Wednesday, November 2, 2011

G Brown Newsletter Oct 2011


October 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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3 October 2011

One hundred and sixty wood pellet producers in 41 US states will receive grants from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand their biomass and biofuel output capacities.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement on 27 September, highlighting that the financial backing will help support the economy and the biofuels market in the US. ‘Renewable energy production will create tens of thousands of direct, American jobs; thousands more indirect jobs, and clean electricity to power millions of homes,’ he says.

Among the companies to receive payments is Enviva, with a payment of $7,891.09 (€5,917.46); Maine Woods Pellet will receive $58,922.82; New England Wood Pellet with $98,859.98; and Appling County Pellets, with a payment of $240,837.91.

The funding will be awarded by the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, which is dedicated to supporting biofuel manufacturers who use feedstocks different to corn. These include crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; landfill gas and sewage waste treatment gas; vegetable oil; and tallow.


under News . Trading October 3rd, 2011 by IFandP Newsroom

Next month will see the launch of the Rotterdam biomass exchange, claimed as the world’s first of its kind, in response to soaring demand for wood chicps from the biomass energy industry.

The establishment of the exchange follows a 2010 deal between energy exchange APX-ENDEX and the Port of Rotterdam. Trading is expected to start on 3 November with non-cleared products with contracts for three, six or 36 months, before a second phase in 2012, when clearing services for wood pellets contracts will be developed.

“In the port area itself, we foresee a market of two to three million tonnes in 2025,” said Hans Smits, chief executive of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, in a statement. “Outside Rotterdam, demand will be many times larger. APX-ENDEX increases the chance that these flows will run via Rotterdam Energy Port.”

Online systems in North America already serve a 10Mt global wood pellet market and countries are increasingly turning to biomass to curtail their carbon intensity. Experts forecast that the demand could growth six-fold by 2020.



By Hutter Construction

Mascenic Wood Pellet Facility

Mascenic Wood Pellet Facility. Photo: Hutter Construction.

The new wood pellet boiler heating system, for the Mascenic (NH) Regional’s school campus, is a first of its kind. In regards to its size and heating capacity of 4,000,000 BTU’s for an educational facility in New Hampshire.

Constructed adjacent to the high school building, the wood pellet boiler will not only provide the heating for the existing high school, but also for the new 18,000 square foot Science and Technology Center, and new 74,000 square foot elementary school through underground piping. The system consists of a storage silo, auger, boiler, stack flue, insulated heat supply, return pipes, and under-slab radiation.


By Lisa Gibson | October 04, 2011

The Meadow Lake Tribal Council held a community ceremony in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Oct. 3 to announce the development of a 36-megawatt biomass power plant just outside of town. The council even used a wood pellet barbecue for the event’s meal, fueled by wood pellets from its new pellet mill on the site of the proposed power plant.

The pellet plant has not yet begun commercial operations but soon will, and construction is expected to begin on the power plant in March or April of next year, according to Dwayne Lasas, vice chief of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. The plants will use residue from the nearby NorSask Forest Products Mill, also owned by the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, but could also use waste from a nearby pulp and paper mill. “They have waste piling up there,” Lasas said, adding that the amount of feedstock used will vary. “There will be no shortage of fuel.”

Material that is too light for the biomass boiler will be sent on a conveyor belt from the power plant directly to the neighboring pellet mill, Lasas said, saving money and reducing truck use for the operations. “There’s kind of a synergy happening here,” he said. “There will be nothing going to waste.” The pellet mill will begin producing just a small amount of pellets, but expansion is in the future. “It is smaller, but will be expanding,” Lasas said. “I think the world is really ready for that type of fuel.”

The $137 million plus biomass power plant has a 25-year power purchase agreement with SaskPower and Lasas said there is no concern about endusers for the pellets. “There’s already a demand for our product,” he said, citing new projects such as biomass boiler installations at schools in Saskatchewan. “We might not even be able to meet that demand.”

The power plant, dubbed First Nations Power Authority, has been in the works for just over two years and will provide power for more than 30,000 homes, jobs in the construction phase for more than 300 people and permanent jobs for 25 more.


Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:20am EDT

by Lauren Craig

The food-versus-fuel debate has typically been used in reference to farmers in industrialized countries growing food crops, such as corn, to sell to biofuels producers. However, there is another side to the debate. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit research institute based in London, is raising concerns that rising global demand for biomass fuels could lead to a race for land acquisition in the developing world, with serious implications for communities that grow their own food.

As countries in the global north increase their use of biomass to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and meet ambitious renewable energy targets, the demand for wood and other biomass crops could exceed supply by up to 600 percent in some countries. Some countries, including Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom already import increasing volumes of wood pellets. According to the IIED, this trend, combined with the tropics' high growth rates, cheap land and low costs of labor and the rising price of fossil fuels, could lead more countries to look toward Africa, South America and South Asia as sources of biomass fuels.

There is evidence that this is already happening. For example, in 2010, a US company secured a 49-year lease on 5,000 hectares of land in Ghana for a plantation to produce feedstock for biomass power plants. The same company also operates in Guyana, and intends to establish energy crop plantations in Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Governments hope that this increased private investment will lead to job creation and further action toward mitigating climate change. But, in many parts of the developing world, poor people have weak or non-existent land rights. If governments choose to lease large areas of land for fuel wood plantations, the IIED warns that many rural communities could lose access to land which they have farmed for generations, and on which their survival depends. The entire policy brief can be found here.

Photo by IRRI Images/flickr/Creative Commons


6 Oct 2011, 5.12 pm GMT

London, 6 October (Argus) — European wood pellet buyers are being warned to secure long-term supply deals with west Canadian producers before consumer markets in Asia-Pacific and Canada develop and create a shortfall in supply.

Recent legislative developments in Canada's federal government have stirred interest in wood pellets consumption in the country, Wood Pellet Association Canada managing director Gordon Murray said at the 11th Pellets Industry Forum in Stuttgart, Germany, yesterday.

“Wood pellet consumption has risen to the forefront as a potential replacement for fossil fuels since the federal government gazetted a coal emissions cap last month,” Murray said. “If implemented, from 2015 coal plants will have to cap their emissions to 375t CO2/GWh. This will apply to all new units and those over 45 years, which will affect 65pc of coal-fired power units in the country immediately.”

Murray predicts that Canada could produce a 50mn t/yr wood pellet demand in four or five years, because of the conversion of many coal-fired plants from coal to biomass, as well as the uprising of co-firing in the country.

“Until recently there was no interest in renewable energy in the country, but this has been a very quick about-turn,” he said.

Wood pellet markets are beginning to develop in South Korea, which has stated a biomass energy target of 4.2mn t of oil equivalent, according to Murray. Shipping wood pellets to South Korea is more favourable for producers in British Colombia because of the shorter distances and lower freight rates.

“From the west coast of Canada, the route to Europe is 16,500km, whereas to South Korea it is only 8,000km, which is much more attractive,” Murray said. “European utilities need to act now to secure long-term supply before these markets evolve in South Korea and Canada, because Canadians honour their contracts.”

But US Industrial Pellet Association managing director Seth Ginther said he does not see a wood pellet consumer market evolving in the US soon.

“Unfortunately, the US is way behind Europe in terms of renewable energy and emission reductions,” he said. “So wood pellet producers in the US are looking solely at producing pellets for the export markets, particularly into western Europe.”


Vapo closes Finnish wood pellet mills, finding sector failed to meet expectations

JYVASKYLA, FINLAND, Oct. 4, 2011 (Press Release) - The market outlook for the pellet business has continued to weaken in key customer segments and markets. The excess capacity situation that has continued for a long time, combined with increased imports to Europe, has brought down pellets market price to a level that often does not cover the production and transportation costs.

Since 2000 Vapo has invested almost EUR 90 million to pellet production. Investments were based on expectation that renewable energy sources would substitute fossil fuels fast. Demand for pellets and business environment, including subsidies and tax policy, have not met company's expectations. Vapo has exported oversupply of pellet production from Finland to Scandinavian and Central European markets, even though the export business has been unprofitable. From its beginning pellet production has generated cumulative loss of approximately EUR 40 million to Vapo.

As the market outlook for the pellet business does not show any improvement in near future, Vapo has decided to close down it pellet plants in Ilomantsi, Haapavesi and Kaskinen in Finland. Vapo is also going to abandon its port facilities in Riga and is preparing to adjust its production capacity in Sweden. In the past few years, the production plants to be closed down in Finland have operated at less than 30% capacity. Vapo is preparing to make a write-off at least EUR 29 million in the financial statements for the current year. In addition to the plants to be closed down, Vapo will make write-offs to the remaining pellet plants and the rest of the pellet infrastructure. As the personnel of Vapo's pellet plants in Finland have been outsourced to Maintpartner, the close-down will not have direct impact on Vapo's personnel. The number of personnel of the mills to be closed down has been 19.

After the reorganization, Vapo will have pellet plants in Kärsämäki, Ylistaro, Turenki, Haukineva and Vilppula in Finland, in Forsnäs, Främlingshem, Vaggeryd and Ljusne in Sweden, in Slubice in Poland and in Vildbjerg in Denmark. As the result of the adaptation measures, Vapo's calculated annual pellet production capacity will decrease from 900,000 tonnes to approximately 500,000 tonnes. Vapo's pellet production in the current year will be about 500,000 tonnes. The annual turnover from pellet production at the current volume level is approximately EUR 90 million.

According to Vapo's CEO, Tomi Yli-Kyyny, these measures are necessary to improve Vapo's profitability. "In terms of production capacity, Vapo is an indisputable market leader in Finland, but the decrease in the world market prices and increase in the production costs left us no alternative. In line with our strategy, Vapo will continue to invest also in bioenergy and pellets will be part of our bioenergy portfolio offered to our customers," Tomi Yli-Kyyny states.


10 October 2011

In the US, wood pellet producer German Pellets is developing its first manufacturing facility in Tyler County, Texas.

German Pellets chose this location due to the large quantities of raw materials available, including timber. This is attributed to the warm climate, fertile soils and higher forest growth rates.

The plant is expected to begin production in Q3 2012 when it will produce 500,000 tonnes a year of wood pellets. These will then be shipped to Europe.

Approximately 250 construction and fulltime jobs will be created.


Posted on October 11, 2011 | No Comments

Woodpellets are actually gaining continuous acceptance as a renewable energy source as a result of changing fossil fuel rates in the world market. Nevertheless, massive manufacture along with consumption of wood pellets are actually fulfilled with debate regarding the climate changes along with the global greenhouse result. Even though wood pellets certainly are a good, alternative heat source, the actual burning of wood pellets emits large levels of CO2 inside the environment. Carbon dioxide is definitely the leading factor that causes the particular greenhouse effect. Utilization of wood pellets pertaining to combustion is definitely considered to be creating a carbon debt in the atmosphere that will take many years to get rid of.

Besides the utilization of wood pellets, the creation of wood pellets can also be questioned as non-environment safe. Whilst pellet mills usually uses the particular scrap lumber along with sawdust (typically from leftovers of the lumber mill or even wood manufacturing factory), increasing need for wood pellets tend to be pushing several pellet mills to utilize more severe strategies, just like whole-tree removal and also harvesting the leftovers regarding logging procedures. This could bring about the actual receding forest places that are endangering both native plant and animal creatures.

Processing Wood Pellets with the Pellet Mill

Producing pellets are performed by simply modifying the raw materials (lumber along with sawdust) with the use of a press. The actual pulpy product is next approved right into a sieve which in turn forms the very last shape of the small wood pellets. The particular wood pellets harden along with obtain firmness since it cools. The ultimate size of the particular wood pellet is below 10 mm across and may be compactly held in sacks, silos, or warehouses.

The sort of wood utilized in the making process does very little towards the variance in the very last wood pellets. There is little apparent distinction from the humidity content and combustibility. On the other hand, high-quality wood generates far better wood pellets since they consist of much less ash content. Ash hampers the particular combustibility with the wood pellets, as well as creates extra remaining ash inside the pellet stoves. This will likely cause clogging and routine maintenance issues from the wood pellet appliance in the event that left unchecked.

Woodpellets are generally bulk shipped through pellet mills to large scale wholesalers as well as retailers. Even so, some small consumers use the usage of their own machines for making wood pellets for individual use. Wood pellets can be purchased through specialised marketers, nonetheless they can also be found throughout hardware stores and stores around the country. Nevertheless, throughout seasons of high demand (specially cold seasons), accessibility could become tight.

Diverse grades connected with wood pellets are available in the marketplace. Good quality Buy woodpellets (typically made out of hardwood) retain the least ash content and they are remarkably combustible. Cheaper grade pellets (commonly from pines) contain far more ash and therefore are less favorable with regard to central heating systems. Many hardware stores as well as retail chains offer the particular middle grade wood pellets for customers who wish to purchase woodpellets.

Making use of Wood pellets as Alternative Heat Energy

A pellet stove is usually a specific stove of which burns pellet fuel intended for heating as well as cooking. Huge household consumer of the pellet stove can be up against the chance associated with habitually cleaning the ash from the stove in order to avoid clogging along with hampering the burning of the pellet fuel.

Pellet heaters and also boilers are usually employed being an affordable alternative to oil-fired heaters. They’re successful regarding central heating systems pertaining to heater-ready homes. In case there is homes with poor ventilation or insulating material, smaller heaters can be used. Central heaters can be mechanically fed using the wood pellets by using conveyor mechanisms (most likely through pneumatic funnels or mechanical belts). Even so, smaller heaters as well as pellet stoves tend to be fed manually. Both equally appliances should be cleaned on a regular basis, and also specialized of burning simply wood pellets. They often are not able to burn other types of fuel and may even lead to permanent harm to the particular appliance.

By using wood pellets being a renewable energy source remains questioned; a lot of authorities report that emissions connected with wood pellets may be counteracted by improving the forest growth, which will be sooner or later essential for wood pellet harvesting. Nonetheless, some declare that the particular emissions from the wood pellets can’t be dissolved with the trees fast enough (proclaiming of which decades will probably be needed to clean it up, despite having the suitable levels of forest areas) as compared to fossil fuel.


(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston/Dedham, MA) - In the wake of a new government forecast home heating oil will hit its highest prices ever this winter, you can expect many New Englanders will be wondering whether to lock in or cap current oil prices -- or look in to switching to utility gas or wood pellets or something else.

The Energy Information Administration said Wednesday heating oil will average $3.71 a gallon from October through March -- not the highest price it's ever hit week-in, week-out, but the highest sustained average over a full heating season. The total winter heating season cost for oil will be up 8 percent from last winter, to $2,493 for the average customer -- $200 more than last year. Compared to the five-year average for oil between 2005 through 2010, this winter will be 42 percent more expensive. The forecast 8 percent increase is above the 7 percent increase forecast for propane and 2.6 percent for natural gas.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said she is hoping consumers pay attention and get to work early on insulating, coming up with ways to conserve energy, and shop around. "We're very concerned, as we always are, as every penny matters. This is one thing that really hits the northeast really hard, these high oil prices. People really have to go and shop around with their oil companies, get some prices, see what kinds of programs companies are offering,'' Coakley said.

But Scott MacFarlane, vice president of family-owned MacFarlane Energy in Dedham, Mass., who also chairs the state oil dealers' association, said he thinks the current price is heavily inflated by market speculators and could well come down. "It could possibly go down 20 or 30 cents; I don't think it's going to go up more than 10 cents'' over the course of the season, MacFarlane said.

Heating oil dealers will often offer people a chance to lock in a price for the full season, protecting against a spike, or a deal that caps their maximum possible price while still allowing them to benefit from the possibility of lower prices. "I would suggest that most customers don't lock in a price with their current oil company,'' MacFarlane said. "I think that they'd be better off just letting the price float and just be patient.''

"I don't anticipate that the price of oil will go up. In fact, I've told many of our customers that I think the price of oil will most likely actually go down a little bit,'' MacFarlane said. "I would not think that the price of oil is going to increase from where it is right now because there's no indications from a weather standpoint, anything in the world going on, any world-events standpoint.''

In large part because of the runup in oil prices in recent years, and big incentives from gas utilities like National Grid and NStar, the number of people in the northeast dumping oil heat in favor of gas has soared in the last eight years. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration and Census Bureau, 1.2 million fewer Northeast homeowners (New England plus New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) are using oil heat than in 2003, a 17 percent drop. In the same time period, about 651,000 homes have moved to gas heat, so gas-heated homes now exceed oil-heated homes in the region by 10.8 million to 6.9 million.

"There's always this question of: 'Do we convert? Do we not?' '' Coakley said. "This is really where consumers probably need some help to shop around. If they have an old oil burner, do they want to replace that? Do they want to go to gas?''

MacFarlane notes that over the last 25 years, oil has been less expensive for typical homeowners in 20 of those 25. With the discovery of huge natural gas supplies in the Marcellus Shale region of New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it's widely forecast gas will be cheap and abundant for a long time to come -- although the "fracking" techniques needed to get that gas, injecting water and chemicals into the ground and blowing up rock to release gas, are highly controversial with environmentalists. The up-front cost of switching from oil to gas, though, and how long it takes to recoup that cost, is always a huge variable.

But what seems almost certain: In the winter of 2011-2012, the heating-cost debate is one that will be heating up.


SALEM -- Not everyone will have a winter carnival this year.

"When you have to choose between food, or heat or medical expenses - that's not a real choice," said Herb Perkins, a member of the Salem/Shushan Fuel Fund.

With thoughts of winter creeping in and residents who will require more help now than in years past due to budget cuts, the Washington County community is rallying together with a series of events to help those in need.

The Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, has reduced maximum benefit amount across the board for heating sources for residents in need of assistance to heat their homes.

"HEAP funding has been slashed and our families will be in even greater need this year," Perkins said.

"I see this two ways: the cutback in HEAP, plus the economic crisis which has dragged on. People have depleted their savings. This cutback comes at a bad time."

Furthermore, natural gas, propane and heating oil prices are expected to rise between 5 and 10 percent in the Northeast this winter.

Last winter, the Salem/Shusan Fuel Fund provided local families with more than $4,000 to supplement their spending on fuel. The fund is currently empty.

"We totally exhausted our fund last year. This year, were going to have to do even more," Perkins said.

Locally, help is provided confidentially to those in need and is administered by the Rev. Debbie Earthrowl, pastor at the Salem United Methodist Church.

Perkins said a number of efforts are being organized to help raise funds to help the community this year.

A Benefit Dinner will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church of Salem, on West Broadway.

Much of the food for the dinner will be provided by local farms and growers and cost is $12 for adults and $5 for children. Kids age 5 and younger are admitted free.

Additionally, Salem Art Works will soon set a date for a Wood Cutting Day when volunteers will cut wood on the grounds to be stockpiled for those in the community who depend on wood for heat and whose wood supply is running low.

The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is working with local fuel providers to obtain fuel oil, wood pellets, propane and firewood for people in need this winter.

And a benefit concert is being organized to take place at the First Presbyterian Church of Salem on Nov. 26.

Donations may also be sent to the Salem United Methodist Church, with an attached note that designates it is for the Salem/Shushan Fuel Fund.


Griffith, R-Salem, is living in his office on Capitol Hill to save money and to stay focused on reining in what he views as out-of-control federal spending and regulations.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (left), walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, on their way

Photos by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (left), walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, on their way

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (right), eats canned chicken and crackers during a working lunch with legislative director Will Hupman in Griffith's office in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington.

Photos by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (right), eats canned chicken and crackers during a working lunch with legislative director Will Hupman in Griffith's office in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (center), shakes hands with Bruce Lisle, chief operating officer for Biofuel Boiler Technologies, after a meeting with lobbyist David Devendorf  (right) and others to talk about energy policy related to biofuels.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem (center), shakes hands with Bruce Lisle, chief operating officer for Biofuel Boiler Technologies, after a meeting with lobbyist David Devendorf (right) and others to talk about energy policy related to biofuels.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (right) smiles during testimony on the administration's efforts on line-by-line budget review during a House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations meeting.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (right) smiles during testimony on the administration's efforts on line-by-line budget review during a House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations meeting.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (right) reads paperwork as he walks from the Longworth House Office Building to the U.S. Capitol with legislative director Will Hupman.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (right) reads paperwork as he walks from the Longworth House Office Building to the U.S. Capitol with legislative director Will Hupman.

Morgan Griffith's bill

The congressman from Salem is the lead sponsor of one of the attempts by House Republicans to slow the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to enforce certain air-pollution regulations.

H.R. 2250: The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011

  • The bill gives the Environmental Protection Agency additional time and guidelines to develop "achievable" rules governing emissions from industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and incinerators. It would scrap rules the EPA finalized in February but has yet to implement. The agency would have 15 months to finalize new regulations and would allow at least five years for compliance, rather than the three years called for under existing rules.

WASHINGTON — Morgan Griffith has high cholesterol, a problem he tries to combat with diet and exercise.

A conversation about federal spending can get the freshman congressman so agitated that you might wonder about his blood pressure, as well.

"Did you know that we have retirement homes for wild horses and burros — $69.3 million?" Griffith, R-Salem, said on a recent morning in his Capitol Hill office.

He was referring to a 40-year-old program that protects wild horses and burros on federal lands in the West. The Bureau of Land Management removes thousands of horses and burros from the range each year to control herd sizes. The agency keeps them in corrals and pastures and makes them available for adoption. The animals are sold if they reach 10 years of age or get passed over repeatedly for adoption.

"So now what we do is we take the wild horses and burros off the federal lands and we pay somebody else to let them graze on their land and they can't be harassed," Griffith said. "There ought to be a way to humanely euthanize [unwanted] wild horses and burros instead of having the taxpayers of the United States of America paying $69 million a year."

To Griffith, this represents just one example of federal spending gone amok. Don't get him started on the difficulty of reining in "mandatory" spending, another source of exasperation for the first-year congressman.

Griffith views Washington as a tangled web of bureaucracy, excessive regulation and out-of-control spending that is stifling economic growth and alienating taxpayers. The former state legislator won a surprising victory in Southwest Virginia's 9th Congressional District last year by tapping into voters' anger toward the federal government and vowing to take on the Environmental Protection Agency, which he considers hostile to the coal-producing region in his district. Griffith unseated Democrat Rick Boucher of Abingdon, who had represented the district for 28 years.

As the majority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, Griffith was a heavy hitter in the state Capitol for more than a decade and the Republican Party's point man in many a floor fight. Now he's a newcomer in the U.S. Capitol trying to make a mark in the 435-member House of Representatives.

"I've got to figure out how to use my strengths," he said.

Taking on the EPA

Griffith made his first real splash recently as the lead sponsor of a bill that would require the EPA to rewrite new air pollution rules for mercury emissions from industrial boilers. The bill, dubbed the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, is part of a House Republican fall agenda dedicated to repealing regulations that the GOP calls "job killers."

Griffith's friend and mentor, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, said the fact that Griffith was tapped to carry the bill is "a very good sign" for the new congressman.

"It's a sign that the leadership recognizes he is capable of handling all the debate and argumentation and marshaling support to defeat amendments that are harmful to the purpose of the legislation," Goodlatte said.

The House passed the bill Thursday, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The White House has warned that President Barack Obama would veto the bill if it gets to his desk.

The bill would direct the EPA to develop "achievable" emissions limits for industrial boilers and give businesses and other facilities that use them at least five years to comply. An executive from Celanese Corp. told a House subcommittee last month that the company may have to scale back operations at its Giles County plant if existing EPA rules are left in place and allowed to take effect next year. Under current law, companies will have three years to comply with new boiler rules after they take effect next year.

The White House argues that Griffith's bill would delay meaningful pollution controls and have significant negative effects on public health. Democratic leaders have accused Republicans of trying to eviscerate Clean Air Act safeguards to serve corporate interests. Griffith said the EPA has failed to consider the economic impact of the boiler rules and a whole host of regulations.

"I think that they are just completely unconcerned about job losses," Griffith said of the EPA.

"They haven't knocked on doors in those neighborhoods," he said. "They haven't seen what happens when an entire county suddenly experiences double-digit unemployment."

A toll on family life

Griffith's workdays in Washington begin and end on the black leather couch — or sometimes the floor — of his modest office in the Longworth House Office Building.

Griffith sleeps in his office and the less-than-lavish accommodations suit him just fine. An efficiency apartment near Capitol Hill could cost him as much as $2,000 a month, he said. Since House business keeps him in Washington just three or four days a week, the expense seems excessive to him.

"You look at the calendar as it's set up, we're only here about nine to 10 nights a month," he said. "If I'm unable to sleep or if my body starts revolting, I may have to change that. But to me, $2,000 a month is a lot of money and that's money that I can send back home."

Griffith's duties don't end when he puts Washington in his rearview mirror. He also has obligations in his sprawling district, which extends from the coalfields of far Southwest Virginia to the Alleghany Highlands. Finding time to spend with his wife, Hilary, and their three children is harder than he had imagined when he decided to run for Congress last year.

"This has taken more of a toll on the family than either Hilary or I expected, but we're trying to work that out," he said.

In Washington, Griffith typically rises between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. Taking the underground tunnels that connect the Capitol and nearby congressional office buildings, he heads to the Rayburn House Office Building, which has a sub-basement-level swimming pool, gym and locker room. Griffith, a longtime member of Salem's Stonegate swim team, puts in a half-mile to a mile in the pool before showering and returning to his office to start the work day.

Griffith and a staff of eight work in a cramped, three-room suite and make the most of limited space. Kelly Lungren McCollum, the congressman's chief of staff, works in a space that once was a bathroom.

On the first Wednesday morning in October, Griffith sat for a brief interview before dashing to a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The panel was conducting a hearing on the Obama administration's efforts to implement a "line-by-line" review of the federal budget. To the consternation of some Republican panel members, no one from the administration came to testify.

Griffith ducked out of the meeting long enough to meet with representatives of American Wood Fibers, which has a plant in Marion, and a Pennsylvania company that makes biomass-fueled boilers. In a conference room just outside the subcommittee hearing, the executives made a quick pitch for government incentives that would put wood pellets on a level playing field with other renewable energy sources.

"We're not asking for a lot, we're just looking for parity," said Stephen Faehner, a vice president for American Wood Fibers. "We're trying to be equal."

Griffith listened attentively, asked a few question and hurried back to the subcommittee hearing. He said later that his visitors made a compelling case about fairness, though he questioned the effectiveness of government subsidies for the renewable energy.

"If you want to encourage the use of renewable sources, there are ways to do that without doing subsidies," he said.

After the hearing, Griffith huddled in his office with Lungren McCollum and legislative director Will Hupman to strategize for Thursday's floor debate on his boiler regulations bill. As they talked, Griffith ate a no-frills lunch - chicken breast meat from a can and saltine crackers.

Hupman reviewed amendments that Democrats planned to offer Thursday. Similar amendments would be debated Wednesday afternoon for a companion bill delaying EPA rules for cement plants.

"Are most of these the same: 'Why do you want to kill small children?'" Griffith asked Hupman.

The remark was tongue-in-cheek. But earlier in the week, the Office of Management and Budget had issued a "statement of administration policy" outlining objections to the boiler and cement plant bills and warning of consequences for public health.

The Obama administration argued that delays in implementing pollution controls "would result in significant public health impacts that the rules would otherwise prevent, including tens of thousands of premature deaths; tens of thousands of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and acute bronchitis; and over a hundred thousand asthma attacks."

Griffith said he isn't cavalier about health concerns. His 5-year-old son Davis has asthma, he said.

"If I truly thought that that was going to be the result — that more people were going to have asthma — I wouldn't have introduced the bill," he said.

No apologies

Griffith took the House floor on Oct. 6 to make the case for his bill.

"Excessive regulations are threatening jobs across the nation," he began. "We all recognize the need for reasonable regulations to protect the public. There are good regulations that ensure public safety and protect the environment. But there are also unnecessary and unreasonable regulations that hurt jobs in some of our nation's most critical industries."

Griffith said the EPA's rules for industrial boilers would impose steep capital costs on businesses, hospitals and universities. The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners estimated that the regulations would put 10,000 Virginia jobs at risk, he said. His bill would give companies such as Celanese more time to comply with revised regulations and direct the EPA to ensure that rules "are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters and incinerators."

He read from a letter to the editor that a Giles County factory worker penned to the Virginia Leader newspaper decrying federal agencies "who have nothing better to do except sit in their Washington offices and draw up rules and regulations to kill American jobs."

A succession of Democrats said the Republican bill would allow toxic pollution to go unchecked and pose health risks, especially to young children and pregnant women.

"Boilers and incinerators are one of the largest sources of airborne mercury pollution in the United States," said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. "For far too long they have been allowed to pollute without installing modern technology to reduce their emissions."

Roybal-Allard said babies born to women who are exposed to mercury pollution during pregnancy "can suffer from a range of developmental and neurological problems."

She argued for an amendment that would allow the EPA to force cleanup of facilities emitting toxic pollution "that are damaging to babies' brains." That amendment and other changes proposed by Democrats were defeated.

Seven days later, on Thursday, the House passed the bill.

Goodlatte said Griffith is doing what voters expected when they elected him.

"I think more people respect that he is looking out for their interests in terms of seeing that, as you protect the environment, you also have to take into account the impact that it has on people's lives with respect to doing their jobs, and the economic health and viability of the communities that they live in," Goodlatte said. "So he's done that."

Griffith said the proposed EPA regulations would result in a slight reduction of mercury emissions at a cost that he considers excessive.

"If we were going to rid the world of mercury, maybe this would be worth it," he said.

Instead, he said, "what you have to look at is the cost in number of jobs, where we are and what we can afford."

And Griffith makes no apologies for getting worked up about it.

"These are real-world consequences of policies that are not good long term for Southwest Virginia," he said.

"So, yes, if I get a little excited, it's because what we're doing here today will have consequences not just tomorrow and next week, but it will have consequences on the ability of everybody else's kids to stay in Southwest Virginia ... to find a good job and to have a good quality of life that I have been blessed with."



By Matt Soberg – Biomass Magazine

Great Lakes ports prepare for biomass exports

John Elliot believes that biomass export traffic through the Great Lakes could benefit the entire region. Photo: BBI International

John Elliot, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County, kicked off BBI International’s Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show Oct. 12 with in-depth discussion about the opportunities for worldwide export of biomass through the Great Lakes.

“With Pennsylvania having over 14 million acres of forestlands and studies showing 6 million tons of biomass could be harvested sustainably each year, biomass caught our attention in a special way,” Elliot said. To realize those biomass export possibilities, the EDCEC is redeveloping two ports on Lake Erie in addition to inland railways to provide full transportation services for export purposes.

With relatively the same travel time to Europe from the Port of Baltimore, “the St. Lawrence Seaway provides a tremendous inland water way for export purposes,” Elliot said.

“We see opportunity to develop biomass exports in Pennsylvania, helping biomass businesses significantly cut transportation costs by putting product on a ship set for export,” Elliot said. The EDCEC believes the export through the Great Lakes could be substantially beneficial for the entire region.

To further their export initiative, the EDCEC is building strategic relationships with inland rail transportation and port authorities to solidify the export process. In addition, the group is developing partnerships in Europe with buyers, ports and businesses who want to buy biomass product from the Erie region.

On a local level, the development group started the Erie Inland Port Initiative, which is a “transportation-based development strategy to grow the Lake Erie region’s manufacturing, timber, shipping, and logistics industries,” according to the EDCEC. Fostering relationships overseas, Elliot visited Europe to connect the local wood supply with European markets.

Through transportation-based investigative surveys, Elliot noted that transportation costs have become an overwhelming factor in the biomass trade. Research has shown that 23 percent of all intermodal transports in the region are filled with wood product, which Elliot believed is significant. Through the surveys, the group learned that many local companies transfer wood great distances to ports outside the region.

The EDCEC is also developing specific real estate in close proximity to port locations that hold great potential for biomass businesses wanting to relocate. Elliot stated that not only can the EDCEC provide information to potential businesses regarding biomass exports, but the group would be willing to discuss further incentives to help make biomass exports a reality for the Pennsylvania region.

The Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show is being held through Oct. 13 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa.



By Wausau Daily Herald

Judge dismisses biomass lawsuit

A rendering of what a proposed biomass power plant near the Domtar paper mill in Rothschild will look like. Photo: We Energies

A Marathon County Circuit Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit Sept. 29 filed by opponents to the construction of a biomass power plant in Rothschild.

According to online court records, Judge Mike Moran dismissed the suit at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Dennis Grzezinski, an attorney for the Rothschild citizen group Save Our Air Resources that filed the suit, said Moran dismissed the case because the organization missed a filing deadline and were improperly represented by an attorney from outside of Wisconsin.

Meg Sheehan, a Massachusetts attorney with the Biomass Accountability Project, was the attorney listed on the initial suit, filed in June.

Construction at the site of the Domtar mill on Business Highway 51 in Rothschild began in June. The plant must be operational by the end of 2013 for We Energies to qualify for federal tax credits.



Source – Forest Green Heat

2010 Census Shows Wood is Fastest Growing Heating Fuel in U.S.Recently released US Census figures show the number of households heating with wood grew 34% between 2000 and 2010, faster than any other heating fuel. Electricity showed the second fastest growth, with a 24% increase over the last decade.

In two states, households using wood as a primary heat source more than doubled – Michigan (135) and Connecticut (122%). And in six other states, wood heating grew by more than 90% -New Hampshire (99%), Massachusetts (99%), Maine (96%), Rhode Island (96%), Ohio (95%) and Nevada (91%).

Census data also shows that low and middle-income households are much more likely to use wood as a primary heating fuel, making low and middle-income families growth leaders of the residential renewable energy movement. According to the EIA, residential wood heat accounts for 80% of residential renewable energy, solar 15% and geothermal 5%.

“Heating with wood may not be hip like solar, but it’s proving to be the workhorse of residential renewable energy production,” said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit organization based in Maryland.

The rise of wood and wood pellets in home heating is driven by the climbing cost of oil, the economic downturn and the movement to use renewable energy. The Census Bureau does not track the reason people switch fuels but in states like Maine and New Hampshire where rising oil prices are squeezing household budgets, it is clear that many families simply feel the need to cut heating costs.

“The rise of wood heat is good news for offsetting fossil fuels, achieving energy independence, creating jobs and helping families affordably heat their homes,” said Mr. Ackerly.

“However, Wood heat’s rapid rise is not just from people using clean pellet and EPA certified wood stoves. Many people are also dusting off old and inefficient stoves and in some states installing outdoor boilers that create too much smoke,” cautions Ackerly.



By Ed Schoenfeld –

Wood biomass heat growing in popularity

Pellets unloaded at Sealaska - By Casey Kelly

More and more Southeast government buildings and businesses are turning to woody biomass for heat. Some experts say the region is close to having enough demand to justify building a pellet mill. But it won’t be easy.

Boilers heated by wood pellets or chips are being installed in Coast Guard and Forest Service buildings throughout Southeast. Sealaska and some other businesses have done or are looking at the same thing. And Yakutat is among those considering wood-powered electrical generators.

But in most cases, the pellets have to be shipped from Canada or the Lower-48.

Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole says that could be about to change.

“There are a number of hurdles to cross, but I believe in the southern part of Southeast Alaska we’re pretty much getting close to a tipping point where we could supply the wood available off a roaded land base to a mill that could create a pellet that could be somewhat competitive in the market today,” Cole says.

One of those hurdles is land selections or trades that make part of the Tongass National Forest’s future uncertain. That includes Sealaska and University of Alaska land selections, trades with the Mental Health Trust and potential claims by landless Native corporations.

Speaking at a biomass workshop at the recent Rural Alaska Energy Conference in Juneau, Cole says they’re due their claims. But …

“I find it extremely difficult in order to invest a buck today and ensure it’s there 10 years from now, when there’s so many hands in the pot of who’s going to own the land,” Cole says.

He says logging to just supply a pellet plant is not profitable.

But he says there’s enough timber, even with reduced harvests, to provide the mill leftovers that can be turned into pellets. He says if low sales cause mills to shut down, there won’t be that waste wood.

“If we lose the current timber industry in Southeast Alaska, we’re going to miss a huge opportunity in order to take a product that’s being produced today and basically a burden on the mills, in order to make a pellet that could readily heat and get a lot of the communities in Southeast Alaska off of oil,” Cole says.

Read Smith, another energy conference speaker, says the Forest Service is unusual among government agencies. He says the Department of Defense is also bullish on alternative energy. But much of the rest of Washington, D.C., is slow to recognize wood-energy opportunities.

“The problem is they don’t get it. They don’t get what we’re trying to do here,” Smith says.

Smith works for the group 25-by-25, which is pushing to get a quarter of the nation’s energy produced from renewable resources by the year 2025. He expects Alaska to be a leader in wood energy.

“The bottom line is biomass is a huge, huge piece and I don’t think anybody, anywhere in the United States is positioned better to capitalize on some new technology that’s just going to be implemented here in the next five to ten years,” Smith says.

Wood boilers are most often used as a source of heat.

But Dave Sjoding of the Clean Energy Application Center in Pullman, Wash., says it can do more.

“When you’re putting in systems for pellets, think about layer-caking on top an organic rankine cycle (heat recovery) system as well and get some power out of the deal as well,” he says.

He says a heat-recovery system can add value to a wood-energy project.

It also can replace expensive diesel generators when connected to a power grid.

“So one of the ways to think this through is using the hydropower system as a great big storage battery. So as you do energy efficiency, or renewable energy, you’re preserving and stretching out that cheap hydropower,” Sjoding says.

Wood biomass energy faces other challenges beyond funding. Advocates acknowledge opposition due to pollution worries, though they say a well-built system generates few emissions.

They also know any industry linked to timber harvests will face opposition in some communities. But they say wood boilers would mostly use leftovers from mills.

David Dungate of ACT Bioenergy, and others at the conference, say it’s worth serious consideration.

“When you look at what’s the best return per dollar invested in energy, if your target is reducing carbon, what’s the most cost-effective way to do that, and what’s the best way to create jobs per dollar invested, biomass comes out very well on all those,” Dungate says.

The Alaska Wood Energy Development Task Group is trying to spur development of wood-energy projects statewide. The group is accepting statements of interest from those exploring community heating projects.

The task group, a coalition of agencies, will hire consultants to visit project locations and craft reports that could help with funding. The deadline is November 4th.



By Bill Mardis – Commonwealth Journal

Somerset Pellet Fuel converts wood waste into biodegradable fuel

Somerset Pellet Fuel factory complex. Photo: Bill Mardis

A Pulaski County manufacturing firm is one of five companies in Kentucky to receive a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to support, expand and ensure production and advancement of biofuels.

Somerset Pellet Fuel will use $75,327.65 to continue research and development of premium wood pellet fuel. The wood pellets are made from compacted sawdust, a waste product from Somerset Hardwood Flooring’s three plants in Pulaski County that make hardwood flooring.

“It’s sawdust; waste that normally would be discarded,” said Paul Stringer, vice president for sales and marketing for Somerset Hardwood Flooring. “About 10 tractor-trailer loads a day from our other three plants come in here to the pellet plant.”

Steve Merrick, president and CEO of Somerset Hardwood Flooring, pointed out the pellet fuel plant, located off U.S. 27 about three miles north of Somerset, is relatively new. Built in 2006, it opened about the same time as U.S. 27 was four-laned.

The state-of-the-art facility includes a fully automated production line that currently produces 50,000 bags of pellets a week and more than 2,500,000 bags a year to supply the industry with cost-efficient fuel. The pellet fuel plant currently employs 14 people and Somerset Hardwood Flooring has a combined work force of more than 750.

Pellets are produced by compressing sawdust that has passed through a hammer mill to provide a uniform dough-like mass. The mass is fed to a press where it is squeezed through a die having holes the size required, normally 6 millimeter to 8 millimeter in diameter. High pressure of the press causes temperature of the wood to increase greatly, and the lignin (woody cell walls of plants and cementing material) turns to plastic, slightly forming a natural “glue” that holds the pellets together as it cools. Merrick agrees pellets produced at the local plant resemble commercial rabbit food.

High-efficiency wood pellet stoves and boilers have been developed in recent years that offer combustion efficiencies of more than 90 percent. A fully automated stove requires filling with pellets and turning on. The stove does the rest. It automatically lights, feeds pellets into the flame with an auger; and adjusts the rate to keep a room at a pre-set temperature with an electric thermostat. Merrick said pellets produced in Somerset are sold in several major chain stores for use in colder areas of the country.

According to Stringer, the national average cost per million BTUs for wood pellets is $18.67; for fuel oil, $33.25; for electricity, $35.16; for natural gas, $17.38; for propane, $39.72; for coal, $10.89; and for wood, $16.66.

The Advanced Biofuel Payment Program through which Somerset Hardwood Flooring received its grant provides payments to producers to support and expand production of advanced biofuels refined from sources other than corn kernel starch. The program supports and helps to ensure the expanding production of advanced biofuels by providing payments to eligible advanced biofuel producers. Additional incentive payments may be made to certain producers who have increased their biofuel output over the previous year’s production.


Candace Lombardi

by Candace Lombardi October 19, 2011 10:22 AM PDT

Dominion Virginia Power's Southampton (left) and Altavista (right) plants, which are coal-burning electricity power plants, will soon convert to using biomass. The company has made a deal with Enviva to supply its Southampton and Hopewell, Va., plants with wood pellets.

(Credit: Dominion Virginia Power)

Some Virginians will soon have forests to thank for their electricity.

Biomass manufacturer Enviva has signed a contract with Dominion Virginia Power, a subsidiary of Dominion, to supply wood pellets to two power plants that are being converted from using coal to renewable biomass.

Dominion Virginia Power had announced in April its intention to convert three 63-megawatt coal-burning electricity plants into three 50-megawatt renewable biomass electricity plants. Specifically, it plans to convert its Altavista, Southampton, and Hopewell, Va., plants. The Southampton and Hopewell plants have contracted to use Enviva wood pellets pending approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Together, when fully operational, the three revised plants will provide enough electricity to power 37,500 homes annually.

The energy company estimates that the switch will also significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulates that have been emitted into the local air as a result of burning coal for electricity. The converted plants will be in line with new and more stringent emissions standards that have been set by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Dominion Virginia Power.

Enviva's wood pellets are made from sawdust, chips, bark, and branches left over from lumber operations.

(Credit: Enviva)

The changes are part of the power company's effort to comply with Virginia's voluntary request that power companies get 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2025. As of 2010, Dominion Virginia Power was only at 4 percent, according to the company's own statistics.

Enviva currently has two biomass manufacturing plants in Mississippi, and another two to start production in North Carolina. The company already ships a large amount of its product to Europe, but in the U.S. using biomass wood pellets as fuel has been slower to catch on among utilities. Even among residential homeowners the use of wood pellets is still something of a novelty to many.

"Enviva is delighted to be a key part of Dominion's decision to be among the first U.S. utilities to embrace the power of biomass, benefiting their customers, the economy and the environment," Enviva CEO John Keppler said in a statement.

Enviva's wood pellets are made in the U.S. from "wood slash," the woody biomass that's the leftover byproduct from timber and logging operations. Enviva has said its biomass is considered renewable because the wood suppliers Enviva partners with participate in sustainable forest management.

But there are conflicting views on whether burning even renewable biomass is a positive step in reducing carbon footprints. While Enviva's biomass may be procured from the byproducts of companies practicing responsible forest management guidelines, not all biomass is.

A study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources caused the commonwealth to reexamine its regulations on biomass for this very reason. Among many interesting findings with regard to the carbon neutrality of biomass versus coal or natural gas long-term, the study found that the success of biomass as a renewable source is wholly dependent on forest management programs meeting specific standards on rates of replanting. It also found that in many countries the standards are not up to par. At the time, the Biomass Power Association pointed out that the study did not include biomass companies using woody wastes and byproducts, and instead focused on those companies harvesting forests specifically for biomass.



By Suz-Anne Kinney – Forest2Market

No BCAP Matching Payments in 2011Since the 2008 Farm Bill was being debated in Washington, I’ve probably written a dozen stories about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). This one may just be my last. Why?

In September, the Farm Service Agency released a notice outlining how the agency will allocate the limited funds available for the implementation of BCAP in 2011. This re-allocation was necessary, as the Appropriations Act of 2011 cut BCAP funding.

For those who need a refresher, the BCAP program has two parts—one is for “project areas” to support the establishment of new sources of bioenergy by providing establishment and annual payments to agricultural and forest land owners for the production of new crops. The other part of BCAP provides matching payments for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation (CHST) of existing sources of biomass.

In a BCAP story in Forest2Market’s Forest2Mill newsletter, which was published one day after the appropriations bill was signed into law, I wrote:

“Details about how the USDA will adjust the budget for BCAP are not yet available. We don’t know at this point whether they will focus on one part of the program and spend the remaining money on establishing crops or whether they will divide cuts between the two parts of the program. Based on the focus of the final rule, which was heavily weighted toward encouraging crops and restricting matching payments, we suspect that once current contracts for matching payments are complete, this part of the program will take a back seat.”

It turns out our suspicions were correct. In a new interim rule, the FSA has determined that the limited funds available for BCAP should be used for the establishment and annual payments (EAP) portion of the program. The agency has added the following verbiage to document that guides the implementation of the program:

“The limited funding available for BCAP means that not all BCAP requests can be funded. This interim rule explicitly provides a priority for funding establishment and annual payments for project area activities because such activities will produce the greatest long term good by providing an ongoing supply of new biomass. CHST [matching payments] would only be funded if resources are available after funding all eligible project area applications. The rule also enables prioritization among project area proposals if eligible requests exceed available funding. Future funding for BCAP could make such prioritizing unnecessary.”

This means that funds will not be available for matching payments in fiscal year 2011. The FSA has announced it will not be qualifying any additional biomass conversion facilities until further notice (i.e., until more funding is approved), including those whose applications are pending. More funding is not likely to be forthcoming.



By Dylan J. Darling – The Bulletin

Headquarters makes debut

A crowd gathers for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Deschutes National Forest's new headquarters. Photo By Dylan J. Darling

Larry Riser, a trail groomer with Central Oregon Snowbusters, regularly has to trek across Bend to meet with U.S. Forest Service officials depending whether they’re with the Deschutes National Forest or the Bend-Fort Rock District.

That will change on Nov. 14, when the two offices start doing business at a new shared building in northeast Bend. Riser, who said he meets with various officials about permits, was among about 100 people who toured the recently completed Deschutes National Forest headquarters Thursday during an open house.

“It’s nice to see them in one spot,” he said. “… Now they are going to be all here.”

The $8.5 million building on Deschutes Market Road will be the first the Deschutes National Forest owns for its offices, said John Allen, the forest’s supervisor. In its first 103 years, the forest leased space around Bend, including offices near Pilot Butte, downtown and currently on Emkay Drive.

“We’ve been all over town,” he said.

As have the Bend-Fort Rock district offices, which most recently have been in the Red Oaks Square on Third Street.

Leasing the offices for the forest and the district cost the U.S. Forest Service $1 million per year in rent, Allen said.

“In 10 years we’ll pay back the cost (of the new building),” he said.

The 46,000-square-foot building will hold about 200 workers, Allen said. Some of those will be with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will have an office on the building’s second floor.

The building is on land the forest already owned at Pine Nursery. Much of the money for the building came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, with other funds coming from the sale of land.

While the exterior looks like a traditional Forest Service building, with green a roof and rock trim, “inside, at its heart, it’s a sustainable building,” said Mike Taylor of Kirby Nagelhout Construction, the Bend company built the building.

Allen, the forest supervisor, said one of his goals was to reach Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. It did so by having a wood burning heating system, electric car chargers and other green features.

During the open house, people wound through the new building, some stopping to see the wood burner and the metal silo that will hold its pellet fuel. A swarm of children were among the crowd, and they were possibly more curious about the fire truck on display outside the building and the puppet show inside than in the building itself.

“I was interested in seeing the building,” said Mary Wooster, 45, of Bend, who was there with her young daughter, “and then Smokey (Bear) was here, too.”


Oct 21, 2011, London, UK - The British Government yesterday pledged to dramatically increase support for power generated via biomass co-firing, encouraging news for Canadian pellet manufacturers.

According to a report on the Bloomberg Businessweek web site, proposed renewable energy incentives in the U.K. are boosting companies that generate electricity from biomass fuel, waves and tides while prompting developers to rethink some wind projects.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change yesterday proposed doubling the tradable ROCs, or Renewables Obligation Certificates, given to enhanced biomass co-firing plants and more than doubling rewards for wave and tidal-power projects. The complete report is here.


Oct. 20, 2011 – Finnish pellet manufacturing and distribution giant Vapo has shut several pellet plants and taken 400,000 tonnes from the market.

The company says that the market outlook for the pellet business has continued to weaken in key customer segments and markets. The excess capacity situation that has continued for a long time, combined with increased imports to Europe, has reduced the market price to a level that often does not cover production and transportation costs.

Since 2000 Vapo has invested almost EUR 90 million in pellet production. Investments were based on expectation that renewable energy sources would quickly replace fossil fuels. Demand for pellets and the business environment, including subsidies and tax policy, have not met company expectations. Vapo has exported its over supply of pellet production from Finland to Scandinavian and Central European markets, even though the export business has been unprofitable. From its beginning, pellet production has generated cumulative loss of appr. EUR 40 million to Vapo.

As the market outlook for the pellet business does not show any improvement in near future, Vapo has decided to close down it pellet plants in Ilomantsi, Haapavesi and Kaskinen in Finland. Vapo is also going to abandon its port facilities in Riga and is preparing to adjust its production capacity in Sweden. In the past few years, the production plants to be closed down in Finland have operated at less than 30% capacity. Vapo is preparing to make a write off at least EUR 29 million in the financial statements for the current year. In addition to the plants to be closed down, Vapo will make write-offs to the remaining pellet plants and the rest of the pellet infrastructure. As the personnel of Vapo’s pellet plants in Finland have been outsourced to Maintpartner, the close-down will not have direct impact on Vapo’s personnel. The number of personnel of the mills to be closed down has been 19.

After the reorganisation, Vapo will have pellet plants in Kärsämäki, Ylistaro, Turenki, Haukineva and Vilppula in Finland, in Forsnäs, Främlingshem, Vaggeryd and Ljusne in Sweden, in Slubice in Poland and in Vildbjerg in Denmark. As the result of the adaptation measures, Vapo’s annual pellet production capacity will decrease from 900 000 tonnes to appr. 500 000 tonnes. Vapo’s pellet production in the current year will be about 500 000 tonnes, or an average of just over 45,000 tonnes per plant, reflecting a scale much smaller than the pellet importers it competes with. The annual turnover from pellet production at the current volume level is appr. EUR 90 million.

According to Vapo’s CEO, Tomi Yli-Kyyny, these measures are necessary to improve Vapo’s profitability. “In terms of production capacity, Vapo is an indisputable market leader in Finland, but the decrease in the world market prices and increase in the production costs left us no alternative. In line with our strategy, Vapo will continue to invest also in bioenergy and pellets will be part of our bioenergy portfolio offered to our customers”, Tomi Yli-Kyyny states


Oct 20, 2011, Fredericton, NB - A report on NB Power's future released by the provincial government emphasizes renewable power and wood pellets.

The plan calls for NB Power to increase its supply of renewable energy to 40 per cent and for the utility to purchase renewable energy produced by large industrial users in an effort to help drive its energy prices down to the Canadian average.

It also aims to improve natural gas distribution costs and encourage the use of wood pellets, all while reducing energy costs to both consumers and industrial users over time.


Spreading fear to halt progress

Last Updated: 4:45 AM, October 28, 2011

Posted: 10:16 PM, October 27, 2011

headshotAbby Wisse Schachter

New York state just announced another delay in what has become a more-than-four-year process to approve widespread natural-gas drilling. Over that time, the state has lost tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of business -- and the opposition to drilling has only gotten more entrenched and radical.

Gov. Cuomo should not be swayed by such hysteria.

An Oct. 6 New York Policy Forum panel on gas drilling is a case in point. At it, Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan participated in a discussion of hydro--fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock. He argued that New York doesn’t need natural gas to power its economic future.

“You can do other things ... You can save so much energy just by switching to wood pellets,” Ryan claimed. “If you combine that with retrofitting all the rural properties ... you’ll produce thousands of jobs.”

Wood pellets. What century does Ryan think this is?

Cuomo has pursued a slow and steady approach to natural-gas development. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens issued draft drilling-permit rules in September. The industry is now assessing the draft regulations, with the public-comment period open for 90 days. Martens also announced on Oct. 25 that a procedural change would postpone permitting indefinitely.

But as soon as the draft regulations were published, green groups began complaining, and they haven’t stopped -- criticizing everything from a lack of health and flood-plain protections to insufficient waste-water disposal. Cities including Albany and Buffalo, meanwhile, have banned fracking. Opponents of gas drilling are hoping that a groundswell of opposition will sway Cuomo to reject hydrofracking.

That seems unlikely. But the obstructionists may push the administration to write such stringent regulations that large-scale drilling never materializes.

The New York Policy Forum chose panel participants to represent both sides of the hydrofracking debate: those who support extraction with proper regulation and oversight and those who have serious environmental concerns. What they got was one reasonable set of arguments and then a lot of irresponsible rhetoric.

Ryan wasn’t even the most extreme voice. Former New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Albert Appleton put it simply: “Gas fracking is the mortal enemy of green energy.”

Mortal enemy? Natural gas is a green energy. Burning cleaner and more efficiently than oil or coal, it doesn’t emit as much greenhouse gases and is cheaper. Now that we can cost effectively extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale, which sits under West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York’s Southern Tier, it is plentiful. So plentiful, in fact, that the federal government estimates that natural gas could provide all of the nation’s energy needs for more than 100 years -- maybe more.

Appleton’s argument that fracking materials could spill into the environment and cause “some public-health emergencies” has been refuted by US Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson, who told Congress that no such contamination has occurred because of fracking, which has been going on for decades.

Marcellus shale expert Terry Engelder and Stuart Gruskin, a former executive director of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, tried to counter Appleton calmly, stating, in Gruskin’s words, that “the fact that there can be those impacts doesn’t mean that there will be those impacts” and that “the regulator’s responsibility is to do an objective and comprehensive review to assess the impacts.”

That’s exactly what the Cuomo administration has been doing. But even a meticulous approach isn’t enough for drilling opponents.

Meanwhile, New York is losing business because of the years of delay. S. Dennis Holbrook, executive VP of Buffalo’s Norse Energy Corp., said recently that his firm’s plans “to double [its] staffing and employ more than 100 people directly with hundreds more indirect jobs” are on hold.

Lamented Holbrook: “Now, instead of additions, we have been forced to subtract -- reducing our workforce by more than half since the beginning of the year -- because expected opportunities went unrealized.” Great.

Abby Wisse Schachter is author of Capitol Punishment, The Post’s politics blog.

Read more:


Wood pellet testing ready to enter its next phase, but an industry is still a long ways off, says ENR

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, October 27, 2011

The second phase of the wood pellet production demonstration project in Check Point, at the intersection of highways 1 and 7, is nearly complete, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is getting ready to send its samples to a laboratory in Alberta to test their viability.

NNSL photo/graphic

Wayne McKay looks into the feed bin where chipped biomass is mixed at the wood pellet production demonstration project at Checkpoint. - photo courtesy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Ivan Simons, a researcher who led the project with his partner Wayne McKay, said the testing marks the end of the project, but could be just the beginning of an alternative energy industry in the NWT.

"We're doing something that's never been done in the territory before," he said. "We are becoming brewmasters of biomass material."

For the past year, HR Thomson Consultants, a joint enterprise of Simons and McKay, created and tested wood pellets made from NWT-sourced material.

Their material included used paper and cardboard from the dump in Yellowknife, grass, sawdust from Patterson's Sawmill in Hay River and clearing residue from the NWT Power Corp and Department of Transportation projects.

Bryan Pelkey, an alternative energy specialist with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the demonstration project focuses on research and development and as of yet, there are no plans to open a production plant.

"(The department) will be looking at possibilities for this type of operation in the NWT, but ultimately, a commercial pellet production venture will be up to entrepreneurs and the business community to pursue," he said.

The demonstration plant used by Simons and McKay, located about an hour southeast of Fort Simpson, is scheduled to be shut down in March 2012. At that point, the department will evaluate what opportunities exist, Pelkey said.

Simons said that although the plant will be decommissioned, biomass is still a natural fit for the territory's energy needs. He didn't rule out further involvement with wood pellet production, but said HR Thomson Consultants would wait to see the results of the lab tests and decide from there.

"I think it's a good direction to go. People up here know the trees, know the land," he said.

Sample pellets to be tested

In the meantime, the sample pellets produced by his company will be tested for their viability as a heating fuel. Pelkey said the research facility, which they haven't formalized a contract with and can't name at this time, will test for ash content, heating value, density, durability and moisture

content, among other things.

He said the testing will help provide a knowledge base, but added a wood pellet manufacturing industry has to be supported by a foresting industry.

"This is something relatively new to the NWT," he said.

In addition, the high cost of doing business in the North could put the industry at a disadvantage with its competitors to the south, which currently supply wood pellets to the territory.

One advantage would be enhanced supply security for the growing market of pellet users, he said, and another would be shorter transportation distances for locally-based plants.

The wood pellet production demonstration project is part of the NWT Biomass Energy Strategy and also a key part of the territory's greenhouse gas strategy and energy plan, Pelkey said.


27 October 2011

Renewable biomass company Trebio has received ENPlus certification for its new wood pellet mill, which opened this year.

It is the first company outside of the Europe to receive the certification, which is listed as number CAN001, and says it is an ‘accolade from the European Pellet Council’.

The certification will give the company third party verification on the quality and consistency of Trebio wood pellets. Although not recognised in North America, the certification will still be beneficial for Trebio’s activity in Europe, Trebio’s UK and Ireland Sales Manager, Peter Bonsall, told Biofuels International.

Bonsall says: ‘Already we are seeing an uplift in enquiries following this certification. The fact that we manufacture our pellets directly from chosen wood fibre taken from the forestmeans we can get better consistency in the factors of heat content ash, moisture and mechanical durability. Our competitors that use sawmill residue have to take whatever mix of fibre the mill is producing at the time.’

In Europe pellets are used in ‘highly sophisticated and automated pellet boilers and stoves’, meaning the need for consistency of performance and quality is paramount, Bonsall explains.

The certification will last until 2014 and Bonsall explains that the verification process was conducted through a certifying body which had to be convinced that the pellet fibre was sourced sustainably, which it is under Canadian law.

‘We then had full traceability of the product through the processing of the pellets. Each stage of the chipping, drying and pelleting process was scrutinised to make sure the product was manufactured correctly and consistently. The performance of the pellets for heat value and chemical content was checked and verified to make sure that it exceed ENPlus A1 standards,’ Bonsall says.

The certification also covers the delivery process to the client's hopper to ensure that samples are taken at the handover point for checking and traceability.

Bonsall adds that it is already common practice in eastern Canada to have third parties randomly checking the pellet milling process.

‘Our access to the forest is subject to constant verification to ensure that we replant and adhere to all the processes associated with the good management of the forest,’ Bonsall explains. ‘Previous ventures of the management team in the Timber Industry have given us the experience that we have.’

Louis Campeau, Trebio’s CEO, says the demand for ENPlus pellets in Europe is growing and companies are relying on pellet manufacturers to supply them with pellets that are of good condition.

He adds: ‘Our wood pellets are manufactured from fibre straight out of the forest, using sources strictly regulated by the tough Canadian Forest Management Systems. In this way, we make wood pellets from the right mix of species.’

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