Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Biomass Energy & Carbon Accounting (Part 3)

As we've discussed in prior blog posts, the EPA in its proposed "Tailoring Rules" does not consider a mass balance (inputs and outputs) approach to greenhouse gases -- only focusing on air emissions and not the source of the fuel feedstock (biomass versus fossil fuels).

It is unclear whether the EPA will change its earlier decision not to exempt biomass from its recently adopted “Tailoring Rules” which prescribe Clean Air Act permitting requirements for GHG emission sources beginning January 2, 2010.  As written, the “Tailoring Rules” treat emissions from burning biomass the same as emissions from burning coal or other fossil fuels.  Congress is expected to vote on proposals to block or delay these rules and litigation opposing the rules is currently underway.  But some states may very well find themselves scrambling to revise their State Implementation Plans (“SIPs”).  In September, the EPA released a proposed determination that 13 states’ SIPs are “substantially inadequate” and a second rule that allows the EPA to assume responsibility for the permitting of GHG emissions for those states that do not timely submit compliant SIPs.

The below data of stoker and fluid bed biomass energy technology systems comes from Babcock Power Report, while gasification technology data for carbon capture comes from previously discussed NREL (50%)and our own estimate (30%).

While we join others in the Biomass Energy Industry to disagree with the EPA proposed position -- if these rules are implemented, is there a fall-back argument to "carbon cycle neutrality" for biomass power (electricity, combined heat and power)?

The answer is yes, through the combination of (1) gasification technology; (2) biochar; and (3) below ground carbon sequestration of growing dedicated energy crops:

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