Colorado funds renewable energy project development research

By Lisa Gibson | January 20, 2011

A wide gap in Btu value exists between a biomass feedstock of say 30 percent moisture and one of 50 percent moisture. With that in mind, Golden, Colo.-based GeoSynFuels Inc. will conduct research into a biomass press to simultaneously densify and dewater biomass.

The company, an advanced biofuel technology developer, is one of 15 grant recipients of the Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy program. A total of $600,000 was awarded in the areas of feasibility studies, project participation and research. Projects awarded grants must in some way benefit or be tied to agricultural production or utilization of agricultural land or water, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture. GeoSynFuels received a grant equal to the cap in the research category: $50,000.

The company will work with both a hydraulic press and mechanical screw press, with an aim of reducing biomass feedstock to 30 percent moisture, according to Todd Harvey, GeoSynFuels president and CEO. He added that the team has achieved that at lab scale. The research aims to solve the moisture content problem through liquid recovery and also looks to densify biomass, reducing the collection radius, he said. “That’s one area we’re looking at beyond conventional baling,” he said. GeoSynFuels works primarily with sugarcane bagasse, but has dabbled in wood chip feedstock from yellow pine, aspen and other trees.

The liquid recovery research phase will be completed this summer, Harvey estimated, and the feedstock densification research will be finished by the end of the year. The grant report deadline is November.

Four other organizations received ACRE research grants, including a group at Colorado State University that will look into the energy, economic and environmental benefits of biochar for the Colorado agriculture industry. The group has $50,000 to conduct its research, as does iCast, which will research power generation from low-value biomass through torrefaction. Other grants in the research category will be used to explore net-zero greenhouse gas designs and diesel biofuel production.

In the feasibility category, Delta Economic Development in Delta County will use $20,000 to assess the feasibility of adding a pellet mill to Delta Timber Co. operations that would use beetle-kill timber. Development of an anaerobic digester will be analyzed for Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises in Morgan County, which received a $25,000 grant, and the rest of the feasibility money will be used for solar, wind, hydro power and biodiesel applications in the state.

Finally, three grants were awarded for project participation including $68,712 for the development of a methane-rich biogas facility at Microgy Weld County. Other projects feature an algae library and a biodiesel facility.

ACRE is a statewide effort to promote energy projects that are beneficial to the state’s agriculture industry, according to Tom Lipetzky, chief financial officer for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. These grants are an important step in making the industry a leading participant in the new energy economy, he added.