Interesting Biomass Technology

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Jul 11, 2008
8,979
Northern NH

Peregrine has been working on this for quite a while. There have been other Super Critical Carbon Dioxide energy systems that various developers have proposed. There is a lot of government money focused on biomass technologies in Maine and the Northern Border. Biochar is also big buzzword these days. No doubt lots of details to work out to scale up.

The mill yard in Millinocket is the beginning of the famed Golden road network of private roads that access more than a 1/4 of the State of Maine. It was one of the largest newsprint papermills in the world but has been vacant for 20 years. There really is no industry in the area anymore but there is infrastructure.
 
Using sCO2 to generate heat and electricity through flexible modular units looks promising. In Millinocket fuel certainly is at hand. Apparently the Peregrine system also will be flexible enough to burn any air combustable fuel and is said to do it more efficiently. The heat and electricity that's produced should be be a good draw for One North.

I am seeing that Peregrine also is producing sCO2 based electrical power storage units and are working with Cianbro on a plan to store power at their Pittsfield solar installation.

 
that's the nut shell. now read between the lines- govt. hand outs. kinda like Biden's handout to/for the electrical grid because no self respecting conglomerate ( power company's) is going to pour funds down that rabbit hole , which they have been ignoring for eons.
 
Its a Rankine cycle power plant with a few twists that make it simpler at a lower cost. A conventional steam turbine is a complex device with expensive metallurgy to deal with high temperatures and pressures. A SCC turbine is far simpler and cheaper to build as the SCC is a lower temperature and pressure. The Carnot limits still apply so it is not something that would be used in a large power plant but good for a small modular plant.

The wood gas side is far more complicated. There is only so much energy in a pound of wood but it is not just one generic fuel. It is a mix of many components, some are complex carbon chains that give off lots of CO2 per BTU, some have lots of hydrogen bound up that have less CO2 intensity. The biochar trick is separate the light hydrogen containing fractions from the carbon heavy portions and bury the carbon (AKA biochar) in the soil. Those light fractions tend to be the ones that are readily given off to the atmosphere when a tree dies and rot. Then it comes down to economics, if the fuel is cheap or being generated anyhow as a byproduct of forestry operations, then putting a biochar operation gets some power out of waste wood and produces biochar which can be used as a soil amendment that locks in the carbon in the ground for a very long time, far longer than dead wood on the ground. It can make a big difference in over used and abused soils.

This does not make economic sense unless there is a value placed on the carbon. There currently is a large private market for carbon credits, The problem is the rules are very loose and all sorts of sketchy schemes are out there. Developers know the loopholes and a project like this with the potential for big subsidies from multiple sources is going to attract attention especially in an area that is desperate for economic development.

It is not a "scam" but like "bleeding edge" technology projects it is going to attract folks trying to get their cut with little personal risk and let the government take the risk.
 
I was always joking that to become carbon neutral my old employer should just buy coal and bury it in a ditch. So, this is not buying coal, but making it from biomass (trees, leaves, garbage, whatever), and then selling it instead of burning it?
 
Coal and oil is already buried usually deep underground, so its already sequestered for the long term as long as no one digs it up. Biomass is formed from plants taking CO2 gas and using photosynthesis forming longer chain carbon molecules that form plants. While the plants are alive, the carbon is temporarily sequestered but lifeforms use those longer chain molecules for energy, when they eat it or burn it, the CO2 is put back in the atmosphere. Global warming was caused by pumping or digging carbon stored underground for millions of years and burning it, converting it back to CO2 over several hundred years.

When biochar is made, some of the plant matter is converted to solid carbon and that can be buried and remain in the soil for the long term so CO2 that was used to form it is now locked in the ground for the long term. While it is in the ground its inert, but the form of carbon that is created is a microscopic honeycomb that grabs nutrients in the soil and release them slowly to growing plants. Overused soil is dense and has lost its ability to hold onto soil nutrients long term so plants can grow. Pour on the fertilizer on overused soil and it just drains right out into the ground. The biochar also "fluffs" up the soil making it less dense so roots can grow in the soil.

If done right its win/win unless someone does not believe in global warming.
 
I think George Lucas figured this out in the 80s. If we freeze a few choice people in Carbonite I think we'd have a win-win for everybody. There are lots of open pit copper mines that need to get filled.

Interesting  Biomass Technology
 
  • Like
Reactions: salecker and Max W
Coal and oil is already buried usually deep underground, so its already sequestered for the long term as long as no one digs it up. Biomass is formed from plants taking CO2 gas and using photosynthesis forming longer chain carbon molecules that form plants. While the plants are alive, the carbon is temporarily sequestered but lifeforms use those longer chain molecules for energy, when they eat it or burn it, the CO2 is put back in the atmosphere. Global warming was caused by pumping or digging carbon stored underground for millions of years and burning it, converting it back to CO2 over several hundred years.
I know, it was a joke. But if you can get CO2 credits by paying other people to not chop down their forests, why not for buying (already dug up) coal, and then burying it? You are removing fossil carbon from the market before it becomes CO2. That should be worth CO2 credits. Anyways, it's a little bit off-topic.
 
I know, it was a joke. But if you can get CO2 credits by paying other people to not chop down their forests, why not for buying (already dug up) coal, and then burying it? You are removing fossil carbon from the market before it becomes CO2. That should be worth CO2 credits. Anyways, it's a little bit off-topic.

Mature forests aren't necessarily carbon sinks. Many of them have reached an equilibrium where the decomposing organic matter from the forest emits the same amount of CO2 as the living trees capture. Biochar interrupts this, harvesting the tress before they can die and rot.

Although I'd argue biochar itself has a huge flaw, as peakbagger has pointed out, the vast majority will be used to augment soils that have been depleted of organic matter due to intensive agriculture production. Eventually this biochar will also be depleted from the soils re-entering the atmosphere again anyway.

Some of the best land based carbon sinks are the Amazon rainforest, and forests that occur in muskeg or peat bogs. The former is currently being de forested at an alarming rate for agriculture, and the later (particularly in Canada) are being ravaged by forest fires due to lack of rain, and the muskeg and peat bogs are also under stress due to decreases in precipitation and intentional and unintentional draining of water in these bogs by humans.
 
  • Like
Reactions: woodgeek