The Farm Bioenergy Project is an opportunity to support local agriculture, stimulate economic development in the region, protect the environment, and reduce dependency on foreign oil.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Resource Conservation and Development Council is leading a partnership effort that will build and operate a mobile processing unit called the Kwesinator to produce alternative fuels and a valuable soil amendment.
The Kwesinator will convert biomass such as switchgrass hay through a process called fast pyrolysis. The Kwesinator will be built upon a proven research model developed by scientists at the USDA Ag Research Service Center in Wyndmoor (Montgomery County), PA.
Southeastern PA RC&D wants to incubate this new technology because it will create additional sources of revenue for local farmers, lead to the creation of green jobs, and the formation of new businesses in rural communities.
By 2020, the US Navy expects 50% of its total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations to come from alternative sources.
Fast Pyrolysis is a process through which biomass is very quickly heated to a high temperature (greater than 750° F in less than 1 second) without oxygen present and changed into three useable products. They are bio-oil, bio-char, and syngas. The conversion rate is approximately 70% bio-oil, 20% bio-char, and 10% syngas.
Bio-oil is dark brown in color and can be used without processing as heating oil or as a fuel source for the generation of electricity. Bio-oil has approximately half the heating value of traditional heating oil. It can also be refined for use as diesel and aviation fuel.
Bio-char is a graphite looking-like powder. It can be used as a soil amendment to adsorb excess nutrients, pesticides, other potential pollutants, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. This reduces the potential for the leaching of these pollutants into the region’s streams, ponds, and lakes. Bio-char can also help improve soil tilth. It can be used as a fuel source (sort of a “green” coal) to generate heat or electricity.
Air quality in ports and harbors could also be improved if tugboats used the bio-oil for fuel since it is a low-sulfur fuel.
The Kwesinator will go to farms in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties to process switchgrass or other biomass material into bio-oil, bio-char, and syngas onsite.
To promote the technology and encourage others, the Southeastern PA RC&D Council will display the Kwesinator at the PA Farm Show, Ag Progress Days, energy expos, and county fairs. The Council will also make information available through a project website.