Saturday, October 1, 2011



Sept 2011

Gerald W brown * 7202 County Road U * Danbury, WI 54830 Phone 715-866-8535

Gerald Brown is solely responsible for the content in this newsletter

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belknapThe Belknap County Economic Development Council has filed a lawsuit against a company that was given a $580,000 loan, but failed to create the jobs it had promised and didn’t repay the money.

According to the suit filed in Belknap County Superior Court, the BCEDC made three loans to Lakes Region Pellets LLC, guaranteed by its then principals, Gregory True of Alton and Mark Smith of Madbury, in June 2009.

A lawyer for the BCEDC tells The Citizen the company that was supposed to produce wood pellets never got up and running. The suit seeks to recover the principal plus late fees and legal fees.

A lawyer for True says his client has nothing to do with the company any more.



By Ernest Herndon - Enterprise-Journal

Pike wood pellet mill case still in courtPike County supervisors continue their legal battle with an Illinois firm that failed to deliver on plans to build a wood pellet plant in Magnolia.

Supervisors approved payment Thursday of a $10,000 deductible to Trident Insurance Services for providing legal defense in a lawsuit filed by Indeck Magnolia LLC.

Supervisors also hired attorney Brad Pigott of Jackson to handle the county’s breach-of-contract suit against Indeck.

Indeck bought land from the county in 2008 with plans to build a $17 million plant that would have employed 20 people and made wood pellets for fuel. Indeck reportedly spent at least $1 million on the project.

Supervisors filed suit in Pike County Chancery Court in December 2010 after the company failed to build the plant. Indeck counter-sued when supervisors refused to approve a sale of the property to Investar, said board attorney Wayne Dowdy.

Indeck also had the lawsuit transferred to U.S. District Court.

Trident provided legal counsel in the counter-suit, which was dismissed. Pigott will now represent the county in its case against Indeck. Dowdy can’t represent the county since he will be a witness in the case.

Supervisors are seeking to buy back the 16-acre property for the original $128,400 purchase price.


What's old is new again

WATERWORLD: In the past year, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge has signed a contract with a new grain elevator operator that promises to make up to $100 million in facility upgrades; landed its first green industry, boasting another $80 million to $100 million investment; and has nearly completed a state-of-the-art marine complex.

By Steve Sanoski (Contact)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's not uncommon to find a gold shovel in an executive's office, and Jay Hardman is no exception. Unlike others, however, Hardman doesn't have his prominently displayed or sealed behind a fancy glass case, and there's no accompanying plaque or photo commemorating its specific use.

Hardman, executive director of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, keeps his shovel in an unassuming corner of his office, much the same way as a gardener might keep his in a tool shed, as if at any moment he might need to use it to break ground on another expansion or new project.

"I've just about worn the paint off that thing," he says. "Every time we've done a groundbreaking lately, I think we've had to have hit the pinnacle, and I don't know what we can do for an encore. The port has really grown up over the past few years, and we plan to keep growing."

In the past year alone, the port has signed a contract with a new grain elevator operator that promises to make up to $100 million in facility upgrades; landed its first green industry, boasting another $80 million to $100 million investment; and has nearly completed a state-of-the-art marine complex.

These major projects come on the heels of a number of smaller, but equally significant, aesthetic and structural upgrades at the port, located on the Mississippi River under the Interstate 10 bridge in Port Allen. About $6 million has been spent to rehabilitate the grain dock, increase security and repair silos and shed roofs. And in the coming year, the port plans to replace 13,000 feet of light-duty rail lines that serve the dock.

The combined investments have the port better prepared for the future than before, Hardman says, making the facility more attractive to prospective tenants while benefiting area farmers and creating new jobs for the surrounding communities.

Until April, Cargill Inc. had been the only company in the port's history to hold the contract on the grain elevator. The contract had never been let for proposals until 2010. But earlier this year, the 15-member Port Commission unanimously approved a competing bid from Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which plans to invest as much as $100 million over the next 15 years by extending the dock, installing a new barge unloader, and improving loading towers and conveyor belts.

Hardman says the changes will lead to faster and increased grain shipping, which should, in turn, create better prices for farmers. Under Cargill's direction, farmers had complained in recent years of falling prices and restrictive operating hours at the elevator.

Cargill was bringing an average of about 20 cargo ships per year, Hardman says, but Louis Dreyfus estimates it will bring in five times as many deep-draft vessels. Louis Dreyfus officials say they want to export as much as

6 million metric tons of grain per year, compared to less than 4 million tons shipped over the past decade. An LSU AgCenter study finds the contract with Louis Dreyfus will mean an extra $11 million to $33 million to farmers.

The upgrades and increased production are expected to create two-dozen permanent jobs at the elevator. There also will be temporary construction jobs created, Hardman says, as well as residual job creation for longshoresmen, stevedores, tugboat operators and others in the maritime industry.

"It's probably the biggest private-sector investment here at the port in its history," he says.

Click here for a timeline of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge.

The Point Bio Energy wood pellet plant project would be a close second. It has been delayed several times since being announced in April 2010, but Point Bio Energy Chairman/CEO William New says the plant is moving forward, and he's confident it will be completed.

New isn't so keen on providing a timeline. He previously said that construction would be under way by the end of the year. He now says that schedule remains possible, but he won't speculate on its likelihood.

He blames the delays on three changes in the main contractor; each change has pushed back the project by six months. Once ground is broken, the plant is expected to cost $80 million to $100 million to build and employ as many as 100 people.

The facility is expected to be among the largest of its kind in the country, producing about 400,000 tons of wood pellets for fuel per year. Point Bio Energy is under contract to begin delivering pellets to Rotterdam, Holland, by January 2013.

The plant is the port's first green industry, Hardman says, which will further diversify its tenant mix and help position it for the future global economy. With an increasing focus on renewable green energy, New says, demand for biomass energy sources such as wood pellets is only going to rise. The Port Commission has approved a 20-year lease for the facility.

SECURITY DETAILS: The $4 million Maritime Security Operations Center, which is expected to be completed in mid-November, will allow for communications between all maritime security agencies and seven area sheriff's offices.

Courtesy Port of Greater Baton Rouge

SECURITY DETAILS: The $4 million Maritime Security Operations Center, which is expected to be completed in mid-November, will allow for communications between all maritime security agencies and seven area sheriff's offices.

"It's been a long, drawn-out project, but we're coming to the final stages here," New says. "Right now, we have the two most important components in hand, and we're confident everything will come together."

The Maritime Security Operations Center has the port on the cutting edge of security, Hardman says. The $4 million complex, which is expected to be completed in mid-November, resembles the bridge of a ship.

The building will allow for communications between all maritime safety agencies and seven area sheriff's offices. All emergency dispatches in West Baton Rouge Parish already are housed in the complex, which has led to additional lease revenue for the port.

"If you would have come out here 10 years ago, you could have driven your car right onto the dock. In fact, a lot of people around here used to do that for lunch every day," Hardman says. "Obviously, those days are gone, and security has become vital to the port's future."

The port continues to plan for future growth, buying additional land along the Intracoastal Waterway. With the recent purchase of 24 acres adjacent to the Inland Rivers Marine Terminal, the port now has acquired about 300 acres; it hopes to acquire another 100 acres.

Larry Johnson, who has served on the Port Commission since 1992 and has been its president for four terms, says the port never has had as much going on at one time since opening in 1952.

He credits much of the recent success to a forward-thinking board and administration, which has brought strategic planning in-house and has aggressively pursued projects and expansions during a time when many ports are tightening their belts because of the recession.

During his time on the commission, Johnson has seen the port go from a "basic barge terminal" to one focused on attracting more ocean-going vessels and building out inland facilities. He predicts that people will be amazed with the port once all of the projects are completed in the coming years.

"When you drive across that bridge from Baton Rouge in a year or two, you will see a very different port," Johnson says. "It's going to be a showpiece. It's going to look refreshing and new and it's going to tell the country that we're ready for business."


7 September 2011

Wood pellet producer Pinnacle Renewable Energy and CMC Engineering have proposed to build a wood pellet export facility at Prince Rupert Harbour in British Columbia, Canada.

If the $30 million (€21.3 million) project is approved, four 15,000 tonne, 39m tall pellet silos would be built from galvanised steel, as well as a number of conveyors which would transport the pellets from the silos to the ships that would dock at Westview Terminal.

Pinnacle plans to break ground on the facility next year, with completion slated for 2013. The facility's initial startup would create 12 jobs, but this could increase to 24 as the demand for pellets grows.

The companies outlined their plans to the city council on 6 September.



8 September 2011

Waiouru Becomes Nz’s Largest Wood Pellet User

A ground-breaking project at Waiouru Army Base has increased our national wood pellet consumption by 50% and reduced carbon emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes per year.

The New Zealand Defence Force facility now boasts the largest wood pellet-fired boiler in the country, with the conversion of its 8 MW boiler from coal to renewable wood pellets. The project displaces the use of 5,300 tonnes of coal annually, cutting CO2 emissions by 10,500 tonnes per year.

“The New Zealand Defence Force is always looking at how we can implement sustainable practices and improve the environmental performance of our ships, camps and bases. Thanks to this project, Waiouru’s heat and hot water now comes from carbon neutral, renewable energy – which is great for our operation and for New Zealand as a whole,”Manager Facilities Management Services, Lieutenant Colonel Warren Parke said.

EECA Manager for Business Renewables Shaun Bowler said the project shows clearly that wood energy is a practical option for organisations with large energy needs. “Increasing New Zealand’s use of bioenergy is a major plank of the Government’s new energy strategy. It brings numerous benefits – not only reducing our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, but supporting our local wood industry by getting more value from our forests.”

The boiler started operation in May, and has successfully kept the base warm through Waiouru’s polar temperatures this winter. Defence’s Waiouru base provides barrack accommodation for 1,400 staff as well as training, workshop, catering, garage and office facilities.

The Defence Force opted for the wood pellet conversion following a feasibility study and trials that showed wood was a viable option. As well as reduced CO2 emissions, the project means no soot and sulphur emissions, lower maintenance costs and prolonged boiler life. Unlike coal ash which needs careful handling and disposal, ash from the clean-burning wood pellets is fully biodegradable and can be used as a fertiliser.

The project was supported by both Solid Energy (through subsidiary Nature’s Flame) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. The project cost $170,000, with EECA contributing $50,000 and Solid Energy Renewable Fuels $105,000. As the largest wood pellet-fuelled facility in the country, Waiouru is now an excellent demonstration site for other large-scale industrial heat users. Although wood pellets can sometimes be more expensive than coal, Solid Energy has agreed to supply pellets at a favourable rate from its Taupo production facility (the largest wood pellet production facility in the southern hemisphere), recognising the importance of the base as a demonstration site.

“A crucial part of the project involved sourcing an economic, significant and reliable source of wood pellets and this was provided by Nature’s Flame operations in Taupo,” LT COL Parke said.

“In this instance, we were fortunate to be taking a leadership role working with Nature’s Flame and EECA to assist in the development of a fledgling industry that helps to maintain jobs in the forestry industry of the central North Island.”


CONCORD, N.H., Sep 08, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NH-PUC) enriched its rebate program for wood pellet boilers and furnaces earlier this summer to include central heating systems housed outdoors. Previously, the NH-PUC had amended the program to include central heating systems with efficiency ratings of 80% or greater. Originally, the program required an efficiency rating of at least 85%; these adjustments allow consumers to choose from a greater range of systems while still ensuring the use of highly efficient renewable biomass heating systems.

Under the program, consumers can receive a rebate for 30% of their costs (up to $6,000) when they install an approved, high-efficiency, automatic-feed wood pellet boiler or furnace before February 12, 2012. Applications must be approved by the PUC in advance of installation in order to be eligible for the rebate.

Jon Strimling, President and CEO of NH-based, says the changes will allow more people to consider switching to wood pellet central heating systems: "now, with more affordable heating systems included, this program can be a viable option for middle- and lower-income families."

Pellet boilers cost in the range of $9,000-20,000 installed (complete with pellet storage and automated feed systems). But under this rebate program, a consumer would receive an immediate 30% rebate. provides a Savings Calculator, which estimates a typical Northeast homeowner participating in the program and utilizing 6 tons of pellets annually instead of oil could save over $1,000 in heating costs each year. So consumers could be breaking even in as little as six years, or even a shorter period if the costs of oil continue to rise. "And after that," Strimling says, "it's just pure savings."

Strimling says that, even independent of a rebate program like this one, the savings with wood pellets have never been greater. "We've seen oil fluctuate wildly over the years, but over that same period, the cost of heating with wood pellets has proven to be much more stable. And with oil and propane companies demanding higher prices this year, consumers can save significant amounts by heating with pellets. It's more reliable and more cost-effective."

In addition to reducing heating costs for consumers, the NH-PUC rebate program aims to stimulate the regional economy by creating local jobs and reinvesting money in New England that would otherwise go to foreign oil companies.

Strimling hopes that other states in the region will soon follow suit. "There's been talk in Vermont and Massachusetts of similar programs cropping up, and I'm working with others in the industry to help usher that along."

About Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are a highly efficient heating fuel made from clean, compressed wood by-products. Sustainable, domestically produced, and cost-stable, wood pellets help to stimulate local economies while simultaneously reducing dependency on fossil fuels. More information is available at or .


By Matt Soberg | September 08, 2011

In a strategic attempt to further grow their biomass market worldwide, Enviva LP and Biomass Energy LLC are partnering to operate and expand Biomass Energy’s pellet manufacturing facility in Bumpass, Va.

Biomass Energy, an affiliate of Ensign-Bickford Renewable Energies Inc., is a wood pellet manufacturer, based in Bumpass, Va., serving commercial and industrial customers. Likewise, Enviva is a wood chip and pellet manufacturer and supplier with operations in North Carolina, Mississippi and Belgium. In addition to the U.S. market, Enviva has the ability to export through its port terminal in Chesapeake, Va.

“We are thrilled to be working with Enviva,” said Scott Deakin, chief development and operations officer at EBRE’s parent, Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc., and CEO of Biomass Energy. “Enviva’s operations and manufacturing expertise, growing customer base, shared commitment to safety and sustainability and its multinational base of operations make the company a perfect partner for us. With improved and expanded manufacturing capability, Biomass Energy will be favorably positioned as a leader in the wood pellet biomass space for many years to come,”

“Biomass Energy produces high-quality, additive-free wood pellets,” according to John Keppler, Enviva chairman and CEO. “Plus, the company has an outstanding focus on safety and environmental stewardship, including strict procurement guidelines and a commitment to a local conversion process, which lowers the company’s carbon footprint and supports regional economies,”

With the demand for wood pellets increasing internationally, the companies plan to expand the Bumpass wood chip and pellet manufacturing facility to produce more than 350,000 metric tons within the next three years. The companies will utilize the Chesapeake terminal to export much of the pellet supply to the European market.

Other supplies will be sold through Biomass Energy’s existing customer streams including hospitals, colleges and schools, manufacturing plants, commercial properties, and municipal and state facilities. The operational alliance has already begun, and the companies will collaborate in operating and maintaining the facility. Biomass Energy intends to expand and upgrade production capabilities, and successful expansion is expected to produce new jobs and local economic development, according to Enviva.

“Developing strong relationships with companies committed to the safe, reliable and sustainable production of high-quality renewable fuels is a cornerstone of our business, and this partnership is a hallmark of that approach,” Keppler said.


By Lisa Gibson | August 04, 2011


Though final handshakes and signatures have yet to be made, the Pellet Fuels Institute has announced it intends to select the American Lumber Standard Committee as the accreditation body for the third-party pellet quality standard verification program it is developing. Stepping up to the plate, the ALSC briefed a crowd of pellet producers on its operations at the PFI Annual Conference in July.

PFI has stated it is confident ALSC is the proper body to carry out third-party verification of the mills in its program, as it has experience and already accredits several auditing agencies. ALSC will be the last step in PFI’s three-level verification system, following on-site visits from inspectors, and assessments by the mills themselves.

John McDaniel, of ALSC, explained that ALSC’s three-tiered program includes: ALSC, which establishes policies and procedures used to develop a quality control program for the labeling of lumber, treated wood and wood packaging material; the Board of Review, which uses the policies and procedures to accredit agencies and labs under the various ALSC programs; and the agency that provides service to mills that produce products under the ALSC programs so those products can be labeled, showing compliance with requirements.

The ALSC’s densified fuel accreditation program can begin once ALSC has approved its involvement in the PFI standards program, McDaniel said. Applications for accreditation as an agency or laboratory can then be filed with the Board of Review. Staff will review applications for compliance and pass it to the board for consideration. The board will then rule on the request and begin monitoring that agency or lab for compliance with the requirements. Once approved, the documents pertaining to the ALSC Densified Fuel program will be available on the ALSC website at

As the program is implemented, McDaniel expects a flood of questions and said producers can feel free to contact him at (301) 972-1700.

Twenty-seven companies representing 41 pellet mills have signed the PFI Standards Pledge, indicating they support the program and will begin the certification process as soon as auditors are available in their region, according to PFI.

The standards will include quality parameters for premium, standard and utility fuel grades. A draft of the standards and supporting documents are available on the PFI website at


2:58 AM, Sep. 8, 2011 |

South Dakota just received its share of federal money to help private landowners deal with the aftermath of the bark beetle infestation, and Colorado homeowners may be next.

The U.S. Forest Service awarded South Dakota $3 million in cooperative federal grants on Tuesday to help communities hit hard by the bark beetle.

Colorado's share of federal money for bark beetle-kill assistance may be on the way soon.

"Colorado's getting a chunk of money," said Lindon Wiebe, Rocky Mountain regional director of cooperative forestry for the U.S. Forest Service in Golden.

He said the federal grant money will be provided through the Colorado State Forest Service in Fort Collins, but the specific dollar amount the state will receive has not yet been determined.

"It's congressionally appropriated, specifically for certain projects or programs," Wiebe said. "There will be hazardous fuels reduction, state fire assistance, bark beetle work on private lands and forest health."

The Colorado grant award will likely be an-nounced later this month, he said.

Bark beetles have ravaged more than 3 million acres of forestland in Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, killing lodgepole and other pine trees throughout the region.


By Lisa Gibson | September 09, 2011

Wrapping up the first day of an educational North American Biomass Pellet Export Conference in New Orleans, two representatives from private equity companies shared their point of view on the pellet business. They both agreed that it’s challenging.

If tasked to describe the wood pellet business in one word, Carl Williams, principal of River Stone Holdings, said he would use challenging. The industry is fraught with challenges, he said. It’s nascent and fragmented. Economies of scale and scope are crucial, and it’s difficult to realize “cash on cash” returns. “I will tell you that it is possible to do that in this business, but it is extremely difficult,” he said. If you can show a bank pages of cash on cash returns, however, they’ll finance the project, according to Williams.

But without that, the key criteria for “culling the herd” of pellet manufacturers are: health and safety, sustainability, product quality, and reliability of delivery. “When you say a shipment of pellets will show up, it sure as hell better show up,” Williams said.

Justin DeAngelis of Denham Capital added that a global strategy for a pellet business provides for the highest potential value. “We believe if you have a truly global footprint … it allows you to supply current demand, but also to switch when the market picks up elsewhere.” The conference had emphasized European markets, he cited, but Asian and South African demand is on the rise as well.

To be completely successful, the pellet industry needs to become a mini coal industry, DeAngelis said, due to the fact that power companies want to burn coal. In addition, pellets need to become a real commodity, instead of the nascent product it is today. “Basically, people want to deal with coal at the end of the day,” DeAngelis said. The survivors in the industry will be those that look like coal companies, he added, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if coal companies are making pellets 10 years from now.

Summarizing, he reiterated the importance of a global approach, saying global pellet businesses have three benefits: the ability to position or reposition quickly when the view changes of where the highest value exists; access and visibility into truly global business drivers; and opportunities to create a global enterprise that delivers the highest risk-adjusted returns.


By Melvin Backman

As September rolls along, train cars full of torrefied wood pellets were supposed to be rolling into the cogeneration plant on Cameron Avenue.

The pellets were supposed to go through testing that would confirm the University had a viable way to fulfill its pledge to become coal-free by 2020.

Energy Services put out a purchasing request during the summer for tests of pellets that companies were supposed to provide.

Nobody answered the bid.

Energy Services put out another bid later in the summer to meet the fall deadline. It also went unanswered.

Now, UNC is unsure of the next step in becoming coal-free.

“We’ve confirmed that there is no torrefied wood material out there,” said Ray DuBose, director of Energy Services.

The University was prepared to test torrefied pellets for a report on their emissions and efficiency, but will now have to restrict its findings to dried wood pellets, which have already been tested.

Torrefied pellets have less moisture than dried pellets, so they create similar amounts of energy as coal. They can also be transported in open train cars, making it easier for suppliers to get them to the University.

Wood pellets are an attractive alternative fuel because they can be co-fired with, and instead of, coal in UNC’s cogeneration plant.

To the University’s dismay, the market for torrefied pellets is virtually nonexistent nationwide.

Earth Care Products Inc. is a wood pellet manufacturer in Independence, Kan., that has been producing wood pellets for more than 20 years and torrefying them for about three.

Luke Livingston, the company’s assistant marketing manager, said there is demand for torrefied pellets but said unclear EPA regulations surrounding their production has hampered growth.

“We have a lot better luck globally than domestically,” he said, noting that torrefied pellets are more popular in Europe, where policies for alternative fuels are clearer.

Other schools have attempted to find torrefied pellets during their transitions to alternative fuels and have run into similar problems.

Troy Runge, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin who helped the school find biomass for its transition, said it was hard to find torrefied pellets for the university’s steam plant.

“The economics are interesting but not so compelling that companies are willing to invest in it,” he said.

The few companies that had considered supplying Wisconsin with torrefied pellets backed off when they found out how expensive it would be to get a facility up and running, Runge said.

He said torrefied pellet production might be too far ahead of its time to catch on in the U.S.

“It’ll come, but the market’s just not there yet,” he said.

Chris Hopkins, a research associate at N.C. State University who studies biomass, said he wasn’t surprised at the lackluster response to UNC’s wood pellet bids. He said it would be nearly impossible to find a torrefied pellet supplier who could ship pellets to the University practically.

“There’s not an operational torrefier in the Southeast,” he said.

Stewart Boss, co-chairman of the Sierra Student Coalition, an environmental group that lobbied UNC heavily to go coal-free, acknowledged the difficulty of finding torrefied pellet suppliers.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” he said, adding that a small market will make it hard for any large-scale operation to incorporate torrefied pellets.

He emphasized that UNC still has other options for ceasing coal usage by 2020, such as natural gas or solar energy.

“There’s a lot of stuff we could be doing,” he said. “The commitment is not to biomass. The commitment is to being coal-free.”

DuBose said Energy Services has to create its alternative energy strategy for the near future without torrefied pellets but will keep them in mind when the market improves.

“If torrefied wood becomes available in the future, we’re open to testing it,” he said.

Contact the University Editor at


12 September 2011

In addition to Europe, the Asian market, and in particular Korea, is predicted to become a highly profitable export market for wood pellet producers around the world.

While the renewable energy market is still on hold in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, and China's demand for biomass is supplied domestically, Korea has been identified to become an important and competitive market in the future.

Renewable energy mandates are in place throughout Korea, encouraging the generation of renewable power from biomass.

Malaysia, Canada and Chile export biomass pellets to Korea already, but this is expected to grow as the nation's demand for wood pellets increases dramatically.


Published Tuesday September 13th, 2011


John Chilibeck

4 Comment(s)

FREDERICTON - Premier David Alward says the province's high electricity rates are not responsible for the latest sawmill closure that has thrown more than 70 people out of work in a small community deeply dependent on the industry's paycheques.

Scrummed at a fundraising event in Fredericton Monday, the premier blamed the layoffs on the sputtering American economy and world forces beyond New Brunswick's control.

"My understanding, specifically on Clair and what's taking place in the sawmills, is this isn't about energy rates. This is about market conditions and it's about the competitiveness, ultimately, for the price of the commodity, but also the markets in the U.S. are down. This is something that's taking place, not only in New Brunswick, but right across the country."

The premier's comments partially contradict what the sawmill owner, J.D. Irving, Limited, has argued - that NB Power charges industrial users among the highest rates in North America, hurting its competitiveness.

Geoff Britt, a spokesman for the forestry firm, said Monday that the company would not comment on the premier's latest statements, but its position is already well known.

Last week, Britt said while some factors are beyond the province's control, such as poor demand in the United States and cheap commodity prices, it doesn't help that the government won't lower electricity rates for the energy-hungry mills or ensure a cheaper wood supply.

Troubles in the industry are deep-rooted, something that does not bode well for New Brunswick, whose economy is more reliant on forestry than any other Canadian province.

While about 20,000 jobs in New Brunswick are still directly or indirectly tied to forestry - keeping small communities surrounded by millions of trees alive - the mills are suffering.

In 2005, for instance, 76 pulp and paper, sawmill, fibreboard, panel and wood pellet plants were in operation. By 2009, only 47 were still running - a loss of 29 mills in four years.

Royalties collected from timber in New Brunswick dropped from $60 million in 2003 to $35 million only six years later. This has hurt the province's bottom line, which is still mired with $9.5 billion of debt and a $633-million deficit.

"Am I concerned about it? Yes I am," the premier said. "I understand the competitiveness issue. We only have to look at what just happened to NewPage in Nova Scotia to see the significant impacts of what's going on in the forestry sector."

NewPage is a big employer in Cape Breton that just filed for bankruptcy protection. It is shedding employees at its Point Tupper, N.S., mill, with an indefinite shutdown of its two paper machines. It's the region's major employer, with 600 mill employees and 400 harvesting and trucking wood for the plant. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter quickly announced $15 million to keep woodland workers employed so the mill will be ready with a steady wood supply once a new buyer comes along.

The Clair mill in northwestern New Brunswick is a hardwood plant that produces lumber suitable for furniture and other high-end wood products, whereas NewPage produced paper used for advertising.

What links the two is depressed commodity prices, a high Canadian dollar and wood supply problems.

Alward pledged the wood supply issue wouldn't be overlooked in the province's next five-year plan for the industry.

"We have two studies going on right now, one tied to the wood on Crown land and the other to the private wood lot side of it. Those reports will be completed in the coming weeks and coming months. Each one is at a different stage. We're doing the work we have to do, and we're certainly looking at the energy side as well."

The first of those reports was due July 1 but has not been completed. Norm Betts, a former Tory cabinet minister who is chairing the Crown Land Task Force, said in an interview Monday his group needed more time and that the report was still being translated in both official languages.

The other report by the Private Land Task Force is still due by the end of this year.

"The minister will be releasing it when the minister sees fit," said Betts, referring to Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup. "Our mandate, clearly, is to recommend policies that will ensure a sustainable industry in general. To the extent that helps any mill, I certainly feel that's part of our mandate and I feel we'll address those issues."

For his part, Alward said his government would act on the recommendations once they're in.

"It certainly is important to us and we're moving as quickly as we possibly can."


GOFFSTOWN, N.H., Sep 12, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- With oil and propane prices high and wood pellet prices at an all-time low, consumers are switching from petroleum-based fuels to wood pellets for heating their homes this winter. Typical homeowners can cut heating costs by up to 40% by switching from oil or propane to wood pellets.

"This really is the time for people to kick the petroleum habit and start heating with wood pellets", says Jon Strimling, CEO of New Hampshire-based, America's leading online retailer of wood pellets. "Not only are wood pellets a sustainable fuel source, they are also more affordable than ever and have much more stable prices than oil or propane."

Oil prices have fluctuated wildly over the past year, ranging from a low of $2.88 early in 2010 to a high of nearly $4.00 per gallon when oil prices spiked last spring. Over the last ten years, heating oil prices have risen 150%. The cost of wood pellets, on the other hand, has been very stable over the past five to ten years. Pellets are available today for as little as $197 per ton, which is the equivalent of buying heating oil for $1.67 per gallon, and is, in fact, less expensive than five years ago.

"No one has a crystal ball to predict the cost of heating oil and propane this winter" says Dave Yakuboff of All Basics Stove Shop in Merrimack, NH, "so homeowners are left to make that painful, annual decision of whether to pre-buy or take their chances and see what happens as the heating season progresses. That's why we're seeing so many new customers come into our store and say they're sick of the uncertainty. Wood pellet stoves give people a lot more control over their heating costs."

Kristi Mathieson and her husband Thad Ackerman from Kittery, Maine, thoroughly researched their heating options several years ago. They decided that wood pellets made the most sense for them. "We love using a renewable resource there is an abundance of in New England. We are happy to be contributing a little less to our country's addiction to oil, and we really enjoy the clean, even heat of our pellet stove," says Kristi. "To top it off," says Thad, "we're completely thrilled with the money we're saving by not burning oil."

Wood Pellet Heating

Wood pellets are a highly efficient heating fuel made from clean, compressed wood by-products. Sustainable, domestically produced, and cost-stable, wood pellets help to create local jobs while simultaneously reducing dependency on fossil fuels. More information is available at or .

About is the nation's leading online retailer of wood pellet fuel, offering home delivery service throughout New England. Renowned for award-winning customer service and the highest quality pellet fuels, is committed to making clean, green heat available and affordable. For more information, please visit .

Press Event and Interview Availability Wednesday, September 14, 2011 9 am-2 pm 84 Daniel Plummer Road Goffstown, NH 03045 1-800-PELLETS (735-5387)

*'s CEO Jon Strimling will be available for on-camera or phone interviews.

* Demonstration of wood pellet stove technology at Goffstown headquarters

* Families who have chosen wood pellet heating will be available for interviews.

* A third-party expert in government or environmental advocacy will be available to comment on the benefits of wood pellet heating.


September 13, 2011 08:00 ET


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 13, 2011) - Viridis Energy Inc. ("Viridis" or the "Company") (TSX VENTURE:VRD) (OTCQX:VRDSF), a "Cleantech" manufacturer and distributor of alternative energy providing biomass fuel to global residential and industrial markets, announced today that it has begun shipping wood pellets to Italy through an off-take agreement arranged through its strategic alliance with Abellon Clean Energy Limited ("Abellon") that was signed last month. The agreement marks Viridis' second major off-take agreement in Europe. In addition, the Viridis/Abellon joint alliance is scheduled to begin shipping wood pellets to Switzerland over the next 30 days.

Abellon Clean Energy is a leading integrated sustainable energy solutions provider based in Ahmedabad, India, with operations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, U.K., India and Africa. Viridis commenced its collaboration with Abellon in August 2011 to identify and secure supply agreements for the Company's existing production, partner on the proposed acquisition of Monte Lake property and the development of a production facility, and to provide a strategic investment in Viridis by Abellon.

The increase in demand for wood pellets in Europe was highlighted in a recent report by RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry. RISI forecasts a 44 percent increase in biomass demand between 2010 and 2020 in Europe (inclusive of the 27 countries comprising the European Union, the UK, Norway and Switzerland), driven principally from the energy sector. The report sites lignocellulosic biomass, or plant biomass, as the largest renewable energy source available today, due to its relative abundance and reliable supply. A recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) stated that plans by Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries to rapidly expand power plants have fuelled demand for wood pellets, which could push demand up by 90 million tonnes per year in Europe and 60 million tonnes in the UK by 2020.

Commenting on the development, Christopher Robertson, Viridis' chief executive officer, said, "Our strategic alliance with Abellon is quickly developing into a dynamic conduit to significant opportunities in Europe. Since both companies share the objective of creating a leading bio-energy source, our efforts were immediately aligned. As a result, our relationship has already started to deliver results." Mr. Robertson continued, "As a result of our shipments into Europe, our current operations are trending towards full capacity and witnessing therefore nicely improving gross margins. Going forward, we intend to strategically expand our production capacity to address the worldwide demand for wood pellets and other biomass products, and we are currently reviewing several contract opportunities that satisfy our near term investment criteria and long term growth objectives."


Critics say the agency's decision for Iron Range mining facility breaks a promise for long-term reduction of toxic metal in the state.

Acting over the objections of environmentalists and Indian tribes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency agreed Tuesday to allow U.S. Steel Corp. to increase mercury emissions at an Iron Range mining facility without also requiring a precise schedule of reductions elsewhere.

The vote of the citizens commission that oversees the agency was unanimous and made without discussion.

The long-awaited decision moves forward a $300 million expansion of U.S. Steel's Keetac taconite processing facility in Keewatin, Minn., that will create an estimated 160 new jobs. It also includes technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it the first facility in Minnesota to do so under new federal rules.

Environmentalists, however, said the decision conflicts with the state's long-term plan to reduce mercury, a toxic metal that has polluted two-thirds of the state's waters and can make Minnesota fish unsafe for children and pregnant women.

"We don't want a regulatory agency that operates on faith," said Kevin Reuther, legal director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a nonprofit law firm.

In addition to its greenhouse-gas technology, the Keewatin plant will pilot new techniques to remove mercury produced by taconite processing. Taconite processors are the second-largest source of mercury in Minnesota after coal-fired power plants, and they now have no way of reducing mercury emissions.

"This will make U.S. Steel a model for the world," said Jeremy Smolich, manager of the Keetac plant, who described himself as a fourth-generation iron miner.

The Keetac case has been closely watched because of its economic impact and as a litmus test of the Pollution Control Agency's commitment to an aggressive statewide mercury reduction plan adopted in 2006 after years of intense discussion.

The plan calls for massive cuts in mercury emitted by state producers, from about 3,200 pounds annually to 789 pounds by 2025. In order to achieve that, it states that every proposed new increase in mercury emissions should be accompanied by an equal or greater reduction elsewhere.

U.S. Steel has promised to reduce mercury pollution with innovative new technology, which involves spraying carbon on smoke-stack emissions to remove the toxic metal. The mercury is then combined with other materials to form an inert solid that can be safely disposed of in a landfill.

The same technology has been used successfully in other industries, particularly coal plants and cement kilns, where it has cut mercury emissions by 80 to 90 percent, agency officials said. But because the approach is so new for taconite, agency staff said no one can say for certain how soon and how well it will work.

That uncertainty led the agency to give U.S. Steel a controversial deal: The new plant will be permitted to increase mercury emissions by up to 75 pounds per year while the company figures out the new technology. Even if the new system works as well as it does in other industries, the plant would still add at least 21 pounds of additional mercury to the atmosphere.

U.S. Steel has agreed to reduce mercury emissions at its Minntac processing facility in nearby Mountain Iron, where it also plans to install the mercury reduction system. But the precise tradeoff is not spelled out in the legal permit -- which is what was promised in the statewide reduction plan, according to environmental groups.

"This is what you told the public you would follow," Reuther said to the panel.

"We don't have an outcome we can count on," added Paula Maccabee, an attorney for Clean Water Action.

Agency staff told the citizens commission that, legally, the permit process does not allow them to require mercury cutbacks at another U.S. Steel facility. They also said the legal agreement would allow them to take U.S. Steel to court if it failed to comply with the agreement.

But that leaves the MPCA as the sole enforcer of the deal, said Reuther, precluding environmental groups and citizens from taking the company to court.

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394





Wednesday, 14 September 2011

By Lorenzo Cotula (PhD),, senior researcher at the International Institute of Environment and Development, UK

Biomass energy makes up 77pc of world renewable energy, and trees and woody plants account for 87pc of that biomass. This includes planted or managed trees such as conifers or broadleafed trees, some bamboo and woody grasses such as miscanthus grass or switch grass, and forest and wood industry residues.

Such woody biomass is often burnt directly for domestic heat and cooking, especially in the global south, but new technologies now allow it to be converted competitively into liquid fuels and electricity. In the search for renewable energy sources, to diversify economies away from fossil fuel and mitigate climate change, governments in Europe, North America and east Asia are turning their eyes to woody biomass; in some cases setting concrete targets for increasing the share of biomass energy.

These plans by countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to rapidly expand power plants fuelled by woody biomass are fast increasing the demand for materials such as wood chips and pellets, the latter being compacted and dried to reduce transport costs. Meeting national 2020 targets in Europe will require an additional 40 million oven dry metric tonnes (ODMT) of solid biomass to generate electricity and another 50 million ODMT of biomass for heating and cooling.

In the UK, for example, plans to expand biomass energy will push demand for biomass up to as much as 60 million tonnes annually, compared with the one million tonnes burnt or co-fired in the country’s biomass power stations today. In Asia, the South Korea Forest Service (SKFS) forecasts that pellet demand could rise from 20,000 tonnes in 2010 to five million tonnes in 2020.

In the face of such rapidly escalating demand, securing reliable sources of woody biomass will be key. Local sourcing is often viewed as important from an energy security perspective and also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions linked to transport. Countries such as France, Germany and the US are pursuing a model that mainly relies on domestic supplies. But for many OECD countries, demand for biomass will outstrip national supply capacity and local sourcing will not be an option.

Where will the global north get its woody biomass, then?

In part, it will rely on the world’s existing leading exporters of wood chips and pellets. The anticipation of growing demand from Europe is already driving major investment in new biomass pellet production units. At least five major pellet facilities in Canada, Norway, Russia and the US went into production, in 2011 alone, with a total combined capacity of around three million tonnes.

Sourcing from other exporters, including Australia, Chile, South Africa and Vietnam, is hindered by high transport costs. The extent to which supplies from these sources can keep expanding is uncertain. For example, plans to reduce the use of fossil fuels in North America are expected to divert supplies of wood pellets away from export markets.

It is likely that countries in the global north will have to look to non-traditional suppliers in the global south to plug their biomass gap. Operators in Brazil, for example, are increasingly interested in exporting to Europe and some analysts see the country as one of Europe’s most promising future sources of wood pellets because of its good infrastructure and relative proximity.

Africa is also likely to play a big role in feeding the demand for biomass. Already, some companies are moving to service or replant existing tree plantations for this purpose. For example, deals have been signed to produce woodchips for export markets by replanting old rubber plantations in Ghana and Liberia. But the sheer scale of projected global demand means that new plantations will also have to be developed to fuel biomass power stations.

Africa is attractive in this regard because it is perceived to be abundant in land. And there is another reason for biomass suppliers to acquire land and develop plantations in the global South: tree growth rates and consequent financial returns are much higher. In natural temperate forests, growth rates range from one to four cubic metres per hectare, each year. In temperate and subtropical plantations of conifers such as pines, this range rises from 10 to 30 cubic metres per hectare, each year. Tropical pine plantations are faster still at 15 to 45 cubic metres per hectare, each year. Fastest of all are tropical eucalypt plantations that can reach growth rates of up to 60 cubic metres per hectare, each year.

Energy companies are already developing plantations on available land in Canada, Europe, Russia and the US using fast growing material supported by stable policy environments and sustainability standards. While such sources can meet demand, land acquisitions for biomass plantations in the global south are likely to remain limited. But evidence suggests that private operators increasingly consider this a viable business option.

Several feasibility studies are underway in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. And some land deals for biomass plantations have recently been announced. For example, in 2010, a US company announced the acquisition of a 49 year lease on 5,000ht of land in Ghana for a plantation to produce feedstock for biomass power plants. The company also operates in Guyana, where it leases some 2,000ht, with the option to lease an additional 58,000ht, hoping to export wood chips to the US and the UK. The same company intends to establish energy crop plantations in Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania to export wood chips for biomass power to Southern Africa and India.

It has also concluded a deal with an Indian company to conduct trials of bamboo and other species in India, Ghana, Guyana, the Philippines and Tanzania. Other companies already operating in Africa include the subsidiary of a Canadian business, which runs eucalyptus plantation in Congo that, in 2009, supplied around 350,000tn of wood chips to Europe.

It is not just the private sector taking the lead in land deals for biomass plantations, the South Korean and Indonesian forest ministries signed memoranda of understanding that reportedly allocated 200,000ht of forest land to the production of wood pellets and included a 99-year lease on separate land, with private companies expected to construct and operate a pellet making plant, in 2009.

The extent to which these types of activities become and remain profitable depends on soil fertility and local microclimate as well as the species, rotation length, trees per hectare and harvesting system used. Perhaps most importantly, the economic attractiveness of biomass plantations significantly depends on the stability and nature of policy incentives and on the comparative prices of fossil fuels; if fossil fuel prices are relatively low, it becomes more difficult for biomass energy to compete.

But several factors are expected to increase the attractiveness of investing in biomass plantations in the coming years. Fossil fuel prices are expected to rise. The cost of biomass production is likely to fall as strategic breeding and production methods develop.

Biomass plantations may also be able to generate additional revenue streams, for example through selling carbon credits. They can also sell into different markets such as timber or pulp, if energy prices fall. Some tree plantations are already doing this.

What are the implications of expanding biomass plantations for recipient countries in the global south?

Some benefits may materialise apart from creating hoped-for jobs; biomass plantations could open the door to improved energy access. But there are also real concerns. In particular, the search for cheap land, suitable climates and competitive transport costs will increasingly lead investors to focus on Africa and Southeast Asia, where many countries are characterised by food insecurity and vulnerable land rights.

Where land is formally owned by the state, as it is in much of Africa, decisions about biomass plantations will be taken by central government agencies. People who may have used land for generations and see it as their own tend to have weak and undocumented land rights, little capacity to exercise these rights, and are marginalised in decision making. Some national laws require local consultation but in practice implementation often falls short of expectations.

In some countries, land is controlled by customary chiefs and they may become the ones who sell or lease land to, and negotiate deals with, biomass operators. But there are still questions about the extent to which these chiefs are accountable to their constituents and maximise local public interest. In all these cases, there is a real risk that people will lose the land they depend on for survival.

Compensation may be inadequate to restore local livelihoods. Although new jobs may partly offset adverse impacts, plantations and processing plants may not generate jobs for all affected people.

Biomass plantations may also compete for the best lands with food crops and biofuel feedstocks, adversely affecting local food security and further marginalising smallholder farming. Where biomass production is for export, these tensions are not compensated for by improvements in local energy security.

There has been some debate about sustainability standards for production but little attention has been paid to the wider implications of biomass plantations.

If left unchecked, the growing pressure on land access could undermine livelihoods and food security in some of the world’s poorest countries.

It may be early days, but the sheer pace and scale of growth in biomass energy makes this no ground for complacency. Certainly, the world needs greater public scrutiny and debate about what the plans for biomass energy in the global north will mean for developing countries in the global south.(Fortune)



Source –

Biomass could fuel 140000 upstate jobs

New York State Senator Patty Ritchie

State Senator Patty Ritchie today said that promoting the development of biomass energy projects like a proposed cogenerator plant in St. Lawrence County could help create as many as 140,000 new jobs across Upstate New York, while helping generate electricity to fuel renewed economic growth.

Senator Ritchie attended a hearing of the Legislature’s bipartisan Commission on Rural Resources, co-chaired by Western New York Sen. Cathy Young, where advocates for biomass energy explained that bureaucratic red tape was holding back an industry that could help reduce New Yorkers’ reliance on foreign oil, put vast stretches of New York’s abundant timber lands into productive use, and create jobs.

“The Commission was told we could create 140,000 new jobs by harnessing this emerging local energy resource,” Senator Ritchie said. “But state laws that favor renewable energy sources like wind and solar are written to specifically exclude wood, grasses and other biomass sources.”

“If New York wants to create more private sector jobs and investment, we need to capitalize on the rural resources we already have available on our farms and commercial forests,” Senator Ritchie said. “We need to stop talking about the benefits of ‘green energy’ and start looking at the resources in our own backyards.”

Senator Ritchie noted that one developer has proposed a cogeneration project using biomass for Ogdensburg, which would mean a $50 million, private sector investment, and the creation of 150 local jobs.

“Our forests are constantly growing, faster than they are being harvested,” Senator Ritchie said. “Creating new markets like the Ogdensburg cogenerator biomass facility will help to create new jobs, but it will also help us to provide a new revenue source for farmers, timber companies and rural families who own woodlots.”

New York State depends on out of state sources for 92 percent of its energy needs, according to the New York Biomass Energy Alliance. The State imports 1.8 billion gallons of fuel oil each year at a cost of $5.5 billion.


Source – Bioenergy Insight
Photo –

Russia's energy giant turns to biomassGazprom, Russia’s largest natural gas company, is switching to biomass.

The company has installed four 6MW biomass boilers at its Severoonezhsk-based 24MW plant.

Speaking about the project, David Poveda, director of Spain’s Nova Energia Group, says: ‘The four global boilers use wood waste with a moisture content of 50% or higher, which in many cases are completely covered in snow. Biomass was chosen as a more economical and efficient solution to the existing one, as costs are cut as the biomass is obtained at zero cost.’

The project also helps minimize the volumes of waste wood sent to landfill sites. The plant can handle a variety of wood sources, including chips, bark and sawdust, with between 30 and 50% water content.

Additionally, Gazprom has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SPPH ECO Biomass Resources of Malaysia. Under the deal, Gazprom will acquire torrefied palm leftovers for the production of renewable electricity.

SPPH ECO torrefies palm residues at its plant. In 2013, it will supply 150,000 tonnes a year to Gazprom, increasing this to 500,000 tonnes in 2015.


Thursday, 8 September 2011, 2:00 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Defence Force

8 September 2011

Waiouru Becomes Nz’s Largest Wood Pellet User

A ground-breaking project at Waiouru Army Base has increased our national wood pellet consumption by 50% and reduced carbon emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes per year.

The New Zealand Defence Force facility now boasts the largest wood pellet-fired boiler in the country, with the conversion of its 8 MW boiler from coal to renewable wood pellets. The project displaces the use of 5,300 tonnes of coal annually, cutting CO2 emissions by 10,500 tonnes per year.

“The New Zealand Defence Force is always looking at how we can implement sustainable practices and improve the environmental performance of our ships, camps and bases. Thanks to this project, Waiouru’s heat and hot water now comes from carbon neutral, renewable energy – which is great for our operation and for New Zealand as a whole,” Manager Facilities Management Services, Lieutenant Colonel Warren Parke said.

EECA Manager for Business Renewables Shaun Bowler said the project shows clearly that wood energy is a practical option for organisations with large energy needs. “Increasing New Zealand’s use of bioenergy is a major plank of the Government’s new energy strategy. It brings numerous benefits – not only reducing our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, but supporting our local wood industry by getting more value from our forests.”

The boiler started operation in May, and has successfully kept the base warm through Waiouru’s polar temperatures this winter. Defence’s Waiouru base provides barrack accommodation for 1,400 staff as well as training, workshop, catering, garage and office facilities.

The Defence Force opted for the wood pellet conversion following a feasibility study and trials that showed wood was a viable option. As well as reduced CO2 emissions, the project means no soot and sulphur emissions, lower maintenance costs and prolonged boiler life. Unlike coal ash which needs careful handling and disposal, ash from the clean-burning wood pellets is fully biodegradable and can be used as a fertiliser.

The project was supported by both Solid Energy (through subsidiary Nature’s Flame) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. The project cost $170,000, with EECA contributing $50,000 and Solid Energy Renewable Fuels $105,000. As the largest wood pellet-fuelled facility in the country, Waiouru is now an excellent demonstration site for other large-scale industrial heat users. Although wood pellets can sometimes be more expensive than coal, Solid Energy has agreed to supply pellets at a favourable rate from its Taupo production facility (the largest wood pellet production facility in the southern hemisphere), recognising the importance of the base as a demonstration site.

“A crucial part of the project involved sourcing an economic, significant and reliable source of wood pellets and this was provided by Nature’s Flame operations in Taupo,” LT COL Parke said.

“In this instance, we were fortunate to be taking a leadership role working with Nature’s Flame and EECA to assist in the development of a fledgling industry that helps to maintain jobs in the forestry industry of the central North Island.”



Source – Pellet Fuels Institute

Jennifer Hedrick Appointed Pellet Fuels Institute Executive DirectorArlington, Virginia – September 20, 2011 – The Board of Directors of the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) announced today the appointment of Jennifer Hedrick as its new executive director. Hedrick’s appointment marks the first time in its 26-year history that PFI, a trade association dedicated to advancing the use of densified biomass fuel, will have a full-time executive director.

According to PFI President Scott Jacobs, “this is an important step for our association, and the industry, as we continue to build awareness of the benefits of using densified biomass fuel. Over the last three years, Jennifer has demonstrated outstanding coalition-building skills. She is equally committed to advocating for the use of densified biomass as a means for job creation in the United States and as a viable option for achieving our country’s energy objectives.”

Hedrick has been with PFI since 2008, serving first as the Association Manager before being appointed Acting Executive Director in July 2011. As Association Manager, Hedrick was the point person for PFI’s standards program, as well as the PFI Annual Conference. She played a key role in the association’s overall management, strategic development, and membership outreach. Prior to joining PFI, Hedrick spent several years working for a public policy initiative at Georgetown University Law Center that focused on workplace flexibility.

“I am excited about this opportunity and honored that the PFI Board has chosen me for this role,” Hedrick said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Board, membership and staff to advance the mission of PFI and help promote the industry to consumers and policy makers.”

Hedrick received her undergraduate degree from Bridgewater College and a MA from Virginia Tech. She also holds a certificate in non-profit management from Georgetown University. Hedrick is a member of American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Center for Association Leadership and serves on its Greater Washington Committee.

Located in Arlington, Virginia, the Pellet Fuels Institute is a North American trade association promoting energy independence through the efficient use of clean, renewable, densified biomass fuel. For more information about pellet heat, contact the Pellet Fuels Institute at 703-522-6778 or visit



By Claudette Riley –
Photo by Hurst Boiler

The Missouri Department of Conservation, working closely with the USDA Forest Service’s State & Private Forestry program, awarded almost $6 million in grants to public schools for Fuels for Schools projects.

According to a news release, the grants were funded through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants will help districts install a boiler system that uses wood biomass from local public and private forest land to heat their facilities. Two area districts were included:

· $850,000 to Liberty High in Mountain View-Birch Tree

· $970,000 to Gainesville school district in Ozark County

For more information, visit



By Lisa Gibson – Biomass Magazine

New export pellet testing lab first of its kind in US

Chris Wiberg, formerly of Minnesota-based Twin Ports Testing, has been hired to manage the first export pellet testing lab in the U.S.

Biomass Energy Laboratory in Conyers, Ga., is expected to begin operation by Nov. 1, making it the first U.S.-based pellet testing facility that will be fully compliant and accredited under Europe’s fuel quality specifications.

Up until now, pellet manufacturers exporting their products to Europe have sent their samples to a lab in Holland for analysis and verification of compliance with their end users’ specifications under ISO 17025, the accreditation process for conducting European testing on biomass. “It’s not that efficient to do that testing overseas and for the most part, all the U.S. producers want some kind of state-side laboratory that can run the analysis compared to having to ship the samples overseas,” said Chris Wiberg (pictured), Biomass Energy Lab’s new manager. “So that is why this lab is being set up.”

During a break from unpacking equipment and setting up his lab, Wiberg explained that BEL is a joint venture between Control Union and Timber Products Inspection. The two seem to be perfectly matched for such an endeavor. Control Union currently services a huge portion of the biomass exporting industry, doing supply chain auditing, quality verification and sampling, while Timber Products Inspection currently tests pellet products sold on the domestic market. “Timber Products has a laboratory set up for domestic analysis, but now we’re developing everything that’s needed for the international,” Wiberg said.

Wiberg has spent the past 12 years at Twin Ports Testing analysis lab in Duluth, Minn., and has been the point man in the ongoing development of the Pellet Fuels Institute’s standards and third-party verification system. At BEL, he will not only be the manager, but will oversee Timber Products Inspection’s domestic auditing for the PFI standards program.

“When I saw what Control Union and the Timber Products Inspection group were doing, they approached me about running their laboratory and I felt very comfortable about saying, ‘Yes, I’d be very willing to do that,’” he said. The new lab will be able to assist pellet producers in their quality assurance and quality control measures, whether they’re working to comply with PFI’s standards, Europe’s EN+ certification, or specifications of certain European power producers.

“The main thing that enticed me to switch over was that with this organization, we can put together a full model where we’re going to be developing the quality control/quality assurance portion, as well as the auditing in conjunction with the laboratory,” Wiberg said.


Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Clare Managing Editor

A manufacturing facility that made its debut in Isabella County in June is opening its doors to the public Thursday.

Isabella Pellet, which received a $1.2 million business and industry loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, is hosting an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. to showcase the facility, according to Katherine Methner of the Middle Michigan Development Corp.

That loan was earmarked for construction and equipment for the facility.

A short program will begin the event, featuring USDA Rural Development, federal officials and a tour of the plant, Methner said.

Guests attending the open house will be given tours of the plant to learn how wood pellets are made, she said.

Located at 6900 W. Baseline Road, Isabella Pellet manufactures wood pellets for home heating and animal bedding.

The soft pellets are made of red pine and produce higher BTUs and less ash than hard wood pellets, sales manager Brock Gutierrez.

"We are passionate about pellets and the environment," Gutierrez said. "Our product is renewable and eco-friendly, and that is important to us.

"We are extremely grateful to USDA Rural Development and Chemical Bank for helping us make this project happen."

Brian Anderson, president and chief executive officer of MMDC, said he is pleased that the facility is located in Lake Isabella.

"Projects of this magnitude are of tremendous importance to our local economy," Anderson said. "This project builds on the strength of our bio-mass sector, which is important for future green jobs in mid-Michigan."


A Traforart Zeus fireplace from Fiamma in Woodbury.

View and purchase photos

The cold air encroaches more each day as we move into the fall months, and sitting by a cozy fire with a glass of wine and a warm blanket seems the ideal way to spend an evening. But what kind of fire—gas, wood, pellet or coal—do we want and what are the relative merits of the models out there? Several fireplace and stove shop owners in the region offered their expertise on what the best options are for both warmth and design.

Rod Zander, owner of the New England Hearth and Soapstone in Goshen, specializes in masonry heater and tile stoves, large units engineered to be attractive and efficient—storing the heat in the masonry or ceramic tile and radiating it back into the home for 12 to 24 hours without a fire burning.

“They can be simple, or very ornate and very complex—it really depends on what the client is looking for,” said Mr. Zander. “I have standard units done in soapstone or ceramic tile and I also have done custom-design units. So they can be any shape or size imaginable.”

Mr. Zander said that his hometown of Goshen, a town with one of the highest elevations in Connecticut, is in a completely different climate zone than neighboring towns. Even with that, he has seen the effect of using a masonry heater.

“I burn three cords of wood a year to heat my entire house,” he said. “The house was originally built in 1850s and I got it insulated and improved it, but it is still a leaky house compared to a brand-new house. With metal stoves I would burn seven cords of wood to heat it,” said Mr. Zander, who has been in business for 30 years.

Mr. Zander said a masonry heater is very economical but that the cost of installation is expensive. For a small to medium size unit, a client can expect a cost of approximately $14,000 installed. For one with a stucco fa├žade the cost can escalate to $65,000 or more.

“They are a piece of sculpture. I mean they are beautiful and they are beautiful 12 months out of the year,” Mr. Zander said. “They become a focal point of the house. Warmth and beauty is what we all gravitate to. Masonry heaters have been tested, and they are the cleanest burning wood appliance available.”

Referring to the safety of his product, Mr. Zander said, “You can touch the stone anywhere and not get burned. They are very safe for children and pets. It’s also very healthy way to heat. People with asthma put these in and they have no problems with them at all. It is the healthiest heat form you can have.”

Mr. Zander did caution that the glass door is set in a metal frame. When the stove has been recently fired—fires burn for a short time and very hot—the glass or metal could give a person a burn.

“The surface temperature of the stove is lower and you have very complete combustion,” he said. “You have no soot and smoke smells in the house at all and it doesn’t dry the air.”

Ontario wood pellet plant to begin production next month [From the web]


SPRINGFORD, ON, Sept. 19, 2011 (Local News) - After six years in the planning stages, Canadian Biofuel expects to be producing environmentally friendly biomass fuel pellets and briquettes for residential, industrial and agricultural heating applications within a month.

A grand opening celebration was held at the company's research and production facility at the former Cargill grain elevator in Springford on Saturday, where it was announced the federal government is investing $500,000 in the operation. The money is being provided through the government's $15-million Sand Plains Community Development Fund, which is administered by the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.

Construction of Canadian Biofuel's Springford facility began in late April 2011, and production equipment is expected to arrive and be installed in time for the plant to start up in October.

Ontario wood pellet plant to begin production next month

RISI is not responsible for the reliability or availability of content on external websites.


By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

Posted Sept. 27, 2011, at 7:22 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Three Maine wood pellet producers have been granted more than $100,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program for producing alternative fuels.

Corinth Wood Pellets LLC in Corinth was awarded $31,406, Geneva Wood Fuels LLC in Strong got $11,825, and Maine Woods Pellet Co. LLC in Athens received $58,922.

“It certainly helps in this kind of economy,” said Robert Linkletter, owner of Maine Woods Pellet Co.

The Bioenergy Program for Advance Biofuels, which has been around since 2009, awarded grants to more than 160 energy producers in 41 states.

“Renewable energy production will create tens of thousands of direct, American jobs, thousands more indirect jobs, and clean electricity to power millions of homes,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “The payments I am announcing today represent the continuing commitment of the Obama administration to work with producers to provide the biofuel necessary to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources. The payments support America’s growing advanced biofuel industry.”

Money awarded was based on metric tons of wood pellets produced and Btus generated, according to the press release.

“It’s based on how many gallons [of heating oil] we replace. We get a slight percentage of it,” said Linkletter.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel was happy to see Maine companies on the list of recipients.

“I am so pleased these three Maine advanced biofuel producers have received USDA Rural Development funding under this important program,” Manuel said in the press release. “The support of these rural businesses is vital in ensuring the local production and availability of renewable energy sources and helping to support Maine’s biomass companies.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, also voiced her support.

“As winter approaches, it is critical Mainers have access to affordable and efficient home heating options to keep warm without breaking the bank,” Snowe said in a statement. “I am proud of these three alternative energy companies in Maine, who are leading the way in wood pellet biofuel, and look forward to their expanded endeavors and innovations in the future.”

Jonathan Kahn, president of Geneva Wood Fuels, said wood pellet producers received smaller portions of the grant compared with other biofuel producers.

“As users of forests and wood products, our credits were discounted by 85 percent,” said Kahn.

“We don’t get as much as the guys that do corn [biofuel] do,” said Linkletter.

All three businesses were happy to hear the news about receiving the funds.

“It’s an assistance that we really can use. This is the only government assistance that we receive,” said Kahn.

“This is to help us continue to grow our business. So it’s very supportive of the jobs we have,” said Corinth Wood Pellets Chief Financial Officer Steve Goldberg.

Linkletter said his business has been doing well in its fourth year.

“Now that [fuel prices] have stabilized, it’s made us very competitive,” Linkletter said. “We can beat oil very handily right now. [Heating oil prices] would have to come down an awful lot to compete with us again. Right now, people with pellets are saving about half of their fuel costs [compared to oil].”

“[There’s a] very healthy demand for pellets,” said Kahn. “We’re very gratified with customer interest. There’s been a very nice uptick in new pellet stove purchases.”

This month, Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association said it will cost $500 more to heat a New England home this winter as compared to last year.

“New England is very oil-dependent,” said Kahn. “There will be a time in the very near future when diesel, gasoline and heating oil [prices] start rising again. Our pellet prices are already attractive. They’ll be even more attractive.”

Kahn said Geneva Wood Fuels has 15 full-time employees and uses up to 80 when woodsman and drivers are taken into account.

Corinth Wood Pellets has 11 full-time employees, according to Goldberg.


Monday, 26 September 2011 REM

North American wood pellet capacity is set to increase to serve markets in Europe and Asia, reports the North American Wood Fiber Review.

European demand driving up North American wood pellet production

European demand for wood pellets has to a large extent, driven the expansion of pellet capacity in both the US and Canada the past five years. The North American Wood Fiber Review reports that in coming years, it is likely that demand for pellets will increase not only in Europe, but also in Asia and North America, which will generate new opportunities for pellet producers, particularly in Western Canada and Eastern US. A number of new wood pellet plants in the US and Canada are set to commence operations during 2011, with more plants planned in the coming years.

The existing coal-fired energy sector in the US South also remains a potent, yet unrealized market to date. Federal policies in the US that restrict the emissions of carbon dioxide gases would ultimately benefit the pellet industry in North America, as many coal plants would likely begin using pellets for co-firing as is the case in Europe. These changes would drastically alter existing pellet flows and production plans.

Europe has, by far, been the largest export market for North American pellet producers for a number of years, shipping nearly 1.5 million metric tons in 2010, as reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review. The most significant potential for increased wood pellet utilization, both short and long term, will continue to be in this region, as the European Union’s 27 member countries have a goal of sourcing 20 percent of the Union’s total energy needs with renewable sources by 2020.

In 2008, biomass utilized in the EU provided 80 million tons of oil equivalents (mtoe), and the European Commission estimates that this consumption may increase to 140 mtoe by 2020. In addition, Germany’s recently declared goal to totally eliminate its nuclear power industry by 2022 will increase the country’s demand for renewable energy, including woody biomass in the future. Other countries, including Italy, Finland, Poland and Switzerland are starting to question the viability of nuclear power as a future source of energy.

Asian demand for biomass energy is finally beginning to emerge, and shows signs of significant potential growth. South Korea has recently announced policies to increase the portion of energy consumption from renewable sources, including woody biomass. The country’s new Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for reducing green house gases by 30 percent by 2020, while concurrently increasing its use of wood pellets to five million tons in ten years.

Japan’s confidence in nuclear power has continued to plummet since the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis in early 2011, which will likely result in an increase in woody biomass usage as a portion of a larger renewable energy portfolio in the next few years.

The growing European and Asian demand for wood bioenergy is being answered by a number of US and Canadian companies already engaged in or moving towards an expanding export market. Besides British Columbia, which has been the major supplier of pellets to Europe, the US South has recently witnessed the opening of a few large pellet plants with plans to ship a majority of their production to European consumers.

“There is much uncertainty regarding future energy policies worldwide but one thing is undeniable – pellet demand in Europe, Asia and perhaps also in the US will be experiencing dramatic growth over the next five years,” concludes the North American Wood Fiber Review, the only publication that tracks prices of biomass, wood chips, pulpwood and sawlogs in the US and Canada.


Friday, 30 September 2011 REM

Energy Exchange APX-ENDEX, in cooperation with Port of Rotterdam, will launch the world’s first biomass exchange on 3 November 2011. The exchange has been developed in response to market requests and will be opened by the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovation, Mr. Maxime Verhagen, in a ceremony that will be held in Amsterdam.

World’s first biomass energy exchange announced

“This market will underline the importance of the mobilising all possible sources for achieving the renewables targets, in a competitive and therefore most cost-effective way - thus paving the way to a renewable energy supply at the best ratio between cost and benefits, both for the energy supply and the environment,” explains Bert den Ouden, CEO of APX-ENDEX.

The exchange will be developed in two phases. Phase one starts with non-cleared products where the physical settlement is arranged bilaterally by the counterparties, allowing market participants to trade standard contracts in a transparent environment. During phase two, clearing services for wood pellets contracts will be developed and implemented, providing further financial security to market participants. This is scheduled to take place during the course of 2012. Contracts offered for trading include three months contracts, three quarters and three calendars. As with all the APX-ENDEX futures contracts, wood pellets contracts are listed on Trayport’s Global Vision Trading Gateway.

APX-ENDEX has published a reference price index for industrial wood pellets since 2008, providing the market a valuable tool to increase price transparency. As a response to the market request, APX-ENDEX and Port of Rotterdam announced in July 2010 their intension to launch the world’s first exchange-traded industrial wood pellets contracts.

A joint market consultation study among market participants and other relevant stakeholders revealed the growth potential of the industrial wood pellets market and the need for exchange traded biomass products.

During the process of finalising the design of the market and the product specifications (including the sustainability criteria), APX-ENDEX has closely cooperated with the market participants already active in trading biomass products and their support and feedback has been vital for launching the wood pellets exchange. With the final approval by the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, APX-ENDEX is now ready to launch the market.

“The trade platform is indispensible to make energy generation more sustainable via the use of biomass,” comments Hans Smits, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority.


And though the leaves are falling, heating oil and natural gas prices are not.

Compared to this time last year, heating oil and natural gas prices are higher.

Historically, the price of heating oil goes up in winter because that’s when it’s used, said Ed Welsh, AAA New York Central Region general manager.

The official heating oil season is Oct.1 through March 2, he said.

Heating oil prices in New York are about $3.79 per gallon, approximately 31 percent higher than this time last year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority data.

In the Central Region, which includes Herkimer and Oneida counties, heating oil is $3.68 a gallon, about 38 percent higher than this time last year, according to NYSERDA data.

Natural gas prices also are higher, having gone up nearly 7 percent in June from $18.42 per cubic feet to $19.68, according to latest NYSERDA figures.

Starting off the heating season at such a high price potentially could be troublesome for consumers.

“If the trend line continues, you’re going to be paying 30 percent more through the whole season,” Welsh said. If prices reached more than $4 or even $5 a gallon for heating oil, it would be catastrophic for consumers, he said.

Demand over the winter season generally is what drives up the price of heating fuel. The weakness of the dollar, however, and uncertainty in the Middle East are adding to the rise, Welsh said.

The cost is directly related to the cost of crude oil, and the prices for crude oil are dependent on the world events, said Dayle Zatlin, assistant director of communication for NYSERDA.

As demand rises worldwide for crude oil, the prices also increase, she said.

Heating oil problematic

So far, the heating oil market has been unstable, making price predictions for this year’s heating season difficult.

“What I’m seeing is, based on my research and the latest figures from NYSERDA, heating oil is going to be higher this winter,” Welsh said. He said it’s too early to give an exact price.

Recent drops in fuel prices might have an effect on heating oil prices. Once the heating season begins, however, the price becomes independent of gasoline prices because of demand, Welsh said.

Tancred Lidderdale, senior economist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, agreed that heating oil prices are expected to be higher than last winter.

Lidderdale said the good news is that next spring, the prices are expected to be lower than in April when the cost of crude oil peaked at $110 per barrel.

The energy administration projects national heating oil prices to increase from $3.77 per gallon in this quarter to $3.93 next quarter, which runs October through January.

Payment options

Heating oil still remains a top choice for the winter season, and many customers are choosing to take the price into their own hands.

At Fred F. Collis & Sons, out of Rome and Yorkville, customers are given several options to pay for their heating oil, Vice President Paul Collis said. These include prepaying for the whole winter, paying as they need it and locking in the price.

“This year we’ve had a lot of people lock in the price for fuel oil,” Collis said.

Customers such as George Shaheen, 43, of Kirkland, prefer to lock in the price so they know how much they’ll be spending.

“I’m on a pre-pay automatic fill. I buy all of the year’s heating oil needs in September,” he said. “Basically, it gives me the stability in terms of knowing exactly what I’m going to pay per gallon, rather than going with whatever the market is when I need oil.”

Not only does price lock take out some of the uncertainty, but it also lets his family plan its budget.

“It’s just nice having piece of mind knowing that you don’t have to worry about those fluctuations affecting you in terms of grocery bills … car payments,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen said he did notice the price increase from last year between 25 and 30 percent.

“Unfortunately, it’s out of my control,” he said. “It’s a necessity of living in the north.”

Natural gas stable

Though natural gas has increased from last year, it is not as unstable as heating oil prices. Gas is not as affected by world events, as it is by supply and consumption in the United States, Lidderdale said.

Growth in natural gas production over the past few years has kept the prices down, he said.

“This is the time of year that we normally seen an increase in natural gas as we head into the winter heating season,” he said.

The energy administration does not expect to see a significant price increase, unless it is a record cold winter, in which case demand will drive the price up, he said.

The energy administration showed the average price of natural gas nationally increased from $11.94 per thousand cubic feet from April to June to $16.28 in July through September. The data projects the price to decrease to $11.74 per thousand cubic feet in the fourth quarter, which runs October through January.

Wood pellets

Natural gas might be more stable, but it is not available to all customers.

“Not everyone has gas lines to their homes. Not everyone can make that choice,” Zatlin said.

Other heating choices include wood pellets, the pricing for which is based on demand.

This year they’ve become a bit cheaper than in previous years, said George Deak, owner of Deak’s Farm & Home Inc. in West Winfield.

Two years ago when fuel prices rose, many people switched to wood pellets, which caused a shortage in the market and drove prices higher, he said.

“This year, prices look about the same as last year, and I don’t see them going up,” he said.

Pellets currently are priced between about $200 and $240 per ton, and were about the same last year, Deak said.

“Pellets are an affordable option, (but) as they become more and more mainstream, the price of the stoves has gone way up,” he said.