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Biomass energy conference in St. Louis this week

A biomass gasifier in Sri Lanka. Gasifiers are used to convert biomass into usable energy.
(via Flickr/shehal)
A biomass gasifier in Sri Lanka. Gasifiers are used to convert biomass into usable energy.

Representatives of the biomass energy industry have gathered in St. Louis this week.

They're here to discuss technologies for turning everything from crop residues to municipal trash into liquid fuels, heat, and electricity.

Tim Portz is the program director for BBI international, the company organizing the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

He says it's not going to be easy for the biomass industry to gain a foothold in the marketplace of already established U.S. energy producers.

"So if we really want to get serious about energy independence, creating local jobs, and reducing the carbon emissions component of producing this energy, then we have to get together and we have to push for policy in Washington, DC, and at our state level," Portz said.

Some local companies are already putting biomass technologies into practice.

Portz says participants have toured some of those local biomass facilities.

One is at Anheuser-Busch. The company puts organic-rich wastewater from the beer-making process into a big, air-tight vessel, where microbes turn the organic matter into methane gas.

"The methane is piped to boilers at the facility, and the boilers are presumably boiling the mash as part of their cooking process and their beer-making process,” Portz said. “So their waste streams power their beer-making process."

Participants also visited a biomass gas production company, and a landfill that captures methane to heat a nearby school and power an asphalt plant.

The conference runs through this Thursday at America's Center.