WOOD PELLET NEWSLETTER
Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535
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• SOLID ENERGY BOOSTS PRODUCTION
• ENVIVA LP TO INCREASE CAPACITY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOMASS SUPPLY PLANT
• PSC SAYS BIOMASS PLAN TOO EXPENSIVE
• BURGEONING BIOMASS IMPORTER
• MAKING ENDS MEET
• RAISING THE BAR
• B.C.'S HUGE VOLUME OF BIOWASTE, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE EPIDEMIC, MAKES IT ECONOMICAL TO SHIP WOOD PELLETS TO EUROPE.
• APX-ENDEX TO OFFER WOOD-PELLET TRADING STARTING NEXT QUARTER
• MYSTERY SURROUNDING THE LARGE, WHITE DOMES SOLVED
• REPORT: CLOSE TO 80 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S ENERGY SUPPLY COULD BE MET BY RENEWABLES
• TORREFIED WOOD MAY BE AN EXCELLENT COMPANION TO COAL
• DEVELOPING PELLET MARKET IN FINLAND
• RAW MATERIALS AND WOOD PELLET PRODUCTION CAPACITY IN GERMANY
• WOOD STOVE CHANGE-OUT PROGRAM LAUNCHED
• BIOMASS FUELS AND THE WOOD PELLET MARKET
• CANADA BIG PELLET SUPPLIER TO EU IN 2010
• UN: RENEWABLE RESOURCES CAN OUTPACE GLOBAL ENERGY DEMAND BY 2020
• BALCAS'S HUNGER FUELS FEEDSTOCK WOOD PRICES - AND CONTROVERSY
• RWE COMMISSIONS WORLD'S LARGEST PELLET PLANT
• SHOW ME ENERGY FIRST IN NATION TO GET BIOMASS ASSISTANCE
• BIOMASS ENERGY – MIXED SIGNALS ABOUND
• ONCE HAILED, WOOD POWER FIZZLES IN MASS.
• CONFEDERATION COLLEGE TO BUILD BIOENERGY CENTRE
• RWE OPENS WORLD’S LARGEST WOOD PELLET PLANT
• ANALYSIS: WOOD FUEL POISED TO BE NEXT GLOBAL COMMODITY
• STUDY POINTS OUT INHERENT FLAWS IN MANOMET WOODY BIOMASS STUDY
• WELSH RESIDENTS COULD SWITCH TO BIOMASS BOILERS
• PELLET PROSPECTS
• EPA PLANS TO CRACK DOWN ON WOOD SMOKE EMISSIONS
• RWE TO CONVERT TILBURY POWER STATION INTO BIOMASS PLANT
SOLID ENERGY BOOSTS PRODUCTION
12:40 PM Monday May 2, 2011
Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder Photo / Mark Mitchell
State-owned Solid Energy is reporting higher production figures at a time of rising coal prices.
"The company's performance for the year to date remains strong across its operating businesses, supported by strong commodity market prices," Solid Energy said.
The company has its headquarters in Christchurch and exports coal through Lyttelton Port, which was disrupted for a short time by the February 22 earthquake.
Solid Energy said coal sales rose 18 per cent for the year to date at the end of March, compared to a year earlier. Biodiesel sales rose 73 per cent and wood pellet sales rose 262 per cent.
Solid Energy paid an interim dividend of $20 million to the Government on March 31.
"Coal export prices continue to trend upwards quarter by quarter. Demand for coal in New Zealand markets remains stable and our wood pellet business continues to make strong progress towards sustainable long-term profitability," Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder said.
The receivers of the Pike River Mine, where 29 workers died last year, have asked for expressions of interest before May 2.
Solid Energy is seen as a potential buy.
NZOG, Pike River equity and debt owner, said on Friday that there were potential purchasers other than Solid Energy for the mine.
ENVIVA LP TO INCREASE CAPACITY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOMASS SUPPLY PLANT
Press Release Source: Enviva On Monday May 2, 2011, 8:00 am EDT
BETHESDA, Md.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- In response to increasing demand for wood pellets and processed biomass fuel, Enviva LP (“Enviva”) today announced plans to increase the capacity of its wood-pellet manufacturing facility currently under construction in Ahoskie, N.C. The planned expansion of Enviva Pellets Ahoskie, located in Hertford County, will increase the plant’s production capacity by 50,000 metric tons annually, to 350,000 metric tons total. In addition, the company now projects that the plant will provide more than 60 full-time jobs to area residents.
Premium quality wood pellets produced at the Ahoskie plant and bound for Enviva’s growing European client base will depart from the Chesapeake, VA-based port that Enviva acquired earlier this year, further enhancing the efficiency and reliability of its supply chain. The expansion of Enviva Pellets Ahoskie, construction of which is on time and on budget, will not impact existing plans for the plant to be operational by the end of this year.
“The demand for solid renewable fuels like wood pellets is taking off, and Enviva’s manufacturing footprint is growing with it,” said Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler. “Our plans for expansion in the region, in addition to an increased capacity at Ahoskie, will ensure a compelling, stable source of economic growth to the land owners, loggers and haulers who have been hit hard in this region over the past several years.”
The company’s growing U.S. operations at Enviva Pellets Ahoskie, in addition to its pellet manufacturing facilities in Amory and Wiggins, Mississippi, and the deep water terminal at Enviva Port of Chesapeake, together position Enviva as an industry-leading, reliable supplier of sustainable wood biomass to the world’s largest companies. Enviva is currently developing sites for two additional wood pellet manufacturing plants in the mid-Atlantic region, each of which could be operational by late 2012, and another site in either Mississippi or Alabama which could become operational in early 2013.
Enviva’s mission is to become the preferred partner and supplier of sustainably sourced wood pellets and other processed biomass to serve power generation and industrial 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 about Enviva, including job opportunities, go to www.envivabiomass.com.
PSC SAYS BIOMASS PLAN TOO EXPENSIVE
May 2, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Lee Bergquist – Journal Sentinal
Members of the state Public Service Commission took a dim view Thursday of the high cost of constructing a We Energies power plant in central Wisconsin and told the utility to rework the finances.
The three-member commission said the plant’s price tag – $255 million – was too expensive and was structured in such a way that too much of the cost would be borne by customers of the Milwaukee-based utility.
We Energies is proposing to construct a power plant that would burn wood chips and other forms of biomass to produce electricity for the energy grid and steam for an adjacent Domtar Corp. paper mill in Rothschild, a suburb of Wausau.
The board directed We Energies to restructure the deal – either by lowering the cost, or to renegotiate financing with Domtar – by next Thursday.
That’s when the commission is scheduled to make a decision on the plant.
Spokesmen for We Energies and Domtar declined to comment, saying that officials at the companies need to analyze the commissioners’ comments before deciding their next course of action.
The project is significant because it represents We Energies’ biggest effort to move beyond wind farms to comply with the state’s renewable energy standard.
The standards calls for more than 8% of the electricity the utility supplies to come from renewable sources by 2015.
Wind’s shortcomings: Electricity output is variable, and siting issues are likely to increase in the years to come.
Most other utilities are in a position of meeting the 2015 standard.
But the cost of the project and the high cost of the electricity the plant would produce were criticized by commission members.
“We need to get to a place where the dollars are better,” commission member Eric Callisto said.
Board member Lauren Azar noted that the cost of the project – $5,800 per kilowatt – was “unacceptably high” and is “getting into the ballpark of a nuclear power plant.”
The Citizens’ Utility Board, a consumer group, said it was pleased with Thursday’s proceedings.
“We thought that this project was too expensive and that Domtar was getting too good of a deal, and that We Energies’ ratepayers would pay too high of a price for this project,” said Charlie Higley, executive director.
On a separate front, a group opposed to the plant said it had filed a legal challenge to a decision by the state Department of Natural Resources to issue an air permit for the plant.
The group, Save Our Air Resources, based in Rothschild, says the DNR is violating air regulations by not requiring adequate pollution controls.
BURGEONING BIOMASS IMPORTER
May 2, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Huw Kidwell – Biomass Magazine
The face of power generation in the U.K. is rapidly evolving. With the U.K. government committed to generating heat and power from renewable resources as part of the European Union Renewable Energy Directive, there is a target of increasing renewable energy use seven-fold from 2008 levels. Certainly by 2020, the U.K. target is to generate 20 percent of its power using renewable sources (the U.K. government has actually set a target of 30 percent for power and 12 percent of heat from renewable sources). Another moot factor is an aging U.K. power generation infrastructure, with a significant number of U.K. coal-fired power stations coming to the end of their operational lives under the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive (closures due in 2015). Since 2006-’07, there has been a new focus on alternative energy sources to fossil fuels such as biomass, wind, solar, tidal and nuclear. The future of energy in the U.K. will contain elements of all these with a common goal of minimizing carbon production and encouraging renewability.
The Importance of Biomass
According to the 2007 U.K. biomass strategy document, renewable energy should come from sustainable biomass sources including newly managed woodland, rapid-growth willow coppice, waste wood from the timber industry, waste biomass (straw and vegetable material), organic slurry, manure, blue-green algae slurry and biofuel crops. The Directory of U.K. Biomass Generation Plants released a report in June 2010 (compiled by Enagri), which estimated that large-scale biomass power production could provide 15 to 17 percent of U.K. anticipated electrical demand by 2020 (about 60 terawatt hours (TWh)) and that the biomass fuel market could be worth £5.3 billion ($8.5 billion) in 2020 requiring 50 million to 60 million metric tons of feedstock each year (depending upon calorific value).
Biomass will surely play a significant role in the future of U.K. energy with around 163 biomass power stations (1 to 400 megawatt hour (MWh) capacity) either in operation, under construction or awaiting approval.
Solid Biomass Market Drivers
Currently, the solid biomass market in the U.K. consists of two areas: domestic heating using equipment imported from Europe, where the biomass heating market is more mature, and large-scale power generation where the majority of solid biomass is used for cofiring with coal. The driving force behind cofiring of biomass (split between pellets, wood chips and waste biomass from agriculture or industry) is the Renewable Obligation Certificate. In 2005, the U.K. government passed The Renewable Obligation Order 2005, which required energy companies to derive 6.7 percent of the energy they provide to their customers from renewable sources (rising to 10 percent by 2010).
The law requires an energy provider to generate the required renewable energy itself, or offset by buying the energy from someone who has. Renewable power generators receive ROCs for each MWh of electricity generated and these can be traded on the open market (values have achieved £53.27 per MWh (April 2008 auction).
Cofiring for coal power stations was a viable proposition until 2009 when the rules changed, meaning that the amount of ROCs a company could claim was reduced from the original figure of 2 ROCs per MWh down to 0.5 ROC per MWh. This has meant, since 2009, that the use of biomass for cofiring is less lucrative than previously (being much more dependent on the price of pellets or other biomass material). Of course, using biomass alone for energy production is eligible for different levels of ROCs, up to a level of 2 ROCs per MWh (firing biomass alone gains 1.5 ROCs, and biomass for generation with combined heat and power gives 2 ROCs).
The 2011 Renewable Heat Incentive policy outlined on March 10 will revolutionize the way heat is generated and used in buildings and homes across the U.K. by providing a financial support scheme for generating clean heat and power (introduced for large power stations, commercial heating systems, and even domestic and small-scale business heat and feed-in systems). The scheme will provide a payable tariff for each kilowatt hour (KWh) generated using renewable sources. For biomass, the scheme is split into small, medium and large installations that will receive payments estimated at 7.6 pence (12 cents) per KWh for small to around 2.6 pence per KWh for large. This scheme will be introduced by theU.K. government this summer and will be in use until 2020.
Biomass in the UK
The U.K. is a small island with finite forestry resources and a rising demand for fuel from large-scale biomass energy plants is expected to leave the U.K. reliant on net imports of wood chips and pellets by 2012. A report titled “Wood Fibre Availability and Demand in Britain 2007-2025” from the Confederation of Forest Industries has highlighted the potential in the U.K. biomass market. The study predicts that demand for wood chips and pellets is likely to rise to about 27 million metric tons per year if the majority of new biomass plants in the pipeline are constructed and this will cause price rises in other timber-related industries such as furniture. The British wood fiber sector is set to expand rapidly to a production peak of just over 20 million metric tons by 2019 with production then declining.
It is also estimated that by 2017 U.K. demand for wood chips and pellets will be 50 million metric tons, almost double the present size of the global wood fiber biomass trade. With recovered wood providing around 3 million metric tons per year, importation of wood pellets and chips into the U.K. is expected to be around 27 million metric tons. Pellets are preferred by many commercial users because of their consistent quality (Green Gold Certification) and ease of handling, but for commercial users price is key and other imported material such as peanut kernel, palm kernel expeller, shea or olive residue, or straw may offer better economics (dependent upon calorific value).
The value of imported biomass in the form of pellets will be to support the biomass deficit in the U.K. via seven- to 10-year bulk supply “bankable” contracts. The majority of large biomass power stations are being built or planned near portside areas or near biomass sources (44 MWh Stevens Croft in Lockerbie, which has large forest resources) and as such the transportation of pellets/biomass is simplified. Figures from the Wood Pellet Association of Canada have shown that transport costs between Vancouver and Rotterdam were about $100 per metric ton in 2007 and so this has to be taken into consideration when establishing a new biomass supply chain.
The energy used by the shipping method of biomass may be of great concern to environmental organizations and also the government, but all is not lost as Ireland-based B9 Shipping is developing cargo vessels fitted with Rolls Royce spark ignition engines, which will run on biogas and a soft sail system (100 percent renewable energy). These new cargo vessels would placate the environmental lobby and probably be cost effective as well. Many advocates of biomass power continue to argue, however, that to maximize the carbon emission savings from wood-fired power plants, it is necessary to use supplies of wood chips and pellets sourced near to the facility.
Perspective from UK Industry
According to John Bingham, chief analyst for the Forest Energy Monitor at Hawkins Wright, currently U.K. power generating companies are undecided about whether to use pellets or wood chips as their major imported biomass source. Bingham added “there are around 30 major biomass power generating projects that will go ahead in the medium term and a lot more in slower development or awaiting planning permission or finance.” Nigel Blandford is the senior sector development manager of the biomass project for Envirolink Northwest, which is designed to show potential biomass energy investors what grants and incentives are available to set up new projects in the region. Blandford reiterated Bingham’s view that U.K. markets are undecided about which biomass material to use and that it would probably come down to cost, quality and transportation, and for cofiring, the market price of bulk coal. Bingham adds his belief that pellets have more consistent quality, particularly for the domestic market, and if they can be supplied “‘torrified,” the power stations find that they are more energy dense and that crushing and atomizing them to burn is much easier.
“The U.K. biomass market is weak at the moment, with only modest growth in the past 24 months but a lot is expected in the coming years,” says Jon Westmacott, managing director of Land Energy, a leading U.K. pellet producer. “Capital grants have been pulled for biomass projects and this will make a big difference to timescales. I don’t deal with the cofiring market, as the price-point they expect is too low, and for this reason the domestic market is more lucrative … new U.S. producers should remember there is a lot of competition from Europe as they have been leaders in fuel pellet technology for the past 15 years … Although pellet prices have risen in the past 12 months, demand is still weak and the majority of our business will be with medium to small companies who are installing biomass boilers for heat.” Richard Smith, the managing director of Verdo Renewables, a pellet producer and renewable energy consultancy, points out that the U.K. market is not a bottomless pit and there is a lot of competition in the world pellet market. For example, a Russian pellet plant with a 1 million metric ton capacity will be on-line imminently. “Pellet production plants are going bust all over Europe because the demand is not there and it is cheaper to burn coal. Of course the renewable incentive scheme may make a huge difference but not immediately,” he says.
The potential of the U.K. market as a net importer of biomass pellets cannot be denied with the number of biomass plants in planning or under construction. At the current time the pellet market in the U.K. is still maturing both from a power generation and domestic heating viewpoint. The U.K. market needs to be encouraged and relationships should be developed with the power generation companies to potentially supply the biomass they will certainly need in the near future.
MAKING ENDS MEET
May 3, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Anna Austin – Biomass Magazine
In the wood pellet industry there is always competition for raw material and for making sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a small guy, because in this industry, the small guys matter. One or two new small-scale producers in the right area can wreak havoc on the sales of a pre-existing plant.
That’s the perspective of Chris Sharron, owner of Western Oregon Wood Products. “A lot of the smaller ones can add up to quite a bit of tonnage,” Sharron says.
And, they may have advantages over large-scale manufacturers, one being that they don’t have a lot of production to sell so lags in market demand don’t affect them as much. “A sawmill plant utilizing its own materials doesn’t have transportation costs to bring materials to the plant,” he says. “A lot of them are using their own byproducts that are kiln dried, so there are also no drying costs. They can be highly competitive although they aren’t very big, and they take little mouthfuls out of the market in a particular region that some former supplier was supplying into.”
WOWP, which was started by Sharron and his brother in 1985, operates two pellet plants in Banks and Columbia City, Ore., which have a combined annual capacity of 80,000 tons. Seeing the industry evolve over the decades, Sharron says there was a period of rapid growth several years ago, but in the past couple of years things have become rather flat. “There’s been an increased demand over the years, especially in the past five years, but it hasn’t been real steady growth,” Sharron says. “It’s spiky. Fossil fuel costs go up, and if the economy is conducive to where people have jobs and disposable income, they might look at an alternative way to heat their homes, one being a pellet stove.”
When that happens, demand can increase at a quick pace and there may be spot shortages of fuel, which potential developers can misconstrue as a beckoning opportunity. “[Shortages] hit the headlines and people decide pellet making is a business they should get into,” Sharron says. “What they don’t realize is that there is a lag time in putting the project together—permitting and installing the equipment—and by the time they’re ready to turn the keys and start bagging fuel, the industry has cycled back the other way, and there’s an oversupply. That’s kind of what’s happened in the past few years. It’s highly competitive now, because the market hasn’t grown enough.”
To put that into perspective, Sharron says that there were roughly 40,000 new pellet stoves sold in the U.S. last year, and a general rule of thumb is that on average, a stove uses 2 tons of pellets per year. That equals an additional demand of 80,000 tons annually. “There are a number of plants where just they by themselves are producing that or more,” he says.
Charlie Niebling, general manager of New England Wood Pellet, says pellet demand was off the charts in 2008 because of the big run-up in fossil energy pricing, but things slowed down in 2009, and 2010 was a soft year for the company. Despite that fact, he says things are beginning to pick up again.
Supplying Close to Home
New England Wood Pellet operates three plants in Jaffrey, N.H., Schuyler, N.Y., and Deposit, N.Y., which have a combined capacity of about 250,000 tons per year when running at full tilt.
Much like WOWP, most of the pellet volume produced at NEWP ends up in residential heating applications—about 98 percent. Despite the fact that U.S. pellet exports are being touted by the government as a great opportunity, Niebling says it is unlikely that the company will ever ship overseas, as long as the domestic market is strong enough. “Philosophically, we strongly believe in focusing our efforts on solving America’s energy challenges, not Europe’s, and from a practical standpoint it’s something that is very difficult to do viably from the Northeast U.S.”
That’s because of the region’s high wood material costs, and its lack of port facilities set up for bulk cargo shipping of pellets. “Our plants aren’t conveniently located near port facilities; we have a lot of inland freight,” Niebling says. “Where it works in this country is where there is less expensive wood feedstocks, and rail to get the product to a port, one that can stage a large volume for bulk cargo shipping. The Northeast just doesn’t have the circumstances that are well-suited to that, given the current pricing overseas.”
Sharron says that with the nature of pellets—a relatively low value versus bulk and weight—freight is a big issue, so most pellet plants only have the ability to distribute regionally. “Being here in western Oregon, our markets are Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho and Utah a little bit, but past that point we’re not very competitive due to that freight issue.”
WOWP has looked at many opportunities to ship overseas and has had a lot of inquiries over the years, but it just doesn’t pencil out, Sharron says. “The value on the other end will only bear so much,” he says. “By today’s standards, we’re not a huge producer, so we don’t have the economies of scale that some of the other exporters do have. Alongside that, the raw material costs in this area are not conducive to getting things to balance out, certainly not to Europe or the Asian markets, where some activity is starting.”
For Pinnacle Renewable Energy in British Columbia, shipping overseas makes the most sense for the company for a number of reasons, one being the close proximity of its plants to rail and ports.
Pinnacle has six plants in B.C. that produce a total of 1.1 million metric tons per year. The company ships about 90 percent of its product overseas to the large-scale industrial power generation sectors in both Asia and Europe, but mainly to Europe, according to Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacle’s chief operating officer.
Reitsma says demand has slowed in advance of new legislation being defined and introduced in both Asia and Europe, but indications for future demand remain strong.
The company’s plant development model has kept it from experiencing some of the obstacles other manufacturers are facing, such as stiff competition for raw materials and transportation costs. All of Pinnacle’s plants are strategically located close to Canadian sawmills, and have formed material supply relationships with them. “Fiber pricing is more a function of local economic factors, due to the high price of transporting raw residuals,” Reitsma says.
Competing for Raw Material
In an industry that is a branch of the larger biomass power industry, wood resources of all kinds are sought after for different purposes. “We compete for our feedstock, there is no question about it,” Niebling says. “When our plants are at 100 percent capacity, we are dependent on round wood chips, and then we’re competing much more directly with the pulp and paper industry. Also to some extent, [we compete with] the biomass power plants we have up this way, although we have a slightly different feedstock need than they have because they can use a much lower quality chip than we can to make a premium grade pellet.”
Michael Curci, business development manager for Indeck Energy, says competition for feedstock is always a source of concern in the region where the company operates. Indeck has a two-year old, 90,000-ton pellet manufacturing facility in Ladysmith, Wis., that sells about 60 percent of its product for residential use, the rest commercial and industrial.
“There are three pellet mills within close proximity to us, and there are some proposed biomass power plants in the area that are under review by the state, so it’s something we have to keep an eye on,” Curci says. “If prices go up with more competition, pellet prices will reflect that. That won’t be the case at any individual production facility, but across the board in our region.”
The cost of raw material is a cyclical issue, Sharron says. “Our two plants rely on byproducts or residuals from sawmilling operations, for the most part,” he says. “In these past few years, with the housing and construction markets being soft, a lot of the area sawmills have curtailed production or even shut down completely, so there’s less supply on the market.”
A big competitor for the materials WOWP uses is the composite/particle board industry, but it has been affected by the depressed wood product industry as well. “They aren’t as stiff a competitor as they have been at other times,” Sharron says. “On the other hand, pulp mills also use the same fiber, and their markets have been relatively strong, so there’s always something, depending on the cycle.”
Niebling says raw material prices float, according to what fossil fuel prices are doing. “If oil and propane prices keep going up, and there’s enough margin for the retailer, the distributor and manufacturer to operate profitably even with higher wood costs, that price threshold can be higher than it is today.”
Some plants can afford to pay more for their raw materials than others, Sharron says. “That depends on a lot of things, such as debt service,” he says. “If it’s a new plant, it probably has a higher debt load and it might not be able to afford as much as an older manufacturer who doesn’t carry as much debt. It’s all relative to what the value of a finished product is at a given time.”
When competition for wood fiber material is fierce and prices are high, looking for alternative feedstocks is an appealing idea on the surface, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Searching for Alternatives
“We’ve looked at [alternative feedstocks], but never seriously, because when you design and build plants like we have, you do it to handle one type of feedstock,” Niebling says. “The handling, conveying, refining and processing of biomass is unique to each individual type of feedstock. When you start to introduce different types of materials it changes your plant performance. You have to understand how those different feedstocks affect operations.”
Furthermore, the residential market is still the major market in the U.S., and there aren’t many appliances or pellet stoves that can handle the quality characteristics of an ag-based pellet, which has higher ash content and is more prone to clinkering. “You may not even be able to manufacture a lower grade pellet that you would have to sell for less, because some lower quality materials are more expensive to turn into a pellet, unless it’s offset by the cost of the raw material at the gate,” Sharron says. “That might be less of an issue on a commercial or industrial basis, but no matter what the pellet is made of, we’re competing with coal and it’s extremely difficult to compete with the cost of a Btu of coal.”
Those in the industry know that making pellets is a low-margin proposition. “There’s not a lot of profit in it and there isn’t a lot of room for inefficiency, so we’ve been reluctant to consider blends or to make different types of pellets from other feedstocks,” Niebling says. “We want to get really good at doing one thing, but that doesn’t mean that won’t change in the future. If wood gets really expensive and suddenly hybrid willow or poplar starts to look more attractive, we’d consider that. I don’t see it any time soon, but if this industry grows the way we believe it will, we might all be looking at a variety of feedstocks.”
RAISING THE BAR
April 29, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Lisa Gibson – Biomass Magazine
The difference between 0.5 percent ash content and 1.5 percent ash content in wood pellet fuel means manually cleaning out the ashes three times more often in appliances without automatic ash removal. Given the fact that the majority of the U.S. pellet market is residential or small scale, that factor is important to customers.
And the customer is exactly what the Pellet Fuels Institute has in mind while drafting its new standards for North American pellets. The label featured on the bags of fuel will promise specific properties and quality parameters for optimal use and performance. And perhaps most important, the program will include third-party verification, crucial for producers who want to ensure their competition is honest in quality claims.
That consistent and verified quality allows the competitive free market to function and gives appliance manufacturers a clear picture of what types of fuel will be used in their products. “The long-term value for the industry is pretty obvious,” says John Crouch, PFI’s director of public affairs.
By the Numbers
Although still a draft and subject to change, PFI’s standards are divided into three fuel grades: premium, standard and utility. They specify parameters for a number of properties including ash content, diameter, durability, fines, moisture and chloride content, among others.
In the all-important ash content category, PFI’s premium fuels require 1 percentor less, standard requires 2 percent or less, and utility grade requires 6 percent or less. Utility grade is seldom used in residential appliances, Crouch says. “When you’re up around 6 percent, you really need an automatic ash removal system.”
For moisture content, premium fuels require 8 percent or less, while both standard and utility must be equal to or less than 10 percent. Bulk density is an important factor in industrial applications as it heavily impacts storage capacity. PFI’s standards set premium-grade bulk density at between 40 and 46 pounds per cubic foot; and both standard and utility at between 38 and 46 pounds per cubic foot.
Another important category is percentage of fines from the fuel at the mill gate. PFI specifies less than or equal to 0.5 percent for premium fuel, and less than or equal to 1 percent for both standard and utility grades.
But the bag label touting the fuel grade means almost nothing without a third-party audit of those quality parameters, so PFI has included a three-level verification system beginning with the pellet mill itself.
The second verification comes from on-site visits once a month by inspectors who are well-versed in the timber industry, doing other forest product inspections such as lumber grading, Crouch explains. Finally, the inspectors’ assessments will be audited by a certification body, which had not yet been confirmed at press time.
In addition, PFI is hopeful that the U.S. EPA will adopt the standards as a framework for the revision of its New Source Performance Standard for Residential Wood Heaters. It looks promising, Crouch says, as EPA’s project lead for the revision is supportive of the drafted standards, despite some lingering questions.
That would mean appliance manufacturers will be required to rely on the standards in the production process and dictate use of a specific grade to maintain warranties.
PFI hopes the new labels will be attached to bags of pellet fuels in North America beginning this fall, Crouch says. A number of pellet producers have pledged to support and comply with the standards, but cost is a big factor. “One of the key questions is how much it’s going to cost per bag of pellets,” he says. “I suspect in any new standards process, the same questions arise.” Cost will depend on the extent of current quality control measures at individual mills, Crouch explains. “The producers vary as to how sophisticated their in-house QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control) procedures are.”
But Crouch is clear about one thing. “The standards process is not designed to replace the internal QA/QC process, but to audit and support it.”
Although the standards will bring numerous benefits to the U.S. pellet industry and its customers, they will also encourage more use of American pellets in Europe. The continent has a 9.5 million ton-per-year pellet market, split almost evenly between heat and power. But currently, export markets to Europe are dominated by multiyear bilateral contracts and are not spot market friendly, according to Crouch. “One of the things you need before you can have a spot market is standards,” he insists. “Otherwise, you really have to do bilateral contracts where you establish a relationship with one mill and you sign a multiyear contract.” And given the fact that the industry is manufacturing a product that is used more extensively during the winter months and will experience peaks and valleys, the spot market is important, he adds. The PFI standards will guarantee a quality product for European spot markets, along the lines of their own specifications. “We’ve been very careful to make sure that there’s no white space between us and the European major, major areas,” Crouch says.
The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) is currently implementing its EN standards system under the authority of the European Pellet Council, intended to replace country-by-country standards and also featuring third-party verification. CEN Technical Committee 335 began developing the standards around the year 2000, and while it’s anticipated that all 27 European Union countries will use them, only Germany, Spain and Austria have committed to it so far, according to Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. EN standards include three categories: A1, A2, and B. A1 and A2 are intended for residential use and B is for nonresidential, or bulk, all certified through an individual initiative dubbed EN Plus. In implementation, individual participating countries will register a specific organization with the European Pellet Council to administer the EN Plus handbook in that country, according to Chris Wiberg, chief operating officer of Twin Ports Testing and co-chair of the PFI standards committee.
In fact, PFI used the EN Plus handbook as a reference in the development of its standards, Wiberg explains. In comparison, proposed ash content parameters for EN’s A1 is 0.7 percent. A2 specifies 1.5 percent, and B’s standard is 3 percent, all a bit lower than PFI’s standards for similar grades. EN’s moisture control standard, however, is 10 percent across the board, while PFI’s premium specifies 8 percent.
Although most of the numerical parameters are similar, the PFI standards vary from Europe’s because of regulatory agencies and their rules. “There are significant differences between the European EN Plus and the U.S. PFI standards, and mainly because of the EPA,” Wiberg says. The key contrast is the fact that EN standards cover the entire supply chain and the U.S. draft does not. And in addition to the different fuel grade categories between the two standards systems, the testing methodologies used are also dissimilar.
While EN covers a wider array of pellet aspects, what it lacks is standards for industrial-grade pellet fuel, crucial in Europe because of its numerous pellet-fueled commercial power plants. Instead, individual power companies each have their own standards, Murray says, adding that Canada does not have its own national standards and instead follows those of the power companies, as the majority of Canadian pellets are exported to them, mainly in the U.K., Belgium and the Netherlands. While the standards of different power companies are not vastly different in most aspects, a unified set of standards would simplify the production process for suppliers. “Really, they should have a common standard,” Murray says.
And it’s on its way. The largest eight power companies in the EU are working together to develop standards for industrial pellet grades one and two. Discussion with the European Committee for Standardization surrounding whether to include those standards in EN is ongoing, but no decisions have been made.
In addition, Sweden proposed through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2007 that the EN standards become global, according to Wiberg, who is also a member of six out of seven working groups dedicated to developing those global ISO standards. “In other words, seven years later down the line, now they’re converting into ISO standards,” Wiberg says of EN specifications. “Under the ISO umbrella, they can open up the discussion to non-European countries.”
Wiberg says specifics of ISO proposed standards are not published and therefore not available to the general public, although they are essentially the CEN methods developed under ISO.
But even if ISO implements a set of common standards for global pellet production, there’s no guarantee they will be adopted in lieu of CEN or PFI’s systems, Murray cautions. “Why would they adopt ISO if they’re happy with their own standards?”
Still, it seems the more unified and encompassing the standards, the better. Both Crouch and Murray compare pellet standards to gasoline standards, saying premium gasoline at one pump will have the same quality parameters as the next. In contrast, pellet producers are not required to adhere to pellet fuel standards, but doing so will enhance the products they sell. “All the standards are voluntary, but it’s a market access issue,” Murray says. “The whole point is to make sure the pellets are a high standard.” The fear is low-quality producers can give all pellet fuels a bad reputation, discouraging their use. “We want to avoid that,” he says.
And those quality-assurance standards are subject to change as the customers’ needs change. “Standards are designed to evolve,” Crouch says, adding that if any end-user factors arise, North American pellet producers will evaluate possible changes. “Right now, the key is to get a good consistent product across all of North America.”
B.C.'S HUGE VOLUME OF BIOWASTE, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE EPIDEMIC, MAKES IT ECONOMICAL TO SHIP WOOD PELLETS TO EUROPE.
Photograph by: Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun Files, Vancouver Sun
When Regina and Peter Pretterhofer built their new home in the city of Graz, Austria, they decided to give up fossil fuels and adopt a nationwide trend toward alternative energy to keep them warm during the snowy Austrian winters.
Instead of a gas furnace, their home has a three-metre-bythree metre room in the cellar that is filled to the top with four to six tonnes of wood pellets every two years, which are automatically fed into an Austrian-designed pellet-burning furnace in the next room. It heats their water and warms their 2,300-square-foot home. The pellet furnace is augmented by solar panels on days when the sun shines, and is made efficient by triple-glazed windows and insulation derived from local wood byproducts.
By North American standards, the Pretterhofer's green home would be on the environmental fringe, but in Austria they are doing nothing unusual, Peter Pretterhofer explained in a telephone interview. New homes in Graz are being built to similar, or even tighter, environmental standards.
The home-building revolution in Austria is part of Europe's broader commitment to reduce greenhouse gases 20 per cent by 2020 and rely on renewable energy for 20 per cent of its needs. It's a Kyoto commitment that has turned Europe into a global leader in alternative energy technologies and, in the process, has created a new bioenergy industry in British Columbia: Wood pellets made from sawmill waste.
B.C.'s pellet industry has grown in the last decade from mom-and-pop businesses making pellets sold by the bagful to wood stove owners, to the point where 11 plants operated by seven companies produced 1.2 million tonnes of wood pellets in 2010, contributing $185 million to the provincial economy, according to the B.C. ministry of forests, lands and natural resources. This year, with higher operating rates and new capacity coming onstream, the industry expects to produce two million tonnes.
Europe's energy policies created the market but B.C.'s huge volume of biowaste, especially after the mountain pine beetle epidemic, made it economical for pellets from the B.C. Interior to be trucked to either Prince Rupert or Vancouver, loaded aboard a ship and delivered 16,000 kilometres away to Amsterdam. The cost, and the greenhouse gas footprint, is equivalent to pellets produced in Europe.
"The key for us is full ships," said Leroy Reitsma, chief operating officer at the province's first and largest pellet company, Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group. "We have been able to grow to a size where we are now loading full vessels for transport and it's by having those full vessels that we can be competitive."
Pinnacle has six pellet plants in the B.C. Interior -five of them owned outright and one that is a joint venture with forest giant Canfor -accounting for most of the province's pellet shipments to Europe, where they are used almost exclusively as a substitute for coal in generating power. The pellets are mixed with coal, usually at a 50/50 ratio, and used to power the boilers that create steam to drive the generators.
And pellet-makers in B.C. believe their success in Europe is just the beginning. Asia, specifically Japan and Korea, are eyeing wood pellets as a replacement for not only coal but for nuclear energy.
Tourism Minister Pat Bell, whose portfolio includes international marketing initiatives, said in an interview that there's "huge upside potential," for the pellet industry in both Europe and Asia.
"Japan and Korea are just starting to review their options around renewable fuels," he said.
The biggest issue the industry faces, he said, is not market potential but capacity limitations of B.C. ports.
"We are close to exporting two million tonnes a year now and that's a substantial amount of product going into ships," Bell said. "It's not something you can mix on coal chutes. It has to go in independently. It is also very dependent on moisture. You can't load in the rain unless you have all the conveyors covered. The pellets swell and generate heat as well. So you have to be cautious about that."
In B.C. there's no industrial market for pellets. Reitsma said Canada lags behind Europe and Asia in terms of policies to encourage the use of alternative energy.
"I think there is a lack of definitive targets that need to be achieved. If there were policies in place that said 'You must generate X amount of power from renewable sources,' you would see an evolution of the business along those lines.
"It boils down to the values of society."
In contrast, he said, the cost of meeting Kyoto objectives in Holland has been costed out at eight euros per person a month, an amount of money Dutch citizens say they are willing to pay to reduce carbon emissions.
Wood pellets are manufactured from sawmill waste or from debris left after logging. The amount of forest waste has been growing in regions where pine forests have been killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
To prevent beetle-killed wood from decaying and releasing its carbon back into the atmosphere, pellet companies pay salvage rates to access it after logging companies leave it in roadside piles.
Once at the plant, the wood is dried and pulverized, then compressed into a dense cylinder 6 mm in diameter and 20 mm long. One tonne of wood waste can be condensed into half a tonne of pellets after drying. The pellets are pulverized again before being injected into furnaces where they burn with the intensity of a dust explosion.
Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, said wood pellets are more costly to produce than coal but only if society places no value on coal's carbon footprint and other environmental costs.
"If you look at dollars per megawatt, then coal is cheaper. But if you put an environmental cost on it, then pellets start to look pretty attractive. That's the whole concept behind bioenergy."
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Europe+carbon+policies+bolster+bioenergy+industry/4723415/story.html#ixzz1LONn4q50
APX-ENDEX TO OFFER WOOD-PELLET TRADING STARTING NEXT QUARTER
By Lars Paulsson - Apr 15, 2011 3:55 AM CT
APX-Endex Holding BV, the Amsterdam-based energy-exchange company, plans to offer biomass trading starting next quarter as utilities seek alternatives to fossil fuels to burn at power stations.
APX-Endex, whose spot power and gas volumes were worth about 5 billion euros ($7 billion) last year, will offer wood pellets contracts, with physical settlement to be arranged between counterparties based on their existing trade agreements, Chief Operating Officer Pieter Schuurs said yesterday at a presentation in London.
“It’s a small product compared with power and gas, but it’s interesting enough,” he said.
Biomass is the cheapest way for the Netherlands to generate renewable electricity, APX-Enex and its partner Port of Rotterdam said in July when they signed a letter of intent for the project. Governments across the world are promoting and subsidizing renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.
APX-Endex began a wood-pellets index in 2008 and 15 traders including German utilities E.ON AG (EOAN) and RWE AG (RWE) submit prices on a weekly basis. Year-ahead delivery of wood pellets exceeded 140 euros a metric ton in February 2009 and was valued at more than 130 euros in February, according to slides at the presentation.
The traders need to agree on standardized quality and specifications for the contracts before trading can begin and an accord may be reached by the middle of this year, Schuurs said.
Cleared biomass trading products, in which a central counterparty guarantees the settlement of trades, may be introduced in the first quarter of 2012, he said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Lars Paulsson in London at email@example.com
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MYSTERY SURROUNDING THE LARGE, WHITE DOMES SOLVED
The enormous, white domes have become the new centerpiece at the Port of Savannah, causing many to wonder what they are.
There's not much to see inside, but soon both Georgia Biomass' domes will be filled with tons of tiny wood pellets, which will be ready to be shipped to Europe to be used as a source of renewable energy.
"This is the largest storage facility in this area and actually the plant that's being built is the largest wood pellet plant in the world," said Project Manager Brad Orwig.
It's expected 25,000 metric tons of pellets will be shipped every two and a half weeks once the plant is in full operation, scheduled to happen later this month. Orwig explains how the process works.
"The trains will come in here. They're spotted over the pit. We open the bottom gates. They feed into our rail pits. Our belt conveyor one transports the pellets to our belt conveyor two, which transports the pellets to belt conveyor three, which in turn comes up out of the rail pit, up to the transfer tower, then on to belt conveyor four, which takes you to the top of the domes," he said.
Once the wood pellets go through the in-bound system, they're then stored in one of the two white domes. Wood chips are being used because they hold less water than wood chips, making it more cost-effective for shipping.
Georgia Biomass' CFO and COO, Sam Kang, said the entire operation isn't only good for Europe, but it's also great for Georgia's economy, creating nearly 100 jobs and bringing in millions of dollars.
"The amount of fiber that we'll be buying it's equivalent to about 35 to 50 million in recurring annual revenue. So what I like to say is it's the gift that keeps on giving," Kang said. "The other thing is we're talking about an export market where this is about $50 million for the state of Georgia and that's also a very good thing for the state, I believe."
In one year, Georgia Biomass is expected to produce 750,000 metric tons of wood pellets, all of which will make their way through one of the two white domes visible to all in the Savannah area.
REPORT: CLOSE TO 80 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S ENERGY SUPPLY COULD BE MET BY RENEWABLES
May 9, 2011
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.
The findings, from over 120 researchers working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also indicate that the rising penetration of renewable energies could lead to cumulative greenhouse gas savings equivalent to 220 to 560 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtC02eq) between 2010 and 2050.
The upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million.
This could contribute towards a goal of holding the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius – an aim recognized in the United Nations Climate Convention's Cancun Agreements.
The findings, launched today after being approved by member countries of the IPCC in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, are contained in a summary for policymakers of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN).
The summary is a short version of a roughly a thousand page comprehensive assessment compiled by over 120 leading experts from all over the world for IPCC‘s Working Group III.
“With consistent climate and energy policy support, renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human well-being by sustainably supplying energy and stabilizing the climate,” said Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III at the report launch. “However, the substantial increase of renewables is technically and politically very challenging” he added.
Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the Working Group III, said: “The potential role of renewable energy technologies in meeting the needs of the poor and in powering the sustainable growth of developing and developed economies can trigger sharply polarized views. This IPCC report has brought some much needed clarity to this debate in order to inform governments on the options and decisions that will needed if the world is to collectively realize a low carbon, far more resource efficient and equitable development path”.
Also speaking at the launch, Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, said: “The IPCC brought together the most relevant and best available information to provide the world with this scientific assessment of the potential of renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change. The Special Report can serve as a sound knowledge basis for policymakers to take on this major challenge of the 21st century.”
The report will feed into the broader work of the IPCC as it prepares its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The AR5 Synthesis Report is scheduled for finalization in September 2014.
The SRREN, approved by government representatives from 194 nations, has reviewed the current penetration of six renewable energy technologies and their potential deployment over the coming decades.
The six renewable energy technologies reviewed are:
• Bioenergy, including energy crops; forest, agricultural and livestock residues and so called second generation biofuels
• Direct solar energy including photovoltaics and concentrating solar power
• Geothermal energy, based on heat extraction from the Earth‘s interior
• Hydropower, including run-of-river, in-stream or dam projects with reservoirs
• Ocean energy, ranging from barrages to ocean currents and ones which harness temperature differences in the marine realm
• Wind energy, including on- and offshore systems
Key Findings from the Summary for Policymakers
• Of the around 300 Gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, 140 GW came from renewable energy.
• Despite global financial challenges, renewable energy capacity grew in 2009—wind by over 30 percent; hydropower by three percent; grid-connected photovoltaics by over 50 percent; geothermal by 4 percent; solar water/heating by over 20 percent and ethanol and biodiesel production rose by 10 percent and 9 percent respectively.
• Developing countries host more than 50 percent of current global renewable energy capacity.
• Most of the reviewed scenarios estimate that renewables will contribute more to a low carbon energy supply by 2050 than nuclear power or fossil fuels using carbon capture and storage (CCS).
• The technical potential of renewable energy technologies exceeds the current global energy demand by a considerable amount—globally and in respect of most regions of the world.
• Under the scenarios analyzed in-depth, less than 2.5 percent of the globally available technical potential for renewables is used—in other words over 97 percent is untapped underlining that availability of renewable source will not be a limiting factor.
• Accelerating the deployment of renewable energies will present new technological and institutional challenges, in particular integrating them into existing energy supply systems and end use sectors.
• According to the four scenarios analyzed in detail, the decadal global investments in the renewable power sector range from 1,360 to 5,100 billion US dollars to 2020 and 1,490 to 7,180 billion US dollars for the decade 2021 to 2030. For the lower values, the average yearly investments are smaller than the renewable power sector investments reported for 2009.
• A combination of targeted public policies allied to research and development investments could reduce fuel and financing costs leading to lower additional costs for renewable energy technologies.
• Public policymakers could draw on a range of existing experience in order to design and implement the most effective enabling policies--there is no one-size-fits-all policy for encouraging renewables.
Key Renewable Energy Technologies and Their Potential
Bioenergy technologies can generate electricity, heat and fuels from a range of ‘feedstocks’.
Some bioenergy systems, including ones that involve converting land into agricultural biomass and energy crops, can generate more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.
But others, such as advanced conversion systems, which for example convert woody wastes into liquid fuels, can deliver 80 percent to 90 percent emission reductions compared to fossil fuels.
Bioenergy, mainly for traditional cooking and heating in developing countries, currently represents over 10 percent of global energy supply or ca. 50 Exajoules per year.
While the share of bioenergy in the overall renewables mix is likely to decline over the coming decades, it could supply 100 to 300 Exajoules of energy by 2050, the expert review concludes.
Direct Solar Energy technologies include photovoltaics and concentrating solar power (CSP). They can produce electricity, heat and light.
Currently, direct solar contributes only a fraction of one percent to total global energy supply.
Potential deployment scenarios range from a marginal role of direct solar energy in 2050 to one of the major sources of energy supply. The actual deployment will depend on continued innovation, cost reductions and supportive public policies.
In the most ambitious climate stabilization scenarios solar primary energy supply by 2050 reaches up to 130 Exajoules per year, which can be attributed to a large extent to photovoltaic electricity generation. In some scenarios, its share in global electricity generation reaches up to a third by 2050, but in the majority of scenarios remains below one tenth.
Geothermal Energy utilizes heat stored in the Earth‘s interior directly or to generate electricity, with currently about 0.7 Exajoule per year.
By 2050, geothermal deployment could meet more than 3 percent of global electricity demand and about 5 percent of the global heat demand.
Global geothermal technical potential is comparable to the global primary energy supply in 2008. However, Geothermal Energy does not reach the technical potential limit in any of the scenarios analyzed, with the deployment rate remaining below 5 percent for both the regional and global level.
Hydropower projects encompass dam projects with reservoirs, run-of-river and in-stream projects and range from small to large scale.
The installed capacity by the end of 2008 contributed 16 percent of worldwide electricity supply, making hydropower the largest renewable energy source in the electricity sector.
According to long term scenarios, hydropower's share in global electricity supply may decrease to 10 to 14 percent. Despite absolute growth in hydropower supply, the expected energy demand growth and continuing electrification could result in a decreasing share.
Ocean Energy technologies are diverse and use the kinetic, thermal, and chemical energy of seawater. Most are at the demonstration and pilot project phases.
Due to its nascent stage of development, they are unlikely to significantly contribute to global energy supply before 2020.
Ocean energy is currently only represented in very few scenarios. As shown by the review, projected deployments could result in energy delivery of up to 7 Exajoules per year by 2050.
Wind Energy’s primary application of relevance to climate change mitigation is to produce electricity from large wind turbines located on land or offshore.
The wind power capacity installed by the end of 2009 met close to two percent of worldwide electricity demand.
The review shows a high expansion rate in Europe, North America and, more recently, in China and India. A greater geographical distribution of deployment is likely to be needed to achieve the higher deployments indicated by the scenario literature.
Under the demand projection of some scenarios global wind power share grows to more than 20 percent by 2050.
TORREFIED WOOD MAY BE AN EXCELLENT COMPANION TO COAL
May 8, 2011 - 0 Comments
Source – U.S. Endowment
Photo By – Skidderzone.com
Torrefied wood may be an excellent companion to coal as utilities across the nation seek ways to increase the use of renewable energy sources and reduce their carbon footprint. The first in a series of co-branded briefs, Issues in the Forest, produced jointly by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and National Association of State Foresters (NASF) provides a solid overview of where torrefaction technology stands and who’s pursuing it.
Issues in the Forest is aimed at informing dialogue on topics relevant to sustainable forestry today. “We hope the extensive research compressed into a one-page format will help keep our partners and other interested parties up-to-speed on fast moving and critical forestry topics,” said Endowment president Carlton Owen.
The Endowment and U.S. Forest Service joined forces in early 2010 through a pilot effort called the Woody Biomass Joint Venture to focus on promising technologies and new procurement model development. Rapid learning and communication for the broader forestry and biomass energy development communities was one targeted outcome for that collaboration.
This year NASF joined in to help build awareness of the effort as well as expand it beyond woody biomass for heat and energy to a range of topics influencing forest management and policy. “State Foresters know that keeping forests as forests requires not only traditional markets but new markets like biomass energy, green building materials and forest certification standards” said NASF executive director Jay Farrell. “Tracking policy implications and public perceptions on issues that impact healthy markets will be helpful for all forestry advocates.”
DEVELOPING PELLET MARKET IN FINLAND
Pellet markets are growing phase in Finland especially in last year. Driving forces are the increased oil price and reduction of CO2 emission. Also interest to use wood pellets in larger CHP plants fuelled with coal is increasing, because of the increased coal price, energy taxation in heat production for fossil fuels and support for electricity production based on renewable energy sources.
Finland had in mid 1980s two peat pellet factories and one field factory, which could produced pellets from milled peat directly in the field after drying it to moisture content of 35%. Vapo Oy had also two peat briquette factories in Seinäjoki and in Ilomantsi. Also technology for pellet storage and burning technology was developed at the same time mainly at VTT. When the oil price went down in 1986 the use of pellets and also research was stopped. This knowledge has been background in developing wood pellet markets in Finland in recent years. First wood pellet factory was built in 1997 in Vörå with annual production capacity of 20 000 tonnes. In 1999 Biowatti Oy constructed pellet factory into the drying facility of an old sugar factory in Turenki and Vapo Oy renoveted the Ilomantsi peat briquette factory to wood pellet production. Both these companies are utilising wood residues; cutter shavings, grinding dust from the a forestry enterprise operating nearby factories. Most of the plants are using dry wood residues like cutter shavings, because the drying increase production costs remarkably. Both plants have also drying equipment if moist material is used. Moist sawdust is mainly combusted with other fuels in district heating or CHP plants.
The production of wood pellets was in 2000 totally 40 000 tons (188 GWh). Pellet factories can be categorized in two classes by annual production: plants producing more than 10 000 ton/a (Vörå, Turenki and Ilomantsi) and smaller producers less than 10 000 tons (Saarijärvi, Keuruu, Punkaharju, Kuopio and Anjalankoski). About 85-90% of the production was exported to Sweden or Denmark to be used in large power plants. In the end of the year 2000 several new smaller production units with capacity from 1 500 to 5 000 tons/a were built in mechanical wood industry. In 2001 the total capacity of the pellet plants is 150 000 tonnes (table 1) and production is estimated to reach 80 000 tons. The price of the pellet is depending about the delivery size and transportation distance. The price excluding VAT (22%) varies from 450 to 1000 FIM/ton (67 – 168 EUR/ton, 14 – 35 EUR/MWh).
Table 1. Pellet factories in Finland in 2001.
Location Year Factory, production site Production capacity, tonnes/a
Vôrâ 1997 Vôrâ Finncamb Oy 20 000
Turenki 1999 Biowatti Oy 70 000
Ilomantsi 1999 Vapo Oy 45 000
Saarijärvi 1999 Hehkupelletti Oy 3 000
Keuruu 2000 Keurak Oy 5 000
Kuopio 2000 Umacon Oy 2 500
Punka¬harju 2000 Punkaharjun Pelletti Ky 1 500
Anjalankoski 2001 Umacon Oy 2 500
In the end of year 2000 both Vapo Oy and Biowatti Oy, which are the biggest producers, established nation wide distribution network. Consumers can order Vapo pellets from Agrimarket (142 retail dealers) and Biowatti pellets from K-maatalous (K-Agriculture). Both companies have nation-wide order service numbers and web ordering possibilities. In end of 2000 Metsä-Serla Oy which is the mother company of Biowatti Oy has bought 30% of the shares from Vapo Oy. This will influence in the pellet markets, too.
There is no pellet quality standard nor pellet burner testing system in Finland. Finnish pellet manufacturers are mainly using Swedish standards.
Transportation as bulk material takes place by trucks with a interchargeable container or by full load trucks. The distribution equipment is powered by the truck hydraulics, and hence no external power sources are needed. The interchargeable container can load 18 cubic metres and it has been divided into three six-cubic-meter section that can be unloaded separately. One section can meet a demand of annual pellet use for one family house. Pellets can be also delivered in large (big 650 – 1000 kg) or small sacks 15 – 20 kg.
Wood pellets are used in ten public buildings to substitute light fuel oil (capacity from 50 – 500 kW). About 200 one family houses are using wood pellets. In the end of year 2000 Turku Energia started also cofiring of pellets with coal. About 5 000 tons was used in Linnankatu 100 MW coal-fired power plant. Before starting pellet use the plant staff has gathered experiences from Sweden by visiting Hässelby plant in Stockholm. The Turku Energia has only invested 20 000 FIM (3 400 €) to pellet equipment. Pellets are stored in the old chicken feed silo and feed into the coal handling system and burned as powder. Experiments have been successful and Turku Energia is continuing using pellets also in future.
Most of the pellet technology is imported from Sweden, Germany, Austria and USA. Most used pellet burners are Swedish like EcoTec, PellX, Iwabo and Janfire. Pellet production equipment have been imported from Germany and Baltic States. From USA and Austria pellet stoves are imported. There is only two domestic pellet boiler-burner systems especially designed for pellet burning in the market manufactured by HT Engineering and Thermia Oy. Some manufacturers have deliver systems, which are based on wood chip burners. HT Engineering has also developed container pellet plant, which can be transported from one place to other. Development of pellet technology is carried out by two governmental research institutes, TTSInstitute and VTT Energy.
RAW MATERIALS AND WOOD PELLET PRODUCTION CAPACITY IN GERMANY
About 30% of Germany is covered with woodland and the wood volume increases by about 60 million cubic metres per year. Bavaria is the most densely wooded Federal State in Germany.
6-1: Forest area in Germany/Bavaria
Region Forest land Fuel wood / forest waste products
[hectare] [1,000 m3/a] [tons/a]
Bavaria 2,415,550 6,390 1,597,389
Germany 10,430,138 25,323 6,330,750
Table 6-2: Annual amount of wood useable as fuel in Germany
Sort of wood Amount [million m3]
Fuel wood from forests 4.5
Scrap wood from sawmills and commercial timber 7.0
Forest waste products 2.0
Of the total wood reserves in German forests an average of 40 million cubic metres is used annually, while about 20 million cubic metres per year remain in the forests. At least 20% of the average amount used annually - 8 million cubic metres - could be made available for the production of wood pellets. Realistically, however, only scrap wood, wood shavings and sawdust from the wood and timber industry (sawmills) and forest waste products would be available as raw material for pelletising. The following table which is based on wood statistics and material flow analysis shows the potential of fuel wood in Germany.
Pellet production in Germany
Commercial pellet production has started in several locations in Germany in the last two years. Germany now has about six to eight special manufacturers of wood pellets already producing and several plants are in planning. If pellet demand increases in the future, scrap wood from the woodworking industry will be re-routed for pellet production. Whether scrap wood will be used for energy or non-energy purposes will depend to a large extent on the prices that suppliers can achieve for their products.
Use of wood pellets
Like production the combustion of wood pellets is still in its early stages in Germany, but the interest in wood pellet heating systems is rapidly growing. The use of pellets for heating is mainly concentrated on the niche market of low energy houses with an annual fuel consumption of around 1,500 kg per 100 m2 living space. German furnace manufacturers have responded to the recent growth in the pellet market. The technical development of small wood-burning stoves (2 to 8 kW) and boilers (8 to 25 kW) has progressed considerably in the last years. However, most units are currently imported from Austria, Denmark and Sweden.
Subsidies to heating system owners
The trend towards a convenient and environmentally sound heating system is growing and sponsored by a special government programme which provides 60 € per installed kW and a minimum of 2,000 € per system to the customers.
Standard specifications for pressed wood
The German DIN 51731, valid since October 1996, determines specific requirements and test procedures for natural pressed wood. The specified pressed wood is designated to be used in wood burning furnaces. Natural wood is characterised as mechanically treated wood which contains only a minimum level of harmful substances. The following limits of harmful substances, referring to absolute dry wood, have to be kept.
Pressed wood classified according to the DIN standard has to comply with the following requirements: Relative density: 1.000 - 1.400 kg/m3, Moisture content: < 12 %, Ash residue: < 1,5 %, Calorific value: 4,8 - 5,4 kWh/kg
Pressed wood can be described as wood pellets or wood briquettes. Table 6-4 indicates the requirements on the dimensions and shows the classification of the pressed wood.
Table 6-3: Limits of harmful substances according to DIN 51731
Element or compound Limit
Sulphur 0,08 %
Chlorine 0,03 %
Nitrogen 0,3 %
Arsenic 0,8 mg/kg
Cadmium 0,5 mg/kg
Chromium 8 mg/kg
Copper 5 mg/kg
Mercury 0,05 mg/kg
Lead 10 mg/kg
Zinc 100 mg/kg
Halogens 3 mg/kg
WOOD STOVE CHANGE-OUT PROGRAM LAUNCHED
Program launched as effort to improve air quality
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2011, 12:22 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 12 May 2011, 8:08 PM EDT
• Kara Dominick
WEST SPRINGFIELD,Mass.(WWLP) - There's a new effort to try to improve air quality here in Western Massachusetts.
The American Lung Association of Massachusetts has launched a Wood Stove Change-out Project where residents can exchange their old inefficient wood-burning stoves for new, clean burning models.
The program is made possible through a EPA voucher program and more than $27,000 in vouchers are being distributed. The project will continue until the fund is depleted.
The vouchers can be applied toward any new wood, pellet, or gas stove that is professionally installed by a participating dealer.
Also, as part of their 2011 personal income taxes, residents who replace their current stove with a qualifying wood or pellet stove are eligible for a federal tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase price, after the voucher has been applied, for a total credit of up to $300.
For more information about the stove change out program visit Fireside Designs at 1769 Riverdale Street in Westfield or click www.fireside-designs.com.
BIOMASS FUELS AND THE WOOD PELLET MARKET
Wood pellets can produce heat and energy that is carbon neutral.
With oil prices on the rise, many people are looking at alternative ways to heat their homes. Biomass fuels such as wood pellets are a solution that many are turning to. As heating with fossil fuels continues to demand more money out of the pocket book, the demand for wood pellets will continue to rise. Basic economics tells us that higher demand on the same supply means higher prices. We see this simple formula played out time after time in the wood pellet industry.
Oil prices are a good indicator for the woody biomass market. If you asked the average person before 2001 what a would pellet was, the response you may have gotten would have been something like this...
“Isn't it something that comes out of the south end of a north bound beaver?”
Folks just didn't know what a wood pellet was and really didn't care. To those who did know, it was more of a novelty than something that could heat thousands of homes across the country in the next decade. Yet here we are with wood pellets being a serious heating alternative to fossil fuels. Why is this true? Why have wood pellets become a common heating alternative? It simply boils down to price. Petroleum prices increased to the point that people were desperate for a cheaper alternative.
In the first decade of the 21st century we saw a sharp increase in demand for wood pellets. Then came the 2009 to 2010 heating season. What a difference the price of gas makes! Oil prices dropped and suddenly it became cheap to heat with gas again. The less painful to the pocketbook heating oil is the less interest there will be in alternative ways of heating homes. As a direct result the demand for wood pellets hit a plateau. The demand that had been on a steady increase suddenly stopped and leveled out. At the same time production of wood pellets increased to meet the predicted demand increase. All of these factors resulted in a surplus of wood pellets driving the price of wood pellets down for the 2010 to 2011 heating season.
Gas prices are on the rise once again. This is good news for the wood pellet industry. With higher gas prices comes higher demand for wood pellets. More wood waste can be transformed into energy to heat homes and business all over the world. With opportunities opening up all over the world, and a virtually unlimited market potential, the future for the wood pellet industry is a bright one.
UN: RENEWABLE RESOURCES CAN OUTPACE GLOBAL ENERGY DEMAND BY 2020
May 4, 2011 | Matthew Lynley
Wind, solar and four other forms of renewable resources have the potential to outstrip energy demand by 2020 and replace fossil fuels as a power source, according to a new report by the United Nations.
The report is called the “Renewables Bible,” and will serve as a reference guide for renewable energy growth. The report indicates that there’s enough potential for the six renewable energy sources — which also include geothermal power, biomass fuel, hydropower and power harnessed from oceanic waves — can grow 20-fold over the next decade. The United Nations examined 164 scenarios to come to the conclusion in a comprehensive survey of the current renewable energy environment.
But in reality, only around 2.5 percent of that potential growth will happen based on the current growth trajectory for renewable energy, according to the report. That’s because a complete shift to renewable energy sources will cost global markets around $12.3 trillion by 2030. Global markets will have to invest around $5.1 trillion over the next decade and an as much as an extra $7.1 trillion between 2020 and 2030 to complete the shift.
Most of the scenarios examined by the United Nations still pointed to a substantial increase in the amount of renewable energy deployed by 2020 and 2030. Global markets added around 140 gigawatts of power from renewable sources between 2008 and 2009, bringing the world total up to around 300 gigawatts. That’s mostly dominated by biomass energy sources, which account for around 10 percent of renewable energy generation.
Paris-based International Energy Agency said that a total of $20 trillion needs to be spent on energy infrastructure to expand it and meet demand by 2030. Right now, renewable energy sources account for around 13 percent of global energy usage. In some of the best scenarios, renewable energy would account for up to 77 percent of global energy usage by 2050.
BALCAS'S HUNGER FUELS FEEDSTOCK WOOD PRICES - AND CONTROVERSY
Aberdeen Press and Journal
May 16, 2011
The impact on wood prices and supply to a new wood pellet plant has set the wood products industry in north-east Scotland ablaze with controversy.
The new Brites plant at Invergordon, owned by Balcas, a company based in Northern Ireland, is the biggest pellet enterprise in the UK. It came on stream in July 2010, producing up to 100,000 tonnes of pellets per year, but it will consume much more wood than that.
According to the company, 60% of the raw materials are used for the production of Brites, while 40% is used for the generation of electricity.
Clearly, the arrival of such a large new player in the market has had a significant impact locally, and concerns are being voiced about whether its demands can be sustainably met.
Donald Maclean of the UK Forestry Contractors Association, based at Invershin, said: "The convoys of timber lorries coming through here headed for Balcas are unbelievable; I've never seen anything like it. Some of our members have not done badly out of it, but for how long?"
Over the past year the price of a tonne of wood at the factory gate has risen from around £18 to £30, and supplies of wood for small-scale buyers are becoming more difficult to secure.
A small-scale wood merchant on the west coast, who did not wish to be named, said: "I've definitely noticed a difference. In the past, forestry operations would usually have a few tonnes of unsuitable wood left behind, and a small firewood business like mine could pick them up, but now every scrap is mopped up for Balcas.
Maclean: "If you're a private woodland owner, you soon get wind of these prices. It definitely does make it difficult for small firewood merchants. They will have to be quite clever, keep their ears to the ground and snap up whatever wood they can."
Amanda Calvert, an expert on wood fuel who works for Highland Birchwoods, said that Balcas coming on stream had certainly helped to put up the price of wood, because they're prepared to pay more.
"While this is creating opportunities for some wood fuel merchants, it is limiting for those buying small quantities," said Calvert. "As landowners become used to higher prices, there are far fewer chances to buy a cheap half load of wood at the end of a felling operation.
She believes that the Balcas effect on prices is part of a wider picture where the huge increase in demand for wood fuel is the main driver of rising prices.
She points to a combination of escalating household and commercial fuel bills, particularly for those heating with oil, growing awareness of the impact on climate change of burning fossil fuels and the availability of incentives, which are encouraging people to switch from oil and coal to wood fuel. Wood stove sales are booming and many community and commercial organisations are installing wood chip or pellet boilers.
Ironically, 10 years ago, forecasts of wood supply showed a bulge between 2010 and 2020, known as "the wall of wood", caused by plantations from the 1960s and 1970s coming to maturity. It was predicted to cause flooding of the wood market and plunging prices. In fact, there are so many demands on current wood supplies that prices are rising at unprecedented rates.
Growth in demand for wood is creating a much more complex market.
Calvert said: "Some forestry contractors are branching out into selling fuel and some firewood and woodchip merchants are setting up their own felling operations.
"Very small firewood merchants are being squeezed, as there is so much more demand on the resource. The smallest companies may often be much the greenest, as by delivering renewable energy to local customers they keep transport to a minimum, yet they are hit the hardest."
Maclean believes that the government needs to do more to help the smaller players in the wood fuel market.
"The big companies don't employ so many people. They're not as good for the rural economy. Small locally-run businesses are the way forward, and the Forestry Commission should do a lot more to help them." he said.
It is not only small firewood enterprises that are complaining about being squeezed by the Balcas fuelled wood-price boom. Norbord is one of the country's biggest wood users, consuming the equivalent of about 20% of the wood cut in the UK.
Steve Roebuck, director of health, safety and environmental affairs at Norbord, said: "The biofuel industry is now starting to have a very significant impact on wood supplies.
"Part of Balcas' ability to pay higher prices is due to them generating electricity from the wood, and thus being eligible for renewables obligation certificates (ROCs). The subsidy allows them to pay top dollar.
"Without ROCs none of it would be happening. The point is that it's supposed to be so-called green energy, but I can't think of any less efficient use of wood than transporting it across the country to burn it to make electricity."
Roebuck is also critical of the "wood-to-wire" subsidies for wood fuelled electricity generation. "The government is not considering the impacts of its incentives on other users of wood," he said.
The Scottish Government's own Wood Fuel Task Force agrees. Its recent report is highly critical of the UK Government's subsidy regime for electricity generation from biomass, saying that it "believes that there is insufficient domestic supply to provide even a fraction of the fuel supply needs of the UK Government's very ambitious plans for large scale biomass in the rest of the UK". And adding that "such ambitious plans will displace domestic wood fibre from meeting renewable heat targets and the existing wood-using industries".
However, the Scottish Government supports Balcas because it is a combined heat and power (CHP) plant.
Rebecca Carr, of Forestry Commission Scotland, said: "Current policy is to prefer to see wood fuel used in heat-only or CHP schemes, off gas-grid, at a scale which can make best use of both the available heat and of local supply. Using biomass for heat in heat-only and CHP schemes achieves 80-90% energy efficiency for the former and 50-70% for the latter, as opposed to 30% in electricity-only schemes."
The wood supply pressure from Balcas is not likely to ease. Although the Wood Fuel Task Report states that there is currently the equivalent of around 432,000 dry tonnes of untapped wood resource, and improving timber production rates suggest this could at least double within the next 10 years, this will still not keep pace with demand.
The government's own predictions are that planned CHP plants will increase wood fuel use in Scotland from the current 670,000 dry tonnes to more than 3million dry tonnes.
But here's a sobering thought. A study by John Clegg Consulting showed that UK biomass demand could exceed 27million tonnes by 2017, which is more than the current global trade in woodchips and pellets.
Where supplies will come from to meet such demand is anyone's guess.
Mandy Haggith is a freelance writer who specialises in rural affairs
Copyright 2011 Aberdeen Journals LtdAll Rights Reserved
RWE COMMISSIONS WORLD'S LARGEST PELLET PLANT
17 May 2011
RWE Innogy's plant will manufacture 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually
In Georgia, US, renewable energy company RWE Innogy has opened its pellet production plant, reported to be one of the world's largest.
The company broke ground on the project in March 2010 and the facility was up and running within 12 months, albeit on trial operation. Costing €120 million, the pellet plant has the ability to process 1.5 million tonnes of pinewood annually into 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets.
The pellets produced here will start being exported to Europe by mid-2011. They will be used in some of RWE's existing coal-fired power plants to generate electricity and heat. By replacing fossil fuels with biomass, RWE will save around 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year.
'The wood pelleting plant built in Georgia is currently the biggest of its kind in the world. We are thus developing our own raw material resources and we become more independent of the world market. With the use of wood pellets in our European power plants, we are raising the shore of biomass in electricity generation significant,' says Leonhard Birnbaum, chief commercial officer of RWE Ag.
RWE is currently planning the conversion of its coal-fired power plant in Tilbury, UK, to a biomass-fired power plant. This project will make Tilbury the biggest biomass-fired power plant in the world, until its scheduled closure by 2015 at the latest, with an expected capacity of around 750MW. The plant would expect to use around 2 million tonnes during the remainder of its life. Around 50% of this could come from Georgia. The conversion is expected to be complete before the end of 2011.
The demand for biomass has been growing at a fast pace in Europe. In order to fulfil the overall European renewable target of 20% of final energy consumption by 2020, biomass plays an important role within the national action plans of the EU member states.
'However, it is already clear today that the feedstock requirements cannot by far be met from the resources available in Europe. In the US, and mainly in the southern states such as Georgia, the situation is quite different. Here, the surplus of sustainable cultivated biomass was around 35% over the last 10 years. Thus, Europe can benefit from these overseas resources to attain its CO2 reduction targets', says Fritz Vahrenholt, RWE Innogy's CEO.
Show Me Energy first in nation to get biomass assistance
May 12, 2011 - 0 Comments
Source – Renewablesbiz.com
Photo By – prweb.com
The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Show Me Energy Cooperative on Highway 58 as the nation’s first Biomass Crop Assistance Program project area.
The designation opens the way for producers in a 38-county “fuel shed” to apply for federal funds to help cover the cost of producing dedicated grasses for bioenergy.
Show Me Energy is a producer-owned, nonprofit cooperative that produces biomass fuel pellets usable in energy production. The company states pellets are sold to energy plants that want to reduce their carbon footprint.
The cooperative has 612 members.
Created in the 2008 Farm Bill, BCAP provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to cultivate biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuels.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a release, said the project will help spur development of next-generation biofuels and is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to protect Americans from rising gas prices by breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
“By encouraging production of feedstocks that can be converted into next-generation biofuels, we are boosting the rural economy, creating jobs, contributing to America’s energy security and protecting our planet,” Vilsack said. “Investments like this spark creation of new industries and is a key part of our effort to keep America competitive and win the future.”
Co-op board President Steve Flick said, “Show Me Energy is deeply honored that its BCAP project area is one of the first BCAP fuel shed areas designated by USDA.”
He said the board worked on the application for a year and spent the last five or six months on refinement.
“It’s a new process; nobody has done it before. … The board of directors have a lot to be proud of,” Flick said. “They did it by themselves. It’s all home-grown engineering. No fancy money was spent.”
The designation creates a “fuel shed” of 30 counties in western Missouri and eight adjacent eastern Kansas counties where farmers will grow dedicated energy crops of native grasses on marginal land “using the best conservation practices to protect soil and water resources,” he said.
Flick said two seed mixtures, one for upland and one for lowland planting, have been developed.
“We spelled out everything,” Flick said, including what varieties to plant and how much seed per acre to apply.
Planting either must be completed by June 15 for harvest in the fall, or planting can be done in November.
Farmers will stockpile grasses for delivery to the plant, he said, adding they are only required to cut the grass once out of five years.
The project, he said, has three benefits: serving as a fuel load, wildlife habitat and soil conservation.
Kyle Meyer, Johnson County Farm Service Agency executive director, said program signup begins Monday. Enrollment is open to any producer in the project area with no minimum or maximum acreage restrictions.
Meyer said the land “typically will be marginal land, but any land that can be farmed is eligible for the program.”
He said the USDA has allocated $15 million for the project area for annual rental payments for five years to producers who convert row crop or pastureland to specified grass crops for alternative energy production.
Signup will be on a first-come, first-served basis, Meyer said.
If selected, producers will be eligible for up to 75 percent reimbursement of the cost to start a bioenergy perennial crop, and can receive up to five years of annual payments.
He said he expects the allocation to cover 20,000 to 25,000 acres at about $600 per acre, or about 2 percent more than Conservation Reserve Program payments.
“I’d like to see most, and I think it will be, enrolled in Johnson County,” Meyer said.
Kurt Herman, Show Me chief executive officer, said, “Show Me’s goals are to support the development of renewable biomass energy by creating new, renewable energy products made from farm-grown biomass crops, provide additional revenue streams for farmers and support the rural economy through the creation of new jobs.
“This BCAP designation will be a real plus for us in meeting our goals. … We are ready to go.”
Flick said he anticipates the project will be “a tremendous economic boost” for farmers in the project area, and also will be the first step in developing “generational fuel” in which fiber is converted to cellulosic fuels and to provide electricity.
“Johnson County, Missouri, will be ground-zero,” he said. “We’ll be watched. There’s not a book here — we’re writing it as we go.”
BIOMASS ENERGY – MIXED SIGNALS ABOUND
May 16, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Eric Kingsley – Renewable Energy World
Standing in front of 200 New Hampshire loggers on a cold night last February, it was my job to explain electricity markets and why biomass power projects are facing a tough time. For these guys, it wasn’t an academic discussion of the influence of natural gas prices on wholesale power prices. It wasn’t a class on supply and price interactions in the market for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). It was about their jobs.
New Hampshire biomass plants use 1.8 million green tons of biomass each year, or 155 truckloads each and every day of the year. Add to this wood pellet manufacturing, biomass use at schools and other community-scale setting, and (let’s not forget) firewood. In total, New Hampshire uses lots of wood for energy. And the Granite State is not alone – while the numbers and mix vary a little, Vermont and Maine use lots of wood for energy production as well.
Biomass power plants – particularly those unaffiliated with utilities and without power purchase agreements – are having a tough time. It is probably about to get tougher. These plants sell electricity on a spot market basis, and I would expect that we’ll see some idled this spring. “Why?” is a reasonable question – some of these facilities have been operating for 25+ years without major downtime.
It all comes down to dollars, of course. Biomass electricity providers in New England sell two products – electricity and RECs. Wholesale electricity prices in the region are at depressed prices – in part due to a recession-related drop in electricity demand, in part because natural gas (the fuel that generally sets the price of power in New England) is currently plentiful and cheap. RECs – a mechanism meant to support renewable generation – are low as well. REC price decline is partially due to a decrease in demand, partially due to an increase in supply (often from generation outside of the region).
On the cost side, wood fuel is the largest and most variable cost for biomass plants; other costs include debt service, staff, emissions control, maintenance, etc. While it varies by plant and fuel moisture, a good rule of thumb is that it takes 1.7 green tons of fuel to make 1 megawatt hour (MWH) of electricity. On the afternoon of February 17, wholesale power in New Hampshire was selling for $33.32 per MWH. This means that – if the value of the REC covered all non-fuel costs (an optimistic assumption), and the plant was willing to operate at break-even (again, optimistic) – the plant could pay $19.60 per green ton of fuel.
For most loggers, the cost to produce and transport biomass fuel is well above that level. We are at a point where loggers can’t produce the product for less, some plants can’t operate profitably, and Spring – a traditional low point for electricity prices – is upon us. It is hard to see how some facilities get through this without downtime.
However, market pain in the near term doesn’t (necessarily) mean disaster in the long-run. Markets are cyclical, and re-bound. In fact, despite the tough short-term outlook, biomass developers are well down the path in New Hampshire, and moving (less so) down the path in Vermont on new biomass electric projects, and a large combined heat and power project at a Maine paper mill is under serious discussion. At this point I don’t know how all of it will play out, but given the importance of biomass to the region’s electricity marketplace – not to mention the benefit to rural economies and the benefits as a forestry tool – it is hard to see New England without a meaningful biomass market.
Of course, biomass electric isn’t the only use of wood for energy. Biomass thermal – heating homes and buildings – remains a largely untapped opportunity in a region with heavy dependence on oil for heating. A couple years ago, when heating oil prices were climbing by the day – it seemed that everyone who had ever seen sawdust was set on building a pellet mill.
This winter, with oil prices at what many consumers considered a “reasonable” level, enthusiasm for pellet fuel (and firewood) was depressed. Long term? Again, hard to tell, but we all know that oil rich states in the Middle East are facing popular uprisings – and that brings the possibility of increased oil prices.
Changes in oil prices or not, biomass thermal is often cost competitive in today’s market – but the fear that prices will soon spiral out of control can certainly lead consumers to make the investment in a new pellet stove or boiler, creating a market for decades to come. Similarly, we are seeing a number of schools and colleges switch from fossil fuels to wood heat – providing nice local markets (with the added benefit of directly connecting students with the local forest industry).
So what does all of this mean? Biomass energy has hit a bump in the road, but the future remains full of opportunity for the right projects. We will probably see some facilities close, others sold… and others built. Overall market trends are important, but so too are the economics of a particular project – whether it is a bank considering hundreds of millions of dollars for construction of a new biomass electric plant, or a family considering thousands of dollars for a new pellet stove.
What hasn’t changed – and won’t change – is that biomass energy is renewable, local, and helps sustain the region’s forested landscape.
ONCE HAILED, WOOD POWER FIZZLES IN MASS.
May 17, 2011 - 0 Comments
By Jay Lindsay – Boston.com
Burning wood for electricity was once a hot idea in Massachusetts.
Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration committed $1 million to spur wood power plant development, which a 2007 state-funded report predicted would bring hundreds of jobs and an economic boost worth tens of millions of dollars.
The best part? It was seen as green, a way to meet the state’s clean energy demands with a renewable energy source as old as the campfire.
Today, wood has been reduced to a bit role in the Patrick Administration’s renewable energy plans.
Regulations proposed this month virtually eliminate any chance large, wood-fired electricity plants can be built in Massachusetts, according to advocates for power from wood, also called biomass.
Massachusetts officials note that none of the designs for wood power plants now planned in the state meet the proposed new efficiency standards. They say they hope to “redirect” the industry to build smaller, combined heat and power units, used at sites such as industrial parks.
Wind and solar are developing faster than any renewable energy sources in Massachusetts, and the state is confident it will reach its renewable power goals relying on them, said David Cash, undersecretary for policy at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The slide in standing for wood power when there is increasing demand for renewable energy has stunned Bob Cleaves of the Biomass Power Association.
“It is just breathtaking,” he said. “And really bizarre.”
Until recently, wood was viewed as a renewable source on par with any in Massachusetts. The 2007 report for the state by the University of Massachusetts estimated nearly $80 million in annual economic output and almost 600 new jobs with new biomass energy plants in the state. Massachusetts has one existing plant in Fitchburg.
A state study in 2008 envisioned wood power would contribute more megawatt hours of renewable electricity than either solar power or onshore wind by 2020.
Wood power’s problems came as the state changed its views on wood’s carbon emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically cut by 2050 under Massachusetts law.
Advocates argue wood power is carbon neutral because the carbon released by burning wood is eventually reabsorbed by new forest growth. But opponents, led by the citizens group Stop Spewing Carbon!, say it’s a dirty technology that releases much more carbon than trees can quickly absorb.
A state-commissioned report last year by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences indicated that burning a certain type of wood at large-scale plants would give off more carbon emissions by 2050 than coal-fired plants.
In response, the state promised to write stricter rules for the wood plants. Stop Spewing Carbon! then dropped a planned ballot question that would have required the tighter rules.
Massachusetts’ proposed rules now demand unprecedented efficiency from large wood power plants in order to qualify for renewable energy credits that such plants need to be financially viable. Right now, the plants would operate at about 25 percent efficiency. The new rules say they must operate at 40 percent efficiency to qualify for even half a credit.
Cleaves said that standard can’t be reached yet. He said large wood plant developers who invested millions believing they had state support have been badly burned by “a precedent that I have never seen anywhere in the United States.”
He blamed misinformation from Stop Spewing Carbon!, which he called a “small, vocal, extreme minority,” for pushing the Patrick administration into a purely political decision.
Cleaves also said the state’s carbon worries are severely overstated and based on a misunderstanding. He said the Manomet study focused on the effects of burning wood cut from growing forests, which has a higher carbon cost because it takes such a long time to regrow.
But he said wood power plants rely instead on abundant “waste wood,” including logging leftovers and storm-downed trees, that is far cheaper and has a lower carbon cost.
The state wants to get 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, but Peter Bos, developer of a proposed 50 megawatt plant in Russell, said “Without biomass, I don’t think the state will reach its goals. Bos notes biomass is available around the clock, unlike wind and sunlight. Questions about high costs have also dogged wind and solar development.
Meg Sheehan of Stop Spewing Carbon! said wood power is so dirty, it should it should never have been part of the state’s clean energy plan. She added it’s “simply preposterous” to believe the Patrick administration changed the standards to appease her group, given the clout of the wood energy industry.
“To think they haven’t had an equal opportunity to make their case to regulators and to politicians is on its face just ridiculous,” she said.
Cash said the state was worried both about the carbon impact of wood power and preserving the state’s wood supply.
“Though renewable over time, wood is a limited resource, and we should use it as efficiently as possible,” he said.
Political pressure has nothing to do with the new regulations, Cash said.
“This was driven by science,” he said
CANADA BIG PELLET SUPPLIER TO EU IN 2010
Written by Argus Media
May 18, 2011, London, UK – Wood pellet imports into Europe from outside the EU rose by 42% in 2010 compared with 2009, according to a study by forest product consultants Hawkins Wright. Imports increased to 2.5 million tonnes in 2010 from 1.7 million tonnes in 2009, the company said at the second annual Forestry, Biomass, and Sustainability conference in London, UK, in early May 2011.
The biggest importer of pellets from outside the EU was the Netherlands, which imported 900,000 tonnes in 2010 compared with just under 792,000 tonnes in 2009. The UK saw the biggest increase in pellet imports from outside the EU to 511,000 tonnes in 2010 from just 3,000 tonnes in 2009, making it the second-largest importer.
Canada overtook the United States as the biggest supplier of pellets to Europe, shipping 926,000 tonnes in 2010 compared with 520,000 tonnes in 2009. U.S. shipments to Europe increased to 736,000 tonnes in 2010 from 535,000 tonnes in 2009.
Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and Italy were the other big importers of wood pellets from outside the EU in 2010, according to the Hawkins Wright study.
CONFEDERATION COLLEGE TO BUILD BIOENERGY CENTRE
Image: Confederation College
May 16, 2011 – The Ontario government is supporting renewable energy research by investing in a bioenergy learning and research centre at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario. With $1 million in support from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s Infrastructure and Community Development Program, the college will build a bioenergy plant that will produce enough renewable energy to heat the college's Shuniah building and the new REACH facility. The centre will also allow students to conduct hands-on research. A boiler in the new plant will be used to test the efficiency of different biomass fuels, especially those derived from wood products.
"This Bioenergy Centre will create opportunity for northern learners to study using clean, green technology as we provide an efficient and renewable energy source for our principle buildings on campus. This allows us to advance our ongoing commitment to sustainability and our new focus on applied research," says Patricia Lang, president of Confederation College.
RWE OPENS WORLD’S LARGEST WOOD PELLET PLANT
By Anna Austin | May 16, 2011
RWE recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 750,000 metric ton wood pellet plant in Waycross, Ga. The wood pellets produced there will be shipped to Europe.
PHOTO: RWE INNOGY
European power utility RWE Innogy has officially opened its 750,000 metric ton-per-year wood pellet manufacturing plant on a 740-acre site near Waycross, Ga., following a ribbon-cutting ceremony held late last week.
At a total cost of about €120 million (about $195 million), the plant and surrounding structures, as well as development of a port, took just over one year to construct.
Wood pellets produced at the plant will be transported via train to the port of Savannah, Ga., about 100 miles away from the facility, and then shipped to Europe. They will be used primarily by RWE’s coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands, where up to 30 percent of coal-fired power plants are already cofired with biomass, according to the company.
RWE plans to completely repower its Tilbury, U.K., coal-fired power station with biomass by the end of this year, and believes it will be the largest biomass power plant in the world at 750 megawatts post-conversion.
Europe has a goal of producing 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE, said the feedstock requirements to help meet that goal cannot be met from resources available in Europe. “In the U.S., and mainly in the Southern states such as Georgia, the situation is quite different,” he said. “Here, the surplus of sustainable cultivated biomass was around 35 percent over the past 10 years. Thus, Europe can benefit from these overseas resources to attain its CO2 reduction targets.”
ANALYSIS: WOOD FUEL POISED TO BE NEXT GLOBAL COMMODITY
By Gerard Wynn
LONDON | Thu May 19, 2011 9:47am EDT
(Reuters) - Wood fuel, one of the oldest energy sources on the planet, could become the newest commodity market if it can overcome supply limits and green concerns as demand grows for renewable energy.
Supply constraints are starting to put wood fuel into competition with the paper industry, experts say, in an uneasy reminder of existing tension between the food industry and companies making biofuels from food crops.
In theory burning wood and crop waste emits less carbon than fossil fuels because it simply returns to the air carbon accumulated by plants as they grow, but that balance breaks down if stock is not replanted, or natural forests are logged.
In the meantime, utilities are burning biomass in ever greater amounts and now want price certainty and derivatives to manage their cost exposure in forward power sales, although European policymakers are mulling limits on subsidies for burning wood fuel given concerns about deforestation.
"It's coming very fast," said John Bingham, a director at consultants Hawkins Wright, referring to the development of an open market, and citing Eurostat data showing EU imports of wood pellets up 42 percent last year.
He saw increasing evidence of a larger scale market including big producers of wood pellets in Europe and North America and big intermediaries, such as Cargill and Gazprom, to balance large utility buyers.
Shaped wood pellets are made for the energy sector, while raw wood chips are used mostly by the paper industry.
The energy exchange APX-Endex is working with the Port of Rotterdam to supply an exchange-traded pellet product this year, while index provider FOEX has joined up with specialists Wood Resources International (WRI) for a global wood chip index.
Those developments herald a gradual shift to a more transparent market beyond bilateral deals between suppliers and users, such as timber companies and utilities.
Indicating the size of appetite, Britain's biggest coal-fired power plant, Drax, burned nearly 1 million tonnes of biomass last year, more than double previous years, while burning ten times that amount of coal.
Drax says biomass expansion depends on clearer UK support, under power market reforms to be announced before the summer. Its sources include straw and energy crops such as miscanthus.
Wood pellets have about 70 percent of the calorific value of coal, experts say.
The British arm of German utility RWE, RWE npower will this year convert a coal plant near London to burn biomass.
The aging plant will burn 2 million tonnes through 2015, when it is due to close, said a spokesman who added the facility would be a test bed for the alternative fuel.
That compares with domestic UK wood fuel production, excluding recycled or waste wood, of about 1.5 million tonnes annually, according to Forestry Commission data, underlining a need for a global trade.
It is an open question whether there is enough volume for an open market, however, given utilities have already tied up large volumes in long contracts, or produce pellets for themselves, said WRI's Hakan Ekstrom.
If EU wood fuel subsidies were more predictable and reliable -- for example the UK support to be announced in the next few weeks -- then utilities would commit to buy bigger volumes, and so motivate more supply, traders say.
But new utility demand for wood fuel, subsidized by EU low-carbon incentives, may also impact the paper and even construction industries, Ekstrom added.
"The concern is that the energy industry is starting to compete with pulp in particular but even MDF or particle board plants. They don't like to see that the energy sector is subsidized so that they can pay more for chips and pulp logs.
"That's starting to be a problem or an issue in Europe, in North America, Latin America."
And that supply issue drives concerns whether a burgeoning wood fuel market may damage natural forests.
"It's a completely crazy idea that we can burn our way out of climate change," said Robert Palgrave from the green group Biofuelwatch UK, who preferred wind power or energy efficiency.
Palgrave was among two dozen or so protesters outside an Environmental Finance biomass conference in London last week.
Such concerns are reflected in a European Commission study of the environmental impact of biomass incentives.
The Commission will decide this year whether to propose new eligibility rules, called sustainability criteria, for biomass subsidies.
"The Commission intends to publish the next report by the end of the year, as requested," said a spokeswoman. The biomass industry says it is working on its own green standards, and that plantation forests and waste will be the main sources of supply.
(Editing by Keiron Henderson)
STUDY POINTS OUT INHERENT FLAWS IN MANOMET WOODY BIOMASS STUDY
By Lisa Gibson | May 19, 2011
William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics, has released a study contradicting the Manomet Study’s debt-then-dividend model for using woody biomass to generate energy and offers his own dividend-then-benefit model.
A new study contradicting the findings of the well-known 2010 Massachusetts biomass study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences points out inherent flaws and incorrect assumptions in the Manomet authors’ methodology. In short, the inaccuracies lead to flawed findings, which have prompted sweeping policy changes in Massachusetts that threaten to wipe the use of woody biomass off the map in the state.
The Manomet study found and outlined a debt-then-dividend model for using woody biomass to generate electricity, saying it can take decades to pay back the carbon debt. In the new study, however, William Strauss, president of FutureMetrics, says Manomet has it backwards. “The Manomet study implicitly assumes there’s a carbon debt before dividend,” he said of his report, ‘How Manomet got it Backwards.' “The presumption is you’re increasing carbon. My thesis is the dividend has already been accrued.” The Manomet authors are so deeply ingrained into their logic, he adds, that they allow no conclusions other than those that accrue from their debt-then-dividend model, thus limiting the scope of their view of the world and removing information from the system.
Strauss says that there is in fact no debt for several reasons, one being the flawed assumption Manomet uses to suggest that a stand of trees is chosen and then every single tree is harvested from it. “In actual forest systems, assuming sustainable forestry practices, the carbon released by combustion from selective harvesting is offset by carbon accumulation from the rest of the system’s continued growth,” Strauss writes.
For example, if there is a forest system with 1 million tons of biomass on Jan. 1 of a given year and that system has 1.01 million tons on Dec. 31 of that same year, the forest has increased its carbon stock over that given year and it is embodied in the extra 10,000 tons of biomass. If 10,000 tons are harvested on Dec. 31, the system begins the next year with the stock of biomass and carbon at the same level it had at the beginning of the previous year. “What you release into the atmosphere is only what you’ve accrued that year,” Strauss explains. “[Manomet authors are] under the assumption that you go cut down a tree and stand there and wait 30 to 50 years while it regrows.” The Manomet authors lean on the assumption that carbon accounting begins when the tree is harvested.
Strauss continues in his report supposing Manomet’s axiomatic assumption and carbon accounting begins at a point in the past. “In our 1 million ton system, if we start our accounting on Jan. 1, we accrue our dividend first before we harvest the benefits,” he writes. “There is never a debt. Let’s call this a ‘dividend-then-benefit’ logic.” The underlying conclusion, he says is clear: if biomass is harvested from existing forests that will be sustainably managed in the future, there is no debt.
The Manomet study is only an analysis of Massachusetts woody biomass use, but that fact is sometimes lost in the chatter surrounding it. Strauss says he is by no means a Massachusetts expert, so instead uses figures and statistics from Maine forests in his study to prove his points.
“Wood-to-energy from sustainably managed forests, as this paper has shown and as all of Europe has codified in its carbon accounting rules, can provide net zero carbon emission or even positive carbon sequestration if the woody biomass stock is not depleted or grows over time,” he concludes.
Strauss released his study May 18 to about 200 recipients, he said, including some Manomet authors. “I do expect a response,” he said. “I suspect there will be some back and forth.”
Strauss said he does not have a goal of upsetting the course of policy changes in Massachusetts that are based on the Manomet study. Earlier in May, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released its final regulations pertaining to woody biomass qualification for the state’s renewable portfolio standard of 20 percent by 2025. The final regulation is no more friendly toward biomass power than the previous proposal and is expected to be implemented swiftly as ordered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
WELSH RESIDENTS COULD SWITCH TO BIOMASS BOILERS
23 May 2011
In Wales, UK, the threat of rising energy costs could see residents switch from using fossil fuels to renewable energy in their homes.
A price surge of 15% in the upcoming months is expected to encourage home owners to install biomass boilers in their homes.
According to Andrew Boroughs, owner of Welshpool-based Organic Energy, the sales of wood pellet burners has increased by 20% in Q1 2011 alone.
'Over the course of the past year, every one of the six biggest energy providers in the UK rained its process and the new increases are likely to be added to customers' bills by the start of the summer,' Boroughs says. 'Anyone who ran out of heating oil last winter knows just how dependent rural properties in particular are on this fossil fuel, the cost of which is also increasing.'
Report analyzes current and future European pellet markets
By Lisa Gibson | May 23, 2011
This chart shows the balance of pellet volumes for the major European country markets in 2009.
In 2009, Europe consumed 9.8 million metric tons of wood pellets, with 9.2 million going to the 27 European Union member states, according to the 2011 report European Wood Pellet Markets: Current Status and Prospects for 2020.
Six European authors representing universities, pellet organizations and renewable firms collaborated on it with three goals in mind: map current European wood pellet demand and supplies; provide a comprehensive overview of major market types and prices; and discuss the future outlook in light of raw material supply. The work was published in Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.
In 2009, approximately 670 European pellet plants produced more than 10 million metric tons of pellets, making it the largest producer in the world. At the time of the report, Sweden and Germany were the largest pellet producers, both producing about 1.5 million metric tons. Sweden is the largest consumer of wood pellets at about 2 million metric tons and Germany, with a consumption of just below 1 million metric tons, exports more than 500,000 metric tons. The chart maps out consumption, production, import and export figures for the 15 largest European pellet markets including Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Austria, France, Italy and others.
After Europe, North America has the largest pellet production facilities. Capacity grew from 1.1 million metric tons in 2003 to 6.2 million in 2009, the report says. Canada exports 80 percent of its pellets and the U.S. exports only 20 percent. The majority of U.S. pellets are used in residential applications.
The report also studies residential and industrial pellet pricing, and transport costs and pellet trends. “The pellet market is quite dynamic due to economic developments and recently released government biomass support plans,” the report reads. “Public support is needed to cover the additional costs of capital investment, operation and maintenance of renewable energy equipment, and pellet fuel feedstock, in comparison with their fossil fuel alternatives.”
In addition, the report considers current and future supplies for pellet production and analyzes future pellet demand. It lists the EU member states with the most potential for additional wood and wood waste use for heating and electricity production as: Germany (43 million metric tons), France (19 million), U.K. (14 million), Spain (13 million), Poland (7 million), Belgium (7 million), Greece (6 million) and Italy (6 million). “It is uncertain to what extent the demand for woody biomass will be covered by wood pellets,” according to the report, which concludes by saying that pellets and other woody biomass sources could play a significant role in meeting the EU’s renewable energy goal of 20 percent by 2020.
Posted: May 29
Updated: Today at 8:12 PM
EPA PLANS TO CRACK DOWN ON WOOD SMOKE EMISSIONS
By Tux Turkel email@example.com
The wood-burning fireplace warming the den is cozy, but it can belch as much pollution as an old diesel bus. That vintage wood stove cranks out heat, but it can contribute to asthma attacks in the neighborhood, or even inside the house.
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When fuel oil prices soar, as they have this year, more Mainers turn to wood heat. But wood smoke contains fine particles that can cause health problems. In some locations, especially river valleys, residential wood smoke is a major source of winter air pollution.
Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing regulations meant to tighten emissions limits for new residential wood heaters. For the first time, these regulations will cover pellet stoves and outdoor boilers -- heat sources that have become popular in Maine.
Also likely to be included are new indoor furnaces and cookstoves.
The proposed rules don't involve any existing heaters. And new fireplaces, both factory-built and masonry, will continue to be exempt, at the urging of industry.
But the pending changes are noteworthy, because they cover most of the wood-burning devices common in Maine and represent the first substantial changes since the EPA set performance standards to "certify" wood stoves, 23 years ago.
The draft regulations were scheduled to be released next month, but have been pushed back until January. The compliance date for wood stoves and outdoor boilers is likely to be June 2014. Other standards will kick in by 2017.
The agency has been circulating details, which are being reviewed by interest groups.
Cleaner-burning technology could help reduce thousands of cases of asthma, respiratory symptoms and lost work days by 2017, according to EPA estimates.
But the standards don't get at the biggest sources of wood smoke pollution: thousands of older wood stoves and alternative heaters still in use. An old wood stove, for instance, releases four times as many particles as a modern device, and because it's less efficient, it burns more wood.
"Most of the stoves used in Maine and elsewhere are still pre-1990," said John Crouch, public affairs director for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. "The old ones just don't wear out."
One solution developed by the EPA and Crouch's group is to redirect money from air pollution fines to provide vouchers for residents who forfeit their old burners for new ones.
A program last year in Keene, N.H., used $106,000 to fund 86 change-outs. Residential wood smoke contributes a quarter of the winter air pollution in the town, which is flanked by mountains.
Ed Miller, vice president of health promotion at the American Lung Association in Maine, currently is working with a similar program in western Massachusetts. It provides vouchers for up to $3,000 to buy new wood, pellet or gas stoves. Miller wants to launch a similar program in Maine, but isn't aware of any funding now.
A survey done by the association during the last heating oil price spike, in 2008, found a quarter of Maine households using wood as supplemental heat. One third of the stoves were more than 20 years old.
"Wood smoke is, in many ways, like second-hand cigarette smoke," Miller said.
Overall, the new EPA proposals seek to strengthen emission limits to reflect today's best available technology.
That shouldn't be hard for certified wood stoves. The standards would cut fine particle emissions from a maximum 7.5 grams per hour to 4.5 grams for stoves using non-catalytic technology. Catalytic stoves would go from 4.1 grams to 2.5 grams. The tougher standards have been in place in Washington state since 1995.
Pellet stoves would have to meet the new wood stove standards, and the EPA estimates that two-thirds already do. In addition, the EPA wants certification tests for pellets, to assure mills are making premium fuel with clean-burning qualities.
Factory-built fireplaces, which make up 90 percent of all units, also came under scrutiny. Washington has had an emissions limit since 1995. Some communities, such as Denver and parts of California, ban new open-burning fireplaces altogether.
The EPA has a voluntary limit of 5.1 grams per kilogram of wood burned. Some manufacturers meet that standard now, but the EPA concluded that extending it to all prefab units isn't cost effective.
Crouch's group argued against a mandatory limit, saying most factory-built units aren't used for serious heating.
"It's more of a Sun Belt product," Crouch said.
A major target of the new standards is outdoor boilers, technically known as hydronic heaters. Neighbors frequently complain about the smoke they generate. The heaters are subject to bans and regulations in some communities and emission limits in some states, including Maine.
Some manufacturers have voluntarily begun making heaters that meet the EPA's proposed standards, which limit particulate emissions, carbon monoxide and visible smoke.
These changes are pending as the hearth industry recovers from a drop in sales during the recession, despite federal tax credits meant to create incentives. The trade group's latest survey counted nearly 1 million units shipped nationally last year. Seven out of 10 units were gas. Cordwood heaters made up 25 percent of the total; pellets were 5 percent.
Roughly one-third of the wood- and pellet-stove owners use their units as the major heat source, lighting a fire an average of 120 times a year. Fireplace owners reported burning 52 times a year, the survey found.
The survey also determined that more than half of all U.S. homes have a fireplace or freestanding stove, and that fireplaces rank second among the features buyers want in new homes.
Beyond dirty wood burners, the EPA identified another obstacle to cleaner air.
Manufacturers can develop the best technology, but it only achieves the design potential when operated properly, with a hot fire fueled by dry, seasoned wood.
In a discussion of its draft options, the EPA notes that a typical prefab fireplace emits 12 grams of particulates per kilogram of wood. That level can be cut to 1 gram, the EPA says, if owners would close the glass fireplace doors.
Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:
RWE TO CONVERT TILBURY POWER STATION INTO BIOMASS PLANT
German owner of coal-fired power station on the Thames hopes wood-pellet burning will create almost no carbon emissions
Engineering work has begun to convert Tilbury power station into a wood-pellet burning plant. Photograph: Alamy
Engineering work has begun at a coal-fired power station in Essex that could turn it into the world's largest biomass plant – burning wood pellets with almost no carbon emissions.
RWE, the German owner of the Tilbury power station on the Thames, says it hopes to be ready to produce up to 750 megawatts of green power by the winter.
Tilbury, as with many other traditional coal-fired stations, was heading for closure in 2015 under tough new environmental regulations imposed by the European Union.
"No one has done anything on this scale before and we are confident that this will provide huge carbon savings but also reductions in other emissions such as NOx [nitric oxide] and SO2 [sulphur oxide]," said a spokesman for RWE npower, the UK arm of the business and a sponsor of the Football League.
The company plans to bring in wood from a new pelleting plant it has built in the US state of Georgia. RWE insists the wood sourcing is sustainable although the cross-Atlantic shipping will emit CO2.
RWE would not put a figure on the conversion work underway at Tilbury but is spending £200m building a 50MW combined heat and power plant in Scotland that will power a paper mill at Markinch in Fife to be opened next year.
RWE is also involved in several windfarm developments but is also the owner of other coal-fired power stations and is considering building new nuclear plants. RWE npower produces 10% of Britain's electricity and has 6.6 million UK customers.