Giant King Grass In Pellet Form

coal-fired plant in Utah
Pellets made from Giant King Grass and other biomass can potentially replace up to 20% of the coal in existing coal-fired power plants.
(cc) Doc Searls

Viaspace Inc., a clean energy company growing Giant King Grass as a renewable, high yield biomass energy crop, today announced plans to produce pellets made from Giant King Grass as an alternative to coal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants across the U.S. and Europe.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, pellets made from Giant King Grass and other biomass can potentially replace up to 20% of the coal in an existing coal-fired power plant.

Giant King Grass and other plants absorb carbon dioxide during their growth. When the grass is burned, it emits carbon dioxide, but the next crop of grass 90 days later absorbs the carbon dioxide, and the overall process can be nearly carbon neutral, and therefore reduces the carbon dioxide emissions of the power plant significantly. Many existing coal-fired power plants can be adapted at modest cost to replace part of the coal with biomass pellets in a process called co-firing. In a single 2,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant, replacing 20% of the coal with Giant King Grass pellets would require approximately 2.3 million tons of pellets per year and yield revenue of approximately $230 million at today’s prices for biomass pellets.

As reported by the Associated Press on Sept. 30, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) announced a proposal to reduce emissions-primarily carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels-from hundreds of electric power plants and other large factories and refineries in the U.S. According to the E.P.A., these large sources are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions that are released each year. “By using the power and authority of the Clean Air Act, we can begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse-gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy,” E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Viaspace Chief Executive Dr. Carl Kukkonen commented: “Co-firing with biomass pellets is probably the simplest and least expensive way to reduce the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, because it can be accomplished by modifying existing coal plants, and not replacing them. Alternatives such as carbon dioxide capture from the smokestack and storage underground are considered much more expensive and not expected to occur for many years. As a result, co-firing with biomass pellets is now being implemented in Europe.

“As discussed in prior announcements, independent analysis of Giant King Grass has shown it to have excellent energy content and confirmed its suitability for burning in electric power plants,” Kukkonen continued. “With this in mind, Viaspace has produced a prototype of the pellets for evaluation.

“Worldwide, 41% of electricity is generated from coal, which produces the greatest carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy of any fossil fuel,” Kukkonen added. “Replacing just 20% of coal worldwide would require approximately two billion tons of Giant King Grass pellets per year, which represents a market potential of more than $200 billion a year. With a high-yield crop like Giant King Grass, to grow the amount of grass would require only modest additional acreage equal to 1% of current world cropland. Giant King Grass can be cultivated on marginal land where it would not compete with food crops.”

In addition to co-firing, 100% dedicated biomass power plants are being built throughout the world, and coal-fired power plants are being converted to run on much larger amounts of biomass. According to a Global Climate Law posting on Sept. 9, 2009, at, company officials at Ohio Edison, an electric utility serving customers in central and northeastern Ohio, say that one of its coal-firing plants-to be retrofitted for up to 80% biomass to be co-fired with a maximum of 20% coal-is expected to reduce yearly emissions of carbon dioxide by 1.3 million tons to 400,000 tons, most of which should be offset by the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the biomass crops during their growth. The cost of converting the facility to biomass was expected to be materially lower than installing scrubbers or reconfiguring for natural gas.

Viaspace is an alternative energy company providing products and technology for renewable and clean energy that reduce or eliminate dependence on fossil and high-risk-pollutant energy sources. The Company provides raw material for cellulosic biofuels and develops and markets fuel cell cartridges, products, and technology. Viaspace subsidiary Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation owns a portfolio of fuel cell patents licensed from Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the direct methanol fuel cell was invented.

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