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Next Step Biofuels in commercial-scale production of biomass product PowerPellets

Next Step converts biomass into PowerPellets to provide a source of clean energy and bio-chemicals. Photo by Next
Step Biofuels

Next Step Biofuels, Inc. has announced the successful commercial-scale production of their biomass-to-energy product PowerPellets in Nebraska.

Next Step utilizes proprietary processes to convert non-food biomass into clean, renewable energy. The product, called “PowerPellets” can be added to coal-fired plants as a clean substitute or supplement, or used as feedstock for the production of cellulosic biofuels and bio-chemicals.

According to Next Step, the methods of harvesting, processing, storing and transporting biomass can make or break the economic case for biomass to be used. PowerPellets, which are dense and compact, can be stored and shipped exactly like grain without new material-handling infrastructure required.

The PowerPellets produced in Nebraska were made from corn stover at Loup Valley Alfalfa’s pelleting facilities in Burwell, Nebraska.

“Corn stover—all the leaves, cobs and stalks leftover after the corn is harvested—is America’s most abundant source of sustainable biomass,” said Next Step COO Russ Zeeck. “But converting it into a fuel that can be economically shipped and stored at scale has proven elusive. Traditional pelletizing processes don’t work on corn stover, but the proprietary, patent pending processes we’ve developed over the past few years do.”

Loup Valley Alfalfa president and CEO Jon W. Manasil said that his 65-year old pelleting and feed mill operation has long been interested in a way to pelletize corn stover, but, until testing Next Step’s process last week, had not identified a suitable technology. “The Next Step solution is commercially viable,” said Manasil. “It works at industrial-scale and does not require binders or additives.”

Next Step plans to sell corn stover PowerPellets to coal-fired power plants and cellulosic bio-refineries worldwide. Coal-fired power plants in the US and abroad can add PowerPellets to their current operations to comply with a wide variety of carbon-reducing laws and regulatory incentives, the company said.

Next Step plans to complete its first PowerPellet plant by late 2010. A typical plant will produce 175,000 tons of PowerPellets annually.

-   Katrice R. Jalbuena

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