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OARDC technology key to grant


February 3, 2010
By Marg Land

February 2, 2010,
Wooster, OH — A recent $2 million grant awarded by the state of Ohio’s Third
Frontier Advanced Energy Program to boost the amount of biogas produced from
waste has at its core technology developed by Ohio State University’s Ohio
Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).

February 2, 2010,
Wooster, OH — A recent $2 million grant awarded by the state of Ohio’s Third
Frontier Advanced Energy Program
to boost the amount of biogas produced from
waste has at its core technology developed by Ohio State University’s Ohio
Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC)
.

The grant was given to
Cleveland-based quasar energy group (formerly Schmack BioEnergy) and several
collaborators, including OARDC, Ohio State’s Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center
(OBIC)
, Rockwell Automation, Seaman Corporation, seepex and McCabe Engineering.
OARDC will receive close to $1.5 million of the grant as a subcontract.

The main purpose of the
award is to help commercialize an integrated anaerobic digestion system dubbed
iADs, which can cost-effectively produce clean energy from both solid and
liquid organic wastes through anaerobic digestion — a process in which
microorganisms break down organic matter and yield biogas, in the absence of
oxygen, inside a biodigester. Biogas can be used to generate electricity and
thermal heat; it can also be cleaned, separated and dried to produce natural
gas, or compressed to fuel automobiles (compressed natural gas, or CNG).

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The iADs is an
innovative (patent-pending) technology developed by Yebo Li, a biosystems
engineer in OARDC’s Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological
Engineering
and a specialist with OSU Extension. The system is called
“integrated” because it combines a liquid biodigester (which processes wastes
such as manure and sewer sludge) and Li’s “solid-state” digestion technology
(which allows for the production of methane from various sources of cellulosic
biomass, such as yard trimmings and crop residue).

The Third Frontier funds
will make it possible for quasar to demonstrate iADs technology at its flagship
biogas facility currently being built on OARDC’s Wooster campus, adding a
solid-state digestion system to its liquid biodigester. The integrated system
will be able to process over 30,000 wet tons of biomass annually with more than
750 kW of electrical generation capacity.

“The Third Frontier
award will allow quasar to expedite the development of a strong supplier chain
of Ohio vendors to manufacture the digester components while reducing costs and
retaining and creating jobs in the region,” said Mel Kurtz, president of
quasar.

Anaerobic digestion has
been utilized in the United States for years to treat manure and sewer sludge
and to produce methane for various energy applications. In fact, quasar
operates a plant that processes Akron’s municipal waste and is gearing up to
install several similar systems throughout Ohio.

What’s new about the
iADs is its potential for significantly enhancing biogas production and making
this technology more economically feasible for large renewable energy
generation in places with large biomass resources — such as Ohio. Adding Li’s
solid-state digesting technology to a liquid biodigester could double the
system’s biogas production capabilities.

“Biogas comes from the
solids present in the anaerobic digestion process,” explained Li, who began
collaborating with quasar after the company established its engineering office
and a lab on the OARDC campus in 2008. “Current liquid-phase anaerobic
digesters used in the United States can only process up to 14 percent solids
content. My system has been successfully tested with 20 to 40 percent solids
content, substantially increasing biogas production efficiency compared to
existing systems.”

Li has been able to
boost biogas production in the solid-state anaerobic digester by treating solid
waste with a byproduct of the liquid anaerobic digestion process: the effluent
left over when digestion is done. This effluent is rich in the type of
microorganisms that help break down solid organic matter during biodigestion.

His technology, Li said,
results in several benefits: “More biogas can be produced, various sources of
cellulosic biomass can be incorporated into the anaerobic digestion process,
the need for effluent management is eliminated, and the solids that are
leftover in the process can be sold as natural fertilizer.”

quasar is the first
tenant of OARDC’s planned BioHio Research Park — a unique business and
technology center aimed at moving ideas and products from the laboratory to the
marketplace in areas such as food safety, renewable energy and materials, and
environmental remediation. The company’s flagship biogas facility is also the
first structure erected on BioHio’s main 95-acre site on the northern edge of
the Wooster campus, which last year benefitted from utility upgrades and access
road improvements made possible by a $3.4 million grant from the Ohio
Department of Development’s
Job Ready Sites program and matching funds from the
city of Wooster.

“We are very pleased
that patentable technology generated by our faculty has commercial and economic
relevance for the state of Ohio,” OARDC director Steve Slack said. “OARDC has a
strong and productive history of collaborative work with Ohio industry, and
this latest Third Frontier award to quasar exemplifies such relationships.”

The research arm of Ohio
State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences
, OARDC has
worked closely with over 100 companies on sponsored research projects during
the past five years.


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