. We have an advisory committee comprised of 15 experts representing diverse stakeholder interests. We built a database of over 400 stakeholders, and have communicated periodic updates and opportunities for comment to them.

You’re going to discuss the standard during your upcoming presentation at the International Biomass Conference & Expo. Who should know what’s in the standard, and why?
Anyone who produces wood chips used as a heating fuel, who manufactures wood chip boiler systems or fuel storage and conveying systems, and anyone who purchases fuel for heating buildings or process heat will have an interest. The entire supply chain from production, to transportation, to combustion should be aware of the standard and its application to your business. In addition, anyone who believes wood chip heating fuel holds significant promise meeting our nation’s energy needs should learn about the standard.

The U.S. standard was based off of the European standard, but there are differences—what is one of them?
Two major changes from the ISO 17225-4 standard are:
  • Our standard allows for material that was reduced in size by chipping, grinding, or some other method. Whereas, the European standard specifically only allows chipping. In general, we strove to not specify how the performance specifics are met.
  • We put all measures in English units, and modified chip size classifications to better relate to how chips are used and sold in America.

See Neibling Speak On Wednesday, April 18 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
The Argument for a More Thorough and Formal Understanding of Available Biomass, Its Quality and the Overall Risk within the Supply Chain

3 Questions with

Bathan has transitioned from a lubricant supplier to a full-service company for pellet producers. Can you explain how that happened, and why?
Seeing our greases work with 95 percent less consumption in pelleting was good, but we knew that without knowing enough about the whole process, we would not always achieve our wanted outcome. We needed the bigger picture. Therefore, like many other companies, we evolved in what we were good at, and where we could have the biggest impact. Having a team with 30-plus years of experience in commissioning, servicing and repairing pellet plants helps us to do what is best for our customers.

You plan to present a reference case, where pellet production was drastically increased. Can you give one example of an operational improvement that you’ll discuss?
In my opinion, well-trained staff is by far the most valuable asset any plant manager can have. A team who knows how to operate and maintain all the equipment is priceless. A Swiss customer told me, it takes approximately one year to have a newcomer on track, but then the plant can literally be operated remotely. Sometimes, it is necessary to raise awareness for shortcomings in a bigger perspective to increase safety at work and production output. Here we come into play.

You doubled the output, nearly reaching the full design capacity, within 12 months, work that included improvements along all stages of the production chain—what are those stages?
The output depends on many factors; material preparation is the most important. However, material preparation spans over all the stages until the feedstock is pelletized. The usual stages are wet shavings hammer mill, dryer, dry shavings hammer mill, pelletizer and cooler. Questions arise when it comes to debarking, binders, moisture content and temperature monitoring. Together with our customers, we find individual answers to all of these questions and know about the interactions of all the stages.

See Streetz Speak On Tuesday, April 18 (3:30 pm - 5:00 pm)
Designing Pellet Plants to Maximize Operational, Environmental and Financial Performance

3 Questions with

During your presentation, you’re going to discuss the Optima-KV project. Can you give us a broad overview of it?
Optima-KV is the first organic recycling system in North Carolina to place renewable natural gas (RNG) into the existing natural gas pipeline. In fact, it is the first natural gas ever to be placed into the pipeline from within North Carolina, from any source; and it happens to be from a renewable resource—swine waste. In addition to this giant first step, it is also the first system to aggregate biogas produced from multiple sources to a single upgrading/refining point. The system consists of a gathering pipe system that collects biogas from the anaerobic digestion of swine manure and wastes from five proximate farms. The resulting RNG has been purchased by Duke Energy under a 15-year offtake agreement, and will be used by Duke Energy to produce renewable electricity through nomination at one or more of their existing combined cycle power plants.

The project is expected to yield about 80,000 MMBtu (dekatherms) per year of renewable RNG, which will generate approximately 11,100 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 880 homes, which is a little over twice the number of homes in Kenansville, North Carolina.

You mention the design is innovative. Can you elaborate a bit?
Optima-KV aggregates the biogas produced by five proximate swine farms near Kenansville, North Carolina in an effort to improve the economics of such waste-to-energy endeavors. Aggregating the biogas, rather than the manure and wastes as has been the conventional thought, means that the nutrient recovery and biosecurity concerns of the participating farmers are properly addressed, while the economics of scale associated with the biogas upgrading and RNG pipeline injection can be accomplished. Manures and wastes generated by the farms’ combined 60,000 animals is directed into a newly constructed anaerobic digester serving each farm. A centralized gas upgrading system uses a pressure swing adsorption process to remove unwanted biogas constituents, such as moisture and carbon dioxide, to refine the biogas to the specifications for pipeline injection—the first natural gas (which happens to be from a renewable source) to come from within the state’s borders.

North Carolina has a unique renewable portfolio standard. What is it, and how does the project benefit?
North Carolina is one of many states in the U.S. with a renewable energy portfolio standard, but the only one with a specific requirement for a portion of the renewable energy requirement dedicated to the derivation of energy from swine farming and poultry farming wastes.

Specifically, the NC REPS requires investor-owned utilities in North Carolina to provide up to 12.5 percent of their energy through renewable energy resources or energy efficiency measures, and Rural Electric Cooperatives and Municipal Electric suppliers are subject to a 10 percent REPS.

The REPS is meant to aide in stewardship of our natural resources, and address the increasing costs of waste disposal, such as the increasing costs of energy inputs to do so, and provide a catalyst for new investment in NC agriculture. While it obviously helps the rural communities through providing a stimulus, promoting economic growth, it is also improving the environment by achieving a superior level of waste treatment, and a reduction in the carbon footprint created by the conventional waste management system.

See Simmons Speak On Tuesday, April 18 (3:30 pm - 5:00 pm )
Biogas Case Studies II: Managing Animal Waste Streams with Anaerobic Digestion

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ESI Inc. of Tennessee has played an essential role in the project featured on the cover of the March/April issue of Biomass Magazine—Honua Ola Bioenergy, a 30-MW biomass plant that is currently under construction in Pepeekeo on the big island of Hawaii. Can you provide an overview of what you guys have done there?
ESI has been working with the developer since the very beginning of this project when we were selected as the owner’s engineer. We have been providing engineering services identifying and assessing the condition of existing assets suitable for reuse and providing the overall plant design and engineering. Working in conjunction with Honua Ola Bioenergy, ESI has also performed the procurement of all the major equipment for the project. Our current role is finalizing the engineering and procurement necessary to construct the project as well as providing site engineering services support during construction.

During your presentation at the International Biomass Conference & Expo, you plan to discuss thermal energy and power generation, and finding the “sweet spot.” What do you mean by that?
Every golfer knows what it means to hit a shot off the sweet spot of the club. The shot feels and looks dramatically different than shots not hit off the sweet spot. Similarly, by pursuing certain aspects in the design and development of biomass fired steam and power plants, i.e. the sweet spot, the overall plant economics can be optimized to provide the best opportunity for an economically viable project.

You will touch on some key points that contribute to building a successful biomass-fired plant—tell us about one of them.
In a conventional Rankine cycle power plant, a significant amount of the heat is wasted in the condenser thus making the overall plant efficiency substantially less than current natural gas fired Brayton/Rankine combined cycle power plants. The phasing out of the Federal Investment Tax Credit has made biomass fired power plant economics challenging in today’s environment. However, if a thermal energy customer can be co-located adjacent to the biomass fired power plant, the cycle efficiency can potentially exceed that of a natural gas fired combined cycle plant. This factor is significant in potentially making it an economically viable project.

See Reeves Speak On Wednesday, April 18 (8:30 am - 10:00 am)
Why Setting a Course and Following a Well-Defined Azimuth is Vital to Biomass-to-Energy Project Development Success

3 Questions with

What’s one of the biggest challenges that biomass boiler operators face today, in terms of maximizing the life of existing assets?
Biomass boiler owners and operators today face many challenges in extending the life of their existing assets, including compliance with current emissions regulations, lowering operating costs, and improving safety, reliability and availability. There is constant pressure to improve efficiency, as even a 2-3 percent increase in combustion or plant efficiency can significantly reduce fuel cost and regulated emissions production. Fortunately for many, their existing assets, even if 50 to 60 years old, still may have many years of useful life and making some thoughtful investments in equipment retrofits can help them address today’s challenges.

You’re planning to present a couple of case studies, one of which will detail technical considerations for modernizing and replacing a grate system. Can you provide an overview of those considerations?
The technical considerations revolve around utilizing available biomass fuels that are constantly changing in consistency, and inherent properties to maximize steam production to meet process requirements. Technical considerations include the potential for modernization of equipment to enhance fuel delivery and combustion processes. With modernization, the typical benefits include mitigating CO emissions excursions above permit levels, addressing forced outages often required for ash removal, and consistently operating at maximum continuous rating (MCR).

Another case study will review adding gas burners for start-up and cofiring on existing biomass boilers. Why might this be an ideal option for some operations?
Biomass with gas cofiring is a growing combustion system enhancement that provides fuel flexibility, improved safety on start-up, better load swing response, emissions compliance, potential increases in operating efficiency, and less downtime due to biomass supply disruption.

See Clasby Speak On Tuesday, April 17 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
The Technical Advancements Responsible for Making Biomass Co-firing Practicable

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