Modular Biomass Power Systems to Facilitate Forest Fuel Reduction Treatment

Demonstrating a commercial scale gasification facility for converting forest wood waste to electricity.

West Biofuels, LLC


Petaluma, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project yielded important results that did not support the initial hypothesis that the recipient's CircleDraft gasification system was appropriate for the California market. However, the project did result in the development of a more robust modular system (rotary gasifier integrated to an Organic Ranking cycle (ORC) generator) that addressed critical technical challenges experienced with the initial system including material flow issues associated with forest material, associated producer gas output and quality fluctuations, and high engine generator maintenance requirements. Based on testing done with match funds, the rotary gasifier + ORC generator configuration is ready for a commercial technology demonstration in a California forest sector community.

The Issue

Community-scale bioenergy infrastructure is critical to support sustainable management of the forested landscape to protect communities, watersheds, and energy infrastructure from the catastrophic wildfire. As identified in the California Bioenergy Action Plan (2012), the utilization of forest waste to promote sustainable forest management practices is of critical importance to the State and to utility ratepayers. While biomass power has existed in the forested settings in California with the deployment of large-scale direct combustion power plants, mostly built in the 1980's, community-scale biomass conversion technology has yet to be successful largely due to cost and performance issues.

Project Innovation

This project develops and tests a modular biomass gasification system that can be rapidly deployed to communities across California to promote and support fire-safe management activities.

Project Benefits

This project is driving innovation in the bioenergy market for forest residue conversion to renewable grid power by advancing the modular gasification technology system design and integration with a high-efficiency lean-burn engine. The modular system has the potential to reduce the cost and increase the benefits of forest fuel reduction projects in high fire risk regions of the state. The project sought a technological solution to support California goals including healthy forest management, protection of electricity infrastructure, and production of renewable electricity.

Lower Costs


The rotary gasifier and ORC generator configuration has a levelized cost of energy of $242/MWh, resulting in the more favorable business case and economic performance of the four systems evaluated in the project. If biochar is in

Economic Development

Economic Development

It is estimated that approximately 4.9 jobs are created per MW of bioenergy generation. Most bioenergy facilities are, and will be, sited in rural areas that are experiencing significant economic hardship.
Unlike traditional dir

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

This project will help with sustainable forest management by removing overgrowth and dead trees from the surrounding forested area, preserving forest carbon sequestration and protecting key watersheds.

Increase Safety


Ratepayers can benefit from community-scale forest gasification technologies because of the ability to more proactively manage the forested landscape. Conventionally wildfire risks are mitigated by treatment of forest landscape a

Key Project Members

Project Member

Matthew Hart

left the company at end of project ARV-15-017



TSS Consultants


UCSD Center for Energy Research


Placer County Air Pollution Control District


Christiana Darlington




Match Partners


TSS Consultants


West Biofuels, LLC


Christiana Darlington


Soper-Wheeler Co. LLC


Contact the Team