Alternative Energy & Fuels

MI: Biogenic Reagents Opens $30M Advanced Biocarbon Production Facility

14 Nov, 2012

Biogenic Reagents – a new producer of high-value carbon products from renewable biomass – has completed construction and initiated commercial production at its $30 million facility in Marquette, Mich. The company's leadership team of clean-tech industry experts developed and advanced a platform technology to create proprietary renewable carbon products that cost less and perform better than existing coal-based products.

The company's flagship production facility has the capacity to process 300,000 tons per year of biomass into carbon products. The facility is creating more than 40 direct jobs – with military veterans filling more than one-third of those jobs – and is projected to create and support more than 100 jobs in the local forestry, wood products, transportation and construction industries. 

Initial products include activated carbon with applications for air and water purification and control of mercury and other emissions from power plants.

Unlike most activated carbon products for mercury control that are made from coal, Biogenic Reagents' products are derived from renewable biomass. Biomass not only is renewable and costs less than coal, it contains significantly less ash and other contaminants than coal-based products. The result: greater adsorptivity and better performance. 

According to multiple studies, including blind side-by-side trials conducted by researchers at Stanford University's Clean Energy Conversions Lab and recent full-scale trials at a Michigan utility, Biogenic Reagents' mercury control product outperforms coal-based products and has demonstrated the ability to reduce mercury emissions from a coal-fired power plant by more than 90 percent. The achievable levels are three times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency's new mercury air toxics standard that will go into effect in early 2015.

Put another way, Biogenic Reagents' product demonstrated the ability to reduce mercury emissions from a coal-fired power plant to less than three billionths of a gram per cubic meter of exhaust gas, which is approximately half of the mercury level present in the breath of someone who has silver fillings containing a mercury amalgam.

"Based on our knowledge and experience with mercury emissions and how to best control them, we believed there was an opportunity to introduce a lower cost and higher performing product into the marketplace," said Biogenic Reagents CEO Jim Mennell. "The results of third-party studies and commercial-scale trials now validate that belief."

Company and Leadership
Under Mennell – who has led and advised more than 50 successful renewable energy projects in North America – Biogenic Reagents has assembled a veteran team of energy and environmental technology experts; raised millions in private capital; developed patent-pending processes, equipment and products; and built the largest advanced biocarbon production facility in North America. 

Biogenic Reagents is also exploring new carbon products and markets, including high-energy thermal carbon (used to supplement or replace coal and other solid fuels) and metallurgical carbon (for use in purification and production of iron and other metals).

"Our team is looking to replace coal-based carbons in everything from water filtration to building materials because our renewable biobased products cost less and have greater purity, delivering measureable performance and environmental advantages," said Mennell.

Innovative Process and Advanced Biocarbon Facility
First developed at its Twin Cities-based laboratories, Biogenic Reagents' advanced pyrolysis technology includes the heating of material in an oxygen-free environment and yields high performance carbon products from wood. Biogenic Reagents' wood feedstock is sourced from suppliers that are certified as sustainable by third-party certification programs, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

Because of its innovative design focus on materials and energy recovery, Biogenic Reagents' process has a small environmental footprint, producing no wastewater, and generating air emissions that are less than one-tenth of a typical biomass energy plant of comparable size.

"The design allows us to win twice—because we lose less of our feedstock as waste, we achieve a very high yield, and we minimize environmental impacts," said Mennell. "To our knowledge, Biogenic Reagents is producing the lowest life-cycle environmental impact carbon products on the planet."

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