Final Report: Prototype of a Biomass Energy-Source Generator and Remote Control and Monitoring

EPA Grant Number: SU836031
Title: Prototype of a Biomass Energy-Source Generator and Remote Control and Monitoring
Investigators: Lee, Wookwon , Alkhuraiji, Raed , Almalki, Naif , Alruwaili, Musaad , Bennett, Leanne , Diz, H. Rick , Halilovic, Adis , Hawsawi, Alaa , Keller, Nicholas , Lossie, Jared , McMahan, Ted , Prischak, Joshua , Schweisthal, Michael , Smith, Bradley , Smith, Dean , Steinbrink, Scott E. , Tomasik, Joseph
Institution: Gannon University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


To develop a prototype system for the production of a renewable fuel from an agricultural residue, in particular, grape pomace.

The proposed biomass energy‐source generator is to reduce consumption of natural resources by provisioning of another source of high‐efficiency fuel production. First, we will determine the optimum thermochemical conversion protocol to efficiently convert grape pomace obtained from a local grape juice plant into a more useful biomass energy form. Subsequently, a mechanical and heat transfer system will be designed to accept the raw materials and transform them into the finished product, as well as a remote control center for the control, command, and monitoring.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The project research activities included studying the requirements for a system capable of converting a variety of organic feedstocks via a torrefaction process into a pelletized fuel similar in heating value to bituminous coal. The feedstocks of interest were primarily grape pomace but also included horse manure and waste dog food. These particular feedstocks are generated in sufficiently large quantities in the NW Pennsylvania region to make them candidates for an industrial‐scale operation. The Presque Isle Downs Racetrack and Casino, located near Erie, PA, generates about 2,250 tons of horse manure and soiled bedding over a roughly six‐month period; the Purina Mills dog food plant located near Dunkirk, NY, produces about 4,000 tons per year of rejected dry dog food which is currently disposed of in a landfill; and the Welch’s Foods bottling plants located in North East, PA (about 15 miles north of Erie, PA) and Westfield, NY together produce about 15,000 tons of grape pomace each fall during the grape harvest. Each potential feedstock has a unique chemical composition, moisture content, physical structure, and pattern of availability.

The feedstock analysis results from the Phase I project have shown that the energy yield upon torrefaction was more than 90% of untorrified energy content and loss in mass per pellet was less than 2%. The overall conversion efficiency from wet‐weight biomass material to ultimate pellet is subject to further refinement, but at this time of writing, it appears that dry weight could directly translate into the mass of the biomass energy source, the pellet. This means an overall yield of 1.7% of the original wet horse manure, 45% of wet grape pomace, and 88% of dog food. The ultimate environmental impact would require more complicated calculation taking into account, no need to dispose waste (positive), energy consumption during the process (negative), environmental impact of gases generated during the process (negative), and commercial applicability and its impact (positive).


Building on the Phase I results, the goal of the proposed project is to design and construct a portable prototype torrefaction and pelletization system as a proof‐of‐concept demonstration of this technology.

Supplemental Keywords:

Biomass waste, grape pomace, torrefaction, pelletization