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Report: Forest Waste Could Provide 50% of Maine’s Energy Needs

Biomass-derived fuels could meet 50% of Maine’s needs.

The Fractionation Development Center (FDC), a Maine non-profit group, has released a plan detailing how the state could turn its vast quantities of forest waste into a range of biofuels and chemicals, providing up to 50% of the state’s annual energy needs.

The FDC released the study in cooperation with the Maine River Valley Growth Council. The study, conducted over the past 18 months, was funded by the US Department of Energy and the Maine Technology Institute as the result of Maine Forest Bio-products legislation introduced by Maine Senators Collins and Snowe, and Congressman Michaud.

The report assesses the potential for three primary forest-waste biomass conversion technologies:

  • Pyrolysis, the chemical decomposition of organic material by heat in the absence of oxygen. Pyrolysis products include bio-carbon (char) and bio-oil.

  • Gasification for the production of syngas for further catalytic processing into fuels or for direct use in power generation.

  • Fractionation, the separation of biomass into three main components—cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin—with minimized cross contamination of the major fractions and minimized degradation products.

The report sees fractionation as a longer-term (10–15 years) technology, and focuses for the short (0–5 years) and medium (5–10 years) terms on pyrolysis and gasification, respectively.

Fdc   Fdc2
The three-stage parallel and serial conversion pathway of the super case based on transportable intermediates of bio-oil and DME for production of transportation fuels.   Staged process concept for integrated pyrolysis and gasification technologies.

The report assess six cases two for each technology, and a seventh integrated super case that describes a staged parallel and serial conversion pathway.

For the production of transportation fuels, the report focuses initially on the production of bio-oil from pyrolysis and dimethyl ether (DME) from gasification as two transportable intermediates.

Bio-oil can be shipped, stored and pumped and ultimately gasified for conversion to DME and end-product fuels. Similarly, DME, which can be used directly as fuel in diesel engines, can be converted catalytically to different fuels.

The DME concept suggests an immediate rationale for placing a high priority on the development of technologies and systems that can be applied to the forest biomass resource.

The current emphasis in the US DOE program on biological processing for specific agricultural residues is not relevant to the forest resource base, and hence not to regions of the United States with significant forest resources.




Forest "waste" is an interesting concept, isn't it?

I think there is a lot of opportunity here, but strictly speaking I think I'd reserve the word "waste" for a forest-industry byproduct without a current buyer.

It sounds like they are thinking of using that kind of waste, as well as expanding harvest of materials, to meet future energy production. That's all good if it's kept in balance of course.

On the other hand, I heard a guy on TV talking about how forrest undergrowth needed to be "cleaned" and how that would yield tons of biomass. Again, that's good when it's kept in balance ... but it's also easy to picture forests made a little to "clean" by a profit motive.


How does the production vary over a 12 month period? Does this waste get produced in a steady stream, or in a six month "summer" burst? If the latter, can the mass be used to generate a constant baseload of electricity 12 months, or would it need to be used as it is harvasted? Can the electricity generation ramp up and down quickly (like natural gas), or is it fairly slow (think: coal) or really slow (nuclear)?

If the biofuel could be stored easily enough and if it could be ramped up and down as needed, it would seem that Maine could "top off" it's electrical portfolio with it's pre-existing hydro, and then simply add solar and wind to be generating 100% of it's fuel from green renewables. Of course, it could even export it's electricity south to MA, CT, and RI -- three states with nowhere near the ratio of trees:people.


We should leave part of our forests to "manage" themsleves, like they have done for millions of years, because we may need something from them in the future, which are not in the farmed forests. That "something" could be in the biomass.
Off topic; there is a cable channel(CNBC) that has names of programs as "Managing Asia" and "Managing India". I wonder if they broadcast "Managing USA" or "Managing Europe" into Asia and India? :)

Robert Schwartz

"We should leave part of our forests to "manage" themsleves, like they have done for millions of years,"

Romantic, but not factual. Men manage forests in all ages and in all places.

1491 : New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told Through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter With the World by Stephen J. Pyne

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