EERC Biomass ’11 Conference Set for July

By Chris Zygarlicke | May 23, 2011

In 2002, the Energy & Environmental Research Center hosted its first biomass workshop in Grand Forks, N.D., with 80 participants and a focus on deriving heat and electricity from biomass.

At that time, many people didn’t even know what types of materials constituted biomass. As a joke, when introducing the topic of biomass in a presentation, I would show a picture of the mysterious, yet benign green slime used to douse contestants in a children’s TV game show—using that image to reinforce the fact that most people simply didn’t know what biomass was.

This year’s biomass conference, on July 26–27 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, is different. Not only do we understand the broad range of biomass feedstocks that could play an important role in our energy mix, but we also understand the technologies necessary to utilize that biomass and the economic potential for renewable energy from biomass.

The conference has had different emphases over the years, and judging from the excellent lineup of speakers, this year’s emphasis will be on real-world options for economic feedstock acquisition and processing and near-term conversion options for energy, fuels and chemicals.

The opening session will highlight the status of viable biomass technologies and industry from several standpoints. From the standpoint of North Dakota, an address will be delivered by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, and a presentation will be given by Andrea Holl-Fennig, director of the North Dakota Renewable Energy Council. North Dakota is offering several incentives to help promote the development of biomass industries in the state.

From a regional standpoint, EERC Director Gerald Groenewold and I will speak on the latest trends, opportunities and cutting-edge technologies. Next, Corinne Valkenburg from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Biomass in Washington, D.C., will highlight the status of federal investment in biomass energy. Corinne comes fresh from a new federal budget and directives for biomass, so her talk will be timely.

Finally, Margo Shaw, from Golden Associates in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will speak on trends in biomass resource and technology development from an international standpoint.

The opening session will end with presentations related to real-world and near-term biomass projects and finances. Hurst Boiler will answer questions about what it takes to make 5 to 50 megawatts of power from biomass using well-known combustion technology. This scale of biomass power production is usually feasible with readily available and economical biomass feedstocks such as wood residues. Rounding out the opening session, will be a panel discussion on the real-world costs and financial opportunities for biomass technologies in today’s economic environment. This panel will include Cole Gustafson from North Dakota State University, and attorneys Gregory Jenner from Stoel Rives LLP and Adonis Neblett from Fredrikson & Byron.

Afternoon talks will focus on generating power from biomass both at the small scale using gasification or fast-pyrolysis of biomass and at the large scale using conventional cofiring in utility boilers (presentations by GE Global Research, Saskatchewan Research Council and Barr Engineering), liquid transportation fuels in the form of conventional and cellulosic ethanol (Poet LLC, American Coalition of Ethanol, the University of Tokyo-Japan, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology-Germany, the University of the Basque Count-Spain and Albemarle) and processing of biomass feedstocks including specific economic scenarios and technologies related to sugar beets, rice straw, tallow tree, wheat straw, corn stover, wood residues and crop oils (Desert Research Institute, CTT BioEnergy, MBI International and Seoul National University-South Korea).

In all, this conference will be well worth your attendance. In recent years, this event has attracted thousands of attendees and garnered a reputation for facilitating outstanding networking opportunities that foster new business opportunities regionally and abroad. Special tours will be available, and a full room of more than 40 exhibitors will be present for practical discussions about technology options. For more information, visit

Author: Chris Zygarlicke
Deputy Associate Director for Research, EERC
(701) 777-5123