Biomass Incentives Intended to Lure Farmers
Demand for biomass is increasing. The U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that 100 million gallons of cellulosic fuel be used as transport fuel in 2010 and 16 billion gallons by 2022. But producers are reluctant to enter the market, says Jody Endres of the University of Illinois' Energy Biosciences Institute. "Perennials require long-term commitment, novel agronomic practices, unique harvesting equipment and offer little carbon price incentive,” she explains. But, she adds, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) can help reduce the risk.
BCAP, authorized in the 2008 farm bill, has two parts. The Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) program makes matching payments upon delivery of biomass crops to a qualified conversion facility. The material can come from federal, private or Indian lands, with some exclusions, including Title I crops. The Farm Service Agency began issuing payments this past fall, paying farmers $1 per dry ton paid by the facility, up to $45 per ton.
The second part, the Project Areas program, awaits implementation while the USDA designates project areas. Farmers will receive up to 75% of perennial establishment costs and an undetermined amount for perennial or annual production. Unlike CHST, the only eligible land will be private land not used for the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program or Grassland Reserve Program and that has not had native sod after May 22, 2008. Title I crops and crops deemed noxious or invasive by federal or state law are also excluded.
A regulation for CHST and Project Areas was issued in early February, followed by a 60-day public comment period. "It's important to take advantage of the comment period,” Endres says. "Where those project areas land is a high-stakes result.” For more, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/.
New Demo Plant Begins Production
DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE) and University of Tennessee/Genera Energy LLC held a grand opening celebration for one of the nation's first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants and the only one that is dedicated to converting both agricultural residue and bioenergy crops into fuel ethanol. The facility, which is located in Vonore, Tenn., began producing ethanol in January.
The 74,000-sq.-ft. facility has the capacity to produce about 250,000 gal. of ethanol from corn cobs and switchgrass. The plant applies DDCE's innovative integrated technology to convert agricultural residues and dedicated bioenergy crops into ethanol for fuel. The facility is focused on process and data validation to achieve commercial-scale production by 2012.
DDCE was established in 2008 to integrate the state-of-the art technologies and engineering expertise of DuPont and Danisco. Genera Energy is wholly owned by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and is focused on developing the integrated biomass supply chain solutions and strategic partnerships to support the bioenergy industry in Tennessee.
Biofuel From Algae
Solix Biofuels in Fort Collins, Colo., is producing algae-based biofuel and sending it to potential partners for testing, says CEO Doug Henston. The company's AGS (Algae Growth System) Technology uses a photo-bioreactor with chambers to expose algae to five times the sunlight exposure on pond surfaces. The technology also uses controlled turbulence to circulate the algae and maximize photosynthesis and growth.
Solix reduces its freshwater requirement by using wastewater generated by the production of coal-bed methane at a co-located industrial plant. Solix also uses CO2 produced by the plant to feed the microalgae. "Very few, if any, facilities are hooked up to industrial sources of CO2,” Henston says.
The facility has peak production capacity of 3,000 gal. per acre per year of algal oil; production is pared back during the winter, when there is less sunlight. Solix plans to sell algal oil to companies that will refine it into biofuel and to license its technology, which works with multiple native species of algae, to potential partners. The company expects to have a commercial facility operating in the next two to four years.