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2022 MASBio Seminar Series

TEA Evaluation, by Dr. Tristan Brown, SUNY-ESF
Tristan Brown is an Associate Professor of Energy Resource Economics at SUNY-ESF.  He gave a talk on topic Techno economic analysis in 04/11/2022. He presented an introduction on technoeconomic analysis, how project cost are determined and on what variables it depends, what are the reason behind unavailability of project costs, why use TEA , why do you not use TEA, and how do you estimate and distinguish capital costs and operating cost. He also mentioned that while estimating the cost during TEA, it has has a wide range of confident (± 30%) of the actual project costs. This large interval could rise question to the reliability of the TEA analysis to a large group of people. 

Biomass Conversions, by Dr. Steven Chmely, Penn State University
Stephen Chmely is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Penn State University. He gave a talk on topic Biomass Conversion in 04/04/2022. He talked about what is biomass refining and what pathways it follows , similarities and dissimilarities to petrochemical refining. He also talked about how value can be added to lignin using catalysis,  and showed how lignin can be incorporated to new soft materials using 3D printing by a process called stereolithography.

Biomass Conversion to Value-added Products by Dr. John Hu, West Virginia University

John Hu is the Statler Chair Professor and the Director of Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization (CIGRU) at West Virginia University. He gave a talk on Biomass Conversion to value added products in 03/21/2022. He discussed on his ongoing activities and discussed on using plant based plastics as an alternative to fossil based plastics and their contribution to GHG emission offsets. Dr. Hu also discussed on the conversion of lignin to bio-adhesive, which would replace the usage of soybean protein , as well as formaldehyde-derived glue which is thought to cause cancer. He also mentioned about the economic challenges for these process like Challenges in Biomass conversion from the Capita expenditures (CAPEX) and the Operating expenses OPEX .

Life Cycle Assessment, by Dr. Seyed Avval, US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory
Seyed Avval works as a postdoctoral scholar in USDA Forest products laboratory, Madison, WI. He gave a talk on topic "Life Cycle Assessment" in 04/25/2022. In his presentation he talked about 3 pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environment). Then he presented an overview on Life cycle assessment, methodologies of the LCA, presented some databases, tools and case studies. Besides, he talked about the factors that can cause the variations in the LCA studies and challenges regarding LCA and why LCA is important in Biomass bioenergy projects.

Feedstock Variability, by Dr. Damon Hartley, Idaho National Laboratory

Damon Hartley, works in Idaho National Laboratory’s Biofuels and Renewable Energy Technology department as a research staff. He gave a talk on topic "Feedstock Variability in Preprocessing Impacts and Potential Solutions" in 2022 MASBio seminar series on  02/28/2022 which was recorded and the video is attached below. Some major talks by Dr. Hartley is that he provided an insight on challenges during feedstock processing; especially by material variability, drying process, moisture content etc. and how it affects flow through a refinery. Dr. Hartley mentioned that moisture and the ash content in the feedstocks are the major factors that harden the preprocessing process causing a larger percent of downtime, since high extrinsic ash content causes wear in the feeders and high moisture content causes poor flow properties.

Logging Residude Utilitzation for Bioenergy, by Austin Garren, Virginia Tech
Austin Garren, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech gave a talk on “Logging Residue Utilization for Bioenergy” on 02/14/2022. Common factors affecting profitability from logging residues are equipment type/size, large initial capital investment, low chipper/grinder utilization rates, and trucking availability. Nutrient depletion and soil erosion are some environmental concerns related to the removal of logging residues for bioenergy, which may be addressed if needed through the addition of fertilizer and mulch, but they would add cost to the system. Mr. Garren evaluated the productivity and cost of five energy-wood harvesting operations in the lower Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S.  Video-cameras recording of landing activities were analyzed to determine utilization rate for machines on landing, whereas the cost per tonne was estimated using the Machine Rate Method and Auburn Harvest Analyzer. It was found that machines are less productive when handling energy-wood due to the smaller average diameter of stems. Trucking was found to be expensive with a shortage of drivers. The top three advantages of biomass production are reported to be improved aesthetics/clean looking site, increased landowner satisfaction, and additional market/source of revenue. The top three barriers to profitable biomass production are reported to be low delivered prices received for biomass, unstable markets/demand, high diesel fuel prices.  

Feedstocks on Marginal Land, by Dr. Shawn Grushecky, West Virginia University
Shawn Grushecky gave a talk on “Feedstocks on Marginal Land” on 01/31/2022. First, he presented data on mined lands in West Virginia followed by estimates of the preparation cost of those mine sites for plantation. He pointed out that yield on those mine sites needs to be about 8 MG/ha/yr to break even with the preparation cost of $175/ac/yr. However, the yield in some of the sites that were planted is much lower (only 0.1 Mg/ha/yr in the first year and 0.2 tons/ha/yr in the second year). Hence, additionally two major projects 1. Stream restoration and 2. Emission offsets with tree planting and biochar use, are being undertaken now to suffice for the low production on mine sites.

Shrub Willow for Biomass, by Dr. Michael Jacobsen, Penn State University

Michael Jacobsen, Professor of Forest Resources at Penn State University, gave a talk on "Shrub Willow for Biomass" on 02/09/2022. First, he gave an overview of the properties of shrub willow (Salix spp) followed by the economic analysis of its production. Feedstock is the greatest variable cost. Willow harvesting and transportation constitute 40-60% of the delivered cost. Integrated debarking can be considered for clean chips. Facilities in New York State are using willow for biopower. Willow can also be used for non-energy applications such as to make silt socks, bedding material, riparian buffers, snow fences, bioremediation, pollination, and wastewater treatment.

Biomass Feedstocks: Perennial Grasses, by Dr. Jeffrey Skousen, WVU
Jeffrey Skousen, Professor at West Virginia University gave a talk on “perennial grasses” on 01/24/2022 where he talked about the significance of bioenergy crops and gave an idea on yields of bioenergy crops on reclaimed mine lands in West Virginia. West Virginia has a total of 12 bioenergy crops growing sites to date. Some of them are good sites for biomass crops, such as the Hampshire site where the yield of Cave in Rock switchgrass was 19 Mg/ha after the 7th year, whereas poor sites like that at Hobet with barely any soil yielded only 1.8 Mg/ha. Another wonderful site is Alton where 20 Mg/ha of Miscanthus was harvested after 7 years. Likewise, 15 Mg/ha of Miscanthus was harvested in The Wilds, OH after 7 years. Hence, we can say Switchgrass and Miscanthus have demonstrated high growth potential on several marginal land sites and show promise as bioenergy crops for ethanol or bioproducts.

MASBio Project Overview, by Dr. Jingxin Wang, WVU
Jingxin Wang is the Director of MASBio and Professor of Forest Chemistry at the Davis College of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at West Virginia University. His presentation provides an overview of the USDA-NIFA MASBio project. MASBio is led by West Virginia University and supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2020-68012-31881 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Various institutions (universities and national labs) and industries are involved in this project. Industry partners include Celtic Energy Farms, Double-A-Willow, MABEC, Ernst, GTI, Fox Land Restoration, PA FFSC, AWSGP, Torresak, Wilds, Allstar, AWP, Eastern Biochar, Lignetics, Enviva Southampton, Enviva Chesapeake, Tucker Eng, and Norris Thermal. Institutional partners include SUNY-ESF, PSU, WVU, WVSU, VT, INL, RMRS, FPL, and ORNL. The objectives of MASBio revolve around a goal of delivering sustainable and economically feasible biomass for value-added products system in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. MASBio has seven major objectives which are to 1. Identify and demonstrate feasible and cost-effective approaches to soil amendment and feedstock production; 2. Demonstrate efficient and effective harvest and logistics strategies for an optimized supply chain; 3. Develop and optimize bioproduct conversion processes through collaborations with industry partners; 4. Evaluate the sustainability and human dimensions of the developed system; 5. Conduct system and scale-up analyses using robust artificial intelligence (AI)-based data analytics; 6. Engage the next generation of bioproducts leaders through education and internship programs; 7. Outreach and engage with entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and business developers to promote bioeconomic development through integrated outreach programs. A task group has been formed for each objective and hence seven task groups have been formed in total. Each group is responsible for executing various sub-tasks specific to that objective. By the completion of this project there will be various outcomes and deliverables such as a handbook on management strategies for feedstock production on reclaimed and marginal lands; a decision-making framework for comparing different harvesting and storage approaches across various systems and feedstock types to provide a year-round supply of biomass at an affordable cost for end-users; development of successful, scalable, carbon neutral/negative conversion pathways for innovative bioproducts; policy implications for guiding biomass products development; an integrated environmental and economic decision support tool for the bioproducts produced on a plant-level scale; online courses, certificates, and internship program for biomass systems; development of 10+ businesses within the bioproduct supply chain; increased social awareness and opportunities for bioproducts markets in the Mid-Atlantic region; more than 100 trained personnel in biomass related business.