Forest Concepts gets $1.8M from DOE to improve biomass handling systems

Auburn, WA-based Forest Concepts LLC says it has been awarded a $1.8 million cooperative agreement from the US Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office to address the poor flowability, high friction and highly variable physical properties that have plagued the biomass industry.

Biomass materials have a wide range of moisture contents that are subjected to varying temperature, pressures and forces which traditional metrics provide little-to-no value for the engineering design of hoppers, feeders and mixers. Many of the reported failures at biofuel and bioproducts production facilities are partly due to feedstock handling-related problems resulting from a lack of useful and accurate engineering data.

Forest Concepts, led by Dr. Jim Dooley, CTO, in collaboration with Penn State University’s Dr. Virendra Puri, has an over-all project goal to contribute to the design and operation of reliable, cost-effective, continuous feeding of biomass feedstocks into various reactors typical of integrated biorefineries.

For over 30 years Puri has advanced the modeling of compression, flowability and storage of particulate materials while Dooley has made significant advances in low-energy processing of uniform, flowable precision feedstocks from a variety of high moisture biomass. “The new biomass characterization and flowability properties tools that will result should enable our engineers and others in the bioeconomy to improve process on-stream time and reduce operational risks associated with flowability issues”, says Dooley.

According to Puri, “From the characterization datasets generated using Penn State’s laboratory-scale cubical triaxial tester (CTT), we will develop and validate a comprehensive computational model to predict mechanical and rheological behavior of biomass flow to enable systematic and reliable design of biomass handling/conveying/ feeding systems.”

One part of the project will be to design and build a large scale CTT for commercial use in predicting biomass flows through feedstock handling systems. Final validation of the predictive model, including all feedstock handling in-feed and out-feed unit operations, will be done using Amaron Energy’s mobile pyrolysis unit in Salt Lake City, UT.

Forest Concepts LLC,

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