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Meet the AGCO Biomass Solutions Team!

In an attempt to harness the potential of the growing biomass industry, AGCO launched its first marketing group specific to this area of agriculture. The biomass marketing group is led by its marketing manager, Glenn Farris, and his business equipment and development specialist, Ken Wagenbach.

Ken leads biomass harvesting equipment design improvements and helps partners set up, maintain and operate equipment for optimum productivity, efficiency and reliability.

Ken Headshot

Q&A with Ken:

What are some of the advantages of biomass energy production?

Biomass energy is renewable and environmentally sustainable; it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint at the same time. In biomass energy production, the agriculture sector has a way to reduce production cost while increasing yields and revenues.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about biomass since joining the AGCO Biomass Solutions team?

Biomass hits at all the core competencies of AGCO products. Properly managing crops/land and soil/water, be it purpose grown or crop residue, and renewable energy political policies have equal impact on the economy of the producer.

What is some good advice for a farmer who is interested in incorporating biomass into his or her operation?

Regardless of one’s current opinion on government policies on renewable fuels, meeting the world demand for food and fiber in 2020 and beyond will require higher yields. With higher yields and the genetics needed to get there, crop residue in the future will require very heavy tillage, new equipment design and/or removal of it entirely. As farmers/producers, we WILL need the cellulosic outlet that biomass provides.

 

Have a question for Ken? Email him your question here: AGCO_Biomass_Solutions@AGCOCorp.com.

For additional information on AGCO Biomass Solutions, please visit: http://bit.ly/AGCOBiomass.

Scottish Distillery is Going Green with Biomass Boiler

Biomass solutions are making news in Scotland as the Balmenach Distillery in Speyside receives funding from the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB). The £5M in funding from the GIB is part of a larger project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut fuel costs from distilleries in the Scottish Highlands. The Balmenach Distillery in Speyside will use the £1M of funds allocated to their improvements to replace the distillery’s current oil-fired boiler with a biomass boiler. Two other distilleries, Tomatin Distillery near Inverness and Aberfeldy Distillery in Perthshire, have already benefited from the £5M in funding announced last month from the GIB.

Whisky is one of Scotland’s best-known manufactured products. The Scotch Whisky Association is striving to reduce energy costs as part of its goals for going green.

The Balmenach Distillery is the producer of Caorunn Gin, known as a super-premium small batch Scottish Gin infused with handpicked botanicals inspired by the Celtic tradition. As one of the oldest distilleries in Speyside, the Balmenach Distillery can trace back its roots to 1824. While closing its doors in 1993, the Inver Distillers Group — owned by ThaiBev, a leading Asian drinks business — bought the distillery in 1998 to reopen it for business.

The installation of the new biomass boiler at the Balmenach Distillery will reduce energy costs to a third of current energy costs as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5,000 tons a year. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the Balmenach distillery is the equivalent of taking over 2,200 cars off the road. The new biomass boiler will allow for cost-effective renewable energy and will produce steam necessary for the whisky production process.

The installment of biomass boiler systems at the Tomatin Distillery and Aberfeldy Distillery has already seen an 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions and fuel costs.

Rob Cormie, group operations director of the GIB, said, “…Projects like this provide a sustainable supply of renewable energy; save distilleries money and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. With limited capital investment, distilleries can save money from day one while also helping to meet the industry’s ambitious green targets.”

Read more about AGCO Biomass Solutions by visiting: http://bit.ly/AGCOBiomass.

 

Glenn Farris Joins Panel Discussion at the Department of Energy’s Biomass 2014 Conference

On July 29 and 30, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosted its seventh annual conference — Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy. As in past years, Biomass 2014 brought together top government officials and members of Congress — with industry leaders and experts from across the bioenergy supply chain — to continue the ongoing dialogue about the critical challenges and key opportunities for the industry.

DOE Biomass Logo

AGCO Biomass Solutions Marketing Manager Glenn Farris sat on a panel discussing “Advances in Bioenergy Feedstocks — From Field to Fuel.” This session focused on the critical importance of feedstocks, their impact of the bioenergy supply chain, and the challenges facing OEM’s such as AGCO in this growing market. Joining Mr. Farris on the esteemed panel was J. Richard Hess, Director of Energy Systems & Technology Division at Idaho National Lab, and Allen Julian, Chief Business Officer at MBI. The panel was moderated by Alison Goss Eng, Acting Program Manager of Feedstock Supply and Logistics at BETO.

To learn more about opportunities for new feedstock technologies, please email: AGCO_Biomass_Solutions@AGCOCorp.com.

 

Watch Glenn’s presentation here:

For additional information on AGCO Biomass Solutions, please visit: http://bit.ly/AGCOBiomass.

Biomass Upstarts

These four crops are generating additional revenue for farmers. AGCO brands are helping make that happen.

Switchgrass
What’s not to love about switchgrass? The perennial develops a strong root system that holds highly erodible land in place. Plus, those farmers who’ve already planted switchgrass know about its long-lasting stands—at least 10 years—and that it makes great wildlife habitat. Now there is better news: more biofuel markets in the future.

Corn Stover
Since ample supplies of stover are a given, using corn stover for biofuel seems like the perfect plan. For 2013, corn acres in the U.S. were estimated at 97 million and Canadian acres at 3.6 million, with 2.5 million of those in Ontario. There isn’t much of a learning curve either. If you can grow corn, you automatically know how to grow stover.

Miscanthus
Miscanthus, a perennial, is another up-and-comer for the biomass market. However, says Iowa State University Professor Emily Heaton, “I spend a lot of time managing grower expectations about the crop. If you want to plant a half-acre or an acre to play with, that’s fine. But let’s [watch what happens] with the corn stover market first.”

Sweet Sorgham
Sweet sorghum is tailor made for biofuel production. “It is easier to make ethanol out of it than [with] corn,” says University of Missouri extension agronomist Gene Stevens. “It is already in sugar form. Just add yeast to start the fermentation.” And as an annual, producers do not have to make a long-term commitment.

For other details about biomass crops, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/crops/biomass-upstarts/.

Thermochemical Processing: Converting Biomass into Fuels and Chemicals

By: Robert C. Brown, Director, and Robert Mills, Communications Specialist, Bioeconomy Institute, Iowa State University

The use of fermentation to produce ethanol from corn and other biomass is well known in the agricultural world. There are, however, other technologies that can convert biomass into fuels and chemicals. Foremost among these are thermochemical processes, which use heat and catalysis to break down biomass to intermediates that can be upgraded to transportation fuels.

Thermochemical processing uses heat and pressure to convert various types of feedstocks into fuels and chemicals.

Thermochemical processing uses heat and pressure to convert various types of feedstocks into fuels and chemicals.

One advantage of thermochemical processing is that the end result can be “drop-in fuels,” those that are fully compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure. While not perfect, these drop-in fuels are good enough to run in today’s engines without modification.

Another advantage to thermochemical processing is that most systems can work with a variety of biomass feedstocks. Often the feedstock is lignocellulosic biomass, such as corn stover, switchgrass, miscanthus, wood, etc. But thermochemical processing can also use lipid-rich biomass such as distillers dried grains and algae as well as mixed wastes from commercial and municipal sources.

There are two basic types of thermochemical processing, indirect and direct liquefaction. Indirect liquefaction includes gasification, where the solid biomass is heated to create synthesis gas, or syngas, that is subsequently upgraded to liquid fuels. Various catalysts are then used to convert the gas into alcohols or hydrocarbons. The advantages of gasification is that the process produces a uniform product and it is commercially proven. Gasification, however, requires technologies to clean the gases, which are still under development, and the capital costs can be high.

Direct liquefaction uses heat and pressure to convert the biomass into liquids which can then be further upgraded into finished products. Direct liquefaction includes pyrolysis and solvent liquefaction. In the case of pyrolysis, biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen. The process yields bio-oil, syngas, and a solid product known as biochar. The bio-oil can be upgraded to drop-in fuels. Pyrolysis can be performed at relatively small scales, allowing it to take place close to the source of biomass rather than moving biomass to one large, centralized processing facility. One of the major problems with pyrolysis is that the bio-oil is unstable, complicating its conversion into fuels.

Iowa State University researchers discuss a new pyrolysis pilot plant during its construction. The plant is now up and running and is used to research the multi-stage fractionation of bio-oil, a process that promises a way to economically convert biomass into many value-added products.

Iowa State University researchers discuss a new pyrolysis pilot plant during its construction. The plant is now up and running and is used to research the multi-stage fractionation of bio-oil, a process that promises a way to economically convert biomass into many value-added products.

At Iowa State University, we have invented a process to condense the pyrolysis gases in fractions, resulting in better, more stable products. The economics of fast pyrolysis are promising. In addition to producing fuels and chemicals from the bio-oil, the biochar may also have economic value. Consisting mostly of carbon, biochar can be used a soil amendment, helping retain moisture and nutrients. There is also research underway to use biochar as a filter medium for purifying water.

Solvent liquefaction, or solvolysis, is similar to pyrolysis except that it is performed in a solvent at elevated pressure. Though the fundamental chemistry of solvolysis is not well understood, the technology has promising economics. The process can upgrade bio-oil in a way similar to oil refining, and it can create sugars which can be further upgraded without expensive enzymes.

In addition to extensive research into thermochemical technologies, there are also many efforts underway to commercialize these technologies. Like all start-ups, these efforts have met with various degrees of success. There are, however, several pilot-scale systems being tested and commercial plants being built.

Bioenergy is a complex topic. There are many pathways from raw material to finished product. What’s more, bioenergy technology must be viewed in context of larger energy issues and policies. You can learn more in a book written for the general public, “Why are We Producing Biofuels,” by Robert C. Brown and Tristan R. Brown. The book is available on Amazon. You can read the first chapter for free online at: http://www.brownia.com/content/whyareweproducingbiofuels_excerpt.pdf.

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