Summary Report: Technology
Forum - Processing Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy to
Meet End-User Needs
Table of Contents
- Presentations and Forum Highlights
- Conclusions Emerging from the Forum
This report summarizes the information and views expressed by
speakers and participants at the forum.
What we currently know/understand
What we still need to know/gaps
- Agricultural biomass types of higher interest are woody
and herbaceous energy crops in terms of fuel quality,
yield and cost. Crop and industrial residues are also
readily available and lower-cost, but fuel quality is
- Torrefied biomass has advantages: Is hydrophobic and
dry, is not biologically active, higher density, higher
energy density, is friable, provides cost savings in transportation,
handling and processing. Market is driven mainly by utilities,
with potential for residential and industrial heating
- On its own, torrefaction will not significantly reduce
sulphur, chlorine and alkali concentrations in biomass
- Gasification (production of syngas), is not generally
seen as promising at the present state of the technology
- Combined heat and power (CHP) is particularly attractive
due to efficiency of overall energy use
- Combustion systems using biomass are commercially available
in Canada at sizes from two kilowatts to 500 megawatts.
Almost all Canadian-manufactured boilers are designed
for wood (need modifications to burn agricultural biomass)
- Woody biomass has low ash content, very low sulphur
- Combustion temperature significantly affects total yield
of ash from biomass
- Cost is higher than coal
- Ontario's Feed-in Tariff Program price for biomass is
- No commercial combustion technologies for small-scale
power generation are available
- Challenges for biomass users include how/where
to use the waste heat and how to create biomass fuel infrastructure
- What can be done cost-effectively to address fuel quality
issues i.e. high chlorine content, sulphur, high percentage
of alkali metals, ash fusibility (ash melting point is
low for herbaceous biomass compared to wood), emissions
from combustion, moisture, high ash, alkali and halogens,
emissions and fouling?
- Torrefaction presents outstanding research questions
(e.g. most experience is with torrefied wood); results
from only pilot-scale plants are available; uncertainties
about large-scale torrefacton processing
- Demonstration gasification projects, mostly in Europe,
tend to focus on woody biomass; North American experience
- How to address challenges for processors of ag biomass:
cash flow and storage requirements (given seasonal availability
of raw feedstocks, seasonality of pellet use for space
heating), abrasiveness of agricultural biomass (silicates
reduce die life)
- Impact of different storage options on biomass quality
Introduction and Context
The Technology Forum was hosted by the Steering Committee for
the Project to Commercialize Agricultural
Biomass for Combustion Energy. The purpose of this project
is to coordinate the analysis of the feasibility of a commercial
agricultural biomass industry for combustion energy in Ontario
and, if feasible, set the foundation for the industry. The Steering
Committee is co-chaired by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
As a key component of the Ontario government's Climate Change
Action Plan, OPG is exploring the conversion of coal-fired generating
units to firing, or natural gas co-firing, with biomass fuels
including wood pellets and agricultural biomass. The cement industry,
some agricultural operations (e.g. greenhouses) and others currently
reliant on coal or natural gas are also seeking renewable sources
of energy as a greenhouse gas mitigation measure.
The Ontario agricultural sector is increasingly interested in
the value chains and business models associated with the utilization
of agricultural biomass for energy generation. Consequently, there
is a need to co-ordinate and focus the efforts of the agricultural
and rural sectors, researchers and key partners to validate the
long-term prospects of this business opportunity in terms of technical
feasibility, economic viability and environmental sustainability.
The Steering Committee has three Working Groups composed of people
in the forefront of this emerging industry the Business
Case Working Group, the Technical Working Group and the Environmental
Sustainability Working Group. Working Group members are called
on to share their expertise and provide insight to the Steering
Committee. The Technical Working Group, led by René Van
Acker of the University of Guelph, is focused on the agronomic,
infrastructure and combustion challenges of agricultural biomass.
The Technology Forum was organized by this Working Group.
Technology Forum Objective
The objective of the Technology Forum was to bring participants
up-to-date on the technologies for processing agricultural biomass
for combustion energy, alternative methods of storing agricultural
biomass prior to processing, and the technical requirements of
emerging agricultural biomass end-user markets. The forum also
aimed to initiate the exploration of whether, when and how to
develop various agricultural biomass supply chains in Ontario.
Speakers were asked to provide practical information both
challenges and opportunities on biomass combustion from
the end-user perspective and on the technical aspects of the various
biomass processing alternatives for combustion energy. Participants
were encouraged to share information and help identify knowledge
gaps that may need to be filled as the Steering Committee coordinates
its analysis of the feasibility of commercializing agricultural
biomass for the production of combustion energy in Ontario.
There were approximately 160 participants 110 attending
in person at the Arboretum Centre, University of Guelph and 50
linked by webcast. A broad spectrum of sectors was represented,
including agricultural producers, farm organizations, governments
(federal and provincial), technology companies, the biomass processing
industry, biomass end-users, university researchers and consultants
most located in Ontario, with some participation from other
Presentations and Forum Highlights
Please note that the full set of speaker presentations
is available here.
What follows are highlights from the speaker presentations for
each panel, followed by discussion points and participant input.
Biomass End-Users: Speaker Highlights
Rob Cumming Lafarge Canada Inc.
Rob Cumming is the Environmental & Public Affairs Manager
for Lafarge Cement's Ontario operations and is based at the cement
plant at Bath. He has been with Lafarge for seven years. He obtained
his Masters in Engineering from the University of Waterloo with
a focus on environmental engineering, and has been a professional
engineer for over 20 years. Last year, the Bath cement plant won
the prestigious Environmental Excellence award given to the cement
plant with the best combination of outreach, energy management,
environmental stewardship, and innovation. There are over 120
cement plants in North America vying for this prize, which is
awarded by the Portland Cement Association.
- Cement industry produces 5% of global CO2 emissions
huge opportunity to mitigate climate change with biomass feedstocks
instead of coal.
- Challenges of biomass fuels include cost compared to coal,
lower energy density, need for covered storage in some cases.
- Lafarge used loose biomass in its Oct. 2010 demonstration
test in its Bath, ON plant.
- Advantages of pellets: Recognized product, economical at long
transportation distances, improved conveyability, and some benefit
over loose biomass in heating value since drier. Disadvantages:
Cost, must be stored covered, cement kilns prefer smaller particle
size, dusting and off-gassing.
- Utilizing local fuel is a big positive.
- "Cement 2020" is
considering the practical measures that can be implemented at
the Bath plant and potentially worldwide in the cement industry
by 2020 to reduce the industry's carbon footprint; use of local
biomass is seen as a key opportunity for the industry to become
- If Cement 2020 is successful, the industry would reduce more
CO2 emissions than Canada as a country currently
- Biomass issues to be addressed in Cement 2020 include how
to improve biomass fuel quality; how/where to use the waste
heat; how to create biomass fuel infrastructure; inclusion of
water use in life cycle assessments; and emissions from combustion.
Phil Reinert Ontario Power Generation
Phil Reinert has more than 20 years' experience in the electricity
generation industry in a wide breadth of managerial roles at facilities
utilizing coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and biomass forms
of fuel. Currently, as the Alternate Fuels Manager at Ontario
Power Generation's 3000-megawatt Nanticoke Generating Station,
he is leading the station's program to convert the plant to cleaner
fuels. As well, he is a member of a number of North American and
international utility biomass groups.
- OPG continues to investigate biomass for all coal units being
considered for conversion to natural gas.
- In considering agricultural biomass, OPG must ensure that
a balance is struck between fuel quality and cost. Agricultural
biomass types of higher interest to OPG in terms of fuel
quality, yield and cost are woody energy crops and herbaceous
energy crops. While agricultural residuals and industrial process
residuals are readily available and lower-cost, their fuel quality
- Torrefied biomass is attractive because unlike standard biomass,
it is hydrophobic, is not biologically active, has energy density
similar to coal, and is friable. Torrefaction means ability
to inventory large fuel volumes; increased maximum capacity
ratings for power units; reduction in costs for capital plant
modifications, fuel transportation; improved combustion efficiency
and improved industrial hygiene. Torrefaction is promising,
but there are outstanding research questions that OPG is seeking
to have addressed.
- Agricultural biomass challenges: reducing unwanted chemicals
(N,P, K) via leaching or additives; utilizing acceptable fuel
densification processes, need for binders due to low lignin;
and developing mitigation strategies for industrial hygiene
issues (especially for raw biomass fuel) and for reduction of
- OPG, like other end users, buys energy, not product; based
on $/gigajoule or $/BTU. OPG has not established a price to
be paid for biomass fuel price would be negotiated between
OPG and the OPA. There would be a penalty for chemistry issues
if not dealt with by the biomass supplier.
Albert Mastronardi H & A Mastronardi Farms
Albert Mastronardi has been growing greenhouse vegetables
(tomatoes, peppers and mini-cucumbers) on 32 acres for over 35
years at Kingsville, Ontario. H & A Mastronardi Farms Ltd.
is a family-run business that Albert operates from two farm locations
with his brother Rudy and parents Henry and Anna. The family,
under sister Marlene, also runs a bedding plant retail business
called Anna's Flowers.
- Switched to biomass from natural gas due to high gas prices
in early 2000s.
- Currently using 65% wood, 35% natural gas. Wood includes wood
chips (pallets, construction/demolition, forestry residues),
not pelletized product. Storage shed has one-month capacity.
Foresees blending wood and agricultural biomass in future.
- Six-megawatt boiler heats 15 acres of greenhouse. Ash is spread
- Higher moisture content of fuel means significantly higher
cost per gigajoule.
- Hot water storage is essential; at night, all the heat stored
during the day is used.
- Co-benefit: Potential for CO2 capture for enhancement
of greenhouse vegetable production.
- While natural gas prices have decreased, Mastronardi Farms
has made a strong commitment to biomass on the basis that over
the long term, fossil fuel prices will increase.
Servanne Fowlds Dalkia Canada
Servanne Fowlds has worked in the energy and environmental
industry for the past 12 years in a variety of different areas
including demand-side management, district energy and more recently,
power generation. She is a MBA graduate from York University,
Schulich School of Business, with an undergraduate degree in marketing
and sales from Ecole Superieure de Commerce in France. She is
also a LEED® Accredited Professional. Servanne is currently
Project Development Manager for Dalkia Canada, responsible for
developing new projects covering alternative financing and procurement
in health care, district energy, biomass power and cogeneration.
Dalkia is a major worldwide player in energy and infrastructure
projects. Dalkia contributes to combating climate change by implementing
energy efficiency measures, cogeneration, and renewable energy
within its 118,000 energy centres.
- Dalkia works along the biomass supply chain: design, build,
finance, maintain, operate. Enters into agreements with forest
industry and farmers for supply.
- Has 1,365 megawatts installed capacity using 2 million tonnes/year
biomass (78% forest, 15% recovered woody materials, 5% agricultural
residues and energy crops), at 251 sites in 15 countries; biomass
used for steam production for industrial processes, heating,
- No need to pelletize the biomass if transporting ≤50
km (preferred maximum).
- Dalkia's policy is not to secure biomass from land that could
grow food. Dalkia seeks out industrial brownfields, for example,
and enters into contracts for five, 10, 15 or 20 years (longer-term
- For Dalkia, steam is the main product; electricity is a byproduct.
End-users include hospitals, universities, commercial and industrial
facilities (pulp and paper, food and beverage), multi-unit residential
- Combined heat and power (CHP) is particularly attractive and
is Dalkia's primary focus 85% efficiency. Standard boiler
plant has only about 55% efficiency.
- Driver in European Union is Renewable Energy Directive
2020 targets of 20% CO2 emissions reduction, 20% lower primary
energy consumption, increase in renewable energy to 20%.
- Biomass risks/challenges include: high chlorine content; ash
fusibility; security of biomass supply and storage; agronomy
(e.g. fertilizer use).
Jim Wallbridge SwitchGreen
Jim Wallbridge lives at Lansdowne in eastern Ontario. He was
a crop farmer in the Winchester area until 2006. He is currently
the contact person for SwitchGreen Inc., grower liaison with Hendrick
Agrifoods Inc., as well as doing switchgrass promotion and grower
contact with Hendrick Seeds. He started working with switchgrass
at Hendrick Seeds five years ago.
- Forman Greenhouses and Hendrick Agrifoods were seeking sustainable,
renewable fuel sources for boilers, plants, offices. Switchgrass
fits our value chain philosophy of providing growers with longer
rotations combined with excellent soil-building characteristics,
giving a return on investment for marginal lands.
- Need to know the fuel specs in order to adjust combustion
units to burn efficiently and control particulate emissions;
technicals are in pace to accomplish this. No need to densify
biomass except for home heating market and outdoor pellet boilers.
- Focus is smaller users, within 50-100-kilometre radius.
- Requirements to move forward: market knowledge (pellet manufacturer,
consumer); relationship between cost of raw biomass and cost
of processed product to consumer; distribution methods and costs;
licensing laws and municipal bylaws; financing capital
investment required cannot jeopardize existing business.
Biomass End-Users: Discussion/Participant Input
- There are only a few biomass projects under the Ontario Power
Authority's (OPA's) Feed-in Tariff Program because the price
($0.138 /kWh) is not attractive.
- Question asked re: the potential to feed syngas into the natural
gas pipeline grid for electricity generation in order to avoid
transportation costs: While syngas production is not forecast
to come on-stream in the near term, OPG monitors its potential.
Dalkia does not see syngas as promising at the present state
of the technology.
- The European Union provides a stable legal and political environment
for biomass energy generation.
- Agricultural biomass combustion seems less promising from
an economic perspective compared to other biomass uses, e.g.
bio-plastics, animal bedding.
- Efficiency of shipping biomass to torrefaction plants at/near
the deep-water ports on Lake Ontario : Lafarge looking at this
closely; lower carbon footprint of marine shipping is attractive;
however, torrefaction technology requires development. OPG agrees
that torrefaction is in its infancy.
- Consistent fuel greatly reduces handling problems.
- How will low natural gas prices affect the future of the bioeconomy?
- What will the potential be for shipping agricultural biomass
- Need to make a major effort to find local opportunities for
biomass end use, minimizing processing and transportation.
Agricultural Biomass Storage Options: Speaker Highlights
Steve Clarke OMAFRA
- On-farm storage options include:
- In the field using plastic wrap ("Ag Bags," bale
- Covered storage variety of types
- To maintain dry matter, covered indoor storage is best, followed
by plastic wrap, net wrap, plastic twine and sisal twine.
- Different densification methods have different storage requirements.
Don Nott Nott Farms
- Uses open-sided hay shed to store up to 4,000 tonnes of switchgrass;
baling in spring (by then, moisture can be reduced to 7%).
- Challenges: expensive to build; energy-intensive (to transport
biomass into storage then take it out); fire risk.
- Field-wrap and in-field storage in large square bales have
advantages: less labour, handling and fuel use; ability to protect
biomass from rain more quickly; direct delivery to end-user.
Plastic wrap creates waste, but is recyclable.
- Field-storage silage bags ("Ag Bags") are used by Willowlee
Sod Farms (Kurt Vanclief).
- Don uses a custom baler (large bales stacked three high);
bucket-loader is required to move the product to covered storage.
- Stacked uncovered storage is also possible; while a wet band
forms around the edge, most stays dry.
Agricultural Biomass Storage Options: Discussion/Participant
- On-farm storage is necessary; storage at sites zoned industrial
is too expensive.
- At Dalkia plants, there is only only 2-3 days' storage capacity;
typically, biomass stored on farms, but depends on location/situation.
- Not a major difference in cost of in-field versus covered
storage; plastic wrap/in-field probably slightly cheaper.
- What are the biomass quality losses associated with different
storage options? (research need)
- Potential for making bale wrap from bio-composites or natural
fibre (removes need to un-wrap plastic bale-wrap).
- Integrated approach: Potential to add solar photovoltaic cells
to on-farm storage shed roofs as added income stream.
- On-farm storage requirements can range from one week to one
month, depending on buyer.
Feedstock and Processing Alternatives: Speaker Highlights
Fernando Preto Natural Resources Canada
Dr. Fernando Preto received his B.A.Sc. in Chemical Engineering
from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. from Queen's University.
Following graduation, he joined the Canadian Combustion Research
Laboratory to pursue research on reducing emissions from combustion
systems. He has followed this up with research projects on thermochemical
conversion of biomass fuels, small-scale power generation
and alternative energy for the greenhouse industry. He is currently
Group Leader for Biomass Conversion in the CanmetENERGY Laboratories
of Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa.
- Combustion systems using biomass are commercially available
in Canada in sizes from 2 kilowatts to 500 megawatts. 99% of
Canadian-manufactured boilers are designed for wood; modifications
to burn agricultural biomass are necessary.
- No systems to generate power are available in Canada at less
than 500 kilowatts. To be viable, a size of about 10 megawatts
would be required.
- Biomass burn characteristics (BTU/lb, ash, carbon, hydrogen,
nitrogen, sulphur, total chlorine) provided for various agricultural
residues, energy crops and wood.
- Challenges for biomass suppliers: emission standards, lack
of fuel standards, lack of trained personnel, commercial technologies
available only for heat not small-scale power.
- Challenges for biomass users: moisture, energy density and
fuel handling, fuel composition (high ash, alkali and halogens),
emissions and fouling, furnace design and operation (furnaces
are typically designed for a specific fuel).
- Observations from greenhouse energy research project (NRCan,
OMAFRA, AAFC) at NRCan labs and 12 greenhouse farms with grate
furnaces, comparing current base fuel (wood) with several agricultural
- On a mass basis, agricultural residues have similar energy
content to wood, but fuel is high-volume, and low energy
density requires special handling equipment and/or densification
for combustion in conventional furnaces/boilers.
- High ash and alkali content requires adaptation of furnace
design and/or operating conditions to minimize ash fouling.
- Harvest timing can reduce problem-causing elements.
- Biomass fuels have high volatile/low fixed carbon content
and so require appropriately sized combustion chambers to
achieve complete combustion and low emissions.
- Corn cobs and stover are not recommended due to high chlorine
content; also, corn cobs are high in volatile organic carbon
Papiya Roy School of Engineering, University of Guelph
Dr. Papiya Roy received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from
IIT Delhi, India. Her research activities include fluidization,
granulation, catalyst and biomass combustion. She is presently
working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Guelph
and has 8 publications in peer-reviewed journals and international
conference proceedings. Her main tasks and responsibilities are
characterization of biomass feedstocks, mainly agricultural residues,
as the fuel for potential combustion. Her work involves herbaceous
biomass combustion - related issues and corrosion caused by agglomeration
and fouling due to ash chemistry. This advanced fuel characterization
will help to predict ash fouling and slagging. This work focuses
on the combustion system and ash behavior which will lead to a
better understanding of the potential use of herbaceous fuel for
- The main challenge of using biomass is its high percentage
of alkali metals and high chlorine content, especially in herbaceous
- Combustion equipment must operate at temperatures below the
ash melting point, which is low for herbaceous biomass compared
to wood. Combustion temperature significantly affects total
yield of ash from biomass. The principal ash-forming constituents
of herbaceous fuels are silicon and potassium.
- Straw, cereals and grasses contain relatively high levels
of chlorine, sulphur and alkali metals, which cause corrosion
and deposit formation.
- Ash chemical composition is provided for various agricultural
biomass types and woody biomass. Ash behaviour and deposition
tendencies can be predicted through slagging and fouling indices.
Additives such as kaolin, dolomite, limestone, alumina, bauxite
reduce slagging/fouling caused by alkalis.
- Woody biomass has low ash content, very low sulphur content,
high combustible content.
- Fluidized beds are best suited to handle combustion issues
because of their flexibility, stability, efficiency.
- Silicon, calcium, potassium and phosphorus have direct influence
on ash fusion and deposition in furnaces.
- Chemical composition of biomass fuels, especially ash-forming
elements, influences choice of combustion and process control
Scott Abercrombie Gildale Farms
Scott Abercrombie is the owner of Gildale Farms, which is
a farming operation that has recently transitioned into the 2nd
generation of ownership. As part of this transition, the primary
focus of the business has shifted away from traditional farming.
Scott now manages the operation of a small-scale pelleting facility
and is also growing Miscanthus as a fibre crop. Scott has a background
in industrial controls and automation, and spent several years
working in the automotive industry after graduating from the University
of Western Ontario in a combined business and engineering program.
- Operates a small-scale pelleting/briquetting operation (fuel,
animal bedding) with direct delivery to end user serves
all of southwestern Ontario (residential, commercial, greenhouses).
- Began by processing crop residues (abundant supply, farm community
support, successfully harvested and processed), but limitations:
performance of fuel, existing pellet stove technology, collection
cost and nutrient replacement value of raw biomass. Premium
grade wood pellets have < 1% ash and higher $/BTU; agricultural
biomass pellets have 4% ash and lower $/BTU need to match
customer preference and heating equipment to fuel product.
- Wood versus agricultural biomass feedstock specifications:
Issues are cost, moisture content, raw material sizing, cleanliness
(absence of foreign material, e.g. stones, dirt, metal).
- Agricultural biomass challenges: Cash flow and storage requirements
(seasonal availability of raw feedstocks, seasonality of pellet
use for space heating); potential binder requirement for feedstocks
with lower lignin content; abrasiveness of agricultural biomass
(i.e. silicates reduce die life).
Animesh Dutta School of Engineering, University of Guelph
Dr. Animesh Dutta is an Assistant Professor at the School
of Engineering, University of Guelph. He has multi-faceted research
experience in environmentally friendly energy options. Previously,
he taught at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and
the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Dr. Dutta specializes in
torrefaction, combustion and gasification, with hands-on experience
in boiler design and pilot plant operation, design and performance
of various tests in laboratory-scale and pilot-scale units, thermal
design and process development. Over the past decade, he has delivered
innovative ideas in the areas of sustainable biomass energy technologies
and heat transfer, with more than 85 technical papers in refereed
journals and conference proceedings and as technical reports.
His research interests include thermo-chemical conversion of biomass
and agricultural residues, renewable and cleaner energy technologies,
boiler design, design and assessment of advanced energy systems,
life cycle analysis and thermodynamic optimization.
- Torrefaction: Advantages of torrefied over raw fuel: higher
density, dry and hydrophobic, cost savings in handling and processing
(e.g. lower grinding costs), higher energy density (transportation
cost savings), homogeneity, no bio-contamination. Technology
appears promising. Market driven mainly by utilities, with potential
for residential and industrial heating.
- Technical challenges with torrefaction: It will not, alone,
significantly reduce sulphur, chlorine and alkali concentrations
- Advantage of pelletizing then torrefying: two marketable products
pellets, torrefied fuel. Advantage of torrefying first:
lower energy cost for hammer mill.
- Most experience is with torrefied wood; 8 distinct technologies,
and large differences observed in product properties and qualities.
- Only results from pilot-scale torrefaction plants available
(small companies with limited financial base investor
risk re: R&D and up-scaling); real operational data needed
to reveal torrefaction performance and to validate that suppliers
can deliver a product meeting utility specifications. All North
American initiatives are still at pilot scale; R&D effort
and financing needed. Remasco expected to have demonstration
torrefaction plant (1 tonne/hour) in Ontario in 2011.
- Uncertainties about large-scale torrefaction processing
handling, storage, milling, explosion risk, dust and odour emissions,
- Gasification: One of best ways to optimize energy generation
from biomass and obtain a standardized gas from very different
materials. Main challenges: control of temperature in the reactor;
and production of tar, which has to be removed from syngas before
it can be used in internal combustion engines for electricity
- Demonstration projects, primarily using woody materials, are
taking place mostly in Europe.
Feedstock and Processing Alternatives: Discussion/Participant
- Chlorine: Wood typically has about 200 ppm, which is not usually
a problem. Straw has hundreds of ppm and is not a significant
problem; however, corn stover and cobs have 3,000-4,000 ppm,
which presents problems with fouling and corrosion. Formation
of dioxins can be problematic, and expensive to mitigate, in
the range of 10,000-12,000 ppm chlorine. Dioxin research needed
for feedstocks in the range of 3,000-4,000 ppm chlorine. Dioxins
generally not a major concern for most feedstocks except corn
stover and cobs.
- Energy balance for pelleted fuel = 10:1; i.e. for every unit
of energy to pellet the fuel, there are 10 units of energy in
the biomass for the end user = good balance.
- The potassium in switchgrass lowers the ash melting point
potential for fouling and clinker formation.
- We are nowhere near commercialization for torrefied agricultural
biomass. Challenges include controlling temperature, residence
time and particle size.
- A key challenge is to minimize transportation from farm to
processing facility (e.g. 50-100 km maximum).
- To build a viable biomass supply chain, we need processing
capabilities of different sizes, ranging from mobile units to
highly efficient processing plants.
- Processing challenge with crop residues is contamination (stones,
dirt, etc.), which can damage processing equipment and the fact
that these materials tend to be corrosive to boiler systems.
- Need to understand the challenges of gasification to produce
the quality required for pipeline injection.
- We should not be picking one conversion platform or one end
use. Anaerobic digestion more suitable than combustion depending
on biomass characteristics. Biodiesel discussions need to be
closely linked with biomass combustion discussions.
Linking Technologies to Markets: Speaker Highlights
John Kelly Erie Innovation and Commercialization
Dr. John Kelly, who holds a Master of Science from the University
of Alberta and a PhD from the University of Guelph, is currently
Vice-President of Erie Innovation and Commercialization with the
Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association. The mandate
of this initiative is to diversify agriculture and food opportunities
for the sand plains area of the South Central Ontario Region.
He has a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors.
He has held various executive positions with start-ups and multinational
companies, including KeliRo Company Inc., MaRS Landing, Ralston
Purina, Rhone-Poulenc Canada Inc. and Aventis CropSciences Inc.,
as well as OMAFRA. Throughout his career, he has been focused
on innovation development and implementation, actively advancing
products and technologies in the agriculture, food, biotechnology,
pharma and bioeconomy sectors.
- What are the key questions that the Business Case Working
Group needs to answer in order to objectively assess whether
a business case can be made for agricultural biomass?
- Economic elements:
- Financial analysis at each step in the value chain
- Business risk management
- Impact on competing uses for agricultural biomass
- Competitiveness with forestry biomass, US-sourced biomass,
other energy sources
- Investment required by farmers, aggregators, other participants
throughout the supply chain
Value chain analysis returns: growers (new revenue
stream), technology providers, aggregators, end users, consumer
analysis and costing
Cost of production
Seed/plug inputs, agronomic inputs (fertilizer, pest
control, land preparation), fuel, labour, harvest, storage,
capital costs, cost of money invested, risk management
One of main difficulties in getting growers to move on
biomass is ensuring that the price for the biomass in bankable
Agricorp crop insurance much needs to be
Fuel, labour, storage, capital costs (equipment durability,
capacity, location), cost of money invested, risk management
What about torrefaction?
End market analysis
What is the real opportunity beyond OPG? And what do
the end-users need (pellets vs. torrefied product)?
Feasibility of distributed biomass power generation,
combined heat and power, integration with grain milling
and vegetable greenhouses, etc.
Job creation, macro-economic benefits, price impact from
distributed biomass power generation
Who are the price-setters? What is the impact of policy
(e.g. preference/requirement/incentives for domestic supplies)?
What are the impacts of competitive fuel sources, especially
natural gas the 'elephant in the room' for the biomass
What are the impacts of other green energy sources (wind,
Can syngas generated from biomass get the same incentives
available to anaerobic digestion systems?
There must be benefits along the entire value chain for
this initiative to be successful. Are we capturing all of
the right elements?
Conclusions Emerging from the Forum
Biomass end-users have a wide variety of technical requirements.
A number of technologies for pre-processing biomass fuel to facilitate
transportation, storage and combustion are available, from simple
densification to torrefaction. Some technologies are already available
and being used in Canada, such as commercial boilers for biomass
combustion to produce heat; others appear to hold promise but
are not yet developed to commercial scale, such as torrefaction.
As with biomass production, knowledge of the key technical issues
in value chain development are reasonably well understood. However,
without market certainty, biomass producers, technology providers
and biomass processors are challenged to anticipate the needs
of end users and take advantage of this new opportunity.
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