NBPA, Alabama company to produce biofuel

By Bryan Sims
Web exclusive posted July 11, 2008 at 10:19 a.m. CST

The National Biomass Producers Association and Florence, Ala.-based biomass technology provider Renewable Oil International LLC are creating a partnership to convert nongrain-based biomass into biofuel, biochemicals and power. At press time, both parties were in the process of finalizing formalities of the partnership.

Together, Renewable Oil International and National Biomass Producers Association intend to jointly build portable processors to be hauled on a truck or trailer that can be taken to a farmer's field where it can convert locally produced biomass into a bio-oil.

According to National Biomass Producers Association President Ed Cahoj, the preeminent feedstock is expected to be switchgrass, which continues to thrive in the lower Midwest despite limited high ground due to active tilling. Cahoj said other feedstocks will also be considered.

"If you can have a stand like that established on ground like that, that's a lot to be excited about," he said. The National Biomass Producers Association is a Halfway, Mo.-based nonprofit organization consisting of farmers and investors interested in producing fuel from cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass. "There will be trails ran with across-the-board feedstocks so we can learn more and share that information with people," he said. "It's all about trying to make objective decisions."

Renewable Oil International, the exclusive technology provider for the partnership, will implement a fast pyrolysis distillation conversion technology, which can effectively fractionate wood and other biomass materials such as switchgrass, hay, straw, wood, municipal solid waste and manure into bio-oil. Both parties are collaborating with research entities to further refine the product into bio-gasoline, a diesel blendstock and other biochemicals.

According to Renewable Oil International President Phil Badger, for now producing a high quality bio-oil on a demonstration scale platform is the immediate and ideal objective since it can be used to power various space heaters, furnaces, boilers and combustion turbines and internal combustion engines.

"You do have markets [for bio-oil] right now, but what we want to do though is expand those markets and reach markets that have higher values and, obviously, transportation fuels and chemicals are those types of markets," he said.

Fast pyrolysis has many advantages, including the production of biochar, a coproduct found to be an extremely useful soil amendment. The core process is accomplished in an oxygen-free environment where biomass is heated instantaneously in an ambient temperature of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and converted into a gaseous vapor and char. The vapors are condensed seconds later to produce high quality bioproducts. Additionally, fast pyrolysis doesn't require water or a boiler and can be cost-effective on a relatively small-scale that can use a wide variety of feedstocks.

"Eventually, a farmer will be able to harvest switchgrass, produce fuel for his farming operation and sell the excess to a local utility or other users," Cahoj said.

For more information about the National Biomass Producers Association, visit www.biomass-producers.com/. To learn more about Renewable Oil Industry's technology, visit www.renewableoil.com/.