What is biofuel?
Biofuel is derived from the conversion of
biomass directly into liquid fuel, as well
as from solid biomass. Biomass is any
organic material made from plants or animals. According to the U.S. Department
of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, domestic biomass resources include agricultural and forestry residues and terrestrial and aquatic crops
grown solely for energy purposes. The
department also considers municipal
solid wastes and industrial wastes to
be biofuel sources, although paper mills
are prohibited from using them in their
boilers by federal and state regulations,
according to industry insider Greg Na-rum of Simpson Tacoma Kraft.
Biomass gets its energy from
the sun, which is stored in
plant leaves, stems, and roots.
Environmental benefits of biomass are
that the energy is renewable, and plant
matter is relatively abundant in most
parts of the world. Although CO2 is released back into the environment when
the biomass fuel is burned, among the
selling points for using biomass as a
fuel versus fossil fuels is that the CO2
released is equal to the amount that the
plant adsorbed while it was growing—
thus creating a carbon-neutral effect.
Some estimates are that biomass
fuels currently generate about 11,000
MW, or 4 percent of the energy used in
the U.S., where the most common form
of biomass is wood and wood waste.
By Gabe Crognale,
The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that by 2030 glob- al electricity demand will almost
double, according to a recent report,
“The Business of Innovating: Bringing
Low-Carbon Solutions to Market” (www.
With the environmental stigma associated with generating power with fossil
fuels, whether at large power generation plants or on-site industrial plants,
a number of resourceful manufacturers
are looking to turn their solid waste
streams into clean, renewable biofuel
Biofuel can be used to generate electricity, heat, or steam needed to operate a manufacturing plant. Increasingly,
modern biofuel technology incorporates
cogeneration capabilities, also called
combined heat and power (CHP), to produce both electricity and heat or steam
from one fuel source. Cogeneration is
considered especially efficient because
it maximizes the energy captured and
minimizes the energy released into the
environment as hot air or hot water and
For one particularly energy-intensive
industry—pulp and paper manufacturing—biofuel has long been a fuel
of choice. Paper manufacturers have
used wood lignin (black/spent liquor
recovered from the pulping process)
as a fuel in recovery boilers since the
1930s, along with burning solid wood
residue for heat recovery. The technologies used in such systems are direct-firing, co-firing, gasification, pyrolysis,
and anaerobic digestion.
Many paper manufacturers are thriv-
ing producers of bioenergy that they
sell to their local utilities. In regions
where power costs have been too low
historically to justify investments in co-
generation, green energy credits have
prompted some mills to do so recently.
In some cases, the credits render it
more profitable for the mills to sell the
power they generate on the open mar-
ket than to use it themselves.
Lessons Learned From
The efforts that pulp and paper companies have devoted to sourcing biomass
at their facilities warrant a closer look
to evaluate their level of success. Other
industries may glean lessons from their
initiatives as well.
Paper manufacturers sourcing biofuel include Verso, Simpson Tacoma
Kraft, and Mead Westvaco.
Verso Paper Corp. Verso is a North
American producer of coated papers,
used primarily in magazines, catalogs,
and advertising literature.
On Jan. 9, 2012, the Memphis,
Tenn.-based manufacturer announced
the completion of a $45 million renewable-energy project at its pulp and paper mill in Quinnesec, Mich.
Design upgrades to the mill’s existing combination boiler, which already
has been burning biomass from waste
wood sources, will enable it to deliver
an additional 28 MW of green energy
for mill consumption, bringing to 95
percent the share of electricity it will
generate from renewable, carbon-neutral, wood-based biofuel. The mill anticipates that the upgrade will reduce
carbon emissions by 147,000 metric
tons per year.
System upgrades also include a
new, energy-efficient turbine generator and a biomass handling system to
expand the mill’s capabilities so that
it can process residual wood, such as
treetops, limbs, and bark, in keeping
with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
forest sustainability standards.
Verso Vice President of Energy and
Technology Mark Daniel said, “In addition to reducing our carbon footprint,
[this] will improve boiler combustion