December 13, 2007 Missouri, USA is set to become home to a commercial industrial plant that will produce liquid biofuel from wood residues. The end product, known as “BioOil”, is an industrial fuel expected to be sold to commercial users as it is a price-competitive replacement for heating oils that are widely used in industrial boilers and furnaces
Dynamotive will invest US$24 million to build the plant which will be the first fully commercial industrial biofuel plant in the US. The facility will be located on a site in Willow Springs, chosen for its ready access to rail transport, proximity to biomass and the potential to host up to four additional facilities. The modular, second-generation biomass-to-biofuel plant is designed to use Dynamotive’s proprietary “fast pyrolysis” process to convert 200 tons per day of wood by-products and residues from nearby sawmills into 34,000 gallons per day of BioOil.
BioOil has several advantages over traditional fuels. It can be produced from a variety of residue cellulosic biomass resources and is not dependent on food-crop production. Plus, when combusted it produces substantially less smog-precursor nitrogen oxides (‘NOx’) emissions than conventional oil as well as little or no sulfur oxide gases (‘SOx’), which are a prime cause of acid rain. Lt. Col. (Ret.) William C. Holmberg, Chairman of the Washington-based Biomass Coordinating Council said that “the commercialization of BioOil adds another element to our arsenal of renewable fuels that can help address a previously neglected segment of our oil use: industrial boiler fuels. As such it complements, rather than competes with, fuel ethanol and biodiesel.”
A Canadian-based company, Dynamotive has been awarded the EcoLogo in Canada, meaning that BioOil is certified as meeting the stringent environmental criteria for industrial fuels as measured by Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice Program. While the Willow Springs facility is under construction an initial burn of BioOil from Dynamotive’s commercial plant in Ontario, Canada is being scheduled. The initial burn will be preparatory to the adoption of BioOil as a primary fuel by a major distributor. It is expected that up to 5,000 tons of BioOil will be made available to Midwest consumers over the next year from the Ontario plant before the Willow Springs plant opens in the US.
It’s encouraging to see the industrial sector investing in development of alternative energies to conventional oils. Not only are the resources for traditional oils finite, but their environmental impact from use is immense, With the industrial sector being a key polluter and contributor to climate change, BioOil is a welcome product to reduce harmful emissions. Further, the fact that the fuel does not rely on crops is significant in light of recent debate around the long term viability of crop-based biofuels.