April 30, 2007

April 2007 Digest

Woody Biomass - Energizing a new generation

America is witnessing the balkanization of its renewable energy portfolio. The sun belt is home to solar energy. The corn belt is home to ethanol. Landfill bioenergy is focused in urban areas. The nation's woodpiles are in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast. Each region will have to come to grips with the economic, technical, environmental, and cultural changes that will be necessary build, market, and sustain development in their communities. NIMBY-ism will be a constant, frustrating impediment to many grand schemes.

We have seen the impact that ethanol has played in the cornbelt. Its communities have embraced the technologies - not without some consternation from its livestock industry. Individual farmers have banded together to form cooperatives to build ethanol plants. Agricultural giants like ADM and Cargill are re-evaluating how they can realign their business units to capitalize on their waste and biomass assets. Politicians are displaying uncharacteristic bipartisanship on ag/energy issues.

Following this model, we are now witnessing an emerging focus in the southeastern U.S. - home to communities that are committed now and in future generations to forestry and wood-related companies. 44% of the existing renewable energy generated in the U.S. comes from and is used by this industry - mostly generated from woody waste accumulating at paper and pulp mills. Landowners are eying biorefinery plans for the region to see if it makes sense to form cooperatives. Moribund mills and chemical factories that have lost business to foreign competition are now viewed as possible sites for new bioenergy ventures since they already have supply and distribution infrastructure in place.

The best resource of the region is the character of the indigenous citizens. Unfailingly patriotic but often regarded as the underappreciated step-children of America, many communities of the Southeast are eager to finally have an opportunity to contribute their regional ingenuity, brawn, and industrial capacity to the national effort to end American addiction to foreign oil. It is, after all, the young, proud southern recruit that continues to carry the bulk of the national security burden caused by this addiction.

As a political footnote, presidential aspirants interested in a Southern strategy should remember that in 2000 Gore lost ALL the states in the region - including his home state of Tennessee which would have put him in the White House. A commitment to woody bioenergy development of the region would be well received. It is not clear that the same can be said of the Pacific Northwest.

Here are links to stories that were posted in the BioEnergy BlogRing during April, 2007:

BIOstock Blog--------------
E3 Biofuels and Closed Loop Ethanol Plants
The need for Public Outreach: a case study in China
BIOstock 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
Woody Biomass Utilization and the USDA Forest Service
Development alliance builds between forest and energy giants
Hybrid poplars reduce carbon emissions best
Thinning trees to save ecology
In-Woods Expo 2007 Harvests Energy

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Industrial Symbiosis: Creating eco-industrial parks
Latin America's Blueprint for Green Energy
BIOconversion 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
EPA releases comprehensive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program
Converting Biomass to Hydrogen
D.O.E. to fund ADM/Purdue cellulosic ethanol project
Friedman Multi-media on "The Power of Green"
Biomass Gasification at the "Chin-dia" price

BIOoutput Blog--------------
Good News from the DOE about Carbon Sequestration
BIOoutput 101: The BioTown Sourcebook

BIOwaste Blog--------------
BIOwaste 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
Hurdles to Waste Conversion Technologies
Smokestack emissions as feedstock for ethanol

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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April 7, 2007

BIOoutput 101: The BioTown Sourcebook

For anyone who desires a simple introduction to the current range of potential BIOoutput products, I suggest a careful reading of a brief technical overview document called The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy (released in April, 2006). It was written for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture by scientist and fellow blogger, Mark Jenner, PhD. who has his own website called Biomass Rules.

Below you can see an overview graphic that charts where bioconversion products (highlighted in blue) fall in proper context for addressing BIOstock, BIOconversion, and BIOwaste issues. For this reason, I offer a similar 101 abstract treatment in each of my BlogRing blogs.

This BioTown sourcebook is the official inventory on local energy use, available biomass fuels and emerging technologies for Reynolds, Indiana. As such, it can serve as an inventory template for any similarly focused study of a medium-sized rural community. It greater importance is its microcosmic view of rural communities as decentralized, sustainable entities that possess more than enough biomass to service their own energy needs.

Part of the report is devoted to an accounting of the existing energy demand in BioTown: transportation fuels, electricity, and natural gas. As the author states:

The bottom line is that as the cost of fossil fuel-derived energy continues to roughly double every five years, the value of biomass energy makes excellent economic sense. Agricultural commodity prices have remained competitively low for decades. Historically, if the supply of corn, beans, or even hogs is below demand, more are grown the next year – keeping commodity prices low.

At right is a broad "list of product categories from the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement" drafted in 2003 (click to enlarge). "This federal rule-making process was part of a federal policy to procure supplies that made from bio-based material and meet specific criteria." Those criteria are spelled out as percentages of minimum biobased content necessary to qualify. It demonstrates the incredibly broad range of applications the output of bioconversion processes can be applied to.

This report is not a utopian call to return to rural, communal living. It is, instead, an affirmation that there are many biomass resources available and technologies in development to provide environmentally clean bioenergy alternatives to the existing fossil fuel energy paradigm. Rural communities can develop expertise and marketable output best suited to their own resources and industries. Urban communities can develop some technologies that are relevant to the diversion of trash from landfills.

The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy

BioTown, USA is Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniel’s, bold approach to develop local renewable energy production, create a cleaner environment, find new solutions to municipal/animal waste issues, and develop new markets for Indiana products – all at the same time. BioTown, USA is quite simply the conversion of Reynolds, Indiana from a reliance on fossil fuels to biomass-based fuels. With the implementation of BioTown, USA, a template will be set that simultaneously promotes Indiana energy security, rural development, profitable agriculture and a green, thriving natural resource environment.

The only conclusion that can be made is that BioTown, USA is profoundly thermodynamically and technologically viable. Reynolds, Indiana used 227,710 million BTUs (MMBTU) in 2005. White County annually produces over 16,881,613 MMBTU in undeveloped biomass energy resources. That is 74 times more energy than Reynolds consumed in 2005.

BioTown, USA is a concept whose time has come. This Sourcebook and subsequent BioTown reports will serve as vital stepping stones to the implementation of BioTown, USA and subsequent bioeconomic rural development opportunities across Indiana and the nation.

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April 5, 2007

Good News from the DOE about Carbon Sequestration

According to a new Department of Energy study U.S. and Canadian power plants are sitting on a 900 year storage capacity for their carbon sequestration. Getting the CO2 underground into the subterranean storage formations is not a process currently practiced in the United States (as it is in Europe) but it is good to know that we have the capacity to use as part of an overall carbon mitigation program.

DOE’s Carbon Sequestration Program involves two key elements for technology development: (1) Core R&D and (2) Demonstration and Deployment. The Core R&D element contains five focal areas for carbon sequestration technology development: (1) CO2 Capture, (2) Carbon Storage, (3) Monitoring, Mitigation, and Verification, (4) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Control, and (5) Breakthrough Concepts. Core R&D is driven by industry’s technology needs and is accomplished through laboratory and pilot-scale research aimed at developing new technologies and new systems for GHG mitigation.

As shown in this Atlas, CCS holds great promise as part of a portfolio of technologies that enables the U.S. and the rest of the world to address climate change while meeting the energy demands of an ever increasing global population. The Atlas includes the most current and best available estimates of potential carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration capacities determined by a methodology applied consistently across all of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP). All data were collected before December 2006. In the course of developing these CO2 sequestration capacity estimates, it became clear that some areas had yielded more and better quality data than others. Therefore, it is acknowledged that these data sets are not comprehensive; it is, however, anticipated that CO2 sequestration capacity estimates as well as geologic formation maps will be updated annually as new data are acquired and methodologies for CO2 sequestration capacity estimates improve.

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