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Iowa Energy Center



Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) Facility

Bridging the gaps between laboratory research and real world applications is a hallmark of the Iowa Energy Center. In this tradition, the Energy Center created the Biomass Energy Conversion facility (BECON), located in Nevada, Iowa. BECON is a focal point for developing value-added products from Iowa’s abundant biomass resources. It provides credible, firsthand information on biomass technologies to create fuels and chemicals, as well as demonstrations of pilot-scale biomass conversion systems.

  • Developing new ways to produce fuels and chemicals from biomass and enhancing existing processes will provide significant opportunities for rural economic development.
  • Adding value to agricultural products through research and development enhances profitability for many Iowa industries.
  • Successfully demonstrating full-scale biomass technologies promotes increased acceptance and implementation of these technologies.
  • Developing new products with export potential strengthens Iowa’s economy.
  • Using agricultural byproducts, previously classified as waste, reduces environmental degradation and increases profitability for Iowa agribusinesses.
  • Producing and using biochemicals is more environmentally friendly than producing and using petrochemicals.
  • Consolidating numerous biomass research projects at one facility helps focus this work and enhances its exposure.
Contact Information

Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) Facility
1521 West F. Ave.
 Nevada, IA 50201
515.382.1774 | google map

  • The heart of BECON is made up of large-scale conversion systems that process agricultural-related biomass into fuels and chemicals. Additional equipment at the site also demonstrates how biomass fuels can be used to generate electricity, heat and valuable byproducts.
  • BECON is open to researchers from all of Iowa’s universities, colleges and community colleges, private nonprofit organizations and their research partners from the private sector. An important objective of the facility is to provide a place where researchers can collaborate and exchange ideas and information.
  • Businesses and the general public also come to the facility to learn about biomass technologies and how they can be put to use. Demonstrations, field days and training sessions are held periodically at the facility.

Reflecting on the valuable interwoven processes fueled by biomass, it is easy to see why Iowa and BECON are uniquely equipped to lead the way in this emerging field. The major objectives at the BECON facility are as follows:

  • Provide credible, firsthand information on renewable, biomass-based fuels, and chemicals.
  • Create research, testing, demonstration, and training opportunities on cost-effective biomass conversion systems.
  • Focus on biomass-based fuels and chemicals as value-added agricultural products.
  • Bridge the gap between laboratory research and real-world applications by working at the pilot-plant scale.
  • Create opportunities for rural economic development.

Varian Model CP-3800 Gas Chromatograph
Varian Micro-GC Gas Chromatograph
SRI Model 8610-C Gas Chromatograph
Lab Alliance HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) with Model 201 Variable UV/Vis Detector and Series III Pump
Metler Toledo Model DL31 Karl Fischer Titrator
Barnstead ROpure Infinity Reverse Osmosis water purification system
Barnstead E-Pure Series 1090 Water Purification System
for Type I Reagent Grade Water
Hermle Model Z200A Benchtop Centrifuge
Labline Impreial II Radiant Heat Oven
Curtin Matheson Equatherm Incubator Oven
Barnstead/Labline Max Q 4000 heated benchtop shaker
Frigidaire AFFC2528DW2 chest ultrafreezer
Three fume hoods
Hazardous material storage

Wireless and wired network capability
High-speed Internet service
Color and B&W laser printers

Permanent office seating for 10+ research staff including three
private offices
Conference room (seats 30+) with AV equipment
Standard business equipment (copier, fax, printers)
Kitchen/break area


  • Biodiesel plant

Methanol recovery system
Oil-seed extraction system
Storage bin
Tied into industrial control system

  • Anaerobic Digestion System

Four 6000 gallon tanks
Multi-stage anaerobic digestion
Industrial-grade pumps
Control system

  • Supercritical System

High Pressure Batch Reactor
• L: 23.1 cm; D: 7.6 cm
• Total Volume: 1 liter
• System rating: 241MPa at 450 degrees Celcius

High Pressure Flow Reactor
•L: 212 cm; D: 3.2 cm
•Total Volume: 1.7 L
•System rating: 69 MPa at 450 degrees Celcius
•Milton Roy C pump 250 ml/min capacity, can handle 10-15 wt% slurry for 250 to 800 micron particle size
•HPLC solvent pump 250 ml/min
•Three stage high shear mixer with fine rotor and stator

  • Thermal Gasification System

5 ton per day fluidized-bed gasification system

Total building ventilation system
Machine and tool shop
Hydrostatic drive fork truck
Bobcat skid loader
Fork truck
20-foot, 14,000 lb capacity tandem axle trailer
Skyjack scissor lift with 20-foot reach
Plasma cutting system
FRED fume and smoke collector
Arc and wire-welders
Acetylene Cutting Torch

12,000 square foot of research space (100 x 120)
Building height slopes from 28 feet to 18 feet with interior usable height ranging from 25 to 15 feet
480 volt 3-phase service with utility stations providing 240-volt and 120-volt access
Wired ethernet at all control stations
Building compressed air (Ingersoll-Rand UP6-50E-125 compressor)
Natural gas service
Fulton thermal fluid boiler for process heat and steam (150 psig)
Caterpillar diesel generator
Hurst steam boiler

BECON Safety

At BECON, the Iowa Energy Center is committed to providing a safe environment in which to conduct research. As part of that commitment, standard procedures and policies have been developed to help users of our BECON facility conduct research in a safe and consistent manner.

For details on BECON safety and procedures, please contact Iowa Energy Center’s Safety and Security Officer, Linda Hintch.