Pellet Heat Proponent Northern Forest Center Strives to Expand Modern Wood Heat Page 12
Pellets’ Potential Role in Canada’s Clean Fuel Standard Page 18
Insight from the Pellet Stove Guy Page 26
Worldâ€™s Largest Biomass Event
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100+ Pellet Producers Expected to Attend 352'8&(565(&(,9( 81/,0,7('5(*,675$7,216
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April 16-18, 2018 Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta, GA Preconferences April 16, 2018 Cobb Galleria Centre Atlanta, GA
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | VOLUME 8 | ISSUE 2
Pellet Mill Magazine
2 2018 International Biomass Conference & Expo 23 Alfred H. Knight North America 36 Astec, Inc. 35 Biomass Magazine's Top News 29 Bliss Industries, Inc. 20 CPM Global Biomass Group 14
22 Industrial Bulk Lubricants (a Dansons company) 17 NDC Technologies Ltd
FEATURES 12 MARKET DEVELOPMENT The Word on the Heat
The Northern Forest Center and stakeholders across the Northeast are working hard to educate consumers on the widespread benefits of modern wood heat. By Patrick C. Miller
28 PAL s.r.l. 33 Pellet Fuels Institute 25 ProcessBarron 21 RUF Briquetting Systems 15 SCHADE Lagertechnik GmbH 16
The Berlin Housing Authority installed automated wood pellet boilers at its Welch Apartment complex in Berlin, New Hampshire. The Northern Forest Center provided $25,000 toward the project, which displaces 9,800 gallons of oil a year. Dave Estes of Nordic Construction Services installed two boilers, each approximately 190,000 Btu, to serve two apartment buildings and the BHA's office. PHOTO: NORTHERN FOREST CENTER
18 POLICY Awaiting the Signal
Canada’s wood pellet industry may have the opportunity to further expand, playing a role in the developing federal Clean Fuel Standard. By Ron Kotrba
26 WORKFORCE Wood Pellet Prowess
New England's "Pellet Stove Guy" Scott Williamson shares insight on the market, experiences with customers, and the pellet appliance workforce. By Anna Simet
CONTRIBUTION 12 SAFETY Best Practices for Fighting and Preventing Wood Pellet Storage Fires
Successfully combating a wood pellet silo fire requires proper education, careful planning and quick action. By John Swaan
04 EDITOR’S NOTE COPYRIGHT © 2018 by BBI International
Spreading the Word, Being Heard By Anna Simet
Advanced Wood Heat Can Flatten the Duck Curve By Scott Nichols
Introducing Operation 100k By Tim Portz
07 COLUMN Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling
Many New Initiatives-Will Sales Increase? By Bill Bell
Metals Testing Questions Answered By Chris Wiberg
10 BUSINESS BRIEFS 34 MARKETPLACE
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 3
« Editor's Note
Spreading the Word, Being Heard
Before I joined Biomass Magazine as a staff writer nearly 10 years ago, I’m not sure I had ever heard of pellet heat. We launched Pellet Mill Magazine as a biannual supplement a year or so later, and over the years, it’s been an interesting and enlightening experience to write and learn about the industry. We have followed along the ebb and flow, from the boom following the recession and some great years, to several warm winters, overcapacity and tougher times, to now, when the industry is on the rebound, going through some change, and stabilizing. And, is seemingly ready for more growth. While the export industry and demand outside North America is out of our stakeholders’ control—as are external market forces such as the weather, and the price of fossil fuels—there are things that we can and must do to influence domestic growth, and that is advocating for more appliance purchases, and more pellet sales. As you’ll read in PFI Executive Director Tim Portz’s page-6 column, the organization is pushing for 100,000 new appliance sales this year, dubbed “Operation 100k,” with catchphrase “Heat local,” driving the campaign. Creating consumer awareness is No. 1, and that’s reiterated by all the sources in Patrick Millers, page-12 feature, “The Word on Wood Heat.” Aptly stated by Pellergy founder Andy Boutin, “Our single biggest barrier to increased sales and increased market penetration for wood pellet heating is that people just don’t understand that it’s an option.” Related to this is another interesting perspective brought forth in my page-24 article “Pellet Stove Prowess” for which I had a long discussion with Pellet Stove Service’s Scott Williamson, who has been installing, cleaning and repairing pellet stoves for pushing 15 years. Williamson told me that he agrees that more installations are a huge part of the puzzle, but emphasized that a qualified workforce—technicians who have the knowledge and skills to work on these appliances—has to accompany that, and right now, they are not in abundance. The classic question there is, which comes first? Outside of appliance sells, when it comes to growth, our neighbors to the north have a different opportunity in mind, and that is playing a role in Canada’s Clean Fuel Standard, which is now in the making. In “Awaiting the Signal,” Senior Editor Ron Kotrba drills into the possibilities. Interestingly—and, quite encouragingly—pellet makers have been invited to the table to offer guidance in drafting the legislation. “This is the first time I’ve seen government coming to trade associations asking to help draft regulations,” Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s Gordon Murray told Kotrba. “…government seems sincere and genuine in its attempt to solicit input. I have a pipeline, a direct chance to be heard.” The potential hurdle here, Murray adds, is that the bulk of Canadian production is currently spoken for. “No one is sitting around with millions of tons of pellets to divert, because they’re already committed,” he says. “For us to take advantage of this, we need to build up production, handling systems and storage.” While many facilities don’t produce at capacity and could up production for new customers, in order to do so in a substantial way without risk, they must need exactly that—a for-sure driver that will send product out the door, and off the shelves. For the U.S., while it won’t be federal policy at the root of more business for the foreseeable future, growth is based on the same premise—continuing to hammer into consumers, businesses and policymakers that clean, modern, local wood heat has been, is and will continue to be an attractive option.
4 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
Industry Events »
PRESIDENT & EDITOR IN CHIEF Tom Bryan email@example.com EDITOR Anna Simet firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR EDITOR Ron Kotrba email@example.com STAFF WRITER Patrick C. Miller firstname.lastname@example.org ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele email@example.com COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann firstname.lastname@example.org
ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund email@example.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee firstname.lastname@example.org
Publishing & Sales
CEO Joe Bryan email@example.com SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR John Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Howard Brockhouse email@example.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Chip Shereck firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller email@example.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe firstname.lastname@example.org
Stan Elliot Pacific Coast Pellets Chad Schumacher Superior Pellet Fuels Bruce Lisle Energex Corp. Derek Nelson Forest Business Network T.J. Morice TNT Ventures LLC Tim Portz Pellet Fuels Institute
2018 International Biomass Conference & Expo
APRIL 16-18, 2018 Cobb Galleria Centre Atlanta, Georgia
Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true onestop shop––the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. (866) 746-8385 | www.biomassconference.com
EUBCE 2018 – 26th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition
May 14-18, 2018
As one of the world’s leading R&D conferences combined with an international exhibition, the EUBCE represents the leading platform for the collection, exchange and dissemination of scientific knowhow in the field of biomass. The conference program will address topics from biomass itself to bioliquids and biofuels for heat and electricity, transport and biobased products, covering all aspects of each value chain, from supply and logistics to conversion technologies, from industrial application of research results to impacts on the environment, from market and trade aspects to policy strategies, not least to the role of biomass as a source in integrated energy systems. +39 055 5002280 ext. 221 | www.eubce.com
Advanced Biofuels Conference
June 11-13, 2018
CenturyLink Center Omaha Omaha, Nebraska
With a vertically integrated program and audience, the Advanced Biofuels Conference is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels including cellulosic ethanol, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. 866-746-8385 | www.advancedbiofuelsconference.com
Subscriptions to Pellet Mill Magazine are free of charge—distributed bimonthly—to Biomass Magazine subscribers.To subscribe, visit www.BiomassMagazine.com 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email to email@example.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 5
Introducing Operation 100k BY TIM PORTZ
In late February, Pellet Fuels Institute Chairman and producer member Stan Elliot represented our organization at the European Pellet Conference in Wels, Austria. The conference has become a significant meet and greet for anyone making pellets in or for the European market. While there, Stan told me that estimates for pellet appliance sales in selected markets were being shared, and that Italy saw 245,000 stoves sold and installed in 2017. France saw 100,000 appliances installed. Keep in mind, those totals were achieved in countries with 60 million and 66 million people, respectively, barely one-fifth of the population of the U.S. If the U.S. saw the per-capita new appliance sales the Italian market achieved last year, over 1.3 million new pellet appliances would have been sold. Even using modest per-unit consumption rates, we would be looking at 1 million tons of new demand in the home heating market. While a comparison with the Italian market could very quickly turn into a discussion about policy and taxation differences, I offer these numbers up as a means of catalyzing a renewed conversation on the growth of the residential heating marketing in this country, those responsible for driving toward those goals, and how it all might be accomplished. The answers to the first two questions, for me at least, are very straightforward. There is no better conversation for the PFI to be engaged in, and while we’ll certainly have to engage a number of marketplace partners, the simple truth is that the growth of the domestic wood pellet market is our responsibility. It is our responsibility because while our marketplace partners benefit from the sale of a new pellet appliance, they also benefit from the sales of other home heating technologies. Wood pellet producers are unique in the home heating space, in that a pellet appliance is the only home heating appliance sale from which they benefit. This is true for no other stakeholder in the broader wood energy/home heating supply chain. Even our woody biomass allies have nonpellet marketplace options in cordwood and chip appliances.
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Our market grows only when a new pellet appliance is sold, and it is imperative that producers embrace this reality, and work aggressively to get it done. The hard part of course is answering that tricky third question—how do we go about getting that done? While the answers may be elusive, what is crystal clear is that for our members, this is priority one. The bulk of the next two quarters of my tenure at the PFI will be dedicated to building a cohesive market growth strategy that leverages our enviable roster of marketplace partners and supporters, but recognizes that the best place for our association to be in this effort is at the front. I’m calling this initiative Operation 100k, a strategic and deliberate attempt to establish 100,000 units as the floor for annual pellet appliance sales in the U.S. We most recently achieved 100,000 units in 2014. Prior to that, annual appliance sale numbers typically came in around 60,000 units. That is simply not enough for the kind of market growth our industry and members want and deserve. Severity of winters and the price of heating oil are impossible to predict, but it is vital we plan based on the trends we are seeing now—shorter heating seasons and low-priced alternatives—as we look into the future of our industry. Attracting a stable roster of new pellet users year after year is our path to real growth. The good news is we’ve got some incredible allies, and some great minds, all with a vested interest in accomplishing the same thing: more buyers of wood pellets tomorrow than there are today. I hope you will join me and the Pellet Fuels Institute on Operation 100k. I look forward to working with all of you. Author: Tim Portz Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute firstname.lastname@example.org 651-398-9154
Metals Testing Questions Answered BY CHRIS WIBERG
In November 2017, the PFI Standards Program was updated to include the testing of metals. The minimum requirements are to conduct a metals test at least annually, using a recently published ISO test method (ISO 16968), and to test for eight specific metals: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. These are the same metals that are referenced in the international pellet specifications published under ISO 17225-2, and referenced in wood pellet quality certification schemes ENplus, CANplus and DINplus. The new metals testing provisions are being implemented in 2018, and have resulted in many questions, including: Why test for these specific metals? What are the baseline levels for these metals in wood? What type of instances could lead to a failure of the metals testing, and why are we adopting ISO test methods? In this column, I will try to answer these questions. The original list of metals and the test method itself was developed by a European initiative to develop standards for solid biofuels, in the early 2000s. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) created Technical Committee 335 to spearhead this work, and as part of the initiative, two research projects were funded (BioNorm I and BioNorm II), to answer technical questions about biomass and the appropriateness of various testing methodologies available at that time. The result was information that allowed technical experts to develop specifications and test methods specific to solid biofuels. These were originally published as European National (EN) standards between 2000 and 2008, but subsequently moved to ISO to allow for their development into ISO standards, and to facilitate global adoption. It was this research that led to the adoption of the current testing method, and the focus on the eight metals listed above. Regarding the development of a specific list of metals, during the BioNorm I and BioNorm II projects, studies were performed to assess metals levels in wood, including baseline levels present in virgin wood, metals levels commonly found in various nonvirgin streams of recycled wood, as well as wood recovered from construction and demolition activities. Additionally, wood treatments were assessed for metal components. As a result, the list of metals provided in ISO 17225-2 were determined to be key indicators of the use of contaminated wood and/or wood that contains chemicals commonly found in wood treatments. Regarding the specific limits provided for each metal, the intent of the ISO standard is to provide a limit that is above the highest amount observed in virgin wood. In theory, the metals limits can’t be exceeded unless the feedstock materials used for wood pellet production contain some form of recycled wood that has been contaminated, construction and/or demolition waste, or chemically treated materials. It is
noteworthy that the primary research behind the creation of the ISO limits was based on studies of European wood. A review of North American-based studies of metals in wood does provide a basis for comparison. While metals research data on the North American wood basket is not as extensive as the information available in Europe, I will note that the North American data supported the European findings, hence the adoption of the ISO-listed metals and their associated limits. But that still does not answer the question as to what is normal for virgin wood in the North American wood basket. For this knowledge, I can only speak based on our own experience. Our lab in Conyers, Georgia, regularly tests for metals in wood pellet samples from across North America. Test data is provided to numerous clients, but specific test data is confidential, and can’t be shared in a public format such as this, so I will generalize. From our experience, metals such as chromium, copper, mercury and nickel are rarely found in virgin wood at concentrations above our detectable limits for these metals. Baseline levels of arsenic are typically below our detection limit of 0.04 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg), but can be found up to about 0.16 mg/kg. Cadmium typically ranges between 0.04 and 0.12 mg/kg. In some instances, we have seen cadmium approach 0.3 mg/kg, but not above the limit of 0.5 mg/kg. Lead commonly ranges between 0.05 and 0.7 mg/kg. Zinc ranges between 6 and 13 mg/kg, but we have seen instances where it can be as high as 30 mg/kg, which is still well below the zinc limit of 100 mg/kg. In our experience, these ranges are typical of both hardwoods and softwoods from diverse areas across North America. The final question is, what could trigger a failure? Essentially, the answer is easy—don’t use contaminated or chemically treated wood. Copper, chrome, arsenic and zinc are readily found in pressure treated lumber (especially copper), so steer clear of residuals that may have pressure-treated wood residuals as part of the mix. Cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury and zinc are largely the result of making use of recycled wood that has been contaminated. I realize that metals testing is complex, and creates a sense of uneasiness. I can only say that you should have no problem passing these new requirements if you are running a clean operation, and do a good job of screening your suppliers to be sure nothing that can risk failing a metals test is being introduced into the raw material stream. . Author: Chris Wiberg Manager, Biomass Energy Laboratory 218-428-3583 email@example.com
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 7
Many New Initiatives—Will Sales Increase? BY BILL BELL
“There’s something good waiting down this road; I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine.” (Runnin’ Down A Dream, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1989.) As described in previous columns of mine, Maine policymakers have undertaken a number of new initiatives to promote biomass heating, motivated largely out of concern for the future of our state’s forest products industry. As result of paper and biomass power plant closings since 2010, economic activity directly related to biomass harvesting in the Pine Tree State is now less than half of what it was eight years ago. Profitable disposition of low-grade wood is posing serious challenges to landowners, sawmills, loggers and good forest management. In response to attention and financial support generated by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, a Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative as it relates to wood energy is now undergoing final review. For the first time, the complexities of creating and administering thermal renewable energy credits (RECs), as has been done in the state renewable energy portfolios in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, are set forth. The math is not easy. Great care must be taken in order to avoid increasing electricity costs for the very industry—paper mills—at the center of forestry discussions. These firms utilize the existing REC system to gain from the electricity that they generate in-house. This wood energy report will have good things to say about wood pellets, in terms of both utilization of biomass and the price stability of pellet fuel as compared to oil, natural gas and propane. It will be challenging, however, to direct focus to a specific initiative creating incentives for heating conversion of public buildings, when the issue of biomass utilization is so much larger. This report will soon be delivered to our legislature, which is about to adjourn. However, specific recommendations and actual legislative language will have to wait until 2019, when Maine will also have a new governor, who we hope will provide support and leadership. A second and more modest opportunity being rolled out is the wood heating promotion being undertaken by the USFS-funded Maine State Wood Energy Assistance Team, with the unappealing acronym of ME SWEAT. This initiative will be modeled after that of the New Hampshire Wood Energy Team, and will bring pellet and chip industry members and third-party expertise together with public building administrators. This project has been 8 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
officially launched by creation of its website: woodheatmaine.org. The discerning website viewer will utilize the above website to access another site, which is intended to be a real shot in the arm for the pellet heat industry: feelgoodheat.org. Under the leadership of the Northern Forest Center, industry, government and nonprofit groups have been working with a creative advertising agency to design a campaign appealing to homeowners and building managers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and—as they become more of a market—Massachusetts. The campaign is notable in that it emphasizes healthy forestry and local employment, along with the thermostatically controlled convenience of “automated wood heat.” With catchy language and cool animation, homeowners (and readers of this article) are invited to “get stoked!” Go to the website! Other good things are happening as well. In response to this winter’s notable increase in fossil fuel prices, our association went back into six years of weekly price reports from our Governor’s Energy Office, and publicized the fact that more often than not, pellet prices per MMBtu are below the cost of natural gas, 75 percent the cost of oil, and half that of propane. A similar release was generated by the New Hampshire Wood Energy Council. Equipment retailers reported that this information was then picked up on social media. With unanimous votes in both House and Senate, Maine legislators recently approved continued participation in the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nine-state, cap-and-invest compact that generates funds from power plants, and makes them available for “efficiency” energy uses and programs, including Maine’s incentives for pellet boilers and stoves. Our governor, never a fan of alternative energy, allowed the bill to become law without his signature. However, the most incisive comment on all these initiatives comes from the manager of one of our state’s pellet manufacturers: “What we really need most is another good, hard cold snap.” Author: Bill Bell Executive Director, Maine Pellet Fuels Association firstname.lastname@example.org www.mainepelletheat.com
Advanced Wood Heat Can Flatten the Duck Curve BY SCOTT NICHOLS
There is a pattern of power use and renewable power production that is putting pressure on electric utilities. When power demand is highest—through the evening and overnight hours to morning—renewable electrical production is often at its lowest. Power demand, when plotted over a 24-hour period, can look like the silhouette of a duck. The pictured graphic is from the U.S. EERE, and illustrates power demand in California on a single day (March 31st) over several years. It shows is the deeper “belly” and steeper “neck” that is caused by increased deployment of solar power, and increased electrical demand in the evening. March 31 has a particularly steep “neck” because air conditioning is not greatly demanded during that season, and solar power production is high. So why does a steep duck neck put pressure on electric utilities? The utilities have a difficult time ramping up so steeply to meet evening demand. Further, during some days, it is even possible to have too much power (overgeneration). Scientists and planners often mention the need for electricity storage, better grid distribution of power, and altering consumer power consumption habits as means for “flattening” the duck. During this time of year, the duck curve is most impactful in California and Hawaii because of their high percentage of renewable power generation. Solar power contributed 40 percent of Californian power generation on March 31, 2017. About 40 percent of Vermont power is produced with renewables. What’s interesting about Vermont and other New England states is that despite the known grid challenges created by renewable power generation and increasing nightly power consumption, state energy policies and the electric utilities that work with state incentive programs seem to be encouraging behavior that will only exacerbate the duck curve problem. Consider cold climate air-source heat pumps. Many tout these heat pumps as a renewable energy source, which they are not. They are basically highly efficient reverse refrigerators. Heat pumps can add heat in the winter, and add cooling in the summer. Heat pumps are electric power consumers. The colder the air is outside our homes, the more power that air source heat pump uses. Also, what most people don’t speak about is how much additional electrical demand will be created by air-source heat pumps, when those who previously had no air conditioning discover that a heat pump can also cool homes. Cold-climate heat pumps promise to increase the duck curve whether in summer or winter. However, during winter, given reduced solar power production, the impact on the duck curve should be greater during cold months. Advanced wood heat is a solution for the duck curve in the U.S. Northeast because wood heat is available any
time of day. We tend to overlook the elegance of trees as solar storage. When burned in advanced wood boilers, decades of stored solar energy are released in a chemical conversion process that releases 80 percent or more of that stored energy into heat. By deploying advanced wood heat instead of heat pumps, states would not only flatten the duck’s head, but reduce total power consumption, and offset the use of other fossil fuels such as gas and oil. Particularly in Vermont, which has been presented with a carbon tax plan called The ESSEX Plan (an Economy Strengthening Strategic Energy Exchange), the potential for exacerbating the duck curve has not been well addressed. The Essex Plan proposes to tax common fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, heating fuel and propane, and use the tax income to lower electric rates, help with weatherization programs, and encourage electric vehicles and fund rebates through Green Mountain Power’s Energy Assistance Program. Here is the problem: the ESSEX plan is completely electric power-centric. It seeks to encourage more heat pumps, more electric vehicles and more conservation. These are reasonable goals, but why not encourage more biomass? Funds generated through the carbon tax should incentivize all forms of renewable energy. It is amazing how much focus is put on renewable power and electric heat, when advanced wood heat is being deployed now, and helps solve several problems created by power-centric planning, such as the duck curve. Nature’s solar battery is in ample supply. We know how to use it efficiently, and in a way that supports not only the wealthy, but also low-income and rural populations. In fact, utilizing wood is an excellent tool for helping rural economics. Not only does wood harvest and processing produce jobs, but it increases land values and funds rural land owners through timbers sales. Let’s not forget all of the benefits of advanced wood heat. Author: Scott Nichols Tarm Biomass email@example.com 603-795-9102
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 9
PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
SBP directorate changes The Sustainable Biomass Partnership has appointed Francis Sullivan as its independent, non-executive chair, effective July Sullivan 1. The appointment marks the first step in the implementation of SBP’s new, multistakeholder governance model. Sullivan, currently a senior adviser at HSBC Holdings plc, will replace Thomas Dalsgaard, executive vice president of Ørsted, and CEO of Ørsted Energy Thermal Power, who has held the office of chair since October 2016. Dalsgaard will step down as an SBP director and chair of the SBP board, coincident with Francis taking up his appointment. Sullivan has a background in environmental science, specializing in forestry and land use. He spent the first 16 years of his career with World Wildlife Federation, the conservation organization, in various leadership roles, during which he played a major role in establishing the Forest Stewardship Council. He then moved to HSBC, the multinational bank, to lead its work on integrating sustainability and climate change mitigation perspectives into the business. After 14 years at HSBC, Francis brings with him a wealth of experience and understanding of delivering sustainability solutions in a commercial setting. PA Biomass Energy Association expands to Mid-Atlantic The Pennsylvania Biomass Energy Association has expanded its focus beyond the keystone state to the region, and will now be known as the Mid-Atlantic Bioenergy Council. The material focus of the organization remains the same: representing the use of biomass to produce clean heat, power, biogas and soil amendments, but now the organization is geographically expand-
ed from Pennsylvania to the Mid-Atlantic region. The council remains dedicated to supporting the use of biomass in the residential, small business, commercial, institutional, agricultural and industrial sectors. MABEC Board Chair John Costlow, president of the Sustainable Energy Fund, remarked, "More than anything, this move is a reflection of our members' business interests which have never been confined to one state. This expanded focus will allow MABEC to better support the biomass energy industry, in all its forms, and create new opportunities for its businesses and our organization."
Morbark acquires Rayco Manufacturing Morbark LLC has completed the acquisition of Rayco Manufacturing Inc. The transaction represents the first addition since affiliates of the private equity firm Stellex Capital Management LP acquired Morbark in 2016. The purchase of Rayco represents a significant move towards Morbark’s strategic focus on broadening the range of tree care and industrial equipment, aftermarket parts, and service offered to customers. The current range of Rayco products includes: stump cutters, crawler trucks, forestry mulchers, multi-tool carriers, and attachments, brush chippers and the all-new AT71 aerial trimmer. Rayco founder John Bowling will continue his work with the team to develop new products, and help improve the company’s existing product lines. He will continue to have an economic interest in the combined business and will be a member of Morbark’s board of directors.
Morbark will operate Rayco as a new division, maintaining its brand identity. Rayco’s experienced management team will continue to manage their operations. Teams from each company will work together to determine how to be more efficient and leverage each other’s strengths. PWI to expand with government grant With financial support from Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, pellet producer Industries P.W.I. has received a repayable contribution of $400,000 toward its total investment of $3,565,000. The project will involve building a new warehouse and a new production facility, and acquiring specialized tools. CED’s financial support will go toward the purchase and installation of production equipment, including laboratory equipment, automated packaging tools and two separate production lines. Founded in 1950, PWI’s products are sold in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors across Canada, the U.S. and abroad. Its biomass products include green firelogs, wood pellets and Logik-ê fire starters. Located in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, the business employs 45 people. Lignetics completes NEWP acquisition On Feb. 27, Lignetics Inc. announced the acquisition of New England Wood Pellet LLC, which includes manufacturing plants in Jaffrey, New Hampshire; Schuyler, New York; Deposit, New York; and Youngsville, Pennsylvania. Lignetics is the largest residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S., with a post-acquisition production capacity of approximately 1 million tons of wood pellets per year. The company now has 13 plant locations in the states of Maine, Oregon (2), Idaho, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin (3), New Hampshire, New York (2), and Pennsylva-
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10 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
Business Briefs »
nia. New England Wood Pellet is being sold by the parent company Rentech Inc. Mark Wilson, New England Wood Pellet’s CEO, has agreed to provide consulting services through a transition to ensure a seamless experience for New England Wood Pellets customers, suppliers, and employees.
Yellowknife pellet-fired district heat system wins FCM award The city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is the 2018 winner in the energy category of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Awards. Yellowknife's wood pellet-fired district energy system heats a group of five municipal buildings that previously consumed about 367,000 liters of heating oil a year. The switch to pellets is expected to lower GHGs by 829 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, almost half of the city's GHG reduction target, and increase its corporate renewable energy use by 10 percent. The city expects to see direct cost savings between $140,000 and $160,000 a year, and additional maintenance and operations savings are also expected. FCM's Sustainable Communities Awards celebrate the most innovative environmental initiatives in Canadian cities and communities of all sizes. Through these awards, FCM recognizes and celebrates sustainability leaders and trailblazers in municipalities across Canada
Enviva completes acquisition, contracts for Japan power plant pellet supply Enviva Holdings LP announced Feb. 16 that through its previously announced joint venture, Enviva JV Development Co. LLC, it has completed the acquisition of a wood pellet production plant in Greenwood, South Carolina, and related assets from The Navigator Co. S.A., a Portuguese paper and pulp company. This acquisition is the first investment by the new joint venture, which was recently created by Enviva to acquire, develop and construct wood pellet production plants and deep-water marine terminals in the Southeast U.S. The Greenwood plant employs nearly 80 full-time employees. Enviva intends to make investments in the Greenwood plant to improve its operational efficiency, and add additional emissions control equipment that the company expects will increase its production capacity to 600,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year by 2019, subject to receiving the necessary permits. On Feb. 22, Enviva Partners LP announced it has entered into a firm 10-year take-or-pay offtake contract with Marubeni Corp. to supply 100,000 metric tons per year of wood pellets to a new power plant in Japan. Under the contract, deliveries will be made for 10 years, starting in 2022. NASF launches first-of-its kind resource: timberassurance.org With encouragement from federal trade agencies and support from the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters has created an open-access clearinghouse for national and state regulations that affect the management of U.S. forests, and help to demonstrate the sustainable and legal nature in which U.S. timber is harvested. “Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, nongovernmental organizations and their governmental counterparts around the world have been working to provide assurances to consumers that their wood prod-
ucts originate from sustainable and legal sources,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma state forester and NASF president. “In the U.S., providing these assurances can be timeconsuming and expensive because many of the regulations and programs which support legal and sustainability determinations are state-specific. To remedy this problem, NASF has launched a legal and sustainable timber assurance online resource—TimberAssurance.Org.” “It is critical that the process for assuring sustainable harvests is never so cumbersome that it presents a barrier to international market entry for U.S. wood products,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “TimberAssurance.Org is a first-of-its-kind resource for identifying the state-specific programs and policies that affect forest management on all private lands in the United States. This information will help assure government agencies, wood purchasers, and others that U.S. wood is sourced the right way.” Active Energy opens Utah facility U.K.-based Active Energy Group plc announced its CoalSwitch plant in Utah officially became operational the week of Feb. 5, and is producing the company’s highcalorific, high-bulk-density biomass pellet. Active Energy said biomass fuel produced at the facility will be prepared for delivery under offtake agreements that are already in place. According to the company, CoalSwitch is produced primarily from forestry waste and other industrial cellulose waste products. The product can be fired with coal in existing coal-fired power plants at any ratio, up to 100 percent.
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 11
« Market Development
The Word on the
H E AT
With every new installation it helps guide to success, the Northern Forest Center is demonstrating that automated wood heat is a stable, affordable option that benefits both the environment and the local economy. BY PATRICK C. MILLER
he saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees aptly describes the challenge of encouraging more people to use automated, high-efficiency wood heating technology in the forested areas of the northeastern U.S. Surrounded by forests containing a vast source of renewable fuel with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost local economies and help maintain healthy forests, most homeowners instead rely on fuel oil—much of it imported—to meet their heating needs. Studies have shown that wood fuel could provide up to 30 percent of heating needs in some areas of the Northeast. However, wood currently meets just 1 percent of the region’s home, commercial and institutional heating needs. “Our single biggest barrier to increased sales and increased market pen-
etration for wood pellet heating is that people just don’t understand that it’s an option,” says Andy Boutin, who founded Pellergy LLC in 2005, out of a desire to use wood rather than oil to heat his home. Located in Montpellier, Vermont, Pellergy sells residential, commercial and industrial wood pellet boilers and wood pellet storage and transportation systems. The problem, as Boutin explains it, has to do with how home heating systems are sold, and how homeowners perceive home heating in general. Although a heating system represents one of the largest purchases a homeowner will ever make, and can be in operation for seven or eight months of a year, most people are unaware that automated wood heat is an option. “Given that level of purchase, the understanding of what your options are and what is available is incredibly lacking,” Boutin says. “Most of the purchase deci-
12 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
sions are made by the plumbing and heating contractor that’s servicing your equipment, or someone you’ve called because your equipment isn’t working. “It’s a very interesting and complex buying issue,” Boutin continues. “You need to market to the homeowner from a demand perspective. From a supply perspective, you also need to have these plumbing and heating contractors know that this is a viable and reliable option as well. That word is just not out there.”
Northern Forest Center
Fortunately, one of the primary goals of the Northern Forest Center—which operates in the states of New York, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont—is to educate and assist homeowners, businesses and institutions on the advantages of automated wood heat. Pellergy is one of many businesses that works with
the center to promote automated wood heating. “People are accustomed to cord wood and some pellet stoves, but heating with automated, high-efficiency wood pellet boilers is really uncommon, and that’s what we’re trying to change,” says Maura Adams, NFC program director. “It’s a really fantastic option for people who are concerned about their local economy and who want to do something environmentally responsible.” The NFC was founded 20 years ago in response to conditions in the northern forest states where patterns of land ownership were changing dramatically. Rather than large industrial paper companies owning big tracts of forested land, it was being broken up into smaller private holdings. “With that came a lot of questions about future land use and what that economy was going to look like,” Adams notes. “We’ve
MARCH/APRIL 2017 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 13 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER
« Market Development
Pellergy's wood-pellet-fueled boilers are made in Austria under a private label for the company. Amy Wagner and her husband installed a Pellergy Alpha boiler when they built a new house, eliminating the need for 2,300 gallons a year in home heating oil. PHOTO: PELLERGY LLC NORTHERN FOREST CENTER
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seen a lot of closures of pulp and paper mills over the past couple decades. That’s really challenging the economic norm in the region, which means we have to find other opportunities for communities. We also help them find diverse and sustainable uses of the forest economy.” In addition to the NFC’s modern wood heating program, it also runs programs in wood products innovation; locally owned and managed community forests, tourism and outdoor recreation; tax credit financing to support forest-based economy projects; regional strategies advocating for forest communities at the state and federal levels; a “Way of the Woods” mobile museum; and the Clear Water Carbon Fund, which supports forested watersheds and increased carbon storage. One of the first challenges the NFC faced in getting individual homeowners and organizations
to consider automated wood heating as an option was to provide enough examples of the technology in action across the four-state region—nearby locations where people could go to experience the systems firsthand. “We now have more than 150 great stories and people to turn to when we’re trying to pitch this technology,” Adams says. Maine leads the way with 59 automated wood pellet heating systems. New Hampshire has 50, Vermont 40 and New York seven. In total, 115 systems are residential installations and 42 are in businesses, schools and other institutions.
Happy Heating with Wood
Julie Raboin, owner of a 100-year-old home in Newport, Vermont, was one of those who decided to switch to automated wood pellet heating. She had the system installed in December
2016. “I saw an ad in my local newspaper about the opportunity to receive significant incentives for purchasing an automated wood pellet system,” she says. “I checked out the Northern Forest Center’s website, started researching wood pellet systems, and decided it might be the right move for me.” Raboin worked with the NFC to find vendors—Maine Energy Systems and OkoFEN Wood Pellet Boilers—and a contractor, Cutting Edge Energy in Burke, Vermont—to do the installation. The center also helped her complete the paperwork for an Efficiency Vermont green energy loan. She recalls the day the oil tank and burner were removed from her home, and sneaking down to the basement to see the progress of the work. “From the first time the boiler fired up and the faint smell of wood filled the house, I knew I'd made the right
decision,” Raboin says, while describing her experience. “I love having a brand new, reliable heat source that's energy efficient and uses fuel that supports the local economy. My family is more comfortable in our home during the winter, as I'm not quite as stingy with the thermostat anymore. My heating bill has gone down significantly. I also purchased a new hot water tank powered by the pellet boiler, and the hot water supply is so much more plentiful. No more getting up early to sneak a shower before the kids get up!” David Benckendorf, a retired lawyer from Illinois, moved to Berlin, Vermont, six and a half years ago when his wife accepted a job there. He learned about an NFC automated wood heat pilot project in the town and, with an attorney’s zeal, began gathering information, much of it supplied by the NFC. Environmental issues were important to the
C O N V E Y
James Richardson uses an AutoPellet wood pellet boiler from Maine Energy Systems to heat his home in Albany, Vermont. PHOTO: NORTHERN FOREST CENTER
Q U A L I T Y
Stockyard Equipment for Wood Pellets SCHADE Lagertechnik GmbH • Bruchstraße 1 • 45883 Gelsenkirchen • Germany email@example.com • www.schade-lagertechnik.com
Andy Boutin with Pellergy LLC says its important for those considering automated wood heating to properly size the system for their home, including the storage and delivery system. PHOTO: PELLERGY LLC
Benckendorfs, which also influenced their decision to convert to wood heat. “When we first moved here, oil was expensive and getting more so,” Benckendorf remembers. “Heating with wood pellets was a new concept and we were a blank slate. The incentives and grants under the pilot project made it a very affordable process. When I looked outside, I saw a million acres of trees and not one oil derrick. Which one do I want to heat with?” After six years, Benckendorf says the couple’s experience with an automated wood heating system has been nothing but positive and he would unequivocally recommend it to others. “I would suggest that anyone considering it do what I did: Contact an accountant and crunch the numbers,” he says. “It’s still cheaper than oil, even after oil prices have dropped.” Based on his experience, Boutin is not surprised when he hears those who have experienced automated wood pellet heating sing its praises. “I’ve heard them say, ‘I love wood heat; I love the way it feels,’ which is kind of
ironic because these systems don’t provide heat that’s much different than a fossil fuel system. What that really speaks to is the overall satisfaction people are getting from heating with a local renewable and sustainable fuel.” In fact, one of the technology’s attractions is the ability to integrate it with existing fossil-fuelbased heating systems, whether it’s forced air or hydronic. “It is just like their fossil fuel system—it’s thermostatically controlled and it’s automated,” he explains. “They don’t have to stoke a fire. They don’t have to worry about lighting a fire and keeping it going. As much as you talk to people and they talk to others who have these systems, I think it still surprises a lot of folks that—here they are— heating their entire home with wood.”
Getting the Word Out
Despite such success stories, Adams knew automated wood heating wasn’t getting a broad enough level of exposure to make a significant impact. She believed there was a need for more collaboration across the entire wood
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Market Development »
heating industry to increase wider public awareness of the technology. This realization led to a recently launched NFC marketing campaign that encourages people to consider automated wood heating as an option. A website called feelgoodheat.org not only provides a wealth of information on wood heating and links to experts, wood pellet suppliers, heating system vendors and contractors, but also gives testimonials from individuals and organizations that have seen the benefits of the technology. “We were able to get a whole bunch of stakeholders together to think about how to talk about this technology. How can we work together to push the technology as a category instead of individual brands?” Adams asks. “People had been calling it advanced wood heat, or modern wood heat, or biomass heat. They weren’t using the same terminology, or doing any comprehensive generic marketing for automated wood heat as its own category. People might hear about one brand or another, but they weren’t hearing that this, in general, was a heating option.”
Boutin sees the value of the NFC’s marketing campaign. “Having programs like this to educate individual homeowners and that’s also a resource for home heating contractors who can look at this and see the options, it’s really incredibly important to the industry,” he says. To Adams, the NFC’s automated wood heat program extends beyond providing homes, businesses and schools with a reliable source of heat from an environmentally friendly, renewable fuel source. It’s also about maintaining the forests and the communities dependent upon them. “I think people appreciate that we have a unique perspective on economic development, that we are looking at thriving communities and how to help communities benefit from the forest industry as much as we’re trying to help companies and help sustain good forest stewardship,” she says. “It’s that combination of economics and communities and the environment that we’re practicing all the time. It allows us to reach a broader sector of stakeholders.”
Boutin agrees, and notes the impact of diminishing wood markets as more and more paper mills and saw mills close in the Northeast. Although it might seem paradoxical, he says, “We risk the loss of forests without a robust forest economy. The wood energy sector is important to the local economy and—even more so—to forest health and forest management practices where landowners have plans in place to help manage both the health and the value of their forested lands. “Without a market for low-grade woods,” he adds, “it becomes a very expensive proposition to maintain a forest management plan. We risk having these lands become more valuable for development.” Adams says the NFC has a $2.8 million economic impact on the four-state region. It has created 4,850 jobs, helped conserve 255,562 acres of forest and secured and leveraged $189 million in projects in the past 11 years that benefit communities and forest stewardship. She’s looking for new ways to have an even larger impact. “We’re trying to figure out
how to create the conditions for younger people to move up the Northern Forest and live there,” Adams explains. “If you’re missing that really important demographic of people who are going to be raising families and working to support the elderly population, the whole region is in real trouble.” Part of the equation is convincing those living in a region of the country that uses 34 percent of the nation’s heating oil to make the switch to automated wood heat, a move that would have a significant positive impact on the economy and environment. Raboin is doing her part, one visitor at a time. “When anyone new comes to my house, the tour always leads to the basement,” she says. “I tell my guests all about my pellet boiler and how much I love it! It’s an investment, but it’s one you won’t regret.” Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, Pellet Mill Magazine email@example.com 701-738-4923
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ǁǁǁ͘ŶĚĐ͘ĐŽŵ MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 17
From left, Mike and Vince Rutter, co-founders of Biothermic, a Canadian company that distributes wood chips, wood pellets and pellet boilers. PHOTO: POSITIVE MEDIA
18 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
AWAITING THE SIGNAL Canada’s wood pellet industry stands patiently ready to deliver domestic supply as a federal Clean Fuel Standard and complementary support mechanisms develop. BY RON KOTRBA
ig decisions are being made in Ottawa today by a relatively small group of people that will affect the future of energy in Canada. The group of stakeholders has come together at the behest of Environment and Climate Change Canada to shape regulations for the Clean Fuel Standard, with grand ambitions to achieve 30 megatons of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions by 2030. “There’s maybe 40 or so on this technical committee made up of about onethird government, and the other two thirds is weighted heavily to the fossil fuel guys,” says Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. “It’s David and Goliath, with the government as referee. The fossil fuel guys dig their heels in, but they’ll get dragged along.” Murray says invitations were extended this winter requesting stakeholder participation to work collectively through spring, with the intent to have draft regulations established by June. Following this, a process of public consultations and legislative procedures will ensue. “This is the first time I’ve seen government coming to trade associations asking to help draft regulations,” he says. “I’m quite shocked—and encouraged. Government seems sincere and genuine in its attempt to solicit input. I have a pipeline, a direct chance to be heard.” Ian Thomson, president of Advanced Biofuels Canada, says his organization has been at the very center of this effort before it was even announced, and remains very active in it. “We’re part of a slightly more formal, broad group of nongovernmental organizations and clean fuels associations pressing for a stringent standard by 2030,” Thomson says. “Through various working groups, the government is flushing out components of the CFS regulations, an overview of which is expected to be published later this year with formal regulations to come in 2019.” MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 19
The CFS is one of many â€œsupport mechanisms,â€? as Thomson calls them, under the broader Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change, announced by Murray Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016. Other aspects of this sweeping plan include phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030, along with new greenhouse gas regulations for natural-gas-fired electricity. As such, coal power plants are exempt from the CFS, since they are covered under alternative regulations. The federal government is also spearheading clean energy for rural and remote communities. Many of Canadaâ€™s population centers have access to cheap, abundant natural gas, but an entire subset of the population living off the grid relies on propane and diesel fuel for heat and power. â€œI donâ€™t talk about natural gas because the pricing you will never touch,â€? says Andreas
Wintzer, responsible for Canadian biomass boiler sales and technical support for Viessmann Manufacturing Co. Inc. â€œTo develop the Canadian pellet market, we have two choices. First, concentrate on what makes senseâ€”and that is where propane and oil are dominant. If the market is covered, then we can go to the bigger consumption guys and advise if they switch from natural gas to pellets, they will get money from GHG savings. With the efficiencies and convenience of natural gas, you canâ€™t really compare them now unless itâ€™s about GHG savings. However, pellets make sense economically and pricewise compared to propane and oil, and provide local jobs. Oil doesnâ€™t bring any jobs.â€? The plan behind the CFS is to begin reducing GHG emissions in 2020, and ratchet up reductions through 2030. â€œHow this translates to percent reductions remains to be seen,â€? Thomson says. In fact, most aspects of the CFS remain to be seen. The only sureties thus far seem to be what and who will be regulated, and even that is not completely worked out.
Initially, it appeared as if the CFS would take a sector approach, regulating transportation, buildings and industry. â€œPeople assumed it would be structured this way, partly because Thomson the only models to follow were in the transportation area,â€? says Cam Carruthers, executive director of oil, gas and alternative energy at Environment Canada. â€œIt would be logical to build on that, but the industriesâ€”the fuels businessesâ€”are not organized that way. They are more organized by fuel type, so it seemed quite clear that it would be more efficient to break it up by fuel type.â€? Fuel streams, rather than sectors, will be regulated under the CFS, three broad categories of which are liquid, solid and gaseous. Carruthers notes 75 to 80 percent of Canadaâ€™s liquid fuels are used in transportation. â€œFor those concerned about how to set up this structure, this should send a strong market
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Policy » signal for transportation,” Carruthers says. For liquid and solid fuels, producers and importers will be the regulated parties. For gaseous fuels distributed through pipelines, Carruthers distributors will be obligated. For other gaseous fuels such as biogas distributed to end users outside of pipelines, the regulated parties have yet to be determined. “We’re still at the stage of gathering information about fuels and pathways for compliance,” Carruthers says. “We haven’t set carbon intensity levels yet. We want to gather all the data that will help us set baselines and targets.”
The CFS is intended to complement the pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution. “Similar to the British Columbia, California and Oregon low carbon fuel standards,
we expect that renewable and alternative fuels will be measured against baseline fossil fuels on a comparable life cycle assessment (LCA) basis,” says Doug Hooper, director of policy and regulation for Advanced Biofuels Canada. “The CFS market signal will incentivize use of lower carbon-intensity fuels,” by either blending biofuels or fuel switching. “As experienced in existing LCFS markets,” Hooper says, “the economic impacts of the CFS regulation will be dampened by internalizing compliance costs between high carbon fuel suppliers, the debit holders, and low carbon fuel suppliers, or credit holders.” The federal backstop for carbon pricing will define the amount and application of a carbon tax system for all provinces and territories in Canada, Hooper explains. The provinces or territories may adopt their own carbon pricing system or elect to have the federal system apply in their jurisdiction. “All carbon pricing systems must be at least as stringent as the federal backstop,” he says. “Carbon revenues will devolve to the province of origin.”
C AT C H T H E
Hooper says it’s expected that existing carbon price jurisdictions—British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec—will maintain their own systems. “B.C. and Alberta Hooper use a carbon tax system, while Ontario and Quebec have adopted the cap-and-trade design and linked their credit markets with California,” he says. In 2019, carbon pricing will start at CDN $20 per metric ton, moving up $10 per year to $50 in 2022, Hooper explains. “Each of the existing carbon price systems is unique,” he says, “and the federal backstop system will follow that trend and be unique as well.” The basics of the backstop system are that a carbon tax will be levied on fossil fuels. The backstop allows industrial facilities to be regulated or “opt in” under an outputbased pricing system (OBPS) and avoid paying the carbon tax on fuels consumed in their
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MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 21
industrial processes. “The OBPS is meant to prevent carbon leakage where industries may choose to close down in carbonpriced jurisdictions and reopen in markets Liew without comparable taxes,” Hooper says. “Facilities in the OBPS will receive credit allowances to offset the carbon price on energy-intense or trade-exposed production.” Industrial processes will be benchmarked, and facilities with GHG emissions under the benchmark will earn compliance credits and pay no carbon tax, and those above will be required to pay the carbon price on excess emissions, use banked compliance credits or purchase credits. “As with the cap-and-trade systems, the credit allowances mute the carbon price signal and facilities will opt in if the cost of compliance under the OBPS is below the costs associated with paying the carbon tax on fuels,” Hooper says. “Regardless, the carbon pricing systems do impose a new tax on industrial operations in Canada.” Hooper says for facilities operating under the federal backstop OBPS system, the CFS and carbon pricing complement each other. “Under the OBPS, industrial facilities will be motivated to reduce emissions below the benchmark level, and utilizing lower-carbon fuels will be a core strategy to achieve this goal,” he says. “As the CFS will require the carbon intensity of fuels in Canada to be reduced, it will diversify the supply of low carbon fuels and improve market competition. Since the CFS regulation will create a market-mediated price signal—the compliance credit value—for reductions in each of the regulated fuel streams, industrial facilities will be able to evaluate the cost-benefit of different compliance strategies to reduce OBPS costs.” These different compliance strategies include efficiency improvements, purchasing lower carbon-intensity fuels and fuel switching, to name a few. “It gets a bit more complicated for fuel refiners,” Hooper says. Under the OBPS, fuel refiners in Canada will be incentivized to produce lower-carbon fuels by improving refining operations or switching to lowercarbon feedstocks. “Any improvement in
22 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
fuel refinery emissions would be counted in their compliance obligations to the benchmark under the OBPS,” he says. “However, since gasoline and diesel fuels are to be given a default carbon intensity under the CFS regulations, the CFS doesn’t align strongly with the OBPS design.”
Building a Domestic Market
Roughly 50 Canadian pellet mills produced about 2.8 million tons of wood pellets in 2017, a vast majority of which—2.4 million tons—was exported, according to Murray. For the 400,000 tons of pellets consumed domestically, 100,000 went to the two former Ontario Power Generation coal power stations—Atikokan and Thunder Bay—and an additional 300,000 tons were consumed mostly in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the Northwest Territories. “Like in the U.S., wood pellet use is greatest in regions where there isn’t a natural gas network and wood pellets are competing against higher-cost oil and electricity,” Murray says. “Most domestic product is sold in 40-pound bags, but there is an increasing proportion now being delivered in bulk as we are continuing to install boiler systems in schools, universities, hospitals, churches, apartment buildings, prisons and so forth.” It is clear government support through a cascade of what Thomson calls support mechanisms is necessary to help foster growth in Canada’s domestic wood pellet market. “I don’t see biomass market growth in Canada without a carbon tax, without government support,” says Pat Liew, director of business development and senior manager of operations for Ecostrat Inc.’s Biomass Supply Group. “For the past 10 years, natural gas has been super cheap. I’m not a big proponent of government stepping in, but natural gas has been so cheap for so long.” Liew says Ecostrat supplies 10 industrial greenhouses with wood. “And we haven’t seen newcomers in the industry for 10 years,” he says. “It’s easier to flip a switch than to hire a guy and loader.” Wintzer says without government paving the way, wood pellets in Canada will not see the outcome achieved in places like Europe. Provincial regulations have played a big role in the success or failure of pellets. Liew says in Ontario, where regulations that hadn’t been updated since the 1990s, burn-
ing wood pellets was regulated much like waste incineration. Permitting was a difficult, lengthy and expensive process, Liew says, costing upward of $100,000 for engineering studies. He says the regulations were updated recently, but adds it will take time to â€œget the bad tasteâ€? out of peopleâ€™s mouths. Another issue as Liew sees it is the lack of a cohesive group of industry leaders advocating the benefits of biomass to lawmakers, resulting in inadequate lobbying efforts. â€œThereâ€™s no real lobby,â€? he says. â€œAnd as a result, the government tends to favor solar and wind. Those are the two renewables that get the most attention.â€? Vince Rutter, co-founder of Biothermic, a company launched in 2013 with his brother Mike to distribute wood chips, pellets and Froling biomass boilers, says the biomass industry will see progress with cap-and-trade funding going to subsidize wood heating, but it needs a louder, more effective lobbying voice for forestry and energy. â€œWe need to get the point across that when we talk renewables, weâ€™re talking heat and electricity,â€? he says. â€œWhen you see a picture of renewables, there should be wind, solar, electric carsâ€”and forests and wood. We need to get away from the idea that cutting trees is bad. Itâ€™s a necessity for forest health.â€? Rutter is a professional forester and certified arborist. â€œI think weâ€™re the only ones in Ontario supplying heating systems and pellets,â€? he says. Biothermic has a 60-ton silo in central Ontario with a pneumatic pellet suction system to receive loads from a variety of trucks supplied by a number of mills. The company just bought its second bulk delivery truck, a 15-ton hook loader truck with a silo and blower system made by Austria-based Tropper. Rutter says by adding a trailer he can double capacity. â€œThatâ€™s required,â€? he says. â€œCanada is giant, so we need to maximize our load per trip.â€? The new truck will be based out of Thunder Bay and will service northern Ontario. The older truck will continue to service central Ontario. Rutter says Canadaâ€™s pellet market will change. â€œIt has to,â€? he says. â€œBut thereâ€™s a few big reasons we produce a lot, but use very little. The price of carbon is not high enough. We lack policy that incentivizes wood heating and disincentivizes fossil fuel heating. We donâ€™t have robust funding program specifically for wood heating, similar to Maine, Vermont and
the Northeast states. We have very big supply of cheap natural gas, which is piped into all the major cities where all the main policy decisions are made. In Ontario, most politicians live in big population centers connected to natural gas, and itâ€™s cheap enough that wood pellets are not on their radar. In outpost communities, where they use diesel and propane for heating, propane is not as expensive as we need. But the voices feeling pain from high heating costs are not loud enough to make the change we would like to see. In Ontario, solar and wind get all the attention, and not enough of us are talking about heat. We shouldnâ€™t be ignoring the heat market, as itâ€™s a giant part of the energy mix.â€? Exactly how the CFS will help shape growth in the Canadian domestic wood pellet market is unclear. The CFS will essentially leave it to fuel producers to figure out how to lower carbon intensity. â€œWhat I envision is, letâ€™s say a petroleum refiner needs to reduce their GHG emissions by a certain amount per
year,â€? Murray says. â€œThey need to create heat in their refining process, so if they create process heat from wood pellets, then they can get GHG benefits. Thatâ€™s one way we can insert ourselves into the supply chain.â€? Carruthers says the regulated parties will look at the whole life cycle of their fuels and may make investments in different places. â€œSome may have more compliance options than others,â€? he says. â€œIt will be a credit market, and it may drive changes in the building sector. Itâ€™s hard to say at this point, for example, what the opportunity is for wood pellets until we know the carbon intensity and cost. Weâ€™re getting there, and the approach weâ€™re taking is to make sure the regulations are focused on the right points to drive the most incentive for change.â€? Thomson says which fuels will get switched for what is one of the big questions. â€œFor transportation, itâ€™s pretty straightforward,â€? he says. â€œFor solid fuels, much less so.â€?
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MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 23
LacWood Pellets has been supplying the local market with premium-grade pellets for years and is ready to increase production should demand grow. PHOTO: LACWOOD PELLETS
Another big question is how much flexibility will there be to trade between fuel streams. “It can’t be so flexible that it sends an ambiguous signal to people who want to develop advanced biofuels projects,” Thomson says. Carruthers says the CFS framework makes limited trading possible among the streams. “How much is going to depend on modeling work we need to do,” he says. “I came in thinking we want to maximize trading, but there are really good reasons to limit this. We need to send a good price signal to each stream. Until we see modeling on costs, it’s hard to say how much trading will be allowed across streams. For those with compliance obligations, they’re very concerned about price and supply. They are looking to us to ease their concerns, but I have to balance that with this requirement that not only gets us to 2030, but to 2050, so we’re looking well beyond the immediate structure.” The key topics of discussion popular on both sides of the equation, Carruthers says, are the volumes and types of lower carbonintensity fuels available in the market, and what the prices will be. “For the [biofuels industries], those are the key to understanding the opportunities,” he says.
So, is the Canadian wood pellet industry in a position to supply a growing domestic market should all the right market signals be sent? The large plants currently operating are mostly exporting to overseas markets and are locked in long-term supply contracts, so it’s not just a matter of redirecting supply. “No one is sitting around with millions of tons of pellets to divert, because they’re already committed,” Murray says. “For us to take advantage of this, we need to build up production, handling systems and storage.” LacWood Pellets is a 15,000-ton mill in Northern Ontario producing residentialgrade pellets distributed to customers 10 to 800 kilometers away. “We manufacture premium pellets and there’s a premium attached to the price,” says Steve Lacroix, plant manager. The vast majority of exports are industrialgrade, so even if the large mills weren’t locked into long-term contracts, simply redirecting industrial-grade pellets to a burgeoning domestic market where premium-grade pellets would be demanded is not likely to happen. Therefore, given the right market signals, a strong possibility exists for plant expansions and new builds under the CFS and other panCanadian support mechanisms.
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“Our point of view is, if there is greater demand, then we’re ready to supply more pellets,” Lacroix says. “These past few years, we didn’t produce to capacity but rather to market demand, in the 10,000 metric ton range.” LacWood Pellets utilizes presses that produce a half-ton per hour. The company started with two, and over the years added a third, fourth and fifth. “We have the option of slowly growing without too big of an investment to increase our capacity,” he says. “We can grow organically as demand increases. That’s what we’ve done and plan to continue doing.” Most stakeholders recognize the chicken-and-egg scenario with developing the pellet market, but virtually everyone agrees that the CFS and complementary support mechanisms will drive wood pellet demand in Canada. “It’s moving slow, like usual, but there is progress,” Wintzer says. “I just hope the progress gets going faster at some point.” Of the large, established fossil fuel industries, Murray says their receptivity to change is slower than the renewable fuels sector’s willingness to supply. “It’ll take a lot of conversation and convincing before this comes to fruition,” he says. “The old, established sectors are slow and ponderous, and conservative in output. In using renewable fuels in fossil fuel processes, they’ll put up so much resistance to it that they’ll think of every other idea before they figure out they have to work with us. That’s what I’m anticipating. The regulations will be a powerful incentive, and we’ll force them to change, but they’re so slow and ponderous and committed.” Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine 218-745-8347 firstname.lastname@example.org
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PROWESS Scott Williamson, the "Pellet Guy," shares insight based on his extensive knowledge and experience in pellet stove installation, service and repair. BY ANNA SIMET
hen it comes to pellet stoves, there isn’t a model in existence that Scott Williamson hasn’t worked on. Over the past 13-plus years, he built his company, Pellet Stove Service, from the ground up, and has made tens of thousands of service calls—reaching 25,000 back in 2013. Selftaught, he’s one of New England’s go-to guys when it comes to stove installation, troubleshooting and repair.
Williamson’s pellet stove sector debut began in 2005, when his mother-in-law was struggling to find a technician to fix her stove. “That’s where I came in—I thought I would give it a try,” he says. After that success, via word-of-mouth at his mother-inlaw’s breakfast diner, Williamson began to get calls from others wanting their stoves worked on, too. “Then I moved to Craigslist ads,” he says. “And if I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t charge them. I looked at it as going
26 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
to school, and really started to learn how to work on them.” At the same time, Williamson owned a painting business that was slow in the winter—allowing for frequent stove service calls—and it didn’t fare well when the economy crashed a few years later. “That [painting business] fell apart,” he says. “But I couldn’t have planned it any better, I guess.” The pellet stove servicing business grew quickly, at one point covering six New
Workforce » England states. But despite the success, Williamson decided to go back to a oneman show. “I gave that up,” he says. You can chase things forever, before you figure out that maybe you’re just happier not chasing things. But I created such a client base that when I went back to being smaller, I could really pick and choose where and who I wanted to work with, and what I wanted to charge.” The middleman guy between appliance and pellet fuel manufacturers, over the past decade and a half, Williamson has witnessed the evolution of the domestic wood pellet sector, on both sides of the equation.
“I remember when the only way you could get a stove was through ads—there wasn’t a showroom to go see them,” Wiliamson says. “You got what you got for a stove, as well as fuel. There weren’t any choices. But then, people forged ahead, and the industry grew.” Perhaps a little too quickly at one point, he adds. “In 2008, everyone was selling pellet stoves, and the industry grew something like 1,500 percent—some companies were even selling stoves that had been sitting in warehouses since 2001. Suddenly, there was such a demand, that all of these older stoves and technologies—that weren’t supported with parts—came out of the dusty lockers, and got sold to people.” At the same time, there was a shortage of fuel, he says. “Anyone with a pellet mill was making them quickly, trying to keep up. And in certain cases, anything went into them—trash, moisture. Everyone wanted pellets, and nobody seemed to care what they got, or how they got it. All of this put a bad taste in some consumers’ mouths about what was good, and there was a lot of misinformation.” With so much growth all at once, even some selling fuel didn’t know how to determine its quality, according to Williamson. “If there were problems, they figured it could be the stove—nobody really knew how it was related to the pellets. Whoever wasn’t in the room, that’s who was to blame.” While Williamson’s business was thriving, the concept for an industrywide wood pellet standard began gaining traction, he
recalls. “I can remember attending some trade shows—they were still trying to write the drafts about what a standard would look like.” Much more often than not, Williamson says, it was the wrong fuel, or consumers’ actions—or lack thereof—and not the stove. “The stove was usually doing what it was supposed to, shutting down when it was neglected, or not burning properly. Aside from a few who have gone out of business, the manufacturers were doing the right thing. Consumers didn’t know what to expect, and could only buy the fuel that was available, but some of it wasn’t being made in the way that it should be.” Nowadays, that’s not a common problem, especially with completion and roll-out of the Pellet Fuel Institute’s quality standards. But, there is one issue that Williamson says hasn’t been fixed—the service side of the equation. “In the radius where I live, people are covered,” he says. “But for example, people in New Hampshire, there are only a few guys out there.” What it boils down to, Williamson says, is a lack of qualified professionals.
Service and Sales
“When somebody buys an appliance, there isn’t a guarantee that there are people nearby who know what they’re talking about,” he says. “They might not have anything other than what the manufacturer gives them in bullet points—they don’t know what applies in practice in theory, and that kind of education is really lost because of the seasonal nature of the business, and the volatile nature of the industry itself, but it's much more stable than it used to be.” The cycle of people coming into the industry, making money and failing to diversify offerings or doing service real well, negatively affects consumers who purchase stoves from them, once they go out of business. “So then, they’re out of the service loop. Or people they call don’t want to work on their stove because they didn’t sell it to them, and then the cycle repeats itself. It’s the same thing everywhere—in Minnesota, in Massachusetts, and Vermont.” Consumers who run into that problem might get discouraged from using pellet stoves, Williamson believes. “It adds to the shedding of the industry, when things go
in the other direction—it’s good one year, but then it’s an expense after it. They get unqualified people working on it, they think something’s wrong with it, or they buy the wrong fuel.” But in his experience, Williamson says, the most common call he goes on isn’t to repair a malfunctioning stove or fuel quality—rather, it is simply that it needs to be cleaned, and the consumer isn’t educated on how to properly do it. “Once it’s cleaned, it will run perfect,” he says. “Stoves now are made so much better than some from the 1990s and early 2000s that just weren’t meant to be serviced. That was a huge roadblock for people who spent money on them—even people who knew about them would have trouble. Eighty percent or better of the calls I go on, is just cleaning, adjusting or educating the end user, and then everything works just fine. I’ll talk to people about things they could do to make their experience better.” Circling back to pellet quality and the impact on a stove, Williamson reiterates that, the vast majority of the time, pellet quality isn’t the cause of issues. However, it can be in certain situations, such as when fiber is drawn from recycling operations. “One manufacturer no longer in business had a recycling company, and ground up pallets, furniture and construction debris, and made pellets out of it,” he says. “The potassium, chlorine, sodium—types of salts that exist in that wood fiber—it causes the ash to fuse together. It lowers the temperature down to about 800 degrees, and you end up with these lava rocks that obstruct airflow in the burn pot, slowing down the rate of combustion. It becomes a really lousy experience, and you have to clean it out every two hours sometimes.” If a consumer has another 200 bags of that to go through, that’s a bad situation, he adds. “Anyone selling that type of product for use in a residential machine is doing a real disservice to the industry,” he says. “But when there’s a shortage, that kind of stuff pops up out of the woodwork, and it might be the only pellet available.” And some stoves, he adds, can burn nearly anything, and aren’t affected. “This is where Harmon comes in as a big name in pellet stoves,” he says. “The way Harmon created his stoves—horizontally, and fuel
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 27
Pellet Quality Advocacy The PFI Standards Program is a thirdparty, accredited program that enables consumers to easily identify consistent, reliable pellets from producers whose facilities are subject to regular third-party inspection and lab testing. The program's qualified production facilities can be identified by the quality mark found on bags. “The Pellet Fuels Institute is committed to ensuring that consumers have access to wood pellets of the highest quality,” says Tim Portz, executive director of PFI. “A consumer experiencing quality issues with a bag of pellets is a bad outcome for our industry, and one we work hard to avoid. One of the tools we’ve developed and offer to the industry, to both PFI members and nonmembers is the PFI Standards Program. This program is one of the most respected pellet quality programs in the world, and our members that engage in the program IMALPALGroup_PelletMill_2018_Mar-Apr.pdf 1 05/03/2018 17:26:43
often cite their participation as a real catalyst in their ongoing journey to high-quality production.” Portz adds that there are other certification programs out there, and that the PFI has members who have developed their own quality program over decades of wood pellet manufacturing. “While PFI’s producer members may have varying means of pursuing high-quality production, they are unified in their commitment to deliver a high-quality heating fuel to consumers,” he says. Stan Elliot, president of Pacific Coast Pellet and PFI chairman of the board, says that in select areas, there are problems with pellet quality. “For example, at one operation, logs are stored in salt water, and the resulting pellets have very high chlorine and salt content, leading to a lot of corrosion issue in stoves,” he says. “It causes
complaints and concerns from consumers about who will pay for it—typically, they go back to the manufacturer, who tells them it’s not the stove, but the pellet, and that’s somewhat difficult to prove.” Elliot gives the recent example of a stove shop that sold a stove to a customer, and just eight months and two tons of pellets later, it looked 40 years old. Even just one low-quality operation is bad for the pellet industry, he emphasizes, because the consumer gets no consolation. “At the end, what you have is an angry pellet customer who might decide not to burn pellets anymore, if someone won’t replace the burn pot,” he adds. “And retailers are figuring out there is a pretty heavy liability when dealing with that. As PFI chairman, I’m happy to try to get those pellet makers to correct their business practices, because it’s doing us more harm than good.”
comes up from underneath the combustion areaâ€”when that kind of thing starts to happen in the stove, the new pellets push it out of the way. That is an absolutely brilliant way to solve that problem; itâ€™s almost like a burn pot that cleans itself, and itâ€™s really the only one that does that.â€? As far as the life span of a typical pellet stove goes, Williamson says most are replaced between 12 and 15 years, but that doesnâ€™t mean the stoves couldnâ€™t be in use longer. â€œItâ€™s usually not the stoveâ€™s faultâ€” rather, itâ€™s a combination of things, such as selling the house, or upgrading. Very rarely do I find a stove that is so worn out, it needs to be replaced. Maybe two or three in a year, but thatâ€™s nothing when compared to how many I see during that time. But, I have seen some stoves that are three years old and have died, and itâ€™s like, â€˜How on earth did you do that?â€™ And itâ€™s likely because they just ran it without cleaning it once, and everything got bent and warped in there. A pellet stove has a lot of things that can be replaced, but things integral to the stove, like the refractory back in the body of the
stove, you canâ€™t replace thatâ€”the whole thing is done.â€?
Explaining the Industry
Until pellet stoves are more mainstream, Williamson says he isnâ€™t sure if the service side of the equation can be fixedâ€” the typical chicken-and-egg scenario. â€œAnd there is a lot of competitionâ€”it used to be that people with oil would go for pellet stoves because oil was expensive, but now itâ€™s cheaper. Propane and electric are still very expensive, but when all of those entry points are gone, itâ€™s going to be up to the pellet industry to find new ones. When people decide to buy a pellet stove, itâ€™s usually a cost-cutting measure. When the stoves themselves are put in, they are put in as a hedge against something else. When those go away, then whatâ€™s going to be the trigger to want to put a pellet stove in, when there are other economical choices? Pellet boilers are a little different, but you need to get to an economy of scale to make those work.â€? Another issue, according to Williamson, is that some appliance manufacturers
are reluctant to share information with independent service technicians like himself. â€œI learned it on my own, but if the way people can access this stuff isnâ€™t changed, Iâ€™m not sure how it can get better,â€? he says. â€œThere are many more of them in the market than pellet stoves, but you can buy a Lennox furnace from a myriad of different people and get 15 to 20 technicians to come out and work on it, and on the weekends. Itâ€™s just crazy, because there are all kinds of qualified people out there, who, given the opportunity, might be able to spur some sales.â€? Author: Anna Simet Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine email@example.com 701-738-4961
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The Pacific BioEnergy pellet mill in Prince Georgia, British Columbia, recently experienced a silo fire that was successfully extinguished will minimal loss and no injuries. PHOTO: PACIFIC BIOENERGY
Best Practices for Fighting and Preventing Wood Pellet Storage Fires Best practices and lessons learned from decades of experience were recently used to resolve a major pellet silo fire. BY JOHN SWAAN
CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pellet Mill Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
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n August 2017, a silo fire occured at the Pacific BioEnergy (PacBio) 350,000-metric-ton-per-year pellet plant in Prince George, British Columbia. The tactics used to combat the fire resulted in a successful outcome, but this is in contrast to a long history of silo and dome fires resulting in the complete loss of the structures, major damage to surrounding infrastructure, and injury and loss of life. Smoke from smoldering wood pellets inside a PacBio silo containing 3,500 metric tons was first noticed on the evening of Aug. 23. Over seven days, the fire was controlled, extinguished, the silo was saved, and there were no injury or loss of life. Pellets worth over $500,000 were damaged, but millions of dollars of pellet plant infrastructure was not. Unfortunately, although the silo did not collapse and there were no explosions or fires that damaged the pellet mill or caused injury, the silo will be demolished because of uncertainty regarding its structural integrity. Credit for this successful outcome belongs to the Pacific BioEnergy management and operations team, and the first responders from the Prince George fire department, all of whom followed a carefully crafted plan for controlling and extinguishing the fire. PacBio CEO Don Steele, and Vice President of Operations Shawn Bells and his operations team, along with vital guidance and support from the author of this paper, John Swaan, applied industry best practices to their tactical planning. They thought carefully before they acted, and used information developed from years of experience. They proceeded carefully, but deliberately, with a primary objective of keeping everybody safe.
What Not to Do
Historically, the industry has examples of not-so-successful outcomes of silo or dome fires. This has been due to the lack of knowledge about the characteristics of wood pellets, often by both pellet plant operators and first responders, and incorrect and self-defeating tactics. The following incorrect tactics have been the cause of loss of buildings and other assets, pellets, injuries and worst of all, in several incidents, loss of life. Although water may help with controlling the flames of an out-of-control silo fire incident, deluging or spraying water on top of the pellets in a silo, dome, or flat storage will never aide in extinguishing a smoldering mass of wood pellets. The wood pellets on
the top of the pile will absorb the water and swell, creating a blanket of material, restricting the ability of water to penetrate anywhere near the core of the smoldering pellets located somewhere within the center of the pile of pellets. Water contacting hot, pyrolyzed wood pellets will generate carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen, which add to the seriousness of the conflagration, and is not helpful for extinguishing a silo fire. Water may also create pinnacles and/or columns within the silo, which may become a problem when trying to remove the product. To immediately begin removing the wood pellets from the silo, dome or flat storage pile before the pyrolysis activity within the core of the pile has been extinguished, is a recipe for disaster. The gases being released by the pyrolysis activity are nasty and dangerous, especially the methane, CO and other life-threatening gases. The ignition point of methane released from wood pellets is very low, and will ignite when it encounters the smoldering core, and the supply of oxygen from the open air. In other words, when removing the pellets down to the level where the pellets are exposed to both the smoldering core and atmospheric air, chances of an explosion and/or a rapidly spreading fire are very high.
The first lesson learned is the importance of having a plan based on best practices, and training the local fire department. This kind of incident has the potential for major injury and loss of life. Money can replace material assets, but not life. Safety of all personnel on-site and the surrounding area is priority one. In the PacBio fire, each deliberate step taken to mitigate the incident by the PacBio team and all support resources was focused on safety first. The PacBio operations team also maintained control of all actions taken, including those by the first responders. The typical reaction by a fire department is to deluge a fire with water. By having actions controlled by the PacBio team, that “what not to do” action was avoided. The Prince George fire department had trained at the site, and understood that a silo fire is not a typical incident. The response required direct communications with the fire department but with control by the pellet plant operations team. Taking time to research information resources, craft a plan, and work with the local fire fighters is the major reason that the PacBio incident has a successful conclusion. Drawing
on the experiences of other incidents successful or not, helped in the decision making of steps taken. The second lesson learned is that inert gas injection significantly lowers the probability of negative outcomes. The danger of a gas and/ or dust explosion causing serious injury, and extensive property damage is very possible. Nitrogen is most effective for minimizing these risks, and provides a low-risk pathway to gain control of the smoldering pyrolysis inside the pile while emptying the material. Nitrogen injection is recognized as the better solution as an inert gas for mitigating silo fire incidents—it is more readily available in large quantities, is easier to vaporize, and is more economical than CO2. The use of nitrogen gas was a key part of the tactics used to control and extinguish the PacBio fire. We recommend a review of the report published in 2013 by Henry Persson of SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden titled, “Silo Fires–Fire Extinguishing and Prevention, and Preparatory Measures.” This report should be a standard reference for every pellet plant, and for every fire department that may respond to a pellet silo or dome fire. At PacBio, the report’s recommended nitrogen injection flow rates were referenced, and calculations for the size of the silo were made, and very quickly a call to the local gas supplier Praxair was made. A mobile nitrogen vaporizer and tank unit, along other with tankers to follow, were mobilized from Edmonton, Alberta. The gas and oil industry utilize this type equipment regularly. An engineer from Solid Industrial Solutions was also dispatched to provide on-site assistance with the setup of the nitrogen distribution system, and control the nitrogen injection of the flow rate. Based on the needed flows and volumes of nitrogen, the PacBio team specified how to fabricate the lances to be driven into the side of the 80-foot (~24 meter) diameter silo. Within 24 hours of the call to mobilize the nitrogen; the vaporizing unit was set on-site, injection lances were in place, nitrogen distribution system connected, and the nitrogen injection began to flow. Several attempts were made to foam the top of the silo, but regardless of the foam densities, the deluge system originally installed for water was not adequate for dispersing foam evenly over the top of the pellets to create an effective proper seal. Emptying the silo commenced within 48 hours of nitrogen injection, after the oxygen
MARCH/APRIL 2018 | PELLET MILL MAGAZINE 31
« Contribution level measures within the head space of the silo dropped below 10 percent. The PacBio team safely handled and evacuated the removed material. The first responders, equipped with respiration equipment, kept all personnel safe and out of harm’s way. Wood pellets and the carbonized clumps coming from the silo were conveyed safely, without incident, to a flat area away from the plant. Even when meeting atmospheric air, there were no issues. It took approximately seven days to evacuate the 3,500 tons of aborted material, and each truckload was safely moved to a secure area away from other fiber residue stockpiles, and deluged with water as they were dumped, to ensure there were no residual hot spots. The third lesson is to be prepared to detect and control silo/dome fires. Monitoring, detection and suppression systems must be installed and maintained in good working order. A properly installed and operating heat monitoring system will assist with discovering the location of a developing hot spot within the pellet silo or dome. Early warnings of an incident will be detected and alarmed when temperature monitors inside the silo are operating correctly. Early warning, before smoke is observed, will significantly lower the loss of product, and the likelihood of a much more serious incident. Carbon monoxide and oxygen monitors installed on the top of the silo, providing constant measurement, will also assist with early incident detection. Once the nitrogen was being injected into the PacBio silo, obtaining readings without sampling equipment already installed at the top of the silo made it more challenging to determine the gas levels required for removing the material from the silo material safely. Testing and maintaining these systems must be part the weekly PM (preventive maintenance) program. A permanent, properly sized and installed nitrogen injection system within the silo or dome, complete with a manifold in a safe location with a convenient hookup, is critical. If there are no nearby suppliers of nitrogen and evaporators, the plant should strongly consider having that equipment on-site. The quickly rigged manifold used at the PacBio plant was not optimal for controlling flow to the lances. Managing an even flow rate properly distributed into the silo would have been more effective, and may have controlled the pyrolyzing core quicker. Silo or dome ventilation systems control are critical when managing a silo fire incident.
The system should have the ability to shut down and seal off bottom asperation fans, as well as the ability to control the top ventilation of the silo. This is very beneficial to minimize the exhausting gas flow and improve nitrogen penetration, and to reduce the total volume of nitrogen required. Installing a proper permanent deluge system that can accommodate both water and distribute foam properly over the top of the entire pile of pellets would be very effective. Not having the ability to seal off the material at the top of the silo or dome allows the injected nitrogen to escape more readily, which lowers the ability to control and stop the pyrolysis. The PacBio incident may have been controlled with less nitrogen, and more quickly if a foam cap had been applied.
In most cases, it’s suspected that the ignition that sets off the pyrolysis activity is due to some foreign hot debris. This could be from failed pellet mill roller bearings, conveyor system roller and/or belt failure, or molten steel from hot maintenance work. All of the above have been the causes of incidents. Because wood pellets are a biogenic product, self-heating can also be the cause of silo fire incidents. This may be due to microbiological activity, chemical oxidation processes, moisture migration, moisture absorption, or a combination of these. This process usually occurs within a temperature range up to 45 to 75 degrees Celsius, since microbes die at higher temperatures. Microbial activity primarily generates CO2, and may be detected by measuring the CO2 concentration in the silo headspace. At higher temperatures, self-heating is derived from chemical oxidation processes. In wood pellets, the cause is usually a chemical oxidation process, since the pellets are more or less sterilized during the production process. Practical experience shows that this oxidation process is especially likely in newly produced pellets, in part due to the oxidation of different resins contained in the wood material.
Call to Action
Every wood pellet industry stakeholder across the globe, from producers to end users, must share the learnings of this incident, and adopt the protocols and technology for mitigating, and hopefully, eradicating, silo fire incidents. This call to action includes all wood pellet industry associations and institutions, wood
32 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018
pellet plants, shipping terminals and power plant owners. It is essential for both safety and reliability that these best practices be understood and adopted by wood pellet plant operations management and personnel, local and regional first responders and fire brigades, first responder training academies, governmental work place safety institutions, fire protection equipment providers, wood pellet handling providers (silos, domes, conveyors), rail and shipping companies, and wood pellet project developers, engineers and EPC contractors. Any entity in the supply chain that has pellet storage in silos or domes must be encouraged to assess their current wood pellet storage systems for their ability to detect and control fire incidents and, if deficient, install protection technology and equipment, including ventilation controls, foaming equipment and nitrogen injection. Wood pellet plants, and wood pellet storage and shipping terminals, should identify and develop a relationship with a nitrogen supply and gas engineering service nearest to their respective plant location. A 10- to 12- hour transport radius would offer a sufficient response time. Any farther away, an on-site nitrogen generation system should be considered. Any entity in the supply chain that has pellet storage in silos or domes must be encouraged to develop a fire incident mitigation and training plan. They must ensure that all operations personnel and firefighters who will be called to the site understand the characteristics of wood pellets within a silo or dome, and how to fight the fire with maximum effectiveness, and minimum danger and damage. All personnel should be acquainted with the dangers of the gasses contained within the smoke being released. The statement, “It is not if there is a fire, but when” should never be allowed to influence stakeholders into a state of complacency. Every stakeholder within the wood pellet industry must strive to ensure that the “if ” does not instill a sense of acceptance with businessas-usual, and that the chances of “when” are close to zero. However, should there be a “when,” all stakeholders must be fully informed on how to deal with an incident, and fully prepared to deal with it safely and effectively. Author: John Swaan Senior Operations Expert, FutureMetrics www.futuremetrics.com
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