Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels; is an innovative new textbook that provides insight into the potential and current advances and benefits of biofuel. Contributions include an extensive list of well-respected university extension programs, such as The University of Vermont Research Extension, as well as numerous national organizations including the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories. The text is edited by Anju Dahiya, cofounder of General Systems Research, LLC and lead biofuels instructor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, both of which stand as leaders in cutting-edge topics such as microbial fuels and biogas. The chapters of the book are divided into solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels, and further explore cost-effective production as well as discussions covering economics, environment and policy.
Organized into seven accessible sections, Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels begins with an in-depth overview of the transformation of biomass into biofuels. Once the basics are covered, readers move on to the technical applications of solid feedstocks, such as wood and grass, and their transformation into biofuels. The following section discusses biomass to liquid biofuels—text focuses on oilseeds, cellulose ethanol, and algae as feedstocks. Anaerobic digestion is explored in a section outlining gaseous fuels and bioelectricity and focuses primarily on livestock manure feedstocks. Throughout the chapters, the tradeoffs and benefits of these different feedstocks are outlined through deeper analysis.
Multiple chapters focus in detail on conversion pathways for cost effective biofuel production. The myriad of topics include basic biodiesel production efficiency, converting petroleum-based infrastructure into biorefineries, reducing enzyme cost through varying combinations, and sustainable aviation biofuels. The text concludes with a robust section that connects biofuels to a big picture perspective—economics, sustainability, environmental implications, and policy are examined closely in relation to renewable resources, future uncertainties, and entrepreneurship.
Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels is structured to meet the needs of professionals finding their way in the field, students in need of an introduction, and instructors establishing a course on biofuels. Case studies on provided topics are found at the end of every section and are based on documented implementation projects. Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels is available for purchase on the Elsevier publisher website. Editor Anju Dahiya, owner of General Systems Research in Burlington, Vermont and is a Vermont Bioenergy Initiative grant recipient to advance research and applications of converting algae into biofuel.
05 May 2014
Country Folks is a weekly farm paper highlighting the many facets of agricultural life. The publication included an article on two recent webinars on the topic of oilseeds in the Northeast. The article features Roger Rainville, an Alburgh farmer who is growing oilseeds for biodiesel production on his farm, and Penn State and University of Vermont researchers who recently concluded an evaluation of small-scale oilseed presses.
The article talks about growing and harvesting oilseeds, pressing, conversion to biodiesel, and by-product oilseed meal.
Click here to see the full article in Country Folks newspaper.
A report published this week in Nature Climate Change indicated that ethanol made from corn residue can reduce soil carbon and increase CO2 emissions, indicating the harvested leftovers from corn are “worse than gasoline for global warming,” according to the Associated Press, who released the study results.
In Vermont the term “biofuel” and “bioenergy” are commonly used to refer to woody biomass (e.g., chips and pellets), anaerobic digestion (e.g., new manure and food scrap digester at Vermont Tech), and on-farm biodiesel production.
A scale-appropriate model of local bioenergy production for in-state use is being pioneered by farmers and researchers. These emerging renewable energy resources include switch grass for heating, algae production for biofuels and wastewater management, and oilseed crops for on-farm biodiesel production, equipment use, and animal feed. Since 2003, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has been funding research, technical assistance, and demonstration projects—along with its partners at the University of Vermont Extension—in order to develop the infrastructure to connect diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use. A new website www.VermontBioenergy.com provides a series of written and video resources in these emerging fields of bioenergy.
“Local oilseed biodiesel production for local use is profoundly different from national and international models of biofuel production. While corn-based ethanol and palm oil biodiesel are gaining negative attention for their impacts on the environment and food security, biofuels that are produced and used locally help transition away from unsustainable models of food and fuel production,” states Sarah Galbraith, program manager of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. “Local production for local use works well in conjunction with sustainable food production.”
Vermont is particularly dependent on fossil fuels for heating and transportation, sending its energy dollars largely out of state. In the case of locally produced biodiesel, three products can be made from one crop: animal feed, organic fertilizer, and biofuel for heat, transportation, and farm equipment.
US corn-based ethanol mandates are bringing additional acres into mono-crop production, in some cases converting sensitive natural areas like native grasslands and forestland into farmland. In contrast, local bioenergy production for local use incorporates rotational crops like sunflowers and soybeans into acres already in production. Vermont farms growing oilseed crops for biodiesel production are doing so on long-established cropland in the context of diversified and sustainable food production.
The ethanol mandates are raising grain costs nationally, making feed expensive for Vermont dairy farmers. Local bioenergy production, however, means farmers produce their own feed, fuel, and fertilizer for on-farm use, at a fraction of the cost and at more stable prices.
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s newly launched website features an in depth look at oilseed production and biodiesel operations with case studies, research, and educational videos. The website also features similar resources for grass energy and algae for biofuel and wastewater management as well as information on other biofuels being produced and used in Vermont. www.VermontBioenergy.com
The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative draws the connection between diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on farm and community use. Aiming to supply farm inputs and reduce fossil fuel consumption, this program supports research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy. Since 2003 the program has focused on biodiesel production and distribution for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae for biofuels and wastewater management. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative works with biodiesel producers including State Line Biofuels and the Farm Fresh Fuel Project at Borderview Farm and grass pellet research through UVM Extension and is supported financially by US Department of Energy congressional appropriations secured by US Senator Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund—a non-profit organization created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to accelerate the development of Vermont’s green economy in the fields of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and forestry.
14 Apr 2014
This guest post was contributed by Hannah Harwood and Dr. Heather Darby at UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.
Travel Route 2 through Grand Isle County in early August this year and the rolling yellow fields along the roads will undoubtedly catch your eye. Sunflowers will be in bloom and, more than likely, tourists will be snapping photos. For the second year, growers throughout the county will be participating in a project that supports a small community of individuals who will be producing their own biofuels.
The Farm Fresh Fuel Project—created by UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Program and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative (VBI)—began in 2012 with about a dozen interested growers and 69 acres of sunflowers planted in the islands. Grand Isle County was chosen because it is a agriculturally-diverse community with some existing resources and experience in oilseed production. Participating growers, who signed up in each town in the county in 2012, ranged from seasoned dairy farmers to homesteaders trying their hand at crop production for the first time. All were grateful that the project was taking place in close proximity to technical assistance, equipment, and experienced growers.
That’s the whole idea of the Farm Fresh Fuel Project: developing a small community of individuals who can produce biofuels from the seed to the tank, in a place where the resources already exist to help along the way. Farm Fresh Fuel serves as a sort of small case study for alternative crops and small-scale biofuel production. If all Grand Isle County farmers integrated some amount of biodiesel into their operation, the county could be the first in the nation to have all of its agricultural producers using alternative energy.
Growers who want to participate in the project are responsible for providing the land, meeting fertility requirements, and arranging for planting, cultivation and harvest. In exchange, UVM Extension provides soil tests and interpretation, sunflower seed, technical crop production assistance, and in-season monitoring and insect scouting. After harvest, growers have the option of getting the seed processed at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, a facility with the on-site capacity to clean, dry, and press seed, as well as process raw oil into biodiesel.
In 2012, the average sunflower seed yield was approximately 1400 lbs per acre, though the success of individual fields ranged drastically from one to the next. The most problematic obstacles for Grand Isle producers were birds and weeds, both of which are concerns for almost every oilseed grower in the Northeast. Overall, 28.3 tons of seed were harvested from the county, and Roger and Natasha Rainville at Borderview Farm pressed 2,750 gallons of oil for participating growers, enough to make 2150 gallons of biofuel. When the oil was pressed, what was left was 15.9 tons of sunflower meal—which some participants used to feed livestock or fertilize their vegetables, and some sold to other farmers in the county. Overall, there was a buzz of excitement about these new value-added products—oil, meal, and/or fuel—being produced right in the county.
Though there was increasing interest and an abundance of good intention in 2013, weather conditions in May and June (namely 6.9” of rain above standard 30-year averages) prevented most anticipated fields from being planted on time or at all. The fields that were successfully seeded had decent yields, but the project in general was delayed for a year, giving growers, processors, and weathermen a chance to regroup.
UVM Extension and VBI are excited to facilitate this project again in 2014, with renewed interest from 2012 growers as well as interest from farmers and landowners new to Farm Fresh Fuel. After hosting an informational meeting on March 27 and gauging interest, UVM Extension estimates that at least eight growers will participate this year, putting approximately 60 acres into oilseed crop production for fuel, feed, and fertilizer that’s grown right in their backyard. If the weather cooperates, planters will start rolling through fields in May, and little green sunflower shoots will be visible from the road by June.
April 8, 2014, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
On-Farm Oilseed Pressing for Fuel and Food (link to webinar)
Chris Callahan, Extension Agricultural Engineer, University of Vermont
Douglas Schaufler, Research Associate, Ag Bio Engineering, Penn State
Wondering how oilseed crops like sunflower, soybeans and canola are used on-farm for liquid fuel replacement and feed production? This webinar describes small-scale extraction with examples of different oilseed press usage and and additional processing steps such as filtering and storage. Oil produced on-farm can then be used directly as straight vegetable oil fuel or changed into biodiesel for equipment use. Oilseed meal left following oil extraction is then used for animal feed and other uses. Some farms are diverting a portion of the oil produced into edible oils for consumer sales.
21 Mar 2014
Prepared by Sarah Galbraith, Vermont Bioenergy Initiative Program Manager, VSJF
Highlights: Cost of biodiesel production = $2.29 per gallon ● Seed meal used as a co-product for livestock feed or crop fertilizer ● Central processing facility and shared equipment use maximizes efficiency for neighboring farms
Roger Rainville’s dairy-turned-energy farm in Grand Isle County is a place where area dairy farmers, organic growers, and landowners have made biodiesel from their own locally-grown sunflower seeds.
In 2008, when diesel prices rose from $4 to $5 per gallon, Rainville began experimenting with farm-scale biodiesel production. With guidance from University of Vermont (UVM) Extension and grant funding from Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund’s Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, Rainville began planting sunflowers on a portion of his 214 acres and installing biodiesel processing equipment. Oilseed sunflowers (as opposed to confectionary sunflowers that are grown for eating) are the most popular oilseed crop in Vermont, with hundreds of acres planted statewide. The crop is grown in rotation with grains and grasses and yields high quantities of oil.
Harvesting, Cleaning, and Pressing
Following harvest with a combine, a seed cleaner and grain dryer are used to prepare the seeds for storage in a 200-ton grain bin prior to processing. A flex auger system moves the seeds from the storage bin into hoppers on each press, and screw augers push the seed through a narrow dye at the front of the press. Extracted oil oozes from the side of the barrel and is collected in settling tanks while pelletized meal is pushed through the dye at the front and is stored in one-ton agricultural sacks. The oil can then be used as culinary oil for cooking or further refined into biodiesel. The leftover seed meal is used for livestock feed, fuel for pellet stoves, or fertilizer for crops.
The small-scale biodiesel production facility at Borderview Farm is an 800 square foot insulated and heated building (the space does not need to be heated, but the oil should be stored where it will not freeze) that houses an oil press, a BioPro 190 automated biodiesel processor, a methanol recovery system, and a set of dry-wash columns for cleaning the fuel. The clean oil at the top of each settling tank is added to the BioPro 190 processor along with lye, methanol, and sulfuric acid. The automated processor runs through several stages of processing in about 48 hours (esterification, transesterification, settling, washing, and drying), with one break after 24 hours to remove the glycerin byproduct. Safety equipment in the processing facility includes personal protective equipment like aprons, gloves, eye protection, a ventilation system, gas detectors, and spill containment materials. At Borderview Farm a set of standard operating procedures hangs on the wall and blank check-sheets are in a binder to make the process easy to repeat. The finished biodiesel is stored in 250 gallon pallet tanks making distribution to different farms easier. The installed capacity of the facility can process 100 tons of seeds from 138 acres of sunflowers per year, yielding 10,500 gallons of biodiesel and 64 tons of sunflower meal (assuming the state average yield of 1,500 pounds sunflower seeds per acre and operation of 24 hours per day for 260 days per year).
Rainville switched from purchasing diesel for five tractors and one truck to making his own biodiesel. He wanted to be independent of imported fuel, and liked creating a new way for farmers to diversify. “Using land for making biodiesel is not the most economical option compared to some other crops, but it’s about creating opportunities to try something different,” says Rainville.
Sharing Infrastructure Through the Farm Fresh Fuel Project
In 2012 a group of ten farmers working in cooperation with Rainville and UVM Extension—called the Farm Fresh Fuel project—grew 90 acres of sunflowers for development of biodiesel. Cooperating farmers were required to plant, fertilize, weed, and harvest the sunflower crop. Farmers worked to share equipment to accomplish this task. The seed was brought to Rainville for conversion into biodiesel. Rainville did the harvesting for all farms, bringing about 56,721 pounds of seed to Borderview Farm.
Seeds from the ten growers yielded about 3,000 gallons of biodiesel and about 20 tons of meal for livestock feed. The biodiesel and meal were then redistributed to the growers based on the relative volume of sunflower seeds they contributed. One participating dairy farm, Sunset Lake Farms, is using the biodiesel to heat office space, the milking parlor, and water for cleaning and sanitizing equipment, and fed the meal to milking cows at a rate of 3 pounds per day, saving about $3,000 on fuel and feed costs.
Rainville’s annual biodiesel use has ranged from 500 to 3,000 gallons per year. At current prices (over $4 per gallon for diesel and $2.29 per produced gallon of biodiesel) biodiesel has saved him from $500 to $4,000 per year in fuel costs. He also emphasizes energy independence as an added benefit. Plus, any growers that also raise livestock can use the meal, which is leftover after the oil is extracted, as part of their feed rations. Rainville recommends talking with an animal nutritionist to blend this into feed at the right ratio, since sunflower meal has a high fat content.
When asked what advice Rainville would give others who want to make their own biodiesel, he says, “Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. And ask them again!”
Monday, March 3, 2014 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington, VT. Join us to learn from growers, processors and researchers about their experience with oilseed crops like sunflower, canola, soybeans and flax. Discuss how these oilseeds can add value to farms in the form of feed, fuel, soil amendments and culinary oil. View the workshop brochure or the detailed agenda for more information. Visit www.uvm.edu/extension/oilseed meeting to register.
19 Sep 2013
Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery)
Services: Oilseed and Grain Grower, Oil milling, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply
Owner: John Williamson
Location: Shaftsbury, Vermont; Bennington County
On the forefront of oilseed crop growing in a northeastern climate, State Line Biofuels is Vermont’s first on-farm facility making biodiesel made from oilseed crops grown on-site and from neighboring farms.
The Williamson family has owned State Line Farm in southwest Vermont alongside the border of New York since 1936. For many years, State Line was run as a traditional dairy farm, but falling milk prices caused them to sell the herd and look towards diversifying the farm’s operations.
John and his family currently produce maple syrup, honey, sorghum syrup and hay for sale in local markets. Since 2004, State Line Farm has also experimented with sunflower, canola, mustard, and flax varieties in an effort to fuel their farm with biodiesel.
17 Sep 2013
Co-products: High-protein sunflower meal as feed ingredient
Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery)
Services: Oilseed Grower, Oil milling, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply
Owner: Nick and Taylor Meyer
Location: Hardwick, Vermont
The Meyer family has owned and operated their dairy on a 327-acre farm in Hardwick, Vermont since 1978. In 2003, when the younger Meyer boys took over the farm where they grew up, they transitioned to organic production. Today, Nick and Taylor produce some of the highest quality milk in the state of Vermont, winning numerous awards and gaining notoriety for their sustainable and innovative approach.
That approach has included efforts to reduce overhead costs by making the farm as self-sufficient as possible. A Bergy Wind Turbine was erected in 2007 to provide some of the farm’s electricity and Andrew began making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil in 2008. All the tractors on the farm run on B50 (50% biodiesel & 50% petrodiesel) for the summer and the furnace runs on B15 for the winter months.
“I want to produce everything the farm needs, without buying out (off the farm)” Nick Meyer explains. North Hardwick Dairy (NHD) uses 4,000 gallons of diesel each year (2,000 gallons of diesel for off- road equipment and 2,000 gallons in their furnace).
27 Aug 2013
The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils team held their annual Field Day on Thursday, August 1, 2013 from 10:00am to 3:30pm at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont.
Dr. Heather Darby led more than 200 attendees on a tour of research stations at the farm. The theme of this year’s field day was “Strategic Farming – Gearing Up for Weather Extremes.” Tour stops included brief overviews from researchers and technicians focused on cover crops, irrigation systems, sunflowers for cooking oil and biodiesel, wheat varieties, aerial seeding, hops variety trials and demonstration of a mechanized hops harvester, and demonstration of an oilseed press.
Vermont Bioenergy Initiative was in attendance with the Bioenergy Now! videos along with copies of the report, Vermont On-Farm Oilseed Enterprises: Production Capacity and Breakeven Economics written by Netaka White, formerly of VSJF and now of Full Sun Company, and Chris Callahan with UVM Extension.
More than 20 attendees, many of them farmers, attended the demonstration of the two oilseed presses at Borderview Farm by Hannah Hardwood of UVM Extension and Roger Rainville, owner along with his wife, Claire, of Borderview Farm.