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Projects Updates for Topic: Biomass


  1. Biomass Consultation Group

    Dear Energy Enthusiasts,

    Thanks to all who attended the first Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) biomass meeting, we are off with a strong start. This week we we will have the second consultation group meeting to carry on discussion and orient goals toward improving sustainability on campus. 

    Dong Kook will present on the most recent publications from the research group of Praveen Kumar in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His topic for discussion will be Threshold Dynamics in Soil Carbon Storage for Bioenergy Crops. Click (here) to become familiar with their group's work.   

    We are gathering all interested persons to discuss the possibilities for a large-scale biomass facility that could eventually replace Abbott Power Plant. All ideas are welcome. Please pass this invitation on to anyone you think might be interested.



    Meeting details:

    Time: Tuesday, November 18 from 1:00pm-2:30pm

    Location: iSEE Conference room #358

                     National Soybean Research Center (directions here)

                     1101 W. Peabody Drive

                     Urbana, IL 61801


    Thanks and have a great weekend.


    Nathan Wells

  2. syngas discussion

    Hi Scott,

    I am not an expert on this, by any means, but I have heard from previous biomass investigations that the on campus facility would need a lot more acreage for biomass storage than currently feasible at the existing Abbott Power Plant site.



    From: Willenbrock, Scott S
    Sent: Friday, October 10, 2014 9:30 AM
    To: Johnston, Morgan B
    Subject: syngas


         Thanks for sending the biomass document.   I haven’t had time to even look at it!    But let me ask you a question that has been running through my head:

    Here are two alternative ways to burn biomass:

    1.       Truck it to campus and burn it directly in a biomass facility.   The biomass is essentially replacing coal in this scheme.

    2.       Truck it to a location off campus, gasify it, pipe it through a new pipeline to campus, and burn it on campus.   In this scheme the biomass is essentially replacing natural gas.

    My question is this: what are the advantages of 2. compared to 1.?


  3. resource about using wood for energy

    Associated Project(s): 

    There are some environmental advocates who oppose using wood chips for energy. 

    This YouTube video includes the following description: "Forests are also one of our best defenses against global warming, absorbing vast amounts of carbon pollution out of the air. But power companies are increasingly proposing to burn whole trees for energy. Trees are not a "carbon neutral" fuel source. Just like coal, when trees are burned in power plants, the carbon they have accumulated over long periods of time is released into the atmosphere. Unlike coal, however, trees will continue to absorb carbon if left alone. So burning forests for energy not only emits a lot of carbon, but also degrades our carbon sinks. This video shows what happens to the balance of carbon between and forest and the atmosphere when we burn forests to produce energy instead of leaving them standing to continue to absorb and store carbon. Burning forests for electricity is dirty and destructive!" 

    It is shared by the Natural Resources Defence Council.

  4. Sustainability Assessment of small-scale Outdoor Wood Burning Appliances

    In this case study, an Outdoor Wood Burning appliance was installed in central Illinois as a biomass substitute for existing natural gas heating.  The location is owned by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is operated under the name Allerton Park.  Allerton Park is a 1,500 acre estate with numerous woodland, riparian, and prairie areas.   This location was selected by the University’s Student Sustainability Committee which disperses student fees allocated for sustainability improvements.  The visitor center and several workshops at Allerton Park used a 1960 boiler/heating unit that was expensive to run and produced excessive CO2 emissions.

  5. Q&A with Tim Mies and Mike Marquissee

    Associated Project(s): 

    From: Marquissee, Mike
    Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 11:22 AM
    To: Mies, Timothy A; Anderson, Gary L; Dale Johnston (
    Subject: RE: Copy of UofI propane 040414-MLM EDITS.xls


    See answers below.


    From: Mies, Timothy A
    Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 9:01 AM
    To: Marquissee, Mike; Anderson, Gary L; Dale Johnston (
    Subject: RE: Copy of UofI propane 040414-MLM EDITS.xls

    Hi Mike,

    Several questions have come up that I would like you input on in regards to the green revolving loan fund in cases that might occur that do not follow the typical project pattern.

    Scenario 1) The energy farm reverts to another department at the completion of the grant of the Energy Biosciences Institute before the loan is repaid.  How would the loan be handled in cases where the new department weren’t within the VCR cost area? 

    • Since the loan is being repaid from the campus pool in favor of the VCR, it is likely that it would still pay out in favor of which other campus department it goes to.  Unless it turns into a self-supporting entity, which is unlikely.  In that unlikely event, the self-supporting entity would repay the loan.

    Scenario 2) A crop loss occurs one year that would limit/prevent the savings that are estimated from our initial estimates? 

    • The Campus utility pool would still pay out.  Just that the savings would not be recognized.  It would also pay for the additional propane.  The loss would not come out of the project.

    Scenario 3) Miscanthus ceases to be produced on the energy farm, resulting in no more mxg produced locally?  Would F&S then consider purchasing MXG from a local farmer who could supply the material? Assuming the boiler installed could handle multiple feedstocks, wood chips may be an alternative. 

    • We support this project because there is a research project attached to it.  If that project is discontinued, we would then have to discuss who repays the loan.  Most likely it would be out of the research fund, then, which would also pay for the restoration of the site and so on.  I don’t think we would be interested in providing alternative fuel sources or manage an abandoned research project.

    Thanks for your input.


  6. Marc Caluwe from Caluwe Biomass Heating Solutions in MA, US

    Associated Project(s): 

    From: Mies, Timothy A
    Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 4:54 PM
    To: Halverson, Robert; Ben McCall <> ( (; Johnston, Morgan B; Rajagopalan, Nandakishore
    Subject: Quick summary and highlights from Marc's visit

    Just a quick summary of the discussions that occurred with Marc Caluwe from Caluwe Biomass  Heating Solutions in MA, US.

    Heizomat is the manufacturer that Marc is a representative for in the US.  I have several brochures that I can pass along that have details on the product line including the RHK-AK model that Marc recommended.  Key points of interest for this group in selecting / approving a boiler:

    • This unit utilizes a drag chain conveyor across the burn bed to handle / stir the material as it burns until dropping into an automatic ash clean out.
    • We discussed what emissions controls would be needed, and Marc indicated that would be a decision campus would have to address.  Marc will be forwarding a brochure that compares emissions values from several manufacturers in the UK.  Options in order of cost would be a cyclone and then an electrostatic reciprocator.
    • UL certification on this model is pending in approx. May of this year.  Due to the cost of ASME certification, they do not plan on testing to that standard.  Instead, in the US they run the boilers at atmospheric pressure with a vent on top.  In this configuration, a plate heat exchanger would be used between the boiler and a thermal storage tank (they recommend old propane tanks as acceptable).  The boilers when used in EU are rated and run at 2 bar (30psi).  Marc cited National Board Synopsis NB370 ( that farms would be exempt from this requirement to run at atm.,  but universities / state / industry would not be.  It would be nice to get confirmation of this from engineering.
    • The boiler recommended has an infinite turndown ration (VFD on blowers) to 10% and then shuts down.  A hot air ignition system in used for lighting / relighting.
    • When running on MXG, in order to minimize clinker caused by low melting point of ash, a lower operating temperature is required, also requiring an 30% approx. upsize  in the model to get the rated output.  If we want 200Kw, we need to consider stepping up to a 250Kw model.
    • Material handling / storage / feeding was discussed at length, and Marc was going back to Heizomat to get their recommendations for the best system.  Heizomat does not offer a bale processor at this time, but has a bulk bin feed system to collect chopped material to be burned.

    Marc indicated that he would provide estimates (hopefully  by Friday noon) on a boiler system including a storage feed system, and also the same system installed in a cargo container, prewired, plumbed, etc.

    In addition to the discussions with Mark, Luis Rund presented a very nice plan / rendering of a cargo container size boiler housing that had glass fronts on one half for viewers, and the other half a biomass storage container.  Probably out of our price range at this point, but would make a nice travel display for shows, demos, etc.

    I also had a call later in the day from a representative of Biomass Energy Solutions in MO who is a sales rep for Uniconfort  (Italy) and we had very similar discussions on running at atmospheric pressures.  More literature is coming, and Jared Findley with BES forwarded some links I had looked at initially for the bale processors used for animal feedlots. 

    Let me know if you have any further questions or need clarification on above.



  7. Illinois Business Consulting report - economic analysis

    The central question posed to Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) is as follows: what would be the economic impact of replacing 10% of the university’s coal intake with wood chips?  After extensive research, analysis, and calculation it is the opinion of IBC that the cogeneration of energy with coal and wood chips is not economically feasible.  The initiative has been deemed not economically feasible because wood chips are more expensive on the basis of energy content, transportation costs will increase due to biomass, and infrastructure modification expenses necessary for the operational changes are significant.

  8. Illinois Business Consulting report - carbon impact

    In 2012, F&S hired Illinois Business Consulting to evaluate the following question for Abbott Power Plant: "Can the overall carbon footprint be decreased by using 10% of biomass in place of 10% of coal?"  The report and executive summary are attached here.