Page 1

Fall 2012

Escalating Standards Third-party audits will certify quality, transform industry Page 24

Plus: New Hampshire enters new era in renewable heat Page 30

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Pellet Mill Magazine

Contents »

Advertisers' Index

FALL 2012 | VOLUME 2 | ISSUE 2


4 2013 International Biomass Conference & Expo 40 2013 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo



Waiting for Standards

The debate over fuel assessment protocols for producers shows the industry is committed to quality but concerned with the investment required for implementation. By Luke Geiver

27 Airoflex Equipment 22 Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S 13 Astec, Inc.



A First for Thermal

New Hampshire’s unprecedented acceptance of renewable heat and its multiyear strategy is helping biobased thermal energy become part of the state’s energy future. By Anna Simet

18 B&W Mechanical Handling, Ltd. 39 BBI Consulting Services 9 Biomass Industry Directory 6 BRUKS Rockwood


14 Buhler Inc. 5 CPM Roskamp Champion 15 CST Industries, Inc. 35 D&S Engineering, Inc. 20 Dieffenbacher



Pellet Plants and the Pareto Principle

Balanced attention to design, engineering and process can reduce downtime and increase plant performance. By Yuri Chocholko

16 Fike Corporation


17 GreCon, Inc.


28 Industrial Bulk Lubricants

Standardizing Capacity to Satisfy Growing Markets By Tim Portz

33 Intersystems


37 KEITH Manufacturing Company


11 LM Machinery 38 Maas Companies 2 Millard Maritime 23 PFI Pellet Fuels Institute 21 RUF U.S., Inc. 34 Schuech GmbH

Mystery in the Garage By John Crouch

08 TESTING GROUNDS Choosing Test Methods By Chris Wiberg


The MBioEx Wood Pellet Bidding Platform By Kevin Triemstra


The Potential for Industrial Wood Pellets in Asia By M. Seth Ginther

29 Timber Products Inspection/ BIomass Energy Laboratories


32 Twin Ports Testing


19 Vecoplan Midwest, LLC 26 West Salem Machinery Co. FALL 2012 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 3

« Editor’s Note

Standardizing Capacity to Satisfy Growing Markets

Tim Portz

Vice President of Content & Executive Editor

In a Sept. 26 news story titled “Biggest English Polluter Spends $1 Billion to Burn Wood,” Bloomberg News’ Karl Lundgren reported that Drax Power Station, a coal-burning facility in the United Kingdom that provides nearly 7 percent of the U.K.’s electric power, is converting to pellet feedstocks. To continually supply this facility with pellets, Lundgren notes that it would annually require biomass from an area four times the size of Rhode Island. That's a staggering mental picture, and it is interesting that Lundgren did not use a country or region in Europe to illustrate the amount of acreage that will be required to produce the incredible volume of pellets this facility will need. He could have described it as half the area of of Wales. Instead, he chose an American state and, whether intentional or not, he made the connection that nearly everyone in European power and American pellets has already made: Europe’s migration toward a “carbon-lite” energy platform will rely largely on woody biomass commodities sourced from other parts of the world, likely led by producers in the U.S. A customer of this size, with others like it on the way, is certain to change the trajectory of the established North American pellet industry. How then, will the industry evolve to satisfy the huge opportunity presented by stations like the Drax facility, while continuing to develop and expand domestic markets? This issue of Pellet Mill Magazine is well-timed. As we seek answers to that question, we explore not only the evolution of industry-wide standards developed to guarantee European utilities boatloads of consistent and uniform pellets, but also the progress made by a small group of industry advocates to firmly establish domestic markets typically served in truckloads. Luke Geiver’s “Waiting for Standards” examines efforts to create an industry-wide pellet rating system to guarantee customers―foreign and domestic―that the pellets they buy consistently meet established criteria. Anna Simet’s “A First for Thermal” tracks the successful effort in New Hampshire to establish parity for renewable thermal energy to protect and grow a domestic market the policy’s proponents believe has plenty of upside. As producers are increasingly being called upon to serve two very different masters, it will be interesting to watch the industry develop practices and policies that support the growth of both market segments.

Don’t Wait!

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Art ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elizabeth Burslie

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SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER John Nelson Subscriptions to Pellet Mill Magazine are free of charge—distributed twice a year—to Biomass Magazine subscribers.To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address to Pellet Mill Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to (701) 746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at (866) 746-8385 or Advertising Pellet Mill Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Pellet Mill Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at (866) 746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Pellet Mill Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or e-mail to evoegele@bbiinternational. com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/ or space.

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COPYRIGHT © 2012 by BBI International


« Industry Events National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo NOVEMBER 27-29, 2012

Hilton Americas - Houston Houston, Texas Next Generation Fuels and Chemicals Produced by BBI International, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. Early bird registration rates expire Oct. 16. (866)746-8385

International Biomass Conference & Expo APRIL 8-10, 2013

Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota Building on Innovation Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, the International Biomass Conference & Expo program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations on topics ranging from anaerobic digestion and gasification to pyrolysis and combined heat and power. This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries―biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. (866)746-8385

International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo JUNE 10-13, 2013

America’s Center St. Louis, Missouri Where Producers Meet Now in its 29th year, the FEW provides the global ethanol industry with cutting-edge content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. The FEW is the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world―and the only event powered by Ethanol Producer Magazine. (866)746-8385

Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit 2012 DECEMBER 3-5, 2012

Westin Ottawa Hotel Ottawa, Ontario Canada is now a frontrunner in the worldwide effort to create clean, renewable transportation fuel. Attend the Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit to learn from industry experts, engage in valuable peer to peer collaboration, find solutions to your business challenges, and discover new products and services. The CRFS is a great opportunity to exchange ideas and gain a global perspective on the renewable fuels industry. We offer insightful plenaries and are now offering concurrent industry breakout sessions.

Standards Steward »

Mystery in the Garage BY JOHN CROUCH

The fall season is here. In fact, it began in July, as it usually does. This time is not to be confused with the “early-buy spring season,” which is largely the domain of specialty pellet retailers and the reason a number of fuel suppliers have found that it pays to stay connected with the stores that can really “sell” pellet heat. Most of the fuel is being moved by the home centers—both nationally and regionally—and they have become the principal channel for pellet fuel distribution in the U.S. The ability of these chains to offer pellet fuel as a major fall bulk delivery item and traffic builder has worked out well for them, and their business has certainly been good for our industry as well. Consumer confidence in sourcing and shopping for pellets has strengthened the sales of pellet stove, furnace, and boiler retailers over the past 10 years, and that will will continue to benefit our industry in the future. There is an interesting conundrum for the industry as the number of customers grows, however, and that is determining the annual level of tertiary storage. In the two other types of nonelectric, rural home heating fuels—oil and propane—the local dealers carry some inventory, which is known as secondary storage. This is to distinguish it from primary storage, a term for the fuel stored at refineries, import terminals and other major centers. What is unknown is the consumer’s storage, or tertiary storage, in tanks in their back yards. Every once in a while, tertiary storage (or carryover), can be an issue for both of those fuel delivery systems. While the precise nature of the carryover is not known on a national scale, local

dealers have a decent idea. Heating oil and propane dealers have long followed their local degree days and have a good sense of the amount of heat their customers use for a given number of degree days. This helps them determine when to send trucks out, allows them to anticipate their customers’ fuel usage, and also gives them a sense of their local market area’s carryover. If the cold weather shuts off suddenly in their market, the best oil and propane retailers can estimate the carryover and the resulting impact on their customers’ uptake of fuel the following year. Nothing like that exists in pellet land, but for years it hasn’t mattered. Basically, there has been way too much fuel for too few customers, and the presence―or absence―of carryover has been only one of many issues to deal with. Those of you with dreams of creating new pellet mills should keep that in mind and be certain you know who is going to buy your new pellets before moving forward. In the future, it could be worthwhile to know what the carryover of pellets is, particularly on a regional basis. For instance, if the mid-Atlantic region has an average of 30 bags per major customer versus New England at 10 bags per customer (which might reflect very different spring weather), that could dramatically affect the uptake of fuel in the early summer buying season, and skew the uptake by region in a way that would be worthwhile to understand up front. As the number of households that buy bagged fuel continues to increase, the difference between 5 bags per garage on a national average, and 25

bags per garage, becomes a larger number. For every million households, every 10-bag average carryover is upward of 200,000 tons. As we continue to move more households into full or supplemental pellet heat, the carryover number becomes even more important, and anticipating this number will become much more meaningful to for all of us who care about pellet heat. Consumer carryover is particularly important in our form of heat, because it is a mystery. Most of our fuel moves through home centers, and even the specialty dealers we have do not tend to monitor degree days or their core customers’ carryover, like the heating oil and propane dealers do. Perhaps when we reach the promised land of universal, European-style direct delivery, this issue will be moot, but we are a long way from that. The vast majority of our customers enjoy the independence of shopping for fuel and are willing to handle bags, since most of them are saving a lot of money over their previous fossil fuel bills. Make no mistake, as the number of bagged pellet customers grows, the issue of “how many bags are in their garages, as of July 1,” will increasingly become a bigger issue. Our industry cannot rely on our retailers to monitor this for us; they are mostly home centers, and that is not their job. It’s our job, and we’ll have to figure it out, sooner or later. Author: John Crouch Director of Public Affairs Pellet Fuels Institute


« Testing Grounds

Choosing Test Methods BY CHRIS WIBERG

In recent months, I have been repeatedly asked to explain the difference between the various test methods available for testing solid biomass fuels. Fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it once was, as now most of the European national standards such as the German DIN, Austrian Önorm, and others have been replaced by the CEN/EN methods. It is still rather confusing, but I will try to make sense of it for you. Within the U.S., ASTM International has historically been the primary provider of test methodology for solid fuels including coal, refuse-derived fuels (RDF) and wood. Unfortunately for the biomass industry, most of these methods focus on coal and RDF with only a small number pertaining to wood. The lack of standards dedicated to biomass has resulted in many labs selecting coal or RDF methods to analyze biomass samples, and they may or may not be adequate for the purpose, especially when it comes to sampling and sample preparation. For example, all coal methods cite coal preparation standards to generate the sample to be analyzed. Unlike coal, wood does not pulverize under pressure, meaning that the coal preparation standards are essentially useless for biomass samples. Inconsistencies like these are generally left up to the lab to determine how to compensate, and it is unlikely that all labs that come across the same inconsistency will identify the same solution. The end consequence is that test results may differ between two labs citing the same test method. This same problem also resides within ISO test methods. Most of


the historical test methods available within ISO are for—you guessed it— coal and other fuel types. Obviously, the same problem applies. When the Pellet Fuels Institute Standard Specifications for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel were being developed, these inconsistencies were understood and taken into consideration. Note, however, that some of the cited methods have been modified by PFI in order to make them applicable to pellets, and in some cases, PFI had to develop its own methods. Despite our best efforts to select ASTM methods that are applicable to pellets, in many cases these methods have not been updated in decades. That is not obvious, however, and a perfect example is ASTM E871 for total moisture in wood. While the method states that it was updated in 2006, the only update is the safety disclaimer in the scope. Around the year 2000, the European Union identified the lack of test methodology for solid biofuels and in response created a new technical committee within their normalization body—CEN. Over the course of a decade, and with an investment of around 10 million euros, CEN TC 335 created about 30 technical specifications including terminology, specifications, chemical and physical test methods as well as sampling and sample preparation procedures. Most of these technical specifications have now been published as EN methods. These European standards are the best documents we have available today when it comes to test methodology for analyzing solid biofuels, but there are still concerns. Since the

U.S. is not part of the EU, we had no input on these standards during their development. Therefore, they are very Eurocentric, and that’s apparent when comparing test methods for fines and durability in pellets. In addition, when performing the CEN/EN methods in our lab, it has become apparent that not all of these methods are as well researched. The best news is that we now have a voice in further developing these solid biofuel standards. In 2007, the CEN/EN methods were forwarded to ISO to convert them to true international standards. ISO responded by creating a new technical committee—ISO TC 238. Lead by ASABE, the U.S. is actively participating in ISO TC 238 to develop true international standards for solid biofuels. For the past four years I have had the privilege of sitting on the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO TC 238 and also on five of the six working groups. As such, I have great confidence in the work products that are moving forward, and I encourage all who are interested to participate in their development. The ISO solid biofuel standards are still in various stages of development, and currently more than 50 standards development projects are being discussed. The first of these new standards should be published within the next year, with the rest being published in the next one to three years. Hopefully, the world will embrace them when they are published. Author: Chris Wiberg Manager, Biomass Energy Laboratory (218) 428-3583


« Pellet Platform

The MBioEX Wood Pellet Bidding Platform BY KEVIN TRIEMSTRA

In August, the Minneapolis Biomass Exchange proudly released the first wood pellet bidding system in the country, which works anywhere wood pellets can be found within the continental U.S. From our point of view, one problem with the wood pellet industry is that the buying, logistics, and quality control processes are complicated. When dealing with a buyer, pellet mills must be assured of credit since they will often send out supply trucks without receiving payment up front. Getting familiar with each buyer and working through credit hurdles takes time. Once the buying process begins, either the buyer or seller has to arrange transport, even though neither party is in the transport business. Collecting quotes takes time, and once they are received from the transporters, the purchase price from the mill will adjust as well since there is only a maximum delivered price the buyer is willing to pay. Additionally, the buyer has to be assured that quality exceeds a minimum level. Since every mill manufactures a slightly different pellet, this can be confusing to buyers as they approach multiple mills for purchases. Coming from an information technology background where automation and efficiency is the norm, we at MBioEx wondered, “why can't buying occur with a few clicks?” That’s how the bidding platform got its start. So how does it work? The service for buyers is simple: they enter the price they are willing to pay per ton for delivered pellets, the number of tons they would like to receive (bids are more likely to be accepted if they are ordered by the truckload in multiples of 22 tons), and credit card payment information (for authorization purposes


only), or set up a line of credit through MBioEX. If they choose the credit card route, they will not be charged unless a mill accepts their bid. Once these basics are setup, bids can be submitted to pellet mills. Upon bid submittal, the MBioEX software automatically determines transport costs and subtracts them from the bid, and then sends resulting bids to pellet mills, which will compete to be the first to accept the bid. If the bid is too low, it will simply expire after 24 hours. There are no penalties for unaccepted bids; one only pays for selleraccepted transactions. The service does not allow you purchase a particular brand of pellet, but does guarantee minimum quality specifications. So who benefits? The system was organized in a manner to both save costs for buyers and increase seller profits through software automation and supply chain cost reduction. It assures buyers will receive quality-controlled pellets at a competitive price. Similarly, sellers no longer have to organize logistics and perform credit checks on buyers since the transaction is either prepaid or credit is assured. Overall, mills now have an opportunity to sell a commodity in a way that allows them to sell more volume and utilize excess capacity. To find out more, we have provided a list of frequently asked questions on the bidding platform web site. We’d like to thank the pellet mill stakeholders across the U.S. for their time and overall enthusiasm toward innovating and increasing the industry’s prospects. Author: Kevin Triemstra CEO, Minneapolis Biomass Exchange

« Industrial Insight

The Potential for Industrial Wood Pellets in Asia BY M. SETH GINTHER

Will there be an Asian market for industrial wood pellets? That’s a question that the U.S. industrial wood pellet market is confronted with almost daily. Personally, I am very bullish about this market developing because in order for it to do so, the Asian utility market will have to adapt to the European utility model of entering into long-term, off-take agreements with U.S. producers. To date, Asian utilities have been unwilling to do that. On a recent visit to Seoul, South Korea, to speak at the annual Biomass Trading Conference, I learned that Asian demand for industrial wood pellets will hover at around 5 million metric tons per year beginning in 2015. In both South Korea and Japan, subsidies are in place that will drive this demand number for years to come. If it is assumed that in order to develop production capacity for 1 million metric tons per year in the U.S., $200 million in development capital is needed, then approximately $1 billion in development capital will need to be deployed in the U.S. in order to meet that 5 million metric ton-peryear demand predicted for Asia. Who is going to spend that $1 billion? As I told the Asian utility community in my remarks in Seoul, U.S. financiers are anxious to make these investments in the U.S., but they will only do so once U.S. producers have signed longterm, off-take agreements with Asian utilities. At the end of the day, the industrial wood pellet industry is an infrastructure industry. Building out pellet manufacturing facilities and the supply chain infrastructure that’s needed to consistently deliver sustainable, high-quality industrial wood pellets requires infrastructure investment and that capital will not be deployed unless financial partners are assured of a long-term customer. Investors need


certainty in order to deploy capital. Every single successful industrial wood pellet company in the U.S. has used this model to build out infrastructure for European demand, and it will be a necessity to do the same for Asian demand. While in Seoul, I was asked the question a number times, “What about the spot market? Can’t Asian utilities meet their 5 million metric ton per year demand by buying wood pellets on the spot market?” Because the U.S. industry is based on long-term, off-take agreements with utility counterparties, it means that the country’s supply, for lack of a better term, is sold out. Sure, there are U.S. spot volumes from overproduction and other optimization scenarios, but those volumes are minimal and would barely make a dent in the 5 million metric ton-per-year number. Asia needs to take action now if it intends to source large volumes of industrial wood pellets from the U.S. Deliveries for 2015 will require significant infrastructure investment in the capital deployment cycle of the next six months. The Asian market must recognize that there is strong competition for supply from European utilities due to the Renewables Obligation Certificate banding announcements in the U.K. and expected additional subsidies in Belgium and the Netherlands. Asian utilities must follow the European model and sign long-term, off-take agreements that contain certainty in the contract—it’s the only way that the U.S. will deploy capital to meet the upcoming Asian industrial pellet demand. Author: M. Seth Ginther Executive director, U.S. Industrial Pellet Association (804) 771-9540


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Business Briefs


CRIBE grant supports pellet project Northern Ontario’s Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy announced it is providing $70,839 in funding to Atikokan Renewable Fuels to begin testing various natural additives to wood pellets to improve their performance in cooperation with Lakehead University. A separate $467,000 CRIBE grant will support the development of the BioEnergy Learning and Research Centre in partnership with Confederation College. The facility will include a biomass fuel testing lab, demonstration space, and a 150 kW boiler dedicated to research and learning associated with emissions monitoring equipment.

Maryland launches pilot rebate program The Maryland Energy Administration has launched a pilot program that offers a $400 rebate for new wood stoves and a $600 rebate for new pellet stoves. To qualify for the program, wood stoves must be U.S. EPA certified and emit no more than 3 grams of particulates per hour. Pellet stoves must also be certified, but can emit no more than 2 grams of particulates per hour. Rebates are only available for stoves purchased on or after Sept. 7. They can be purchased out of state, but must be installed in a Maryland residence. UK company offers biomass installer training Schiedel Chimney Systems Ltd. announced that new Hetas approved biomass installer training courses, H005

and H005BR, are now available at the Schiedel Hetas Training Center. The H005 course covers the installation of log, pellet and chip appliances, offering a mix of theoretical and practical elements that enable installers to carry out feasibility studies and professionally advise clients on fuel type, storage options and system design. Successful completion of the course allows Hetas registrants to extend their registration categories to include installation of biomass appliances. The H005BR course is a foundation course for H005 that covers biomass building and regulations. HM3 wins grant for briquette tests The Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center awarded biomass torrefaction company HM3 Energy Inc. an $86,000 grant to support emissions testing of its torrefied biomass

A hammer blow to your operating costs. The hammer mill Granulex™ is the new dynamic grinding machine from Bühler. Designed for ultimate power, Granulex™ delivers high capacity grinding up to 15 t/h for wood and 75 t/h for biomass. Heavy design and supreme ease of maintenance minimize downtime, so you can make maximum use of this productivity. It’s an investment in quality that is sure to show a rapid return – and deliver a hammer blow to your operating costs.

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Innovations for a better world.

briquetting technology. The company began densifying torrefied biomass this fall with a 50,000 ton-per-year densification machine at its demonstration facility in Troutdale, Ore. The aim is to produce hydrophobic briquettes. The goal for the first test run is to produce briquettes that can withstand one-hour immersion in water. The company’s overall goal is to produce briquettes that can be immersed in water for up to 24 hours. Community development entities fund pellet project WNC & Associates Inc., Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Rural Development Partners and Coastal Enterprises have collaborated to provide The Westervelt Company with $55.5 million in new markets tax credit (NMTC) financing for the $71 million construction of a wood pellet plant in

Aliceville, Ala. The NMTC program is designed to stimulate economic and community development in low-income communities. The facility is expected to generate more than $37 million in annual revenue. Westervelt will purchase feedstock for the facility from the local Southern Yellow Pine timber market. Construction on the project is underway, and is scheduled to be complete in mid-2013.

a feasibility study regarding the use of wood pellets, slash, forestry byproducts or other biomass fuel to generate heat and power for use on campus. The study will also confirm that the recommended system meets regulatory requirements set forth by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and other state and federal agencies. The feasibility study could pave the way for the university to install a 1.2 MW combined-heat-and-power system capable of generating 100 percent of the campus’s power requirements and filling 70 percent of its heat requirement.

University considers cogeneration system The USDA awarded a $250,000 grant to Southern Oregon University to conduct

SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Industry Briefs, Pellet Mill Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.

Pellet News Mitigating the risk of dust fire, explosion Excess dust in pellet production facilities can create fire and explosion hazards. To help plants manage that risk, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada has published a report that walks plant management and staff through steps they can take to assess and mitigate that risk. The report, titled “Determination of Explosibility of Dust Layers in Pellet Manufacturing SOURCE: WOOD PELLET ASSOCIATION OF CANADA Plants,” discusses risk assessment, dust sampling and categorization, dust explosion risk reduction and ways to mitigate the impact of an explosion, should one occur. The document outlines a dust management scheme that aims to mitigate these risks at a minimal cost. Establishing a minimum explosible concentration of dust is integral to determining this risk, and is highly dependent on particle shape sedimentation speed and spatial distribution.

Think an explosion will never happen in your facility?

Enova Energy plans 3 pellet projects Enova Energy Group LLC is building three wood pellet projects in Georgia and South Carolina. The company has also created a subsidiary, Enova Wood Pellet Group LLC, which has a dedicated management team that will focus exclusively on the wood pellet industry. Each plant will have an annual production capacity of 450,000 metric tons, or a combined capacity of 1.35 million metric tons. Pellets produced at the facility will be exported to Europe from Savannah, Ga. The projects are expected to cost $330 million. Enova will meet 80 percent of that cost with debt. Although these plants represent Enova’s first development in the wood pellet industry, the company expects to expand its presence in the market with additional production sites to increase its pellet production capacity by an additional 2 million metric tons.

Dust and gas explosions are deadly and commercially devastating. Many facilities are at risk, but just don’t know it. Fike is a global leader in the development and manufacture of reliable explosion protection solutions. And we offer a wide range of explosibility tests designed to assist you in identifying costly explosion hazards.

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Pellet News » Canadian coal generating capacity Region

Ontario Alberta Saskatchewan Nova Scotia New Brunswick Manitoba Total

Number of Coal Plants

Number of Coal Units

4 7 3 4 2 1 21

15 18 9 8 2 1 53

CoalCoal-Generating Generating Average Capacity Capacity (MWtot) (MWe) 6,459 32,521 6,397 11,736 1,822 3,879 1,308 2,463 537 4,549 98 5,629 16,621 60,777

Portion of Total MWe CoalGenerating Capacity 39 38 11 8 3 1 100

Canada explores GHG emissions reduction A report published by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada demonstrates there is significant opportunity for the Canadian wood pellet industry if the Canadian power industry continues to move away from coal. There are, however, several hurdles that must be overcome. Specifically, the Canadian power market is closely integrated with the U.S., which means the transformation of Canada’s power industry can’t occur in isolation. The lack of firm U.S. policy, therefore, could negatively impact Canada’s policy, including its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals. The Canadian government has proposed to regulate GHG emissions from coal-

fired power plants, which has sparked the Canadian sector to find ways to reduce emissions. The proposed regulations are scheduled to become active next year for new projects, and in 2015 for older plants. Canada currently has 21 coal-fired power plants, and each currently has three options to meet GHG reduction goals: convert to natural gas, install carbon capture and storage, or cofire with biomass. The report compares conversion options and includes different methods of cofiring and torrefaction. It also addresses the Canadian biomass supply.


ÂŤ Pellet News New plant under development in Georgia General Biofuels Georgia forest ownership Georgia LLC is constructing a $60 million wood pellet plant in Sandersville, Ga., capable of producing 440,000 tons of industrial-grade wood pellets per year. The facility is expected to begin operations during the first quarter of 2014. Feedstock for the plant will be sourced from Georgia timberlands and local lumber producers. Pellets produced at the facility will be shipped via rail to the Port of Savannah, where they will be transloaded for export to Europe. The pellets will be sold to a major European utility under a long-term contract. “General Biofuels’ location to Sandersville is great news for central Georgia,â€? said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The biofuels industry in Georgia is growing by leaps and bounds. We have more commercial timberland than any other state in the country, as well as the workforce and the logistics infrastructure needed to move the product quickly and efficiently to market.â€?



Coast Guard to explore pellet potential in Alaska The U.S. Coast Guard is working to reduce the heating costs of its larger Alaskan facilities. The effort is focused on converting from heating oil to wood pellets. The Coast Guard recently signed an interagency agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to support its goal and other forest product and renewable energy initiatives. Under the agreement, Coast Guard engineer and biomass export Robert Derring and USFS wood biomass and stewardship program manager Dan Parrent will work with the USDA’s Southeast Alaska forest products and renewable energy workgroups, the Alaska Division of Forestry, Alaska Southeast Conference and the Alaska Energy Authority. Work completed under the agreement will focus on developing a strategy and action plant to convert to biomass. The group will also identify deficiencies in the regional logistics and production supply chains. Wood pellet use by Coast Guard facilities has the potential to create a large commercial demand, which would provide an anchor client for wood pellets, enabling further development of the pellet industry in southeast Alaska.


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Pellet News » Analyzing risk in manufacturing projects

Enviva plant breaks ground

FutureMetrics Inc. has Description of example project released an overview of a risk Wet product milling line $1,969,000 analysis to illustrate advanced Wet product feeding system $208,000 modeling techniques for Dryer system $688,000 identifying and quantifying Dry product intermediate storage $295,000 risks associated with wood Milling and pelletizing line $1,229,000 pellet manufacturing projects. Pellets storage silos $289,000 The analysis illustrates the use Bagging and palletizing line $296,000 of Monte Carlo simulation to Electrical equipment $476,000 quantify key decision metrics Equipment Total $5,450,000 Other Costs $5,410,000 for the development of a wood pellet plant. The Monte Carlo Total Capital Cost $10,860,000 simulation is a computerized mathematical technique that allows people to account for risk in quantitative analysis and decision making. The analysis includes an example that is based on a 50-ton-per-year pellet plant that is collocated with a combined-heat-and-power plant that supplies hot water for belt drying and power. The example is limited in scope in regard to feedstock, product pricing and operational risks, and includes considerations associated with policy risk for pellet export projects, currency risk, shipping cost risk, and market disruption risk. The analysis identifies four primary risk factors for the example project, including wood cost, the ability for pellet prices to increase over time, the initial price of pellets sold from the mill, and the ability of the facility to run in the upper end of its nameplate capacity.

Maryland-based Enviva LP has broken ground on a 500,000 ton-per-year pellet production facility in Southampton County, Va. The plant is scheduled to be operational late next year. Enviva will employ traditional wood processing and pelletizing equipment at the new facility. Most of the woody biomass processed at the plant will be sourced from within a 40-75 mile radius. While fully operational, approximately 200 trucks are expected to enter or leave the facility each day. The $90 million facility is the third whollyowned plant developed by Enviva in the MidAtlantic region. The new plant is being developed using a “build and copy” approach, and is based on another pellet production plant owned and operated by Enviva in Northampton, N.C. Most of the pellets produced at the plant will be exported to Europe. Enviva passes all pellets produced in the region through its Chesapeake pellet terminal on the Elizabeth River. Once the Southampton facility comes online, more than onethird of Enviva’s worldwide production will come out of Virginia.


« Pellet News Coal-to-biomass conversion of Atikokan plant commences Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan Generating Station has burned its last piece of coal. Work to convert the facility to biomass is underway. Once complete, the converted facility will be capable of generating more than 200 MW of power. The plant is expected to be operational by late 2014. The station includes one coal-fueled generation unit that was fired with low-sulfur lignite coal. Following the conversion, the plant will be fired with wood pellets sourced from Ontario’s forests and processes in the province in order to provide a new

market for waste fiber, underutilized species, and nonmarketable and sawmill residues. The conversion is expected to cost approximately $170 billion, and will include plant modifications to provide peak capacity and the construction of a fuel storage and handling system that can process up to 90,000 metric tons of biomass annually. The Aecon Group Inc. has been tasked with the design and construction of the fuel handling storage systems. Doosan Corp. is completing the combustion modifications.

Ontario land area

Ontario forest lands


Pellet News » Bringing safety to pellet production

Spreading the biomass gospel

The British Columbia Forest Safety Council is making the pellet production industry a safer place to work. The council has created a Basic Audit and Safety Evaluation Auditing document that helps production facilities to assess the safety of several different areas that could be present at a mill, from raw fiber storage to fiber sizing, and finished product storage. The safety auditing document uses a scoring system, awarding a specific amount of points when a safety protocol is followed. If, for instance, a mill can show documentation that the internal temperature of pellet piles is monitored at least once a week, five points would be awarded. Other areas of plant safety, such as mobile equipment use information, will be awarded a certain point total based on the percentage of equipment that receives proper documentation. According to the BC Forest Safety Council, “scoring for the audit is very prescriptive. Auditors are given very particular instructions and there must be valid reasons for awarding or not awarding points.” Scoring should be used as a guide for improvement on a company’s safety system rather than an absolute of pass or fail.

Pat Rita, founder of Orion Advocates, has worked on Senate campaigns in New Hampshire, for the American Forest & Paper Association, and for the pellets industry. As a lobbyist for the industry, Rita calls Capitol Hill home. During the 2012 Pellet Fuels Institute Conference, Rita gave an update on the issues he and others are pushing for or monitoring. Not surprisingly, many huge issues in the industry like those of Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules, will go undecided until after the election. According to Rita, the Office of Management and Budget has seen a new rule regarding Boiler MACT, but won’t act until 2013. Rita isn’t letting the November event stop him from pushing for a stronger pelletindustry, however. We are working with the U.S. Department of Defense to spread the gospel about the benefits of biomass heating, he said. The use of renewable heat, “is proven,” he continued, “and is a quick return on investment,” an aspect the DOD is intrigued by in its quest to include a greater percentage of renewable energy.



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ÂŤ Standards

WHAT IS BETTER?: Europe is already adopting pellet standards. North America isn't far behind, but some in the industry question what a better pellet truly means. PHOTO: GERMAN PELLET INSTITUTE


Standards Âť

Waiting for Standards Pellet standards designed to certify quality are almost here in North America. Will the new system be worth the wait? BY LUKE GEIVER


« Standards The production strategies and bottom lines of all pellet mills in the U.S. could someday hinge on eight numbers. The numbers represent fuel

quality parameters ranging from durability to ash content and are the backbone of a standards program developed by the Pellet Fuels Institute unveiled one year ago to verify a pellet’s overall content and performance to end-users. In response to the U.S. EPA’s announcement that residential pellet stoves would be required to meet emissions requirements through the EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), PFI enlisted help from its own members to craft a standards program that could be used by the EPA for the NSPS, and pellet production facilities to verify pellet grades once and for all. A lot has happened in the pellets industry since the standards first came out, but the issue of pellets standards requirements and the complications related to implementation of the intricate program may be the No. 1 talking point in the industry. Apart from those eight fuel property parameters, there are several other reasons why.

From The Authors Chris Wiberg, manager for Timber Products Inspection and Biomass Energy Lab in Georgia, is qualified to speak about the bones of the standards program. He wrote most of it. Along with the help of several others, he adapts the controlling copy. “As additional information comes in and we make revisions, I’ll add that,” he says. The PFI Standards Committee is comprised of laboratory technicians, boiler manufacturers, pellet producers and more. In 2008, the standards were written and then amended in 2011, in response to the EPA’s request to include the element of third-party auditing to a verification system. “I’m up to my ears and over with biofuel standards,” he says.


WELL INFORMED: Chris Wiberg and others adapted ASTM test methods with their own industry insight to form the pellets standards.

The standards are based on the following fuel properties: bulk density per pound/cubic foot, diameter in inches (or diameter in millimeters), durability, percentage of fines at the mill gate, percentage of inorganic ash, length (percentage greater than 1.5 inches), percentage of moisture and chloride content in parts per million. Originally, the grades for fuel pellets were super premium, premium, standard and utility, but currently, the grades possible are premium, standard and utility. “Everything you see in the PFI standard,” Wiberg says, “whether it’s a length issue, a fines issue, a diameter issue or bulk density, all relates back to stove performance and the ability of the auger to convey it, and the ability of the combustion appliance to efficiently burn it.” Most of the fuel properties are given room for variance, and as Wiberg says, for good reason. As an example, he points to bulk density. For premium grade pellets, the range is 40 to 46 lb/cubic foot, so that the appliance manufacturers can design their appliances for a bulk density of 43 lb/cubic foot with a plus or minus error of three. Wiberg and the members of the standards committee revamped some ASTM test methods and created their own to form the testing procedures used for the program. But since the draft was released in 2011, not much has changed in the fuel requirement numbers. Other parts of the program have progressed. To meet the EPA’s request for third-party verification of offsite and onsite pellet testing labs, the standards program has enlisted the American Lumber Standard Committee to serve as the auditing agency for the program. “Because their (ALSC) network was already deep, they put out information that a new program was available,” Wiberg says. To date, 12 companies have been accredited by ALSC to audit pellet testing facilities across North America, and four labs have also been accredited to perform testing. “These auditors and labs are now poised and ready to do their jobs,” he says. “What we need now is for pellet producers to actually sign on and implement at their end.”

The Complexities of Compliance Although roughly 50 mills have signed a PFI pledge to participate in the third-party certification program, at the time of this article, no

Standards »


ALSC. For now, roughly once per month, an auditing agent will visit each mill’s onsite lab to validate the testing procedures. This is where the main discussion and debate on the standards program resides. Although Wiberg says there has been some back and forth over allowable ash content percentage in premium grade fuel (along with a few other sticking points), it’s the cost of new testing equipment, sample shipments and training that has many producers uneasy over the implementation of the program. Follette’s operation in Spearfish offers a clear example why. Located in the heart of the Black Hills, a mountain range in western South Dakota that is covered in Ponderosa Pine, the pellet production facility uses wood waste and shavFEEDSTOCK FORTUNATE: Spearfish Pellet Co. LLC. may not struggle to implement new testing methods because the biomass supply used in production is controlled by the mill. ings from a sawmill operated by the same company. “All along we have had our own testing processes in company has officially signed up for the certification process, accord- place to check our quality and our consistency,” Follette says, “so this ing to Everett Follette, director of sales and marketing for Spearfish (PFI’s standards program) isn’t as big of a change as it is for some mills.” Pellet Co. LLC. The production team at the pellet mill checks for moisture conTo participate in the program, a pellet producer doesn’t have to be or become a PFI member, but that producer does have to do sev- tent every half hour, for bulk density twice a shift or four times per day, eral other things. For all bags to receive the pellet quality label that bag fines hourly and durability once per hour. Because the mill receives comes after certification is complete, a mill will either have to set up virtually the same byproduct (from the sawmill) for all pellets, outside an internal lab to test for the eight fuel parameters or send out samples testing for Btu and ash is only performed once per month, Follette says to one of the accredited companies or labs that have been verified by (testing was done weekly when the mill first started 20 years ago).


« Standards PFI Premium

PFI Standard

PFI Standard

Bulk Density, lb./cubic foot




Diameter, inches Diameter, mm

0.230-0.285 5.84-7.25

0.230-0.285 5.84-7.25

0.230-0.285 5.84-7.25

Pellet Durability Index




Fines, % (at the mill gate)




Inorganic Ash, %




Length, % greater than 1.50 inches




Moisture, %




Chloride, ppm




Heating Value







Fuel Property Normative Information - Mandatory

Informative Only - Not Mandatory Ash Fusion SOURCE: PELLET FUELS INSTITUTE

For Follette and others who work at mills that have operated for decades and have allowed the market for proven, quality product to govern their ability to financially succeed in pellet production, the prospect of new testing is difficult to accept. “In no way am I saying that I’m against the standards,” he says, “because I’m not.” This is his problem. “If you already have your own testing labs and equipment onsite, then why are we going to send them off to another lab?” he asks. “That is what is tough for the mills that have been there the last 15 to 20 years that are surviving and making good product, to suddenly be told that you are going to have this much of an increased cost in the production of your pellet,” and, more importantly he says, “you are going to change nothing.” Follette estimates that typical costs associated with PFI testing will run between $110 and $140 per week. In one instance, he notes, a company has said it will cost $100,000 per year for testing it already does. Either way, he says, the percentage of money devoted to testing will be the same for a large mill as it will for a small mill. “I agree that we need the standards and the certification, but it will take about two to three years to work all the bugs out and that will be very expensive in the meantime,” he says. Jennifer Hedrick, executive director for PFI, believes the standards effort will be worth it. "No one enjoys being told that their costs of doing business will increase; however, we continue to stress that participation in this program is an investment in the industry," she says. "The companies with the most consistent quality stand to benefit the most from the system," she adds, noting the program's ability to offer a level playing field.

The Outcome of Certified Pellets Mike Curci, business development manager at Indeck Energy, travels 8,000 to 9,000 miles per month to talk with existing and prospective clients about pellets. He is also the chair of PFI’s Commercial Fuel Committee and a strong proponent of the standards program with the end-user in mind. “I think the main thing is that if we produce bad fuel, and you turn consumers off, it is hard to convince them to start burning pellets again,” he says. Wiberg shares the same sentiment about the risk of allowing an uncertified product to enter the market, a practice that has allowed 28 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | FALL 2012

Standards » everything from copper remnants to contaminated material fragments to show up in the market within the past four years. “The analogy I use is that if you are a pellet customer, you bought a pellet stove and if you like your experience you are probably going to tell five friends,” Wiberg explains. “But, if you hate your experience you are probably going to tell 50 people.” The bad experience can be directly linked to poor performing pellets that produce high ash amounts, he says. The standards program, according to Curci, is actually a selling point. On most trips, customers ask about the status of the program and what each grade means in terms of pellet performance. The customers who already understand the program and what it will mean for pellets they sell seem to hold a strong opinion on the idea of a bag including a certified label. Cursi says he has been involved in some meetings, including one, in which the message of the main buyer–Tractor Supply Inc.–resonsated with several of the pellet producers in attendance and shows why the industry needs to prove it has great fuel. “The buyer said to the producers, ‘if you aren’t PFI compliant with the standard program, I’m not going to buy your fuel.’” For Curci, participating in the PFI standards program makes sense because the buyers want certified fuel. But for Wiberg, although he would agree with Curci, there is more to participating in the standards program. As the lab manager for Biomass Energy Labs in Georgia, the only lab in the U.S. certified for pellets headed to Europe, he says the link between the PFI standards and the ability of a producer to export is strong. When Wiberg and others performed the standards rewrite in 2011, he says, he used large sections of the ENPlus standards used for pellets in Europe, as the starting point for the PFI standards. In fact, he is the head of the U.S.-based delegation that helped write the European standards. “If you took the documents for the ENPlus standards and the PFI standards, you would see a lot of the exact same language, there were exact paragraphs pulled out and repurposed for the PFI standards.” For offtake agreements with European utilities, or for large shipments sent to Europe, producers need to comply with those ENPlus standards. The standards might not be the same, but they are very similar, he says. For the PFI version, premium pellets are the best (lowest ash content) and in Europe it is A1. Al-

though the European standards also include a high ash grade (called bulk grade), it doesn’t compare to PFI’s utility grade. The European standards will also soon include industrial grades, I1, I2 and I3 for use in industrial settings and power facilities. Because of that, he says that the path many producers in the U.S. are taking with PFI standards implementation is the right one. Many are buying the equipment and preparing onsite labs for testing, all of which will help them better understand the process, time, and money it will take to offer great fuel in the U.S. markets and potentially, bulk shipments bound for Europe. Still, creating a more confident and willing pellet consumer or partaking in an export project might not be enough for some producers to participate in the standards verification process.

The Waiting Game

fully implemented are waiting in anticipation, while others who could have to cope with new expenditures that result in zero fiscal gain, are simply waiting. “I don’t think anybody is ready to jump in with both feet until the government has put their final stamp of approval on it,” Follette says of the delay in the NSPS that would essentially force producers to participate in the standards program or lose the opportunity to supply to the bulk of the U.S. markets. “Why expose yourself to the financial risk until you have to? Why spend all the extra time to be certified now if you really don’t need to be until the government finally says, here is the deadline, you will now have to do it.” Wiberg doesn’t disagree, but he does add that, “once we see that (the NSPS)... we will really start gaining ground with the standards.” Author: Luke Geiver Features Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine (701) 738-4944

Because of the pending November elections, the agencies responsible for approving the NSPS are stalling. Because of the delay, people who are excited for the standards to be

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ÂŤ Thermal

RED AND BLUE: New Hampshire is the only state to assign renewable heat a full renewable energy credit under a state-run renewable portfolio standard.


Thermal »

A First for


New Hampshire’s landmark renewable portfolio standard legislation grants full credit to renewable thermal, allowing pellet and wood chip projects to capitalize on heat they generate. BY ANNA SIMET


« Thermal Niebling, who is general manager of For the past several years, advocates of renewable heat in the Northeast have worked tirelessly to make NEWP and chairman of the four-year-old the case to legislators that technology parity is es- Biomass Thermal Energy Council, explains sential in crafting sound energy policy. Like states out- that New Hampshire’s RPS, as well as many side of the region, thermal applications have taken a backseat to electricity as the core focus of renewable energy programs, and until now there has been a lack of education and understanding on the benefits renewable heat can offer. New Hampshire, however, is beginning to understand the benefits of renewable heat and has pulled ahead of other states that are working to reach, modify, revamp or strengthen their renewable portfolio standards (RPS). This summer, it became the first state to grant full credit to renewable thermal under its RPS, a first step toward equality with electricity. The establishment of renewable heat as an application deserving of a full credit didn’t happen overnight, over the course of several months or even a few years time. The work put towards educating decision makers in New Hampshire will not only benefit the state, it will provide a blueprint for other states and renewable heat advocates.

The Beginning The original goal to bring renewable heat on par with electricity was strategically set into motion when New Hampshire’s RPS was crafted and passed in 2007. At that time, Charlie Niebling and his company, New England Wood Pellet, argued vigorously that a renewable-based program that incentivized biomass-based electricity would only create unfair market advantages and distortions, especially for biomass-based feedstock. “We weren’t successful [in winning the argument]at the time,” he says, “but we were able to set into motion a number of commitments from the legislature and regulators that would open the door to the whole question.”


Than Just

other states’ programs, have a provision that requires a utility to pay a price if they do not have enough renewable energy credits (RECs) to meet obligations. In New Hampshire they are called Alternative Compliance Payments, THERMAL TACTICIAN: and these monies go into a fund administered Charlie Niebling's by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Com- approach mission to support renewable energy incentives. and strategy to implement “One of the things we achieved back in 2007 renewable thermal was a commitment to use that money for both in New Hampshire electrical efficiency and renewable thermal,” he started in 2007. says. “These funds created by the ACPs were fuel and technology neutral, so that was a positive step.” Over the past several years, many renewable thermal projects across the state were funded with ACP dollars, and that was a way to familiarize the PUC with the technology. “Another thing we did in 2007 was add a component to the law which required the PUC to review the RPS in 2011 to determine how well it had functioned and how well it had met its objectives,” Niebling says. Part of that evaluation was answering the question of whether a thermal component should be added to the RPS. When the report was finished, it indicated that adding thermal was justified, but the PUC was not sure how to implement the application. “They are utility regulators and not policymakers, and they’re careful about not crossing that line, so they only offered an opinion on the technical potential to include thermal in the RPS,” Neibling says. Unfortunately, the PUC stopped short of recommending the legislature to move forward and do it.


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Thermal » During that same time period, the state energy office was working on what would turn out to be the final piece of the puzzle— conducting a study focused solely on renewable thermal in the state. It made many policy recommendations, including equal treatment of renewable heat with electric energy in the RPS. “It concluded that technology neutrality is something we should strive toward, and it makes sense in New Hampshire particularly because we use a lot of heat and are very dependent on heating oil; we’re number two to Maine for imports,” Niebling says. “So for all of those reasons, they decided to look at the issue very seriously, and that set the stage for legislation this year.”

Figuring it Out Because the groups pushing for thermal incentives knew the RPS review would be released in 2011 and the legislature would then take a run at reforming the RPS, last year they worked, successfully, to introduce a bill that tackled the issue of awarding RECs to thermal output from biomass combined heat and power (CHP). “It wasn’t the full, comprehensive provision in the law now; it was just a small, bite-sized and incremental piece that made a lot of sense to a lot of people—if you are going to give RECs for electrical output, why wouldn’t you for the thermal output?,” Niebling says. “Nobody could figure out how or why to oppose that. If you don’t incentivize the heat but you do the electric, there is no reason for a developer to consider using CHP; there’s no direct economic advantage, especially when you consider the much higher capital cost.” The point of that legislation wasn’t necessarily linked to passage, but rather to introduce the idea to the legislature before the more comprehensive plan would debut in 2012. For Niebling, it was “sort of a tactical measure.” During the fall of 2011, he and biomass thermal stakeholders met with the governor and key members of the House and Senate

energy committees to begin their pitch on adding thermal to the RPS. They succeeded. Jeff Bradley, a former member of Congress, the state senate majority leader and a member of the state energy committee, sponsored the bill. But, before Bradley would push the bill, he required bill proponents to create a way to lower ratepayer costs. By simply adding thermal to an electric RPS, ratepayers would be forced to foot the bill, Niebling admits, so it had to be approached in a way that would lower overall utility compliance costs. “When the RPS enacted in 2007, it established a certain utility mandate that they had to meet—25 percent of total electric load by 2025—and it ratchets up over time. There are four different classes of qualifying technologies, each having a different sub-mandate associated with it and different ceiling prices on RECs.” Class I of New Hampshire’s RPS is new renewable energy development; Class II is solar photovoltaic; Class III is existing biomass and wind projects; Class IV is existing hydro. “What we did was take a piece of the Class I mandate away from electricity and gave it to thermal, and then we gave a lower REC value to thermal projects than electric projects,” Niebling explains. That might not seem fair at first, but he points out that thermal applications are generally a more efficient way to utilize energy—one can achieve the same objective at a lower incentive cost per unit of energy produced—and that’s especially true for biomass. “[With biomass] you do so with roughly 80 to 90 percent efficiency with the right technology, and with conventional steam generation you lose 25 to 30 percent of that. It’s just the nature of steam generation; there is a lot of waste heat generated by the process.” It was expected that the strategy may not be acceptable to other Class I renewable sectors such as the region’s bustling wind industry, as the effect is lower-valued RECs with a supply that stays the same, but Niebling says there wasn’t any opposition. “I think that’s because wind RECs in New Hampshire are being sold mostly in Massachusetts


« Thermal where the values are much higher,” he says. “[With that modification] whether you are a ratepayer ultimately financing those RECs, or you’re a utility paying an ACP because there aren’t enough RECs in the market, it will cost less compared to the previous RPS.” That was the key breakthrough in terms of structure of the thermal provision, and it passed the Senate 23-0, the House 79-52. “It came down to people understanding heat is a big issue in New Hampshire, our historical dependence on oil and propane and their high cost, as well as our limited natural gas access. They realized they needed to do something.”

Capitalizing on Heat As the bill stands, there is no limit on the size of a project that can qualify for RECs generation, but it does require metering, meaning a qualified project will have to install a metering technology to prove and verify its heat output. Niebling says it’s a standard technology used in all kinds of applications, but the cost likely means that larger projects will be inclined to take advantage of the incentive.


Using the metering technology also means there will be an administrative burden associated with the process of submitting information to the PUC every quarter. Additionally, a project will likely need to work through a broker or intermediary to sell RECs to utilities. “That’s the nature of REC markets; it’s very complex and there is a lot of administrative burden,” Niebling says. “Utilities are used to working with bigger projects, not homeowners with pellet boilers, but there is language in the bill that gives the PUC the ability to establish some creative approaches to aggregating smaller projects, potentially without metering requirements, but that will all get flushed out when the rules are written.” A hospital with a 12-month thermal load—heat in the winter and domestic hot water year-round—will be a prime candidate for benefitting from thermal RECs, as well as municipal office buildings, food processing companies, apartment complexes or shopping malls. “If you’re in New Hampshire and you don’t have access to natural gas, you are heating with oil or propane and paying close

to four dollars per gallon for oil, and three dollars per gallon for propane,” Niebling says. “For these kinds of businesses, institutions and complexes getting killed by their heating bills, this could be a godsend.” Qualifiers will be able to sell RECs to utilities obligated to purchase them, at a negotiated price, and that’s a guaranteed revenue stream for the life of the project, or as long as the RPS is in place. Niebling points out that that could dramatically reduce operating costs, or can be used to help attract capital. “What would have been a seven- to 10-year simple payback on a modern pellet or chip boiler with bulk storage could now become two- to four-year payback because of that steady stream of revenue that comes from the sale of RECs. The challenge of all renewables is high capital costs, but once in place you save money; pellets have a 50 percent discount to heating oil.” Outside of new project development, the legislation might affect the pellet supply and equipment market in the region. Niebling believes, that in fact, it will, but not right away. The new rules go into effect in January,

Thermal » but he says it will be a couple of years before projects—particularly large ones—get up and running, due to long sales cycles and the time it takes for projects to materialize. “But absolutely in time, you’ll see a balanced shift away from electrical generation and more toward thermal, because the policy platform is equitable for both. Not just toward pellets, but solar and geothermal as well.”

Setting an Example The example set by New Hampshire has already rippled through the region. New Hampshire’s neighbor Massachusetts, which just shut the door on stand-alone biomass electric applications, is one state that is reevaluating the promise of renewable thermal incentives. Dwayne Breger, director of renewable and alternative energy development at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources says the state is seriously considering the best available means to support renewable thermal energy, including biomass and pellet heating. The state’s dependency on heating oil is not much different than that of New Hampshire, and Breger notes

that the DOER, along with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, recently commissioned the study “Massachusetts Renewable Heating and Cooling: Opportunities and Impacts Study,” to further investigate the possibilities of incentivizing renewable heat. “DOER has also allocated $6 million of RPS ACP funds to launch a Renewable Thermal Pilot Program, which will be managed by our Massachusetts Clean Energy Center,” he says. “This program will specifically support residential- and commercial-scale pellet heating systems, along with small district energy applications.” As required of the state’s 2012 energy bill, the DOER will study whether alternative energy that generates useful thermal energy should be added to the eligible technologies for the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which Breger explains operates just like the RPS but is for alternative energy and is currently predominately supplied by CHP. “This study will include biomass thermal along with other technologies, and is due to our legislature by Jan. 1,” he says. Besides New Hampshire and Massa-

chusetts, there are several other states eyeing thermal policy, such as Vermont, Maine, Maryland, Alaska and Oregon, through RPS revisions or other mechanisms. “In general, thermal is getting more attention around the country, and I think states that have focused their policy on electricity are realizing that they’ve placed artificial barriers on the marketplaces,” Niebling says. While he considers New Hampshire’s RPS thermal component to be a modest provision—it will end up consisting of a maximum of 2.6 percent of the amount of megawatt hours that can be incentivized by 2025— Niebling deems it a very good start to parity with renewable electricity. “When you put forth an unorthodox idea, you have to accept small, incremental gains, and then hopefully show people that it works well and it’s achieving worthy goals,” he adds. “Then, you go back and ask for more.” Author: Anna Simet Contributions Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine (701) 751-2756



Pellet Plants and the Pareto Principle Properly balancing time spent on the design, engineering and individual processes of a large-scale wood pellet plant can help avoid downtime and increase plant performance. BY YURI CHOCHOLKO

The accepted definition of the Pareto principle—also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity— states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Business management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20 percent of the pea pods in his garden contained 80 percent of the peas. In today’s business vernacular, it is widely accepted that


80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of clients. So what does this have to do with largescale production of wood pellets in North America for export to Europe? As with all systems, a typical wood pellet plant can be broken down into many different individual processes. These processes include receiving, size reduction, material transportation, drying, mixing, conditioning, pellet production, sieving/screening, cooling, pellet transportation and storage. Some plants will have fewer steps and some may have more, but in general, these are the most common individual processes of designing a plant to produce wood pellets for export from forestry feedstocks common to North America. Regardless of differences

between plants, the similarities are constant. Drying and pelletizing always receive the lion’s share—usually 80 percent or more—of attention during the design and specification phase of a new plant. However, when factoring in the cost of land, building construction, and the other equipment necessary to the pelletizing system, dryers and pellet mills represent 20 percent or less of total capital investment. About 80 percent of planning time spent on these two areas leaves a meager 20 percent of planning time to spend on everything else; therefore, the disproportionate amount of time spent evaluating and specifying dryers and pellet mills can and often does result in costly decisions once the plant is operational.

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Problems and Downtime All too often the problems and downtime experienced in a large pellet plant are not associated with the dryer and pellet mills. Commonly, it is the rest of the equipment that is responsible for most of the downtime. This is a direct result of lack of time allocated to analyzing and evaluating the cost benefit ratio of this key equipment during the plant’s design—in summary, 80 percent of time is spent designing the plant, which equals 20 percent of the investment, and 20 percent of time is spent designing the plant, which accounts for 80 percent of the downtime Poorly designed loading and unloading systems, misapplied screening apparatus, belt conveyors where there should be chain conveyors and vice-versa, are mistakes that aren’t typically a direct result of poor engineering or bad decision making. They do tend to be, however, a result of overzealous value engineering and the desire to allocate more money toward the heart of the system: the dryer and pellet mills. These are important parts of the puzzle, but balance is essential. Applying too many resources and placing too much emphasis on just two parts of any system will produce undesirable results. The 80 percent will fail too often, negating the benefits of the 20 percent that so much time was spent researching. As long as all the parts of the process work together in unison, turning something of little value (trees) into something of greater value

(pellets) can be done on a large scale with great efficiency and continuing success. Material handling and feedstock preparation, while only one part of a complex process, is equally as important to the success of a wood pellet plant as the feedstock selection, logistics coordination, supply and demand markets and the dryer and pellet mills. They all work together toward the same goal: to generate a high-grade wood pellet that will hold up for weeks and even months while being stored and transported to customers in Europe. If careful attention is not paid to selecting the correct style, size and quality of material handling equipment that surrounds the heart of the system, then no matter how good the drying and pelletizing is, the operation will not output its maximum potential. It is only as reliable as your least reliable component. Material handling at a large pellet plant can be broken down into many different areas, including characterization, layout, conveying and preprocessing.

Material Handling Components Characterization of feedstock requires an understanding of its properties. Moisture, bulk density, material size and range, seasonal properties, abrasiveness and contaminants are just a few of the items that should be considered, as they all affect the equipment selection and material flow. Feedstocks and the way equipment handles them vary, so knowing the material properties and characteristics is an essential

part of the specification writer’s task of configuring the correct equipment and processing methods. Just because a hammermill can offer an effective size-reduction solution for southern yellow pine does not mean that it can perform that same task on fir or spruce. One should not “copy and paste” from a previous plant’s specification. Layout will greatly affect plant efficiency. Receiving and storage methods for the feedstock are largely determined by the results of characterization, as well as how the material is transported to the site. First-in/first-out material flow designs can protect the product from the elements, which in turn reduces drying time and saves energy. Once the feedstock has been received, the materials should be efficiently stored, and material flow should be logical and sync with the trucking and off-loading routes. Is it important to have all the various processes close together to keep material conveying distances—and thus cost and consumed horsepower—to an absolute minimum? Most would answer yes, however, it is common, and wise, to place larger distances between various sections of the facility in an attempt to reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire that could wipe out the entire plant. Should one area have the misfortune to catch fire, there is a natural firewall inherent in the plant layout that could prevent the fire from spreading and causing greater damage. Conveying may seem like a simple operation of getting from point A to point B, but



it is quite often a continual problem area in a wood pellet plant. The answers gained during the characterization process will govern many decisions here. Distance, angle, and throughput are all aspects that need to be addressed, but conveyor type, style and maintenance needs are also key factors to consider. Will a belt conveyor suffice, or should a chain conveyor be considered over steep angles and long distances? What is the material’s angle of repose and what cleat configuration would work best? How far can the material be transported with a single drive? In the event of a blockage, is a screw conveyor reversible so as to aid maintenance and clean out? Many engineers look past what seems to be a relatively simple task of moving the material a short distance, but poor conveyor selection and design is often a bottleneck on what may otherwise be a very successful operation. One must be very particular and detailed in this area of design; understanding the way a feedstock reacts to differing conveying methods is critical to achieving the throughput requirements of any operation. A common practice is using belt and tubular belt designs when conveying the pellets themselves, but using a chain conveyor can offer greater value and reliability, as long as the number of transfer and impact points is kept to a minimum.

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Are explosion and fire protection needed at certain transfer points? Given the attention the OSHA and the NFPA are giving to combustible dust explosions, the short answer is yes. Though it adds cost and complexity to an operation, it’s worth it. If a plant were down for many weeks due to a fire, what would be the ramifications on its future? Conveyors should be equipped with heat, smoke and flame sensors, sprinklers and fire suppression equipment in accordance with local and national codes where applicable. Preprocessing covers a very wide range of operations, but there are two main categories that require focus: size reduction and contaminant removal. Drum chippers, disc chippers and hammer mills are large, energy-hungry pieces of equipment that can make or break a plant’s success. Achieving a consistently sized and contaminant-free particle will allow the dryer and pellet mills to perform their jobs at maximum efficiency. Ease of maintenance, power consumption and risk of fire due to the heat generated during these processes should also factor into your equipment choice. These machines are no longer simply big hogs that grind and shred wood; they are specifically designed to produce a precise particle size that the pellet mills work most effectively with, which does not happen by chance. Screening, tramp

metal detection and fines-removal systems also play a large part in protecting the equipment throughout the entire plant, and help to generate a higher-grade pellet that is fit for the long transportation and storage times seen in the export market. Consistent particle size and contaminant-free feedstock are key, as they allow the heart of your system to perform at the maximum design capacity, and any shortcuts taken will be seen on the bottom line. The Pareto Principle is proven two ways in large wood pellet plants. First in the design and engineering phase: 80 percent of planning time is most often spent on equipment that represents only 20 percent of the capital investment. Therefore, once in operation, 80 percent of downtime is the direct result of investing only 20 percent of planning time on other components that are key to the productivity and profitability of the overall system. Author: Yuri Chocholko North American Sales Manager of Wood, Biomass & Biofuels, Vecoplan LLC 336-861-6070

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