State committee’s ruling on Switchgrass advances biofuels in NC

In late May the state’s interagency group charged with providing guidance for North Carolina’s animal waste management rules, otherwise known as the 1217 Committee, issued a recommendation that will allow for the increased planting of Switchgrass as a biofuels feedstock crop. The 1217 Committee’s decision increased the interim agronomic rates for the planting of Switchgrass, which will allow swine farmers in eastern North Carolina the option of planting Switchgrass on land currently utilized for animal waste management.

The 1217 Committee—comprised of representatives from N.C. State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources—has worked over the last two years to facilitate the introduction of new energy crops onto animal waste sprayfields, while at the same time ensuring environmental compliance.

Switchgrass is a high-yielding, perennial grass native to the Southeast that can be used as a pasture, forage, or biomass crop. Switchgrass has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a biofuels feedstock and will serve as an important crop in the biofuels supply chain as the industry grows in North Carolina.

North Carolina's Growing Strengths: The Biofuels Center's Statewide Woody Biomass Project

The Biofuels Center of North Carolina has completed its statewide woody biomass assessment—the first report of its kind. The Center coordinated with Raleigh-based Gelbert, Fullbright & Randolph (GFR) Forestry Consultants and the state’s seven economic development regions in 2011 to undertake the now-complete, three-part analysis of the state’s wood resources as foundation for large biofuels production.

North Carolina has approximately 17.6 million forested acres, more than half its land mass, and 90 percent is privately owned. With abundant wood markets and diminished manufacturing productivity, especially in North Carolina’s rural counties, the state has significant opportunities to harness its renewable, natural resources and develop new, economically sustainable economies.

For each of the state’s seven economic development regions, and in partnership with them, the Statewide Woody Biomass Project report details the three-part analysis, which:

  1. Quantifies wood resources in every county of the state to include price points for both softwoods and hardwoods, past and projected land use changes, and regional competition for the wood;
  2. Determines the best location for biofuels industrial sites based on the Phase 1 quantifications, and assesses the infrastructure for their appropriateness for biofuels production; and
  3. Refines further the wood resources to support bankable data for each location, appropriate for project financing that quantifies the sustainable annual feedstock available for biofuels production.

 “This has never been done by any state to our knowledge, certainly not on this scale, and it is unheard of in the forest management industry,” said Terry Godwin, harvest forester with GFR Forestry Consultants, the lead developer for the analysis. “With this assessment, the Biofuels Center will bring an incredible advantage to North Carolina when competing for biofuels companies.”

Biofuels Center president and CEO Steven Burke emphasized the significance of assessing statewide wood resources for biofuels production. “North Carolina’s wood resources are key to our successfully gaining large biofuels capacity,” said Burke. “This study quantifies and makes real our ability to support wood-to-fuels technology companies—and gives us large competitive advantage to bring them here over many years.”

Regional wood information and details about locations for biofuels industrial sites can be accessed here.



North Carolina's Growing Strengths: Triangle Biofuels Industries

Based in Wilson, Triangle Biofuels Industries produces biodiesel derived primarily from waste vegetable oils (WVO) obtained from local sources. Its target markets are agricultural, marine, residential, governmental, and commercial diesel consumers looking for cleaner diesel alternatives to fossil fuels. Triangle Biofuels’ production facility became fully operational in April 2008, produced approximately 1.25 million gallons of 100-percent, ASTM-certified biodiesel in 2012, and has the potential to produce 3 million gallons per year. The company expects to produce around 2 million gallons in 2013.

As one of the few biodiesel plants operating in eastern North Carolina, Triangle Biofuels invests significant effort in outreach to agricultural and off-road diesel customers educating them about the health and performance benefits of biodiesel. TBI collects WVO from numerous municipal and county schools, solid waste facilities, and wastewater treatment plants in a cooperative agreement to encourage recycling and help reduce buildup of fats, oils, and greases (FOG) in municipal sewers. Not only does this collection process produce biofuels, it helps turn waste streams into sustainable, highly efficient systems.

Triangle Biofuels also operates a B100 and B20 retail pump at the plant to make biodiesel more readily available to the local community and motoring public. Additionally, Triangle Biofuels encourages biodiesel use by leading by example: The company incorporated biodiesel into all of its fleet vehicles, and many employees drive B100-fueled vehicles.  

TBI has recently undertaken the process of becoming BQ-9000 certified. Recent upgrades to equipment and the facility have improved both production capacity and consistency in quality control.

For more information on Triangle Biofuels Industries, visit www.trianglebiofuels.com.

North Carolina's Growing Strengths: Custom Equipment Solutions (CESCO)

Custom Equipment Solutions (CESCO) is a Matthews, N.C.-based company that offers a complete line of equipment and modular process systems for the production of second- and third-generation biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel. CESCO’s capabilities include the engineering and design-build aspects of equipment and modular system supply of pilot plant, demonstration-scale, and large-scale biofuels production. CESCO works closely with design-build partner Integrated Process Engineers & Constructors, Inc. for the project execution phases of their projects.

On a recent developmental pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol project, CESCO was involved in supplying a laboratory with turnkey seed fermenter systems. These systems are utilized by a major facility in North Carolina to develop next-generation enzymes, which provide the critical conversion step for turning sugars from cellulosic sources into ethanol. The systems include modular stainless steel laboratory benches with integrated mixer and fermenter systems. The system also incorporates all the pre-piped utility systems, including steam and clean-in-place (CIP) capability.

From biotech clean rooms and chemical plants to pulp and paper mills, CESCO is well-positioned to make an impact on North Carolina biofuels production from locally grown feedstocks. With more than 17.6 million acres of managed woody biomass in North Carolina—much of it in the western part of the state—CESCO is also ideally located near Charlotte for wood-to-fuel projects. As CESCO is additionally capable of incorporating its expertise into energy grass-to-fuel projects likely to occur in eastern North Carolina, the company has a wide range of business development opportunities across the state.

To find out more about CESCO, visit www.gocesco.com.

Biofuels Center to host second civic and small-scale biofuels convening in Greensboro

On 13 December 2012 in Greensboro, the Biofuels Center will host Civic and Small-scale Biofuels Statewide: A Second Annual Convening of Civic, Production, and Agency Parties. The event will be held at North Carolina A&T State University from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Communities statewide have potential to benefit through locally produced fuels, economic gain, and environmental advantage. 

A range of leaders from the biofuels community will share experiences and trigger ideas for developing successful biomass and biofuels production projects that are smaller in scale. Last year, more than 50 people attended the convening, ranging from biodiesel producers to municipal wastewater treatment facility managers, and from military representatives to state government officials.

Case studies representing different vantage points or outcomes will reveal common ground as well as problem-solving and practical solutions. A framework for evaluating usefulness and shaping outcomes for local production will be conveyed and discussed. A tour of the biofuels research and development facilities at the N.C. A&T Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering will be offered.

To learn more about the event or civic and small-scale biofuels production in North Carolina, contact Leif Forer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..