Hurst Boiler News

Biomass-to-Power Generation Encouraged in the U.S.

Hurst Boiler | February 28, 2010

It's readily available, cost effective, carbon neutral and it makes a very good fuel while cutting dependence on fossil fuels," says a leader on helping industrial, commercial and institutional owners find cost-effective ways to generate steam, power, and chilling, with an emphasis on green energy.

Gregory Smith of Global Energy Solutions, Inc was speaking to The Working Forest from his Chicago head office on the benefits of Canadians embracing wood biomass energy.

The U.S. government has embraced renewable energy as a priority; in some cases it's mandated and there are incentives for companies to undertake conversions to biomass fuel options.

"Using wood fuel for energy production creates jobs, stabilizes cost projections, and reduces uncontrolled fires by managing dense forested areas, removing or diverting organics from landfills and promoting sustainability. It's smart and it's economical," says Smith.

Smith's company, which he founded in 1996, works closely with Hurst Boiler and Welding of Coolidge, Georgia on projects requiring steam and hot water biomass boilers for processes as well as power generation.

Global Energy has recently completed projects in the forest products sector including paper mills in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Massachusetts. In all cases, mixing input opportunity fuels has formed the major fuel component such as paper mill sludge, shredded wood pallets, and municipal wood residue.

Smith says the key factor for input fuels is not the actual type of fuel. Of primary importance, however, is moisture and related BTU content. "Trying to maintain a consistency of moisture content is important," says Smith. "There is little difference in species or wood fuel types for that matter. Drier biomass has a higher BTU value and therefore requires less fuel to achieve the same boiler output. What's more important is keeping the moisture content within an acceptable range – 20% to 40% as a guideline.

Smith says they mix fuels all the time—for example: sludge with dry wood and any ratio maintaining total moisture content below 55% is acceptable. "If you switch the fuel source, however, it can present an operational challenge if the moisture content varies. Also, higher moisture content (more fuel required) impacts the fuel handling /receiving /storage system." Smith says that moisture content is not only crucial to the design and development of materials handling at the front end fuel feed but on the back end emissions controls of the system as well. Since emissions output is a function of the system emission rate and the amount of the fuel consumed, any system that combusts fuel with less moisture will produce overall lower system emissions. More fuel always produces more emissions which needs more robust emissions control equipment.

"Sometimes this is not a major issue", says Smith, "depending on the type of industry application. Businesses that are accustomed to handling massive amounts of raw materials such as forest products can more easily deal with large fuel quantities and multiple ongoing deliveries of fuel. Whereas food processing facilities and hospitals typically require a more automated approach due to space limitations and personnel requirements. Automating the fuel delivery system can significantly increase capital costs."

Smith believes that the future is very bright for wood biomass power generation. The U.S. government is providing major incentives to encourage biomass-topower systems development on a decentralized basis which means putting the power at the electric load source. Smith hopes that Canada with its massive forest resources will also embrace and encourage the technology.

"Hurst is adding water tube boiler designs to its line of solid fuel boilers in order to allow for steam production at higher temps and pressures in response to the enormous growing interest in biomass-to-power generation," said Smith.

(Greg Smith is the President of Global Energy Solutions, Inc. of Wheaton, IL