According to the U.S. DOE’s Billion-Ton Update, more than 500 million tons of solid biomass waste is produced in the U.S. annually, and that figure is estimated to expand beyond 1 billion tons by 2022. As the country's energy policy evolves and the biomass waste industry continues to grow, solid biofuels will become a staple of American energy. In order for that to occur, biomass energy projects need to continue to be successful, and that requires consideration of several factors.
A successful biomass project should have a well-defined fuel source, as well as properly sized and selected equipment. The primary focus at the front end of every solid biofuels project is identifying the potential feedstock source. Currently, potential biomass sources must always be verified through chemical and physical analysis to ensure the fuel is compatible with the thermal equipment for achieving complete combustion and emissions compliance. Solid biofuels can vary in calorific value, moisture content, and ash content based on class, region, and climate, even on a load-to-load basis. Because of these variations, equipment performance and project economics are at risk of degradation without a proper, uniform definition for solid biofuels.
Currently, domestic feedstock sources are defined by thermal conversion equipment suppliers or by solid biofuel producers, generally according to different terms. Equipment suppliers are typically focused on a performance-basis, while solid biofuel producers are focused on a value-basis. Unfortunately, this leads to inconsistencies in definitions of solid biofuel quality, quantity, and value, creating uncertainty for both users and providers. This uncertainty creates a level of perceived risk from an economic perspective.