Frontline teams with Fagen

By Ron Kotrba
Biomass gasification systems provider Frontline BioEnergy LLC and leading ethanol plant design/builder Fagen Inc. have announced a new partnership. "Kicking Gas with Biomass" is one of its slogans, and executives of both companies are hoping to help new and old ethanol plants significantly reduce natural gas consumption for the production of process heat and steam, while laying the foundation for future ethanol production from biomass.

"I think the Fagen organization is looking for ways to go back to plants they've built, making them stronger and better, and one of the opportunities that seemed the most appealing to them was biomass to energy," said Bill Lee, general manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. The 47 MMgy ethanol plant in Benson, Minn., is part-owner of Frontline BioEnergy and host to one of the gasification company's biomass-to-energy systems.

In late 2005, Frontline partnered with CVEC to help alleviate the producer from its $13 million-per-year natural gas bill. The gasifier currently takes in wood waste but may use corncobs in the future because the co-op has the unique ability to acquire a feedstock supply from its producer-members.

Preliminary firing of CVEC's gasifier occurred in March, and at this year's International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Nashville, Tenn., Jerod Smeenk, engineering manager for Frontline BioEnergy, said the fluidized bed gasifier continues to run while emissions monitoring and systems adjustments are made. CVEC will reduce its natural gas consumption by 90 percent with the new 280-ton-per-day biomass gasifier, although Lee said the plant is currently only gasifying approximately 115 tons per day. "We were very fortunate to develop this relationship between Fagen and Frontline," Lee told Biomass Magazine. "It combines Fagen's tremendous industry presence and construction capacity with Frontline's technology, which is really geared heavily toward retrofitting corn ethanol plants with natural gas power to biomass energy."