Editor's Note

Biomass Magazine: Here to Help
By Tom Bryan
This publication is distributed to approximately 10,000 people per month, and it's safe to assume most of our readership-a diverse group of professionals ranging from engineers and chemists to farmers and entrepreneurs-don't have time to maintain an expert understanding of the assorted technologies behind each novel concept that makes headlines. Sure, most of them probably know what gasification is, but do they all know the difference between synthesis gas and producer gas? Do they all have a firm grasp on the end-product variation caused by direct heating versus indirect heating? Can they all explain the unique opportunities that high-temperature pyrolysis offers?

The staff of Biomass Magazine understands that our readers, while experts in their own niches, can't possibly be experts in every field within the vast arena of biomass utilization. They can try, however, and we can help. Our staff writers each focus on topics ranging from technology and logistics to project development and crop science. Like most of our readers, they work in niche fields. This allows our writers to develop core areas of expertise and crucial relationships with contacts, which bring depth and insight to the news and feature articles they write. In a way, their jobs are to make your job easier. In other words, they dig into the details so that you don't have to.

So don't feel bad if you don't know the difference between syngas and producer gas. It's our job to inform and educate you, and that's exactly what this month's lead feature does. "Syngas 101" on page 20 serves as an introduction to syngas technologies and some of the latest endeavors in that field, including Frontline Bioenergy LLC's installation of a wood waste gasification system at Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLLP, a 45 MMgy corn-to-ethanol plant in Benson, Minn. Frontline's technology lends itself to retrofits-CVEC was built more than a decade ago-so working with an existing ethanol plant is a good partnership. The first phase of the project, which will be complete in early 2008, will process 75 tons of locally available wood waste, displacing one-fourth of the ethanol plant's natural gas. Ultimately, enough syngas will be produced on-site to handle 90 percent of CVEC's power needs.

Staff Writer Jessica Ebert takes the story beyond mainstream gasification, delving into the relatively unexplored technology of high-temperature pyrolysis. She talks to the leaders of Canadian firm ThermoChem Recovery International Inc., which is working with a containerboard mill in Ontario to turn "black liquor"-leftover lignin from pulping-into syngas, and ultimately steam. Producing steam is pretty basic, of course, but companies like ThermoChem have their eyes set on the limitless possibilities that syngas offers. Power, liquid fuel, chemicals … virtually everything currently made by the petrochemical industry can be made from biomass via syngas. Gasification not only has the power to transform plant matter and waste, but perhaps whole industries.