Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo panel highlights export markets

By Lisa Gibson
Posted July 29, 2010, at 2:23 p.m. CST

Inbicon is demonstrating its cellulosic ethanol from straw process in Kalundborg, Denmark with its Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. The 1.4 MMgy project is a springboard for the company's 20 MM gy design and the focal point of a presentation by Tom Corle, founder of the G-Team, which is marketing Inbicon's biomass refinery, during a panel at Biomass Magazine's Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo Aug. 4-6 in Boston.

The panel, Export Markets and Their Influence on Northeast Biomass Supply Streams, has three confirmed speakers discussing the impact of export markets and Europe's growing biomass demand on the northeast's biomass supply and position in the market.

Besides cellulosic ethanol, Inbicon's process produces a clean lignin biofuel that can be used without expensive purification treatment to replace fossil fuel in a co-located facility, Corle said. "For the panel discussion, I'd like to show why burning clean lignin on-site isn't the only sustainable business plan that can work for American biomass refineries," he said. "Just as American ethanol and DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles) are being profitably exported, so can a clean lignin that's ready to use without risk of boiler scaling."

Because Denmark's political system is stable, it is not subject to the policy fluctuations and uncertainties of the U.S., he said. "So it is possible to make long-range business plans and anticipate reasonable stable market conditions." The predictability gives U.S. developers of biomass refineries an attractive export option for their lignin long term, Corle said.

Inbicon is demonstrating in Denmark that when integrated with a power plant, its biorefinery can increase efficiency to 71 percent. When integrated with a U.S. power station, other synergies result. Waste streams from the power plant are used to cook the straw in the biomass refinery, shrinking the heat and power demand and increasing efficiency of the power station to as high as 50-plus percent, Corle said.

"My goal for the presentation is to demonstrate that biomass refineries can play a vital role in revitalizing agriculture in the Northeast by giving the farmer a huge and profitable market for harvest residue and dedicated energy crops," Corle said. "Beyond that, the construction and operation of biomass refineries in the Northeast will give the region a very healthy economic boost while providing clean, renewable energy to replace fossil fuels and imported oil; and, perhaps, give the region a highly-valuable export."

Fellow panelist Anne Rahikainen, director of bioenergy services for RISI, will discuss the size of the woody biomass market in Europe, focusing on pellets. "Europe is the largest market for pellets currently, and a significant trade is developing between Europe and North America in this commodity," she said. Europe's demand for pellets is expected to grow significantly over the next five to 10 years because of investments in renewable electricity production in major Western European markets. "The demand growth will exceed the region's own production capabilities, so North America's role as an exporter of pellets will increase in the future," she said.

Besides the size of the market, Rahikainen will also identify Europe's key markets and underlying drivers in comparison with North America, explaining the difference in development between the regions.

"If there are any manufacturers of pellets or traders of biomass in the audience, they will be interested in learning more about the development of a key export market and potential opportunities it represents for them," Rahikainen said, citing the large-scale pellet plants in the southern U.S. poised for export to Europe. She will discuss whether the same opportunity exists in the Northeast and whether North American markets will develop as Europe's have.

For more information or to register, go to http://ne.biomassconference.com.