Sunday, January 2, 2011

G Brown Newsletter December 2010

December 2010
Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535
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By David Robinson
Staff Writer, Morning Sentinel
Posted: December 5
Updated: Today at 8:47 PM

PHILLIPS — Despite emerging concerns about changes to federal regulations, advocates of a small Franklin County school district remain confident its wood-chip boilers are an example for alternative energy solutions in Maine.
Green heat by the numbers:
• Phillips-based School Administrative District 58 has received about $1.5 million in grants for biomass boiler projects, according to Quenten Clark, district superintendent.
• The United States Department of Agriculture awarded almost $1.1 million last year for boilers at Kingfield and Strong elementary schools, with the school taxpayers spending about $100,000 on the project.
• Another over $400,000 grant, administered by the state, was awarded for a boiler at Phillips Elementary School, Clark said. The school taxpayers contributed $41,000 for the project.
Phillips-based School Administrative District 58 has installed biomass boilers in recent years at its high school in Salem Township and at elementary schools in Kingfield and Strong.
Another boiler is scheduled to be delivered this month to its elementary school in Phillips.
State officials and federal agencies have supported the effort, touting the district as a leader in a push for energy alternatives that tap renewable sources while promoting industries within the state, such as logging and wood-pellet mills.
For the school district’s budget, the switch from oil to wood pellets has meant heating costs are being cut in half, according to Quenten Clark, district superintendent.
The district has replaced more than 110,000 gallons of oil annually, passing through a sometimes unstable supply chain, with more than 600 tons of wood pellets from Geneva Wood Fuels in Strong, according to Clark.
“The stability of pellets is attractive; I could haul those pellets over there in a wheel barrow,” he said.
According to Clark, pricing swings are also less likely in the wood-pellet market, and the money stays in the local economy.
The wood-pellet mill in Strong will pay $60,000 in school taxes this year, where money spent on heating oil left the area, he said.
He expects savings from lower heating costs will soon pay off the boiler installations. Instead of $2 a gallon for oil, the district is paying $170 a ton for pellets.
The district’s first wood-chip boiler was installed about two years ago at Mt. Abram High School, according to Clark. School taxpayers paid for all of the roughly $250,000 cost, and the district maintenance crews installed the boiler.
“It was a home-grown project,” he said.
This home-grown experiment paved the way for grants that helped the district install boilers at its three elementary schools, according to Clark.
The Strong and Kingfield projects were the first of their kind in the nation to get funding through the federal High Energy Cost Grant program, which began in 2003, according to Virginia Manuel, state director of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
During his last state of the state address, Gov. John Baldacci praised Clark for the boiler projects. Instead of relying on oil from 8,000 miles away, he is heating a school with pellets just eight miles away, Baldacci said in March.
But the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has since begun looking at tightening regulations on emissions for boilers, according to Clark, creating doubts for some people who were looking at making the change from oil to pellets.
This has placed a greater emphasis on studying existing projects, according to Manuel, which puts Philips-based SAD 58 in a position to influence the conversation.
The district was recently awarded a nearly $100,000 federal grant for testing and monitoring of the boilers. This grant is meant to gather emission readings to provide a better understanding of the pollution issue, according to Manuel.
Both Manuel and Clark said these tests can bring real-world applications and data into current debate in Congress on air pollution standards. The EPA had presented a broad regulation in the summer, and more specific rules on emissions are expected after the issue is reviewed, according to Clark.
Lee Academy in eastern Maine recently rejected a $300,000 stimulus grant, which would have been part of a $745,000 project, because it feared tighter regulations would drive up the project cost, according to the Associated Press.
Although the impact of potential changes to federal regulations is still unclear, Clark and Manuel both said public officials need to continue to look at the upside of biomass heating alternatives.
“My feeling is that Maine has positioned itself as a renewable energy state,” said Manuel, referring to its wood-based industries and natural resources. “We’re a perfect state for this kind of project.”

UMaine project draws criticism
By Tux Turkel
Staff Writer

click image to enlarge
Grass pellets, also being studied in Europe and Canada, have the potential to establish a new bioenergy industry in Maine, create a valuable crop for Maine farmers and reduce energy costs for state residents.
University of Maine
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Fallow farmland could heat schools and other buildings in Maine, if a demonstration plant in Aroostook County that is designed to turn grass into pellet fuel is economically successful.
A joint venture led by the University of Maine has won a $1.6 million grant from the Maine Technology Institute to help build a perennial-grass pellet mill in Easton, near Presque Isle. It initially will supply pellets for industrial boilers at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and other schools. The long-range hope is to scale up the technology and build 25 pellet mills statewide, giving farmers a new crop, displacing 100 million gallons of heating oil each year and creating an overall economic impact estimated at $500 million.
Grass pellets are common in Europe. Interest is growing in the United States, where businesses and agricultural universities see opportunities in an energy crop that doesn't compete with food production.
But competition is emerging as an issue for Maine's wood pellet industry, which has been hit hard by the recession and lower oil prices.
Questions are being raised by Matthew Bell, owner of Northeast Pellets LLC in Ashland. Bell invested $3.5 million to rebuild his wood-pellet factory after a fire last year. He was upset to learn recently that a state-backed pellet fuel facility was being proposed in his market area, and that university staff are involved with the project.
"My potential customers also could burn these grass pellets," Bell said.
In response, the university says grass pellets have too high an ash content for most commercial boilers or home stoves. It also says the aim isn't to compete with wood pellets, but to keep more Maine cropland in production. The university's Cooperative Extension, a partner in the venture, estimates grass pellets could create a high-value crop on 400,000 acres of underused farmland.
Northern Maine has thousands of acres of abandoned potato fields. Finding new uses for them was the initial incentive to explore grass pellets, according to Michael Bilodeau, director of UMaine's Process Development Center. That led UMaine to apply for a Maine Technology Asset Fund matching grant, to help fund both the Easton mill and testing equipment on the Orono campus.
Several area potato farmers have signed on to grow Reed Canarygrass, a tall perennial with an extensive root system. The mill would need more than 30,000 tons a year, a large quantity. Farmers also may qualify for a federal program that offers financial incentives for growing a fuel crop.
The demonstration project is set to last three years. The mill would be operated by Aroostook Starch Co. of Fort Fairfield. Private investors, including Bilodeau, have formed a limited liability corporation called PelletShield Engineered Products and have pledged to kick in $7.7 million.
That arrangement concerns Bell. He considers it a conflict of interest for university employees to profit from a private enterprise, and he complained to the Maine Technology Institute for issuing the $1.6 million grant.
But Bilodeau said the company was formed before it received the grant, and he said similar business partnerships with the university aren't unusual. Bell also received a letter last month from Betsy Biemann, MTI's director, who told him that any money from the asset fund must be repaid, if the equipment leads to a new, commercial product.
"I would encourage you to connect directly with the project directors for the MTAF award and its many local collaborators to see how your company might benefit from this important project," she wrote.
Bell is not satisfied by Biemann's letter and was drafting a reply last week. He said he may ask Maine's next attorney general to review the matter.
The way the deal was put together also has disturbed Richard James, the owner of Lucerne Farms in Fort Fairfield. The largest hay grower in New England, James said he provided some of his grass to a county extension official, but didn't realize the scope of what was being proposed.
"I knew they were doing some research, but the next thing I knew, they were putting up a pellet mill a mile from us," he said.
James said he supports the idea of a new crop to help the county's potato farmers. He's not worried about direct competition -- grass for pellets is worth less than the high-quality hay he grows for horse feed. But James said he wonders if it makes sense to produce an alternative pellet fuel in a region that's so heavily forested.
"I can't believe we're going to be making pellets from hay, instead of wood," he said.
That question also is being pondered by the Maine Pellet Fuels Association, which represents the state's wood pellet mills and allied businesses. The industry is sensitive about facing more competition. Pellet mills already are operating at reduced capacity, as demand remains slow following the economic downturn.
Despite that, the association purposely omits the word "wood" from its name, according to Bill Bell, the executive director, because it recognizes that pellets can be made from other biomass sources. But Bell, who isn't related to Matt Bell at Northeast Pellets, also said his board members have reviewed the state-of-the-art in grass fuels and don't see it as a viable alternative to wood.
"We're open to innovation," Bell said. "We just share some skepticism about whether taxpayer money is being spent wisely here."

Wood-burning stoves may not be as eco-friendly as they appear
In the summer your home's daily rate of carbon dioxide emissions skips along at an average of 7.9kg. In the winter it weighs in at 16.32kg per day. Keeping the home fires burning is a costly business.
Owners of wood-burning stoves often have that extra rosy glow because they assume they're carbon neutral. Burning biomass (domestically this usually means wood pellets in a high-efficiency stove) is considered green because while plants grow they absorb carbon emissions. Therefore when you burn plant matter the amount emitted is equal to that absorbed.
It was all quite cosy until analysts, such as Nick Grant and Alan Clarke of the Sustainable Building Association (, had a root around the issue of burning trees for heat. Their report, Biomass: A Burning Issue, pours cold water on the sustainable flames. They argue that trees are too valuable to burn, as trees absorb emissions even into old age, and that when they are given the chop they should be turned into furniture that locks in the carbon rather than burned (the combustion process was found to be similar to burning coal). Disappointingly (and both authors are themselves wood-stove owners) they conclude even standard gas boilers burning fossil fuels are lower emitters of carbon dioxide than biomass boilers.
If you're deriving cold comfort from your stove, you can ameliorate the problem by buying the most sustainable waste-wood pellets you can find from as local a source as possible. Meanwhile the way to chip away at that 16.32kg total is to make sure your house is super insulated. Heat is precious. Hold it tight.
Email Lucy at or visit for all her articles in one place

Christa Graban
• Updated:12/7/2010 4:17:14 AM - Posted: 12/7/2010 4:16:02 AM
HOLLAND , Mich. (WZZM)-Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that damaged a Holland business.
A worker spotted the flames around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday at Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel LLC, located at 1125 Industrial Avenue.
Employees safely evacuated the facility before firefighters arrived. Crews from five stations in Holland, Holland Township and Park Township responded to the fire. Firefighters were still on the scene two and a half hours later.
Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel LLC makes wood pellets which coincidentally, are used to feed fires.


By: Thomas Content -- JS Online

As a new administration prepares to take office in Madison, with a different attitude toward renewable energy than the Doyle administration, We Energies is pressing forward with plans to build a wood-burning power plant in north-central Wisconsin.

The state Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the project this week, with a decision expected early in 2011.

Concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of the project and even competition for biomass are all being reviewed as the proposal makes its way through the state approval process.

We Energies is optimistic, as it has won all the local approvals it needs from officials for the Village of Rothschild and the City of Wausau, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

"We believe we've answered every question that has come up, and we are pleased that we've gotten unanimous support from the municipal boards for the project," he said. "We'll continue to supply the information needed to move the project forward at the state level."

The $255 million project at the Domtar Corp. paper mill in Rothschild, south of Wausau, would generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 40,000 typical homes. It also would provide steam for the Domtar mill.

But the project remains controversial, with critics raising questions about its effect on the environment.

• The local school district has raised concerns about a projected increase in particulate matter emissions, which can cause respiratory problems. The plant wouldn't comply with new rules the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to adopt.

We Energies says forecasts that emissions would increase are based on an unrealistic projection that the plant would operate 365 days a year. Based on its projected operation, particulate emissions would remain the same or fall when measured at schools near the plant, Manthey said.
• The plant would generate more greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the state is promoting renewable energy to reduce those emissions, said Dennis Grzezinski, an attorney for Save Our Air Resources, a group of local residents who object to the proposal.

"If you cut down a forest and make it into furniture and buildings, that wood is going to continue holding the carbon for 50 or 100 years longer, depending on how well those items and buildings are maintained. If instead you take that wood and burn it today, that's a whole different picture of what's going on in the atmosphere," Grzezinski said. "That's just a huge addition of greenhouse gases in real time."

We Energies considers the project "carbon neutral" because the burning of wood is merely accelerating the eventual release of carbon caused by wood decaying in forests.

Domtar, which would handle the biomass harvesting for the project, has committed to deploying sustainable forestry practices to keep the forest healthy and collect carbon from the air as new trees grow.

In a ruling on global warming emissions this month, the Obama administration delayed until next year a decision on whether biomass power plants will qualify as carbon neutral.

Because the EPA is regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, the state Department of Natural Resources will review the project under emergency rules that are expected to be adopted soon, according to Andrew Stewart, a DNR permitting manager.

Mark Thimke, an environmental lawyer with Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee, said he expects the EPA will allow certain types of biomass power plants to be qualified as carbon neutral, but it's too soon to say what the agency will do.

"Where EPA draws the line is likely to be the big question, especially with the new Congress increasing oversight of the agency's decisions," he said in an e-mail.

Costly alternative

The $255 million cost of the Domtar project is also raising concerns.

An analysis by auditors at the PSC found that building a wind farm would be less expensive for customers than building this project. The commission suggested that We Energies explore the possibility of burning wood in conjunction with coal at some of its existing coal-fired power plants, such as its older coal plant in Oak Creek.

An estimate by the customer group Citizens' Utility Board found the plant would be twice as expensive as a similar-sized wind farm, executive director Charlie Higley said.

While the cost may be higher, We Energies said the utility wants to diversify its renewable energy sources beyond wind. And unlike wind and solar projects, biomass power plants have the added benefit of being able to run round the clock.

In addition, Allan Mihm, We Energies director of generation projects, said the project is more efficient because it's supplying electricity and steam. It would cost the utility $20 million more to build a power plant separate from the paper mill, he said.

CUB is concerned that the electricity the Rothschild plant sells into the Midwest wholesale power market will be costly and saddle customers with higher costs.

That is an issue now before state regulators with the proposed Charter St. biomass project in Madison.

Madison Gas & Electric Co. is forecasting it will need to run its natural gas-fired power plant in Madison more frequently, increasing costs by $3 million for utility customers. CUB is seeking to have the University of Wisconsin-Madison or utility shareholders shoulder those higher costs instead of ratepayers.

The Charter St. plant is being converted to burn natural gas and biomass at a cost of $250million. The proposal is designed to settle air-pollution lawsuits filed by environmental groups that challenged the emissions from the Madison coal plant.

But Governor-elect Scott Walker recently announced his opposition to the proposal. He has requested that the Doyle administration halt work on the biomass portion of the Charter St. project.

Renewable mandate

The We Energies project is being built at a time when the state has an ample power supply, but We Energies needs to add renewable power to comply with Wisconsin's 10% renewable power mandate.

That law requires that 10% of the state's power come from renewable sources by 2015. We Energies must boost its renewable power contribution to 8.26% of sales by that year.

Construction would start next year and last for about 30 months. The project is expected to create about 400 temporary construction jobs in addition to jobs at the power plant and in the logging and forestry sectors.

Meanwhile, a northern Wisconsin paper mill has come out against the proposal, citing concerns about whether there is enough wood to supply the plant and whether the project would boost paper prices.

"If this project is implemented as currently proposed, it will adversely impact our current biomass fuel procurement and our pulpwood procurement, including increasing the cost of woody biomass," said Bruce Ridley, manager of Packaging Corp. of America's Tomahawk mill, which employs 426 people.

Domtar responded in a PSC filing that its studies show there are plenty of tree tops and branches left over from logging to supply the new facility, and that it will not require big shifts for the logging industry to adapt to meet demand for the biomass plant.

Oil heating causes 40 times more higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than wood pellets systems, according to a new study.

Pressure group proPellets Austria announced today (Fri) research by Bioenergy 2020+ and ARGE Renewable Energy Vienna / Lower Austria shows families heating their homes with oil could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 97.6 per cent if they switch to wood pellet heating.

Another survey presented earlier this year suggested heating a 20-year-old family house with oil cost an average 1,820 Euros a year, while using chopped wood causes costs of just 810 Euros at the same time.

Sweden is the largest per capita wood pellet producer in the world ahead of Austria, while the United States of America top the overall production rate with 4.2 million tons annually.

Meanwhile, figures presented by the Austrian Energy Agency show that the country’s households had to fork out 7.7 per cent more on average to pay their energy bills in October compared to the same month last year.

The authority stressed the price of heating oil prices jumped by a whopping 22.4 per cent year on year last month, while electricity became just 1.1 per cent more expensive.


By Gina Knudson, 12-10-10

I’m as guilty as the next person. I stereotype rural folks even though I’ve lived the majority of my life in podunk Idaho communities so small that we anchor directions from the one or two stoplights in town. So when I prepare myself for a day of discussing climate change and clean energy policy at the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition’s policy gathering, I find that I’m not prepared at all for the deep, thoughtful discussions rural Westerners are having about the subjects.
I come to the annual conference hardened by hearing the same snide comments at home about sending our November heating bills to Al Gore if he thinks the Earth is so warm. Over and over again. So listening to a group of ranchers, forest products people, conservative elected county officials, and others at the RVCC conference talk about shifting strategies from failed climate change legislation to creating clean energy language freaks me out, just a little. Like anyplace else, we have social mores in the rural West. For the most part, for instance, you don’t have to worry about walking into an Elks’ Club and hearing opera, or going to a City Council meeting and hearing anything rational. We know our comfort zone.
JP Leous, from The Wilderness Society’s DC office, is not in our comfort zone. At all. Yet he’s part of a panel that kicks off a discussion about how this quirky coalition can affect national policy. Leous dives headfirst into the subject of climate change policy, apparently unaware that hicks like myself lurk in the audience. The reality of the November election is that comprehensive climate change legislation is dead, he concedes. Environmental groups like The Wilderness Society, who at one time focused mainly on climate mitigation (putting a halt to emissions, for example), now find themselves addressing adaptation measures (counterbalancing climate change effects by things like planting trees).
“Major conservation organizations are coming to grips with adaptation,” Leous said. “That’s because 1) cap and trade legislation is on ice, and 2) we have come to realize that we could turn off the CO2 tap tomorrow and there’s enough of it out there already that we’ll be dealing with it for at least another generation.”
Leous predicts that it won’t be long before Americans, both rural and urban, come to the realization that “China is eating our lunch when it comes to creating a clean energy economy – an economy that creates jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.”
Wynne Auld needs little convincing. The young woman moved to Wallowa County, Ore., a few years ago because she thought the remote and beautiful eastern Oregon community seemed cool. And because as an environmental economist, she found a job in Wallowa County’s rapidly emerging renewable energy industry. The company that employs Auld, Renewable Energy Solutions, is just one of a handful of companies in the renewable energy sector. Four companies employ around 30 people in the county, working on a portfolio of solar, micro-hydro, and woody biomass technologies that produce homegrown, renewable energy.
This is Auld’s first experience at the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, and she enters RVCC’s energy arena with lions like Jim Walls of Lake County, Ore., a community that just broke ground on a 20 megawatt biomass power plant, and Andi Colnes of the national Biomass Energy Resource Center. They, and at least a dozen others, are supposed to figure out how to effect policy changes in the wake of melted climate change legislation.
Colnes challenges participants to think about where they are and where they want to be. Many rural Western communities today depend upon shipments of propane to heat buildings both residential and commercial, while slash from nearby forestry projects gets burned on the ground. Communities rally around forest restoration projects that yield precious little marketable value and could use a boost from some kind of end-use (like turning waste wood into pellets) that generates revenue. Tax code and legislative solutions might get complicated, but the scenarios sound remarkably simplistic.
Dave Atkins is a long-time U.S. Forest Service employee and a champion of the agency’s Fuels for Schools program that funds wood-fired boilers to provide heating for schools. Atkins says communities get tied up in a chicken-and-egg dilemma about supply and demand in regard to a fuel-source like wood pellets. In reality, even in communities dominated by forested lands, the issue is dicey if only one facility is making the switch to wood. “If one entity needs 20 tons of pellets per year, that’s not nearly as advantageous as a community that has 10 entities each needing 20 tons of pellets per year. That’s obviously going to make things less expensive,” Atkins tutored.
At the end of the day, the group agrees that while talk about climate change is now all but irrelevant with Congress, advancing the merits of energy independence, clean energy, and job creation is the rural ticket to success. The non-partisan coalition is well-positioned to help decision-makers take off their “carbon goggles” and look at not just the potential ecological benefits of expanding woody biomass as a renewable energy, but the sidecar of other benefits, like more people working in the woods near rural communities.
As Todd Schulke of New Mexico, a founder of the enviro group Center for Biological Diversity, observed, “The power of this group is to come up with the other way.”

By Michael Daniels
Dec 09, 2010 12:00 am

On Friday Dan Wheeler and Daryl Bergmann of MESys make what the company believes is this country's first all pneumatic delivery of wood pellets, to Gould Academy’s Park-Mason House.
- Michael Daniels
“The pellet industry is the Wild West,” said Dutch Dresser.
Complete with the dust.
Dresser, director and co-founder of Bethel-based Maine Energy Systems (MESys), was not talking about gunfights or even lawsuits among competitors in the emerging wood-pellet fuel market, but of the industry’s economic infrastructure, which remains primitive when compared to that of fossil fuels.
“The infrastructure for fossil fuel distribution is well established,” Dresser said. “It centers on an aggregator¬ -- people like Irving Oil and Sprague energy, who invest heavily in the product off season, and then distribute it to the local oil-distributor guys during the heating season.”
In the off-season, when prices are low, aggregators spend hundreds of millions of dollars to put oil in their tanks, so that they’ll be ready for the next season.
“That model sort of takes care of how everybody in that chain gets their money and pays their money,” he said.
But, by contrast, “there is no such aggregation in this industry yet, so the pellet mill is constantly in the position of having to sell to anyone who comes to the door, so they’re constantly in the position of negotiating pricing, which really shouldn’t be what they do,” Dresser said. They should manufacture pellets; somebody else should put the pellets together and sell them to the distributors.
“Eventually that will happen,” he predicted, “but it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Everybody is trying to figure out how to get the distribution system built in a way that’s economically feasible and reliable,” Dresser said.
But one key element of such a system — efficient end-user delivery — has so far been lacking.
“This is a big piece in that puzzle, because when the market is big enough that pellet delivery is a viable economic proposition, people are going to want trucks that deliver pellets quickly, quietly and undamaged [i.e., not crushed into dust].”
The trucks currently in use — essentially, converted grain trucks — utilize hybrid mechanical/airlock systems and perform less than optimally on all three counts.
“We’ve been delivering successfully with those, with limited dust, but it became clear to us that if you were going to deliver these to any population density they were too slow, and they were quite noisy, and we needed to do something better.”
In search of that, MESys began looking to western Europe, where fully pneumatic trucks were in use.
Rather than moving the pellets mechanically from the tank into the airlock and then blowing them out, the whole tank of the truck is pressurized, Dresser said, and release of the pellets into the delivery hose is controlled entirely by manipulating air valves.
In addition to being quieter and about three times faster than the current trucks, the fully pneumatic systems produce far less dust.
That’s a big plus, because excessive amounts of dust can lower a pellet system’s efficiency.
“Some dust is a natural result of handling of wood pellets, and that small amount of dust isn’t troublesome,” Dresser said.
“But large quantities of dust, which can be created through improper handling, can be problematic in that it flows at a different rate than pellets. So, it can move in ‘slugs’ to the burner. Good burners can handle occasional slugs of dust, but some burners can struggle with it, because it is difficult to get sufficient air through the dust to burn it.
MESys’s early experience with mechanical/airlock systems “created a fair amount of dust, he said, “until we learned to manage both systems simultaneously – the fully pneumatic truck virtually eliminates that complexity and risk.”
But no such trucks were yet available in this country, so MESys went to work with Trans Tech Industries of Brewer and Tropper Maschinen und Anlagen GmbH of Redham, Austria to build one.
It arrived last Thursday, and on Friday morning made its first delivery – to Gould Academy’s Park-Mason House, which has been heated by wood pellets for the past year.
The new truck might be just the thing to help tame the pellet industry’s Wild West.
“The pellet distribution industry will certainly mature, as the liquid fuel distribution industries have, with large buyers of pellets selling them to local and regional distributors,” Dresser said.
“The development of this truck, which operates as easily as an oil truck, will make it a simple matter for local fuel dealers to add pellets to their fuel mix as demand increases.”

By Anna Austin | December 09, 2010

The U.S. government anticipates a robust export market for wood pellets and chips as more countries expand their use of biomass for power.

A recent government report has targeted wood pellets as one of the most promising export markets for U.S. companies, and has indicated that the USDA will expand its annual report on biofuels to include analysis on biomass in the form of wood pellets and chips in relevant countries, to provide the U.S. industry and policymakers with information on the sector’s growth, export opportunities in emerging markets and policy updates.
The report is a result of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, a coordinated effort to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency exports in the U.S. Seven federal agencies, including the U.S. DOE and Department of Commerce, are collaborating on the program, which is part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
The NEI is divided into two parts—assessing current competitiveness of U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency goods and services, and developing an action plan of new commitments that facilitate private-sector efforts to significantly increase U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports within five years.
According to the RE&EE report, biomass equipment and feedstock exports from 2007 to 2009 were about twice the amount of imports. The U.S. exported $176.4 million in biomass energy equipment and feedstock in 2009, with an annual average growth of 54 percent between 2007 and 2009. Imports during the same period were $349.2 million worth of biomass equipment, with an average annual import growth of 28 percent.
The report goes on to recognize that several countries are expanding their use of biomass for power, either by building biomass-specific power plants or by co-firing biomass in existing coal-based power plants. “Many European countries already obtain a substantial portion of their electricity from biomass, most notably Sweden, which produced more energy from biomass than from oil in 2009,” it stated. “Several developing countries have recently developed biomass power capacity, including Brazil, Costa Rica, India and Mexico, but developing countries that consume biomass resources often use their own domestic resources rather than import feedstock from the U.S.”
The U.S. currently exports wood pellets and wood chips to Europe for co-firing in existing coal plants, and as more countries enact carbon reduction requirements, co-firing could become increasingly common, the report says. Future exports in the biomass industry are likely to be in the form of consulting, engineering, procurement and financial services, all industries in which the U.S. is likely to remain competitive. In addition, U.S. companies should find relevant export opportunities in countries with little available feedstock or without a local biomass industry, particularly if strong government policy in those countries supports the use of biomass for power.
For more on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, visit


I want to let you all know that the USDA Forest Service 2011 Grant Program is now open and the applications deadline is March 1, 2011. Below are some highlights of the grant.
$3.7 million is available for grants that address the nationwide challenge in dealing with low-valued material to create renewable energy. Submission of an application is required for a grant up to $250,000 for wood energy projects that require engineering services.

These projects will use woody biomass material removed from forest restoration activities, such as wildfire hazardous fuel treatments, insect and disease mitigation, forest management due to catastrophic weather events, and/or thinning overstocked stands.

The woody biomass shall be used in a bioenergy facility that uses commercially proven technologies to produce thermal, electrical or liquid/gaseous bioenergy. The funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program (WBU) must be used to further the planning of these facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design and cost analysis.

Examples of such projects include engineering design of a:
• woody biomass boiler for steam at a sawmill
• non-pressurized system to heat water for various applications at a hospital, and
• biomass power facility, or similar facilities.
This program is aimed at helping applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public and/or private investment for construction. Click here for more information.


Oil heating causes 40 times more higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than wood pellets systems, according to a new study.

Pressure group proPellets Austria announced today (Fri) research by Bioenergy 2020+ and ARGE Renewable Energy Vienna / Lower Austria shows families heating their homes with oil could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 97.6 per cent if they switch to wood pellet heating.

Another survey presented earlier this year suggested heating a 20-year-old family house with oil cost an average 1,820 Euros a year, while using chopped wood causes costs of just 810 Euros at the same time.

Sweden is the largest per capita wood pellet producer in the world ahead of Austria, while the United States of America top the overall production rate with 4.2 million tons annually.

Meanwhile, figures presented by the Austrian Energy Agency show that the country's households had to fork out 7.7 per cent more on average to pay their energy bills in October compared to the same month last year.

The authority stressed the price of heating oil prices jumped by a whopping 22.4 per cent year on year last month, while electricity became just 1.1 per cent more expensive.


Maine Energy Systems of Bethel is hoping technological advances will move more people to wood pellet fuel.

On Friday, the company received a new truck, built by Trans Tech in Brewer, that uses a pneumatic system to deliver a standard load of pellets- about 3 to 4 tons, into customers' homes and businesses in less than 5 minutes.

Growth has slowed for Maine's fuel-pellet industry. With the price of heating oil down to about $2.80 a gallon, consumers aren't converting with the urgency they were in 2008, when a gallon of oil cost more than $4. Local pellet and furnace dealers are hoping that turns around.

Bill Bell, executive director of the Maine Pellet Fuels Association, said his group doesn't track the number of burners purchased or pellets sold, but he said he's seen a slowdown. He recalls that in 2008, pellet dealers were telling customers to "please be patient. There'll be enough pellets for everybody once we get through the back orders."

Bell said some people may have bought pellet stoves as secondary heating systems when oil was high but went back to oil heating.

Still, according to Harry "Dutch" Dresser, director of Maine Energy Systems, wood pellets at current prices provide the same amount of heat as oil costing $1.96 a gallon.

Dresser sells central heating systems with pellet boilers, which are more popular than oil heating in much of Western Europe. His company, which he co-founded with Les Otten and Bill Strauss, builds and sells systems designed by the Austrian company Okofen.

He said the systems he sells are as convenient as oil-burning systems, with trucks that deliver pellets into homes through a hose and a mechanism that automatically feeds pellets into the boiler for a constant temperature. The boilers automatically flush out ashes but need a professional cleaning once a year and owners must empty an ash bin, which can be poured into a garden, a few times a year.

Although the cost of fuel is less, initially buying a pellet burner is about 40 percent more expensive than a comparable oil burner, Dresser said. The storage bin is larger as well. It's larger than an oil tank at about 6 feet on every side, although one model is made of wood and fabric and can be quickly assembled in a basement.

According to Dresser, many of his customers are businesses and government buildings, where long-term operating costs are given a lot of thought. Gould Academy buildings use pellet heat, and the Oxford County Commission recently got a grant to convert the courthouse to wood pellet heat. That work is expected to begin in 2011.

Bell said about 20,000 Mainers a year replace their wood stoves or central heating boilers. "We're working with Efficiency Maine in the hope that a substantial number of those 20,000 whose oil burner is on their last legs will take a look at a pellet system instead."

"People need to know they can get home delivery, it's just as easy as oil and it smells better," Bell said.


Published: December 17, 2010 7:00 PM
Progress is being made towards a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that is expected to mean increased trade and economic activity for many B.C. businesses, Tourism, Trade and Investment Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said Wednesday.
“Free trade with Europe will provide access to the largest trading bloc in the world with a population of a half-billion people, bringing positive benefits to B.C. in areas such as forestry, fisheries, and clean tech,” MacDiarmid says.
MacDiarmid, along with trade ministers from all the provinces and territories, received a status report on the Canada-E.U. negotiations during a teleconference call Wednesday with federal Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan.
The province continues to advocate for opening markets and breaking down barriers to trade both within Canada and internationally. Under the New West Partnership Agreement, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan established Canada’s largest barrier-free interprovincial market with an economic powerhouse of nine million people and $550 billion GDP.
A Canada-E.U. free-trade deal is expected to provide new export business opportunities in areas such as wood pellets, increased tourism and greater labour mobility.
In addition to Europe, British Columbia continues to advance trade with Asia-Pacific economies. The provincial government is encouraged by the recent announcement of talks with India toward a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and supports the efforts of Canada to join in other key negotiations, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Trade with the E.U. — key facts
• Largest trading bloc in the world; population of more than 500 million.
• Canada’s second-largest trade and investment partner, after the U.S.
• B.C.’s fourth-largest trading partner after U.S., Japan, China.
• Conference Board of Canada estimates total Canadian sales of goods and services to the E.U. were more than $150 billion in 2008. E.U. sales to Canada were $440 billion.
• A joint study in 2008 estimated that a comprehensive Canada-E.U. trade agreement has the potential to increase Canada’s GDP by at least $12 billion annually and bilateral trade by $38 billion.
• B.C.’s exports of goods to the E.U. were $1.67 billion in 2009 ($2.6 billion in 2008).
• B.C. exports include an estimated $544 million of mineral fuels, $268 million of wood pulp, paper and paper products, and $209 million of lumber and wood products.


December 18, 2010
Wood pellet boilers can cover most of Cornish Elementary School's heat during the early winter and about 50 percent of the heat during the lowest-temperature periods. The rest of the heat will come from a new oil furnace in the school.
The Eagle Times reports the 140-plus student school used to burn about 14,000 gallons of oil per year. Principal Mary Bronga estimates the school will use two-thirds less oil than previous years.
Information from: Eagle Times,


19 December 2010, 11:02 BST
In addition to its biomass boiler which burns wood pellets, other eco-friendly features at Girvan Community Hospital, one of Scotland's most eco-friendly public buildings, include a wind turbine, use of rainwater to flush toilets, a food waste vacuum system to dry and compost leftover food and low energy lighting.
Each of the hospital's main blocks are built with timber frame kits, where all the timber used is from sustainable sources. In addition, only construction materials with at least 10 per cent of recycled materials have been used and this includes insulation from recycled newspaper and concrete blocks from recycled aggregate.
Verdo Renewables has been appointed preferred supplier of wood pellets for the biomass boiler plant at Girvan Community Hospital. Wood pellets and briquettes are made by compressing dry sawdust or other wood residues under extremely high pressure. The combination of low moisture content (typically below 10%) and highly compressed material gives pellets a very high volume energy density, typically three to four times that of wood chips. They are also clean, consistent and flow easily, making them particularly attractive in domestic application. The significantly lower storage requirements compared with wood chips also make them attractive to urban applications such as city schools and office buildings. Briquettes can resemble a firelog in appearance and function, with improved storage, handling and combustion properties.
As a guide, a typical 3 bed house would require 4-5 tonnes of wood pellets per year for effective heating. Requirements for a typical school would be around 200-500 tonnes and for a typical hospital, 1000 - 2,000 tonnes per year. In all of the above examples, fuel costs (at current prices) would be approximately one third less, compared to an oil fired system.
Verdo Renewables' first delivery of 28 tonnes of wood pellets for the 700kW biomass boiler was delivered last week from Verdo's manufacturing plant in Grangemouth. It is estimated that the boiler at Girvan Community Hospital will require around 1,000 tonnes of wood pellets per year.
Verdo Renewables opened its brand new £10 million renewable fuels production plant in Grangemouth at the end of 2009 and earlier this year opened a similar facility in Andover, Hampshire. As well as manufacturing wood pellets for use in biomass heating systems, such as wood pellet boilers or pellet stoves, the company also produces wood briquettes for use in open fires and multi-fuel stoves.
The Verdo bagged pellets and wood briquettes are now available to both industrial and domestic customers through a network of fuel distribution outlets.
Alistair McGlynn, UK Sales Manager for Verdo Renewables said, "It is a particular pleasure for us at Verdo to secure this preferred supplier appointment for one of the country's most impressive, state of the art, environmentally friendly buildings. We are confident that these Verdo manufactured wood pellets will make a significant contribution to the hospital's twin aims of reducing its carbon footprint and lowering its energy bills."
Source: Eco Friend News


Industry hopes improved sales will protect against jump in heating cost
By BILL POWER Business Reporter
Wed, Dec 22 - 4:53 AM
The wood-pellet industry wants to increase sales in Atlantic Canada by 20 per cent per year during the next 10 years.
"We’ve increased production dramatically in the region, but most of the product is shipped to Europe. This is a growing industry that is creating jobs throughout the region and there is lots of room for growth here in domestic sales," Bruce McCallum, vice-president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, said Tuesday in an interview.
The industry association is based in Charlottetown and is known as CanBio. It is targeting Atlantic Canada for the launch of its Go Pellets Canada marketing and information campaign.
"Increased domestic sales will be good for Atlantic pellet producers. Increased use of pellets will also protect consumers from expected increases in the cost of heating oil," said McCallum.
A couple of years ago, the lack of pellets in the region made headlines in Halifax. Many retailers were sold out and there were reports of people buying as many as three pallets at a time and hoarding them in their garages.
McCallum said that binge buying occurred when some retailers ran out of product after a sudden jump in the cost of heating oil.
"Some of the retailers who had not anticipated increased demand due to the increase in the cost of heating oil sold out. They had new stock in a couple of days," he said.
The hoarding of pellets that occurred in the Halifax area in the fall of 2008 involved users of small pellet stoves that are typically used to supplement central heating systems.
Pellets delivered in bulk for central heating and hot water systems are where the real money is for the industry. Pellets for this purpose can be purchased in bulk throughout Atlantic Canada for about $225 per tonne, delivered, McCallum said.
In Nova Scotia, the biggest producers of pellets include Enligna Canada Inc. in Upper Musquodoboit and Shaw Resources, which produces pellets the Eastern Embers brand at its plant at Hardwood Lands, Hants County.
Most Canadian pellets are exported in bulk to Holland and Belgium where they are mixed with coal for power generation. Sweden also uses pellets in bulk for large district heating plants.
"It does not make sense for us to sell our green and economical pellets to Europe and then turn around and buy more expensive imported oil to heat our homes and buildings," said McCallum.
He said the industry has a lot of work ahead of it in Atlantic Canada, making central heating systems more widely available and training technicians to handle an anticipated demand for installations.
About 450,000 tonnes of pellets are produced annually in 10 plants in Atlantic Canada. Pellet consumption in the region is only about 50,000 tonnes per year, mostly burned in pellet stoves.
‘It does not make sense for us to sell our green and economical pellets to Europe and then turn around and buy more expensive imported oil to heat our homes and buildings.’
vice-president, Canadian
Bioenergy Association


Great Lakes Renewable Energy, Inc. announced today that the commercial pellet contracts are showing some exciting advances. "We are experiencing an increase in bulk orders for commercial wood pellets in that market," says Herb Seeger general manager at GLRE. One example is Great Lakes Renewable Energy, Inc. which is supplying commercial grade wood pellets to the state of Minnesota which tempers water in their process of raising fish species at their French River hatchery facility in Two Harbors. "We have developed a new commercial pellet that burns cleaner and much more efficiently in the older and the contemporary boilers. More and more wood pellet boilers are being sold than ever before. The additional business is a welcome sight in our overall product line of products."

The wood pellet industry took a major hit in sales in 2009 and early 2010 to the point that three wood pellet mills closed in Minnesota alone. The lack of sales has been attributed to two factors - as the price of fossil fuels crashed in 2009 and the demand for wood pellets decreased the inventories of pellets greatly increased. The profit margins for wood pellet producers plummeted and the mills could no longer sustain their production costs. Herb Seeger said that his company concentrated on producing the highest quality wood pellet possible from the species grown in Wisconsin. "We are experiencing tremendous feed-back and an increase in the residential premium market as well. Quality is paying off for GLRE and along with new and innovative products the company is on track to be the premium wood pellet supplier in the Midwest region."

The wood pellet industry has suffered in reputation from lower quality products being sold through large market outlet chains. Customers have complained of dirty pellets, to many fines in the bag and ash that shuts down their appliances. "The problem lies in the buying structure of the large box stores," says Gerald Brown Marketing manager for Great Lakes Renewable Energy. He goes onto explain that the wood pellet producers lower their costs to get the large orders offered by these large chains to get the quantity business and of course they have to make a profit so the quality suffers.

This is not good for the industry as it turns the consumers off due to the poor performance of the fuel. Great Lakes Renewable Energy has taken the opposite approach; they have marketed through a series of small specialty dealers offering service and a high quality pellet. Recently both ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the ASTM (American Standards Testing and Materials) have addressed this problem in conjunction with the Pellet Fuels Institute with new suggested testing monitoring of pellet production. This is in an effort to protect the American public from these poor quality fuels that are only quality proven after you purchase them and begin to use them. "I love it," says Brown. "It means GLRE doesnt have to change a thing and the rest of the boys will. It costs more to produce a high quality pellet and the low ball pricing and deception will stop," he says. He goes on to say, "this is a very fragile industry in the U.S. and good for America as it has been for Europe and the rest of the world but we need to protect our industry and work together to produce high quality products." The real test is the consumer. He doesn't care about test results or standards - he is only concerned about how the fuel burns. Hopefully if we have some quality standards he won't have be a testing agency at home.

One of the recent problems facing the wood pellet industry has been the excess inventory at the production sites. When the demand slowed the plants backed up with stock and a strong competitiveness entailed. This scenario produces lowering quality to stay profitable and this is problematic, Brown says. He is trying to work with other producers to form a single voice with a large producing capability to attract overseas buyers. "If this is done our plants in the Midwest can keep producing all year long at capacity instead of closing. What the individual plants probably don't realize is that it is us (Midwest producers) against the world market and not us against each other geographically." For some it maybe unfavorable to see our wood products go overseas but reported in a recent article: A recent government report has targeted wood pellets as one of the most promising export markets for U.S. companies, and has indicated that the USDA will expand its annual report on biofuels to include analysis on biomass in the form of wood pellets and chips in relevant countries, to provide the U.S. industry and policymakers with information on the sectors growth, export opportunities in emerging markets and policy updates.

"If it's good for our wood pellet producers and saves many jobs locally and it is good for America to export then we must act now." Brown wants to form a Midwest wood export Association to export wood chips and wood pellets and be the spokesman for our area and merge together the capabilities we have as a group. Brown says that his experience in interfacing with large commercial pellet buyers abroad is their reluctance due to the mills low capacity and being smaller family owned, scattered locations.

"Together we have something to offer; apart we have nothing," he says. There are some hurdles to solve such as logistics, central loading facilities, quality assurance programs, certifications of funds being available and many more. "None are insurmountable," Brown says. "How often do you have large quality customers wanting your products and simply have to solve getting the product to them. European pricing has been low but that is changing rapidly and we have to be ready. We have large railroads willing to move forward along with testing certifications locally and most importantly large commodity traders hoping for our coop or association to form. Much groundwork has been already laid but without the association it simply won't happen."


No. 040/10
Berlin, 19.03.2010

Joint press release with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Small combustion plants ordinance enters into force on 22 March 2010

22 March 2010 onwards new environmental provisions will apply to wood-fired heating systems, stoves and other small combustion plants fired with solid fuels. Wood is a renewable energy source and therefore an appropriate fuel for heat generation in terms of climate protection. However, burning wood in small combustion plants indoors releases various air pollutants such as particulate matter and leads to unpleasant odours – and this to an increasing extent. The new limit values will reduce air pollutants directly at the source. As Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said: "They ensure better air quality, improved health and quality of life. Thus they are an important component of our sustainable environmental policy". The amendment to the First Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (1. BImSchV) adapts the provisions governing stoves and heating systems fired with solid fuels such as wood to the technological progress achieved with regard to reducing pollutant emissions.
"The amendment to the Ordinance on small combustion plants replaced the totally outdated technical provisions governing stoves and wood-fired heating systems of 1988. It makes the use of best available technology obligatory," stated Jochen Flasbarth, President of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
The provisions in detail:
Limit values have also been set for existing combustion plants. If compliance with these limit values can be proven either by a manufacturer certificate or by an on-the-spot-measurement, these firing systems can be operated for an unlimited period. Only if compliance is not possible will a retrofitting programme take effect between 2014 and 2024. It provides for retrofitting or replacement by low-emission plants.
So-called masonry heaters, cooking stoves, baking ovens, bathing furnaces, fireplaces and stoves installed before 1950 are excluded from the retrofitting programme. Stoves which do not serve as additional heating systems but as the sole heating system for flats or houses are excluded as well.
The combustion plant itself is not always to blame if clouds of smoke appear out of a chimney. Many people do not have the necessary knowledge and experience to operate their combustion plants properly. Therefore the 1. BimSchV stipulates that operators must be advised on the proper handling of such combustion plants and the solid fuels to be used. In addition, wood fuel will be checked regularly for quality in the framework of other monitoring tasks.
The amendment will considerably lower the costs for operators of oil and natural gas heating systems: the intervals between regular checks will be longer. The annual checks previously carried out will be reduced to checks every third or every other year. This takes account of the technical progress achieved in oil and natural gas heating systems, which are significantly more reliable today than they were 20 years ago.

Published Friday December 24th, 2010

The Canadian Bioenergy Association is calling on the provincial government to use wood pellets to heat small- to medium-sized provincial buildings such as schools and small hospitals to promote local industry.
The association is also recommending that New Brunswick work with neighbouring provinces to harmonize its wood energy policies.
It's part of the association's new Go Pellets Canada promotion to encourage more use of wood pellets for fuel.
Bruce McCallum, vice-president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, predicted in a recent interview that more government and industrial users will adopt wood pellet heat, which costs 55 per cent of heating oil.
"It's coming, but it is a bit slow," he said.
"There is one high school in Prince Edward Island that has a pellet system."
Wood pellets are a practical option for moderate-sized buildings and popular in Europe as a fuel source, he said.
The Atlantic region produces about 450,000 tonnes of wood pellets a year from 10 manufacturing plants, six of which are located in New Brunswick.
But most of that fuel is exported to Europe, said the association.
About 50,000 tonnes of wood pellets are used here annually and most of that is in homes, said McCallum.
"We would like to see the province converting some of their institutions to pellets," he said.
"That would be a big help."
McCallum said P.E.I. is converting several schools and small hospitals to pellets and wood chips.
"It would be very nice if New Brunswick would follow suit," he said.
"It would be very helpful if the province would use a locally made fuel."
In the past year, the price of a bag of wood pellets here has fallen from about $6 to about $5, he said.
Boosting consumption could boost that price but domestic production is also going up even more rapidly, said McCallum.
"I don't think it is likely we are going to exceed that domestic production for a long time," he said.
He said the industry is adding 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes of capacity annually.
"At this point our consumption is miniscule compared to our production," he said.
McCallum said it's unlikely that the province will run out of wood to make wood pellets. The closure of several big pulp mills in recent years has freed up a lot of wood supply, he said.
"I'm sure we could push it to more than one million tonnes and not run out of fibre," said McCallum.
He also said it would be useful if the provinces unified their programs about the use of wood pellets. Most provinces have small support programs, but they are all different, he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the federal government is out of the business of promoting wood pellets.
Emissions from wood pellet heating systems aren't an issue, said McCallum.
"Pellet emissions are actually very low," he said.
"They are quite favourable to most other sources, including oil.
"They have the advantage of being carbon neutral."
A wood pellet appliance's emissions are one-sixth of the best wood stoves, said McCallum.
"They burn very efficiently," he said. "You are burning small quantities at any one time in a very controlled environment."
He said wood pellet systems are 90 per cent efficient, which is equal to oil or natural gas.
That efficiency means Go Pellets Canada is arguing that wood pellets are a good choice for heating in urban areas, he said.
New Brunswick Supply and Services Minister Claude Williams couldn't be reached for comment this week.
Many government communications staff have been seconded to the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization to deal with flooding in different parts of the province.
But the provincial government's election campaign platform mentions using wood pellets for heat as part of its comprehensive forestry review.
"Implement provincial policies that encourage the use of wood pellets and other bio-fuels to heat provincial buildings," stated the platform.
"Work collaboratively with investors, communities and forestry experts to meet the potential of biomass and wood-fueled energy solutions."
McCallum said he's aware the Tories are reviewing the forestry industry in New Brunswick.
"We're hoping that we will see some activity there," he said.


Sunday, December 19, 2010
CORNISH, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire elementary school is now using wood pellets for heat.

Wood pellet boilers can cover most of Cornish Elementary School's heat during the early winter and about 50 percent of the heat during the lowest-temperature periods. The rest of the heat will come from a new oil furnace in the school.

The Eagle Times reports the 140-plus student school used to burn about 14,000 gallons of oil per year. Principal Mary Bronga estimates the school will use two-thirds less oil than previous years.


Information from: Eagle Times,


An Atikokan wood pellet production facility that could create about 150 jobs in this region cannot move forward because of provincial delays, said the facilities owner.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels is converting the old Fibre-tech facility in Atikokan into a wood pellet manufacturing facility. Ontario’s wood supply competition was originally supposed to conclude in the fall, but now announcements aren’t likely until early 2011.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels partner Ed Fukushima said until Northern Development Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle makes the much anticipated announcements surrounding the provincial wood supply competition, everything is at a standstill.

“We’ve made a major investment in the plant in Atikokan and all we’re doing now is heating up a big empty building and paying property taxes on something we can’t do anything with,” said Fukushima. “So we need (the province) to get their act together and get us into business.”

He added that major potential users have been forced to walk away from negotiations with the company because supply of the pellets could not be guaranteed.

Minister Gravelle originally said announcements on wood applications would start in October, but has since said those announcements would be delayed until sometime early in 2011.

“I understand the frustration, I really do,” Gravelle said. “But we need to be able to do this in a fair and proper fashion. I’m very optimistic that we will be able to have some good news (in the new year).”

Atikokan Renewable Fuels also has a bid for the contract to supply pellets to the Atikokan Generating Station. The power station is switching from coal to bio-mass as a fuel supply.

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