Viaspace tests grinding equipment for Nicaragua plant

By Erin Voegele | February 26, 2014

Viaspace Inc. has announced it conducted a full production-scale test of Giant King Grass grinding equipment on Feb. 18 at the Greenway Recycling Facility in Portland, Ore. The testing was conducted on a stationary grinder manufactured by West Salem Machinery Co. According to Viaspace, 6,000 pounds of 18-foot-tall Giant King Grass stocks were cut and shredded in a matter of minutes. The testing is being performed for a 12 MW Giant King Grass-fueled power plant under development in Nicaragua.

Giant King Grass used in the test was harvested from the Viaspace propagation nursery in California and transported to Portland for the test.

"An electrically powered grinder is lower cost and has lower maintenance than a diesel powered grinder. We plan to install the grinder in our fuel processing and short-term storage facility just outside the power plant. Since it is a stationary and large machine, the only way to test it was to bring the Giant King Grass to the grinder.  That is what we did. Our production needs are 36 tons per hour, 24 hours per day, and 365 days per year,” said Carl Kukkonen, CEO of Viaspace.

“While we knew early on that our machine installed at Greenway Recycling was not ideally configured to process Giant King Grass, we were able to determine from this test that a customized version of our Titan-Series Horizontal Grinder would be capable of processing up to 40 tons per hour of raw stalks to a 50-100 mm sized fuel product suitable for the Viaspace Giant King Grass power plant application. The full scale test was very important, because now we know exactly what Giant King Grass is and how to optimize our machine and the material flow for this application,” said Mark Lyman, CEO of West Salem Machinery.

Earlier this month, Viaspace issued an update of its Giant King Grass project in Nicaragua. According to the company, it is growing Giant King Grass on land owned by AGRICORP via a previously announced contract. The two companies have agreed to form a partnership to build the 12 MW plant, and have recently elected to add animal feed as a second focus to the project.

Information released by Viaspace indicates the 10,000 acre plantation where it is growing Giant King Grass has up to 4,000 acres available for growing the crop. The 12 MW power plant would require 2,100 acres of production.

In a statement issued by the company, Kukkonen said Giant King Grass will be harvested within 90 days for use in feed trails. The crop will initially be fed to cattle on the plantation. “We will be making green chop, silage and hay,” he said.

"This is an important business step for our partnership with AGRICORP in Nicaragua for several reasons. First, we are creating a combined business model of using Giant King Grass for animal feed in conjunction or parallel with the development of a plantation to fuel a 12 MW biomass power plant. In other words, this business model will generate animal feed revenues in the short term while simultaneously providing Giant King Grass propagation material to establish a biomass plantation that will in turn generate biomass driven electricity revenues in the longer term. We believe that this will be an attractive business model in many parts of the world. Secondly, along with AGRICORP, we will be actively generating animal feed data very quickly which will provide valuable, practical parameters for the continued expansion of our Viaspace animal feed business line globally. Finally, by working effectively with AGRICORP in Nicaragua, Viaspace is establishing a positive reputation in the Central America region,” said Kevin Schewe, Viaspace chairman.