Highly Efficient Water Management System for Lignocellulosic Biomass

EPA Contract Number: EPD12024
Title: Highly Efficient Water Management System for Lignocellulosic Biomass
Investigators: Kelly, John T.
Small Business: Altex Technologies Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2012 through August 31, 2012
Project Amount: $79,490
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Sustainabile Utilization of Biomass


Life-cycle analysis of biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass, combined with carbon capture, has shown the potential to produce negative greenhouse-gas emissions. More than a billion dry tons of freshly harvested lignocellulosic biomass is available at moisture contents between 30 and 60%. This material could be used for the sustainable production of biofuels. However, it is a challenge to harvest this material in a small window of time and then supply it to biorefineries throughout the year. The high moisture content of freshly harvested lignocellulosic biomass results in biomass decay, limits energy content, and poses many environmental problems. This high moisture content also increases the cost of transporting biomass from the field to a biorefinery. Altex Technologies has developed an innovative process to manage the moisture content of biomass to a level suitable for on-farm storage and more economical transport to a biorefinery. In the Altex process, the moisture is removed by conditioning the biomass and facilitating the removal of bound water as liquid water rather than evaporating the water. The combined process of dewatering the biomass to the maximum extent possible and removing the remaining moisture by superheated-steam drying will reduce the total energy requirement by 65%. The reduced energy requirement has the potential to reduce the size of moisture-management equipment and results in a significant reduction in drying cost.

The initial analysis and preliminary tests show that the drying of lignocellulosic biomass by HEWMS system can reduce the total thermal energy requirement by 65%, resulting in a cost reduction of drying of biomass by more than 35% compared to the most advanced drying systems available with heat recovery. This moisture management also reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by 500 million tons per year when all of the available lignocellulosic materials are used for biofuels production. These are important benefits.

Supplemental Keywords:

biomass, lignocellulosic biomass, carbon capture, drying, dewatering, bound water, free water, superheated drying, SBIR, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable fuel production, biorefinery, biofuels

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report