Forest Concepts awarded SBIR contract to improve biomass drying

By Forest Concepts LLC | August 12, 2015

Forest Concepts LLC was recently notified that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The two-year $499,997 contract will support development of advanced model-predictive control systems for biomass dryers used in the biofuel and bioproducts supply chain. Innovations and technologies resulting from this project can immediately be implemented in current wood pellet and solid biofuel production facilities as well as future second generation thermochemical biorefinery facilities producing liquid transportation fuels and chemicals.

Producers of solid and liquid biofuels need to reduce both capital and operating costs to achieve unsubsidized cost parity with fossil fuels and long-term economic sustainability. A variety of biomass feedstocks destined for conversion or combustion must be dried, however, the capital cost for dryers is high due to long residence times and the operating cost is high due to system inefficiencies. Consistent and reliable operation of biomass dryers is problematic across emerging and rapidly expanding biofuel firms due to inexperience of operators and lack of knowledge about the drying characteristics of their feedstocks.

This project is important in that it enables improvements in energy efficiency by developing a biophysics based model-predictive control technology which will result in significant cost savings. In addition to control systems, the project will publish new knowledge about the biophysics of moisture movement within biomass particles across a range of important species. At the conclusion of the project, licensed automation providers will be able to install state-of-the art control systems on existing and new biomass dryers.