April 7, 2007

BIOwaste 101: The BioTown Sourcebook

For anyone who desires a simple introduction to the subject of Biomass Waste I suggest a careful reading of a brief technical overview document called The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy (released in April, 2006). It was written for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture by scientist and fellow blogger, Mark Jenner, PhD. who has his own website called Biomass Rules. Mark is particularly well schooled on the subject of biosolids, manure, and sludge conversion.

Below you can see an overview graphic that charts where biomass feedstocks (highlighted in blue) fall in proper context for addressing BIOconversion, BIOoutput, and BIOstock issues. For this reason, I offer a similar 101 abstract treatment in each of my BlogRing blogs.

This BioTown sourcebook is the official inventory on local energy use, available biomass fuels and emerging technologies for Reynolds, Indiana. As such, it can serve as an inventory template for any similarly focused study of a medium-sized rural community. It greater importance is its microcosmic view of rural communities as decentralized, sustainable entities that possess more than enough biomass to service their own energy needs.

Within the third section of the report a generous amount of detail if given to a subject that generally escapes most discussions about biofuels and bioenergy - its energy content and how it can be converted to useful form. He addresses Manure, Municipal Sewage/Biosolids, and Municipal Solid Wastes. He emphasizes the high variability of manure:

The point is that manure has a high degree of variability. In this case, it is easy to this variability using hog manure nutrients and technology as an example. Starting with the same basic fresh manure, different treatment technologies achieved different results. Successful conversion technologies must be designed and managed to remove the variability by segregating non-similar flows or combining them consistently into an aggregate flow. Biomass feedstock variability is a challenge, but it can be managed by system design.

The subjects of biodiesel converted from used vegetable oil and number 2 yellow grease are also addressed.

In this particular community, landfill gas is used to drive methane electric generators - which is far preferable to having it vented or flared. However, he admits:

Some biomass energy advocates argue that landfill gas is not the best use of biomass energy resources. This argument is based on the sheer volume of underutilized biomass going into a landfill. Using the EPA breakdown of organic, biomass materials going into a landfill (65 percent), 355,678 tons of the 547,197 tons of MSW entering the Liberty Landfill are biomass feedstocks. Using the value of 4,830 BTU/lb, 356,000 tons of landfilled-biomass materials contain 3.4 million MMBTUs. That is a lot of underutilized fuel. This new separation and energy production process would not be as simple as it sounds and would require significant changes in the current collection system.

This report is not a utopian call to return to rural, communal living. It is, instead, an affirmation that there are many biomass resources available and technologies in development to provide environmentally clean bioenergy alternatives to the existing fossil fuel energy paradigm. Rural communities can develop expertise and marketable output best suited to their own resources and industries. Urban communities can develop some technologies that are relevant to the diversion of trash from landfills.

The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy

BioTown, USA is Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniel’s, bold approach to develop local renewable energy production, create a cleaner environment, find new solutions to municipal/animal waste issues, and develop new markets for Indiana products – all at the same time. BioTown, USA is quite simply the conversion of Reynolds, Indiana from a reliance on fossil fuels to biomass-based fuels. With the implementation of BioTown, USA, a template will be set that simultaneously promotes Indiana energy security, rural development, profitable agriculture and a green, thriving natural resource environment.

The only conclusion that can be made is that BioTown, USA is profoundly thermodynamically and technologically viable. Reynolds, Indiana used 227,710 million BTUs (MMBTU) in 2005. White County annually produces over 16,881,613 MMBTU in undeveloped biomass energy resources. That is 74 times more energy than Reynolds consumed in 2005.

BioTown, USA is a concept whose time has come. This Sourcebook and subsequent BioTown reports will serve as vital stepping stones to the implementation of BioTown, USA and subsequent bioeconomic rural development opportunities across Indiana and the nation.

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