CHIPPING IN Fiber Suppliers Work to Expand Niche Market PAGE 26
Curran Renewable Energy's Fiber Supply Model PAGE 18
Catamount, Vermeer Partner for Precision
MARCH/APRIL 2019 | VOLUME 13 | ISSUE 2
18 PROFILE From the Ground Up
With humble beginnings in forestry, Pat Curran and his brothers have grown their businesses into major suppliers of wood chips, pellets and other forest products. By Anna Simet
26 INDUSTRY Critical Mass
Demand for semi-dry chips is on the rise. While state incentives are helping drive the budding market, suppliers are readying to meet new demand. By Ron Kotrba
36 WASTE-TO-ENERGY Mission Zero Waste
05 EDITOR’S NOTE
The Many Dynamics of Feedstock Supply By Anna Simet
08 Introducing the RFS Power Coalition By Bob Cleaves
09 Warmer Water After Political Tide Change By Bill Bell
10 RNG: Most Eﬃcient Approach to Decarbonize Buildings By Marcus Gillette
12 BUSINESS BRIEFS
Sweden’s recycling practices and deployment of state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plants have resulted in a less than one percent annual landfill rate, and heat and power to 1.5 million-plus homes. By Keith Loria
42 SUPPLY Partnering to Produce a Better Wood Chip
Vermont's growing biomass heating fuel demand is being met, in large part due to the collaboration and innovation of Vermont's fuel suppliers and their vendors. By Patrick C. Miller
48 SUPPLY CHAIN Feedstock Sourcing for Project Success: US South Advantages
The U.S. South offers clear advantages for Asian biopower producers seeking a sustainable, quality resource via an existing supply chain and competitive cost structure. By Stan Parton
52 BIOGAS US Dairy Farms: Untapped Biogas Potential
ON THE COVER:
Froling Energy recently upgraded its Peterborough, New Hampshire, precision dry chip manufacturing facility, and the company is already preparing for a major scale-up project to help meet the region's growing demand for semi-dry chips. PHOTO: FROLING ENERGY
European countries including Holland and Norway have seen widespread diary digester installations, but the U.S. has been slow to follow. By Peter Brown
56 EXPORTS Sustainable Biomass: What's Ahead for New Markets
The U.S. industrial wood pellet industry is positioned for future growth, with new opportunities in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. By Seth Ginther
Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) March/April 2019, Vol. 13, Issue 2. Biomass Magazine is published bi-monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biomass Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.
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PRESIDENT & EDITOR IN CHIEF Tom Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR Anna Simet email@example.com SENIOR EDITOR Ron Kotrba firstname.lastname@example.org STAFF WRITER Patrick C. Miller email@example.com ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann email@example.com
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7 55 29 53 24 2-3 20 31 47 11 34 28 25 44 54 12 32 38 16-17 45 13 30 15 46 22 60 40-41 14 39 21 33 23 57 50 35 51
Stacy Cook, Koda Energy Justin Price, Evergreen Engineering Tim Portz, Pellet Fuels Institute Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center
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The Many Dynamics of Feedstock Supply
ANNA SIMET EDITOR
When it comes to feedstock, there are many variables that can affect the outcome of a project or operation. From price to proximity, to cleanliness, bark, moisture content, size and more, one misstep in the process can cause setbacks. On the other hand, an improvement from the norm can cause positive ripple effects not only for the producer, but the entire industry. That might sound like a stretch, but in the world of wood drying, something innovative is brewing in the Northeast, and it has the potential to have a big impact on the biomass heating market. Innovative to the U.S. market, that is, as it’s already common in Europe—I'll explain. Back in our Nov./Dec. issue, Senior Editor Ron Kotrba profiled Froling Energy, and detailed its precision dried chips (PDC) operation. In a nutshell, these prescreened chips are delivered to customers dried down to 25 percent moisture, so users don’t have to be concerned with consistency, quality or specs. While these PDCs, or semi-dry chips, do cost more than green chips, compatible systems cost less than green chip systems, and the return on investment is quick. Froling has done the math, and maintains that burning PDCs is equivalent to burning oil at about $1.28 per gallon. Jump ahead to this issue of Biomass Magazine, and Kotrba followed up on the semi-dry chip market, particularly the notion that suppliers are few, and thus, problematic. This has perhaps slowed market growth, but Kotrba found that there are new companies stepping up, and some state incentives are greasing the tracks. Be sure to check out our feature “Critical Mass” on page 26. Following the theme of feedstock logistics, I hope you enjoy the profile I wrote on Curran Renewable Energy, “From the Ground Up,” on page 18. For the story, I chatted with founder Pat Curran about how the business evolved from a few chainsaws and a truck into what it is today. What initially intrigued me about CRE was that it is the only wood pellet supplier that I know of that 100 percent self-supplies its fiber, which has some great benefits. Deeper into this issue, staff writer Patrick Miller details discussions he had with some fuel suppliers about their operations and role in the biomass heating markets. While reading “Partnering to Produce a Better Wood Chip” on page 42, I was reminded that sometimes, equipment engineers/ designers are unsung heroes. In the story, Catamount Forest Products shares how Vermeer assisted the company—which supplies about 50,000 tons of wood chips into the biomass heating market annually—by expertly engineering its equipment to ensure its logyard operations are as efficient and economical as possible, meeting all of Catamount’s needs. “Our job is made a lot easier because of Vermeer,” says Rodney Rood, Catamount co-owner. “They stepped in and made the equipment we needed to get the job done.” Rood adds that he believes that because of the system Vermeer designed and built for Catamount, they’re in a good position to capitalize on the increasing market demand. Demonstrated by the size of this issue, feedstock logistics is a critical topic in the bioenergy industry, and not just limited to wood heat. If you’re reading this at the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Savannah, Georgia, there is a preconference seminar focusing specifically on feedstock preparation, handling and storage, so be sure to check it out, and say hello. If you have a story to tell, I would love to hear it.
6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
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Introducing the RFS Power Coalition BY BOB CLEAVES
Members of the Biomass Power Association and everyone else who follows our activities are well aware that our top priority for 2019 is to get the so-called electric RIN or “eRIN” program off the ground so that our members can participate in the Renewable Fuel Standard. A quick lesson for those who are new to the eRIN program—when Congress passed an updated version of the RFS in 2007, known as RFS2, it included electricity from qualifying renewable fuels as part of the program. Just like corn ethanol displaces the use of gasoline in internal combustion engine vehicles, electricity made by biomass fuels displaces the need for coal or natural gas to power electric vehicles. Fast-forward 12 years, and the U.S. EPA still hasn’t administered the program. That means that biomass power producers, as well as our friends in the biogas and wasteto-energy industries, can’t generate valuable credits for the renewable power they produce. Biomass power producers who are challenged with low power prices could use the boost from eRIN revenue to keep plants running and mitigate the risk of forest fires. Waste-to-energy facilities, many of which are owned by local governments, could use eRINs to provide better waste management options at a lower cost to taxpayers. The biogas industry would use eRINs to build new infrastructure to recycle food waste, recycle nutrients, manage manure on farms and lower the cost of wastewater treatment around the country. Enter the RFS Power Coalition. Biomass Power Association has teamed up with the Energy Recovery Council and the American Biogas Council to create the visibility needed to convince the EPA to activate the eRIN program this year. We have agreed on a three-prong strategy, which is as follows. • Raise awareness. The RFS Power Coalition’s new website, www.rfspower.com, summarizes the problem and its importance to our industries. You can find many let-
8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
ters that biomass power producers and other qualifying electricity producers have sent to the EPA. You can also find correspondence between the EPA and members of Congress who support eRINs, including the entire Maine and New Hampshire delegations, as well as bipartisan California House members. This website will be a handy tool for educating anyone who wishes to learn about eRINs. • Build political momentum. We continue to build on the considerable support we have already received from members of Congress. Next, we’ll develop a sign-on letter to the EPA from Congress, and we are working with congressional champions on legislation that requires the EPA to act. • Challenge the EPA. The way we read the law, the EPA is in violation of a congressional mandate to implement the eRIN program. We recently filed a petition in D.C. Circuit Court challenging the EPA on its 2019 renewable volume obligation (a yearly setting of fuel targets for the following year), which did not include electricity. At the International Biomass Conference and Expo in Savannah, Georgia, you can learn much more from the heads of the RFS Power Coalition and the companies most impacted by EPA’s inaction on eRINs during the opening general session and the RFS track panel on Tues., March 19. You can also contact me or my colleague, Carrie Annand, any time to discuss whether your company is missing out on valuable eRIN credits because the EPA won’t act. Author: Bob Cleaves President, Biomass Power Association firstname.lastname@example.org www.usabiomass.org
Warmer Water After Political Tide Change BY BILL BELL
“Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learning how, come on and safari with me.” (The Beach Boys, 1962.) Perhaps because the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than any other part of the Atlantic, November’s electoral “Blue Wave” surged higher in our state than anywhere else in the country. Democrat Janet Mills became Maine’s first female governor, following eight years of a controversial Republican executive. Our state Senate, previously controlled by a narrow Republican majority, is now 21-14 Democratic. Democrats substantially increased their majority in the Maine House. In northern Maine, a young Marine veteran defeated the Republican Congressman, the first time in over 100 years that the incumbent has failed to win this district, the second most rural in the U.S. Our new representative has constantly stressed his solidarity with “Maine’s farmers, fishermen and loggers.” Equally significant, the first policy issue cited by Mills in her inaugural address was the need to address climate change, a subject of ridicule for her predecessor, who routinely vetoed bills promoting alternative energy. Also of note, the University of Maine campus in the governor’s home town is heated with wood chips, generating $7 in economic activity for every dollar spent on fuel, according to the university. And the schools are all heated by pellet boilers. What to do with all this political currency? Maine’s State Wood Energy Team, working with Maine Forest Service and funded with a U.S. Forest Service grant, included a state senator and a state House member in our Wood Heating Symposium held in northern Maine this fall. Both legislators were impressed by the attendance, expertise and energy at this conference. The state senator is now Senate president, and is sponsoring two bills to provide funding for modern wood heating in schools, commercial buildings and residences. The House member is now assistant minority leader, and sponsoring a bill to push all schools using state construction funds to give full consideration to biomass heating. Even more enticing, big picture, is the fact that a coalition of alternative energy interests and environmental groups have come together on a far-reaching proposal to greatly expand Maine’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The RPS currently requires that 10 percent of Maine’s electricity be renewably generated. The proposed new goal: 50 percent renewable by 2030. Even more important to us is that up to five percent of the program would provide cashable renewable energy credits to be issued to thermal energy users.
This granting of thermal energy credits, or “TRECs,” has been a goal of the biomass industry for years, and is now well-established in New Hampshire, and more recently, in Massachusetts. It’s complicated, beginning with the question of how to measure thermal generation. To install a measuring device on a residential pellet boiler costs almost as much as the financial benefit to be gained by selling the T-RECS to an aggregator. Massachusetts has a simpler system, based on the assumption that heating pellets purchased by a homeowner are actually used for heating, rather than kitty litter or winter driveway traction. It is our intent in Maine to leave complicated details to the Public Utilities Commission. Mills—whose campaign symbol was a pine tree— has made it clear that we are welcome participants in energy discussions, and has specifically invited input from Maine Energy Systems entrepreneur Les Otten. Following through, our association has joined with Otten to bring on board a prominent lawyer/lobbyist (who finished second to Mills in the gubernatorial primary) to work with legislators. Our goal is to establish funds and incentives for installation of pellet heating in Maine homes, schools and commercial buildings. Now that the pushback to our goals no longer comes from a governor and the governor’s legislative allies, our challenge may be to avoid getting pulled and lost in the sheer force of the “Blue Wave.” There is a major legislative proposal, being replicated in 10 other states including all of New England, to create what amounts to a Maine carbon tax, with proceeds to be distributed as rebates to utility customers. Another bill proposes to replace the two major private electric utilities with a “community-based utility.” Our legislature’s energy committee, which is mostly comprised of new members, will be dealing with more than 100 bills, twice than normal. One committee veteran, himself a staunch advocate for renewables, calls the new scene “ecstatic chaos.” In this environment, we may be fighting to gain the bandwidth necessary for our proposals to move forward. But in this very cold winter, the water’s much warmer than before. Author: Bill Bell Executive Director, Maine Pellet Fuels Association email@example.com www.mainepelletheat.com
RNG: Most Efficient Approach to Decarbonizing Buildings BY MARCUS GILLETTE
Critics of natural gas in markets scattered across the U.S. have begun to call for 100 percent electrification of buildings to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the sector. They also often claim that it will benefit low-income and minority communities. But the facts are to the contrary, and instead show that a rigid call for electrified buildings as the sole way to reduce emissions is misguided. We should applaud the end goal of decarbonization. It’s possible for our building sector, and we are all worthy of reduced emissions and increasingly cleaner, healthier air. However, requiring across-the-board electrification of buildings limits consumer choice. It’s also incredibly costly for residents and small businesses, and therefore will not help low-income families as the diehards of electrification claim. The better approach is to support avenues that facilitate the reduction of emissions from all types of energy. This enables the energy used to heat buildings to increasingly come from cleaner production streams, while allowing individuals, families and businesses the liberty to act on their renewable energy preferences: clean electricity when the building warrants it and customers so choose; and renewable gas for heating when citizens prefer it, and in buildings already equipped to heat with natural gas. People deserve the right to consider their circumstances and location, and to ultimately choose the best clean energy option for their home or business. Statistics show that, predominantly, this preference will be to choose natural gas— an energy that, like electricity, is becoming more and more renewable. For example, studies in southern California show that a majority of regional residents prefer natural gas to heat their homes. A poll by the California Building Industry Association last year showed just one in 10 voters would choose a home with all-electric appliances. In a market that proved in last November’s election to be one of the country’s more progressive regions, just 10 percent of respondents want to heat with electricity. Like consumers, chefs prefer natural gas in restaurants, too. A survey conducted for the Florida Public Utilities Co. showed that 98 percent of surveyed chefs said they prefer gas as their “primary energy source for their primary cooking equipment.” At a much lower cost than it would require to convert all buildings to electric appliances, we can more efficiently achieve even greater GHG reductions by heating buildings with increasing amounts of renewable natural gas (RNG or biomethane) produced from our existing, recurring organic waste in wastewater and landfills, and waste from agriculture and livestock. Critics say we can’t feasibly produce enough renewable gas to make a big enough impact. In fact, the numbers say we don’t actually need as much as one might think to make 10 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
the same impact. A 2018 study by Navigant Consulting found that using RNG from organic waste to replace just 16 percent of the fossil natural gas consumed in our most populous state would achieve similar GHG reductions to electrifying all of California’s buildings. This is achievable. In the transportation sector, RNG is already replacing fossil gas, and now fuels about 30 percent of the medium- and heavy-duty natural gas trucks and buses across the U.S. The California Air Resources Board identifies RNG as the lowest carbon-intense fuel under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. In terms of affordability, the U.S. EPA concluded that RNG is among the most cost-effective biofuels used to attain GHG reductions targeted by the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RNG strategy for decarbonizing buildings is the more affordable solution. Exclusive, 100 percent electrification is far costlier than substituting RNG for fossil-derived natural gas to decrease GHGs from homes and businesses. Navigant Consulting found that heating buildings with more RNG is three times more cost-effective than an all-electric strategy would be in California. Mandating electrification of buildings will not save lowincome families money. CBIA studies reveal the high cost of electrifying homes. In homes with existing natural gas appliances, replacing those appliances for all-electric alternatives would cost families up to $6 billion annually just in California, and require most buildings to undergo expensive retrofits. That’s an almost $900 increase in annual energy costs for every family in the state. Examining the impacts of a full electrification approach in markets across the U.S., a 2018 study prepared by ICF showed that “the total economy-wide increase in energyrelated costs (residential consumer costs plus incremental power generation and transmission costs) from policy-driven residential electrification ranges from $590 billion to $1.2 trillion.” The study goes on to say that this equates to between $1,060 and $1,420 per year in additional cost for each affected household. In summary, increasing proportions of renewable gas to supplant fossil gas is the preferred—and plainly, better— approach to decreasing emissions from the buildings sector, with wheels already in motion. Restricting renewable energy options for businesses and homes by mandating complete electrification does not get us to the goal of reduced GHG in the most efficient, cost-effective manner, nor the manner that energy consumers prefer. Author: Marcus Gillette Director of Public Affairs, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas firstname.lastname@example.org 916-588-3033
Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
Q.E.D. releases LANDTEC SEM5000 methane detector
Kotrba receives National Biodiesel Board award
Q.E.D. Environmental Systems Inc., environmental product manufacturer and subsidiary of Graco Inc., announced the new LANDTEC SEM5000 methane detector, LANDTEC SEM5000 ideal for landfill surface emissions monitoring (SEM). The SEM5000 meets or exceeds U.S. EPA Method 21, Determination of Volatile Organic Compound Leaks requirements for quarterly SEM monitoring. The SEM5000 uses patented laser technology with a frequency dialed specifically to methane. Unlike flame ionization devices (FIDs), the SEM5000 uses laser technology, so there is no cross-gas effect or false readings due to the presence of other gases or hydrocarbons as with FIDs.
The National Biodiesel Board has named its annual award recipients, this year recognizing Ron Kotrba, editor of Biodiesel Magazine, with its Influence Award. NBB’s awards recognize a diverse Kaleb Little, National Biodiesel group of individuals and organi- Board; Ron Kotrba, Biodiesel zations that have made significant Magazine; and Kent Engelbrecht, NBB/ADM. contributions to biodiesel. Kotrba has served as editor of Biodiesel Magazine for nearly a decade, providing key insights into the industry and covering every nuanced topic in the space with precision. Kotrba also serves as senior editor for Pellet Mill Magazine and Biomass Magazine. Before becoming editor of Biodiesel Magazine, he was a senior writer for all of BBI International’s publications, writing for the company since January 2005.
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Prior to his time with BBI International, Kotrba was an advanced engineering laboratory technician for an OEM exhaust supplier and was involved in developmental work on diesel aftertreatment systems such as diesel particulate filters, urea SCR and lean NOx traps. Kotrba earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.
B&W turns over Denmark waste-to-energy project to Amager Ressourcecenter
Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. announced that its subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S, successfully turned over the leading-edge Amager Bakke/Copenhill waste-toenergy plant near Copenhagen, Denmark, to its customer, Amager Ressourcecenter. B&W previously announced it expects to turn over four plants in the first and second quarters of 2019; the Amager Bakke/Copenhill project project is the second of the four.
Jointly owned by five Copenhagen-area municipalities, the Copenhill project a state-of-the-art renewable energy plant featuring a modern and novel architectural design that includes a publicly accessible ski slope on its roof. The plant is capable of processing approximately 560,000 metric tons of waste annually to supply more than 50,000 homes and businesses with electricity, and 120,000 households with district heating. B&W Vølund’s project scope included the design and supply of the plant’s boiler, B&W Vølund’s DynaGrate combustion system, slag and ash-handling equipment and advanced environmental technology.
Kusano joins FutureMetrics
FutureMetrics Inc. has hired Yoshinobu Kusano as policy advisor regarding the Asian wood pellet markets. Kusano has extensive experience in the wood pellet sector and will provide FutureMetrics with updates and analysis on current and evolving policy in the high-growth regions of northeast and southeast Asia. Kusano’s experience, contacts and
Continued on page 14
DRYER ONE is a drying machine, which dries the wet products at low temperatures, like 85-90°C / 210°F range. DRYER ONE is designed to meet the increasing demands for the safe and economical dryers, which meets the higher productivity requirements, higher quality & standards, energy savings, flexibility and safety. The design of operation of DRYER ONE considerably reduces dust emissions and VOCs pollution. DRYER ONE dryers can easily adapt to all situations, especially when used as annexed unit to a gas burner, biomass burner or cogeneration unit. Today in Europe the major companies in the pellets industry are choosing and many of them have chosen DRYER ONE over other types dryers.
dryer-one.com / email@example.com BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 13
¦BUSINESS BRIEFS Continued from page 13
knowledge about policy will enhance FutureMetrics' understanding of the current and future Japanese and South Korean markets for industrial wood pellets. He is currently the executive advisor and the head of the fuel procurement group for Biomass Energy at Renova, a Japanese developer and operator of renewable power projects. Prior to Renova, he spent several decades with Sumitomo Corp., leading its wood chip and wood pellet group.
Player Design, Unitemp hire Nesbitt
Unitemp Dry Kilns and Player Design Inc. have hired Kevin Nesbitt as national sales manager for the Unitemp Dry Kiln and Player Design rotary wood dryer and energy system product lines. Nesbitt has over 24 years of capital equipment sales in air pollution control and dryers. He received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, College Station, and a master’s degree the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Nesbitt serves on the board of directors for the Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association. In his new role at Unitemp Dry Kilns and Player Design, he is responsible for North American sales and marketing.
Skeena Sawmills, PacBio enter wood pellet offtake agreement
Skeena Sawmills Ltd. and Pacific BioEnergy Corp. have entered into a long term off-take agreement for wood pellets. Under the terms
14 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
of the agreement, PacBio will purchase all of the pellets produced at Skeena Sawmills’ new, state-of-the-art pellet plant, in support of PacBio’s long term supply agreements with power producers in Japan. Skeena’s pellet plant is built adjacent to the company’s sawmill in Terrace, British Columbia, and will commence production in Q1 2019.
Groups launch RFS Power Coalition
The Biomass Power Association, American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council have announced the launch of the RFS Power Coalition, which has a mission of prompting the U.S. EPA to act on inclusion of qualifying renewable electricity under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The three trade organizations represent domestic biomass power producers who use organic fuels like forest residues, biogas-to-electricity producers such as dairy farmers and wastewater treatment facilities, and waste-to-energy producers. All three qualify as renewable transportation fuels that should be included in the D3 cellulosic and D5 advanced fuel categories of the RFS. To get EPA to act, in early February, the three groups filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit federal appeals court challenging the EPA’s 2019 renewable volume obligation, which excluded electricity from its targets for renewable fuel production for this year.
The RFS Power Coalition estimates that the inclusion of electricity would result in about 200 million gasoline gallon equivalents added to the D3 cellulosic fuel category of the RFS. A website has been launched at rfspower.com.
RNG Coalition adds former CARB transportation fuel chief to staff
The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas has announced the hire of Sam Wade, former chief of the transportation fuel branch at the California Air Resources Board, as the organizationâ€™s director of state regulatory affairs, effective Jan. 15. Wade joins the RNG Coalition after spending the past four years leading CARBâ€™s transportation fuel branch. He previously served as deputy director of legislative affairs and as an air resources engineer for the state agency. Wade holds a masterâ€™s degree in environmental science and policy from Columbia University, a masterâ€™s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Hawaii, and a bachelorâ€™s degree in mechanical engineering from University of California, Davis.
Simmons was confirmed for the post by the U.S. Senate on Jan. 2, and officially sworn in to the assistant secretary role on Jan. 16. On Feb. 6, he was ceremonially sworn in by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Simmons previously served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the DOEâ€™s EERE, where he oversaw technology developSimmons ment in the energy efficiency, renewable power and sustainable transportation sectors. Prior to his government service, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. He also served as the director of the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, was a research fellow at the Mercatus Center, and worked as professional staff on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources. In his new role, Simmons will oversee technology development in the energy efficiency, renewable power and sustainable transportations sectors.
Simmons heads US DOEâ€™s EERE program
Daniel Simmons has been sworn in as the U.S. DOEâ€™s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy assistant secretary.
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From the Ground UP New York pellet producer Curran Renewable Energy and its associated businesses have deep roots in forestry, and long-term plans for further growth. BY ANNA SIMET
ust about two miles from the Canadian border in northern New York, nestled along the St. Lawrence River between two tributaries, is the small town of Massena. Home to roughly 10,000 people—less than half the population in 1960—Massena has experienced the same economic depression that so many industrial towns have over the past several decades, a result of widespread decline of U.S. manufacturing. While some of the largest job providers there have shut down business—most recently, aluminum manufacturer Alcoa—there are still employers with roots deep in the ground and holding, businesses that have pivoted and strategized to keep people working and maintain their livelihoods.
One of those employers is Curran Renewable Energy. Founder and CEO Pat Curran is quick to relay the success of the company to his employees. “None of us behind the business are anything without them,” says Curran. “I really care an awful lot about the individuals who work for us—there are lot of great people who make all of this work.” By “this all,” Curran refers to not only the 100,000-ton-plus capacity pellet plant the company operates in Massena, but also Curran Logging and Seaway Timber Harvesting, businesses that are owned among Curran and his brothers Tim and Lee, and are strategically connected. Employing roughly 100, the Currans built their businesses from the ground up, starting out with
18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
just a one-ton truck and some chainsaws that belonged to his father, Curran says.
Learning the Trade
“A lot of people start out doing something when they are young just to work, and the next thing they know, decades have gone by.” And a lot has happened in those decades. Curran says early on,
he and his brothers endured fluctuating forestry markets, but always found other work until things leveled off. “We did other things to stay alive, and eventually, the markets came back and kept growing with the timber business,” he says. Fast-forward to 1984, and Curran Logging was founded, followed by Seaway
Pat Curran began his career in the forest industry several decades ago, eventually founding Curran Logging, Seaway Timber Harvesting and Curran Renewable Energy with his brothers, Tim and Lee. PHOTO: CURRAN RENEWABLE ENERGY
Timber Harvesting in 1990. Today, about 30 percent of what the businesses harvest comes from company-owned land, the remainder is either federal, state or private. “We have an aggregate side of the business as well, that deals in stone, sand, gravel, we run most of that through Curran Logging,” Curran says. Seaway harvests around 350,000
tons of wood chips annually, delivering to a diverse customer base. “On the timber side, we supply to paper mills such as International paper in Ticonderoga, New York, Domtar in Windsor, Quebec and Fortress Paper in Thurso, Quebec,” Curran says. “We also supply ReEnergy, a biomass power plant in Watertown, New York, with
low-grade wood chips, several different sawmills throughout New York and Quebec, totaling between five and seven million board feet annually. A portion of the 350,000 tons supplies our pellet mill, both high-grade clean chips for pellet production, and lowergrade wood chips that are burned in our furnace to create heat.”
To give some context as to how much waste is generated from harvesting operations, about 25 percent of the annual harvest is of low quality, and goes to markets like ReEnergy or CRE’s pellet plant. With the goal of utilizing as much of the tree as possible, pellet production seemed like a natural fit years ago. But if the timing had BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 19
Inside its main building, in Massena, New York, CRE houses five Andritz pellet mills, allowing for an annual capacity of more than 100,000 tons.
been slightly different, Curran says he doesn’t believe the plant would have come to fruition. The idea was conceived after a paper mill customer in Ontario closed, pushing the Curran businesses into markets much farther from the Massena area, such as a Domtar paper mill in Quebec, he explains. “That’s been a great market for us, but we’re 200 miles one way, so the truck doesn’t have a lot of life other
than just one trip a day,” Curran says. “We have plenty of fiber in our region, and back in 2007 during the energy crisis, pellets were beginning to become quite popular.” CRE achieved financing for the pellet plant in December 2007. “I don’t think we would have been able to borrow that money in 2008,” Curran says. “And now, we’re now in our 10th year of production.”
Though familiar with the fiber link of the supply chain, the Currans weren’t familiar with making pellets, and realized they’d need some outside expertise to learn the ropes. “We didn’t know anything about pellet production, but we hired a guy from Wisconsin—John Lundell of Energy Unlimited—and he ended up putting the facility together for us. John had an employee with extensive wood pellet
production experience, who stayed on with us through the start-up phase for six months, and taught us how to make quality wood pellets. Today, Plant Manager Dan Measheaw manages the daily operations and maintenance.” There is quite an art to producing wood pellets, Curran adds. “It’s not just a case of throwing wood fiber in one end, and the pellets come out the other end. And a lot
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Seaway Timber harvests about 350,000 tons of wood chips annually from company-owned, federal, state and private lands each year, and serves a diverse customer base including pulp and paper mills, a biomass power facility and its affiliated wood pellet plant, Curran Renewable Energy.
of this you donâ€™t learn until youâ€™ve made mistakes.â€? Besides using its lowestgrade forest residuals to make a product that diversifies the companyâ€™s revenues streams, whatâ€™s particularly unique about Curran is operating a pellet plant that 100 percent self-supplies its feedstock, an unconventional business model within the U.S. wood pellet industry.
Not having to rely on a fiber supplier has benefits, one of which is that there isnâ€™t a question regarding quality, or unforeseen delays. â€œYou al-
ways know whatâ€™s going to come in, where it is, and what the quality is,â€? Curran says. â€œIf you really care about your enduser, in this case the domestic pellet customer who will burn it in a stove, you will pay attention to your feedstock. It has to be clean coming in. If itâ€™s industrial grade, you can get away with a little more ash.â€? Boosting equipment utilization is another perk. â€œWeâ€™ve run into situations where some of our trucks might run a couple of loads of fiber to our wood yard, and then the chips will be reloaded and hauled to Domtarâ€™s Windsor paper mill, with enough time
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left to go back to the bush and pick up another load. That will be brought to the pellet plant in Massena, and after dumping, the truck is only five minutes away from where itâ€™s parked. So the biggest advantage is utilizing our transportation the best we can. We could be even better, but without having a strong market in our area, with every load dumped, weâ€™re deadheading all the way home.â€? What helps make all of this work smoothly is that in Massena, Curran owns a parts department, run by employees Rodney Aiders and Gary Prashaw. The facility is
stocked to handle all transportation and mechanized process equipment needsâ€”Seaway owns a fleet of about 35 trucks and all of the forestry equipment to harvest, skid, slash, chip and grindâ€”to keep downtime to a minimum. And to accommodate existing customer and future industry needs, the company has a processing and transfer station on 52 acres in Chateaugay, New York, right on the Canadian border. As for operations at the plant, Curran admits that while pellet manufacturing made sense, it has been a difficult market, as an influx of
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Curran Renewable Energy delivers pellets to homes and businesses with a pneumatic, 15-ton capacity bulk wood pellet truck, a purchase partially funded by NYSERDA. PHOTO: CRE
new facilities a decade ago resulted in market saturation, leading to some tough years for those in the business. And, external forces have compounded that issue in some years. “In 2014 and 2015, we ran for 26 months—we never shut down, ran seven days a week,” he says. “Then, 2016 and 2017 were very bleak, and in 2018, we started to see an upward change. The market is strengthening again.” CRE houses five Andritz pellet mills, one of which is used as a reserve. CRE’s pellets, packaged with a HamerFischbein bagging system, are mostly purchased by box stores like Tractor Supply, Lowe’s and Home Hardware of Canada, and several stove shops throughout the North22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
east, Ontario and Quebec. A small percentage goes into the bulk market, but Curran says that piece is steadily growing. He adds that in a decade of operation, the plant has only run at full capacity three of those years. Diversifying its product offering has helped—besides heating pellets and wood chips, Curran produces cooking pellets, including flavors BBQ, apple, cherry, maple and hickory, as well as animal bedding and garden mulch. And the company hasn’t stopped pursuing new opportunities. CRE has been Forest Stewardship Council certified since its onset and recently become certified through the Sustainable Biomass Partnership. The hope is to generate
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¦PROFILE Pellet Plants in New York
(Capacities to nearest hundred metric ton)
Associated Harvest Inc.
Dry Creek Wood Pellets
Lignetics of New England-Deposit
Lignetics of New England-Schuyler
Instantheat Wood Pellets Inc.
Curran Renewable Energy LLC Essex Pallet & Pellet Hearthside Wood Pellets
SOURCE: BBI INTERNATIONAL NORTH AMERICAN PELLET PRODUCER MAP
a market for a portion of its product to be used in the industrial market, and put the facility at 100 percent operational. “I want to make sure that the employees that stick with the company, those who
have been here forever, and the young people yet to come, that there is guaranteed work for them yet to come forward,” Curran says. A long-term goal of Curran is is to someday build a
bigger plant, double the size of its current 100,000-plus capacity facility. “I would like to have a pretty good footprint on a larger market, the export market,” Curran says. CRE is located within close proximity to several ports—35 miles from Port of Ogdensburg, 54 miles from Port of Valleyfield, Quebec, and 85 miles from the Port of Montreal. In the meantime, the company will continue to find ways to streamline operations and boost its bottom line. One of CRE’s most recent major investments was a Torbel fluidized bed hot gas furnace, which allowed CRE to stop burning clean fiber for energy. CRE realized that the original furnace wasn’t sufficient, and that more heat was needed. “We have invested heavily in this facility, and
I’m pretty proud of it,” Curran adds. “We’re not the most glamorous around, but with the workforce we have and employees who care, we hold our own in most marketplaces. I have no plans to move away from this—I hope to stay in it for a long time yet.”
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Critical Mass Old and new players alike are stepping up their game with semi-dry wood chips, and state incentives are helping drive the market to maturity. BY RON KOTRBA
he small but growing U.S. market for semidry wood chips finds its home in niche applications in the Northeast. “It’s not for everyone,” says Charles Levesque, a founding partner with Innovative Wood Fuels LLC. “Semi-dry wood chips are perfect for facilities that are maybe on the large size for wood pellets, or on the small side for traditional green wood chips. That’s the sweet spot.” Several years ago, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC partnered with North Country Procurement Inc. to form Innovative Wood Fuels, and by 2012, field research was underway air-drying various species to get a better understanding of producing semidry wood chips with moisture content below 30 percent. “We were trying to mimic the way they dry chips in Western Europe, using the sun,” Levesque tells Biomass Magazine. “Active
drying systems are expensive and, given the size of the market, we didn’t think it made sense—and we still don’t think it makes much sense because the market hasn’t grown all that much.” Levesque said IWF had begun promoting semi-dry wood chips to various clients early on, working to create a market by urging owners of businesses, manufacturing centers, schools, town buildings and hospitals in the Northeast to switch from fossil fuels to biomass. “We had been doing this promotion for a while, and there was an increase in the number of installations of wood pellet and chip boilers for heating,” he says. “Then, just as things were gearing up, fossil fuel prices tanked in 2014. Things have moved a lot slower since then. There are still new installations, but not at the rate prior.”
26 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
IWF produces an appropriate range for a niche market: thousands of tons per year. “We don’t have customers in the 5,000-ton range,” Levesque says, adding that a good-sized high school of 800 to 1,000 students to which he supplies semi-dry chips uses between 500 and 600 tons per year. “It makes it difficult to ratchet up volumes when you’re dealing with that size customer. We have the capacity to scale up to 10,000 tons, and if that happened over the
next few years, I’d be delighted.” Logwood enters IWF’s yard in central New Hampshire from “the existing logging infrastructure,” Levesque says. The company purchases select species of hardwood and softwood and sells both kinds of semi-dry chips. “Some markets want hardwood, and others want softwood,” he says. The logs are placed in specially designed stacks, which must be completely arranged by May for
Innovative Wood Fuels in New Hampshire delivers its semi-dry wood chips with a full-size live floor tractor-trailer, which can haul twice as much product as a pneumatic blower truck. PHOTO: INNOVATIVE WOOD FUELS LLC
chipping in the fall. “Once it’s decked, we do periodic moisture checks,” Levesque says. The material stays in roundwood form until chipping. IWF subs the chipping out to a number of contractors. “All the knives are set to produce a smaller-diameter chip, and we use a screening system to get the size we want with minimal fines,” Levesque says. “The delivery mechanics to the boiler are not like what you see for a green chip boiler. For semi-dry chips it’s
more nuanced and delicate. You have to be careful of the quality. There’s a lot more manufacturing and product movement involved compared to chipping in the woods and delivering to market.” Prechipping begins at the end of September. IWF prechips in order to have supply on hand in case a customer calls and needs fast delivery. The prechip pile is stored under cover, out of the weather. Other than the prechip pile, much of IWF’s dried log-
wood is chipped directly into full-size live floor trailers and delivered. “The facilities we supply must be able to handle live floor trailers,” Levesque says. “We’ve dallied in using pneumatic blower trucks, but it’s too expensive. The market is not big enough to own one of those trucks. We can deliver at a much lower price if the facility is set up to receive fullsize live floor trailers.” The live floor trailers can haul 23 to 24 tons per load, whereas a blower truck can do half that. “If
you’re delivering an hour one way, that makes a huge difference and, combined with our passive drying technique, it helps us offer the lowest possible price to our customers.” The passive drying technique IWF employs to produce semi-dry wood chips is a guarded trade secret, but Levesque says the honed approach is based on timber species and size, the actual layout of the physical piles, and ensuring as much sun exposure as possible during the maxiBIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 27
mum critical drying months of May through September. â€œAll of those things make up our trade secrets,â€? he says. â€œWhen we follow the formula weâ€™ve developed, we know weâ€™ll be at 30 percent maximum moisture.â€? The cost-savings is a â€œhugeâ€? advantage, according to Levesque, but the major disadvantage is space needed for scale-up. â€œThe material we produce is 25 to 40 percent cheaper than the other producer,â€? he says. â€œIf we go to active drying and a smaller truck, itâ€™s a much more expensive product. The disadvantage, if we were to be lucky and blessed enough to grow so big, is space to scale up if we run out. We literally need physical space on planet Earth, but weâ€™re nowhere near the scale where thatâ€™s a problemâ€”yet.â€?
Competition is crucial for an industry such as semi-dry wood chips to hit critical mass.
Froling Energy, a pioneer in the space, welcomes competition from IWF and others to help establish the market. Also based in New Hampshire, Froling Energy does not chip at its yard like IWF does. Rather, it buys bolewood that is chipped in the forest. While IWF sells separate hardwood and softwood chips, Froling Energy provides a blend of two-thirds hardwood and one-third softwood. â€œItâ€™s always mixed,â€? says President Mark Froling. â€œWe blend here on-site through the screening process, so we put two buckets of hardwood and a bucket of softwood. It seems to be a good mix. We experimented with all pine and all hardwoods, but we like this mixâ€” we get good performance out of the blower truck and our boilers.â€? Froling says the bolewood chips come in an â€œunrulyâ€? state from the forest, so once delivered to Frolingâ€™s yard the tramp metals are removed and the chips are screened so 99
percent of the product is less than 1.5 inches. From there, the chips enter the active dehydration stage to produce semidry chips, which Froling has branded precision dry chips (PDC). The company recently upgraded its PDC manufacturing facility from a batch dryer system with a fluid bed floor to a larger, more predictable belt dryer system built for Froling Energy by Germany-based Rudnick & Enners GmbH. The belt is six feet wide and 50 feet long and the heat is provided by a 3.2 MMBtu biomass boiler that runs on PDCs. About 10 percent of the PDCs Froling Energy produces is used to dry its chips. â€œItâ€™s a low-temperature belt dryer and itâ€™s been working well,â€? Froling says. â€œOn average, we dry our PDCs to 25 percent moisture.â€? The company is preparing for a major scale-up project, and its new dryer is part of the plan. â€œOur lease is coming to an end here soon, and we are
looking to fourfold our operation,â€? Froling tells Biomass Magazine. â€œWeâ€™re in the middle of acquiring land for a much larger site to produce quite a bit more chips.â€? In 2018, the company sold about 6,000 tons. Froling says this year he projects 8,000 tons and more than 10,000 tons in 2020, after a few new installation projects come online. Froling Energy doesnâ€™t just produce PDCs, but it also is a boiler installer for medium-sized operations such as schools, universities, libraries, municipal buildings and manufacturing centers. â€œOnce weâ€™re in the 10,000plus range, our approach for this new process will be similar,â€? he says. â€œWe will still be screening and removing tramp metal, but we will use a steam boiler with a turbine.â€? The cogeneration of heat and power from a new, larger steam boiler and turbine will provide low-pressure steam to feed the same Rudnick & Enners dryer and high-pressure steam to generate electricity, help-
&RQYH\RU6\VWHPVy$XWRPDWLF5HFODLPHUV +LJK$QJOH&RQYH\RUV 28 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
Froling Energy’s new belt dryer supplied by Germany-based Rudnick & Enners has sped up the wood chip drying process and helped make moisture content more uniform and predictable. PHOTO: FROLING ENERGY
ing offset Froling Energy’s $50,000 annual power bill. “We’re going to do all of that out of the same batch of fuel,” Froling says. The new biomass boiler will be double the size of its current boiler and feature more redundancy. “If we have a failure, we need more resiliency and redundancy in our process, so we’re concentrating on that—more backup,
more stout and resilient equipment, and making power ourselves as part of the resiliency,” Froling says. “We want to make a low-carbon product, and by making our own power we’re reducing our own carbon footprint and that of our product.”
The 2018 Farm Bill increased authorized funding of
$25 million for the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Program (CWEIP) in years 2019-’23. “The use of wood for thermal energy from sustainably managed forest lands has numerous economic and environmental benefits including local job creation, enhanced energy security in rural communities, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and
improved forest health, which reduce the risk of wildfires on public and private lands,” says Jeff Serfass, executive director of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. The improved CWEIP establishes a new national competitive grant program providing funding for up to 35 percent of installed costs on advanced community-scale wood heating, district heating and wood combined-heat-
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Tim Crane, founder of TTC Energy and co-owner of Holiday Farm in Dalton, Massachusetts, was awarded $1 million from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to develop his semi-dry wood chip manufacturing business in the western part of the state.
and-power projects, as well as grants for projects that commercialize new innovative uses of wood. Froling says his company has never received federal incentives for its startup or operations, but he says state incentives have been important. “We were able to get grant funding through the Public Utilities Commission,” he says. “In New Hampshire, the PUC funds renewable energy projects.” The first round of grant funding Froling Energy received was for its boiler to power the drying plant. “The PUC doesn’t incentivize drying or process equipment,” Froling says. Froling Energy has applied for a second grant funding round through the state for its resiliency increases and cogeneration plant planned for construction to expand operations later
PHOTO: TTC ENERGY LLC
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this year. “We applied, but we won’t know if we’ll get it ‘til springtime,” Froling says. The company also helps its boiler-install clients, almost all of which are commercial entities vs. residential customers, apply for state incentives. “Almost every one of them is large enough where it makes sense to spend time on grant applications,” he says. “Sometimes the state will pay up to 30 percent of the costs, other times it’s 10 percent.” Not only is Froling eligible for grants to help offset its own and its customers’ costs, but given that the company uses PDCs to dry PDCs, it generates renewable energy credits (REC) under the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) as well. “In New Hampshire, those are [obtained] for every megawatt-hour of thermal energy produced,” Frol-
ing says. “So right now with our current boiler, more or less, we generate one REC certificate an hour.” He says while market prices fluctuate, each REC certificate is typically worth around $20. “It’s a nice discount,” Froling says. “It’s a quasi-rebate or subsidy that helps us make this fuel. Our customers are also getting RECs for every megawatt-hour—we are one of the larger thermal energy credit creators.” Levesque says it’s essential to have incentives. He adds that he is encouraged by what is taking place in his neighboring state of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts’ RPS was created in the late ‘90s and first went into effect in 2003. It initially provided incentives for biomass power plants. By
2011-’12, interest in renewable thermal energy was on the rise. In 2012, a report was issued through the Commonwealth Accelerated Renewable Thermal Strategy that laid out a plan to follow for the state to expand renewable heating and cooling offerings. The CARTS report offered a suite of recommendations, including infrastructure grants to support local growth, expanding the RPS to include heating, rebates and more. The first round of grant funding focused on the renewable heating supply chain. The second round of state grant funding was just announced Feb. 11 and granted nearly $3 million in match funding for several wood chip projects. Four of the five recipients have wood chip-related projects, and at least three of the five involve dried wood chips.
“There are different standards and requirements for using pellets, dry Judge chips and green chips under the Massachusetts Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS),” says Mike Judge, director of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Division of the state Department of Energy Resources. The APS was established to complement the existing RPS. “The DOER wants to promote the use of dry chips and pellets as much as possible,” Judge tells Biomass Magazine. “Dry chips burn cleaner and more efficiently, so it’s the most efficient use of the local resources we have and some-
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32 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019 &OLHQW*OREDO%LRPDVV*URXS 3XEOLFDWLRQ%LRPDVV0DJD]LQH 2UGHU/LQH
Matt Barron is chair of the policy committee at the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, an advocacy group pushing the use of wood heat in the state. PHOTO: MASSACHUSETTS FOREST ALLIANCE
thing that we would like to see used more often when displacing fossil fuels.â€? Caluwe Inc. of Burlington is receiving $426,000 in cost-share funding to build a showroom storage warehouse in western Massachusetts and purchase a service vehicle. Also included in the project is the full testing and certification of several European wood chip boilers and related emission control devices to U.S. EPA and Underwriters Laboratories standards. Pantermehl Land Clearing Inc. of Ashfield is granted $350,000 to purchase a large format chipper, live floor trailer and chip screen to allow for the creation and bulk delivery of dried woodchips. Also cost-shared is a 65-foot by 80-foot chip storage building and asphalt pad. Wagner Wood of Amherst is receiving $885,000 in cost-share funding to purchase the equipment to process, handle, store and deliver dried wood chips. This project will include the purchase of a chip trailer designed to pneumatically deliver dried chips into residential or commercial fuel storage silos. And the largest cost-share grant recipient under the Feb. 11 award announcement is Holiday Farm Inc. of Dalton, which is receiving $1 million to purchase equipment to process, handle, store and de-
liver dried wood chips. This project will include the purchase of two pneumatic delivery trucks. Tim Crane, co-owner of Holiday Farm, has started TTC Energy LLC to launch his semi-dry wood chip manufacturing business. Crane is a descendent of Zenith Crane who, in 1801, started a wellknown company making paper from cotton and linen in western Massachusetts. For seven generations, the company has made the paper used by the U.S. government for its currency. Holiday Farm, another generational family business, has 1,000 acres of forestland, and Craneâ€™s activities and experience over decades there launched his interest in producing semidry wood chips. After retiring from the family currency paper business, Crane sought new opportunities. â€œAs I got insight into what was happening in Massachusetts with DOER and its thermal renewable energy initiative that included biomass as an eligible renewable fuel worthy of renewable energy credits, I started to pay attention,â€? he tells Biomass Magazine. â€œAs regulations evolved and were finally officially promulgated, I saw opportunities in wood chips as a low-cost renewable fuel that is local. Also, the RECs make the econom-
INDUSTRY¦ ics highly advantageous. Fossil fuels generally remain cheap, so there isn’t a market without a stimulus, and what the state has done is provide that stimulus, which drove me to the fuel side.” Crane has been collaborating and consulting with Froling. “Without my collaboration with Mark, I’m not sure I’d be doing this,” Crane says. “Mark is collaborative and views new entrants in the market not as competition but as a necessity to evolve and grow the supply of dry chips. He keeps no secrets from me.” He adds that while his semi-dry wood chip manufacturing business will be modeled after Froling Energy, slight differences exist. “Mine will be flexible in scale,” Crane says. “I know the market will evolve slowly, and after the facility is built, there will not be demand for all that capacity. So I’m developing a process that doesn’t overinvest in capacity in the beginning, but one that doesn’t eliminate the benefit of scale in process design.” Crane is skipping batch drying and starting out with a belt dryer similar to Froling Energy’s. He says the DOER grant application process was “minimally painful.” Judge says, “Unlike other initiatives that encourage the deployment of actual biomass boilers and furnaces, this infrastructure grant program is designed to support incentivizing chip drying innovations and related infrastructure. Many of the grants provided under the program foster the type of investment that will expand the availability of the fuel needed by owners of biomass boilers and furnaces.” TTC Energy’s sales must evolve from scratch, Crane says. “We’re not fighting over customers, we’re developing the demand in Massachusetts. A critical part of the ecosystem has to be preaching the gospel merits of the DOER program and clean, renewable wood as a viable concept.” The Massachusetts Forest Alliance is one of those advocacy groups. Matt Barron, chair of the MFA policy committee, says he plays an advocacy role for members to advance their agenda, and MFA is very active in the wood heating sphere. “We have a Statewide Wood Energy Team through which we conduct
tours of schools, hospitals and other buildings that have undergone successful conversions to chips and pellets, and we publish case studies,” Barron tells Biomass Magazine. “The show-and-tell is very eye-opening for people. They get to see these systems in operation and see how efficient they are. We are an advocate, a cheerleader.” MFA also tracks legislation, lobbies legislators and provides op-ed pieces to local newspapers touting the benefits of clean, modern wood heat, among other critical activities. “The infrastructure grant funding by DOER is important,” Crane says, “but not as important as the rebate program at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The big obstacle to people adopting wood heat is the cost of equipment. The equipment is very sophisticated, super clean and highly automated. It ain’t your grandpa’s boiler. And it’s expensive.” Crane says even after demonstrating a quick ROI to customers with substantial fossil fuel bills, it’s still a tough sell. “So when they can shrink that number in half like through what MassCEC is doing, that’s huge,” he says. “If MassCEC backs off its support for heating units, it would be a real blow, and it would take real momentum out of this initiative.” Provided MassCEC continues offering rebates to help build this market, instate supply of wood chips must keep up. “In Massachusetts, we currently don’t have a lot of organizations that are capable of providing dry chips, as much of the supply is manufactured and dried outside of the state and brought in,” Judge says. “As we have more biomass facilities installed that are capable of using dried wood chips in Massachusetts, we want to have the requisite amount of fuel needed to feed those facilities—so if we’re going to do it, why not do it locally?” Crane says he thinks the semi-dry wood chip industry is approaching critical mass. “That’s what I’m betting on, but I have to admit it’s too early to tell,” he says. “But I hope I can make a difference.”
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Sweden’s recycling practices and waste-to-energy industry are unmatched. BY KEITH LORIA
ueled by population growth and a growing global economy, waste volumes around the world continue to escalate. In response, many countries have beefed up their efforts to increase recycling rates and implement more waste-to-energy (WTE) initiatives. One of the most advanced countries when it comes to WTE measures is Sweden. While the average European country sends nearly 25 percent of household waste to the landfill, and the U.S. regularly sends about 40 percent, Sweden’s latest figures show it sent just half a percent of its waste to landfills in 2017. The country recycles more than 99 percent of all household waste, compared to only 38 percent 40 years ago.
Preventing waste creation became an important initiative of the Swedish government around 1976, when leaders realized the benefit of energy recovery is many times greater than sending waste to the landfill. Today, Swedish WTE efforts provide district heating and electricity corresponding to the heating of more than one million households, and electricity production to a little more than 600,000 households. In 64 percent of Sweden’s municipalities, the collection of food and residual waste is primarily carried out by private contractors, with 33 percent of municipalities carrying out collection themselves, and the others using a combination of private contractors and in-house collection services. Waste treat-
36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
ment is either undertaken by the municipalities themselves, or by an external contractor, which can be a different municipality, enterprise or private company. The distribution between the various structures depends on the method of waste treatment. Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communication for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management Association, says one reason for Sweden being at the forefront when it comes to waste management is that many years ago, the government began crafting clear laws and regulations on waste management. “They developed strong rules for sorting, collection and treatment, and also in getting provisions for the products through a well-developed district heating system,” she says.
“The rules and regulations have contributed to develop Swedish waste management both technically, organizationally and legally.”
Making a Difference
Last year, the quantity of household waste treated was over 4.7 million tons— an increase of 2.5 percent over 2016, with the amount
Renova’s waste-to-energy plant at Sävenäs in Gothenburg, Sweden, is one of the world's most advanced waste-to-energy facilities, producing both heat and electricity. Around 300 hybrid diesel trucks deliver waste to the plant on a daily basis. PHOTO: RENOVA
of household waste going to landfill decreasing by 24 percent to 23,650 tons. Weine Wiqvist, Avfall Sverige’s CEO, would like to see Sweden residents do even more with recycling, noting that reusing materials or products turns into using less energy to create a product, rather than burning one and making another from scratch. There-
fore, he is championing to move “up the refuse ladder” in the country. Leadership at Avfall Sverige understand that many countries see Sweden as a good example for WTE, justifying its continuation of developing sound WTE practices at a rapid pace. “There are high environmental goals and require-
ments set by the government that we must live up to, so it is important to continue to maintain a high level of work—be it sorting, collection, etc.—and this helps continue to motivate the population,” Gripwall says. “In addition to this, the Swedes are a people who like nature and outdoors, and may be more interested in preserv-
ing a clean environment than others.” Avfall Sverige has partnered with other stakeholders in the industry to develop waste indicators as guidance for measuring and monitoring the development toward resource-efficient waste management. These indicators are also a tool for monitoring development and work with BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 37
Avfall Sverige’s future vision of “Zero Waste.” Jon Engstrom, head of unit at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency based in Stockholm, Sweden, was impressed that in 2018, as it was the year prior, less than 1 percent of the country’s household waste was landfilled. “I believe that the fact that EPRs have been in place for a relatively long time in Sweden is one success factor when it comes to separate collection,” he said. “Simply, there is now high awareness among the public concerning the importance of separate collection of waste.” Still, Engstrom believes there remains a great challenge to actually reuse the material in an efficient way and create a situation that will
take Sweden further up in the waste hierarchy. “The fact that a lot of waste goes to WTE facilities also makes it very important that those facilities actually use the best available techniques for emission purification and treatment of ashes to minimize any negative environmental impact,” he says. “That is a great responsibility for all stakeholders involved in the waste chain, including authorities involved in monitoring, permitting processes and implementation of relevant regulation.”
A US Comparison
Ted Michaels, president of the Energy Recovery Council, based in Arlington, Virginia, notes the U.S. is not equipped the way Sweden is
to utilize WTE in such a positive way, but that the country is still strong in its efforts. “Waste-to-energy facilities operate in very challenging market conditions in the U.S., given low landfill prices and low wholesale electricity prices,” he says. “In order for the U.S. to rely on WTE to the extent Sweden has, there will have to be adoption of policies, like in Sweden, that makes investment in new WTE more in line with the cost of landfilling.” Currently, U.S. wasteto-energy facilities produce approximately 14 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year. In addition, a number of facilities export steam to local users for heating, cooling or industrial processes. “Despite the
closure of some WTE facilities in the past 10 years, the amount of renewable energy produced by WTE in the U.S. has remained very steady, which is attributable to increased efficiency, improved availability, and an excellent operational track record,” Michaels says.
While Gripwall doesn’t believe Sweden is dependent on WTE, Avfall Sverige is pleased that so many efficient plants in the country make use of waste by turning it into energy, and that there’s such a well-developed district heating system. “Waste incineration is a compliment to material recycling, and a very important prerequisite for landfill restrictions such
‘The fact that a lot of waste goes to WTE facilities also makes it very important that those facilities actually use the best available techniques for emission purification and treatment of ashes to minimize any negative environmental impact.’ –Jon Engstrom, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
as a landfill ban on organic and combustible waste and a landfill tax,” she says. “People do not mind energy recovery; they understand that the waste that occurs must be treated in some way. What occasionally stirs up emotions is the fact that we import waste.” Sweden has such an incredible recycling rate that in order to keep its WTE plants going, it imports trash from other countries, as it does not have enough of its own. “We are selling an environmental service to countries that do not have the capacity to take care of their waste in an environmentally correct manner,” Gripwall says. “The Swedish plants are paid to receive and treat the waste. And the environmental benefit is double, thanks to the negative envi-
ronmental impact of putting the waste on landfill in the country of origin decreases, and we use the waste to generate heat and electricity that Sweden needs, replacing fossil fuels.”
Plants in Action
The EU Framework Directive on Waste and the Swedish Waste Ordinance classifies waste incineration with efficient energy recovery as recycling, and the Swedish plants fulfill the energy efficiency criterion by good margin. Sweden’s Sävenäs in Gothenburg is one of the most advanced plants of its kind in the world for incineration of waste for the production of heating and electricity. MarieLouice Flach, press officer
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Waste Trends in Sweden, 2018 Metric tons Material Recycling Biological Treatment Energy Recovery Landfill Total
SOURCE: AVFALL SVERIGE
for Renova, a governmentowned energy company that operates Sävenäs in Gothenburg, says approximately 300 trucks deliver waste to the plant on a daily basis, which is then burned in three furnaces with the thermal energy generated transformed into electricity and district heating.
“From every ton of waste combusted, we will recover 3.3 MWh of energy in the form of electricity and district heating, with 60 percent of our electricity production labeled as biofuel-based origin,” she says. “Each year, the waste-to-energy plant provides 30 percent of district
heating in the region's network, and five percent of the electricity needs for Gothenburg’s total population.” The smoke that derives from incineration plants consists of 99.9 percent nontoxic carbon dioxide and water, though it is still filtered through dry filters and water.
The sludge from the dirty filter water is used to refill abandoned mines. Furthermore, Renova’s treatment facility for sorted food waste is situated at Marieholm in Gothenburg, where, once pulverized, compressed, strained and mixed with liquid food waste, the final product is transformed into a slurry suitable for biogas production. Renova’s other landfill site at Tagene is primarily intended for ash from waste combustion. Flach explains that the facility extracts scrap metal and bottom ash from the cinders from its WTE plant so that these materials can be recycled. “We are proud of our environmental concerns,” Flach says. “We are well below legislated emission values. About one-fifth
of the waste is also material recycled in the waste-to-energy process.” According to data from Avfall Sverige, last year, 2.4 million tons of household waste went to energy recovery, a rise of six percent from the previous year. Converting waste to energy met the heating needs of 1.25 million apartments, and the electricity needs of 680,000 apartments. In 2017, more than 18.3 terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy was produced, of which 16.1 was used for heating and the remainder for electricity. Additionally, three plants reported that they delivered 74,610 MWh of district cooling. “Energy recovery makes up half of the total amount of treated household waste, and the increase in household
waste from 2016 to 2017 is partly attributable to bulky waste from recycling centers,” Gripwall says. “Sweden recovers more energy from waste than any other country in Europe, with nearly 3 MWh per ton.” In addition to household waste, 3.7 million tons of other waste—primarily industrial waste—was treated by Swedish plants. Swedish energy recovery plants also treated more than 1.4 million tons of waste from other European countries, 535,000 tons of which were household waste. “This waste contributes to the fuel supply in Sweden, and solves some waste management problems in exporting countries,” Gripwall says. “Energy recovery also occurs in plants that do not treat
household waste, however, there are no comprehensive statistics on the total energy recovery.”
Landfill gas capture and use is another integral component of Sweden’s waste-toenergy efforts. Produced at landfills where organic waste was deposited in the past, it’s nearly 50 percent methane, with the other half comprised of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and small amounts of other gases. “It contains methane, so it must be collected to reduce its environmental impact,” Gripwall says. “Since the ban on organic waste going to landfill was introduced, the formation of gas at landfill sites has progressively decreased.”
In 2017, about 142 GWh of landfill gas was collected at 40 waste treatment plants, of which 102 GWh was used for energy. Energy recovery consisted of 18.4 GWh in the form of electricity, the rest in heating. Into the future, Sweden is poised to remain the global leader in waste recycling and energy recovery. With 2020 just around the corner, the country is on track to achieve its ultimate goal of zero waste. Author: Keith Loria Freelance Journalist firstname.lastname@example.org
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Partnering to Produce a B e t t e r Wo o d C h i p
Catamount Forest Products and Vermeer Corp. collaborate to help meet Vermont’s biomass heating fuel demand. BY PATRICK C. MILLER
t’s not always possible for the potential of technology to match the expectations of industry, but when it does, it's often the result of intense collaboration and dedication. Five years ago, the Northeast branch of Vermeer Corp. in New York state worked with Catamount Forest Products in central Vermont to assist the company in supplying wood chips for biomass energy that were not only of higher quality, but also far more economical to produce. Although it took the better part of a year and some trials and tribulations to get the operations in line with the expectations, Rodney Rood, Catamount co-owner and forestry operations manager, couldn’t be happier with the end result. “All of our equipment was specifically designed and engineered for us by Vermeer Corp.,” he says. “They came in to figure out what we were trying to do. We explained it to them, and they engineered equipment that does it. “Our equipment is so efficient, our whole operation in
our yard is run with a skid-steer loader,” Rood continues. “We don’t have big energy costs or other major costs. The skid steer loads trucks equipped with conveyors. Vermeer built shaker screens and a grinder for us. Our job is made a lot easier because of Vermeer. Catamount operates a log yard in Groton, marketing hardwood and softwood logs and pulp to U.S. and Canadian markets. It also supplies hardwood chips to biomass fuel users. “We do a lot of screened chips, which are made for the boilers that heat schools, municipalities and state buildings,” Rood says. “Right now, we’re doing about 50,000 tons of screened chips a year. All of our biomass—which is whole tree chips that come direct from the woods—goes to heating facilities and plants that make their own power.” Rood sees a strong future for Catamount in the biomass market because of its current long-term contracts, and because new biomass facilities coming online or in the planning stages are talking to the company about supplying
Working as a team, Vermeer Northeast and Catamount Forest Products came up with a solution that enables Catamount to help meet Vermont's growing demand for biomass heating fuels with economical, high-quality wood chips produced from local forest resources. PHOTO: VERMEER NORTHEAST
42 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
their wood chips. According to Rood, Catamount has experienced increases in the demand for its wood chips every year. He also believes that because of the system Vermeer designed and built for Catamount, they’re in a good position to capitalize on the increasing demand. Still, Rood emphasizes that there are risks involved in being a wood chip supplier. “We have to lay $1 million on the table for inventory,” he explains. “We don’t get paid for it until it’s processed and delivered. It takes a lot to do that—a lot of planning and a lot of strategy to make things work. You’re keeping all this inventory yearround and having it at the beck and call of whoever orders that day.” Rood is confident, however, that Catamount can meet the challenge because of the quality and cost of its product. “For us, the key to success with this is getting the fines out of the material,” Rood relates. “The fines are what really make these systems run poorly. It collects inside the heat chambers and creates a mess.” 44 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
The uniformity and quality of Catamount’s wood chips enables users to feed them straight into their boilers, bypassing the need for equipment to screen out oversized chips and the fines that cause ash buildup. “In the bigger picture, this streamlines all the way down to the end user,” Rood says. “They’re able to make this a lot more efficient. The cost savings of putting in a boiler and not having to put in a screen system to accompany it is huge. For the state of Vermont, that’s a big deal. There will always be wood chips. You either leave them in the woods, or you find a better use for them. We all want to keep doing this because we enjoy the work. It’s not easy work, but it’s what we know and what we love.” Joel Teidman, a forestry specialist at Vermeer Northeast, says that initially, Catamount was running about 30 percent fines, 10 percent oversized chips and 60 percent high-grade chips with the Vermeer system. “We ended up knocking that down to as low as about five percent on the fines,” he notes. “Catamount’s
Vermeer Northeast combined a screening method originally designed for the aggregate industry with a wood processor to provide Catamount Forest Products with a system that reduces wood fines while producing uniform wood chips for use in biomass boilers. PHOTO: VERMEER NORTHEAST
yield of high-grade chips is now closer to 85 percent, using the same process we started with, but by doing some different configurations with screens. We also adjusted the process to change how much wood we put in the machine at one time. All those things together allowed us to gain that extra 25 percent.” When Catamount first discussed its needs with different engineering firms, Rood recalls, Vermeer was the only one that followed through with a plan. “This was kind of my baby,” Teidman offers. “I had an idea from the manufacturing side of the business, but I hadn’t had a lot of experience with it. I grew up in the woods around paper chips. Your customers don’t want to buy sawdust; they want to buy a chip. I knew about the quality issues, and I’ve always been someone who thinks he can up with a better solution. Rodney and I worked very closely with Vermeer’s engi-
neers, who gave their support on the back side. It was very much a team effort.” Teidman’s idea was to blend two different concepts that, at first glance, didn’t seem compatible. He combined a screener designed for sorting rocks and aggregate and paired it with a wood processor. “We figured if we could screen little stones from big stones, we would be able to do the same thing with wood chips,” he explains. “Our struggle with it was that wood is a lot lighter than rocks. The general functionality of an aggregate screener is shaking. That’s how they break rocks apart. Because wood is a lot lighter, it became more violent and aggressive and harder to control the flow. “We did some things with matting to create a dry space or a tight space for those chips to come through,” Tiedman continues. “It didn’t allow a space for the chips to get violently tossed in and out of the maBIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 45
¦SUPPLY chine. We were able to contain them, allow the chips to run uniformly and lay flat to get a better blend of the product.” Rood remembers that there were also problems getting the Caterpillar engines used to power Vermeer’s machinery to communicate effectively with each other. “We struggled in the beginning because we were able to make the chip, but we couldn’t make enough of those high-quality chips out of a load of wood. We were happy with the quality, but not happy with the volume,” Tiedman says. “We got together, sat down and talked about what we could do differently. We had three different line items that we wanted to try,” he continues. “We did each one of them and documented what our yields were, our rate of production, our fuel consumption, our costs and our time for loads. When we were done, we came up with a solution, and that’s the process Catamount’s running today.” Tiedman notes that Catamount’s achievements as a biomass feedstock supplier aren’t only benefiting the company and the state’s green energy
Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford, Vermont, started in 1958 as a small part-time sawmill. Today, the family-owned business employs 10 people year round and supplies about 6,000 tons of wood chips each year to two Vermont schools and a college. PHOTO: GAGNON LUMBER
initiatives, but are also helping stimulate the local economy. “Catamount doesn’t just produce its own round wood for this process; they’re buying it from other suppliers, too— local wood producers. Catamount could have been like everybody else who cuts logs, sells them to the big mills, and lives and dies with everyone else, but they took it upon themselves to go down another road.” Rood says that without Vermeer’s assistance, none of it would have been possible. “I contribute our success to Ver-
46 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
meer because of the due diligence they did with the equipment we run every day and the reliability of it. That’s 100 percent our success,” he says. “In my mind, it’s the innovation they put into their equipment to make it work so that we could do our job.” Vermont might be small, but it has been a national leader in promoting programs and policies that have led its residents to be among the most prolific users of wood heat in the U.S. on a per capita basis.
Driving the Market
In Vermont, there’s a drive to reduce the use of fossil fuels, a desire to make use of the state’s abundant forest resources and the pursuit of a cleaner, greener lifestyle. “One of the reasons Vermont is good at promoting biomass heat is because we use so much oil and it’s been expensive and volatile for much of the last 20 years,” says Paul Frederick, wood utilization and wood energy program leader with Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “But we also
A Nich e fo r Wo o d Ch i p s Ken Gagnon grew up in Pittsford, Vermont, around the small sawmill his father built in 1958 as a part-time business. After he graduated from college in 1979, Gagnon’s plan to become a forester fell through, and he decided to make the family sawmill a full-time job. Gagnon Lumber was successful enough that, in 1990, the company built a larger, more modern sawmill that became a year-round operation. Today, the 10-employee business primarily sells hardwoods for furniture, cabinets and flooring and softwoods to local markets. It also supplies about 6,000 tons per year of wood chips to two schools in Bennington, and the Green Mountain College in Poultney. Gagnon Lumber also has several smaller contracts for wood chips and is a backup supplier for the wood heating district in Montpelier. “We’ve been able to stay in the game with a little flexibility,” Gagnon says. During the 1990s, state incentives created a surge of schools converting to wood heat systems, and it was then that Gagnon Lumber became a feedstock supplier using the wood chip byproducts from its sawmill. This proved fortuitous during the 2008 recession, when the demand for lumber fell by 30 percent, but the demand for wood chips remained the same. “We couldn’t keep up with it, so we were out cutting pole wood on our own land along the hedgerows to feed the mill chipper to keep the schools supplied,” Gagnon recalls. “We stepped up and bought a tree chipper in 2010. That’s when we started bringing in roundwood that goes through the chipper.” Gagnon Lumber has filled a niche as a wood chip supplier in the northeastern part of Vermont. “There’s a small group of us supplying a number of these systems in Vermont,” Gagnon says. “What I’m seeing now is that the smaller schools are tending to go to the wood pellet systems because of the lower cost of installation. The state program doesn’t have the dollars to fund the larger projects like they once did, but the schools burning wood chips tend to be pretty steady market.”
have a culture where it’s not foreign for people to think about burning wood.” Frederick notes a recent survey showed that around 80,000 households in the state used some form of wood heating. This means about 40 percent of Vermont residents heat in full or in part with wood. During the 1980s, high prices for electricity and heating oil
pushed the state to implement incentives for schools, colleges and other state institutions to switch to wood heating systems. More than 40 schools and five colleges are now using wood heat systems, and more conversions are planned. “Having good experiences with the schools, for example, once you get to a point where you have a critical mass and it
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becomes recognized as something that’s not an unusual application of wood heat, then it becomes an easy sell because people are familiar with it,” Frederick explains. Emma Hanson, Vermont’s wood energy coordinator, points out that while incentives for schools are no longer in effect, a variety of state programs exist that can provide anywhere
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from $6,000 for a residential wood heating system up to $50,000 for a business. “How creative we can get depends on where you are in the state and what kind of system you’re installing,” she says. Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine email@example.com www.biomassmagazine.com
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Feedstock Sourcing for Project Success: US South Advantages The U.S. South offers global bioenergy producers vast forestry resources and minimal feedstock volatility. BY STAN PARTON
CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biomass Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
48 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
ust how large is the global wood bioenergy market as we close in on 2020? Growth of the European bioenergy market represents the genesis of any real, quantifiable demand over the past decade—demand that has been largely fueled by imported wood pellets from the U.S. South. In 10 years, U.S. wood pellet exports have increased from less than 200,000 tons in 2008 to over 5 million tons in 2017, as a response to this growing demand. U.S. pellet exports have played a significant role in facilitating large-scale coal-tobiomass conversions and cofiring projects in the U.K., but growth in the European industrial pellet market is decelerating. We expect to see some more growth in European industrial markets over the next few years as new conversions come online in the U.K. and cofiring resumes in the Netherlands, however, growth in that market will likely plateau within the next five years. The near-term opportunity for further development in industrial wood pellet exports lies within Asia. Though the environmental policies vary from country to country, overall demand for bioenergy in Asia is creating mandates that encourage the construction of biomass renewable energy plants. With an ample supply of feedstock available in the global market, as well as existing supply chains to deliver these feedstocks, the risks associated with entering this space have decreased considerably. However, some risks are inherent when embarking on any investment endeavor. The largest risks with earlier stages of project development, including the ability to raise the necessary capital and to demonstrate profitability over the long-term, are associated with identifying reliable, sustainable, affordable and bankable supplies of wood feedstock. Reducing the risks associated with feedstock procurement can help wood bioenergy companies meet these challenges.
In general, sustainability and quality guarantees—as well as reliable deliveries— for wood pellets and fuel chips come at a price premium. Because of the various risks to supply and costs, Asian biopower producers must require their biomass suppliers to utilize strong procurement strategies that mitigate risk, including supply chain risk assessments, cost analyses, subsupplier diligence processes and contract negotiation strategies. In the current global market, the U.S. South offers clear advantages for Asian biopower producers looking for a sustainable, quality resource via an existing supply chain and competitive cost structure.
US South Forest Industry
With over 100 wood fiber pulping and pelletizing mills and 200-plus solid wood manufacturing facilities, southern forests are the most utilized, yet the most sustainable forests in the world. With reliable access to dense stands of conifer species, active timberland management and very little log price volatility, the regional timber market is mature and developed with prices for timber highly related to demand for lumber, panels, paper, containerboard and pellets. The region is a popular destination for wood products companies of all kinds based on two market dynamics: abundant access to timber and a private timberland ownership profile that fosters a competitive, free market. The U.S. South land base consists of 437 million acres, of which approximately 37 percent is timberland. The total inventory of stemwood is 12.1 billion metric tons, which is almost evenly split between hardwoods and pine. However, pine makes up 75 percent of total harvests (198 million metric tons per year), while hardwood makes up 25 percent (68 million metric tons per year). In total, only 2.2 percent of pine and hardwood inventory is harvested annually, assuring a sustainable supply.
A majority of the timberland in the U.S. South is owned by private land owners, nonindustrial private forest landowners, timber investment Parton manag ement organizations (TIMOs), and real estate investment trusts (REITs). Private landowners there have similar goals, in that they are concentrated on maximizing cash flow and value through intensive forest management practices and the sale of timber. Timber management is driven by the supply to high-value products such as saw logs for dimensional lumber, which bears much of the cost of land management. This assures that lower-value timber like pulpwood is relatively low cost. Contrary to some opinions, increased demand for wood has not depleted southern forests. In 2017, Forest2Market conducted a landmark study for which it examined the impact on inventory from increased demand on the U.S. South forest for the 60-plus year period from 1953 to 2015. The Forest2Market report determined that while timberland acreage in the region has been stable over the period, annual timber growth has outpaced annual removals by an average of 38 percent, resulting in a doubling of inventory in spite of an increase in demand. Inventory increased from 142.1 billion cubic feet to 296.1 billion cubic feet over the time period. We found that contrary to assumptions, increased demand had driven increased inventory, not the opposite. Healthy commercial markets have driven active timber management resulting in increased inventory. While some have questioned the impact exporting pellet mills are having on BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 49
forest inventory and wood fiber prices in the South, any claims that this impact is significant are misplaced. Forest2Market data indicates that these impacts are eclipsed by the effects of a range of other supply and demand factors in the region, including increased demand from pulp, paper and panel manufacturers and supply restrictions. At approximately 25 million tons per year, wood fiber removals for pellet demand represent roughly 7 percent of total harvests in the South. In 2017, removals of pine pulpwood for export pellet production represented only 17 percent of pine pulpDJHLVODQG& wood removals, compared to 120 million tons for nonpellet production (pulp, paper and OSB). The competitive market and access to affordable pulpwood make the U.S. South
an ideal location for wood pellet production. Many other global markets simply do not have established biomass supply chain infrastructure to serve a robust market for pulpwood at significant scale.
Plan for Feedstock Efficiency
Because supply agreements cannot regulate the delivered volume of feedstock, the onus is on bioenergy companies to understand and manage the interplay of factors affecting feedstock availability and cost within individual supply basins. No two supply basins are alike, which is why the U.S. South is the focal point of wood pellet production, and other regions are less so. Bioenergy project success will chiefly be determined by whether a company builds into its business plans—from the outset—
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a thorough understanding of the specific supply basin in which it will be operating. Essential guidelines include the following. • Right-size the plant to the supply basin. There are two options: choosing the size of the facility and then finding a supply basin that will support the facility, or finding a supply basin and then right-sizing the plant to the available supply in the area. In the case of the U.S. South, pellet capacity is increasing as new facilities continue to come online to take advantage of the plentiful pine resource. • Design plants with receiving capacities large enough to weigh and unload the required amounts of feedstock. • Design plants with inventory capacity large enough to accommodate the normal market ebb and flow of material due to weather interruptions. • Control price risk by indexing supply agreements to documented market prices. Just as companies manage the risk associated with variability in operational costs by indexing them to the producer price index, projects that manage feedstock price risk this way will be more bankable. The single biggest factor for the success for a wood bioenergy plant will arise from how well it understands the nature and characteristics of the forest resources and industries within its supply basin. The global wood fiber supply chain is complex, and the economic cycles and seasonal patterns that govern supply and demand for wood fiber must be primary considerations. As such, the U.S. South offers global bioenergy producers ample resources and minimal feedstock volatility. Author: Stan Parton Manager, Bioenergy & Biochemical Practice Forest2Market Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org www.forest2market.com
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US Dairy Farms: Untapped Biogas Potential Countries like Holland and Norway have achieved success in widespread digester installation at dairy farms, but U.S. dairy states are slow to follow suit. BY PETER BROWN
airy farms have been operating in the Pacific Northwest since 1836. Their owners, for the most part, were Dutch and Belgian immigrants. The land was plentiful and rich, with enough grass to feed the hundreds of small dairies holding 30 to 100 cows, resulting in
a robust dairy industry from Canada down through Northern California, and as far east as Idaho and Alberta. Then things started to changeâ€”the number of farms became fewer, but they became bigger with more cows, which became too many to handle in that free and
easy way that cows like to be handled. For organizational purposes, they were housed in barns where they stayed most of the day, shuffling to and from milking stations. In the old days, the first line of defense the first line of defense against that wall of manure in the barn was a lagoon. Periodi-
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52 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
cally, accumulated manure was cleaned out of the barns and trucked out to a shallow cavity scooped out of the earth, and then allowed to decompose in the open air. The manure pile became an eye and nose sore, as it did not dry out and began leaching into the ground. In times of high rains, lagoons would overflow and dilute the contents. These were the holding ponds of a primitive system of fertilization for the silage needed to feed the animals in their stalls, and spread in the barns as bedding. In present times, these some 9 million dairy cows can produce 209 million tons of milk a year, down from 22 million cows in 1950 and reducing the carbon hoof print by a third. Around the world, natural gas was taking over the clean energy mantle. While it and tar sands were being harvested, a rolling opposition was building along the transportation routes, most vociferously along the Columbia River where a huge oil transfer terminal was to be built. The proposal was defeated, however, and later, a natural gasto-methanol refinery was to be built, which came under fire for two reasonsâ€”the gas was not clean, and the builder and ultimate beneficiary would be China, switching from coal to our natural gas. The immediate and visceral reaction ultimately made the project dead on arrival. But it did highlight the fact that methanol and dimethyl ether were two very highly mar-
ketable commodities, and attention turned to the dairies. In Washington, there are over 100 large dairies with greater than 500 cows and up to 15,000 cowsâ€”and this is just one dairy state that isnâ€™t the largest. The math is simpleâ€”dairy cows produce an estimated a net daily biogas output of 40 cubic feet (1.2 m3) per cow, and Washington has 262,000 dairy cows. The state could be sitting on an estimated 104. million cubic feet of gas that is not being harvested, instead importing fracked gas for its needs. The list of complaints against dairies always includes methane emissions and smell. And then, ground water, river and aquifer contamination, mostly from sulfur runoff. Enter the digester, a self-contained environment where bacteria attack the manure stream in precisely controlled temperatures and rates of passage. Inside the digester is raw sewageâ€”a toxic mix of the residue of the four cow stomachs cleaning or sluicing water, and often the grassy bedding of the cows. As the manure enters the container, it is exposed to an anaerobic environment that quickly generates bacteria that may have been injected from a menu of suitable bugs. These break down the solids into methane and CO2, digestate, and some critically useful and recoverable components like dried fertilizers high in ammonia, water purified as highly as required
for cleaning, and for irrigation on the fields. This is simple technology that dates back to the Greeks. The gas is piped off, and now the serious business of extracting revenue for the dairy from the second stream of cow production begins. â€œWe have many options, developed over the years, to convert waste to cash,â€? says Hans Camstra, a Dutch system engineer specializing in renewable energy, digesters and large recycling systems. â€œThe easiest is to run a modern generator off the gas, remove the fertilizer and bag it, convert solids to bedding and spray the remaining digestate onto the fields.â€? That is all possible, Camstra says, with off-the-shelf equipment that, if bought in Holland or Norway, can benefit from those countriesâ€™ financing options. â€œOne step further, and greater revenue, compress that gas and use it in trucking and other compressed natural gas systems. Finally, establishing small liquid natural gas facilities allows the farmer to sell his gas on the open market for maximum benefit.â€? The latest and possibly the most lucrative option, according to Camstra, would be extraction of pure biogas for transformation into one of the new, small-scale methanol plants. â€œOnce you have biomethanol, you have serious buyers willing to ship it all the way to China,â€? he says. â€œBut you need a lot of cows, a lot of manure, and probably
a co-op or joint collection organization to assemble the large amounts needed to make the operation a huge commercial success for all the investors.” Odor is eliminated by extracting the ammonium, and a number of off-the-shelf items like scrubbers, biofilters and water purification to grey water industrial and cleaning use on the farm, all the way to irrigation on the fields. Running the numbers, for a hypothetical 15,000-cow operation in the Pacific
Northwest, about 420,000 tons of manure annually at dry solids content of 8.6 percent and organic dry solids at 74 percent, net gas equates to 5 million cubic meters a year (97 percent methane). As for gas that could be generated from the 387,000 cows in Oregon and Washington, plus the roughly 1.7 million cows in California, it adds up to 66 million-plus cubic meters of gas—serious production for serious biochemical production.
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So how many cows are there in America? One census claims that there 87 million— good reason to bring all that methane to market, and if funding is provided, replacing oil terminals, tar sands, fracked gas and the whole fossil fuel infrastructure with the same gas, diesel, methanol, oil and other products from the modern alchemy of our biochemist. Matt Plowman, a dairy farmer between Yelm and Olympia, Washington, points out a number of issues with why the digester concept has had slow traction here and across America. “We have always been able to operate safe and sane dairies here because we have had the land to mitigate damage caused by excessive manure spreads,” he says. “The Cow Palace decision did hit us where it hurt, but this dairy has a manure handling system that includes underground cisterns, pumping stations, settling tanks and a centrifuge to separate out the more exuberant wastes. It never occurred to us to try and eliminate the actually toxic substances since they are so closely affiliated with fertilizer, and the sulfur in the treatment we spread over our fields has always been considered as an organic plus.” Plowman runs the Black River Ranch, a 700-cow dairy with a nearby 1,000-cow sister dairy. It is typical Pacific Northwest operation, as it has been around for a long time and built up both a reputation and a solid business model. Now, he is being forced to reconsider for a very simple and economic reason—the land has reached saturation point, and a digester will allow him some breathing room to expand with more cows. “I am also very interested in how far a digester and gas handling system can go to add to the bottom line,” he says. “I have heard some rare horror stories from California dairies where contracts last two years and suddenly income drops, or new transformers have to be added making the upgrades a total liability.” Something that is often overlooked is that if the intention is to sell biogas-generated electricity, Washington has the highest renewable electricity ratio in the nation, and is amongst the lowest for the cost of electricity, which is why PV panels are an interesting choice in Seattle and Vancouver.
U.S. DAIRY FARM FACTS - Dairy farmers support rural communities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. - There are about 42,000 dairy farms in the U.S. - 95 percent of U.S. dairy farms are family owned and operated. - There are approximately 9.31 million dairy cows in the U.S., with an average herd size of 187 cows. - One cow can produce enough transportation fuel to drive a car across the country. Five cows can power one house for a year. - California leads the nation in dairy cows with more than 1.7 million. - Since 2014, the California Food & Agricultural Department’s Dairy Digester Research & Development Program has granted a total of $114.25 million to dairy digester projects, with $204 million provided in matching funds by grant awardees. SOURCES: MIDWEST DAIRY, CFAD Location, as well as the rainy climate, make them a very poor investment over the long haul. When informed that in Holland, coops have become the norm, Plowman says he would discuss the possibility of creating a group with 10,000 cows to have the economy of scale that would vault his dairy into real, industrial production of methanol or coordinated food production. As for how to pay for a system and get it built, the real play will be in how to generate long-term financing from the same place the equipment is purchased. Norway, for example, has EXIM financing that, after qualifying, can bring 85 percent of a project for around 2.5 percent for 18 years, using Norwegian technology and equipment. Rabo Bank in Holland has a massive agricultural investment in the U.S., and covered the Lost Valley Farm. The money is there; the rates and the service are based on working with dairy and other farms around the world. Each system should be built as a springboard for additional services, more offtakes and more revenue, designer bugs for direct diesel production, additional additives grown on the farm and a small biodiesel esterification unit. Tailor-made, naturally produced chemicals will have to be produced as the fossil fuel industry goes into terminal decline due to pollution issues, greenhouse gases and unavailable new deposits. Author: Peter Brown Euro Marketing Tools, FFA Fuels Inc. 408-206-7035 Peter@euromarketingtools.com
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Sustainable Biomass: What’s Ahead for New Markets The U.S. industrial wood pellet industry is positioned for future growth. BY SETH GINTHER
t’s a time of optimism in the wood biomass industry. Not only is there growing recognition that sustainable biomass is a viable climate solution, governments are increasingly incorporating it into policies that will help them achieve their low-carbon and renewable energy goals for the next decade and beyond. Chief among these policies is the European Union’s revised Renewable Energy Directive for 2012-’30 (or RED II), which has been a major focus for us at the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association. The RED II effort to harmonize bioenergy sustainability across EU Member States was an important one, and something the industry strongly supports because of the positive influence it can have on the trade of wood pellets.
The final RED II supports bioenergy as a pathway to lowering carbon emissions, and allows Member States to use sustainable imported biomass to achieve the low-carbon and renewable energy goals recommended in the Paris Agreement. In short, RED II sets us up for another decade (or more) of supplying the European market. As we continue to see strong markets in Europe, combined with expected growth from Asia and new sectors, and we are entering an exciting time industry, and there are some new opportunities on the horizon.
Emissions Momentum in Germany
Despite having one of the most advanced renewable energy systems in the world, thanks
to its Energiewende (energy transition) policy, Germany has struggled to reduce its emissions since the government’s 2011 decision to exit nuclear energy. This put an increased emphasis on coal, the most emissions-intensive fossil fuel, which now provides more than 42 percent of Germany’s power, according to the International Energy Agency. The result is that Germany’s carbon emissions have been growing, while their neighbors’ has been declining. That is set to change with the recent recommendation from the government-appointed coal commission to completely phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038. Without nuclear or coal to deliver baseload electricity, there is strong potential for biomass to account for lost capacity.
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56 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
Converting from coal to a reliable renewable energy source will be a tall order for the country, but one our industry has filled many times over in other Member States. By cofiring wood pellets—both domestic and imported—jobs and assets can be saved, energy prices can be kept stable and carbon emissions can be reduced.
Opportunity in Ireland
Ireland presents another opportunity for biomass to preserve power assets, secure supply, and reduce the use of coal-fired power. Energy demand in Ireland is expected to spike as it becomes a hotbed for data centers—Amazon, Facebook, Google and others have plans for large data centers in the coming years, and Ireland expects data center investment to reach almost €9 billion by 2021. National grid operator EirGrid has projected energy demand will rise by as much as 57 percent in less than a decade as more data centers come online, and could use a quarter of the country’s electricity. It warns that power plants or renewable energy projects will have to be in place no later than 2026, or there will not be sufficient generation in place to meet national demand. This trend is more alarming, given the country is woefully behind on renewable energy targets, needing to jump from 27 percent renewable to 40 percent renewable by 2020. For Ireland to solidify its position as the data center capital of Europe, a stable, low-carbon power source like biomass, which can be deployed quickly and economically, is critical.
Netherlands Industrial Heat
There are additional opportunities in heat markets where our industry’s well-developed supply chain can prove beneficial to large industrial heat users across Europe. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands where manufacturers including Heineken and Phillip Morris demand a large amout of heat for production, but need to decarbonize in accordance with the Dutch government’s renewable energy goals. The U.S. Southeast is ripe to supply this market, having spent the past decade investing in the infrastructure necessary to efficiently deliver sustainable biomass across the Atlantic.
Japan Leaves the Starting Gate
Outside of the EU’s borders, we are seeing concrete development in the Japanese market. Several large North American pellet producers have signed long-term off-take
agreements with Japanese power companies to supply wood pellets for cofiring. This market, which we have been anticipating for years, has finally left the starting gate, and we are off to the races. Early in 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry developed an energy plan for Japan’s future, titled the “Best Energy Mix,” which will govern energy policy from now until 2030. This strategy includes a goal of 23 percent renewable energy for electricity production, with biomass (pellets, chips, and palm kernel shells) projected to account for 30 percent of the overall share. This policy, along with government support schemes, will increase total biomass demand from 7.6 million tons in 2017 to over 20 million tons in 2025.
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Bioplastics and Biochemistry
Beyond traditional subsidized markets, there is also potential for pellets to serve as feedstock for development of bioplastics and biochemical by using the lignin contained in wood. According to European Bioplastics, the global market for bioplastics is predicted to grow by roughly 25 percent over the next five years. This trend is possible thanks to the increasing demand for sustainable products by both consumers and brands alike, stronger policy support for the bio-economy, and the continuous efforts of the bioplastics industry to develop innovative materials with improved properties and new functionalities. Because we are able to efficiently source lower-value wood fiber and turn it into a transportable pellet, our industry can easily turn a stranded asset into an affordable, sustainable feedstock for these markets.
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The pellet industry has invested over $2 billion in the U.S. Southeast region over the past decade to develop a sophisticated infrastructure and tap into underutilized supply chains. As a result, we can effectively deploy our product around the world. This, together with abundant wood resources in the region, will allow the U.S. pellet industry to see sustainable growth to serve all of these markets and more. The next decade will be an exciting one for the industry, and we are looking forward to what’s next. Author: Seth Ginther Executive Director U.S. Industrial Pellet Association 804-771-9540 email@example.com
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NDC Technologies Erin P.B. Zasada
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58 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MARCH/APRIL 2019
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The Feedstock Sourcing, Sizing, Drying and Handling Issue