2022 Biomass Magazine Issue 4

Page 1

Issue 4, 2022

WOOD WASTE TO WATTS Biomass Energy in Minnesota PAGE 10


Arizona’s Family-Owned Biomass Plant PAGE 16

The Potential Role of US Biocoal Exports PAGE 24



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10 WOOD WASTE Minnesota Biomass Revival

Forest Waste to Fuel By Anna Simet

For power plants in the state, the use of woody biomass is based more upon providing an outlet for the material than meeting the state’s renewable energy goals. By Susanne Retka Schill





16 PROFILE Power With a Purpose

Family-owned Novo BioPower is focused on improving the health of Arizona’s forests. By Katie Schroeder


Minnesota has approximately 17.4 million acres of forested land. Outlets for dead and drying trees and other wood waste are crucial. In this photo, Ever-Green Energy performs sorting of woody biomass that will be sent to St. Paul Cogeneration. PHOTO: EVER-GREEN ENERGY

¦ADVERTISER INDEX 29 2023 Int’l Biomass Conference & Expo 2 Air Burners, Inc. 13 Airoflex Equipment 27 28 25 23 9 32

Biomass Industry Directory Brunette Machinery Evergreen Engineering Fagus GreCon, Inc. Hermann Sewerin GmbH KEITH Manufacturing Company

15 30 14 12 18 26 21 19

KESCO, Inc. Koch Engineered Solutions Mid-South Engineering Company MoistTech NDC Technologies U.S. Composting Council Vermeer Corporation Wolf Material Handling Systems

22 FEEDSTOCK Pulpwood Paradise and the US South

Pulpwood provides balance and diversifications to the forest products industry. By Brooks Mendell

24 BIOCOAL Biocoal Exports’ Potential Role in US Forest Restoration and Japan’s Decarbonization

U.S. forests could profitably produce a major portion of biocoal for Japan over the coming years. By Hiroshi Morihara

SPOTLIGHTS 28 BRUNETTE MACHINERY CO. Advanced Forestry Equipment By Brunette Machinery Co.

Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336, ISSN 21690405) Copyright © 2022 by BBI International is published quarterly by BBI International, 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Four issues per year. Business and Editorial Offices: 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Accounting and Circulation Offices: BBI International 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Call (701) 746-8385 to subscribe. Periodicals postage paid at Grand Forks, ND and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Avenue North, Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203.



Forest Waste to Fuel



The brilliantly colored leaves brought by Minnesota’s autumn are fading and falling. Massive, healthy trees abound my neighborhood and much of the town, but that’s not necessarily representative of the current state of all of Minnesota’s forests, which are in perpetual need of managing and thinning (an issue not unique to Minnesota). Notably, the emerald ash borer is contributing major volumes to the flow of wood waste in the state—which is home to nearly 1 billion ash trees—and our page-12 feature, “Minnesota’s Biomass Revival,” underlines just how crucial biomass- and waste-to-energy plants are for wood waste disposal. Says Ken Smith, CEO of Ever-Green Energy, subsidiary of the District Energy St. Paul, “We’re one of the very few outlets for that material. If we didn’t continue, there is no Plan B. There is no alternative.” About 50% of the metro tree waste the facility takes in is EAB-infested. And while wood waste disposal is a critical function of the facility, using biomass there keeps $12 million in the local economy each year. Besides discussions with operators of biomass-using energy plants in the state, freelance writer Susanne Retka Schill chats with Eric Schneck of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, which is supporting revived efforts to better utilize forest resources. This includes a resolution that promotes statewide fuel or energy standards for low-carbon, renewable biofuels from woody biomass and other feedstocks, as well as development of strategies and policies to attract new markets. On that note of forest restoration and energy production, you won’t want to miss our page-16 feature, “Power with a Purpose,” in which staff writer Katie Schroeder interviews Brad Worsley, CEO of Arizona’s lone biomass plant, Novo BioPower. This feel-good piece lays out the history of the plant, and why the Worsleys felt compelled to keep this facility alive (and profitable), while greatly contributing to the health of the state’s ponderosa pine forests. While the aforementioned features are focused on wood waste to power, other end markets for this vast resource are quickly emerging, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the explosive renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) markets. Wood is a being eyed as a promising feedstock for the industry, the development of which may unlock previously uneconomical sources of forestry waste. You’ll find a roundup of recent renewable diesel and SAF news on page 6. Finally, you may have noticed within the magazine—or online—that Biomass Magazine and Pellet Mill Magazine have launched a podcast platform (see preview on page 8). We’re always looking for new guests, so if you’re interested, please reach out.




EDITOR Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele evoegele@bbiinternational.com STAFF WRITER Katie Schroeder kschroeder@bbiinternational.com


VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION & DESIGN Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com PRESIDENT Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS/MARKETING & SALES John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER/BIOENERGY TEAM LEADER Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com ACCOUNT MANAGER Bob Brown bbrown@bbiinternational.com CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com

2022 National Carbon Capture Conference & Expo NOVEMBER 8-9, 2022

Iowa Events Center, Des Moines, IA Produced by Carbon Capture Magazine and BBI International, the National Carbon Capture Conference & Expo is a two-day event designed specifically for companies and organizations advancing technologies and policy that support the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from all sources, including fossil fuel-based power plants, ethanol production plants and industrial processes, as well as directly from the atmosphere. The program will focus on research, data, trends and information on all aspects of CCUS with the goal to help companies build knowledge, connect with others, and better understand the market and carbon utilization. (866)746-8385 | NationalCarbonCaptureConference.com

2023 Int’l Biomass Conference & Expo FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 2, 2023 Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta, GA

Now in its 16th year, the International Biomass Conference & Expo is expected to bring together more than 800 attendees, 140 exhibitors and 65 speakers from more than 21 countries. It is the largest gathering of biomass professionals and academics in the world. The conference provides relevant content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. In addition to abundant networking opportunities, the largest biomass conference in the world is renowned for its outstanding programming—powered by Biomass Magazine—that maintains a strong focus on commercial-scale biomass production, new technology, and near-term research and development. (866) 746-8385 | www.BiomassConference.com

2023 Int’l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JUNE 12-14, 2023

CHI Health Center, Omaha, Nebraska From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies. (866) 746-8385 | FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

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Renewable Diesel & SAF Roundup U.S. renewable diesel capacity continues to rapidly expand and is poised to surpass operating biodiesel capacity, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Sept. 30. Biodiesel capacity fell to 2.089 billion gallons in July, down 126 MMgy when compared to the 2.215 billion gallons of capacity reported for June and down 342 MMgy when compared to the 2.431 billion gallons of capacity in place as of July 2021. Capacity for renewable diesel and associated fuels, including renewable heating oil, renewable jet fuel, renewable naphtha, renewable gasoline and other biofuels and biointermediates, expanded to 2.089 billion gallons in July, up 142 MMgy when compared to the previous month. Capacity for renewable diesel more than doubled when compared to the 1.014 billion gallons of capacity in place as of July 2021. CoBank in late September published a report that recognizes renewable diesel as the most exciting growth opportunity in the U.S. biofuels space, with proposed capacity increasing from approximately 1 billion gallons in 2021 to 6.5 billion gallons by 2030. That level of capacity would equate to approximately 15% of today’s diesel market, according to the report. CoBank notes that it expects the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 to a be a catalyst for biofuels sector growth over the next decade. Provisions of the law that are particularly beneficial to the biofuels industry include $500 million allocated to support biofuel infrastructure development; the extension of the $1 per gallon tax credit for biomass-based diesel through 2024; the newly established clean fuel production tax credit and enhanced carbon capture and storage credits/payments; and a temporary tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Mitsui Chemicals Inc. announced an investment in Apeiron AgroCommodities Pte. Ltd., rebranded and known as Apeiron Bioenergy. Apeiron Bioenergy is one of the largest collectors and sellers of used cooking oil in Southeast Asia and China region. Mitsui Chemicals indicated the investment will help the company expand its procurement of biomass raw materials as it looks to meet growing demand for biobased chemicals and plastics.


Earlier this year, Neste Corp. and Marathon Petroleum Corp. announced an agreement to establish a 50/50 joint venture to produce renewable diesel following a conversion project of Marathon’s refinery in Martinez, California. The companies recently reported that the required closing conditions have been met, including the receipt of the necessary permits and regulatory approvals, and Neste and Marathon have closed the transaction for the establishment of the joint venture. To be called Martinez Renewables, the operation is slated to commence production in early 2023. The facility is expected to be capable of producing 2.1 million tons per year (730 MMgy) by the end of 2023. OMV, an international integrated oil, gas and chemicals company headquartered in Vienna, Austria, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to supply SAF at Ryanair airports across Austria, Germany and Romania. The MOU agreement gives Ryanair unique access to purchase up to 160,000 tons (53 million gallons) of SAF from OMV over the next 8 years, starting in 2023. Clean Fuels Alliance America has appointed Jonathan Martin of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, as its first director of economic and market analytics. Martin, most recently an economist with Marathon Petroleum Co., brings 10 years of experience in oil and gas corporate economics to this newly created role. Martin has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana. He will be based in Ohio. Imperial on Sept. 6 announced a long-term contract with Air Products to supply low-carbon hydrogen for Imperial’s proposed renewable diesel complex at its Strathcona refinery near Edmonton, Alberta. Air Products will provide pipeline supply from its hydrogen plant under construction in Edmonton. Announced in August 2021, Imperial’s renewable diesel complex is expected to produce more than 1 billion liters per year of renewable diesel from locally sourced feedstocks.



Vertex Energy Inc., a specialty refiner and marketer of high-quality refined products, provided an update on the company’s Mobile, Alabama, refinery renewable diesel conversion project, including a strategic extension of the planned construction timeline. As previously disclosed, Vertex is working on completing a $90 million-plus capital project designed to modify the Mobile Refinery’s existing hydrocracking unit to produce renewable diesel fuel on a standalone basis. Upon completion of the conversion project, the refinery is expected to commence production of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of renewable diesel, with production volumes anticipated to ramp up to approximately 14,000 bpd. Af-

ter a thorough review of project execution risk by the company, mechanical completion of the conversion project has been proactively extended from its initial target of year-end 2022, to the first quarter of 2023. These risk considerations are the result of recent COVID-19 induced product delays and global supply chain shortages in several previously unimpacted markets, including common pipes, valves and fittings, and certain base bulk materials, according to the company. Management expects mechanical completion to occur in the first quarter of 2023, with production anticipated to begin in the second quarter.



ANDREW EASTMAN, HUSCH BLACKWELL Andrew Eastman, senior council at Husch Blackwell, was a guest for Season 1, Episode 8 of the Biomass Magazine Podcast. Husch Blackwell is a national law firm with approximately 800 lawyers across 20 offices nationwide. Within the firm, Blackwell explains, there is a group called Energy Natural Resources, which is dedicated to green energy development, project and financing transactional work, EASTMAN and a sub-team dedicated to biofuels, biomass and biogas projects. Eastman is a part of this team, which specializes in representing developers throughout all stages of the project lifecycle, from concept to initial financing, to commercial operation and offtake. BMM: So, have you been busy lately? A.E.: Oh yes—busy and then some. And with enactment of Inflation Reduction Act, that will only increase. BMM: We’re here today to chat about project contracts and financing. What are the foundational agreements of a biogas project? A.E.: Any biogas project requires a couple of backbone, foundational contracts to get off the ground and going. The first has to do with land rights. If you’re going to build a project, you need the rights to be on that project site, to build and operate. Those agreements usually take the form of a lease or license form the landlord. You also need a complementary easement agreement, which lets you, your subs, agents and contractors be on-site, and it also allows


you to get across to adjacent or neighboring land for the purpose of interconnection. Those are the two things that get you off the ground and running. Once you’ve got those in place, the thing that needs to happen next is the feedstock agreement. If you’re dealing with a livestock project, this is probably going to be a manure supply agreement, a landfill will be a gas rights agreement, and a wastewater treatment plant is going to be a comparable agreement ... those are really the three foundational agreements that are the basis for any biogas project. BMM: Once you have those three in line, what’s next? A.E.: Once you get those three just discussed, the next thing you’re looking for is an offtake agreement. It shouldn’t be longer than your gas rights or feedstock agreement. The reason for that is you don’t want to be stuck in a position where you’re obligated to sell gas for a longer time than you have the rights to receive or generate that gas. Once you’ve got those four contracts in place, you’re in pretty good shape to go get financing for your project. Those are the things that lenders, investors and financing parties are going to be looking for. BMM: What’s the financing environment like right now for biogas projects? Tune in for Eastman’s response Listen to the rest of the podcast: www.biomassmagazine.com/pages/podcasts


Don't Miss an Episode: Biomass Magazine’s recent podcasts: S01 E06 The Landmark Inflation Act: What’s in it for Biogas/Renewable Natural Gas? Featuring Patrick Serfass, Executive Director, American Biogas Council S01 E08 Targeting a Green Hydrogen Economy in Northern California Featuring Chris Headrick, founder & Executive Chairman of H2 Energy Group S01 E09 Growing the Forest Economy: Peak Renewables Featuring Scott Bax, CEO, Peak Renewables Interested in being a guest? Contact Danielle Piekarski at dpiekarski@bbiinternational.com





Urban centers are expecting the current onslaught of EAB-killed wood to continue, but lost infrastructure will need rebuilding for woody biomass markets to rebound. BY SUSANNE RETKA SCHILL


innesotans are looking for a biomass revival—a combination of the growing movement toward decarbonization, expectations of continued high natural gas prices, and the need to better manage the state’s forest resources. But first, they need to overcome hurdles left by shifting policy impacts and earlier boom and busts. “Back in mid- to late 2000s, there was a surge of interest in trying to use woody biomass for bioenergy, biofuels and byproducts,” explains Eric Schenck, executive director of the Minnesota Forest Resources Council. A 2007 state renewable energy standard set a goal of 25% renewables by 2025, which supported early biomass projects. “At one time, three or four facilities were doing cogeneration using biomass for thermal 10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2022

and electrical energy. There developed, in response, a forest products industry, with loggers and people harvesting biomass, who bought equipment and got geared up to harvest and haul it. Then the market started to go away, and we had a bunch of people with equipment that had no use for it. A lot got sold out of state.” The loss of the biomass market was partly due to economics favoring natural gas and partly policy driven, with federal policies restricting eligible woody biomass and tax credits favoring wind and solar. In Minnesota, wind and solar began to fill the renewable energy standard goals. In addition, the state’s largest utility had been required to purchase biomass power as a condition for its nuclear power permit. When that was repealed

Hibbing Public Utilities power plant operators take a look into the fire chamber, where 3,000 tons of wood chips are turned into electrical power each day. PHOTO: MARK SAUER, MESABI TRIBUNE

in 2018, only one cogeneration facility kept firing wood: St. Paul Cogeneration in the state’s capitol.

Urban Wood Resource

The St. Paul utility’s use of woody biomass is based more upon providing an outlet for urban waste wood than meeting the state’s renewable power standard, so it survived the policy shifts.

The facility, launched in the mid-1980s, began cofiring wood chips with coal in 1997 to provide heating and cooling to St. Paul’s downtown area through District Energy St. Paul. Cogeneration was added in 2003. The system generates 33 MW of electricity and provides heating and cooling for 33 million square feet of building space, which includes the state capitol grounds, downtown offices and

businesses, hotels and residential properties. Today, woody biomass comprises about 50% of the boiler fuel, followed closely by natural gas. Fuel oil serves as a backup and a large solar thermal array supplies about 1% of the annual energy load. Coal is no longer used. The goal is to decarbonize entirely by 2050, says Ken Smith, CEO of Ever-Green Ener-

gy, the District Energy St. Paul subsidiary that manages St. Paul’s system along with nine others in five states. Over the decades, they’ve learned to manage supply, Smith says. When the system first began cofiring with wood chips, inadequate infrastructure meant another subsidiary was created to manage and process urban waste wood from the Twin Cities Metro area. There’s an BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 11

ebb and flow to urban wood waste, he adds. In the spring, volumes drop as more gets used for mulching. In the fall, deer hunting season slows down deliveries. Neighboring cities as far as 70 miles away have contributed their wood waste and, when needed, forest residuals were trucked in from central or northern Minnesota. Today, there are no concerns about wood supplies—the wood yard closes for deliveries at times, because it’s full. Ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer (EAB) are adding major volumes to the regular tree trimming, storm damage

and construction waste. EAB supplies are expected to last for more than a decade, Smith says. Minnesota has more ash trees than any other state, comprising around 15% of the Twin Cities’ canopy, he explains, and some communities in the state have 60% ash. “We’re one of the very few outlets for that material. If we didn’t continue, there is no Plan B. There is no alternative.” Nonetheless, Ever-Green faced its own challenge with its utility partner, regulators and policymakers when renegotiating its power purchase agreement. “We’ve been in conversation for

seven years,” Smith says. “It took a while for folks to get their minds wrapped around the important role this facility has in managing tree waste.” While natural gas was a lower-cost fuel favored by some, “Where are you going to go with 250,000 tons of tree waste every year?” Smith asks. Across the state, natural mortality of trees from storms, changing climate, disease and invasive insects covers as much or more ground every year than what gets harvested, Schenck says. On top of that, there is an accumulation of wood residuals from the state’s forest products


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(Left) A truck unloads nearly 30 tons of wood chips into the Hibbing Public Utilities biomass power facility. The plant burns 3,000 tons of wood per day. PHOTO: MARK SAUER, MESABI TRIBUNE

(Right) Roughly 260,000 tons of wood chips are supplied to St. Paul Cogeneration annually. The use of biomass keeps $12 million in the local economy each year. PHOTO: EVER-GREEN ENERGY

industries but few outlets, meaning a lot of slash is not being managed optimally for regrowth. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest there’s about 5 million tons of dead wood and slash left in the forest every year, he says. The Minnesota Forest Resources Council, which Schenck directs, is supporting revived efforts to better utilize those forest resources. A January resolution supports statewide fuel or energy standards for low-carbon renewable biofuels from woody biomass or other feedstocks and commits to developing strategies and recommending policies

to attract new markets. “The governor had a big administrative push this past year to develop climate friendly policies that cut across all sectors—agriculture, forest, energy, transportation,” Schenck explains. “Part of this is looking at biomass again as a low-carbon fuel alternative, along with other uses.” From Smith’s perspective, interest in woody biomass indeed is growing, thanks to higher natural gas prices, “but is it among the top solutions? We’re not there yet,” he says. Woody biomass is not likely to become the majority fuel source, he continues, adding that the St.

Paul utility would never rely on just one fuel source, “but it can be an important role if it’s done sustainably, and if you’re dealing with waste streams.” Biomass is playing an important role in many places around the world, he adds. “It tends to be a small percentage of the overall energy mix, but it plays an important role because it’s more of a base load.” Smith suggests we’re in an energy system transformation, and not just a transition. The built environment—buildings and industry—will be the hardest to decarbonize, he says. “Between buildings and industry in Minnesota, they make

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Across Minnesota, natural mortality of trees from storms, changing climate, disease and invasive insects covers as much or more ground every year than what gets harvested. PHOTO: EVER-GREEN ENERGY

up 70% of where our energy goes. It won’t be a transformation that occurs necessarily building by building. It’s going to have to be done community by community.” Ever-Green has worked with a number of campuses—colleges, hospitals, communities—that are planning for the future of their district heating. Each defined area, he suggests, will be looking at available resources. Wind and solar may not be available to all, and woody biomass will make sense in some areas, he says.

Forest Fuel

Surrounded by northern Minnesota forests, Hibbing, Minnesota, is one of those places that illustrates the opportunities and challenges for woody biomass in the state. This year, Hibbing Public Utility upgraded and fired up the wood boiler it installed in the mid14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2022


2000s and mothballed in 2018. The city has phased out coal and plans to increase the use of woody biomass. “A year ago, we were crazy for going back to biomass,” says Luke Peterson, general manager of Hibbing Public Utilities. “Now everybody’s going back to biomass.” The goal, he says, is not about using the lowest-cost fuel—particularly considering wood prices have gone up alongside natural gas—but making Hibbing a more sustainable community. One that is more resilient, relies on locally sourced resources and supports local jobs. The Hibbing cogeneration plant generates about 33 MW, with about 10 MW exceeding local needs that can be sold to the grid, Peterson says. The district steam heating system makes a mile loop around the city, serving about 1,000 customers—including the hospital, several large civic buildings and residents. Economics and the work involved in sourcing and managing the burning of wood chips were the main reasons the wood boiler was mothballed, Peterson says. Returning to woody biomass not only preserves 20 jobs at HPU, but is supporting at least 20 jobs in the community. “It requires this whole ecosystem of people and processes,” he says. “It can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it to explore and develop those value chains.” The utility was fortunate, because two local loggers kept their chippers when the market disappeared, he adds. With a goal of burning 200,000 tons of wood chips annually, the utility is finalizing an agreement to take residuals from a pallet manufacturer 60 miles away to add to local supplies. The long-term goal is to eliminate fossil fuels entirely and use the city utility as a catalyst for economic transition. Possibilities include hydrogen and methanol, and attracting complementary industries such as cross-laminated timber. Another idea is to explore waste heat

utilization, Peterson says, citing Iceland’s use of waste heat to melt snow on sidewalks and on the soccer field. Peterson advocates for a restorative development approach that looks at total costs, not just financial ones, and takes a long-term view of sustainability. “What is it about wood that creates value,” he says. He’d like to see each log get managed for its best value, with the waste chips being used for cogeneration. Better forest management reduces debris that contributes to forest fires. New equipment requires new skills that build workforce capabilities. “There are all these offshoots, not just the tech, but the whole process and humans involved in taking care of the forest,” Peterson adds.

“Like the loggers—you wouldn’t believe how many multigenerational vendors I have supplying wood to the power plant. What’s that family story worth? That means something, because that’s people, building a network for the future that has a strong family tie to the land, and also a hard work ethic.” Contact: Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com

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Novo BioPower CEO Brad Worsley describes the impact the family-owned biomass power plant has on the health of Arizona’s ponderosa pine forests. BY KATIE SCHROEDER


n Snowflake, Arizona, the state’s only biomass power plant is playing a key role in helping improve forest health by utilizing biomass thinnings from forest management initiatives. For the Worsley family, this business model isn’t just about a profit—it’s also personal. Brad Worsley, CEO and president of Novo BioPower, explains that the Worsley family has been directly impacted by poor forest health. “My family’s world was dramatically impacted by a catastrophic wildfire and the poor policies and gridlock that had happened between the environmental community and the forestry industry,” Worsley says. “But we have found a way to move forward.”

Plant History

In 2002, the Rodeo-Chinski fire in burned down the ponderosa pine forest that surrounded the legacy cabin built by Worsley’s parents. “That fire came through and burned right up to and all around our property—a handful of small structures on our property were burned, and we had to evacuate and come back in,” Worsley says. “As the residual impact of that fire was felt, we realized that the beautiful forest we had built our home in was now gone. The home was still there, but it was not the same place in our hearts and minds as it was when we built it in this dense, ponderosa pine forest ... and as we studied and learned, we realized it

would not be the same for a thousand years—if it ever comes back to what it was.” After the fire, fueled by the sadness and frustration caused by the loss of the forest, Worsley’s father, Bob, was determined to find a way to solve the problem. As the Worsleys educated themselves on forest health, they learned that the forest had changed significantly since settlement. One reason for that was the “Smokey Bear effect”—an early U.S. Forest Service “no fires” policy that inevitably led to forests traditionally having 10 to 15 trees per acre as a healthy stand, to 500 to 1,000 trees per acre. “Although to our eyes, especially as people who had traveled and

(Left to right) Eddy Ekstrom, Brad Worsley and Bob Worsley look out into Novo BioPower’s woodyard. PHOTO: NOVO BIOPOWER




seen dense East Coast forest, it was very attractive, but it was also very unhealthy and prone to wildfire and beetle [damage],” Worsley says. While his father was exploring ways to solve this problem, the Arizona Corporation Commission began mandating a specific amount of renewable energy in the state’s energy production portfolio, Worsley explains. “There was this window—this door—the stars aligned where a biomass power plant could, at the time, provide very affordable and also renewable base load electricity,” he says. Arizona Public Services and Salt River Project signed contracts with Bob Worsley to build a biomass power plant to deal with reforestation challenges, Worsley explains. The facility began running in 2008. However, the market crash led to the facility changing hands as the bank sold the facility. The group that bought it from the bank sold it back to Bob Worsley in 2013 for close to what they had initially bought it for, bringing Worsley on as CEO and president of the renamed company, Novo BioPower. Bob Worsley remains a majority owner of the company, though he is not involved in running the plant day-to-day.

Novo BioPower is located in east-central Arizona’s Snowflake, between the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains.

“In the meantime, the facility that [Novo] was colocated next to, a paper mill, went bankrupt in 2012, so it was an opportunity to come in and buy the facility and some of the conjoined assets, and kind of make a singular facility that has a sole pur-

pose of generating power from the thinning of our federal forests.” Novo BioPower signed documents extending its power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Services through December 2033. An extension was also approved by

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Improve Production Efficiency Reduce Fossil Fuel Consumption Automate Drying Processes

Novo BioPower is Arizona’s only biomass power plant. The facility began operating in 2008 and produces 27 MW of electricity. PHOTO: NOVO BIOPOWER

Salt River Project executive management and was signed in October. “We have taken this facility from twice-defunct ownership to profitable, high-output facility that has mostly had year-over-year steady growth,” Worsley says.

Operational Considerations

Novo BioPower faces three challenges in day-to-day operations: fuel source homogeneity, feedstock sourcing and insurance for the power plant. Lack of homogeneity in the fuel source is the biggest of these

challenges, Worsley explains. “At a biomass facility, unless you can put a lot of money into making that wood look and act like rock, torrefy it, harden it, pelletize and then grind it, you are forced to deal with different sizing, different Btu, moisture and ash content, and then blend all of it together while trying not to increase cost,” he says. The other aspect that is a challenge for a biomass plant is sourcing feedstock. Since they need to go on public and private land to obtain biomass to process, it requires dealing with the federal government red tape, environmentalists and local residents. “You have to go out and work on public and private land, mostly public, where people have opinions and they recreate … we could be doing a thinning project right next to where people are camping and hunting,” Worsley says. Finding insurance is also difficult since biomass power facilities have a history of being difficult to run and maintain since they typically operate within low margins. For Worsley, managing these challenges are worth it, if it means helping solve generational issues of fire and drought. In order to do this, the plant must stay in business. “Profitability is the mechanism

for the biomass, biofuels, resource recovery, power generation, pulp and paper industries.



A look inside Novo BioPower. Pictured is a GE turbine generator, foreground, and the control room. PHOTO: NOVO BIOPOWER

that allows us to carry out our purpose,” Worsley says. And the 27-MW Novo BioPower plant is profitable, maintaining a “true uptime in the low 90%, 93%,” running 340-plus days each year for the past four years.

Plant Functionality

Novo BioPower’s biomass feedstock is made up of ground hog fuel or precommercial timber, including tree limbs, bark, pine needles and tree tops. “We take the residues off of those mills, the residue out of that forest, and then all the precommercial timber, the five-inch, four-inch and three-inch that has to be cut as part of the deal to be able to take the merchantable wood off, that all comes in, in the hog fuel,” Worsley says. The plant aims to keep 30 days’ worth of fuel on hand, stored in the fuel yard. 20 BIOMASS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 4, 2022

‘We have taken this facility from twice-defunct ownership to a profitable,high-output facility that has mostly had year-over-year steady growth.’ Brad Worsley, CEO, Novo BioPower

The plant uses a Babcock & Wilcox bubbling fluidized bed boiler to burn the biomass, create steam and produce power. Worsley explains that the boiler uses a fivefoot bed of sand with a higher melting point. The ground wood is injected over the top of the bed through air knives, allowing the feedstock to be burned for its duration. The sand will agitate the ash to make sure that any remaining wood is also burned. Noncombustible material such as rocks, metal or sand will flow through the bed as it’s agitated by the air and comes out the bottom. The ash flies over through the boiler, into the bag house and is collected there, Worsley says. “At that point it’s just like almost any other power plant that heat is transferred into the tube walls, which are full of water that turns into high pressure steam shot into a GE turbine generator, and we make power.”

Sustaining the Forest

bon neutral-plus, because we are in fact … spending each and every day preserving the largest carbon sink in the state of Arizona— the 4 million-acre ponderosa pine forest. We protect that and remove the low-grade, high-hazard fuels, retaining this large, beautiful forest at its capacity to pull CO2 out of the air and release oxygen.” The purpose of maintaining this forest as a carbon sink, recreational area and watershed is what gives Worsley purpose in run-

ning Novo BioPower. “There are a lot easier businesses to be in than biomass. But it was personal to us,” Worsley adds. “We experienced its impact, we felt the heat of those catastrophic wildfires and we saw what it did, so we wanted to do something about it. And we’re doing it, while making a profit.” Author: Katie Schroeder Staff Writer kschroeder@bbiinternational.com


Due to drought, the pine line in Arizona is shifting, Worsley explains. Previous policies designed to prevent fire has led to overgrowth of ponderosa pine forests, and the trees have become even drier in the midst of extreme drought conditions. This combination has made it impossible for fire to play its role in Arizona forests, Worsley explains, as they are too intense, spread quickly and kill healthy trees. “It’s impossible to return fire to this forest today without it being catastrophic,” he says. “There are too many ladder fuels, there’s too much fuel load on the ground, and the trees are too unhealthy.” Novo BioPower’s goal is to help return the forests to presettlement conditions, when low-intensity fires could play their rightful role and clean out the forest, allowing the trees to survive. Novo BioPower utilizes the “lowest end portion” of the trees throughout every acre of harvested forest. Worsley explains that this approach allows the plant to make a sustainable forest industry work. “We’re not mining sequestered carbon, we’re using active carbon, but our efforts go beyond that, in my opinion,” he says. “It goes beyond just being carbon neutral. I call it car-



“If I can give our crew machines to make their jobs easier and more productive … then that’s what we’re going to stick with. The employees are happier. They’re excited to get up and go to work because they know they have the best machines doing the work.” – Rich Kingsborough | Atlas Tree Surgery

Hear MORE from Rich at Vermeer.com/atlastree. This document contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by customers in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers. Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications. Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2022 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.





ulpwood, the smaller trees typically chipped for making wood pulp, oriented strand board (OSB) or wood pellets, provides balance and diversification to the forest products industry. Robust, sustainable timber markets feature a broad set of wood consumers. A local wood basin with no demand for pulpwood or chips is like a shoe box with one shoe: incomplete.


While roundwood (logs) deliveries satisfy most pulpwood demand across the U.S., this varies by region and mill type. In the South, chip mills supply close to 20% of total pulpwood demand. In the West, they supply close to 30% of fiber needs, though total volumes are less, given that fewer pulp mills operate in the region. According to the Wood Fiber Review, the actual supply profile of each region in North America

varies based on pricing and market demand. Forisk mill-by-mill research of wood-consuming capacity suggests close to 60% of pulp mill wood-using demand in the U.S. is met by roundwood.

Pulpwood Drivers of Demand

Wood fiber costs account for over 50% of the total pulp manufacturing cost worldwide, so tracking wood fiber costs supports

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).


investment and operational decisions across a range of facilities and markets in the forest sector. In North America, demand for pulpwood derives from three primary sources. First, traditional forest industry consumers, such as pulp mills and OSB plants, use pulpwood to make pulp and panel products. Second, wood bioenergy projects use pulpwood to produce pellets and electricity. Finally, pulpwood demand associated with liquid biofuels capacity is increasingly in the news, especially with growing interest in sustainable aviation fuel. Wood pellets in particular have been a compelling source of growth. Wood pellet production capacity reached 20 million metric tons in North America in 2021. This capacity is forecasted to reach 23 million metric tons in 2022. Much of the wood pellet capacity growth is in the U.S. South, within economic freight distance of ports. Canadian wood pellet capacity is projected to increase 13% in 2022. Peak Renewables announced a 600,000-metric-ton facility in Fort Nelson, British Columbia. The company purchased Canfor’s Fort Nelson mill assets and forest tenure in the region. The capacity increase is partially offset by the closure of Pacific Bioenergy’s facility in Prince George, B.C., in early 2022.

Roundwood Demand, US South, Q4 2021-Q3 ’22 Pulpwood Demand (million tons)



Grade Demand (million tons)



Total Demand (million tons)



% Pulpwood




Pulpwood Supplies and the US South

Changes to pulpwood inventories over time include pulpwood removals from the existing pulpwood inventory, new pulpwood inventory as young trees grow and become merchantable, and decreases in pine pulpwood inventory from older pulpwood trees that mature and grow into grade-quality timber. When digging deep into, for example, pine pulpwood supplies in the U.S. South, the most important characteristic for short- and medium-term projections is the age class distribution of the pine plantations (inventories) that drive industrial forest management in the region. In the U.S. South, wood-using mills consume more pulpwood than grade (Table 1). For pine pulpwood demand across 11 states, quarterly rankings in the Forisk Research Quarterly highlight Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana as the three biggest consumers in the region.

When “scoring” markets for projects that require pulpwood supplies, investors prefer those that feature abundant supplies (both standing and from mill residuals), limited competition, lower prices and sufficient logging capacity. On a relative basis across regions, this helps explain the attractiveness of the U.S. South for pulpwood-using facilities. This article includes data from the Forisk Wood Fiber Review, a quarterly publication tracking North America’s major wood fiber markets, and the Forisk Research Quarterly, which includes forest industry forecasts and analysis by sector. Author: Brooks Mendell Forisk Consulting LLC 770-725-8477 bmendell@forisk.com


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apan’s reliance on fossil-based sources such as oil, coal and natural gas for electricity production has increased significantly since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. To reduce this heavy reliance on nonrenewable, fossil-based energy, Japan’s interest in nonnuclear renewable energy, especially biomass-based energy, has grown tremendously over the years. Japan’s national commitment for decarbonizing its electricity grid is evident from former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s announcement in 2021 that Japan would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As an immediate effort, Japan also mandated shuttering some 100 inefficient coal plants as soon as 2030. Minister Suga said Japan would “ …maximize the use of renewables and other noncarbon power sources …” Despite current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s announcement of restarting many idled nuclear plants due to rising energy costs, Japanese utilities will still need coal replacement fuel to lengthen the lifespans of their high-efficiency coal plants. Also, many industrial coal boiler operators need coal replacement fuel soon, or they may be shut down. Torrefied wood pellets, also known as biocoal, is an excellent coal replacement alternative given its chemical and physical properties are closer to coal. With biocoal’s superior gridability attributes and higher energy density, a significant proportion (50% or more) of torrefied pellets could be used for cofiring without major modifications to the existing coal-powered thermal plants. Finally, with biocoal’s comparable shipping and handling attributes to that of bituminous coal, it has attracted increasing interest as coal replacement fuel. Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd., one of Japan’s three major coal importers, with combined


Juniper before and after being converted to biocoal via HM3 Energy’s torrefaction process. PHOTO: HM3 ENERGY

domestic and overseas coal sales of 20 million metric tons (MT) per year, has the goal of importing 3 million MT of biocoal by 2030 to meet initial market demand for carbon-neutral fuel. The development of the biocoal market is under review in Japan by major utilities, coal importers and Japanese government policymakers. Is there enough independently certified, sustainably available fiber around the world to produce the biocoal at a reasonable cost per metric ton? Additionally, because biocoal production requires much higher heat than white pellet production, does that negatively impact the carbon life cycle analysis for biocoal as a good alternative to coal? The following is a strategy of how western U.S. forests could profitably produce a major portion of Japan’s need for biocoal over the coming years.

Long-Term, Sustainably Available Biomass

Over 100 years of suppression of all fires, including natural, low-intensity fires, has resulted in many unnaturally dense forests in the western U.S., which are at risk of severe wildfire. The U.S. Forest Service has forest restoration treatments underway, such as thinning, brush clearing and prescribed burning on 80 million acres of its own land, mostly in the West. California alone is targeting the treatment of 1 million acres annually by 2025 to scale up forest thinning and prescribed fire efforts. These treatments are meant to “reduce long-term greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollution from large and catastrophic wildfires,” according to the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan produced by California’s Forest Management Task Force.

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).


The amount of thinning work underway or planned in California and several other western states will produce copious amounts of biomass, much of which has no market and is therefore burned in piles. As is the case with wildfires, these pile burns can emit hazardous, fine particulate matter into the atmosphere, measuring 2.5 microns or less in width (PM2.5). This has become a growing concern in the western rural areas where pile burns regularly take place. They are also costly and time consuming to perform, costing $1,500 or more per acre.

Selective Forest Thinning and Increased Carbon Storage

More and more research has shown that selectively thinning overstocked forests has multiple benefits. “In a warming climate, thinning reduces competition for water, allowing trees to grow faster, store more carbon and be more resilient to drought and pests,” according to Our Burning Challenge: Restore our Forests, a publication by the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “Scientific and professional firefighting evidence shows that where thinning is completed before wildfires, fire severity is reduced, and in some cases, damage to communities is averted.”

Biomass Residual-Based Biocoal

HM3 Energy Inc., a biocoal technology provider, developed its torrefaction technology using biomass residuals left after logging and thinning operations, rather than clean wood chips produced from whole logs. This focus on using forest waste in its demonstration plant test runs helped it win a U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant in 2019. The grant work provided budgetary design work to determine construction costs for a 50,000-metric-ton-per-year (MTPY) biocoal plant in northern Arizona. Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute performed studies on sustainable biomass availability and shipping logistics, while Coconino County helped identify good sites for a production facility that could eventually produce up to 100,000 MTPY, with access to the BNSF Railroad for exporting the biocoal to a port in California and on to Japan. The grant work determined that there would be enough sustainably available biomass from ponderosa pine and juniper harvesting and thinning operations for at least a 20-year period within reasonable hauling distances of several potential sites in northern Arizona. Federal forests in Northern

Arizona have plans to thin 1.5 million acres over the next 20 years. With targeted retention at only 50 trees per acre, this will result in 2.25 million tons of forest slash per year that could be turned into biocoal. The biocoal would be shipped just like coal, in open hopper rail cars, to the Port of Stockton. From there, it would be exported to a Japanese power plant, typically situated right on the coast with its own port, where it would be stored without cover, just like coal. As part of the grant work, HM3 Energy compared the costs of using white pellets versus biocoal produced using HM3’s technology as coal replacement fuel in Japan. The higher production cost of biocoal was greatly mitigated by the much lower shipping and handling costs. In addition, coal plants would not have to perform costly modifications to use white pellets, such as building silos for storage or separate feeding systems that can handle the fibrous pellets. When combusted, white pellets do not produce the same steam temperature as biocoal does, resulting in boiler inefficiencies. Overall, HM3’s grant work in 2021 determined that a 100,000 MTPY plant using its technology in northern Arizona could deliver biocoal to the Japanese coal burner tip for $11.58 cents per gigajoule, compared to a cost of $13.15 for white pellets.



Carbon Life Cycle Analysis

The University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences performed a series of comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) of biocoal and documented the environmental footprint, from cradle to grave, of extracting biomass and converting it to biofuel alternatives. Emissions from feedstock extraction and transportation to the manufacturing facility, processing, transportation of the pellets to a shipping port (in Washington or Oregon), as well as ocean transportation to a port in Japan were all included. Local pollution, as well as impacts on air quality, water and soil were also considered. The total LCA of electricity production from residual biomass-based wood pellets in a bioenergy plant in Japan was then compared to that of electricity production from coal.

The research concluded that pellets produced from residues, on average, produce 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to coal. The assessment noted that biomass burned in a controlled environment, such as a bioenergy facility, emits 95% fewer pollutants to the atmosphere as compared to open biomass burns, such as prescribed burns or wildfires. “After factoring in all the particulate matter, emissions of harvesting, processing, local and international transportation, harvest slash-based pellets reduce PM2.5 by 88%, with most of this clean air benefit going to local communities.” The research further concluded that the marginally higher carbon impact associated with the production of torrefied pellets (biocoal) is mitigated by their energy efficient long-distance transportation. As is the case with wildfires, prescribed pile burns like this one in Prescott National Forest can emit hazardous, fine particulate matter into the atmosphere.


The western U.S. has, and will continue to have for some years to come, a large amount of sustainably available biomass from thinning and harvesting operations. Forest thinning operations are planned for millions of acres to mitigate the risk of unnaturally severe wildfires and restore the health of forests so they better absorb and store carbon. Using biomass residuals for biocoal production will help reduce management costs and result in fewer pile burns, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions. In many cases, particularly from the western states, biocoal can be economically exported to Japan to replace coal and greatly reduce its carbon footprint. Author: Hiroshi Morihara CEO, HM3 Energy Inc. hiroshi@hm3e.com www.hme3.com


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Advanced Forestry Equipment Specializing in wood processing and material handling systems for over 80 years, Brunette Machinery Co. provides custom engineered solutions for mill optimization. The company is known as an industry leader in the manufacture of heavy-duty drum chippers, grinders and complementary equipment such as vibrating conveyors, disc scalping screens, E-Sweeps, and log singulators. With the global biomass power market expected to grow at an exponential rate throughout the next eight years, Brunette Machinery is uniquely situated to provide the best wood breakdown equipment to the industry. The following are some of the company’s innovative and advanced wood processing machines built for biomass applications.

Brunette Whole Log Micro-Chipper

The Brunette Whole Log Micro-Chipper is a horizontal-feed chipper that can process logs up to 26-inch diameter. It is ideal for converting whole logs not suitable for lumber into

a one-fourth-inch nominal chip for use in the biofuel industry. A powered feedworks controls the feed of single logs, or multiple stems and branches. With a 40-inch wide throat, it can process a variety of materials with ease. The Brunette Whole Log Chipper is available in various sizes and configurations to suit mill requirements. It features a hard-surfaced anvil with a breakaway support frame for protection from foreign materials. The rear access platform makes knife maintenance simple and safe. The Chipper includes a common subframe for a single lift installation.

Brunette/CBI Grizzly Mill Hog

This primary wood waste grinder is built to be the most rugged hog on the market. The Grizzly Mill’s high-interia, solid steel rotor has four alternating angled rows of striker bars to ensure even distribution of input material for balanced wear and maximum throughput. This machine can break down large residuals from various sources, including cedar

bark, green spruce bark, mill wood waste, demolition debris, butt ends, railroad ties and stringy bark, for easy processing into a high-quality product suitable for hog fuel, mulch or a biomass product.

Brunette BioSizer

The Brunette BioSizer is a high-speed secondary waste wood grinder designed to produce a uniform-sized output that is optimal for the biomass industry. The Brunette BioSizer is built to be low maintenance, with a high-inertia rotor and fixed hammers. With four rows of staggered hammers, this grinder efficiently processes oversized bush-grind hog fuel, trim blocks, wood chips and typical urban woodwaste, converting it all to fine, high-quality fiber suitable for various biomass products. Brunette Machinery’s experience in manufacturing guarantees customers well-tested, heavy-duty machines that will produce high-quality product and deliver a long service life with low maintenance costs.









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