The Greatest Biomass Story Seldom Told

By Tim Portz | January 30, 2013

It comes as no surprise that our industry is drawn to the stories of groundbreakings, construction updates, plant commissionings and the first gallons or tons of energy products produced. They serve as the landmarks by which we measure our progress, growth and momentum. Running parallel to these story lines, however, are the equally important, less-acknowledged stories of how massive quantities of feedstocks find their way out of our fields and forests into the receiving bays of the celebrated conversion facilities. It’s stories like these that are featured in this month’s issue of Biomass Magazine.

Through these narratives, it becomes clear that without continued innovation in the harvest, handling and storage of biomass feedstocks, this industry will fall short of its incredible potential. Fortunately, the talented professionals working to imagine, build, test and refine biomass handling products and systems virtually guarantee that the growth of this industry will not be bottlenecked by a lack of efficient and cost-effective solutions.

We look at biomass handling challenges and the strategies being deployed to handle, move and store everything from  tiny pellets to massive bales.  Beginning at the mid-Atlantic coast, in her feature, “Enabling Efficient Exports,”Anna Simet investigates how port terminals are outfitting themselves to handle the demand for bulk pellet storage and conveyance to European-bound cargo ships.  Luke Geiver’s feature, “The Harvesting Life,” serves as a snapshot of the localized economic activity in biomass harvesting once an advanced biofuels facility is fully capitalized and construction begins. As remarkable a story as Poet’s Project Liberty is, Geiver’s feature makes a strong argument that the innovation and entrepreneurialism surrounding the collection of the required feedstocks is every bit as impressive as the subsequent conversion process.

After putting together this month’s issue, it becomes obvious that our industry’s eventual energy market share and growth hinges not only on conversion breakthroughs, but also the continuance of biomass handling and storage innovations similar to the pellet domes, ship loaders, stover balers and custom harvesting businesses featured this month.