Saturday, December 4, 2010


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The Wall St Journal reported yesterday that due to low inventories of diesel fuel in China (only 16 days compared to 36 days of inventory 6 months ago,) we should see a sustained rise in the price of oil. The Chinese will build up their reserves of diesel, putting upward pressure on the price of crude oil. Morgan Stanley is predicting a rise back to the $100/barrel level not seen since 2008. $100 crude oil means very expensive heating oil and propane, it's trading in the mid to high $80's today, up 6.7% just last week. We could be heading back toward another very bullish market for wood pellets over the next 12 months.

Posted: 11/09/2010 11:01:07 PM EST

Tuesday November 9, 2010
BENNINGTON -- The town is not yet taking an official position on a proposed biomass plant in Pownal but it does have some concerns, according to Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd.
Select Board members raised the issue Monday after receiving a copy of a letter sent by town officials in Williamstown, Mass., to the Pownal Select Board. The Williamstown officials said they currently oppose the project until more questions are answered.
Beaver Wood Energy has proposed building a 29.5-megawatt biomass and integrated wood pellet facility at the former Green Mountain Race Track. The project has sparked strong opposition, however, among some Pownal residents and those in nearby towns over potential pollution and other environmental concerns.
Beaver Wood is seeking an Act 248 permit to complete the project. The company is hoping to secure a preliminary permit to win federal grant money available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill.
The town of Bennington has "party status" in the permit hearing proceedings because it is adjacent to Pownal. But Hurd said during a Select Board meeting Monday that the town has not been kept in the loop.
"I’m surprised we haven’t been contacted by Beaver Wood at all regarding our position," Hurd said.
Select Board members said Monday they will not take a position -- at least for now. But the town will follow the proceedings -- and may participate -- to ensure the town’s interests are not harmed.
"Anything this big with that kind of impact potential does concern me," Chairwoman Lodie Colvin said.
Board member Joseph Krawczyk Jr., the outgoing vice chairman of the Vermont House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is likely to attend a hearing next week, Hurd said. The town’s economic development director and planning director will also attend, he said.
The Pownal Select Board has yet to take an official position.
Rick Morgenthal, of Concerned Citizens of Pownal, attended Monday’s meeting, urging the board to use its party status to push for a thorough permit process and not an expedited partial process that will allow Beaver Wood to begin construction in time to secure federal tax credits.


By Monty Guild
Nov 5 2010 12:07PM

Oil Prices
A detailed analysis of the trend in future oil prices reached many institutional investors this week. It was prepared by Morgan Stanley and represents their proprietary analysis of the long-term supply of oil from over 500 major fields of both OPEC and non-OPEC producers. The report expected “Spare capacity to fall to untenable levels. If global demand increases by a modeled 1.5 million barrels/day in 2011, and an arbitrary 1% thereafter, spare capacity will fall to 2.5 million barrels/day by end-2012, comparable to levels seen in 2007 and 2008. Tighter [impossible] levels of spare capacity are seen from 2013-15.”
In our opinion, the energy consumption increases modeled by Morgan Stanley are conservative. We believe that actual consumption increases may exceed those amounts. Demand for oil is inelastic in the intermediate term. Increases in the availability of alternatives to oil tend to take some time to develop, so oil prices will rise.
Morgan Stanley predicts $100/barrel oil in 2011 and $105 in 2012. Our view is that this shortage mentality will be layered upon a situation where the pricing mechanism for oil (the U.S. dollar) is weakening; putting further upward pressure on oil prices. We concur with Morgan Stanley’s conclusions, but our view also includes the obvious probability that continued weakening of the U.S. dollar will put further upward pressure on oil prices.
Proposed federal rules regarding biomass boilers likely will be changed, removing financial threat to the state's paper mills, hospitals and schools

By: Matt Wickenheiser -- Bangor Daily News

Proposed federal rules regarding biomass boilers likely will be changed, removing financial threat to the state's paper mills, hospitals and schools, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins told Maine papermakers Thursday.

Collins spoke at the Maine Pulp and Paper Association's annual meeting, spending much of her time on the Environmental Protection Agency rules. She also talked about her hopes to make permanent pilot rules that allow heavier trucks on the interstate system in Maine.

The Maine Republican said the EPA's proposed Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, rules were the product of "overzealous bureaucrats." The rules would essentially require the monitoring and scrubbing of emissions from biomass boilers which many mills have moved to in recent years to get away from fossil fuels, noted Doug Walsh, executive vice president for operations at Lincoln Paper and Tissue. Walsh said that in recent years, Maine mills have spent hundreds of millions investing in biomass boilers.

Collins said that the EPA estimated that it would cost the wood products sector $9.5 billion nationwide to install the technology required under the proposed rules. But an independent analysis put the cost at roughly $21 billion, she said.

And while the federal Department of Energy has been subsidizing operations to convert from fossil fuel to biomass, the EPA is looking to make those operations more expensive, said Collins.

"It's clearly an example of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing," said Collins.

Collins said she recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson opposing the changes. The letter was co-signed by 40 other Republican and Democratic senators, said Collins. In a response, Jackson said that the final rules likely would be different from the proposal. Collins said she has also discussed the issue with a key official in the Office of Management and Budget, who told her the administration was "taken aback" by the number of senators who signed onto the letter, and the bipartisan nature of the opposition.

Walsh said the Maine papermakers were hopeful that Collins' efforts to fight the proposed rules would prove successful.

Collins also spoke on the pilot program that allows trucks of up to 100,000 pounds on the interstate in Maine. The program is due to expire Dec. 17. Congress is set to work on a continuing resolution bill that would continue to fund government operations, and a provision that would extend the weight allowance indefinitely will be in that bill, said Collins.

She shared some benefits from the change in regulations with the audience. A truck taking a one-way trip from Hampden to Houlton along I-95, instead of Route 2, skips 270 intersections and nine school crossings, she said, and saves 50 minutes and $30 in fuel. Having the program in place for a year would save Lincoln Paper and Tissue 120,000 gallons of diesel, she said, and essentially is the same as moving the mill 291 miles closer to its market the equivalent of relocating to Newton, Mass.

"This is all about competitiveness," she said.

Collins pointed out that the paper industry in Maine employs 7,800 and puts about $900 million into the economy annually.

"While the economy is changing, the Maine pulp and paper industry remains the backbone of our economy," she said.


Solid Energy business Nature's Flame has loaded its second bulk shipment of wood pellet fuel to be used by European utilities.

The 17,000-tonne shipment, loaded at Napier, was part of an initial three-year $15 million supply agreement. A first shipment of 6700 tonnes went in March, Solid Energy said today.

Nature's Flame was also continuing to develop its presence in Europe's home-heating market, with a further 3000-tonne consignment of retail-ready bagged pellets being shipped in containers during the next four months.

In March, Nature's Flame formally opened this country's largest wood pellet fuel plant. The $34 million Taupo plant can produce up to 40,000 tonnes a year of the fuel, and planning is now under way to expand that to 90,000 tonnes. Nature's Flame also has pellet plants in Rotorua and at Rolleston, near Christchurch.


The Maine Department of Conservation says eight wood-to-energy conversion projects are receiving more than $5.55 million in federal stimulus funding.
The energy-conversion grants will provide partial funding for projects at six school systems, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Northern Maine Medical Center. The projects call for wood chip or pellet boilers to replace or supplement existing heating systems, saving thousands of gallons of oil.
The conservation department says the projects will create 185 jobs.
Besides creating jobs, the goals are to achieve energy savings, reduce dependence on nonrenewable energy resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable forestry.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In March earlier this year Solid Energy business Nature’s Flame opened New Zealand’s largest wood pellet production facility.

The Taupo-based plant, which cost $34 million (€24.55 million) to build, has a total output capacity of 40,000 tonnes of pellets a year but the company is already planning to expand this to 90,000 tonnes.

Earlier this month Nature’s Flame loaded its second bulk shipment of pellets as part of a three-year $15 million supply agreement.

The 17,000 tonnes of wood pellet fuel were loaded at Napier, following its first shipment of 6,700 tonnes, which went in March.

The pellets are destined for Europe where they will be utilised by a number of utility companies.


Published: Nov 12, 2010
Leaks from carbon dioxide injected deep underground to help fight climate change could bubble up into drinking water aquifers near the surface, driving up levels of contaminants in the water tenfold or more in some places, according to a study by Duke University scientists.
Based on a year-long analysis of core samples from four drinking water aquifers the researchers found "the potential for contamination is real, but there are ways to avoid or reduce the risk," said Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change and professor of biology at Duke.
"Geologic criteria that we identified in the study can help identify locations around the country that should be monitored or avoided," he said. "By no means would all sites be susceptible to problems of water quality."
The study appears in the online edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Duke researchers collected core samples from four freshwater aquifers around the nation that overlie potential CCS sites and incubated the samples in their university lab for a year, with CO2 bubbling through them.
After a year's exposure to the CO2, analysis showed a number of potential sites where CO2 leaks drive contaminants up tenfold or more, "in some cases to levels above the maximum contaminant loads set by the EPA for potable water," Jackson said. Three key factors – solid-phase metal mobility, carbonate buffering capacity and electron exchanges in the overlying freshwater aquifer – were found to influence the risk of drinking water contamination from underground carbon leaks.
The study also identified four markers that scientists can use to test for early warnings of potential carbon dioxide leaks. "Along with changes in carbonate concentration and acidity of the water, concentrations of manganese, iron and calcium could all be used as geochemical markers of a leak, as their concentration increase within two weeks of exposure to CO2," Jackson said.
The study was funded by the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory and Duke's Center on Global Change.
Read more news and features on emissions control.


Source: The Chattanoogan

A 50-year-old Rome, Ga., man on Tuesday pleaded guilty before Senior United States District Judge Robert L. Vining in federal district court to multiple charges relating to a $4 million scheme involving timber that did not exist.

A jury had been selected and Aaron Wilbert Freeman's trial was set to begin Wednesday when he decided to plead guilty.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, "Paper is made from trees, but in this case, Freeman created trees out of paper. He did so by manipulating his employer's computer system to create phony receipts for timber deliveries that never took place. He also recruited timber truck drivers to redeem the fake receipts for payment, then laundered the proceeds through multiple financial institutions."

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, stated, "The level of fraud that Mr. Freeman conspired to commit against his former employer, the Temple-Inland Company, was significant. The FBI is pleased that, through its investigation and the resulting prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office, not only was any additional fraud stopped, but now Mr. Freeman will be held accountable for his actions."

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Freeman worked as a scale house operator at the Temple-Inland Company paper mill in Floyd County until June 2006. The scale house received and weighed approximately 350 timber trucks each day, providing a delivery receipt, known in the industry as a "scale ticket," to each driver as proof of delivery.

Between 2003 and 2006, Freeman worked primarily during the night shift, often alone, processing timber deliveries through the scale house computer system.

While working in the scale house during this time frame, Freeman manipulated the computer system to produce multiple weight readings when a single timber truck passed through the paper mill's scale, making it appear as if there had been two or more deliveries when there had only been one. He then caused the computer system to generate false scale tickets for the phantom loads, along with valid scale tickets for the legitimate deliveries. The Rome scale house computer system would simultaneously transmit the delivery information electronically to Temple-Inland's headquarters in Austin, Texas, ultimately resulting in electronic funds transfers from Temple-Inland's bank to timber suppliers' bank accounts in Georgia and South Carolina.

After creating the false scale tickets, Freeman recruited multiple people, including Kevin A. Fields, 31, of Forsyth, Ga.; Jason S. Joseph, 32, of Macon; Roger G. Carthern, 63, and R. Andrew Carthern, 40, both of Jefferson, Ga.; J. David Carthern, 64, of Commerce, Ga.; Robert Frank Ferguson Jr., 56, of Maysville, Ga.; and George Bonner Tate, 40, of Hartwell, Ga., to redeem the false scale tickets for payment by timber suppliers, launder the payments through multiple banks and credit unions, and return a share of the money to Freeman in cash.

By manipulating the scale house computer system and creating false scale tickets, Freeman caused Temple-Inland to pay approximately $3.35 million for phantom timber that Fields claimed to have delivered; $910,000 for phantom timber that Joseph claimed to have delivered; $313,000 to Roger and Andrew Carthern; more than $112,000 to David Carthern and Robert Frank Ferguson; and more than $160,000 to George Tate, all of whom shared their money with Freeman.

Freeman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire fraud conspiracy, and a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to approximately $3.6 million for the money laundering conspiracy.


Source: The Moscow Times

Vyborgskaya Cellulose, a Russian pulp and paper maker, said Friday that it expected to start producing pellets that can be used in heat and electricity generation from its plant in Vyborg by the end of the year.

The plant, located in northwest Russia, will eventually produce about 900,000 tons of pellets per year, making it the largest in the world once operational, said Irmgard Herold, an industry analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Swedish trading house Ekman & Co., which has an exclusive sales agreement with Vyborgskaya, is initially looking to sell "large volumes" of the pellets to industrial users, Arnold Dale, vice president of bioenergy for Ekman, said by e-mail.

"We do, however, already have several smaller contracts to supply premium-grade wood pellets to small combined heat and power plants in Scandinavia," Dale said. "Talks are ongoing with potential distributors in key European consumer pellet markets."

The pellets will not be "significantly" cheaper because of large-scale production, Dale said. "Economies of scale can only provide savings on a small percentage of the costs. The main costs, like raw material and even the capex, are what they are, and no great savings are available."

The pellets will be produced using round wood, said Dale, and Vyborgskaya has several large 49-year leases on forest land in the Leningrad and Pskov regions. Raw material should comprise about 60 percent of overall production costs, he said.

At present, U.S. producers supply most West European power stations, Herold said, while most residential demand is supplied by European producers. "We do expect to be able to compete with the Americas, especially as there is less currency risk and much shorter shipping distances," Dale said.

In February, Vyborgskaya said the plant would cost about $100 million to build. Of this, VTB Group provided $41 million, and Tavrichesky Bank $10 million.


Slave River Journal

Photo Caption: Aurora Colleges new wood pellet boiler system involves a silo to store pellets that are auger fed into the system.

Two of Fort Smith's largest institutions fired up wood-pellet boilers for the first time this winter, beginning the community's transition from oil heating systems.

Aurora College's Thebacha Campus and the PWK/Recreation Center building started using new, 750-kilowatt wood-pellet boilers last month.

The conversions are part of the territorial government's plan to replace heating oil across the territory using a variety of alternative power sources.

"It's tied into all the work we're doing on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels," said Michael Miltenberger, MLA for Thebacha. "We're doing similar work in communities across the land, from waste heat recovery to hydro facilities in small communities like Lutsel K'e, to some geothermal potential in Yellowknife. We have a very broad strategy, fundamentally changing the way we generate power."

The two biomass boilers will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Fort Smith by over 900 tonnes annually, according to the GNWT's department of Public Works and Services.

A third wood-pellet boiler is ready for the Fort Smith Health Center, but installation has been delayed to coincide with the facility's renovations. The Health Center's boiler should be running by fall 2011.

The payback period on each wood-pellet furnace is between three and five years, depending on the price of oil.

Maurice Evans, regional manager of Public Works in Fort Smith, said the boilers should heat the buildings 90 per cent of the time.

The only unknown comes when temperatures drop below -22C. Evans said that oil boilers may have to be used to supplement the wood heat at those low temperatures, although no one is quite sure how the wood-pellet boilers will react in the heart of winter.

The oil boilers previously used as a main heat source for each building remain in place as backups.

Taylor and Company of Hay River signed a five-year contract to provide pellets for all three systems and initial maintenance on the boilers.

Evans said that Public Works employees will shadow the Taylor and Company maintenance workers this winter to get a feel for how the systems work. Next year, GNWT employees will be expected to do the bulk of maintenance on the facilities.

As the boilers are auger-fed, the pellets are kept in a silo-type container outside of the main building. The auger feeds pellets into the boiler, eliminating the manual filling necessary with home pellet-boiler systems.

Taylor and Company is trucking wood pellets in from Quesnel, BC.

By Catherine Airlie - Nov 17, 2010 11:33 AM CT Wed Nov 17 17:33:16 GMT 2010

RWE AG, Germany’s second-largest utility, may convert its 1,050-megawatt coal-fired power station in Essex, southeast England, to run on wood pellets, which would make it the largest biomass plant in the U.K.
RWE’s Tilbury plant could operate solely on biomass by the fourth quarter of 2011, Dan Meredith, a spokesman for RWE Npower in Swindon, England, said by e-mail. The company hasn’t yet decided whether to make the switch.
“We are developing proposals to convert our existing power station at Tilbury to use 100 percent biomass in place of coal,” Meredith said. “If taken forward, all three of the station’s operational units would generate power from sustainably sourced renewable wood pellets until the scheduled closure of the power station, by the end of 2015.”
The British government supports burning biomass to help it reach a European Union target of getting 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Britain changed its subsidy to give long-term certainty for biomass in July through the so- called Renewables Obligation, Britain’s subsidy program.
The existing coal-power station at Tilbury is due to close once it has used up hours allotted under the EU’s so-called Large Combustion Plant Directive, or at the latest by the end of 2015. The directive aims to curb gasses blamed for acid rain.
Largest Biomass Plant
Burning biomass to make electricity is technology that “can be deployed today” Will Rolls, a Surrey, south England- based information office at the Biomass Energy Centre, a government established group based near Farnham, said by e-mail.
Tilbury would probably rank as the world’s largest biomass plant, according to Rolls. Biomass plants in Britain “could help create new markets” for wood from the U.K.’s currently unmanaged forests, Rolls said. Large plants will likely get biomass from overseas, he said.
Since January 2008, the coal plant, comprised of three units, has used about half of its allotted 20,000 hours of operation. Unit 8 generated for 10,245 hours in the period through the end of October, while units 9 and 10 have used 10,503 hours, according to National Grid Plc data submitted by power generators. The plant must close by the end of 2015.
RWE is looking at ways it can “maximize the value” of plants that are due to close, Meredith said. “First technical trials seem to indicate significant reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust, as well as significant carbon saving over coal.” Sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides are pollutants limited under the EU laws tackling acid rain.
Drax Group Plc, owner of a 4,000-megawatt coal plant in Selby, northern England, western Europe’s largest, has the ability to mix biomass in with the coal, meaning up to 500 megawatts of the plant’s capacity can come from biomass. Drax also has plans to build three biomass plants in the U.K.
To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Airlie in London at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at

CATHERINE TSAI | 11/15/10 09:54 PM |

DILLON, Colo. — A strong wood-products industry is key to removing thousands of dead, bark beetle-infested trees that threaten to topple onto roads, power lines and campsites or harm watersheds around the West, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Monday.
Members of the timber industry, meanwhile, say they need more sustainable sources of logs and a stronger market for them to stay healthy.
Beetles that burrow under the bark of trees have killed about 21.5 million acres in the interior West, or more than 33,000 square miles, Tidwell said at a bark beetle summit hosted by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
The Forest Service estimates about 98,000 trees are falling each day, but government funding can't keep up with how many trees must be cut to protect watersheds, people and infrastructure.
"We have a true crisis on our hands," Ritter said.
Last year, the Forest Service approved $40 million for the outbreak in Colorado, Wyoming and the Black Hills in western South Dakota. About $30 million is going to projects in three national forests in Colorado, where the epidemic has hit hard.
Yet of about 215,000 acres in most immediate need of work, only about 20 percent of the land has been treated, said Antoine Dixon, deputy regional forester for the Forest Service. That makes it imperative for government to get the private sector involved.
"We need an integrated wood products industry to support the conservation work that needs to be done," Tidwell said.
The nation's forests have had bark beetle epidemics before but never one this large, that has spread so fast and has reached such high elevations on trees with no natural resistance, he said.
That's due in part to warmer winters that aren't killing off as many beetles and past fire-suppression policies that allowed thick stands of lodgepole pine to grow.
Beetle-infested trees could be used as biomass for producing energy, but some timber industry executives said the Colorado biofuels market isn't developed enough to create enough demand.
The troubled Intermountain Resources mill in Montrose, which is in receivership, might process some of the felled trees, but costs of hauling trees cut in the north-central Colorado mountains to southwest Colorado are high.
That has left some logs to sit unused as contractors haul them to nearby private land rather than a faraway mill, said Patrick Donovan of Cordes and Co., the mill's receiver.
The mill also has had problems making timber contracts with the Forest Service work out as struggles in the housing industry have affected timber prices, he said.
"We're begging for logs. We're willing to pay for logs, but we can't get logs," Donovan said.
Ritter said the silver lining to the beetle epidemic is looking for economic opportunity that can come from dealing with infested trees.
His summit aimed to set the foundation for how governments, the private sector and nongovernment groups can tackle the hundreds of miles of corridors where dead trees need to be removed, with limited funds.
"Mother Nature bats last. We're just trying to keep the ball game going into extra innings," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

Colorado regulators are hearing more on Black Hills Energy's plan to cut emissions by 2018.
A new state law gives the Colorado Public Utilities Commission until Dec. 15 to decide whether emissions-reduction proposals from Black Hills, a subsidiary of Black Hills Corp., and Xcel Energy Inc. are acceptable.
Black Hills proposes retiring its two coal-fired units in Canon City and building a unit in Pueblo fired by natural gas. It says it would cost too much to run the units on wood pellets instead.
Thomas Ohlmacher of Black Hills said at a PUC hearing in Denver Thursday that the utility needs to determine terms if it were to buy power from others instead of building a new unit.
Another hearing is set Saturday in Denver. The PUC will take public comments Monday in Canon City.


AKRON, Ohio (AP) — FirstEnergy Corp. has abandoned plans to burn wood instead of coal at an eastern Ohio power plant and will shut down the plant’s coal-fired boilers.
The two boilers at the R.E. Burger Plant at Shadyside in Belmont County will be shut down permanently by Dec. 31, the Akron-based utility said Wednesday. The utility last year announced a $200 million plan to burn biomass at the plant to keep the facility open and comply with a federal mandate to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.
That plan is no longer economically feasible given the drop in market prices for electricity, utility officials said.
Wood, farm products, manure, sludge, landfill and food wastes are considered biomass fuels, but FirstEnergy had said it was mainly interested in cleaner-burning wood pellets.
The utility is disappointed that the “ground-breaking project will not be realized,” Gary Leidich, executive vice president for FirstEnergy Generation, said in a statement.
The 79 plant employees will be offered other jobs with FirstEnergy, the utility said.
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Ellen Raines said other rarely used units at Burger, including a coal-fired unit used to provide peak or high-demand electricity, will continue to operate, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
Environmentalists hope the utility will invest in wind and solar along with energy efficiency to meet renewable energy requirements, said Cheryl Johncox of the Buckeye Forest Council.
Ohio utilities must get at least 12.5 percent of their power by 2025 from clean-energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass, with half of that total generated in Ohio.
The utility will be exploring new wind and solar options, Raines said.

Read more:

By CHRIS GAROFOLO / Reformer Staff
Posted: 11/20/2010 03:00:00 AM EST

CEO Butch Cersosimo watches the wood chips get screened at Cersosimo Lumber Company's new wood chip mill in Vernon. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Saturday November 20, 2010
VERNON -- Brattleboro's largest lumber manufacturer has constructed a state-of-the-art wood chip mill to produce an annual 50,000 tons of a new clean chip product for mass consumption.
Perhaps better known for its high-quality lumber throughout the Northeast, Cersosimo Lumber Company, Inc. has expanded its business to include low-grade pulpwood products manufactured at the new mill located at the company's Vernon yard just off Route 142.
Using lower quality logs as opposed to the valuable lumber at the main plant, Cersosimo employees strip off the bark and run the tree through a chipper to produce large quantities of a high-caliber material. The finished item is suitable for burning, wood pellet stoves or as paper products, as well as for landscaping designs.
The Reformer toured the new mill Thursday morning with CEO Butch Cersosimo. Positioned just a few miles south of the main plant, the six-acre, 7,500-square-foot mill broke ground in June 1 and began operations early this month.
Cersosimo has owned the property since the 1970s and has constructed the mill along with a new storage shed and chip reclaiming area on top of a new asphalt surface to limit the amount of debris from soiling the final product. An on-site diesel generator powers the entire facility.
Roughly 50,000 tons (or 1,600 loads) are expected to be processed every year. When operating at its maximum capacity, the mill can manufacture 300
tons (or 10 loads) of trees everyday, although functioning at that pace would quickly exhaust the timber supply.
Obtaining and transporting quality logs is difficult in southern Vermont as opposed to rural portions of New Hampshire and Maine, said Butch Cersosimo. Vermont's two easterly neighbors have multiple facilities similar to the new Cersosimo plant (the closest in Henniker, N.H.), but the Green Mountain State pales in comparison in terms of the number of pulp mills.
It is easier to load the timber onto trucks and bring the trucks directly to the plant and produce the clean chip for the market for paper items, wood pellets or smaller burners such as at Brattleboro Union High School.
"Now, there's a facility that can provide wood chips to any of these markets," said Butch Cersosimo.
While the company has produced a lesser chip for the past 35 years, the new equipment provides them the chance to sell a cleaner product in an industry that has significantly developed in the last decade.
"It also, on the other side of the coin, offers our loggers the opportunity to log more efficiently because the same time they're logging, they can remove the less desirable trees from a property, which gives the logger more income and it actually is a beneficial operation to the landowner because it takes the poor wood out of the forest," he added. "The local foresters are quite happy to have a facility like this where the loggers can go to and take their pulpwood."
"It's got added benefits on both ends -- it's not just on the lumber company end, but it's got benefits for the foresters and the loggers, and that's a good thing," said President Michael Cersosimo, who noted the mill gives them long-term economic potential in the latest chip market. "It's a pretty efficient mill, in that it only requires one or two people. It provides work for the foresters and the loggers, but to actually run it, it only requires one or two people."

Logs are loaded onto a conveyer at Cersosimo Lumber Company's new wood chip mill in Vernon. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
there is a single operator sited inside a Prentice 120 stationary loader with a crane where he can haul the trees onto the conveyor while also keeping an eye on the inside of the facility using the video monitors placed inside the cab.
Once loaded to the infeed chain, a tree travels through the Nicholson ring debarker to remove all the bark from the trunk. From there, the stripped log is conveyed to a 75-inch chipper where it is chipped into separate fine pieces and blown into a rotating chamber.
Those chips go through a metering device before passing into a BM&M screen to filter the different sizes. The 8-by-20-foot screen has two decks in order to separate both oversized and undersized pieces from the acceptable chips.
The smallest chips that fall through the screen are used as fuel for Cersosimo's boiler that is used to dry lumber. The oversized pieces are thrown in with the stripped bark and commonly are turned into landscaping mulch with the assistance of D&E Tree Company of Guilford.
Acceptable chips are temporally stored on the property and transported out via tractor trailer truck after passing through the computerized scale at the northern end of the mill site.
Established in 1947, Cersosimo Lumber is a three-generation family business employing about 200 employees with three main plants in the Brattleboro area and several other facilities in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

By Harry Williamson For the Sun-News
Posted: 11/20/2010 09:51:29 PM MST

SILVER CITY - 'Tis the season when the thoughts of homeowners turn to football, plump turkeys, and brightly wrapped gifts under their Christmas trees. It's also the season for crackling fires, sometimes in places homeowners don't want them - like their chimneys.
Silver City Fire Marshal Milo Lambert laments the number of chimney fires in the Silver City area last winter, hoping it's not a harbinger of bad things to come this year.
"We had six to eight home fires that started in the chimneys of wood stoves, some causing extensive damage," he said. "Usually there are only a couple of these fires a year. I hope it was simply because we had a longer, colder winter . . . but you never know."
Lambert said such fires usually occur in chimneys that have not been thoroughly cleaned, a task that should be accomplished at least once a year, if not twice. Lambert said that spending a hundred dollars or so to hire a professional chimney sweeper is well worth it.
"Some homeowners really know what they are doing, but any cleaning is better than not doing anything," he added.
Burning green, unseasoned wood can also cause a chimney fire. Unseasoned wood has high moisture content and doesn't burn well and creates a lot of smoke. Creosote is formed when volatile gases given off in the burning process combine and condense on their way out of the chimney. This gummy mess sticks in the chimney and builds up, especially during slower burning, smoky fires, and can smolder until the creosote ultimately catches fire.
Larry Moore, manager of Mr. Ed's Stoves & More, said a good way to check if wood is seasoned is to hit two pieces of wood together.
"It should make a sound much like a hardball hitting a bat," he said.
But once you have creosote built up in a chimney, the only way to remove it is a thorough cleaning at least once a year by climbing on the roof and running a correct-sized bristle brush, attached to extendable rods, down the entire length. This can either be done by the homeowner or by a professional chimney sweeper.
Shawn Singer, manager of A Better Chimney, said his firm is the only certified chimney sweeper in southern New Mexico, providing much more than just a cleaning service.
"We have the knowledge and experience to help make sure a homeowner's stove, hearth, connecting pipe, air inlets, chimney, and all other components are working efficiently and safely," he said.
Mr. Ed's Stoves & More also provides an extensive chimney and stove cleaning and checking service, according to Moore.
Besides checking chimneys and buying well-seasoned wood, another safe option for consumers who heat or supplement with wood is to consider buying a pellet stove.
"If they are installed properly, pellet stoves are fantastic," Lambert said. "I only know of one instance when a vent pipe from a pellet stove had slipped down and set a small grassy area on fire that the fire department easily put out."
There is a long-standing town code that such pipes must extend up a minimum of five feet.
Singer, Moore and Robert Corral, manager at Ace Hardware, all said consumers have been making the switch from wood to pellet stoves for many years.
"Right now I might be able to sell one wood stove for every 10 pellet stoves," Singer said.
Corral agreed, saying he now stocks four brands of pellet stoves, compared with just one wood stove brand. He added, however, that he is able to order the majority of stoves on the market.
The three-inch wide exhaust pipes used for pellet stoves should have very little, or no creosote build-up, in part due to the low moisture content of pellets, approximately 5 percent, compared to an average of 20 percent for well-seasoned firewood, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Moore said pellet stoves also have several other safety features besides creating low creosote, including a high limit switch if the stove gets too hot, and a flow/vacuum switch that stops the flow of pellets if the front glass is broken, the door is not securely closed, or if more than a quarter-inch of soot accumulates in the vent pipe. Wood stoves have no cut off switch if the chimney becomes partially blocked.
All of the local managers felt that along with safety, convenience and efficiency were also big selling points for pellet stoves.
"You just drag out a bag of pellets and have at it," Corral said. "There is not the chopping and stacking and the mess of continually carrying in wood and then taking out the ashes. The elderly especially like the convenience."
Singer said that today's pellet stoves are thermostat controlled, with pellets added automatically a few at a time to keep the heat constant. The hoppers on these stoves typically hold sufficient pellets for a full day's burn.
"There is no waste. Pellet stoves are cleaner and more cost efficient than other sources, including wood, electric resistance or propane heating," Singer said. "When customers purchase their pellet fuel at the beginning of the heating season, they are essentially locking in their heating costs."
Singer added that he has a good quality pellet, an oak and pine mix, on sale for $189 a ton, which consists of 50 bags. Of the four brands of pellets stocked at A Better Chimney, two are made in New Mexico.
"With a pellet stove, you can heat a house for a year for approximately $400. With propane costing between $3 and $4 a gallon, it would be more like $300 or $400 a month," Singer said.
The wood pellets, which look like rabbit feed, are manufactured from compacted sawdust, also often including wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, waste paper and other organic materials. The sawdust is put under pressure and extruded, causing the wood pitch to separate and act as a binder as the pellets cool.
"Most homeowners who use a pellet stove as a main source of heat will use two or three tons of pellet fuel a year, dependent on the size of the house," Singer said.
He said a pellet stove is the main heat source for approximately 60 percent of his buyers. They use their furnace as a back up, he said.
Pellet stoves "have every answer, except one," he added.
They require electricity to operate the various motors and fans. Stove manufactures estimate this electric use at approximately 100 kilowatt-hours a month.
All of the above mentioned stores have a wide range of accessories, including brushes, rods and other materials to clean the stove and chimney, along with various creosote-lessening additives, and gaskets to install on the interior of stove doors.
Harry Williamson is a freelance writer for the Sun-News. He welcomes feedback and story ideas at


Project officials gather Monday at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor at the site of a future wood pellet boiler building. The $4.4 million project, which is expected to reduce the lab's energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, is scheduled to be completed next spring. Buy Photo

11/23/10 01:59 am Updated: 11/23/10 02:30 am
By Bill Trotter
BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Mice have long been the focus of an 81-year-old local biomedical research facility, but wood pellets were not far behind in the minds of people who had gathered Monday for the laboratory’s latest project.
Officials with The Jackson Laboratory said the $4.4 million project is expected to result in the largest wood pellet boiler in the country. The project, funded in part by a $1 million grant from Efficiency Maine Trust, is expected to result in a $22 million investment in Maine’s economy over the next 10 years, lab officials said Monday.
John Fitzgerald, senior director of facilities services for the lab, said the boiler would help the lab save money on heating and electricity costs. The pellet-fired steam boiler is expected to reduce the lab’s heating costs by $700,000 a year and its electricity costs by $200,000 a year, he said.
“Energy is one of the biggest things we need to overcome,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a huge cost of doing business.”
What the lab saves in energy costs will have a secondary benefit to the lab, too, by being invested in the lab’s nonprofit research mission, he added. The lab itself is paying for the remaining $3 million of the energy facility’s construction costs.
The investment of $22 million over 10 years represents not just the construction project, which is expected to be completed sometime next spring, but the purchase of wood pellets made in the state, according to lab officials. At full firing rate, the burner is expected to burn through 60 tons of pellets in one day, which is enough to heat 400 Maine homes in the winter, they indicated.
At the same time, the project is expected to provide many environmental benefits as well, lab officials said. By using Maine-made wood pellets, the lab is tapping into a renewable resource and is reducing the amount of carbon emissions it generates.
Use of wood pellets will offset the annual consumption of 1.2 million gallons of fuel oil, which in turn will prevent 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere each year.
Norman Burdzel, facilities engineer for the lab, said it is important for the lab to operate sustainably and to cooperate with the environmental mission of its biggest abutting landowner, Acadia National Park.
“It’s great for the lab and great for the state of Maine,” Burdzel said, referring to the boiler project. “It’s really going to make our operations better.”
Mike Stoddard, director of Efficiency Maine Trust, said his organization was able to provide $1 million toward the project with the help of federal stimulus funds and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He said the project will benefit other power users in Maine by decreasing the need for grid upgrades, which should help hold down costs for electricity ratepayers.
“We want to bring down people’s energy costs down around the board,” Stoddard said.
The construction project itself will have benefits for Maine’s business community, lab officials said. Pizzagalli, a construction firm based in Burlington, Vt., and with offices in Portland, will serve as general contractor and several Maine-based companies will work as subcontractors on the project, they said. The boiler is being manufactured by Swedish firm Petrokraft AB.
Jackson Lab, which had $166 million in operating revenue in 2009, is known internationally for its use of mice to research human disease and medical conditions. Each year, it breeds millions of specially bred laboratory mice that are used in similar studies all over the world. With nearly 1,200 employees at its Bar Harbor campus, Jackson Lab is the largest employer in eastern Maine.


By Mike Curci
Since the 1800s, the United States has been using biomass to generate power for use in homes and manufacturing. Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, European countries began conducting co-firing tests utilizing wood pellets. Today, there are numerous case studies, along with a multitude of generating facilities that use wood pellets to offset the usage of coal. Hasselbyverket in Stockholm has been using 250,000 tons of pellets a year since 1993, and Electrabel is currently co-firing using 300,000 tons a year at its Rodenhuize, Belgium power plant.
The United States does not have a generating facility that utilizes wood pellets to generate power, yet the US is capable of producing over six million tons of pellets annually. Much of the US pellet production is currently exported to European countries for use in generating facilities. Recently, plans have been announced in the States for repowering or retrofitting facilities to be powered with wood pellet fuel. However, many of these projects are currently on hold or have even been completely abandoned due to pending EPA regulations. To date, only co-firing with pellets tests have been conducted within the US.
The Europeans have led the bioenergy power generation boom for the last 20 years, just as the Chinese led the technology boom. Some US utilities will point out the few problems co-firing wood pellets present such as unit fouling, effects on SCR Catalysts, carbon neutrality, supply chain and, most commonly, the economics. Wood pellets provide more benefits than problems, however, and are a more economical choice for renewable energy as compared to wind or solar. Co-firing can be achieved with minimal capital investment and quick implementation, while simultaneously creating local jobs. Biomass repowering is more cost competitive since it makes use of existing plant equipment. Unlike wind and solar, co-firing is a direct replacement for coal generation capacity, which can be dispatched. The environmental benefits of co-firing, including a reduction in sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury emitted from generating facilities, have spurred the testing and implementation in European countries.
Currently, the majority of co-fired boilers around the world are based on pulverized coal (PC) or circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology. Both technologies exhibit high conversion efficiency, however, CFBs usually offer lower furnace emissions and higher fuel flexibility. Implementing co-firing boiler technology can be ranked in the following order from no capital investment to high-level capital investments: co-milling, direct injection, unit conversion and, lastly and most expensively, Greenfield or Brownfield development. Co-milling presents lower capital costs, but also a lower energy yield when co-firing with wood pellets. Direct injection requires capital cost of $500 to $700 a kilowatt, but also results in a higher energy yield when compared to direct milling. Unit conversion is another option, but requires a higher capital cost of $1,400 to $2,000 a kilowatt and new industrial boiler MACT policies must be seriously considered.
State Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or a Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) are the greatest driving factor for utilities that seek the opportunity to co-fire. Utilities have many options for meeting those standards such as with wind, solar, or biomass. Depending upon boiler technology and whether the project will be co-milled or use direct injection, the cost of meeting the RPS can be significantly lower. When utilities look to conduct co-firing tests, they must take into consideration seven key items:
1. Storage: Pellets are unable to be exposed to the elements like coal piles and must be kept dry;
2. Milling (sizing): Pellets must be reduced in size through the use of ball mills when being introduced into a pulverized coal boiler;
3. Delivery: Existing infrastructure at generating facilities was designed for coal and not pellets—therefore, consideration must be given to getting the pellet fuel to the boiler;
4. Slagging, Fouling: Woody biomass, as compared to herbaceous biomass, is less problematic in terms of fouling; nevertheless, consideration still must be given to prevent it;
5. Emissions: Fuel NOx can be higher if the boiler is not properly tuned;
6. Health & Safety: Off-gassing is a concern in wood pellet storage causing sickness and sometimes even death;
7. Ash Sales: Fly Ash containing biomass does not meet ASTM standards for use in concrete, so it must be land-filled.
Finally, it is apparent that fuel consistency for power generation is wanted by utilities. And, since pellets are uniform in size, shape, moisture, density, and energy content, they are a feedstock that must be considered.
Nearly all forms of biomass have some hurdle that needs to be overcome, but the benefits drastically outweigh any problem biomass has—especially when using pellets. Co-firing wood pellets for power generation makes sense on an environmental, renewable energy, energy independence, and rural economic level. Pellets are a viable feedstock for power generation and should be utilized as such.

Mike Curci is the chair of the Pellet Fuels Institute Commercial Fuel Committee.
Pellet Fuels Institute

New plant in Hayward, WI picks up some low-grade market slack

Great Lakes Renewable Energy -

By Mike Monte

Editor's Note: Special Thanks to Mike Monte, Free Lance Writer and Eric Johnson, Executive Editor, The Northern Logger Magazine for allowing us to re-print this article.

You can seldom watch or listen to a news program without the subject of energy independence hitting the airwaves, and there is plenty of hand wringing on this subject in internet blogs, newspapers and magazines as well. Bio-mass is usually mentioned whenever alternative energy sources are discussed, and there are the nay-sayers who have to interject that bio-mass cant meet all of our energy needs, or that we will be burning our forests to fuel our nation until we become a second Sahara desert. The debate goes on, but other people with a more realistic approach to energy needs, know that bio-mass will be a part of a many-faceted approach to making light, powering vehicles or staying warm, and it wont require the decimation of our forests, but simply using that timber which should be cut and more of the wood and residue from each tree.

Pellet stoves have become a common source of heat in the Lake States. They are found in homes and businesses, and they work quite well without a lot of fuss or worry. They also are economical to run. Until recently, the pellets were made from sawdust and other debris left over from manufacturing products from kiln-dried wood. There have been problems of supply for pellet manufacturers, especially when a company decides to move their manufacturing to a country like China, which then has the use of the dry sawdust.

Great Lakes Renewable Energy (GLRE), in Hayward, Wisconsin, has a different approach. They make most of their pellets from round wood that would normally have been sent to a paper mill. This doesn't mean the paper mills are going to hurt for wood, because with the number of mill closures we have experienced, we are hurting for mills and that means fewer markets for the wood supply and the logging infrastructure, freeing up roundwood for pellet production.

GLRE was started by three logging families: Rich and Lori Good, Mike and Connie Severson, and Barb and Terry Priem. It was back in 2005 when the idea germinated. As would be expected, there were plenty of snags in the process before the first pellet was squeezed out.

Ground was broken in April of 2008. Things would have progressed faster, but the fellow that was to sell them the needed property on the edge of Hayward started changing the deal, and finally decided not to sell the land. Fortunately, Thompson Sand and Gravel was sitting on 200 plus acres of gravel. They removed the gravel until there was a level site for GLRE and the rest of the property will serve as an industrial park for other businesses.

Our interview was with Herb Seeger, a Wisconsin guy, born on a dairy farm near Prairie Farm, Wisconsin. Seeger trained to be an accountant, and landed a good job with a metals firm in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and spent 26 years in the metals industry with a company that owned eight plants in six states. Life was getting too hectic for the former farm kid, so at age 50 he decided to quit, take some time off and then look for a different job. That's when Connie Severson called Seeger and said she needed a business plan for a pellet mill.

Seeger says he knew nothing about logging, but then they didn't need a logger. They needed somebody who had the expertise to make a plan with reasonable profit and loss projections, find financing at local banks, maybe find and file for some grants, and other duties that most every business offers. He decided to give it a whirl.

Before long, Seeger was totally buried in the new business. Seeger did his job well. He found the new company financing for the site and the equipment. By April of 08, the company had qualified for a $290,000 grant and a $25,000 grant. The pellet mill was going to happen, and the three couples that had hired him to get it started said that as long as you know all about the business, you might as well stick with it.

Seeger decided to stay, and it is safe to say that he is an expert at making pellets, marketing pellets, pellet machinery and more.

Not dependent on manufactured sawdust, the three logger/owners supply roundwood to the plant, plus they buy roundwood from other loggers. The green wood is chipped to inch to 1 inch chips. The chips then move to a 400 horsepower hammer mill, then to a secondary grinder to separate the wood fibers. The grind from this process then feeds the fire for the wood drier and the pellet mills. It should be added that there is a certain amount of material that is from purchased sawmill residue that is also used in the pellet process. Of course, some of the raw material is given up in the process to dry wood fiber, but it isn't enough to wreck the bottom line. According to Seeger, an average of 15% of the volume of roundwood is used in drying, and this will vary with the humidity. When there is wet weather, it will take about 18%, but with the dry weather the amount will drop below the 15% mark. Munch pellet mills are imported from Germany, and Great Lakes has three in operation. Each weigh three tons and are powered by dual 300 horse electric motors. Seeger says that the rule-of-thumb for pellet mills is that each 100 horsepower equals one ton of pellets per hour. He also says that about one cord of roundwood will equal one ton of pellets.

The mill uses about 25,000 cords of roundwood plus some residual chips and sawdust from sawmills. The raw material is 50% hardwood and 50% softwood. The mill employs sixteen hourly workers and four salaried people. The mill runs three shifts five days a week. When we visited the plant, it was shut down for cleaning. The plant had just finished a fourteen day run, and the burner and pellet mills were due for cleaning. Seeger said that this happens about every six weeks. The crew was still bagging pellets, however, from the bin that towered over the bagging machine.

Not all pellets are put in pretty bags. There were pallets loaded with large totes that hold a ton of loose pellets on the mill floor, and these are sold to industrial users and some to area schools that use large pellet burners. Seeger mentioned a nearby church that heated with pellets as well.

Seeger got into the math for pellets and the BTUs they produce. He says there are 16 million BTUs in one ton of pellets, which is the amount of pellets on one pallet. So, what are the savings when compared to fuel oil or propane?

Seeger whipped out his pocket calculator and starting poking in the numbers. He found that the numbers were too big for the capacity of the small calculator, so being creative with the decimal point, he was able to give me these numbers. He computed that 36,000 tons of pellets equal 72,000,000 pounds of pellets. At 8,000 BTUs per pound, Seeger calculated that it was the equivalent of 4 million gallons of fuel oil or 6 million gallons of propane. He didn't do the natural gas equivalent, but you get the picture. It is good to remember that, especially when talking to some of the greenies that are worried about cutting trees, that the fuel oil not used because wood pellets took its place, was neither drilled on a coastal area, like the Gulf of Mexico, nor transported across an ocean from a foreign market that would have added to our already ponderous trade deficit. Home-grown and grows back, should be worth something.

We are in the middle of what is now called The Great Recession, and I was glad to see a plant that was operating and filling a domestic need from a source of domestic raw material. We are treated to bad news often enough through the media, that the visit to Great Lakes was somewhat uplifting. That is not to say that the pellet market is burgeoning and booming. There have been several failures of pellet plants in the Great Lakes area, and like all businesses, efficiency and marketing are big keys to keeping the doors open, especially through bad times.

Jerry Brown is the marketing manager for GLRE. In a conversation with Brown, he pointed out that several pellet plants have had to close their doors. Availabilty of sawdust might be a reason, but according to Brown there are other reasons for a pellet plant to fail in the market place. He pointed out that packaging of the product is important. Of course, the look of the bag can be important to a consumer, and we all tend to react to eye-pleasing packaging, but there are other factors. Brown told of a pellet plant that cheapened the bags. Using thinner plastic might save some costs, but when the guy filling his pellet stove has the side of the bag let go, putting 40 pounds of little round cylinders all over his floor, he tends to get angry. Chances are he won't buy that brand again. Bags that get a little tear, also let in moisture, and most people who burn pellet stoves has had a bag of pellets that had a little tear somewhere that let in moisture. I can speak from experience that a little tear can give you a bag with a solid block of wood fiber that just doesn't work well in the stove.

Packaging costs are cut when pellets are sold in bulk to a user with a big burner, of course, and this also saves labor in filling and palletizing the bags. The one-ton totes are also re-usable, saving money for the manufacturer and the end-user.

Brown says you also need a good network of dealers. Currently, GLRE has about 300 dealers handling their product. Those dealers can offer their customers standard wood pellets that produce 8,400 BTUs and produce 1.6% of ash from their original bulk or premium pellets that are advertised to produce 8590 BTUs per pound and will produce only .53% of ash. GLRE also produces two labels of premium pellets that are the same content, giving them a chance to set up dealers in close proximity who wont feel as if they are competing with the same product. My bet is that some of the end users will swear by one brand and not want the other, but in reality, it is the same product. This may have something to do with which bag is the most attractive!

GLRE is also in the BBQ wood pellet business. Instead of burning your steaks or ribs on charcoal or propane, the backyard cooking enthusiast can invest in a pellet-fired grill and cook on flavored pellets. GLRE offers hickory, cherry, maple, apple, oak, mesquite flavored pellets, as well as a blend of hickory, cherry and oak. While gourmet wood pellets might seem like a stretch, it gives the GLRE a shot into the market place occupied by those companies that offer flavored wood chips for the charcoal grill, and why not?

It turns out that animal bedding is another market where wood pellets can do the job. As it turns out, the lowly popple, aspen in other circles, works extremely well for animal bedding. GLRE has a line of animal bedding, including cat litter, that is being used on farms. It is quite economical compared to other bedding material. It is also superior for odor control, which is good for cat owners, and will expand, when taking in moisture, to four times its original size. The bedding comes in the standard 40-pound bag, one-ton totes or bulk.

Currently, there is a full market for wood pellets. This will expand as more consumers invest in pellet stoves, and they are an economical way to heat. Our old office has had a pellet stove for the last four winters. It is a big building with five apartments on the second floor. Built in 1921, it was originally heated with wood, then coal, then fuel oil and then natural gas. Things have come full circle, as it is one again heated with wood. A cold northern Wisconsin winter month would mean that we received a heating bill for $3,000 for that month. With a $2,400 investment in a pellet stove, our biggest bill went to $1,000. Bear in mind that this is a commercial building with high ceilings and it would cost more to make the building energy efficient than it would to tear it down and start over. And, it had no effect on our insurance premiums. Pellet stoves will be installed at an increasing rate as fossil fuels increase in price, and I don't think there is anybody who will argue that fossil fuels won't increase. In the meantime, Great Lakes Renewable Energy and their counterparts in the industry are working to give all of us an alternative we can afford.


• APX-ENDEX and Port of Rotterdam to jointly engage in feasibility study for exchange trading of biomass products
• Focus on wood pellets as a likely first product to start with
• APX-ENDEX to deliver trading and clearing services
• Port of Rotterdam to facilitate infrastructure for physical settlement of trades
• Initiators make an appeal to the new government to swiftly take up a position on the role of biomass within the energy mix
• Initiative supported by Holland Financial Centre and Rotterdam Climate Initiative as it is in line with their objectives
APX-ENDEX, the Anglo-Dutch energy exchange, today announces the cooperation with the Port of Rotterdam in the development of biomass markets. This cooperation has been formalised by signing a Letter of Intent.
Since November 2008, APX-ENDEX has published a price index for industrial wood pellets to provide the market with much needed transparency. This index has gained wide acceptance in the market and the number of parties that contribute prices to the index has increased steadily. A recent survey among APX-ENDEX members and active market participants in the bio-energy markets, indicated the need for standardised, exchange traded bio-energy products, facilitated by an independent and secure platform. APX-ENDEX is responding to the market’s request by investigating a market infrastructure where standardised biomass contracts will be settled physically in Rotterdam.
APX-ENDEX and the Port of Rotterdam intend to work closely together in developing the necessary market infrastructure and are excited by the prospect of establishing the first biomass exchange in the world. It is their intention to closely involve market participants in developing the market. With the introduction of a biomass exchange with physical settlement, the Port of Rotterdam will strengthen its position as a main port in Europe for biomass products.
Both Holland Financial Centre (HFC) and Rotterdam Climate Initiative (RCI) strongly welcome this initiative. In 2008, the improvement of the trading in biomass products had already been on the agenda of HFC. The initiative to start this exchange therefore fits in well, dovetailing with their spearhead of Climate & Sustainability. For RCI, this initiative has great value as it contributes to its objectives of reducing CO2 emissions, and strengthening the economy of Rotterdam.
APX-ENDEX will provide the trading platform as well as clearing and settlement services for trading members of the exchange. The Port of Rotterdam will contribute its expertise and know-how with regards to shipping, storage and distribution of biomass products to the joint effort. Once the details of the market structure have been established, major market players, active in the trading of biomass, will be approached for consultation and their commitment to support this initiative. Input of market participants is considered a key success factor for a successful launch of this new market. Market consultation is expected to take place in Q3 2010.
The biomass exchange will facilitate wider use of biomass products to generate renewable energy by providing a safe trading and investment environment for producers, trading houses and end users. The first biomass product to focus on are industrial wood pellets. In generating power industrial wood pellets are used as a substitute for coal. This clean form of fuel is CO² neutral and contributes considerably to CO² reduction goals.
It is crucial for the new Dutch government to express its vision on the role of biomass in the sustainable generation of electricity. Biomass is a reliable technology that is already available and further development would also have spin-off benefits. Various studies have shown that biomass is the cheapest way for the Netherlands to generate sustainable electricity. The energy companies are willing to make substantial investments if the government provides the necessary clarity and long-term certainty. In this connection, the government is urged to oblige energy suppliers to purchase a certain percentage of sustainable electricity. This should be combined with financial support for a brief transitional period.
“Biomass is an important priority for Port of Rotterdam. Biomass will be used as an alternative to fossil fuels, thereby making an important contribution to our sustainability objectives and cutting CO2 emissions in this area. A biomass exchange will encourage the supply and use of biomass. Given the experience that APX-ENDEX has gained with trading in other energy products and the ambition to extend those activities to include biomass, we see APX-ENDEX as a highly suitable partner.” - Hans Smits, CEO of Port of Rotterdam.
"APX-ENDEX is thrilled to be given the opportunity to work closely together with Port of Rotterdam in this initiative. This not only fits very well with our ambition to take up a strong market position in the trading, clearing and settlement of green energy products; working together with one of the major ports in the world with a vested position in biomass lends high credibility to this initiative. By facilitating fair and transparent trading in these products, access to biomass will become easier and its use as an alternative source of energy will be encouraged. This will contribute to achieving carbon reduction targets and further enhance the already strong position of Port of Rotterdam in these products." - Pieter Schuurs, COO of APX-ENDEX

Posted: 11/26/2010 10:25:44 PM EST

Friday November 26, 2010
BENNINGTON -- A group created by the Legislature has issued recommendations that could affect a plan to build two energy facilities in the state.
Beaver Wood Energy, LLC, is seeking a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board to build a 29.5-megawatt biomass plant in Pownal that will also produce 110,000 tons of wood pellets per year. The developers hope to construct a similar plant in Fair Haven.
Supports concept
In its second interim draft report, the Biomass Energy Development Working Group, composed of lawmakers, state officials and forestry experts, says it supports "the concept of one additional large-scale (20- to 25-megawatt) wood-fired electrical generating facility located in Southern Vermont (south of U.S. Route 4)."
Fair Haven, where Beaver Wood has proposed one of the two facilities, is near Route 4.
The location of the sole facility supported by the Working Group should be coordinated with the state’s utilities "to maximize balance for their systems," according to the interim report. It also notes that an electrical generating plant would provide a year-round market for biomass fuel and "anchor" a wood supply network in the four Southern Vermont counties. Biomass use could jump by 200,000 to 250,000 tons annually.
Biomass suppliers in Windsor, Windham, Rutland and Bennington counties are now trucking wood chips to markets outside of Southern Vermont. The report
states that a plant located in the region would significantly shorten hauling distances and reduce the use of diesel fuel.
In addition, the interim report notes that the state’s Section 248 permit process "may take years from the initial application to project approval," and recommends changes to "increase predictability and reduce processing time." The report suggests the Section 248 process be compared to the state’s Act 250 process, which helps developers with project applications.
A form should be created for larger energy projects, according to the report.
"The PSB also should consider the assignment of a person or persons who can assist the applicant in completing the application form in the same manner as Act 250 coordinators do today," the report states.
The Working Group also favors enhancing the state’s biomass industry through incentives, including tax credits, low interest loans, favorable power rates and renewable energy credits. The incentives should not favor one form of biomass or another, however, according to the report.
The Working Group must issue its final report to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Energy by Nov. 15, 2011.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at
Posted: December 4, 2010 - 12:18am | Updated: December 4, 2010 - 3:18am
By Edward Fulford
Georgia's 10 coal-fired power plants should consider adding wood pellets to the fuel mix.
A major concern about coal-fired plants is the watershed-fouling mercury they emit.
Before emissions filters are factored in, burning coal produces 16 pounds of mercury per teraBTU (or 1 trillion BTUs, a measure of the energy output of the fuel introduced into a boiler).
That's according to Eric Cornwell, manager of the stationary source permitting program for the state Environmental Protection Division.
Wood, on the other hand, produces 3.5 pounds of mercury per teraBTU of heat input.
Scrubbers can remove about 90 percent of the mercury from both wood and coal emissions, Mr. Cornwell said.
Another point in favor of the wood pellets is that they are a Georgia-grown, renewable resource.
When Waycross-based Georgia Biomass starts operations next year, it will have the capacity to produce some 750,000 tons of wood pellets per year from local timber sources.
The wood fuel will be shipped out of Savannah for use by the German utility RWE Innogy.
According to, that company has already replaced 30 percent of its coal usage, mainly with wood pellets.
In the Peach State, only one biomass plant is currently operational, a small Rabun County facility in Northeast Georgia. Others have been permitted, but they range from the 10- to 100-megawatt output range.
By contrast, the state's coal-fired plants average a power output of about 1,000 megawatts.
Mr. Cornwell said biomass is held back, in part, by technology that has not yet developed a wood-fired boiler large enough to rival the long-running coal plants.
Another is the amount of wood required to reach 1,000 megawatts: A rough estimate of 4.3 million tons of wood pellets per year.
As the weight of raw wood used for dehydrated pellets is about twice that of the finished product, it would take more than 8 million tons of Georgia pine to fuel one large power plant.
Still, it makes sense to investigate the use of this renewable energy resource.
Replacing part of our fossil fuel use with wood pellets would provide a new market for Georgia tree growers and reduce harmful emissions.
Nationwide, a greater reliance on wood pellets could reduce U.S. dependence on the heating oil (basically, diesel fuel), which is widely used for home heating in the Northeast, and contributes to our reliance of foreign oil.
Edward Fulford is an editorial writer for the Savannah Morning News.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

G Brown Newsletter October 2010

October 2010
Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535
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Approximately 38% of the total energy consumed in the US Northeast is used to heat and cool buildings. Most of this heat is currently supplied by gas, oil, and propane. However, renewables are playing an increasing role for heating buildings. According to the US Department of Energy, currently less than 5% of the thermal energy in the region is provided by renewables and more than 90% of that renewable energy comes from biomass (wood) heating.

Interest in switching from fossil fuel heat to wood heat is largely the result of the following factors:

• Volatility of fossil fuel prices vs. relatively stable prices for biomass
• Desire to reduce dependence on imported oil and support local energy independence
• Desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• Availability of new user-friendly, high-efficiency boiler designs

Until recently, most of the wood heating systems have been residential stove units and large scale boilers at industrial sites. In the last 20 years, European companies have developed and refined new boiler designs specifically targeted at the small commercial, institutional, and multi-family residential buildings at the scale of 0.25-3 million Btu. Until recently, this market was relatively ignored by the U.S. wood boiler industry. However, in the last few years, several USbased suppliers and manufacturers have begun introducing new commercial-scale, wood chip and wood pellet boilers to the market. Initially these advanced, high-efficiency boiler models have been imported from Europe, but some units are also now being manufactured in the US. Most of these European type boiler designs have thermal efficiencies of greater than 80% and are designed with control features to make them as userfriendly as conventional fossil-fuel boilers.


By Rebecca Billard - Burns Lake Lakes District News
Published: September 28, 2010 11:00 PM
BOX 309, Burns Lake, B.C. V0J 1E0
At a Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) environmental services committee meeting held earlier this year a motion was passed which directed staff to contact Biofire Solid Fuel Manufacturing Ltd. in Houston.
RDBN staff were asked to see if there was interest from the company in using wood waste collected at the RDBN's solid waste management facilities for manufacturing purposes.
Janine Dougall, RDBN director of environmental services said, "Biofire is interested in non-chemically treated pallets, clean untreated wood, clean brush and branches and potentially clean paper and cardboard residues."
Biofire produces densified biomass fuel, similar to wood pellets, but much larger for use as a heat source.
The company is in the process of submitting a proposal for partial grant funding through the Federal Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program.
"Our desire is to purchase a grinder which is capable of grinding 10 tons per hour of wood, steel, paper and tires into five inch minus piece sizes," said Paul Murphy from Biofire Solid Fuel Manufacturing Ltd. in a letter to Dougall.
Murphy said the company was interested in the suggestion and formally requested they be permitted to utilize waste from the RDBN landfill and waste transfer sites.
"At the moment we source our wood fibre from larger biomass plants in the region that have rights to all of the wood residue coming from local sawmills under contract," Murphy said.
"They can decide to refuse to sell us fibre which would make it impossible for us to survive without some form of primary breakdown and a reliable fibre source not tied to sawmills," he added.
Murphy went on to say that he felt they would be a good fit for some of the RDBN's landfill/transfer station residue.
"We can turn this material into a usable green energy product and hopefully we can reduce your operational costs associated with this same material were it to be transported and included into existing landfill sites," Murphy said.
According to Murphy the company would be able to offer on site grinding of the residues to be removed and could also potentially offer grinding services for wastes they do not want to take so that they are more economical for the RDBN to transport elsewhere or to landfill.
Bill Miller, RDBN director from area B Burns Lake rural said that the board of directors decided to provide support in principal for the project.
"We are supportive with provisionals that allow for other uses for some of the wood. We don't want to discourage any other opportunities," he added.
A motion was made by directors to support, in principal, the use of select fibre based waste products collected at solid waste management facilities owned and operated by the RDBN by Biofire Solid Fuel Manufacturing Ltd..


Renewables had another banner year in 2009, with policy, investment and market development activity across a spread of nations - as recorded in the REN21 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report.
by Janet Sawin, Eric Martinot, David Appleyard
Published: September 27, 2010
London, UK By 2010, renewable energy had reached a clear tipping point in the context of global energy supply, concludes the 'Renewables 2010 Global Status Report'. With renewables comprising fully one quarter of global power capacity from all sources and delivering 18% of global electricity supply in 2009, the latest release of the definitive assessment of the state of the global renewable energy industry from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) details the current status and key trends of global markets, investment, industry and policies related to renewable energy.
Investment in new renewable power capacity continued to increase during 2009, despite challenges posed by the global financial crisis, lower oil prices, and slow progress with climate change policy. For the second year in a row, more money was invested in new renewable power capacity than in new fossil fuel capacity. The renewable generating capacity installed over the past two years accounts for nearly 50% of total generating capacity added to the world's grids over this period.
Furthermore, the rapid adoption beyond the industrialised world means that today more than half of the existing renewable power capacity is in developing countries.
These trends reflect strong growth and investment across all market sectors including power generation, heating and cooling, and transport fuels. Grid-connected solar PV has grown by an average of 60% every year for the past decade, increasing 100-fold since 2000. During the period from year-end 2004 through 2009, consistently high growth year-after-year marked virtually every other renewable technology as well. During those five years, annual growth rates averaged 27% for wind power capacity, 19% for solar water heating, and 20% for ethanol production. Indeed, as other economic sectors declined around the world, existing renewable capacity continued to grow during 2009 at rates close to, or exceeding, those in previous years. Market growth for some technologies - including wind and concentrating solar power, and solar water heating - exceeded their five-year averages in 2009. Annual production of ethanol and biodiesel increased 10% and 9%, respectively, despite layoffs and ethanol plant closures in the United States and Brazil. Biomass and geothermal for power and heat also grew strongly last year.
Much more active policy development during the past several years culminated in a significant policy milestone in early 2010 with more than 100 countries having some type of policy target and/or promotion policy related to renewable energy in place. Most countries have adopted more than one policy and there is a significant diversity of policy mechanisms in use at national, state/provincial and local levels to advance renewable energy. In addition, many of the new targets enacted in the past three years call for shares of energy or electricity from renewables in the 15%-25% range by 2020.
Renewable Energy Extends Its Reach
Recent trends also reflect the increasing significance of developing countries in advancing renewable energy. Collectively, developing countries now account for almost half of the countries with some sort of policy to promote renewable power generation, and they have more than half of global renewable power capacity. Today China leads the world in several indicators of market growth. India ranks fifth worldwide in total existing wind power capacity and is rapidly expanding many forms of rural renewables such as biogas and solar PV, while Brazil produces virtually all of the world's sugar-derived ethanol and has been adding new biomass and wind power plants. Renewables markets are growing at rapid rates in several other developing countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay, to name a few.
The geography of renewable energy is changing in ways that suggest a new era of geographic diversity. For example, wind power existed in just a handful of countries in the 1990s but now operates in over 82 countries. Outside of Europe and the US, other developed countries like Australia, Canada and Japan are seeing recent gains and broader technology diversification. The developing world is experiencing a similar trend and, for example, today at least 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa have active renewable energy markets. This geographic diversity is boosting confidence that renewables are less vulnerable to market dislocations in any specific country.
Meanwhile, leadership in manufacturing is shifting from Europe to Asia as countries like China, India and South Korea continue to increase their commitments to renewable energy. In 2009, firms in China produced 40% of the world's solar PV cell supply, 30% of the world's wind turbines (up from 10% in 2007), and 77% of the world's solar hot water collectors.
Figure 1. Installed capacity by region and technology for 2009

Renewables Investment Remains Robust
Greatly increased investment from both public-sector and development banks is also driving renewables development. Excluding large hydro, total investment in renewable energy capacity was about US$150 billion in 2009, up from the revised $130 billion recorded in 2008. Investment in new renewable power capacity in both 2008 and 2009 represented over half of total global investment in new power generation. However, investment in utility-scale renewable energy additions dropped 6% in 2009 from the 2008 level, despite 'green stimulus' efforts by many of the world's major economies and increased investments from development banks in Europe, Asia and South America.
All told, again excluding large hydro, the world invested $101 billion in new utility-scale renewable energy development in 2009, compared with $108 billion in 2008. In 2009 there was also investment of some $50 billion worldwide in small-scale projects such as rooftop solar PV and solar hot water. An additional $40-$45 billion was invested in large hydropower.
Renewable energy companies invested billions of dollars in plant and equipment to manufacture solar modules, wind turbines and other generating devices during 2009. Venture capital and private equity investment in clean energy companies totalled $4.5 billion, down from $9.5 billion in 2008, while public market investment in quoted clean energy firms reached $12.8 billion, up from $11.8 billion. Government and corporate research, development, and deployment spending on clean energy technology in 2009 is estimated at $24.6 billion, up around 2% from 2008, the bulk (68%) of which went to energy-efficiency technologies.
Germany and China were the investment leaders in 2009, each spending roughly $25-$30 billion on new renewables capacity, including small hydro. They were followed by the US, investing over $15 billion, and Italy and Spain with about $4-$5 billion each.
The wind energy sector continued to be the hands-down leader, receiving 62% of the global total invested - $62.7 billion in 2009, up from $55.5 billion the year before. Most of the growth was due to China's rapid capacity expansion, increased investment activity in the wind sector in Latin America, and a handful of large utility-backed offshore wind deals in the UK.
These gains were offset by a $5.6 billion drop in solar power asset investment, to $17.1 billion in 2009, and a plunge in biofuels spending, down to $5.6 billion from $15.4 billion in 2008. Lower investment in PV in 2009 was due to several factors. One was the behaviour of prices along the value chain, with PV module prices falling by some 50% over the year, bringing the dollar value of financial investment down with them. Other factors included the Spanish government's cap on PV project development at the end of the boom associated with the pre-September 2008 tariff, and the shortage of debt finance for utility-scale projects in Europe and the US, which also affected wind farms. Concerns about scheduled reductions in feed-in tariff support for PV in some countries actually spurred on developers rather than holding them back. Indeed, Germany witnessed a spectacular end-of-2009 spurt in small-scale PV project construction.
In 2007, biofuels commanded 22% of global asset finance, with investment totalling $19.6 billion. However, the sector slipped to $15.4 billion in spending in 2008 and just $5.6 billion in 2009, representing only 5% of global project investment. An oversupply in US ethanol continued to smother investment in the biofuels sector in 2009. Things may soon turn around as both Brazil and the United States continue to follow ambitious biofuels targets. Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras has moved into the ethanol sector, and US plants bought under bankruptcy auctions in 2008 and 2009 have begun slowly to resume operation.
The decline in asset investment in biofuels relegated the sector to fourth place among the renewable energy sectors in 2009. Stepping up to third place, after wind and solar, was biomass (including waste-to-energy), with a rise in investment to $10.4 billion, from $9 billion in 2008.
In Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, the brightest feature for project investors during 2009 was the expanded role of public sector banks. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Germany's KfW Banking Group, in particular, significantly raised their lending to renewable energy. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) played an active role in project finance, albeit not on the scale of the EIB and KfW, as did the Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) for Brazilian projects (though its lending declined relative to 2008 levels).
This strong contribution by the public sector was all the more needed, because many commercial banks - from Europe to the United States and elsewhere - found it impossible to sustain the 2008 level of lending to renewable energy projects. Overall, development assistance for renewables in developing countries surged in 2009, up to $5 billion from $2 billion in 2008. For example, the World Bank Group, including the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), saw the largest increase to date in finance from previous years. Finance rose fivefold in 2009 as $1.38 billion were committed to new renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro below 10 MW) and another $177 million to large hydropower.
Expanding the Reach of Policies and Targets
Growth in renewables is inevitably supported through government policy. Renewable energy policies existed in a few countries in the 1980s and early 1990s, but policy support began to emerge in many more countries, states, provinces, and cities during the period 1998-2005, and even more so during 2005-2010.
Many countries have adopted national targets for shares of electricity production. Targets are typically for 5%-30% of electricity from renewable sources, but they range from 2%-90%. Many historical targets have aimed for the 2010-2012 timeframe, but targets aiming for 2020 and beyond have multiplied in recent years.
Developing nations now make up more than half of the countries worldwide with renewable energy targets. The 'Renewables 2007 Global Status Report' counted 22 developing countries with targets, a figure that had expanded to 45 by early 2010. Developing countries' targets are also becoming increasingly ambitious. For example, China aims for 15% of final energy consumption from renewables by 2020, even as total energy demand continues to grow at nearly double-digit annual rates.
Several countries have adopted targets at state/provincial and regional levels - and at other levels as well - with many mandated through renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and other policies.
In 2008, all 27 EU countries confirmed national targets for 2020, following a 2007 EU-wide target of 20% of final energy by 2020. It appears that many countries won't meet their 2010 targets by the end of the year, although this won't be known immediately due to data lags. Nonetheless, some EU countries were close to or had already achieved various types of national 2010 targets early in the year, including France, Germany, Latvia, Spain and Sweden.
City and local governments around the world are also enacting renewable energy promotion policies. Hundreds of cities and local governments have established future targets for renewables; urban planning that incorporates renewables into city development; building codes that mandate or promote renewables; tax credits and exemptions; purchases of renewable power or fuels for public buildings and transit; innovative electric utility policies; subsidies, grants, or loans; and many information and promotion activities.
Figure 2. Growth in renewables capacity, annual and five-year average

Supporting Renewable Electricity Generation
At least 83 countries - 41 developed/transition countries and 42 developing countries - have some type of policy to promote renewable power generation. The 10 most common policy types are feed-in tariffs (FiTs), renewable portfolio standards, capital subsidies or grants, investment tax credits, sales tax or VAT exemptions, green certificate trading, direct energy production payments or tax credits, net metering, direct public investment or financing, and public competitive bidding.
The most common policy currently in use is the feed-in tariff, which has been enacted in many new countries and regions in recent years. By early 2010, at least 50 countries and 25 states/provinces had adopted FiTs over the years, more than half of which have been enacted since 2005.
Strong momentum for feed-in tariffs (FiTs) continues around the world as countries enact new policies or revise existing ones. For example, France adopted a tariff for building-integrated PV that was among the highest in the world (€0.42-€0.58/kWh). Other countries that adopted or updated FiTs included the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Slovenia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine and the UK. In some countries, tariffs were reduced in response to technology cost reductions, market slowdowns and concerns about foreign manufacturer market share; indeed, reductions were more prevalent in 2009 and early 2010 than in previous years.
Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) - also called renewable obligations or quota policies - exist at the state/province level in the US, Canada and India, and at the national level in 10 countries: Australia, Chile, China, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK. Globally, 56 states provinces, or countries had RPS policies in place by early 2010. Most RPS policies require renewable power shares in the range of 5%-20%, typically by 2010 or 2012, although more recent policies are extending targets to 2015, 2020 and 2025. Most RPS targets translate into large expected future investments in renewable generation, although the specific means (and effectiveness) of achieving quotas can vary greatly across countries or states.
Investment tax credits, import duty reductions and/or other tax incentives are also common means for providing financial support at the national level in many countries, and at the state level in the United States, Canada and Australia. Many tax credits apply to a broad range of renewable energy technologies, such as Indonesia's new 5% tax credit adopted in early 2010, and a new 2009 policy in the Philippines for seven-year income tax exemptions and zero-VAT rates for renewable energy projects.
Energy production payments or credits, sometimes called 'premiums', also exist in a handful of countries while capital subsidies and tax credits have been particularly instrumental in supporting solar PV markets. Net metering (also called net billing) is an important policy for rooftop solar PV and laws now exist in at least 10 countries - including a growing number of developing countries. A few jurisdictions are also begining to mandate solar PV in selected types of new construction through building codes.
Supporting Renewable Heating & Transport
More countries are also adopting policies to support renewable heat and transport. The primary focus of heat-related measures has been solar water heating, and mandates for solar hot water in new construction represent a strong trend at both national and local levels. For years Israel was the only country with a national level mandate, but Spain followed in 2006 with a national building code that requires minimum levels of solar hot water in new construction and renovation. Solar thermal systems must meet 30%-70% of energy needs for hot water, depending on climatic zone, consumption level, and backup fuel. Many other countries have since followed suit. South Korea's new 2010 mandate requires on-site renewable energy to contribute at least 5% of total energy consumption for new public buildings over 1000 m2, for example. Other countries with solar hot water targets include Morocco and Tunisia.
Capital subsidies for solar hot water are now a common policy in many states and countries. At least 20 countries, and probably several more, provide capital grants, rebates, VAT exemptions, or investment tax credits for solar hot water/heating investments, including Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay.
In the transport sector, mandates for blending biofuels into vehicle fuels have been enacted in at least 41 states/provinces and 24 countries at the national level. Most mandates require blending 10%-15% ethanol with gasoline or 2%-5% biodiesel with diesel fuel. Mandates can now be found in at least 13 Indian states/territories, nine Chinese provinces, nine US states, five Canadian provinces, two Australian states, and at least 14 developing countries at the national level.
In addition to mandated blending, several targets and plans define future biofuel use. Countries with production or use targets include the US, the UK, Japan, China and South Africa. Targets for renewable energy's share of transportation energy exist in at least four EU countries at the national level (Belgium, Croatia, France and Portugal), as well as the EU-wide target of 10% of transport energy by 2020, covering both sustainable biofuels and electric vehicles.
Basis for Optimism
Almost all renewable energy industries experienced manufacturing growth in 2009. It must be conceded, however, that many capital expansion plans were scaled back or postponed.
The REN21 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report reveals that for the second year in a row, in both the United States and Europe, more renewable power capacity was added than conventional power capacity from fossil fuels or nuclear. China added a staggering 37 GW of renewable power generation capacity in 2009, more than any other country in the world, to reach 226 GW installed. Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable power capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity.
Indeed, wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW - China was the top market, with 13.8 GW added. Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW - Germany was the top market, with 3.8 GW added. And many countries saw record biomass use - notable was Sweden, where biomass accounted for a larger share of energy supply than oil for the first time. And biofuels production contributed the energy equivalent of 5% of world gasoline in 2009.
Even the most cynical observer must acknowledge this is a success story by any means, let alone under the current economic climate. Renewable energy is now breaking into the mainstream of energy markets thanks to hundreds of new government policies, accelerating private and public investment, and numerous technology advances achieved since the first Renewables Global Status report was released in 2005.
Despite the continuing advances highlighted in this year's report, the world has tapped only a fraction of the vast renewable energy resources available to us. Further strengthening of policy support can help drive the massive scale up in renewables needed for the sector to play a major role in building a stable, secure and enduring low-carbon global economy.
David Appleyard is chief editor of Renewable Energy World. Janet Sawin is research director (2008-2010) and lead author of the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report. She is also a partner at Sunna Research and a senior fellow with the Worldwatch Institute. Eric Martinot is research director emeritus and lead author of the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report. He is also a senior research director at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies and a senior fellow with the Worldwatch Institute.
Most of the investment data was provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). See also the UNEP/BNEF report Global Trends in Sustainability Energy Investment 2010, which was released jointly with the REN21 report.

Wednesday 06 October 2010

The developers of what is set to be the UK's largest biomass plant have applied to the Environment Agency Wales to vary permitting conditions relating to emissions and feedstock for the proposed plant at Port Talbot in South Wales.
Prenergy, who were granted a permit for the controversial plant in October 2009 (see this story), have reapplied to the EAW requesting alterations, including an increase in emissions limits and allowing the use of wood pellets as well wood chip for feedstock.
If we find that these changes would result in an exceedance of the air quality standards set by the EU and UK governments, or have a significant impact on the health of people in Port Talbot, the changes will be refused.
Steve Brown, EAW
This move has not been well received by campaigning groups, however, who have argued against the £400 million plant on the grounds of pollution and sustainability (see this story).
Prenergy's facility is expected to power half a million homes and have a capacity of 350MW, making it "Britain's largest" biomass plant. The government originally granted planning permission for the scheme in 2007, prompting Neath Port Talbot council to launch a campaign to have the consent reconsidered.
The latest stage of development sees the developer reapplying to the EA for changes to the Environmental Permit for the plant. It lodged an application last month (September 9).
In terms of emisisons, Prenergy has asked for the emission limit for Nitrous Oxide (N2O) to be increased from 20mg/m3 to 40mg/m3, claiming that the boiler manufacturers have been unable to guarantee to achieve the existing permit limit.
And, the developer wishes to change the Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) limit from 10mg/m3 to 50mg/m3, while also calling for the Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) limit to change from 7mg/m3 to 10mg/m3. This has been attributed to natural variation in the sulphur and chloride content from wood grown in different places, due to factors such as proximity to the coast and types of soil.
Finally, Prenergy maintains that being able to burn wood pellets is necessary to ensure access to "the widest market of sustainable sources of wood". The company claims that wood pellets make both shipping and handling more efficient and stresses that the pellets would be subject to the same specifications as wood chip and level of scrutiny in terms of being from a sustainable source.
However, campaigning group Port Talbot Residents against Power Stations (PT-RAPS) - which has been actively opposing the power plant for four years - claims that the requested changes represent a belated decision to use wood fuels with higher sulphur and chlorine contents.
In a letter to the Agency opposing the requests, PT-RAPS said: "It is imperative that the EAW establishes exactly why the applicant needs to burn more polluting fuels and more expensive fuels (in the way of fuel pellets) since the reasons offered in the application for variation of the permit fall well short of what is required to successfully argue that BAT is still being employed.
"If it is suspected that the motivation is in response to a general failure to secure contracts of ‘suitable' wood, then the EAW must consider reviewing the permit on grounds of the sustainability of the fuel source. Either substantial resources of ‘suitable' wood exist for this development (as the applicant has maintained throughout), or they do not."
The EAW said that specialist officers would now consider the application to see if these changes will have any significant impact on the health of local people and the environment.
Commenting on the application, Steve Brown, area manager at the Environment Agency Wales, said: "We are satisfied that the original permit we issued will ensure that the plant will not have a significant impact on local people and air quality in Port Talbot. We will now carry out an in-depth examination of the requested changes to the permit.
"It is imperative that the EAW establishes exactly why the applicant needs to burn more polluting fuels and more expensive fuels
"If we find that these changes would result in an exceedance of the air quality standards set by the EU and UK governments, or have a significant impact on the health of people in Port Talbot, the changes will be refused. As environmental regulators, we have to make sure that industry operate to the highest standards."
He added that the EA will consider any comments on the changes applied for by the company and asked people to get in touch so that the Agency can take them into consideration when making its decision.
The Agency said that it would also seek the views of the Local Health Board, the Local Authority and other interested parties from the community.
Comments need to be received by October 8 2010.
Prenergy was unavailable for comment on the development of the biomass plant and so little is known about when the facility will be built.
Commenting on the council's involvement in the scheme, Geoff White, head of planning services at Neath Port council, provided the following information: "The planning situation is that the scheme has planning consent and that Prenergy have discharged all relevant pre-commencement conditions.
"The council has no information on when the scheme may start."


By Clare Ogilvie, Vancouver Province October 5, 2010

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Filipino sailor Jesus Sumook was honoured as a hero in a ceremony at Lynnterm, Port of Vancouver in North Vancouver, B.C., October 5, 2010. In 2006 Sumook was helping to unload a ship full of B.C. wood pellets at a Swedish port when he saved the life of a worker who had fallen unconscious in the hold.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
VANCOUVER — When the emergency alarm sounded, Jesus Sumook knew he had to act. The veteran seafarer grabbed a breathing apparatus and headed down a shaft into Hold 9 of the Saga Spray cargo ship.
The vessel was in port in Sweden and carrying a load of wood chips from B.C.; the chips were known to be able to deplete the oxygen in a cargo hold, and the alarm meant workers' lives could be at stake.
Below him, a fellow Filipino seafarer lay motionless. Not far away, a dockworker who had been helping to unload the chips also lay sprawled out.
Sumook ran for the seafarer first. "I felt for the pulse," the 36-year-old said. "There was none."
He gently slid the deceased man aside and moved quickly to the dockworker.
"I could feel a pulse, but he was not breathing," Sumook said Tuesday, after he been awarded by the Swedish Carnegie Foundation for his bravery.
Sumook was working aboard the Saga Tucano, a vessel belonging to Saga Forest Carriers — the same international shipping company he's been employed by for more than a decade — when the foundation finally tracked him down.
Now docked in the port of Vancouver, the Tucano was the site of Tuesday's ceremony.
Sumook, a father of two, said he refused to give up on the dockworker as long as he had a pulse. He began to administer CPR.
"Then he began to gasp," Sumook said, smiling as he recalled the moment back in November 2006 in the port of Helsingborg.
But he said he then faced a new challenge.
The man had begun to gasp as he breathed in the deadly carbon monoxide that had already taken one life. Sumook opened a door to let in outside air from above, but he knew it wasn't enough to help.
So he did the only thing he could: "I took off my mask and I gave it to him too."
The pair began to take turns with the oxygen from the mask, hoping that a rescue crew would arrive to help. Both men would lose consciousness before help arrived. They were rushed to hospital with several others, all of whom recovered.
Tests showed later that carbon-monoxide levels in the hold exceeded the approved level by 10 times.
Asked if he felt like a hero, Sumook laughed Tuesday, shaking his head. "But I am proud," he said.
His daughters — aged 10 and 6 — have both told him they are proud of him too. "That makes me very happy."
Sumook was congratulated Tuesday by representatives of local labour groups, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers like the man that Sumook saved.
The Carnegie Hero awards were established worldwide in the early 1900s as a way of recognizing civilian acts of bravery. It took the Swedish organization more than two years to find Sumook as the sailor moved from port to port on his global schedule.
"That he risked his own life to save someone else's speaks volumes about what he did, and I think he rightly deserves all the praise and recognition he is getting," said Capt. Clifford Faleiro, Saga's operations manager.

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Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. subsidiary Renewafuel LLC has completed construction of its first full-scale biomass cube production plant in Marquette, Mich., and is in the midst of starting up the facility
By: Anna Austin -- Biomass Magazine

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. subsidiary Renewafuel LLC has completed construction of its first full-scale biomass cube production plant in Marquette, Mich., and is in the midst of starting up the facility.

Plans for the $19 million plant, which is located in the Telkite Technology Park at Sawyer Airport near Marquette, were announced in June 2008. Total construction time was about 10 months, according to Chairman Bill Brake. When fully operational, the plant will employ 25 people.

Biomass cubes may seem like an odd fit for Cliffs, which is more commonly known for being the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America and a significant producer of metallurgical coal. But Brake said the company is uniquely suited to enter that market. "It's right up our wheelhouse because we have the skill sets to collect, blend, aggregate, test and understand fuel," he said. "It's surprisingly analogous to what we do in the taconite mining business. While people may not think that biomass and iron ore pellets have much in common, we've found that they do."

Renewafuel has been producing its biomass cubes for more than five years at a pilot plant in Battle Creek, Mich. The 1x1x2 inch cubes are a composite of wood and agricultural feedstocks, which the company sources from local loggers and farmers. "Depending on the furnace and the customer's specific needs, the cubes may be blended with different biomass components and a couple of proprietary additives," Brake said.

The cubes are primarily used as a cofiring option for large-scale coal-fired utilities, requiring little or no modifications to a facility. Brake said the fuel, which has about the same energy content as coal, is a good fit for developers working to permit new power facilities or expanding the capacity of existing facilities that are required to comply with stricter emissions regulations, or universities looking to decrease their carbon footprint.

Several months ago, Renewafuel announced a memorandum of understanding with FirstEnergy Corp. to supply First Energys R.E. Burger plant in Shadyside, Ohio, with fuel, but since then both parties have agreed to pursue other opportunities because the distance between the two plants (from upper Michigan to the Ohio River) proved to be uneconomical, Brake said. "Our rule of thumb is 150 miles to deliver, and 75 to source feedstock," Brake said. "Our model is very much regionalfrom the collection to the processing and delivery of biomass."

Brake said the company has been performing test burns for many utilities, adding that it is essential to understand how certain biomass cube blends perform in a specific power system. "What works best in a suspension-type pulverized coal boiler is not necessarily at all the same fuel that would work well in a traditional stoker bed," he said.

Once the Marquette facility is in full production, the plant will use the cubes as fuel to heat its dryer instead of the natural gas it is currently using.

In the future, Renewafuel plans to build more plants, according to Brake. "We think this [biomass fuel] will become a megatrend not only in society, but legislatively as well."

The Nova Scotia biomass facility would generate about 60 megawatts of electricity a year, representing about three per cent of the NSPI's generation, or enough energy to power about 50,000 homes
By: Nancy King -- Farm Focus

NSPI made the statement in its reply to intervenors' final submissions in the Utility and Review Board's review of the proposal, which was filed with the board Friday (Sept. 24). It argued the project provides the lowest-cost source of firm renewable energy available for 2013, and provides the most certainty that the utility will meet provincial standards for renewable energy.

NewPage and NSPI have asked that the project be approved without conditions.

The biomass facility would generate about 60 megawatts of electricity a year, representing about three per cent of the NSPI's generation, or enough energy to power about 50,000 homes. NSPI would invest $200 million in the project, while NewPage would construct and operate it, and supply fuel.

The province's consumer advocate John Merrick has raised concerns about how the financial position of NewPage's parent company may affect the project.

"Trying to characterize the risk facing (NewPage Port Hawkesbury) and its parent as being equivalent to the difficulties facing the industry as a whole is a mischaracterization of the risk in question," Merrick wrote. "Doing business with NewPage has a higher risk than doing business with other forest products companies generally."

But NSPI responded that his comments were speculative at best, adding that the experience in Nova Scotia suggests the local mill and its biomass plant would continue to operate as usual if NewPage Corp. was to restructure.

In its submission, NewPage said the biomass development and the related investment in the mill will enhance the viability of its Nova Scotia operations.


By Susan Bush

Editor’s note: This article is by Susan Bush, a freelance reporter who lives in Pownal.

POWNAL – Beaver Wood Energy’s plans to develop a biomass facility at a former horse racing track should be scrapped, according to environmentalist Josh Schlossberg.
Schlossberg, editor of the Biomass Buster newsletter, was a guest speaker Tuesday night for a meeting held by Concerned Citizens of Pownal, a group that opposes the biomass proposal. Schlossberg told local residents that a biomass plant would generate particulate matter in the air, toxic ash and encourage poor forest management practices.
Beaver Wood wants to build a biomass facility and pellet production mill in the Green Mountain Energy Park. A second project would be located in Fair Haven. Each biomass facility would produce 29 megawatts of electric power by burning tree tops and other waste wood, and both would use excess heat generated by the biomass process to dry the wood pellets being made for retail sale, according to Thomas Emero, an environmental attorney and principal owner of Beaver Wood. Emero did not attend Schlossberg’s presentation.
Rep. William Botzow, D-Pownal, encouraged residents to make their feelings known to local officials and members of the state’s Public Service Board.
“There’s a lot of passion about this, and that’s good, we should have passion,” Botzow said. “But don’t be over-ruled by hope or fear. Do your homework.”
“There’s a lot of passion about this, and that’s good, we should have passion,” Botzow said. “But don’t be over-ruled by hope or fear. Do your homework.”
Botzow said Beaver Wood officials plan to apply for a Certificate of Public Good by month’s end, and the application will spark a public process. PSB members will likely establish a timeline dictating various aspects of the process. Residents who own property abutting the site may act as “interveners,” he said.
“There will be a public hearing,” Botzow said. “At that public hearing, people will be able to give their opinion.”
A Certificate of Public Good from PSB would be a significant step toward construction of the project.
Chris Matera, a member of the Massachusetts Forest Watch initiative, told the audience to expect project officials to try and expedite the permit process because $80 million in federal stimulus money is at stake. Entities developing energy projects must demonstrate significant progress with their ventures by December 2010 to qualify for a portion of the funds, Matera said.

Pownal residents listen to Josh Schlossberg
“You’ll feel a lot of pressure to get things moving,” Matera said.
Thomas Emero, of Beaver Wood, wrote in an e-mail that while the federal stimulus program includes a cash incentive to qualifying projects if work begins in 2010, “the project is not contingent on this.”
Schlossberg, an environmental activist, cited studies that show biomass can cause health and environmental problems. He said the Massachusetts Medical Society, the American Lung Association and the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition oppose the projects because of health risks, Schlossberg said.
Citing a 1996 Austrian study, Schlossberg claimed that biomass-generated ash is laced with toxic materials, including radioactivity. Ash from biomass is now being used in the United States on numerous farm fields, he added. He said no level of particulates, which are small particles released into the air as a result of biomass burning, have been deemed “safe.”
“Fugitive dust,” meaning dust escaping into the air as a result of an estimated 70 to 100 trucks dumping wood daily at the proposed site, and the noise, smells, and air pollution stirred up by the truck traffic are causes for concern, Schlossberg said.
Biomass encourages poor forestry, Schlossberg said, and he stressed that trees offer a host of benefits. Heavy cutting means increased risks of flooding caused by erosion, he said, and added that excessive forest stripping is believed to impact regional and global climates. Schlossberg challenged the phrase “waste wood.”
Schlossberg challenged the phrase “waste wood.” “There is no waste in the forest.”
“There is no waste in the forest,” he said, noting that fallen, decaying trees or limbs and tree tops left behind after loggers remove quality wood, eventually break down and return necessary nutrients to the soil. Taking the waste robs the soil, he said.
“Forests are the lungs of the earth and provide many free ecosystem services,” he said.
Schlossberg said he burns wood for fuel. “No one is saying we should never log our forests,” he said. “But it is dangerous to pretend that logging benefits our ecosystem.”
Claiming that biomass facilities help create a market for waste wood is misleading, he charged, because wastewood is already sold as firewood , mulch and particleboard material.
Beaver Wood plans to draw water from the Hoosic River and an aquifer at the park site for cooling purposes. Estimates show that 500 gallons of water per minute may be needed and neither the river nor the aquifer can withstand such heavy water draw without negative impacts, project opponents claim.
Schlossberg attacked the McNeil biomass mill in Burlington, which is the oldest biomass facility in the state.
“In my opinion, we have to stop burning stuff to create energy,” Schlossberg said.
The audience peppered Schlossberg with questions about truck traffic, deforestation, flood risks and the smokestack.
Others said they are fearful because any potentially harmful emissions or particulates are likely to linger at the valley site and create additional exposure to people living on nearby Swallow Hill or Northwest Hill roads. Three mobile home parks are also situated near the energy park.
Schlossberg said that biomass proposals in Florida, Michigan, Indiana, and Washington were abandoned after citizens launched strong opposition campaigns. He urged reliance on other energy forms, such as solar and wind and said he supports expansion of the hemp industry. He also supports initiatives including the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act Efficiency Vermont and Transition Vermont, a grass-roots group dedicated to strategies allowing Vermont communities to transition from oil to other power sources.
“In my opinion, we have to stop burning stuff to create energy,” Schlossberg said.
The citizen’s group may be contacted via e-mail at or on a Facebook page titled “Southern Vermont Against Biomass.” Beaver Wood officials have posted project information, including information about an Oct. 20 bus tour to the McNeil facility, at their web site.

Oct 7, 2010 | In Biomass | Send feedback »
Vattenfall, a company owned by the government of Sweden, is exploring the idea of turning wood from British Columbia's northwest, into pellets to burn in European power plants.
Officials from Vattenfall toured the Terrace area with a Finnish consulting and engineering company called Pöyry.
Rather than making the traditional wood pellet, Vattenfall is interested in making black pellets. Black pellets are made of wood that has been heated until it is more of a charcoal-like substance.
Sweden is looking to reduce the amount of coal it is burning in its power generating plants by replace the coal with an underutilized wood, or waste wood, source.
Vattenfall aims to identify a fibre source, then build pellet plants in the area with the goal of producing 250,000 tonnes of black pellets, per plant, per year. Approximately 600,000 cubic metres of fibre is required to produce that amount of pellets, employing at least 30-40 people in the plant, with additional employment for harvesters and drivers.
Vattenfall does not want to get into the logging business to obtain its fibre source. It would rather use the waste that is left behind, or that is under utilized.
British Columbia is not the only place Vattenfall is investigating for its source of fibre. The company is also looking at the fibre potential in Russia, the U.S., South America, and in West Africa. Other areas in eastern Canada are also being considered.
It is likely that more than one area will be used to fill Sweden's need for 10 million tonnes of black pellets by 2010. This goal would require 24 million cubic metres of fibre.


Published: Sep 1, 2010
Organic Rankine Cycle technology can be used to generate heat and power from renewable sources. Over the last 10 years ORC technology has been successfully demonstrated for application in small, decentralized biomass CHP plants, as Ilaria Peretti writes.
Over the last 10 years, ORC technology has proven its value for small, decentralized biomass CHP plants up to around 5 MWe.
Typical systems are based on the following steps:
• Biomass fuel is burned in a combustor made according to the same, well-established techniques used for hot water boilers. These combustors and accessories - elements such as filters, controls, automatic ash disposal and biomass feed mechanisms - are safe, reliable, clean and efficient.
• Hot thermal oil is used as heat transfer medium, providing several advantages, including low pressure in the boiler, large inertia and insensitivity to load changes, simple and safe control and operation. The adopted temperature (about 315°C) for the hot side also ensures a very long oil life. Using a thermal oil boiler avoids the need for licensed operators, as required for steam systems in many European countries.
• An Organic Rankine Cycle turbogenerator converts the available heat to electricity. Through the use of a properly formulated working fluid and an optimized machine design, both high efficiency and high reliability can be achieved. The condensation heat of the turbogenerator produces hot water at typically 80°C-120°C, a temperature suitable for district heating and other low-temperature uses such as wood drying and cooling through absorption chillers.

Figure 1.
The ORC unit is based on a closed Rankine cycle, using a suitable organic fluid. In Turboden's standard biomass cogeneration units, silicon oil is used. Figure 1 shows a cogeneration plant in a biomass application.

Figure 2
ORC technology functions similarly to a traditional steam turbine, but instead of water, the ORC system vapourizes a high molecular mass organic fluid, offering cycles with superior electric performance (up to 10 MW) and several mechanical advantages:
• slower turbine rotation
• lower pressure
• no erosion of piping and blades.
The ORC turbogenerator is pre-assembled onto one or more skids and can be easily transported. The thermodynamic cycle and relevant components are illustrated in Figure 2. Figure 3 illustrates the differences between turbines that work with water and turbines that use high molecular mass working fluid. Advantages of ORC turbogenerators are:
Technical advantages
• high cycle efficiency
• very high turbine efficiency (up to 90%)
• low turbine mechanical stress due to low peripheral speed
• low turbine RPM, allowing the direct drive of the electric generator without gear reduction
• no erosion of blades, due to the absence of moisture in the vapour nozzles.
Operational advantages
• simple start-stop procedures
• automatic and continuous operation
• no operator attendance needed
• quiet operation
• high availability. Partial load operation down to 10% of nominal power
• high efficiency event at partial load
• low O&M requirements: about 3-5 hours/week
• long life.
In conventional, heat-only plants for pellet production, belt or rotary dryers are used to dry sawdust to the necessary moisture content for pellet process. - see Figure 4. Here, heat-only pellet production plants are compared with a CHP solution based on a biomass combustion system, an ORC unit and a belt dryer fed by hot water coming from the ORC condenser.
In a pellet production plant based on a biomass combustion system and a direct rotary dryer, hot gas coming from the combustion chamber is diluted with an ambient air stream in a suitable mixing chamber to obtain gas at a temperature compatible with the highest inlet temperature acceptable in the dryer (usually around 300°C). Higher gas temperatures at dryer inlet would lead to lower pellet quality, and also increase the risk of sawdust firing.
A feed system supplies the drum dryer with the wet biomass, which comes into direct contact with the hot drying gas, thus evaporating the excess water content up to the process requirements.
A typical pellet production plant based on a biomass combustion system and a rotary dryer usually includes:
• biomass burner (hot gas generator)
• mixing chamber including hot gas distribution device
• wet biomass feed device
• drum dryer
• dried product discharge system
• drying gas cleaning unit
• fire detection and sprinkler system
• system control device.
As an alternative to rotary dryers, indirect belt dryers are often adopted in pellet production plants - see Figure 5. This technology requires a hot water boiler, generally biomass fuelled. The hot water produced through the belt dryer is utilized to generate a hot air stream that flows into a special web belt, thus evaporating the water content of the sawdust.

Figure 4. Schematic diagram of a biomass heat only plant for pellet production based on direct rotary dryer
Therefore, within the belt dryer, there is no direct contact between hot combustion gas and wet biomass, since the hot air stream used as drying medium has not been mixed with hot combustion gas. In the dried product, the dust, particle and ash content that usually comes from combustion gas, is avoided.

Figure 5. Schematic diagram of a biomass heat only plant for pellet production based on a belt dryer
Furthermore, due to the lower drying air temperature (usually between 70°C and 110°C), the risk of sawdust firing is also much reduced.

Figure 6. Schematic diagram of a CHP biomass plant for pellet production based on belt dryer coupled to an ORC unit
A typical pellet production plant based on a belt dryer usually includes:
• hot water biomass boiler
• wet biomass feed device
• hot air generation (hot water/drying air heat exchanger).
• drying web belt
• dried product discharge system
• drying air cleaning unit (if required by local regulations)
• fire detection and sprinkler system
• system control device.
The following part of this study looks at a CHP solution based on a biomass ORC unit and belt dryer. A typical pellet production plant based on a biomass combustion system and an ORC unit requires minor changes to conventional heat-only plant for pellet production with belt dryer.
This means that, in addition to the installation of CHP biomass pellet plant, retrofitting of an existing pellet plant based on a hot water boiler coupled to belt dryer can easily be implemented, simply by replacing the hot water boiler with a thermal oil boiler feeding the ORC unit - see Figure 6. Hot water will be actually available downstream the ORC condenser.
Financial results are calculated in terms of the discounted payback time of the additional investment required by the cogeneration solution. The sensitivity of the results to variations in plant size and electricity value is investigated.

Figure 3. Differences between turbines that work with water and turbines that use high molecular mass working fluid
The following boundary conditions are assumed:
• constant fuel cost (biomass): €20/MWh (US$26/MWh)
• equivalent electricity value variable between €0.10 and €0.24/kWhe ($0.13 and $0.31/kWhe)
• ORC size: from Turboden 4-CHP Split to Turboden 22-CHP Split (about 2.2 t/h - 10 t/h pellet production)
• constant hot water feed temperature to belt dryer: 90°C.
Biomass costs at this level will strongly impact the economic feasibility of the biomass based heat-only solutions assumed as reference case.
The results show that, in this difficult scenario, plants with an installed power above 1500 kWe exhibit a good feasibility regardless of the technical solution for the dryer considered as reference case for the heat-only plant.
For equivalent electricity values around €0.20/kWhe ($0.26/kWhe), plants in the power range from 600 kWe also remain competitive. A higher fuel price has a strong impact on smaller plants in the range below 600 kWe, which can be considered competitive only if indirect air drying with a belt dryer is assumed as reference technology for the heat-only plant.
The economic analysis shows cogeneration units based on thermal oil boilers and ORC units, coupled with indirect belt dryers as heat suppliers for pellet plants, are viable economic option under a broad range of conditions.
Plants starting from 2.2 t/h pellet production can be competitive starting from an electricity value of €0.18/kWh ($0.23/kWh). Due to the additional income from electric energy generation, this solution also reduces the risk from higher biomass costs, being able to generate positive cash flows at much higher fuel costs than the heat-only solution. These operating conditions exist in many European countries where new pellet production capacity is under construction, such as Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium and the UK.
For a pellet plant size above 8 t/hr, a cogeneration plant may be a good solution in countries with incentives for renewable energy production, especially if fuel costs are negligible. In this case the feasibility is good starting from electricity values in the range of €0.10kWh ($0.13kWh), which can be considered a long-term average buying rate for industrial customers in many countries. In particular, this gives excellent medium-term application opportunities for new plants in Eastern Europe, Russia and North America.
The operating conditions described apply to a large share of the new production capacities planned worldwide, both concerning economic conditions (electricity value and biomass cost) and plant size. The available operational data confirm that the actual process efficiencies are even higher than the figures assumed in this study.

Land Energy to use biomass power in wood pellet production
Wood pellet firm Land Energy is developing a series of new production plants, as it seeks to move from being a trading company towards becoming a manufacturer of biomass fuel. The company has ordered a biomass CHP system to use wood fuel to generate the power and heat needed to run the manufacturing process. A CHP system has been ordered from Turboden to use Organic Rankine Cycle technology to generate about 2 MW of electricity and about 9.5 MW of heat energy.
The company aims to convert a potato processing site in Wombleton, North Yorkshire into a wood pellet plant, and has lodged plans with Ryedale district council. A similar project at Presteigne in mid-Wales would take £10 million ($15 million) in investment to convert an animal feed plant into a wood pellet facility. Land Energy's primary markets for its wood pellets are likely to be domestic biomass heating and small commercial heating systems in schools and offices.
Currently, the company has wood pellets delivered to its Yorkshire site before distributing the project to end users.
Land Energy has signed an agreement with German CHP specialists Gammel Engineering as plant designer for all its future production plants. The company has already had experience developing more than 150 biomass CHP projects, mainly in Germany and central Europe.Innovative technology
Innovative technology
The technology involves biomass fuel being burned to heat oil within a boiler, which is then used within an Organic Rankine Cycle unit to vapourize an organic working fluid that drives a turbine to generate power. The ORC also heats water alongside the power generation, which can be used for space heating purposes and hot water supply. Waste heat from the system is recovered to continue heating the boiler, with the organic working fluid cycling back around the system to keep driving the turbine.
Studies of the system have suggested that turbine efficiencies of around 88% can be achieved, while there are also said to be advantages from using a system that does not rely on high-pressure steam to drive the turbine. There are currently 113 Turboden plants already in operation, including 15 in the pellet sector across Europe, where they are used to supply the heat needed for drying sawdust to produce wood pellet fuel.
Ilaria Peretti is country manager for the Biomass Department of Turboden, in Brescia, Italy.Email:

Saturday, October 9th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Author: Michael Beikircher
Title: Swedens Foray Into The Manufacture Of Wood Pellets

Article: Since time immemorial man has always tried to discover new and innovative ways to preserve energy. Right from conventional methods like solar energy to other sources like wind power etc. today the new rage is wood pellets. These small pellets are a viable source of abundant energy. Sweden is one of the first countries to use the plant Salix viminalis in the bioenergy production of these pellets. What is Salix viminalis? The plant Salix viminalis is also known by the names of Sally tree, Willow tree or even Sallie. This is considered to be a biomass crop which is used to manufacture wood pellets. The trees usually bend forward in a particular direction and have green plant outgrowths on the branches. It is a very easy plant to cultivate and its usefulness in large scale bioenergy production has only recently been discovered. Why is it beneficial? The Salix viminalis crop is extremely useful because of a number of reasons. First and foremost these are extremely low maintenance crops which means that once these are sown you hardly need to take much care of them. You can even cultivate these trees using just the un-rooted cuttings. Within a few short years a large harvest can be reaped which is great for bioenergy production which needs accelerated timelines. Besides this the plant has the ability to harvest atleast 6-7 times before you need to replant it again. You also need a lesser number of pesticides in order to cultivate this amazing crop. Swedens initial efforts Sweden has been one of the very first countries to recognize the tremendous potential of this tree. In fact over the last quarter century more than 20% of the primary energy sources came from bioenergy production. This was as per statistics in the year 2001. As far as district heating systems go, in Sweden more than 53% of fuel mix is used. The government of Sweden has been actively involved and supportive about the biomass energy policy. New research as well as innovation has always been encouraged in this segment and various projects have even been funded by the Swedish government. One such case has been the discovery of the plant Salix viminalis in order to manufacture wood pellets. The way Swedish farmers have used this crop to their advantage is that they have used the plant in short rotations in order to reap more harvests between successive replantations. This way they have managed to extract the most number of wood pellets from a single tree within the shortest time possible. One benefit that Sweden has over other European countries is the presence of relatively untapped rich sources of biomass inside its forests. Besides this, the Swedish government is also very supportive about forestry on a large scale. In fact ever since 2003 a new quota system has been introduced through which the electricity manufacture based on biomass has increased dramatically. While other countries are still waking up to the wonder of wood pellets Sweden seems to have taken the lead and moved far ahead in large scale bioenergy production. For more details please contact Michael Beikircher at The offical website address is

RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Enviva LP (“Enviva”), a leading manufacturer of processed biomass fuel in the United States and Europe, today announced it has acquired a controlling interest in Tomorrow’s Energy, LLC and its Piney Woods pellet manufacturing facility. This strategic investment marks the third major transaction in as many months for Enviva’s growing biomass supply business.
“With this investment we are very excited to expand Enviva’s manufacturing footprint in Mississippi, and increase our production of sustainably generated wood pellets to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint.”
Based in Wiggins, Mississippi, Piney Woods Pellets is an alternative-fuel company founded in 2008 by third-generation timber owners Osmond and Deborah Crosby. The current facility has the capacity to produce approximately 50,000 tons of wood pellets annually. Under Enviva’s ownership, Piney Woods will be renamed Enviva Pellets™ Wiggins. Over the coming months, proceeds from Enviva’s strategic investment will be used to increase the facility’s production capacity to approximately 150,000 tons annually to meet increasing demand from Enviva’s clients across Europe and the United States. Enviva anticipates creating 22 new jobs at the facility and providing jobs for an additional 30 employees throughout its logging and forestry supply chain.
“Piney Woods is a model for a well-designed plant and is in a region with a long forest-products tradition, strong community ties and a deep commitment to the environment,” Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler said. “With this investment we are very excited to expand Enviva’s manufacturing footprint in Mississippi, and increase our production of sustainably generated wood pellets to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint.”
Serving large utilities in the United States and Europe, Enviva recently announced a long-term wood pellet supply contract with Electrabel, a subsidiary of GDF SUEZ Group, one of the largest utilities in the world. The acquisition of Piney Wood Pellets closely follows Enviva’s acquisition of another Mississippi-based wood pellet manufacturer, CKS Energy Inc.
“We are delighted to be able to expand the Piney Woods plant and with Enviva’s leadership bring the energy of Mississippi forestry to customers looking to improve the environment with renewable fuels,” said Oz Crosby, the founder of Piney Woods who will join Enviva in a regional business development role.
All raw biomass materials used at Enviva Pellets™ Wiggins will be sourced locally. Enviva’s environmental, safety and forestry staff use best practices in sustainable harvesting, ensuring that biomass resources are procured according to internationally recognized third-party certification standards, such as SFI or FSC.
About Enviva
Enviva’s mission is to be the world leader in the production of sustainable biomass and a preferred partner and supplier to utility, industrial and retail customers seeking to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. Enviva has been supplying wood chips and wood pellets to customers in the U.S. and Europe since 2007. For more information, visit

by Associated Press :: UPDATED: 17 October 2010 | 9:37 am :: in Local News :: No Comments
The University of Iowa recently tested burning paper sludge to possibly displace coal use in the campus power plant.
Wood chips and corn stover pellets also are being examined as potential renewable biomass fuels, which can be mixed with coal to power the campus while reducing fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s hard to tell which of these fuels will be the next oat hulls,” said Ben Fish, utilities plant manager, referring to a program that began in 2003 in which UI burns used oat hulls from Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids.
UI is developing a new 10-year energy plan, which it plans to release in October, that will set benchmarks for areas such as renewable energy, carbon emissions, energy use and waste along with goals for student involvement and research, said Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability. UI, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have been working off a 2009 Iowa state Board of Regents sustainability plan, which includes a goal of a combined energy portfolio of at least 10 percent energy from renewable sources by July 1, 2013.
ISU and UNI have examined biomass products similar to UI but have found obstacles in consistency of a local supply.
“We have examined switchgrass and biopellets, but we would have to retrofit a boiler,” said Tom Schellhardt, UNI vice president for administration and financial services, noting that the university doesn’t have the financing for the retrofit.
Wind energy is likely to be UNI’s most plausible source for meeting the regents’ goal, and the school is considering a wind energy plan, Schellhardt said. UNI would need three to four turbines to hit the 10 percent mark, but the first would cost about $2.5 million and they don’t have a financing plan yet, he said.
ISU in December 2009 added wind energy to its portfolio, and it now supplies 10 percent of campus electrical power. The wind is purchased from a wind farm in northern Story County and southern Hardin County, said Dave Miller, ISU associate vice president for facilities.
“We are trying to review that to see how high we can go,” Miller said. “It’s a trial operation.”
At UI, which uses 17 percent renewable energy to power campus and wants to increase to 40 percent by 2020, Christiansen said wind energy could be one of the next major investments.
UI has done testing on a site in Hills that could be a reliable location for wind energy, said Glen Mowery, UI director of utilities and energy management.
“We are very close to making something happen,” Mowery said. “I wouldn’t expect to see a wind farm, but one or two turbines.”
The initial investment would be at least $5 million and wind energy has a high cost per kilowatt hour, but over time, the investment would pay off and help the university scale back use of fossil fuels, Mowery said.
The long-term goal is to eliminate coal entirely from the UI campus, but that is a long way off, Mowery said.
At UI, the goal is to test and use several energy sources so as to not be dependent on one, he said. For example, UI is likely to seek permits to burn all three of the products they are test burning — wood chips, paper sludge and stover pellets, Fish said.
Other avenues also are being explored. For example, UI is purchasing methane from the Iowa City landfill to power backup generators on the Oakdale campus and is building a solar e-charging station to power electric vehicles on campus.
“We are getting exposure, so when we go larger scale, we know what we are getting into,” Mowery said.

By 250 News
Friday, October 22, 2010 04:13 PM

Debris pile in Bear Lake area, west on 200 road in June, 2010
Burns Lake, B.C. – The bio-energy industry may be taking off in northern BC, but plenty of perfectly good wood residue will soon go up in smoke.
In the Nadina Forest District alone, the province has issued notices of burning for approximately 10,000 debris piles. The Central Interior Logging Association says that fibre, if converted to wood pellets, would have a gross value of over $50-million dollars. MaryAnne Arcand with the CILA says that has biomass developers behind new plants in the Burns Lake and Houston areas concerned.
“They’re not quite there yet. Their plants aren’t built, but they can actually take it in. They have need for all of that fibre and to watch it burn is frustrating.”
However, Arcand says she understands the concern from the Ministry of Forests and Range perspective. Burning debris piles has been an effective way to cut down on the risk of forest fires. She says it’s a question of trying to meet the needs of the bio-energy industry while not putting nearby communities at an increased risk of wildfires.
The CILA says there are some “aggressive discussions” on finding ways to preserve both the fibre supply and the safety of communities. Arcand says with the bio-energy industry developing even more products like bio-coal and more plants being built, the demand for wood fibre will only increase.
Arcand says she’s been personally assured by Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell that the government is committed to working on a solution. She says the current situation is an example of what happens when legislation and current processes haven’t quite caught up to the application on the ground.

October 25, 2010
staff writer
The largest producer of wood pellets in the world is using a unique construction process to build a new plant near Burns Lake, B.C., which will utilize mountain pine beetle killed wood.
“We have been in this business for 20 years now and we are continuing to build capacity in the same way we have in the past,” said Leroy Reitsma, chief operating officer with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group.
“The installation in Burns Lake follows the same production processes as the other capacity.”
Construction of Pinnacle’s new $30 million plant began in the middle of September and is expected to be completed by December. At peak construction, there will be about 110 people working on the plant.
When completed, this will be Pinnacle’s sixth wood pellet plant in the province. The company already has plants operating in Armstrong, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Strathnaver and Houston.
“We are well advanced in the civil end of the project and the mechanical installation has also commenced,” said Reitsma.
“We tend to build these plants very quickly, by lining up a lot of resources and components, then building them on a condensed construction schedule.”
Pinnacle is unique in the wood pellet industry because the company fabricates the components that go into the construction and expansion of its plants.
“The design of our facilities is very modular,” explained Reitsma.
“The building blocks between plants are very similar. We fabricate these modules at our own production facility, which is how we can achieve this condensed schedule.”
Reitsma said this internal fabrication capacity is kept busy with new construction and upgrades at existing facilities.
Using this construction process, Pinnacle has expanded rapidly to a capacity of about 1.1 million tons in 2010 from 60,000 tons in 2004. This 1,800 per cent increase in production capacity includes the new plant.
“Through a series of strategic relationships with major and independent companies, we have leveraged the technical strength of our people to accomplish growth,” said Reitsma. “We have an opportunity to assist the primary forest industry, by providing an economical outlet for the non-merchantable component. This has been elevated as a result of the mountain pine beetle.”
Pinnacle is located in central B.C. and has access to an abundant source of raw materials.
The new plant will produce 400,000 tons of wood pellets a year from mountain pine beetle killed wood.
The wood pellets are used for coal replacement in power generation plants and will be exported through Vancouver and Prince Rupert to European and Asian markets.
Pinnacle has been able to achieve a scale where the company is able to charter a whole ship with a capacity of 45,000 tons.
The company also produces pine animal bedding pellets and custom products for packaging.
The Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group is a private company founded by the Swaan family of Quesnel. It has been in operation for more than twenty years and is the longest established pellet producer in Western Canada.



By: Gordon Murray -- Canadian Biomass Magazine

The wood pellet business is hazardous. Dock workers have unknowingly entered loaded ship holds and perished from carbon monoxide emitted by wood pellets. Many times, rainwater has leaked into a storage silo, causing the pellets to self-heat and eventually burst into catastrophic fire. Workers trying to extinguish the fire then cut holes in the side of the silo, only to cause explosions, injuries, and deaths.

The pellet manufacturing process creates highly explosive wood dust. Consequently, there have been numerous incidents of fires and explosions set off by a spark from the friction between moving parts, a flame from a welding torch, or the heat from a drum dryer. Such incidents happen too frequently, not only in Canada, but in pellet plants around the world. Every incident is investigated and explained, yet they continue to occur.

Canadian insurance companies have recently told the pellet industry that its performance must improve or else pellet plants will no longer be insurable. Without insurance, pellet producers will lose the ability to be financed or operate. More importantly, injuries and loss of life are unacceptable. Occupational health and safety is a critical issue demanding immediate attention. Although there are pellet producers who have excellent safety records, the frequency of incidents by those who do not taints the reputations of everyone. Pellet producers must create an industry-wide culture in which the health and safety of workers is an overriding priority.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) is taking action. Together with the British Columbia Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), it is developing an industry-wide safety program consisting of: (1) a handbook of best practices for pellet industry health and safety; (2) a safety audit protocol based on the best practices handbook; and (3) a safety certification brand (SAFE Certified).

The best practices handbook is being developed in consultation with WPAC members and will consist of safety guidelines for construction, operation, and maintenance of pellet plants. It will include references to occupational health and safety legislation, regulations, and the requirements of safety authorities such as the National Fire Protection Association, the EU ATEX Directives, and others.

Each WPAC member company will have the opportunity to become SAFE Certified by undergoing an initial comprehensive safety audit by a qualified third-party auditor to ensure compliance with the best practices handbook and then periodic subsequent maintenance audits to ensure ongoing compliance.

Although most provinces have their own forest industry health and safety association, WPAC intends to try to reach an agreement with each province to have BCFSC act as the health and safety association for all Canadian pellet plants to maintain a consistent safety standard for the entire wood pellet industry in Canada. Most provincial workers' compensation boards have certificate of recognition programs whereby certified members of an approved health and safety association such as BCFSC receive significant rebates (i.e., 10%) of their workers' compensation fees.

The certification process is designed to provide several advantages to participants:

• Employees will have a safer working environment.
• Workers' compensation boards will gain confidence that the companies are operating safely. This means rebates on premiums and reduced rates.
• Insurance companies will gain confidence that future incidents will be reduced. Hence, they will continue to provide coverage and refrain from unusual rate increases.
• European utility customers, who must increasingly demonstrate that they are purchasing from sources that are both green and ethical in the treatment of workers, will gain confidence in the companies.
• Good (certified) performers' reputations will no longer be tainted by the poor safety performance of poor (non-certified) performers.

Canadian pellet producers are currently struggling as a result of an oversupplied European market, declining prices, and unfavourable foreign exchange rates. It is tempting in such times to cut back and wait before starting any new initiatives. However, this is one initiative that can't wait and must be pursued with maximum effort. Fatalities and accidents are preventable, and we are all responsible.


After several months of intense work, including a great deal of industry outreach, the PFI Standards Committee presented the Board of Directors with the revised standards program documents for its consideration. On October 7th, the PFI Board of Directors unanimously passed the latest version of the PFI North American Residential / Commercial Densified Fuel Standards Program. This approval allows the program to be forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) well within EPA's requested timeline to have an enforceable industry standard in place.

The Board of Directors is confident the current program addresses the needs of consumers, fuel and appliance manufacturers and EPA and, as such, believes that it represents an approach that will be embraced by all.

The greatest differences between the 2009 program and the current program include: independent third party inspections, sampling, testing and overall program oversight. Many key components of the earlier program remain intact. The program does have a new look and now consists of four separate documents.

1. PFI Standard Specification for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel

Outlines the actual grade parameter test method requirements for densified fuels registered in the program.

Several key changes have been made to this document,

1. Inclusion of another fines testing option.
2. Removal of the Super Premium grade.

2. PFI North American Certification of Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel

This document outlines the roles and responsibilities of all participants in the program, including the Certified Densified Fuel Manufacturers, the Certification Body, Accredited Testing Laboratories and Accredited Auditing Agencies. Changes to this document include transfer of oversight of the program from PFI to the Certification Body, changes to the certification mark and revisions to requirements for reapplication for manufacturers following loss of certification / accreditation.

3. PFI Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel QA/QC Handbook

This document provides quality control and quality assurance procedures for the production of residential / commercial densified fuels. Changes include:

1. Clarification of trace amounts of materials.
2. Provision for the use of recycled pallets construction debris and post consumer recycled wood (provided they are verified as clean through an inspection / certification process).
3. Optional in-house testing facilities (can be contracted out).
4. Inclusion of third party inspections (monthly), and sampling (per 1,000 ton).
5. Establishing compliance criteria for audited samples at 95% with deficient samples not exceeding criteria by 10% (2% for durability).

4. PFI Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel Enforcement Regulations
This is a new document, drafted since the PFI Annual Meeting this past July. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the auditing agencies, the laboratories, and the oversight requirements of the Certification Body.

In the upcoming months, we hope to report that EPA has included the PFI standard as the preferred option for regulation of densified fuels under the New Source Performance Standards for Residential Wood Heaters by EPA.

We will continue to keep you abreast of program developments.

Click here for the complete PFI standard

29. Oct, 2010 | Tags: climate change impact, Colorado, ghost forest, interior west, pine bark beetles, Wyoming
Pine beetles have also ravaged another 17.5 million acres in the western United States and have a stranglehold on massive chunks of forests in British Columbia.
While bark beetles have long been part of the natural ecosystem cycle, their current numbers are overwhelming, said Joseph Duda, forest management supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service. The fear is if that massive number of dead trees catch alight, the fire could also scorch soils and wipe out cones responsible for future generations, he said.
Moreover, the forests are now so homogeneous that the beetles can clear out entire stands and leave little forest cover behind.
Centuries ago, when fires occurred as part of the natural life cycle for the pines, stands were less dense, making resulting fires cooler and smaller. The fires also posed a smaller threat to people — since not many lived in the forests. Now it’s a different story.
Recent events, too, have made Wettstein’s job even more of a challenge.
Loggers bidding for Forest Service contracts to clear out beetle kill typically anticipate that a second payday will come from selling the wood, defraying some of their costs. But when the housing bubble popped, lumber demand dropped off and production numbers at Western sawmills tumbled.
Considering there is only one large sawmill in Wettstein’s zone, it normally processes much of the beetle-kill wood. But Colorado-based Intermountain Resources LLC defaulted on some of its loans and was forced to shut its doors in May.
The mill, which is currently in receivership, is accepting wood again, but it is only working through about 75 percent of the timber it once did, said Pat Donovan, the court-appointed receiver for the mill.
The wood pellet industry has also taken a dive. Just several years ago, converting beetle-kill wood into pellets that could be used to heat homes or co-fire coal plants was eyed as an ideal way to dispose of some beetle-killed timber.
The recession and cheaper natural gas play a role
But pellet plants in Wettstein’s area suffered a blow last year when natural gas prices dropped. Market conditions forced both the Confluence Energy facility and the Rocky Mountain Pellet Company Inc. plant — then the only pellet mills in Colorado — to close up shop from December to May. While both plants are open again — though Confluence Energy is only up at half-mast — future operations hinge on demand and natural gas prices.
The outlook may not be bright. A fireplace products trade group that tracks how many pellet stoves are sold to retailers (though that may not translate into homeowners buying them) indicates that in 2009 sales were down 67 percent from where they had been in 2008. Making matters worse, the federal tax credit for purchasing pellet stoves — allocated from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars — expires at the end of the year.
With less revenue available to offset logging costs, contractors’ asking price to clear an acre of beetle kill is on the rise. Where the Forest Service used to be able to find loggers willing to clear an acre of beetle kill for $1,500, now it can cost as much as $3,500 — meaning the Forest Service can do less with its existing pool of funds.
photo credit: Richard Saxon/Flickr


Sure wood pellets are renewable, made from wood waste and manufactured domestically, but do they save me money? The answer is maybe and maybe not. As one would expect that depend on the price paid for each. So the purpose of this article is not to give a simple yes or no answer but to equip the interested reader with the tools to figure it out. I will compare wood pellet to the 2 major sources of heating natural gas and heating oil. To complicate matters each of the 3 energy sources are sold by different units. Wood Pellets are sold by the ton (US ton for this article) Natural Gas by the therm and Fuel Oil by the gallon. The first thing to do is get the current prices for what you want to compare some quick web searching should make this pretty easy so I won't go into that here.
The next step is to convert the unit your product is sold by into a standard measure for energy in this case BTU which stands for British Thermal Units. A Gallon of fuel oil contains 138,690 BTU. A Therm is actually defined as 100,000 BTU. A ton (2,000 pounds) of wood pellets contains 16,500,000 BTU. Now we have to normalize the BTU numbers to price per 1 million BTU, this just means we have to divide and multiply to get to the same number of BTU for each product. The equation is as follows [price per unit] divided by [BTU per unit] multiplied by [1 million] to get [price per million BTU] which is what we want because now we can compare on to the other by simply looking at the price per Million-BTU. Her goes some examples. If natural gas costs $1.23 per therm then [1.23/100,000] x 1,000,000 = $12.30 for 1 million BTU of natural gas. If fuel oil cost $2.36 per gallon then [2.36/138,690] x 1,000,000 = $17.02 for 1 million-BTU. If wood pellets cost $200 per ton then [200/16,500,000] x 1,000,000 = $12.12 for 1 million-BTU. We all know price vary and all fuel will cost more in the winter when most needed. Wood Pellet has a distinct advantage that it can be easily bought in the summer and stored until needed.
Now the above is just about raw energy contained in the fuel, you still need to convert that into heat in your home so you should take the calculations one step further and factor in the efficiency of the heater being used.
If you want further reading about making wood pellets go here.
About the Author
Burt Andrews is an Architect with over 20 years of experience, in designing a wide range of projects. He blogs about restaurant design. He is a principal at Larson and Darby Group in charge of the St. Charles, IL office.
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By Rona Johnson | October 26, 2010

Fall has been a busy time here at BBI International, in particular because we have been preparing for the Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show, which many of you may be attending as you read this.

This event will be exciting with all the biomass projects and potential the region has for advancing the renewable energy industry.

There are several biomass power plants in various stages of development in the Southeast. For example, EcoPower Generation LLC wants to build a biomass power plant in Hazard, Ky., which would burn low-grade logs and wood waste to produce enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.
Orangeburg County Biomass LLC is proposing to build a 35-megawatt (MW) wood-fire power plant in Orangeburg County, S.C. North Carolina-based Rollcast Energy plans to build the first of three biomass power plants in Barnesville, Ga. The 53.3-MW plant will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. The company has also announced similar sized projects in Franklin, Ga., and Newberry, S.C. American Renewables plans to build Gainseville Renewable Energy Center, a 100-MW biomass power plant in Gainesville, Fla.

The Southeast also has plenty of potential for cofiring biomass with coal, which is the topic of the first plenary session at the conference, Examining the Viability of Biomass Cofiring and Repowering as a Renewable Energy Opportunity in the Southeast. Although states in the Southeast have been slow to adopt renewable energy portfolio standards, I expect those efforts will be ramped up as the pressure to reduce our carbon footprint intensifies.

Along with biomass power plants and cofiring projects, several wood pellet mill projects are taking shape in the Southeast. Georgia Biomass expects to be shipping wood pellets to Europe upon completion of its plant in Waycross, Ga., which will have the capacity to produce 750,000 tons of wood pellets a year. Point Bio Energy LLC plans to build a $100 million wood pellet plant at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, La., that will produce 496,000 tons of wood pellets annually.

The second plenary session, Awakening a Giant: Examining the Potential for the Pellet Industry in the American Southeast, will provide attendees with a great overview of the opportunities and challenges associated with the budding pellet industry. One of the presenters is Thomas Meth, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Enviva LP, which has just purchased two pellet plants in the U.S. and plans to increase production in both of those plants to feed growing demand here and in Europe.
From electricity generation and industrial heat and power to biorefining and project development and finance, this event will provide plenty of information for people already in the industry and those planning projects.