Workshop Highlights Cutting Edge Biomass Technologies

The Environmental & Energy Study Institute (EESI), American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), Biomass Coordinating Council (BCC), and New Uses Council (NUC) conducted a three hour briefing and luncheon on July 6th in Washington, DC on cutting edge biomass technologies for mitigating acute climate change. The event was attended by approximately 100 people, setting the stage for policy and scientific initiatives that could significantly advance the biomass industry.

Washington, DC – July 14, 2004 [] The following highlights some of the topics and presentations which may point to the future for biomass technologies. Dr. Peter Read, Massey University, New Zealand, a leading scientist supporting the use of agriculture and forestry to facilitate climate stabilization, opened the conference with a presentation about the ability of revitalized soils to sequester atmospheric carbon in the earth. Read believes these soils represent a powerful and cost effective way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and greatly increase the production of biomass. “This biomass can then be used to produce a range of biofuels and biopower that will reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuels,” Read said, “thus creating new basic industries and perhaps millions of new jobs. A win, win, win opportunity.” Following Read’s presentation, the group viewed the video entitled ‘The Search for El Dorado.’ The video records the work of archeologists and scientists who discovered an advanced Amazonian civilization that developed a living black earth called Terra Preta two thousand years ago. According to co-host Bill Holmberg, Chairman of the New Uses Council and Director of the Biomass Coordinating Council, “the Amazonians combined charcoal with animal and human waste over hundreds of years to develop huge tracts of land capable of supporting intensive agriculture and sustaining a society as advanced as some of the greatest societies in the Middle East.” Danny Day, from the University of Georgia, presented a series of technologies developed by his organization, EPRIDA. These technologies involve pyrolisis of biomass into synthetic gas, converting the gas into hydrogen, and combining the charcoal co-product with ammonia to produce a powder. This powder is injected into the stack gases of a coal fired power plant to absorb the CO2, NOx and SOx, producing an even more valuable charcoal fertilizer. Day explained, “this enriched charcoal will be ideal in creating the living black soil, the Terra Preta, produced by the Amazonians two millennia ago.” Jacek Popiel of Sturman Industries, a Colorado based firm, spoke about Sturman’s highly efficient engine technology and the creation of a carbon-neutral transportation system. Using biomass and an advanced Fischer Tropsch technology, Sturman is working with Volkswagen, Daimler Chrysler and the German firm, Choren, to produce a hydrogen reinforced, biobased diesel fuel. This ultra clean fuel, with no sulfur, tars or aromatics, will be used in highly advanced diesel engines built by these two German automakers. “All these advances have been clearly demonstrated to be the least cost approach in providing society with a carbon-neutral automotive transportation system,” Popiel said. “The integrated approach is actively underway on an operational schedule that will fully commercialize this system (fuels, engines and vehicles) in 2008.” Jeff Passmore of Iogen Corporation was the event’s final speaker. logen Corporation is a biotechnology company specializing in cellulose-based enzyme technology. They operate the world’s largest pre-commercial cellulose ethanol production facility. Using wheat straw as their primary feedstock, Iogen is partnering with Shell to build a large-scale, commercial cellulose-to-ethanol plant in the United States before 2007. “Iogen started out as an enzyme company, and we used our advanced enzymes to convert cellulosic biomass into sugars which are then fermented into ethanol,” Passmore said. “We have invested significantresources in research and development, and as a result of numerous technological advances we are confident that our full scale plant will be profitable.” In a final statement, Holmberg concluded, “today’s event was an important step forward in bringing the enormous potential of biomass to the public. Our discussion of cutting edge biomass technologies highlighted the critical role of living soils and water supply issues in integrating biomass sustainably and successfully into the global energy supply. The biomass revolution, coupled with dynamic advances in energy efficiency and the other renewable energy technologies – solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and renewable hydrogen – will indeed change the fate of the world.”