Content for id "text" Goes Here


Advantages of BioMass


Straw Gasification
Stratospheric Moisture
Energy Through Waste
Biomass for Biofuel = Net Energy Loss or Gain?
Resume for Larry Dobson
DOE BioMass Report

Fuel Cells
Green Cars
Global Warming
Energy Questions
Energy Break-Throughs

    Grass seed farmers in the Northwest produce straw. Lots of straw. They have to get rid of it somehow, but burning it--at least in Washington--is no longer allowed for air quality reasons. So what to do?  Enter gasification. A Spokane County, WA grass seed farm will host a federally funded demonstration project that will turn straw into a combustible gas, which will be fed into a 375-kilowatt diesel generator donated by Bonneville Power Administration. The project's purpose, according to BPA, is to adapt the technology to a farm-scale operation."This technology has the potential to provide long-lasting benefits to Eastern Washington," U.S Sen. Patty Murray said after the funding was obtained. "Eventually, our farmers could get paid for their farm waste and our region could have a renewable source of energy."  Scheduled to start operating by fall 2004, the straw gasification venture will examine a host of technical, operational and economic issues.

    NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, February 20, 2002 (ENS) - Tropical wildfires and slash and burn agriculture have helped double the moisture content in the stratosphere over the last 50 years, a Yale researcher has concluded after examining satellite weather data.
    "In the stratosphere, there has been a cooling trend that is now believed to be contributing to milder winters in parts of the northern hemisphere," said Steven Sherwood, assistant professor of geology And geophysics. "The cooling is caused as much by the increased humidity as by carbon dioxide."
    "Higher humidity also helps catalyze the destruction of the ozone layer," added Sherwood, whose article appears in this month's issue of the journal "Science."
     Cooling in the stratosphere causes changes to the jet stream that produce milder winters in North America and Europe. By contrast, harsher winters result in the Arctic. Sherwood said that about half of the increased humidity in the stratosphere has been attributed to methane oxidation. It was not known, however, what caused the remaining added moisture.
    In a study funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Sherwood examined a combination of data from a NASA satellite launched in the 1990s and operational weather satellite data archived at the Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York.
    In particular, he studied monthly and yearly fluctuations of humidity in the stratosphere, relative humidity near the tropical tropopause - the place where air enters the stratosphere - ice crystal size in towering cumulus clouds, and aerosols associated with tropical biomass burning.
Tropical biomass burning is any burning of plant material. In the tropics, the burning is often associated with the clearing of forest or grassland for agricultural purposes.
    "More aerosols lead to smaller ice crystals and more water vapor entering the stratosphere," Sherwood explained. "Aerosols are smoke from burning. They fluctuate seasonally and geographically. Over decades there have been increases linked to population growth."


Energy from Waste:
Breakthrough Technology


    About 98% of the energy used by mankind today is derived from biomass; it is solar energy stored in plants by photosynthesis.  Although our most widely used fuel source is nonrenewable fossilized biomass (coal, oil, natural gas), plants store over 60 times the total energy consumed by humanity annually.  The world's forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate, with tremendous  waste of valuable resources.  With prudent management and the increased use of marginal crop land for production, biomass can make a large and continuous contribution to our energy supplies.
    The amount of unused biomass waste produced in the U.S. and Canada is staggering. There is a huge amount of cheap, usable energy available to us in the form of household and business waste, tree trimmings, sawdust, hogged fuel, demolition and land-clearing waste, logs, chunks, pellets, peat, Refuse Derived Fuel pellets, municipal wastes, low-grade waste paper and cardboard products, and all kinds of agricultural waste from corn cobs to rice hulls and bagasse.  These resources are locally available in various forms everywhere, inexpensive and often free.
    In our throw-away society, biomass waste is becoming an increasingly costly disposal problem.  Governmental agencies are clamping down on indiscriminate dumping and leaching from existing piles of wood & agricultural waste.  Slash burning from logging operations is being prohibited totally in more populated areas.  Landfills are filling faster and faster. The US EPA's strict new regulations are costing $1 Million per acre to open new ones and have forced the closing of half of the nation's dumps.  Well over 1/3 of our Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is biomass suitable for fuel, which could replace millions of  barrels of imported oil a year.   All fossil fuel prices are predicted to escalate at an increasing rate, while costs for biomass fuels are dropping as disposal costs rise.  Waste Biomass promises to be one of our greatest energy bargains for the foreseeable future.  Fuel sources are decentralized and are ideally suited for small commercial wood-waste furnaces to heat manufacturing and processing facilities, schools, hospitals, hotels, greenhouses, etc.  The energy can be used for processing heat, steam, hot water or the co-generation of electricity when coupled with a microturbine generator, Stirling heat-engine generator (such as Sunpower’s linear Stirling alternator) or thermophotovoltaic collectors such as JX Crystals.


    Until now no one has manufactured a biomass/waste combustion system that was clean burning enough to pass strict
new emission regulations and also affordable, automated, reliable and capable of burning the greatest variety of fuels.
    NORTHERN LIGHT RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT has spent 25 years solving five major problems in
biomass combustion technology:
1.       Burning the great variety of biomass fuel types, sizes, and moisture content available, all in the same system;
2.       Perfecting the combustion process for this wide spectrum of fuels to reduce exhaust emissions to well below the
          most stringent environmental regulations in the world;
3.       Increasing overall efficiencies of biomass energy from 65% to over 90%, even with wet fuels;
4.       Optimizing the fuel feed, combustion, heat exchange and ash removal into a compact, cost-effective,
          maintenance-free system that is automated and simple to operate;
5.       Addressing the needs of the major market:  small commercial applications, institutions, rural communities,
          agricultural uses and a rapidly growing international market.

    To date, waste combustion technology has only been cost-effective in large, complex and expensive 30-300 million
Btu/hr. systems. They have been built mainly for the disposal of municipal waste and for processing heat and cogeneration in the lumber and paper industry.  No one until now has been able to meet the needs of the market for smaller commercial
systems, which actually represents the greatest number and best uses for decentralized biomass energy applications.


    Our quarter-century-long endeavor has yielded twelve prototype biomass energy systems and a patent on the design of the cleanest burning biomass combustor ever tested.  It is now possible to utilize large quantities of waste materials and biomass of all types, efficiently converting it into usable energy instead of burying it in costly landfills.
    We are presently testing our largest production prototype, a 800,000 Btu/hr commercial hot-air furnace fired by wood waste and other biomass fuels.  This is a joint project involving the US Department of Energy, the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Energy Office and the Foundation for Organic Resources Management to heat brooder houses at the U. of Arkansas poultry research department, burning chicken litter for fuel.  It incorporates automated fuel feed, an automated ash-removal systems, a patented combustion system that preheats combustion air above 1000°F in a multi-cavity refractory ceramic heat-exchanger, a highly efficient down-draft counterflow heat-exchanger that condenses the moisture out of the exhaust, and automated programmable electronic controls.  Emissions are even lower than from previous prototypes.
    Throughout the world there is a great need for clean conversion of  waste to energy in small, decentralized community sites.  Existing systems are prohibitively expensive and unreliable.  Because our technology is so clean and simple and capable of handling such a diversity of fuels, it is ideally suited for such applications.
    Energy users everywhere are looking for ways to cut costs, reduce waste, and comply with envi­ronmental regulations. There is a large immediate market for this system in situations where biomass waste disposal is a priority or where the need exists for cheap hot air, hot water or steam.  When we consider the full, long term environmental costs of fossil fuels, we must look for alternative sources of energy.  Biomass is by far the largest contender today.


    A prototype residential cookstove developed by Northern Light R&D was officially tested in 1986 by Omni Environmental Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy/Bonneville Power, burning green sawdust of 44% moisture content, with no catalytic afterburner or stack cleanup of any kind.  Its particulate emissions were 65 times cleaner than the best woodstove at that time, several times cleaner than the best pellet burner, and considerably cleaner than the average oil furnace.
    Flue gases were usually so cool that clear water was condensed out in the heat exchanger.  Carbon Monoxide emissions in the stack gases were 1/7500th of the Federal Auto Emissions standard, 1/100th of the gas industry's standard for "CO-free combustion," and 1/2 of the EPA's standard for acceptable 24 hour indoor air quality.  These emissions are less than half of the most stringent PSAPCA standards for new wood and refuse burners. (Since this prototype, two improved versions have been built.)  In tests burning RDF (Refuse-Derived-Fuel) pellets, excess air was brought down to less than 1%, while maintaining low carbon monoxide emissions (0.02%).  This is unprecedented in biomass combustion. Only large modern gas furnaces approach such efficiencies.  Emissions contain no sulfur and are less acid than rainfall near many fossil-fueled industrial areas of the world!

Integrated System

    All components of the system are designed to work together for efficiency, compactness, cost-effectiveness, durability, and maintenance-free operation.  Gas flow analysis is used to optimize all flow channels, taking into account changes in temperature, volume, viscosity, turbulence, friction, the unique constituents and properties of biomass gases, and the heat transfer properties of  the materials used in it's construction.  The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
Internal Ceramic Heat-Exchanger
    Extremely strong, durable, fatigue & shock-resistant refractory ceramics are used in the combustion areas.  A complex of hollow channels and special silicon carbide heat exchangers transmits heat to the incoming combustion air.  Metals are not used in the combusion zone because metals, no matter how exotic, can't endure the heat and corrosion in conditions of optimum combustion.  High-temperature ceramic fiber insulation is used along with concentric heat-exchanger shells to move the heat where it is needed to optimize pyrolysis and combustion, and to eliminating excessive heat that produces slag buildup and ceramic fatigue.
    The thermodynamic properties of these heat-exchangers increase natural draft and eliminate the need for exhaust fans (and their tendency to send unburned embers, soot and ash to clog up the heat-exchanger and increase particulate emissions). The heat-exchanger is designed specifically for high-ash biomass fuels so there are no vertical surfaces to collect fly ash.
    All soot is burned in the combustion zone.  Any remaining fly-ash is removed from the exhaust stream through a combination of gravity precipitation and steam-condensation entrainment, which continuously scrubs the lower heat-exchanger surfaces.
Highest Turn-Down Rate in the Industry
    A 200,000 BTU/hr model can operate as low as 14,000 BTU/hr with 95% heat-transfer-efficiency and over 99% Combustion Efficiency.  This allows the unit to operate at an "idle" while continuing to burn cleanly and efficiently.
 True Three Stage Gasifier/Combustor
    Primary gasification and secondary combustion are separately controlled by a sophisticated microprocessor.  No heat is taken away from the combustion process except to preheat the combustion air, increase the pyrolysis activity, and prevent melting and slagging up of the ash. Even wet fuels with up to 2/3 their weight in water are dried and vaporized (pyrolysed) by the highly preheated incoming combustion air. The additional steam actually acts like a catalyst, improving mixing and shortening the flame path.
    All aspects of combustion and fuel feed are monitored and controlled by a state-of-the-art computer.  This is especially important  with the ever-changing combustion conditions of biomass and waste fuels.  The microprocessor analyses data from various inputs such as switches, thermocouples, RTDs and an oxygen sensor to continually monitor exhaust and optimize air-to-fuel mixture, refuel and remove ash when needed, and signal when anything needs attention.  The ceramic
interior is prevented from thermal shock through subtle control algorithms in the microprocessor programming and precise monitoring of the various temperature and position parameters.  The hot air systems will operate manually when the power is out.
Gravity Flow Fuel Feed
    The system can take any size, shape and configuration of fuel up to 7” without hang-ups. Counterweighted hopper flaps prevent heat loss through upper hopper, signal status of fuel reserves, turn on fuel feed in automatic feed systems, and facilitate smoke-free loading of fuel.

    For additional information, contact:
                        Lawrence Dobson
Northern Light Research & Development
7118 Fiske Road
Clinton, WA  98236


Biomass for Biofuel = Net Energy Loss or Gain?
by Larry Dobson

    The huge discrepancies between David Pimentel's and Lester Brown's alcohol cost-analyses show graphically how easy it is to "direct" the focus and outcome of "scientific" research.  I have read even more devastating figures obtained by deeper ecological cost analysis.
In the alcohol-to-sugar analysis Sugar Cane certainly depletes the soil fast, requiring significant fertilizer input, whereas biomass in the wild creates its own nutritional balance.  Using only a small percentage of the total biomass (the sugar) is partially offset by burning it and converting via steam turbine to electric energy needed to run the processing plant.
    The same arguments apply to the energy balance of converting waste corn (wasted because of subsidies & brain-damaged economic rules) to alcohol or burning it for heat.  Yet because we have a short-term need for liquid fuels to run our ubiquitous internal combustion automobiles, alcohol from biomass may be one of the best immediate options.  It's certainly clean-burning, but how does it compare to biodiesel from plant seed oil (or algae which can be over half oil!) or bio-oil made from the destructive distillation depolymerization of biomass, rubber and other waste hydrocarbons?  We should not dismiss any of these budding technologies because they aren't perfect or on the market yet.  I've heard glowing reports about some new cellulose-conversion-to-sugar technologies, which could potentially make available a far larger and less expensive biomass feedstock for alcohol production.
    Despite the fact that no current alternative energy source will soon supply the world's exploding energy appetite, when we look at the broader picture of sustainable energy conversion of biomass in general, the picture gets more promising, even encouraging.  We have a sizeable and immediately available fuel source that is too diversified and decentralized for big business to get excited about, and too associated with dirty polluting smoke from woodstoves and municipal waste incinerators for "environmentalists" to embrace.  Biomass energy has gotten a bad rap it needn't be shackled with.
    Let me explain. The following is an excerpt from a 128 page report to the U.S. Department of Energy, " Biomass Energy, State of the Technology, Present Obstacles and Future Potential" I wrote several years ago.

    "Washington State's forests store far more energy from the sun annually than all the energy needs of the state, and this biomass energy is perpetually renewing itself.  Depending on conditions, forests in the Pacific Northwest produce on the average 5 dry tons of above ground woody biomass per acre per year, and at least that much below ground, 175 Billion BTU of stored solar energy per acre.  In some locations four times that growth has been recorded, and some species suitable for biomass farming yield 8 times this average.      The 5 northwest states of WA, OR, ID, MT, & AK consumed energy from all sources (petroleum, coal, gas, electricity, etc.) totaling 3,896 Trillion Btus in 1988, equivalent to the biomass energy stored annually in 23,000 square miles of Pacific Northwest forest land, or 2.5% of the land area of these 5 states."
    Aside from increased destruction of forests and ecosystems worldwide, these statistics are probably still close to our current status.  The big changes have been in the area of competing fossil fuel and electricity costs (& consequently cost-effective biomass trucking distance), rising waste disposal costs, brush-fire danger and removal needs, tipping the scales even further in favor of decentralized biomass energy.

Here's more from that D.O.E. report.  I welcome updated statistics on any of this information.

Biomass Fuels
Global Patterns Of Fuel Use

    Except for nuclear power, all our energy comes ultimately from the sun. Our little earth gets only 1/5-millionth of the sun's radiation, which reaches us in 8 minutes and then mostly reflects off into space again.  Of the solar energy that does penetrating the earth's atmosphere, only about one quarter of 1% is converted to biomass each year and yet this small fraction is about seven times the total flow of nonbiomass energy sources used by
humanity.[9B]1  This biomass flow is equivalent to about 75 TW (1 terawatt =
1012 watts) or 75 billion tons of coal equivalent in energy per year.  About 10% of this total is directly tapped by humanity in the form of food, fiber, feed, fertilizer, fuel, or feedstock.2  The remainder, however, provides critical services for global ecosystems by moderating climate, recycling water and essential nutrients, and performing myriad other ecosystem functions.  These functions are no less vital to the economy and to human well-being than those provided by the more obvious societal uses of biomass.
    In addition, humanity has directly or indirectly co-opted as much as 40% of the pre-human biomass productivity of the world by disrupting natural ecosystems (Vitousek et al., 1986)."[9B] "The total energy directly supplied to humanity by biofuel is small compared to that supplied by fossil fuels although exceeding the energy supplied together by nuclear power and hydropower. These biofuels are largely used in developing countries and, within these countries, predominantly in rural areas. They are the traditional fuels-fuelwood, crop residues, dried animal dung, and scrub plants-that have supplied human energy needs for tens of thousands of years (Smil, 1983)."[9B] "Although such fuels today supply a relatively small fraction (somewhat over 10%) of global energy requirements in terms of total energy content, they meet the direct fuel requirements of a majority of the world's population.
    Most of the people in the world depend on these traditional fuels for most of their energy supply.  Even more biomass combustion energy is used in indirect applications, as in clearing land by fire (Rambo, 1986).  In consequence, it is fair to say that most of the energy used by most of the people throughout history has been in the form of biofuels, a situation as true today as since the discovery of fire.'[9B] "Most of this fuel today is used for the same tasks for which it has traditionally been needed-cooking and space heating-although as much as one-fifth may be used in industry (Ramsay, 1985).  It is estimated, for example, that about half the world's households cook daily with biofuels (see figure 1.4).  Approximate 30% of urban households and 90% of rural households in developing countries rely on such fuels for cooking (Hughart, 1979).  Also true today is the observation that it is mostly women who participate in the biofuel cycle-usually sharing or having primary responsibility for fuel gathering, particularly when collecting is done for household use and not for sale.  In nearly all cultures, of course, women do most of the cooking (Cecelski, 1985).  In those many developing countries with relatively small urban industrial centers, biofuels not only supply the most people, they constitute the largest source of energy - exceeding in energy content the fossil fuels.  Even a country with as large an industrial sector as India still relies on biofuels for nearly half of its total energy supply and more than 80% of its residential energy consumption.  Poor countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and Botswana rely on biofuel for close to 90% of their total energy needs (Wood and Baldwin, 1985)."[9B] Each year over 60 million acres of tropical forests, an area the size of Florida, are degraded and destroyed and an area the size of New England changes from forest to desert. [statistics from Trees For The Future, Inc.] Every year we continue to lose forest lands the size of New York State and New Jersey combined. (New Forests Project Newsletter) The Winrock International Institute For Agricultural Development estimates that biomass energy could provide 10-20% of the new (electric) capacity needed by developing countries, and could do so relatively quickly. [10, 12/91] "In Britain alone 250 million tonnes of collectable organic wastes are generated each year from homes  factories  farms  and forests  with a total energy content equivalent to at least 25 million tonnes of coal  or 8% of
(British) energy needs." [45a]
    At the Weltkongress Alternativen Und Umwelt, Vienna, it was proposed that
1/5 of earth's unproductive land (i.e., desert & tundra) can be made to yield a renewable biomass harvest sufficient to supply most of the world's energy needs. [98A] "Bioenergy currently supplies 2% to 15% of the total energy demand in the 11 countries responding to a recent survey.  Finland reported the highest contribution, 15%.  The United States ranked tenth with a 4% contribution.

    Most surveyed countries projected significant growth in the development and use of biofuels; for example, the United States forecasts a 14% contribution by 2030." [75] In 1995, Sweden will begin phasing out the country's 12 nuclear power reactors.  To replace this energy, Sweden is turning to trees.  "Already, cull trees removed while improving forest stands, pruned branches, sawmill waste and bark account for 60 terawatt hours, or about 13% of Sweden's total energy supply.  But with reduced crop subsidies to farmers and new taxes on industries that foul the air with SO2, CO2 and NOx, the nation is also finding that planting and using fast-growing trees can add as much as 35 more terawatt hours to the electricity grid with far less pollution than most other fuels.  "Energy forests' may soon replace approximately one fifth of the country's grain production as farmers find trees to be a more economical use of their land." [National Arbor Day Journal, Jan/Feb, 1992] Economics of Logging Cleanup Research shows that one forth to one half of the total above-ground biomass of cut trees is not removed during conventional logging operations.  This is too much biomass to leave on most sites.  At the same time, environmental concerns for clean air dictate no broadcast nor pile burning in many locations.  Here, then, is a huge supply of energy wood, provided it can be economically accessed.
    Using new prototype logging equipment designed for this integrated harvesting and multiple-product marketing approach, a test near Port Angeles, WA, showed that whole-tree harvesting can be profitable at a site that could not have been economically harvested previously.
    "In some parts of the country broadcast burning is avoided through cleanup credits for harvesting excess wood for energy...Dense brush in forests at urban-forest interface areas is being successfully harvested for energy, thereby providing a significantly decreased fire hazard to houses at the forest perimeter."[77] A 1988 study made in eastern Oregon found that logging residue recovery was quite profitable if done right.  The study suggests that second-growth thinnings could supply five times the present consumption, given more efficient harvest methods.  And it forecasts that the decline of old-growth logging in national forests will accelerate change, as equipment is perfected for harvesting second-growth small trees.   In all, the residue supply was judged to be adequate for doubled or tripled wood-fired energy generation for the next few decades.
    "Timber sales contracts require the sale purchaser to remove logging residue to the land manager's specifications.  Contracts will call for Yarding or Piling of all unmerchantable Material (YUM or PUM) exceeding a contract-specified size...YUM and PUM requirements significantly reduce the costs of logging residue to a fuel user.  The common perception that logging residues are too expensive to use for fuel fails to take YUM and PUM contract requirements into consideration." [77] The volume of wood fiber available after harvest of a old growth timber sale in western Washington and Oregon is very large.  From a typical 25-acre sale in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, 30% of the total wood tonnage logged was chip culls and wood fiber logs.  From this one timber sale, the weight of chip cull logs and larger wood fiber logs totaled almost 97 green tons per acre.
Public agencies see advantages in encouraging energy markets for wood fiber, and are frequently willing to work out desirable contract terms as long as residue recovery does not delay reforestation.

Some of their perceived benefits of using wood fiber are the following:

    About one-fifth of all hardwood trees are cull trees in the SERBEP area, and these cull trees comprise the single most important unused source of woody biomass which could be harvested for use as an energy material.  According to a recent study conducted under the auspices of SERBEP, hardwood cull trees comprise 47% and logging residues constitute 29% of the annual wood energy available in the region. [44] Urban Wood Waste Several counties in Washington have been forced by new landfill regulations to truck their solid waste hundreds of miles to Oregon, and other counties will soon follow, paying $53.00/ton for the privilege and forcing tipping fees above $100/ton.
    This new situation is creating new opportunities for source separation of waste materials suitable for fuel.  Urban wood waste recycling businesses are springing up throughout the region that take in tree trimmings and stumps from landscapers, excavation contractors, tree surgeons, etc. for a tipping fee considerably less than the local landfill.  Some of these processors are amassing large piles of biomass with no place put them.
    Yard waste represents about 15-25% of the total municipal waste stream, and urban landscape services produce significant amounts of chipped tree prunings throughout the U.S..  There are over 200 tree service companies in the Seattle-Bellevue area, collecting an average of 10 cu. yd./day of chipped branches and trees.  Most of this "waste" is currently delivered free to anyone who will take it.  There are several large gullies and swamps that are being filled, but that practice is becoming illegal, dramatically changing the economics of disposal.  This is ideal fuel for a Northern Light furnace, and represents the equivalent of 210 "AGNI".
Wood recovered from urban landscaping, construction and building demolition has become an important fuel in California, where more than 800 MW of biomass capacity has been added at 57 plants since 1980 for an accumulated demand of 7.5 million dry tons per year.  Independent power producers are adapting to urban wood fuels in increasing quantities. [Biologue, Sept,'91] Urban wood waste is available everywhere.  Until recently. its separation and use as a fuel was limited to a few wood working industries.  However, as landfill space for solid waste has diminished, incentives, uses and markets have been found for wood wastes in composition board, compost and fuel.  Fuel markets in California have created an urban wood waste industry almost over night.

Agricultural & Food Processing Residues
Agricultural residues, including hulls, pits, straw and stalks, are not used in biomass power facilities because they are difficult to burn and cause problems with deposits in furnaces. [Biologue, 9/91]  {Northern Light combustion systems are specifically designed to burn this vast fuel resource without the slagging problems.} The most likely wastes from the food processing industries for fuel use are:
* Peanut & sunflower hulls; rice and other grain husks; walnut, almond, pecan and other nut shells; and other dry shells.  Moisture content is generally 4-10%(wet).
* Pit waste from fruits which contain hard pits, such as apricots, cherries, peach, olives, etc.  Moisture content is typically about 50% (wet).
* Bagasse (pressed sugar cane fiber).  Generally, quantities of this waste and process heat needs are much larger than the commercial size systems we are interested in, although there should be a sizable third-world market.

Pelletized Fuel
    Pelletized biomass fuels have advantages in dryness, uniformity, increased density, ease of handling and feed, and controllability of combustion.
Since the pelletizing operation involves extensive fuel preparation & drying, and expensive equipment and labor in handling, considerable cost is added to the raw fuel.  Pellets have the disadvantage of costing 5 to 10 times as much as lower grade unprocessed biomass fuels.  Because the damp low grade fuels can be burned as efficiently as pellets in a Northern Light system, there is no reason to pay the additional expense for fuel.
"A detailed account of the failure of a well-financed fuel-pellet venture in Livingston, Montana, was described (at the 1986 Washington Wood Utilization Conference held in Bellevue) by Hal Holtquist, managing partner of Mountain Energy Co.  He said the firm made major marketing mistakes; mainly, 'tunnel vision' in not recognizing that dry hog fuel is an attractive alternative to pellets and should have been offered as a product.  'The institutional market will grow,' he said, 'and not by pelletizing dried fuel, by selling it in bulk.' Then he will be able to compete with any fossil fuel."
U.S. Statistics
    During the last decade of the eighteen hundreds in the U.S.A., wood from our abundant forests was the primary fuel used in our factories, railroads and homes, totaling approximately 60 million tons per year. [11] "Recent studies (1980) by the U.S. Forest Service have shown that on an annual basis in the U.S. there are 600 million dry tons of unused wood available for energy use, enough to replace 1,675 million barrels of oil {143,000 "AGNI"}.  The bulk of this wood exists in the form of logging residues (160 million tons) and excess tree growing stock (215 million tons).  Timber harvesting systems that utilize this excess wood represent an ideal opportunity to improve the wood energy situation in the U.S." [33A] {U.S. Forest Service estimates tend to be far lower than other estimates.} The Federal Office of Technology Assessment forecasted in 1984 that this contribution could be increased sevenfold by the year 2000.  Dr. James Duke of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Research Facility claims that the U.S. could replace fossil fuels and be entirely self-sufficient in renewable energy from the biomass grown on the 62.5 million acres of deteriorated marginal land in this country.  Other studies show that dedicating just 6% of our agricultural land to sustained yield biomass crops, from hybrid poplar to hemp, could replace all our present reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
    In 1980, less than 200 MW of electricity were produced from biomass.  In 1990, the figure was 7500 MW produced from biomass, primarily wood.  This figure represents about five percent of all energy used in the U.S. and is comparable to our use of hydropower and nuclear power. Solar, wind and geothermal now account for 5,800 megawatts equivalent of energy. [Biologue, 12/91]  Wood energy is the single largest use of wood in the U.S.  About 2.7 quads of our energy comes from 160 million dry tons of wood consumed annually.
    [22, '91] {381,000 "AGNI"} This could be increased to about 10 quads or about 13.5% of our current usage."[77] "According to a 1989 U.S. Department of Energy study, solar and biofuels account for 87.8% of the economically accessible fuels of the future...Not only does biomass represent a massive resource base, but this resource base can be accessed now, not like many of our other alternative energy options that may have impacts 20 years or more in the future."
"The United States has the potential to easily meet half of our liquid fuel needs and half of our electricity needs from this diverse resource that can be derived from direct combustion, gasification and liquification."
    "Fast-growing biomass takes up more carbon than any other process and yields oxygen.  In taking into account the total fuel cycle, several studies show that biomass energy is the only option that has a net gain over the carbon/oxygen cycle.  This net gain has the capacity to preserve our planet." [Biologue editorial by Scott Sklar, Sept, 91] Although detailed analysis of all sustainable biomass energy sources is just beginning to be accumulated, especially from the agricultural sector, the U.S. Department of energy (DOE) estimates that the sustainable energy potential of biomass in the U.S. is 42 quads, equivalent to 55% of total U.S. Energy consumption. [10] {5.7 million "AGNI"} Slash burning in Washington State alone wastes 34 trillion BTUs annually (equivalent to 5.4 Million Barrels of oil... $194,000,000 F.O.B. Kuwait, or 2.7 Billion Dollars of residential heating oil!* 10/90).  This wasteful practice contributes far more acrid smoke to the atmosphere than woodstoves do.  Increasing restrictions on slash-burning, mounting costs of logging clean-up, and greater efficiencies of residue handling/chipping/delivery systems are making slash chipping a necessity and wood waste a significant energy option.  The future availability of wood-chip fuel will increase within areas 50 miles from logging and land-clearing operations.  Wood waste and tree trimmings, along with other yard waste, have typically made up a third of landfill. Wood waste dumps leach concentrates into the soil that can contaminate the ground water supply for decades.  Increasingly restrictive environmental regulations and disposal costs are causing tree trimmers, wood-products manufacturers, etc. to seek other outlets for their waste.  This represents a vast decentralized source of cheap biomass fuel for energy.
Wood fuel use by the forest products sector has increased markedly over the last 20 years, and it is generally assumed that the pulp & paper industry, large sawmills, plywood mills, and other large wood processing facilities will continue to use their waste for process energy, and that these fuels will not be available outside these industries.[5] "Public pressure is forcing environmental regulators to further restrict open burning as a residue disposal option.  If environmental regulations become more restrictive, land managers will be forced to seek alternative residue disposal methods including increased utilization.  If part of the removal cost for residues is paid by the user of the commercial timber, then the cost of logging residues for electric generation should decrease."[6] The most prevalent type of fuel used by respondents to the National Wood Energy Survey was: hogged fuel - 24%, chipped mill waste - 22%, sawdust - 22% slabs from mill waste - 9%, whole tree chips - 7%, logging residue - 5%, wood pellets - 4%, uncut logs - 2%, other - 5%. [5]  Green sawdust comprises about 13% of the wood waste of a mill. [13] Regional Statistics Pacific Northwest & Alaska Region "The five western States representing the pacific Northwest and Alaska Regional Biomass program of the U.S. Department of Energy, cover about 256 million acres of land and contain approximately one-third of the Nation's timber resource (U.S. Department of Agriculture 1981).  This vast resource is concentrated on approximately 30% of the total area (80 million acres), referred to as timberland; land supporting timber that is generally considered to be available for continuing production of woody fiber.  This resource supports a large forest products industry, accounting for a significant share of the wood products consumed in the United States.  This resource also represents a source of supply for a potentially significant wood using industry - energy.  Energy production based on woody biomass grew considerably following the fuel shortages of the mid-seventies.  This growth occurred primarily within the forest products industry and residential sectors of the economy.  New legislation, advancing technology, and the renewable nature of wood provide the basis for greater reliance on biomass as a contributor to the region's energy needs in the future."
    Nearly 19 quads of potentially available woody biomass residues have been identified in the bioregion.  This is equivalent to 25 percent of current U.S. energy consumption.  Annual logging residue alone accounts for 0.3 quad, and is now the main source of biomass fuel.
    Washington State's forests store far more energy from the sun annually than all the energy needs of the state, and this biomass energy is perpetually renewing itself.  Depending on conditions, forests in the Pacific Northwest produce on the average 5 dry tons of above ground woody biomass per acre per year, and at least that much below ground, 175 Billion BTU of stored solar energy per acre.  In some locations four times that growth has been recorded, and some species suitable for biomass farming yield 8 times this average.
    The 5 northwest states of WA, OR, ID, MT, & AK consumed energy from all sources (petroleum, coal, gas, electricity, etc.) totaling 3,896 Trillion Btus in 1988, equivalent to the biomass energy stored annually in 23,000 square miles of Pacific Northwest forest land, or 2.5% of the land area of these 5 states.
The following information in from Biomass Estimates for Five Western States
    In addition to woody biomass currently being converted to energy, primarily in the forest industries and for residential heating, the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska represent a significant opportunity to help meet future energy needs. The extent to which these forests contribute is a function of a complex set of criteria, and varies considerably from one geographic area to another. Expanding the use of woody biomass for energy holds promise not only for meeting growing demands, but may provide an economic incentive for intensifying management of the region's forests.
    Obviously only a small portion of the nearly 19 quads of energy from the sources in this report will be physically available in any given year. Even less may find its way to markets because of critical economic factors. But, the amount that does reach conversion facilities can make a significant and lasting contribution to the region's energy requirements.  Unlike other sources of energy, woody biomass is a renewable resource.
    There are other sources of forest biomass not addressed by this report. The largest such source is biomass occurring on what are frequently referred to as non-commercial forests.  Juniper stands in eastern Oregon and Washington are examples of this type of forest.  There are just over 25 million acres of "other forest land" in the 5-State area.  Much of this land is covered with trees that are not generally considered to be of commercial value - Eastern Oregon alone has over 3.6 million acres of other forest land, most of which is occupied by non-commercial species (Farrenkopf 1982).  The very definition of these stands indicates that few products are removed from trees growing on these sites.  In some cases products such as posts, poles, and firewood are taken from these forests.  Large scale removal of biomass from these forests may not be reasonable for a number of reasons.  They do, however, represent a potentially large source of biomass, particularly for products that do not require high quality wood--such as energy.
    The logging residue produced annually in the Pacific Northwest bioregion, about 0.3 quad, is almost 10 times the energy output of the Trojan nuclear plant operating at 80% of capacity. [16] The annual logging residue production in Washington is 315 trillion tons [90]  The Washington State Biomass Data Book [90A] estimates a realistic availability of 143 trillion Btu annually, at competitive energy prices.
Washington's industrial sector uses 200 trillion Btu of fuel per year.
    The Biomass Energy Project Development Guidebook [13, 1989] compares the logging residues generated to the amount that can be chipped & delivered to a site 50 miles away for less than $3.30/MBtu, for possible electric power plants in WA, OR, MT, & ID, from the present to 2010.  The amounts generated are 4 to 9 times greater than the amount economically available close to a potential power generating facility.  This leaves a current logging residue, uneconomically located for power generation in the 4 state region, of 184 trillion Btu/year, declining to 117 trillion Btu {16,027 "AGNI"} by the year 2010.
    To get an idea of the market potential of this fuel source, using the average of these two figures and assuming that all potential power plants have been built and are using the surrounding wood waste for fuel, and only 10% of the remaining residue is potentially available to decentralized commercial boiler installations, 15 trillion Btus of logging residue would still be available, enough to fuel 2,055 AGNI sized boilers.

Agricultural Field Residues
    According to the Biomass Energy Project Development Guidebook [13, 1989], the average amount of energy from agricultural field residues available for fuel in the Pacific Northwest Bioregion is 132 trillion Btu per year.  This is a tremendous energy potential {18,000 "AGNI"}, equivalent to the energy available from logging residue in the 4-state region.
     However, it is not as desirable for fuel because of its higher delivery cost, lower bulk density, and generally higher ash content (with lower ash-slagging temperature).  Some residues also have value as green manure fertilizer.  Costs of collection and delivery within 50 miles averaged $33/ton, or $2.20/MBtu.  This is still half the price of natural gas.
    To put this in perspective, compare the total annual average quantity of residues generated in Washington (315 trillion Btu) {43,000 "AGNI"} with Washington's total industrial fuel use for 1986 (284 trillion Btu)" [6] One study of potential power plant siting in Washington found 8,000 acres of fruit orchards in one area, which could supply 17,500 tons of tree prunings within a 50 mile radius of the proposed plant site.  "Residues from orchards have two particularly desirable characteristics.  They are most available during the winter months when logging residues are scarce, and recovery costs are generally very low."
    [13] Typical Installations In Washington Greenhouse heat is an ideal application for the Agni-size system, and I have found considerable interest from that sector.  Many of the existing facilities use hot water heat circulating through tubes in the benches, so conversion is simple.  Those in outlying areas use oil or propane rather than natural gas, so the conversion economies are very good, and heat is a large part of their expenses.  Their greatest concerns are dependability and up-front system costs, since many seem to be operating on a tight budget.
    Mountain View Greenhouses in Woodenville is a typical conversion candidate, replacing a 1.5MBtu/hr natural gas hot water boiler.  The owner has heard too many horror stories of unreliable wood-fueled boiler installations to trust a prototype installation, but he is eager to know when it will be manufactured.  Briggs nursery in Olympia is very interested in heating with hog fuel, as they have a large and expanding operation and a ready supply of fuel.  Their major concern is meeting the strict Olympia air emissions standards, and are particularly interested in getting emissions data on cofiring polyethylene plastic and lunchroom waste with the hog-fuel.
    Tim Newcomb, of Seattle City Light Energy Management Services Division has been very supportive in my earlier endeavors to find a site for the Agni prototype.  City light produces about 6 "AGNI" of chips annually from their transmission line right-of-way tree trimming operations.  They would be interested in some cooperative deal to deliver their chips to several centrally located facilities.
M.J. Macdonald, Deputy Superintendent, Engineering and Utility Systems of Seattle City Light, stated in a letter to me (6/90) that, although City Light has determined that large-scale wood-fueled power plants are not practical due to decentralized fuel sources, "Wood might prove to be an attractive alternative source of heat for other applications requiring smaller supplies if emissions are minimized by your concept.  To the extent that such applications might replace electrical energy and nonrenewable resources, City Light would be interested and might pursue a demonstration project at some time in the future."
Of the 143 Washington State facilities listed by the State Energy Office in 1987, one third of them (47) have heating systems of 5 MBtu/hr or less, most of these are low pressure hot water or steam systems, fueled with #2 diesel oil @ $4.88 - $6.48/MBtu (5 yr. old figures).  Many of these facilities are rural and would be good potential customers.
    The State Energy Office has just recently cataloged hundreds of potential wood-energy users, from the wood products industries and other likely industries.  Secondary wood processing facilities in the state offer a large potential customer base.  There are 37 public schools in rural Skagit County alone, 16 of them with an existing low pressure hot water heating system.  There are 34 hospitals in the state with heat needs from 1 to 6 MBtu/hr.  These are predominantly small rural hospitals that would be most likely to have the space for fuel storage and a cheap local source.  The State Energy Office is interested in promoting the use of bioenergy in hospitals and schools, and there may be state funds to assist the conversion.
    The great potential for bioenergy applications lies in the diversity of likely customers, from a fish-processing plant in Anacortes to the Glue Extender Company in Marysville.  Seattle Disposal has tons of low-grade paper fines that are costly to landfill, and several large warehouses and other facilities to heat.  The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has begun an extensive recycling program that is including the city of Oak Harbor.  Since their landfill will be closing in July, all refuse must then be trucked to Oregon, so they are serious about optimizing recycling and including waste-to-energy as an efficient way to heat their various buildings as well.
They will soon be collecting 400 to 500 tons/month and purchasing a chipper to process their woody yard-waste.  They also collect a lot of low-grade waste paper that they want to burn. (CLIP)

I have the technology to harness this biomass energy cleanly and efficiently.  I'll send you more info via email if you request it.
 ~ anyone know green investors eager to bring this technology to the market?

Larry Dobson
7118 Fiske Rd
Clinton, WA  98236



    From childhood Larry was fascinated with fire and carried out extensive seat-of-the-pants research in bombs and
rockets.  After exploring work in research chemistry with Monsanto and other companies, Larry switched to Political
Science and went off to India in the Peace Corps.  Eventually however, Larry continued private research into alternative
energy applications; solar, wind, biogas, hydronic, air, and integrated residential systems.  In 1977, Northern Light R&D
was started by Larry Dobson for the purpose of researching waste to energy systems, combustion technology, alternative
energy, appropriate technology, and a variety of other systems relating to the recycling and utilization of the growing
quantities of resources entering the waste streams.
    For the past 3 years Dobson has been working on the development of a hot air furnace for heating poultry houses
burning chicken litter.  This is a joint project with the U.S.Department of Energy, the Arkansas Energy Office, the University of Arkansas, and the Foundation for Organic Resources Management.

    Dobson's expertise includes:
      ·       3D Solid Modeling component design
      ·       Optimization of gas flow, temperature, heat transmission, throughput, fuel handling
      ·       Utilization of recent advancements in refractory materials, oxygen sensor and controls systems
      ·       Designing of integrated controls and coordinating software development
      ·       Development of new approaches to ceramic component design and manufacturing


   R Alternative Sources of Energy Magazine, grant, 1977
   R Washington State Energy Office, grant, 1987-88
   R Vaagen Timber Products Company, assistance in prototype development, 1988
   R US Department of Energy, Energy-Related Inventions Grant, 1989-1991
   R US Department of Energy, Commercialization Ventures Program, 1998 to present


   R Proceedings of the Weltkongress Alternativen und Umwelt, Vienna, 1980, A High Efficiency Home Energy System Burning Biomass
   R Alternative Sources of Energy Magazine, 1980, The Grendle Report
   R The Mother Earth News Guide to Home Energy, 1980, An Amazingly Efficient Sawdust Stove
   R International Bio-Energy Directory and Handbook, 1984
   R Proceedings of the 1986 International Conference on Residential Wood Energy, High-Tech Non-catalytic Woodstove Design
   R Proceedings of the 1988 Washington Wood Utilization Conference, A State of the Art Woodchip Boiler
   R Biomass Energy - State of the Technology, Present Obstacles & Future Potential, U.S. Department of Energy, Conservation and
      Renewable Energy, Office of Energy Related Inventions, 1993

Currently in search of a manufacturer.

Return to HOME page
Read a detailed Biomass DOE Report
Return to FIRE