BioCycle January 2018
Washington, D.C.: Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credits
Among remaining issues not addressed in the new tax reform law is extension of the Section 45 Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable electricity produced from biogas. According to Maureen Walsh, Director of Federal Policy at the American Biogas Council (ABC), PTCs will be dealt with in a tax extenders package that was introduced in the Senate on December 20, 2017. As expected, the legislation provides date changes to the expiration of the biogas-electricity PTC from January 1, 2017 to January 1, 2019,” notes Walsh. “Initially, there was hope that the extenders package might be passed with the Continuing Resolution (CR) that funded the federal government beyond December 22 but that did not come to fruition when Congress adjourned for the year. ABC is now pushing Congress to address the extenders package in conjunction with the next funding vehicle for FY 2018. Congress must address this by January 19, 2018 when the current CR expires.”
London, England, UK: AD Association Launches Certification Scheme
The Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), the United Kingdom’s (UK) trade association for the AD industry, launched its pioneering AD Certification Scheme (ADCS) in December. The voluntary, industry-led scheme is designed to support operators of AD plants in improving their operational, environmental, and health and safety performance, particularly in terms of energy generation and digestate quality, explains Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of ADBA. The scheme was developed by ADBA, working closely with industry stakeholders including operators, developers, consultants, suppliers, insurers, regulators and other trade bodies related to the sector, who had all voiced their support for such a certification process. It includes detailed assessment criteria that will allow third-party certification bodies to verify the achievement of good practice at AD plants. It is a key element of ADBA’s Best Practice Programme, which encompasses all the association’s work on improving standards in the industry. A pilot of the ADCS was completed in September 2017, with one on-farm plant, one food waste plant, and one on-site plant for a food manufacturer taking part.
Any operator of an AD plant in the UK is eligible to apply for their plant to be certifed, regardless of size, with the exception of those in the sewage treatment sector. All operators who apply will undergo an audit of their plant and management systems by an independent certification body. The independent nature of the audit process is vital for plant owners, insurers, investors and regulators, notes Morton. Representatives from the insurance sector have been closely involved in the scheme’s creation, which means that it includes key factors they take into account when quoting for insurance premiums.
Durham, North Carolina: Swine Biogas-To-Energy Optimization Evaluation
A team of researchers from Duke University has completed a study to determine the optimal approach and configuration of swine operations for production of electricity from swine waste-derived biogas. Using the North Carolina Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) as a production target, researchers applied the OptimaBIOGAS model, an iterative geospatial and economic analysis, to optimize the configuration of swine waste-to-energy (WTE) production on the basis of the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of specific production scenarios, including on-farm and centralized options.Using the OptimaBIOGAS tool, researchers evaluated four options:
1. On-farm electricity production
2. On-farm biogas collection and pipeline injection (“individual farm-directed biogas”)
3. Centralized electricity production at a hub supplied with biogas from a high-density cluster of swine operations (“centralized electricity production”)
4. Injection of biogas into the natural gas pipeline from a centralized gas pressurization and cleaning station supplied with biogas from a high-density cluster of swine operations (“centralized directed biogas”).
Using the LCOEs derived for each scenario, the researchers ranked them on the basis of cost-effectiveness, testing continuously stirred tank digesters against covered lagoons, as well as high versus low cost estimates for inter-farm biogas transport and pipeline injection. Of the four scenarios, the most cost-effective were centralized directed biogas and on-farm electricity production; estimated costs for the former were sometimes nearly half those of on-farm production, where in-ground ambient temperature mixed anaerobic digesters were assumed to be in use. Overall, the costs of the directed biogas scenario, which was the most cost-effective scenario in many cases, ranged between $0.111/kilowatt hour (kWh) and $0.058/kWh.
In addition to evaluating the cost-effectiveness of various scenarios for meeting the REPS, the analysis considered the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction potential (and income) from swine WTE and the cost to achieve the environmental performance standards that would qualify the systems as innovative animal waste management systems. These systems carry multiple environmental benefits and would allow participating farms to expand their operations. With respect to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, researchers determined that the capture and destruction of swine waste-derived biogas could reduce emissions by 1.35 to 1.37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) per year, assuming full implementation of the REPS swine set-aside by 2018.
Dakota City, Nebraska: EPA, AD Facility Reach Settlement On Clean Air Act Compliance
Big Ox Energy–Siouxland, LLC has agreed to work with the U.S. EPA and the State of Nebraska to prevent future chemical releases like those that occurred at the company’s Dakota City anaerobic digestion facility in 2016. As a result of a settlement agreement between Big Ox Energy and EPA, the company came into compliance by conducting a hazard assessment and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,320. Big Ox also entered into a settlement agreement with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) concerning compliance with state air and water regulations.
In December 2016, an employee drilled a hole into the anaerobic digester to install a pipe. When the employee’s drilling pierced the anaerobic digester, biogas, methane, and/or hydrogen sulfide were released. The employee was injured as a result of the release, and transported to a local hospital for medical treatment. Due to equipment shortages by emergency responders at the time of the incident, Big Ox agreed to donate an ambulance and associated emergency response equipment to the South Sioux City Fire Department at a total estimated cost of $39,225. In addition, 26 households were displaced after hydrogen sulfide associated with the facility entered the Dakota City sewer system.
Inspections and air monitoring of the facility conducted by EPA, as well as a joint inspection conducted by EPA and NDEQ, revealed that Big Ox Energy was emitting hydrogen sulfide from its facility, and failed to identify hazards using appropriate hazard assessment techniques as required by the Clean Air Act.