The California Clean Biomass Collaborative is looking into viable alternatives to agricultural burning. Requirements adopted by the California Air Resources Board will eliminate the practice in the San Joaquin Valley. Virtually all agricultural burning will be phased out by January 1, 2025. The Collaborative consists of five core groups of stakeholders, including those from the biomass industry, government, academia, environmental justice, and agricultural production. One of the groups representing agriculture in the Collaborative is the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA).
Together the Collaborative will be working on practical solutions to address woody biomass that inevitably gets generated in agricultural production. WAPA President and CEO Roger Isom explained that old-technology biomass plants to generate electricity became too expensive to remain viable. The first step in developing alternative solutions is identifying a potential replacement for the old biomass technology.
“People are talking about taking woody biomass and creating renewable diesel, cellulosic ethanol, using pyrolysis to create electricity, creating hydrogen fuel, creating biochar through a pyrolysis process. Well, there’s a lot of talk about those out there, but none of them have got to the point where we’re actually seeing plants built,” Isom noted. “We think, we hope, that long-term, there’s got to be some alternatives out there to the old-style biomass. Hopefully, through this group, we can find what those are and get them built.”
The Collaborative will meet several times through July of next year, with meetings focused on individual burning alternatives. Part of the process for developing a workable solution to the issue of ag burning is the barriers to adoption. Isom explained that the challenges to advancing new avenues for dealing with biomass can be numerous.
“We’ve heard everything from CEQA, to just capital costs, to other environmental concerns, maybe its water use, you name it,” said Isom. “Our hope is, through this Collaborative, we’ll be able to start identifying those and see if we can’t get some of these to the finish line and help take some of that stuff that would have been burned and put it in a much cleaner, controlled environment, and minimize or hopefully eliminate emissions.”