Archive for the ‘bio fuels’ Category

BioFuel Beat – Local Application for Leading European Biogas Technology

September 8, 2009

By Erik Vandist, Renewable Energy Division Manager, Trimark Engineering

Europe is a world leader in the development of advanced renewable energy technologies. In the early summer of 2009, a delegation from Lethbridge, Alberta-based Trimark Engineering toured a biogas facility near Venice, Italy. The purpose of the visit was to investigate an advanced biogas technology suitable for applications in Canada. The process was developed by Austrian based ‘enbasys’, a company specialized in biotech energy. Markus Grasmug, Chief Technology Officer of ‘enbasys’ led the facility tour.

The facility operates on the principles of composting and anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is a biochemical process where, in the absence of oxygen, bacteria decompose organic matter to produce biogas. The organic matter used as feedstock for the Venice facility consists of municipal solid waste and residues from food industries. The biogas is used as a fuel source for generators that feed power onto the utility grid. By-products of the process consist of compost and water.

The facility is jointly owned by a private investor and the local municipality. It is located in a rural area, adjoining two villages. The operation receives organic waste by truck from a 150 km radius containing a population of 2.5 million. Approximately 400,000 tonne of waste is processed annually. Given the proximity of the facility to the nearby villages, odour control is critical. Buildings handling organic waste are tightly sealed. Ventilation air is exhausted through bio-filters. The bio-filters consist of wood and bark collected from the retention filters at the entrance of hydro power stations. The bio-filters were effective. In spite of the hot weather, during the visit no waste odours were detected outside of the processing facilities.

On arrival, the trucks are weighed and directed into the receiving area of the waste processing building. The waste material is unloaded onto the floor. Front-end loaders are used to rough sort industrial and municipal organic materials and to load the conveyor feeding the processing equipment. Processing consists of screening and grinding which separates foreign materials and then shreds and screens the waste to the appropriate size for stable digestion performance. A substrate, which is a mix of prepared waste, is then pumped to the two digesters, each holding 2,900 m³

The methane gas produced in the digesters is fed to three cogeneration units. The cogeneration units feed 4.0 to 4.5 megawatts of electricity to the utility grid. Waste heat from the cogeneration units is recovered and directed by a common pipeline to the hospital, school and a number of homes in the neighbouring villages.

Mr. Grasmug indicated that the ‘enbasys’ technology is the culmination of over 10 years of research and development. This technology provides an efficient, compact, reliable, low maintenance process at a low operating cost compared to conventional technologies. The technology is capable of efficiently handling both varying volume streams and complex substrates with high chemical oxygen demand.

The digesters at the Venice facility have operated continuously since the initial commissioning in 2005. The unique design of the digesters provides low retention times and no foaming issues. The digesters operate without the need for microbiological substrate additives, enzyme additives or pH adjustments. These characteristics enable the use of smaller, less costly vessels than other systems.

The residue from the digesters is transferred to a centrifuge to separate the solid and liquid phases. The solids are composted for use as fertilizer. The liquid is treated in a membrane bioreactor to purify the water to potable quality. This water is recycled for process requirements including maintaining the bio-filter moisture level. Yearly, 140,000 tonnes of fertilizer and 80 million litres of clean water are produced from waste. Only 15% of the total input is land-filled.

According to Grasmug, the capacity of the ‘enbasys’ system is easily sized for adaption to local availability and type of feedstocks. The design is scalable to installations as small as 10 kW. The effectiveness of the system for specific applications can be verified using the company’s portable demonstration plant.

Beyond municipal waste applications, the technology is well suited to integration with processing operations. These include food and sugar beet processors, breweries, potato growers and other agriculture-based industries. A favourable business case may be made for system capacities of less than 500 kW.

The ‘enbasys’ technology also provides the opportunity to address the disposal and pollution concerns associated with animal waste. Manure from livestock operations can be converted into useful energy and sterile fertilizer. The ‘enbasys’ technology will efficiently process cattle manure, which is normally a barrier to conventional technologies due to the high content of straw and sand.

There are ample opportunities to apply biogas technologies to address both waste and energy challenges in Canada. Although North American developed technologies are emerging, the learning curve is steep. The Venice facility tour confirmed specific advantages of European biogas technology for applications in Canada. These advantages include adaptability of size for decentralized applications and low operating costs. As the next step to verify effectiveness and economics,

Trimark Engineering will coordinate trials of the “enbasys” technology in Canada. Federal and provincial government grant programs provide financial incentives for investment in alternate energy initiatives including biogas. These incentives will support the increased use of biogas technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental concerns.

About the author: Erik Vandist is the Manager of Biofuels and Renewable Energy at Trimark Engineering. Based in Lethbridge, Alberta, Trimark Engineering specializes in process design for the industrial agricultural, food processing and renewable energy sectors. Currently the company is involved in a number of renewable energy projects including integrated biodiesel facilities. For further information regarding biogas technology, please contact Erik at or (866) 328-2910.

Bill Lapp — Advanced Economic Solutions — Discusses the Commmodity Market Outlook

March 9, 2009

I just listened to Bill Lapp, an economist with Advanced Economic Solutions speak about the outlook for commodities in Edmonton. Lapp was very interesting, candid and provided great insight into the commodity market.

The key points that Lapp focused on were:

  • Brazil, Russia, India and China have led the world growth over the last 10 years.
  • The rising US deficit is going to be an ongoing concern. As the US dollar weakens commodities should strengthen.
  • Commodities tend to jump and then plateau. He showed a chart of corn prices back to the 1800’s and showed the group that this has been in case with corn over history.
  • World coarse grain usage is now rising much faster than long term gains. The result is going to be acre battles between major crops. For example, corn and soybeans.
  • The ethanol industry in the US has moved from the gold rush to significant financial issues. Currently, 20% of the ethanol production capacity is idle in the US.
  • The US cattle and chicken industries are under significant financial pressure.
  • Food use of soy oil is going to decline in the US for the fourth consecutive year due to the growth of canola and palm oil. In the US consumers view, canola is a healthier oil.
  • The North American recession has created real financial trauma. The longer the economy is slow, the more likely the US moves to a protectionist agenda of which Lapp is extremely concerned about.

    If you are ever presented with the opportunity to hear Bill Lapp speak I encourage you to attend.

Crop Week – Global Supply & Demand of Oilseed Crops – Thomas Mielke

January 15, 2009

All of us have opinions on where canola prices are going in the future. We are all more experts in what has happened in the past rather than where the future is leading. Sometimes you need to talk to someone that knows what they are talking about and has the facts to back it up.

Thomas Mielke, Executive Director of Oil World and is one of the world’s most respected oilseed crop analysts. I was given the fortunate opportunity to participate in an interview with him before his keynote address at the Crop Production Week in Saskatoon. Mielke spoke about the supply and demand issues facing the soybean and canola market in 2009.

Due to the fact that the Ukraine and Australia have finished their exports, Canada has a great opportunity to export 1.7 to 2.0 million tonnes of canola to China this year. Mielke stated, “that China has better crops but import requirements are increasing due to the fact the country wants to increase its stocks strategically.” Mielke is concerned that Canadian farmers expecting much higher prices are not being realistic and should be willing to take advantage of the recent rebound in price relative to the lows.

I think that if you are going to listen to anyone you should listen to Thomas Mielke. I am not saying that he has been 100% of the time but the reality is that he firmly understands the fundamentals and has the data to back up his opinion. Take heed to the advice of taking advantage of the latest bump in price off the low to not be left in the cold should the price fall back again due to demand issues in 2009.
If the above video does not embed in the story please click here

Crop Week – Why Camelina?

January 13, 2009

Canada has very diverse agronomic conditions across the country. Many times farmers just think of the big crops like corn, canola, soybeans, barley, wheat and oats and forget that there are many other crops being grown in Canada. One of those crops is Camelina, which is being promoted by the Great Plains Camelina Company. I have known Ryan Mercer, President of Canadian Operations, my whole life and thought that I would try and learn more about this crop that I self admittedly know nothing about except that it can be planted in February and is used for bio-diesel. Low input costs, low rainfall requirements and July harvesting are what drive some farmers to try camelina on their farms. One of the marketing tools being used to convince people that camelina is sustainable for bio-diesel is that it is a true fuel only crop. Camelina is never used for food products therefore will never affect the food supply.

In talking to Ryan it is very evident that Camelina is not a crop for everyone but does provide an oilseed alternative on marginal land. As Ryan mentions in the video, there were 10,000 acres in Western Canada in 2008 and they hope to have 50,000 acres in 2009.

If you would like more information on Camelina go to

The Grain Markets Provide Reflection

January 8, 2009

It is sad but so true.  The graph to the left not only describes what has happened to the grain markets but also mysteriously looks like a Christmas tree.  I found this picture at the blog Eds World: Grain Marketing.  As Ed describes in the blog, he is not sure if he should laugh or cry.  

As Ed states you should choose to laugh because if you think back on the last 24 months it really is an unbelievable story.  In one breath ethanol is being blamed for high food prices and shortages of grain and then prices have bombed lower with higher supplies and a growing global recession.  
We need grain prices to get to a level where both the farmer and the livestock industry can be sustainable in the long run.  A major part of this is stability in the price and not the massive price swings as we have experienced in the past.  When the price moves that quickly no one can capitalize on opportunities.  The major question now for grain prices is what happens next?