BUILD Georgia Renewable Power's Multi-Plant Portfolio PAGE 24
Enviva, F.E. Wood Energy's Expansion, Greenfield Projects PAGE 32
Cofiring Tests in Alaska PAGE 38
A NEW ERA OF BIOMASS ENERGY HAS ARRIVED
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MAY/JUNE 2019 | VOLUME 13 | ISSUE 3
04 EDITOR’S NOTE
Pushing for Projects That Make Sense
ON THE COVER
By Anna Simet
Construction on Georgia Renewable Power’s 58-MW biomass power plant in Franklin County, Georgia, officially began in January 2018. By March 2019, when this photo was taken, the company had made significant progress on this project and its twin sister plant in Madison County, Georgia. At press time in April, both facilities were undergoing commissioning. GRP anticipates full operation in June.
06 Japan Considering Sustainability Credentials for Palm Kernel Shells
By William Strauss and Yoshinobu Kusano
08 Six Ongoing Biomass Myths By John Ackerly
10 BUSINESS BRIEFS
16 PHOTO REVIEW Biomass in the Hostess City
The 12th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo took place in Savannah, Georgia, March 18-20. By Anna Simet Photos by John Carrington Photography
24 POWER The Twin Biomass Sisters of Franklin and Madison Counties
Georgia Renewable Power is commissioning two new 58-MW biomass power facilities in Georgia while planning a redesign at its flagship plant in North Carolina. By Ron Kotrba
32 CONSTRUCTION Building Globally, Impacting Locally
The ultimate goals of domestic and industrial wood pellet projects are similar, though they differ in size, business models and target markets. By Patrick C. Miller
38 COFIRING Opportunities for Biomass Utilization in the Last Frontier
¦ADVERTISER INDEX 2020 International Biomass Conference & Expo 14-15 Acrowood Corporation 27 AGI Tramco 34 Air Burners, Inc. 2 Airoflex Equipment 39 AMETEK Brookfield 41 Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S 31 Biomass Magazine's Top News 43 BRUKS Siwertell 28 CPM Global Biomass Group 26 CV Technology 12 D3MAX 7 Enviva Biomass 13 Hermann Sewerin GmbH 29 IEP Technologies 10-11 KEITH Manufacturing Company 35 Pellet Fuels Institute 9 ProcessBarron 40 Timber Products Inspection/Biomass Energy Laboratories 36 Vecoplan LLC 37 Vermeer Corporation 44 WELLONS Power Group 30 Williams Crusher 23
Tests performed at Aurora Power Plant in Fairbanks, Alaska, pointed to the strong feasibility of 10 percent cofiring of green chips with coal. By Zackery Wright, Daisy Huang and David Nicholls
Biomass Magazine: (USPS No. 5336) May/June 2019, Vol. 13, Issue 3. 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.
Pushing for Projects That Make Sense
ANNA SIMET EDITOR
Slow and steady wins the race—or does a fast pace earn a place? As a runner myself, being honest, slow doesn’t usually earn a medal. When it comes to project development, however, the winning projects usually aren’t the ones speeding to the finish line. In the biomass industry, we’ve seen how rushing projects has fared, particularly in the domestic wood pellet market. It became oversaturated for a short stint about a decade ago, but is finally balancing out after some hard lessons. F.E. Wood Energy in Sanford, Maine, is the newest domestic market-focused wood pellet plant to come online in the U.S. in a quite a while. The concept was on the table for years, as the father and son team knew that doing its homework on feedstock markets and availability, design, technology and end markets meant taking the long road, but it would lead the company to a place that made sense. “We were itching to get back into it in a way that we could have a sustainable, long-term future,” Wood says. In our page-32 feature, “Building Globally, Impacting Locally,” by Staff Writer Patrick Miller, Tony Wood discusses long-term relationships with sawmills, loggers and landowners in the area, the thorough design evaluation done prior to selecting equipment, and how independent retailers are the backbone of the company’s plans. In the same story—drawing a comparison of sorts to the domestic and industrial markets and their driving forces—Enviva Partners shares details of its ongoing expansion and new construction projects, which will enable the company to meet growing demand from overseas customers. Continuing that note of new development, be sure to check out our page-24 feature, “The Twin Biomass Sisters of Franklin and Madison Counties,” by Senior Editor Ron Kotrba. In it, Kotrba digs into the development and construction of Georgia Renewable Power’s 58-MW biomass power plants, which are currently undergoing commissioning. Also in this issue, you’ll find an extensive review of utility-scale cofiring tests performed in Alaska, and a photo review of the International Biomass Conference & Expo, where market expansion and project development was a key theme. And, of course, the positive messages our industry should convey to the public and policymakers, because without their support, it’s a lot more difficult to get a shovel in the ground.
4 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
EDITOR Anna Simet firstname.lastname@example.org SENIOR EDITOR Ron Kotrba email@example.com STAFF WRITER Patrick C. Miller firstname.lastname@example.org ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele email@example.com COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann firstname.lastname@example.org
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Japan Considering Sustainability Credentials for Palm Kernel Shells BY WILLIAM STRAUSS AND YOSHINOBU KUSANO
FutureMetrics has learned that the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering palm kernel shell (PKS) sustainability requirements. According to information informally circulating, it appears the requirement of sustainability, legality and traceability for PKS is under serious discussion and likely to be imposed on current and new PKS procurement. The exact regulation wording and whether these rules will be applied to already-signed contracts for PKS are unknown, but it appears very probable that Japan is moving toward a more rigorous set of requirements on biomass fuel procurement. Japan is already a major importer of PKS. In 2018, the country imported 1.265 million metric tons of PKS, 68 percent of total PKS exports, all of which came from Indonesia and Malaysia. PKS is a primary fuel for many of the Japanese independent power producers (IPPs) that are generating or soon plan to generate power with the benefit of the feed-in-tariff (FiT). The FiT is part of the Japanâ€™s policy for increasing the proportion of low- to zero-carbon-emitting power generation. Many IPP projects are also committed to use industrial wood pellets in their fuel mix. In most jurisdictions that have policies to support the use of renewable biomass fuels, in order to receive policy benefits, the biomass fuels must be certified as being produced from sustainable sources. This is the basic necessary condition that assures all the carbon emitted by the combustion of the fuel is absorbed by the growth of the biomass replacing what has been harvested and used as fuel. As the basis for carbon emission mitigation in the power sector, industrial wood pellets used as a substitute for coal in power stations in western Europe and England must meet strict and rigorously applied rules, proving that the forest inventories are not being depleted in order to qualify for the policy support. Japan is a major importer of wood pellets, and itâ€™s expected that its pellet imports will exceed its PKS imports in 2019. Because of the history of sustainability requirements for EU and U.K. industrial wood pellets, major producing nations are almost 100 percent certified under one of several recognized and accredited certifying bodies. Thus, when Japan finalizes its sustainably requirements for biomass fuels, pellets produced in Canada, the U.S., Europe, Australia, Russia and South America will already have the credentials to be legally considered as qualifying fuel in FiT-supported IPPs and in utility power plants that cofire. This is not the case with PKS. The PKS supply chain is highly fragmented with many independent smallholder farmers. Some estimates have smallholders in Indonesia comprising 60 percent of total palm oil production by 2030. An estimate by the World Resources Institute suggests that less than 1 percent of independent smallholders are certified 6 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil. Whatever the actual totals, a significant portion of PKS is derived from uncertified sources. Indonesia and Malaysia, due to a legacy of rapid and massive deforestation to clear land for small and large palm oil plantations, have challenges in building credibility. Managing the growth of the industry and controlling deforestation has been a difficult balance for the palm oil-producing nations. Expanding smallholder certification will be a positive change, but will take time. There are also structural differences in the supply chains for PKS and pellets that present challenges. Pellet producers have invested many hundreds of millions of dollars to build pellet factories, and need to have a reliable and consistent output over many years to satisfy the return on investment criteria of the investors and lenders. In contrast, PKS aggregators have relatively little capital invested, as there is no conversion of raw material to an upgraded product. Unlike industrial wood pellets, PKS markets do not have producers that can engage in long-term offtake agreements with quantity and quality guarantees, and with delivered price certainty. FutureMetrics expects that some portion of the current imports from Malaysia and Indonesia will be curtailed. Reduction in the quantity of PKS imported into Japan will depend on the final METI rules and the ability of PKS suppliers to meet those rules. We also expect that industrial wood pellet demand in Japan will increase as IPPs seek alternative fuel to keep the rate of power generation from their stations at the required level. At least in the near- and medium-term, the FiT is sufficient to compensate for the higher cost of pellet fuel. Margins will shrink because the cost of pellet fuel is about 15 percent higher per MWh than PKS. The way the FitT is crafted, however, with a fixed rate over 20 years, it is generous in the early years in order to provide a buffer between a fixed top line revenue and the inevitable increasing costs of fuel and plant operations that will occur over 20 years. In later years, margins are expected to shrink due to cost increases (inflation), while the top line FiT revenue remains fixed. In the early years of the FiT, there is enough buffer built into the rate to allow higher-cost pellet fuel to substitute for PKS. Presumably, as palm oil producers respond to certification requirements over time, PKS imports will trend upward after what is likely to be a rapid and relatively sudden drop when sustainability requirements are implemented. Authors: William Strauss President, FutureMetrics Inc. William.email@example.com Yoshinobu Kusano Policy Advisor, FutureMetrics Inc. Yoshi.Kusano@FutureMetrics.com www.futuremetrics.com
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Six Ongoing Biomass Myths BY JOHN ACKERLY
Some myths never seem to die. They morph from grains of truth in academic papers to slogans on bumper stickers, and then get debated by society for decades. In other instances, they’re based in solid science, but then get pushed beyond their logical limit. The following are our top three on both sides of the debate about whether biomass should be used to heat homes and institutions.
Myths Perpetuated by Wood Burners
Humans are conditioned to some wood smoke. “Humans have cooked and heated with wood for millennia. Why all the fuss now?” True, but we only began living past the age of 30 about 30,000 years ago. And just 2,000 years ago, half of Romans who lived to the age of 15 died before they were 45. Along with modern plumbing and penicillin, one of the most important human health inventions was the chimney. Paired with a good stove, a good chimney can get close to 100 percent of smoke out of living space. People disliked wood smoke in their homes in colonial America as much as they dislike it today. And the health impacts of breathing wood smoke are still just as bad. It’s carbon neutral. “Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, and if a tree is burned for fuel, another tree will replace it and reabsorb the carbon.” The theory is sound, but in practice, it’s much more complicated. The carbon impact of burning wood is on a spectrum from very good to very bad, all depending on how it’s done. Few would argue that harvesting old-growth forest in ecologically sensitive areas in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania and national parks in Slovakia is carbon neutral. And few would argue that from a carbon perspective, using trees blown down by Hurricane Katrina to heat homes in the eastern U.S. is a far better use of carbon than using oil or gas. The impossible task is to find one average point on that spectrum that assigns a carbon footprint to using a ton of wood for energy. There are many points on the spectrum, and the sooner we recognize that, the better. Healthy forests are managed forests. “There are a myriad of good reasons to manage a forest, especially as impacts of climate change make some forests far more vulnerable to catastrophic wild fires. Well-managed forests can provide many habitat and ecosystem benefits.” That said, foresters can overstate their case, and be slow to acknowledge that “management” can be a guise for practices that aren’t sustainable. Plantations harvested every 20 years do not recoup the ecological diversity and carbon sequestration that the original, natural forest had.
Anti-Wood-Burning Activist Myths
No amount of wood smoke is safe or justifiable. “In this modern age where almost all of us have access to far cleaner fuels, heating homes with wood is not only a public health hazard, it’s unethical and selfish. The huge volume of smoke that a single stove can emit in a neighborhood far outweighs any benefit of not using fossil fuel.” We agree that stoves often produce excessive smoke and there’s a need for improved technology, and better regulations and enforcement by public health departments. But when wood or pellet stoves or boilers produce barely any smoke detectable to the eye or the nose, you have to start the complex task of comparing small amounts of smoke to a wide range of negative impacts of oil, gas or electricity. We know we have a public health emergency from climate change that is the result of fossil fuels being too cheap and easy to use. At what point is it justifiable, as a society, to accept some negative consequences of other fuels? Wood emits more carbon than coal. “Wood is the new coal,” is a slogan that some activists are trying to promote. This myth gained traction in 2010, after the release of the Manomet study that had been commissioned by the State of Massachusetts. A newspaper ran the headline “Biomass Worse Than Coal,” but the majority of the report analyzed in detail when and why biomass was far better than coal. Basically, Manomet said it would take 40 years for the carbon to be reabsorbed if biomass replaced coal in electric plants. However, it clearly states that biomass “lowers greenhouse gas levels compared to what would have been the case if fossil fuels had been used over the same period.” This serves as a vivid reminder that regardless of what a report actually says, the headline chosen by editors can define the public memory of that report. We must eliminate combustion technology. “Biomass is simply another smokestack industry that must be replaced with modern, clean renewable technology. Cars, trucks, planes—and boilers—must be quickly transitioned to renewable electric fuel and move past the antiquated age of combustion.” We wanted to end this essay on a more conciliatory note and rebut this assertion with a challenge: let’s try to replace combustion technology and remain openminded to that. The question is how fast, and what should be considered “bridge” fuels and “bridge” technologies? In the meantime, we believe biomass is vital, not because it is the ideal energy pathway, but because in its best applications, it is far too efficient and affordable to pass up now. Author: John Ackerly President, Alliance for Green Heat email@example.com www.forgreeheat.org
8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
Macquarie Infrastructure Partners acquires Wheelabrator Macquarie Infrastructure Partners and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. announced that MIP, acting through one of its managed funds, has completed the purchase of Wheelabrator from funds managed by Energy Capital Partners. MIP operates within the Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets division of Macquarie Group. Wheelabrator is a leading owner and operator of waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, with a platform of 25 assets in the U.S. and the U.K, including 19 WTE facilities (three under construction), two waste fuel facilities and four ash monofills. Wheelabrator also recovers metals for recycling at two advanced metals recovery systems and is in the process of developing a central upgrade facility.
Morbark introduces Rayco T415 Forestry Mulcher and Hydra-Stumper Morbark LLC announced the debut of the Rayco T415 Forestry Machine. The T415 Rayco T415 Forestry Machine allows customers to change between a Predator forestry mower/mulcher head and a Hydra Stumper stump cutter attachment for optimal versatility. Powered by a 415-horsepower (310-kW) CAT C9.3B Diesel Tier 4 Final engine, the T415 boasts a closed-loop hydrostatic system to power the mulcher or cutter head, sending 140 gallons per minute to the attachmentâ€™s drive motor(s). The hydraulic output is power optimized to match the engineâ€™s power curve, keeping the mulcher/stumper RPM constant, even under load for a finer mulched product with fewer passes.
HOW DO YOU STOP AN INDUSTRIAL EXPLOSION IN ITS TRACKS?
Bardle named head of Immingham Humber International Terminal
SBP names technical committee members
Associated British Ports announced that Martin Bardle, formerly the company’s head of compliance, has stepped into an operational position and taken up the helm at ImmingBardle ham’s Humber International Terminal. The site handles 10 percent of the country’s energy cargo and hosts the largest biomass handling facility in the United Kingdom—Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal, the result of a 2015 agreement with Drax Power Station. Prior to his port career, Bardle worked for the British Army as a plant and equipment fitter apprentice and served for almost 15 years in the Royal Engineers. After leaving the Army, Martin worked in a succession of health and safety leadership roles with companies such as Balfour Beatty, Rolls-Royce and Mace. Martin holds a Master of Business Administration from Warwick Business School and a Master of Science in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Management. He joined ABP on the Humber in 2015.
Sustainable Biomass Partnership CEO Carsten Huljus has named the organization’s technical committee members, who took up their positions with immediate effect. The technical committee is a representation of specialist expertise across the disciplines encompassed by the SBP standards, including forest management, feedstock processing and biomass distribution, as well as knowledge of auditing, certification and accreditation processes and procedures. The role of the committee is to provide advice to the board on SBP's technical and scientific functions. The six members are Kim Cesafsky, manager of sustainability at Enviva; Anders Hildeman, forestry and certification independent consultant; Brenda Hopkin, forestry and certification independent consultant; Peter Kofod Kristensen, senior lead sustainability advisor at Ørsted; Rob Shaw, technical manager at Soil Association Certification Ltd.; and Martin Walter, an independent consultant and professor in timber trade, wood manufacturing and certification at the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences.
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PROTECTING THE WORLD’S PROCESSES AGAINST EXPLOSION
Business Briefs PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS
Covanta, Green Investment Group reach England WTE plant financial close
struction contract and is expected to take approximately 36 months to complete. Covanta will provide technical oversight during construction and supply operations and maintenance services when the project commences operations in 2022.
Covanta Holding Corp. and Green Investment Group COVANTA ROOKERY Ltd. announced that the Rookery South Energy Recovery Facility in Bedfordshire, England, has reached financial close and will commence construction. Covanta and GIG will each own 40 percent of the state-of-the-art facility, with primary waste supplier Veolia ES (UK) Ltd. owning the remaining 20 percent. The Rookery facility will provide 545,000 metric tons of annual treatment capacity for nonrecyclable waste. Veolia will deliver the majority of Rookeryâ€™s waste supply under a long-term contract, with the balance sourced through other commercial, industrial and municipal counterparties. Construction of the 60-MW facility will be led by Hitachi Zosen Inova under a turnkey engineering, procurement and con-
SCS offering SFI Chain-of-Custody Standard SCS Global Services is now offering chain-of-custody certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Chain-of-Custody Standard. SFI is a leading, credible certification in North America for responsible forest products. This new service offering leverages SCS as a one-stop shop for the wood and paper industries, providing clients with increased efficiency for dual and triple chain-of-custody certification to the major three forest sustainability standards. SCS is also currently undergoing accreditation for, and will soon be offering certification services for SFI Forest Management and SFI Fiber Sourcing Standards.
SoCalGas’s Minter named RNG champion Southern California Gas Co. recently announced George Minter, the company’s regional vice president of external affairs and environmental policy, was named Renewable Natural Gas Champion by Climate Resolve, a Los AnMinter geles-based nonprofit organization that focuses on local solutions to global climate change. At SoCalGas, Minter is responsible for the company’s public affairs, community relations, public policy and energy and environmental affairs functions. He is a long-time policy professional specializing in energy and environmental matters, program development, communications and political advocacy. Climate Resolve lauded Minter’s efforts to increase the use of renewable natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that benefits all people, including low-income families. Minter was honored at Climate Resolve’s annual Coolest in L.A. Gala, a celebration of innovation in Southern California’s Fight Against Climate Change.
Active Energy Group acquires CoalSwitch site Active Energy Group announced that the acquisition of an industrial site in LumACTIVE ENERGY GROUP berton, North Carolina, has been satisfied. The site will become the new base for all AEG's CoalSwitch operations in the U.S., and house the first permanent production facility for CoalSwitch. The site is strategically located close to AEG’s joint-venture partner, Georgia Renewable Power LLC, and is also in a prime lumber district in the U.S. It includes up to 415,000 square feet of covered factory space, and 151 acres of surrounding land. It was purchased for a total consideration of $3.3 million.
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As of February 26, 2019
EXHIBITORS 4B Components, Ltd. Acrowood Corp. Advance Conveying Technologies, LLC Advanced Cyclone Systems, S.A. Aerospace Lubricants Aggregates Equipment, Inc. AGI AGRA Industries, Inc. AirClean Energy Airoflex Equipment AirPro Fan & Blower Company Albarrie Environmental Services Limited Amandus Kahl USA Corp. AMETEK Land Andritz Apollo Equipment & Grinder Wear Parts, Inc. ASGCO Babcock & Wilcox Company Bandit Industries, Inc. Basic Machinery Co., Inc. Belt Conveyor Guarding Benetech Bioenergy Insight
Biogreen/Norris Thermal Technologies Biomass Engineering & Equipment Biomass Magazine Bliss Industries, LLC BM&M Screening Solutions BMH Technology Oy BRUKS SIWERTELL Brunette Machinery BS&B Pressure Safety Managment Buhler, Inc./Mill Technology Company C&M Baling Systems, Inc. Can-Am Chains Carrier Vibrating Equipment, Inc. Catalyst Air Management, Inc. CECO Cintasa Americas City of Benson/Swift County Columbia Industries, LLC Continental Conveyor, Ltd. CPM Global Biomass Group CV Technology, Inc. D3MAX, LLC Detroit Stoker Company
Digester Doc Dryer One/GGS DURR MEGTEC Dustmaster Enviro Systems Earthres Group, Inc. EMG International, LLC envea Altech Environment USA Environmental Energy Services, Inc. Environmental Planning Specialists, Inc. Evergreen Engineering, Inc. Fagus GreCon, Inc. Fulghum Industries, Inc. Georgia Forestry Commission Hallam-ICS Hallco Industries, Inc. Hudco Industrial Products, Inc. Hurst Boiler & Welding Co., Inc. IEP Technologies Imerys Industrial Bulk Lubricants JADCO Manufacturing, Inc. Jenike & Johanson, Inc. Kalenborn Abresist
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February 3-5, 2020 Nashville, Tennessee
Kamengo Technology, Inc. Keith Mfg. Co. KettenWulf Kluber Lubrication NA LP Laidig Systems, Inc. Larson Engineering, Inc. Latta Equipment Company, Inc. LignoTech Lubrication Engineers Materials Handling Equipment Company Messersmith Manufacturing, Inc. Mid-South Engineering Company MoistTech Corp. Morbark, LLC Nelson Engineering, Inc. NETZSCH Pumps North America, LLC Outotec Energy Products Phoenix Industrial, Inc. PIC Group Inc. Prairie Biosciences Canada Precision Husky Corporation ProcessBarron PRODESA
R&R BETH Filtration Rapat Corporation Rawlings Waste Wood Recovery Systems Redecam USA, LLC Richwood Industries Rossee Oil Company RUF Briquetting Systems Schaeffer Specialized Lubricants Scheuch North America Schlumberger Technology Corporation Schutte-Buffalo Hammer Mill Screw Conveyor Corporation Sensortech Systems, Inc. Shred-Tech Corporation SHW Storage & Handling Solutions GmbH Southeastern Construction Thomas & Muller Systems, Ltd. Thompson Dryers TIC-The Industrial Company Timber Products Inspection/Biomass Energy Laboratories Timken Company Torxx Kinetic Pulverizer Limited
United Refractories Company Vaisala, Inc. Vecoplan, LLC Vermeer Corporation Vogelsang USA Warren & Baerg Manufacturing, Inc. Wellons Power Group West Salem Machinery Co. Wired Within WO Grubb Crane Rental Wood Bioenergy Magazine
General session participants meet outside the Savannah Conference Center. Patrick Serfass, executive director, American Biogas Council; Carrie Annand, executive director, Biomass Power Association; Seth Ginther, executive director, U.S. Industrial Wood Pellet Association; Tim Portz, executive director, Pellet Fuels Institute; and Dan Wilson, board of directors chairman, Biomass Thermal Energy Council. Not pictured: Johannes Escuardo, executive director, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas.
16 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Biomass in the
HOSTESS CITY The 12th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo drew nearly 900 attendees to Savannah, Georgia. BY ANNA SIMET PHOTOS BY JOHN CARRINGTON PHOTOGRAPHY
city rich with history and unmatched hospitality, Savannah, Georgia, welcomed the largest biomass gathering in the world in mid-March. At the International Biomass Conference & Expo, technology developers, academia, investors, service and equipment providers, plant personnel and a range of other stakeholders met to gather information, network and collaborate. Following a day-long preconference workshop focused on biomass feedstock logistics, the event kicked off with a keynote address delivered by Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols. Annual award recipients were named by Biomass Magazine, with Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, receiving the Excellence in Bioenergy Award, and Goddard College the Groundbreaker of the Year Award. Next, trade organization executives participated in an industry roundtable to discuss policy, challenges, priorities, and the content and significance of the messages the industry conveys to policymakers and the public. Panelists included Patrick Serfass, American Biogas Council; Tim Portz, Pellet Fuels Institute; Carrie Annand, Biomass Power Association; Seth Ginther, U.S. Industrial Pellet Association; Johannes Escudero, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas; and Dan Wilson, Biomass Thermal Energy Council. Roughly 80 speakers presented in breakout sessions focused on biomass heat and power, pellets and densified biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy, and advanced biofuels, with the closing event bringing attendees to the East Coast Terminal to observe how the state-of-the-facility reviews, stores and loads wood pellets onto waiting ships. The 2020 International Biomass Conference & Expo will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, Feb. 3-5.
Anna Simet, editor of Biomass Magazine, left, interviews association leaders during the International Biomass Conference & Expo general session industry roundtable. Participating in the discussion were Serfass, Annand, Portz, Ginther, Escudero and Wilson.
Tim Echols, Commissioner of Georgia Public Service Commission, welcomes attendees with a discussion on forestry and biomass energy in the state.
18 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Serfass and Annand discuss the impact implementation of e-RINs under the Renewable Fuel Standard would have on the biomass and biogas power sectors.
Escudero, center, highlights the role that specific public policy and related advocacy continues to play in protecting and expanding existing markets, as well as creating new ones.
Above: Kevin Desjardins, Keith Manufacturing Co., and Tim Portz, Pellet Fuels Institute, perform the trade show and welcome reception ribbon-cutting. Left: Gordon Murray, Wood Pellet Association of Canada, was named recipient of the Excellence in Bioenergy Award, presented by Simet.
Katrina Bagwell and Tommy Sweat, Environmental Planning Specialists, with Bernard Scheff, American Biogas Council, and Lynn Beane, Montrose Environmental Group.
20 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Matt Valentine, Mark Jones Jr. and Johnny Sanders, Lubrication Engineers.
Alyssa Siemonsma and Tiffany Trottman, Nelson Engineering.
Judi Tyacke-Rawlings and Heather McMaster, Rawlings Waste Wood Recovery Systems
Greg Manley, Cooper Rainey and Bill Conroy, Rossee Oil Co.
Todd Taylor, CEO, Avisen Legal, moderates a biogas and waste-to-energy panel including participants Michael Corbett, director of applied Science, Divert; Justin Price, principal, Evergreen Engineering Inc.; and Roger Ford, CEO, Eureka Energy Corp.
Brad Bleima, senior engineer, EcoEngineers; Serfass and Bob Cleaves, president, Biomass Power Association, present in detail on the history of the Renewable Fuels Standard and implementation of e-RINs.
22 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Williams Chip Hog High Capacity Heavy Duty Fine Grinding
Brian Edwards, director of engineering, Conversion Technology Inc., discusses combustible dust hazard analyses during a dust control and fire risk mitigation panel, which included speakers Jeff Nichols, managing partner, Industrial Fire Protection LLC; Vahid Ebadat, CEO, Stonehouse Process Safety; and Derek Stuart, global product manager of power, AMETEK Land.
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Fifty-plus attendees toured Peeples Industries' East Coast Terminal Savannah Pellet Facility, where two storage domes give the facility 50,000 tons of dry, covered storage on-site, and the rail infrastructure can accommodate 80-car unit trains. This facility connects Georgia’s largest wood pellet manufacturers with the rail unloading and ship loading infrastructure required to get finished product to overseas power facilities.
Georgia Renewable Power-Franklin LLC is a greenfield project built on a site that had a power purchase agreement tied to the land. PHOTO: GEORGIA RENEWABLE POWER LLC
THE TWIN BIOM
of Franklin and Ma Georgia Renewable Power is commissioning two new 58-MW biomass power facilities in Georgia while planning a redesign at its flagship plant in North Carolina. BY RON KOTRBA
24 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Georgia Renewable Power-Madison LLC is a greenfield project built on a brownfield site previously occupied by Weyerhaeuser, complete with infrastructure and offices. PHOTO: GEORGIA RENEWABLE POWER LLC
adison Counties BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 25
Growing toward a greener, cleaner future.
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he U.S. added 68 MW of biomass power last year, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but Georgia Renewable Power LLC is about to flip the switch on two biomass power plants in the Peach State that will nearly double this figure. The company has been relatively quiet about its achievements. While GRPâ€™s name has appeared in a smattering of press releases issued by project partners and subcontractors, the company itself has issued little information to the press in the way of official releases or announcementsâ€”it doesnâ€™t even have a functioning website. But donâ€™t be fooled by GRPâ€™s stealth mode, as the biomass power startup is making big strides in decarbonizing the grid. GRPâ€™s first operating biomass power plant is in Lumberton, North Carolina, not in Georgia as its name might suggest. Raymond Bean and Dave Shaffer founded GRP about five years ago. Their first order of business for the Lumberton project was securing a power purchase agreement (PPA) and a renewable energy certificates (RECs) contract, says Ciaran McManus, GRPâ€™s assets and operations manager. McManus relocated from Ireland to North
Carolina two years ago to run GRPâ€™s biomass projects. GRP acquired a chicken litter burner and a 20-year PPA from Duke Power with RECs tied to it, and the company bought an old coal-fired power plant in Lumberton, North Carolina, to retrofit. â€œThatâ€™s not easy because itâ€™s a 35-yearold coal-fired plant, which is a very straightforward fuel to burn,â€? McManus says. â€œPoultry litter is a completely different fuel. The ash content is 20 percent higher than coal, and thereâ€™s a lot of challenges with that. The Btu, moisture and sulfur content varies.â€? With nearly 20 years in the power business, McManus says he has worked with virtually every fuel out thereâ€”gas, biomass, coal, and even solar and wind. After meeting with GRP owners in London two years ago, he was excited about the offer to work for GRP. â€œBurning litter, I was intrigued by that,â€? he says. Phase 1 in Lumberton consisted of converting the coal plant to burn biomassâ€”30 percent poultry litter and 60 to 70 percent construction and demolition (C&D) waste, along with a small percentage of green chips. â€œManaging your feedstock is all biomass is,â€? says Carey Davis, GRPâ€™s executive vice
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6FUHHQLQJ Georgia Renewable Powerâ€™s foray into biomass power occurred in Lumberton, North Carolina, where the company converts poultry litter and C&D waste to power. PHOTO: GEORGIA RENEWABLE POWER LLC
president. Davisâ€™ path with GRP began about five years ago, as GRP founder Bean was close with the contractor for whom Davis worked. â€œI built the first plant in North Carolina,â€? he says. â€œLater on, when I joined GRP, they were starting Phase 2 of that plant. I came to execute the projects and grow this company.â€? Davis says GRPâ€™s goal has always been to use as much C&D waste as possible. â€œWe teamed up with a large supplier in the Southeast to help us agglomerate smaller suppliers in the area,â€? he says. â€œAll in all, our feedstock in Lumberton today is mainly 60 to 70 percent C&D. A confident supply is what we need, and we trust our suppliers.â€? At 22 MW, GRPâ€™s Lumberton biomass power plant requires 42.5 tons of 10 percent moisture fuel an hour, according to Davis, or 60 tons per hour of 30 percent moisture fuel. McManus says the plant currently consumes about 250 to 300 tons of poultry litter per day, or 80,000 tons a year. When it comes to the green chips GRP burns, McManus says, â€œWe donâ€™t take quality green chips. We
use waste wood from forestry, like top limbs and mulch.â€? McManus says GRP spent one-and-a-half years constructing and commissioning the retrofitted plant. â€œI arrived just as this was completed,â€? he says. With Phase 1 complete, GRP swiftly moved into Phase 2, which involved a project to capture waste heat to fuel three dryers in a system co-designed with IMI Industrial Services Group that allows the waste heat to bypass the cooling tower, along with a condensing loop. â€œThis takes waste heat from the cooling tower and generates RECs,â€? Davis says. Under the current state thermal REC scheme, the company is not allowed to dry its own fuel for power generation, but it can sell the dried fuel and generate RECs. â€œWe have wood offtake agreements and sell that dried wood to local pellet producers,â€? Davis says. McManus tells Biomass Magazine that GRPâ€™s Lumberton plant is currently selling about 1,000 dry tons of wood per week. â€œWeâ€™re commissioning the dryers at the moment, so weâ€™ll be increasing capacity soon,â€? he says. â€œWe hope to pro-
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duce between 2,000 and 3,000 dry tons a week for sale to area pellet mills and chipping companies.” The new setup is basically another version of combined heat and power (CHP), McManus says. “The waste energy from the cooling water normally goes to the atmosphere,” he says. “We’re capturing 40 percent of it to dry wood. It’s not free—there’s always a cost—but it is energy that’s recaptured.” Phase 3, currently in design, will take poultry litter combustion to a whole new level. “The third phase is a completely new power plant in Lumberton,” McManus says. “We’re currently only burning 30 to 35 percent poultry litter, but we need to get to 100 percent to maximize our PPA.” The RECs generated in Lumberton are directly related to the energy input from poultry litter. If the energy input is 20 percent poultry litter and 80 percent wood, then the facility only generates RECs for 20 percent. “We’re highly incentivized to burn 100 percent litter,” McManus says. “We get rewarded for doing that, but it’s also a major waste problem. North Carolina is the second largest poultry producer in the U.S., so getting rid of all that poultry waste is a big issue.” Davis says the new Lumberton plant has been on the horizon for some time. “It’ll be a cool plant—there’s nothing like it in the state, or the world,” he says, qualifying this by adding Fibrominn in Benson, Minnesota, is now offline. “We’ll take 100 percent poultry litter, burn it, sell the ash for fertilizer and dry wood for bedding houses. It’ll be a full, homogeneous circle of life for a biomass plant. It’s pretty neat. We’re proud of it.” McManus says GRP plans to have the new plant operational by 2022. The new facility will be capable of generating
Georgia Renewable Power closed financing in December 2017, and completed much of the site work prior to this. The photo, taken January 2018, depicts that the Franklin County site was ready for EPC contractor MasTec Power Corp. to hit the ground running once financing was secured. PHOTO: GEORGIA RENEWABLE POWER LLC
40 MW of power and will consume 450,000 tons of poultry litter per year. It will also feature four dryers operating on waste heat. GRP will continue to run the current plant until the new one comes online. Once the new Lumberton plant is operational, Davis says what will be done with the existing facility is still “up in the air,” but GRP has some solid ideas. “We thought about using the existing plant to burn swine waste,” he says. “There’s 8 MW of swine in the existing PPA.” McManus says GRP is seriously looking into this. “Swine slurry presents big challenges though,” he says. “It’s 80 to 90 percent moisture, which is not good. With university partners we are looking at several options, including the use of dry presses to get the water out, and then pelleting it.”
As operations and a new design phase progress in Lumberton, a big priority for GRP is going live with its two nearly complete power plants in Franklin and Madison counties in Georgia. These two 58 MW net, 65 MW gross, biomass power plants are “twin sisters,” McManus says. While construction officially began in January 2018, Davis says work began on these projects more than two years ago. “March 6, 2017, was my first day at GRP, and I started working on these from day one,” he says. “We poured the boiler foundations in January 2018. These projects have been every day of my life since. BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 29
The Madison County site in January 2018 is ready for construction. Just 15 months after this photo was taken, the plant was 98 percent complete. PHOTO: GEORGIA RENEWABLE POWER LLC
We’re not done yet, but I can see the finish line.” Twenty-five months after Davis’ first day, the Franklin and Madison projects are 98 percent complete. While the two Georgia projects began in early 2017, their origins were much earlier. Davis says in 2005 the Atlantabased Georgia Power utility company issued a request for proposal (RFP) on a renewables package that included biomass.
30 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
There were no takers on the biomass portion and, years later, the sunset date was approaching when GRP bought up several PPAs, combined them into one and then divided the numbers into two so, as Davis says, “two counties could reap the benefits.” GRP’s PPAs with Georgia Power are 30-year contracts. In April 2018, GRP contracted with Veolia Energy Operating Services LLC to
operate and maintain all three of its biomass power plants. Veolia had been operating the Lumberton plant under a shortterm contract for a year prior to the April 2018 deal. Biomass Magazine reached out to Veolia to discuss the contract, but Matt Burgard, communications manager with Veolia North America, said negotiations are still ongoing and the company cannot discuss the agreement until the terms are
POWER¦ finalized. Davis says GRP has had good experience with Veolia so far. “They’ve assembled great biomass teams,” he says. “And they’re in the process of assembling our teams in Madison and Franklin counties.” Georgia Renewable Power-Franklin LLC is constructed on a greenfield site, according to Davis, while Georgia Renewable Power-Madison LLC is a greenfield project on a brownfield site. “In Franklin, there was an original 22 MW PPA tied with that land, so GRP bought it and added megawatts to it,” he says. For the Madison project, GRP bought an old Weyerhaeuser facility for the infrastructure. “It had an existing interconnect,” Davis says. “We had to upgrade it, but we decided to locate the project there for ease of access. It also has offices there.” GRP had originally planned for the Franklin project to use equipment from an existing power plant in Gormania, West Virginia. BL Harbert International performed the dismantling and relocation. However, GRP could not secure financing for the project if old equipment were to be installed. “It was just packaged up and sits in a warehouse,” Davis tells Biomass Magazine. With the PPAs in place, the company needed financing to get the twin sisters built. “Ray had the equity, but we needed $350 million to build the plants,” Davis says. “We did a lot of things upfront. We
locked in the long lead time items early. I did the site work and piling prior to closing financing. GRP self-performed the concrete work to preserve time. We had piles in the ground but nothing else ‘til after we closed the loan. We spent our money wisely and made progress as best we could, so when MasTec Power Corp. showed up, they could hit the ground running.” MasTec Power was hired as the EPC contractor and subcontracted Siemens to provide SST-600 steam turbines, SGen100A air-cooled generators and threephase, step-up transformer technologies for the projects. Siemens also delivered an SPPA-T3000 control system to maximize overall plant performance through data analytics while also improving safety, efficiency and reliability. Amec Foster Wheeler boilers were also secured and installed in the twin sisters. As in Lumberton, GRP’s Georgia plants will rely on C&D waste. “Our target is to use as much waste feedstock as possible,” McManus says. “We want to avoid using green chips. We are working on getting our full volumes from waste, and within a year we hope to have the volume required for both plants. It’s a lot of waste wood that is required. It takes a lot of processing. We’re trying to get as much as we can by rail. I should also mention we’re fully permitted to burn old rail ties. A lot of these are going to land-
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fills. We’ve also installed state-of-the-art emissions technologies.” McManus says the first firing of the boilers is scheduled for May, and from there the plant will increase to baseload power production by late June or early July. “We’re pretty busy now,” he says. “We have our fuel yards commissioned and our dryers up and running.” Davis and McManus say GRP is implementing the same dryer technology in Franklin and Madison counties employed in Lumberton, just with bigger dryers. “It’s a crazy schedule-driven job— a tension-driven job—but we all think we’re going to survive,” Davis quips. “We’re close to the first fire. We’re halfway through commissioning. It’s been a team-building project nothing short of challenging. The main challenge was preserving our schedule while trying to close financing. That was a major hurdle, but otherwise, just normal construction challenges in a tighter window than anyone can imagine. But these plants will be great for the community. They’re state-of-theart and close to utility grade. We didn’t cut any corners on suppliers or the quality of design. We’re hoping to have the most efficient biomass plants in the U.S.”
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IMPACTING LOCALLY Though differing in size, scope and market reach, the ultimate goals of domestic and industrial wood pellet projects are similar. BY PATRICK C. MILLER
With an increasing number of contracts in Asian markets, Enviva Partners is increasing production by expanding existing facilities and building a new plant, a 600,000-ton-per-year wood pellet plant under construction in Hamlet, North Carolina. PHOTO: ENVIVA
he domestic and industrial wood pellet industries are motivated and influenced by different objectives and market factors when it comes to building or expanding, thus resulting in differing business models and practices. Ultimately, however, the end game is the same—to decrease the use of fossil fuels. In the U.S. export market, Enviva Partners—the world’s largest utility-grade wood pel-
let producer—is expanding production by 1 million tons in response to an increased demand for wood pellets, particularly in Asian markets. According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, there’s upward of 25 million tons of biomass demand on the country’s horizon. Enviva is building a new pellet production plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, and expanding facilities in Northampton County, North
32 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Carolina, and Southampton County, Virginia. In contrast, T&D Wood Energy LLC—a familyowned business with a long involvement in forest products—recently opened a 35,000-ton capacity wood pellet plant in Sandford, Maine, to enter the home heating market in the Northeast U.S. Between the town of Sanford and the USDA providing incentives, and the nearby Pleasant River Lum-
ber pine sawmill supplying much of the wood waste feedstock for pelletizing, the timing and opportunity were right. “We had been trying to build an industrial facility for quite a while under our F.E. Wood Natural Energy entity name,” says Tony Wood, who co-owns T&D Wood Energy with his father, Dean. “We decided that there’s no real opportunity for us to get into the industrial segment at this time. This is a new venture we
put together and our first pellet manufacturing facility. The ownership of the plant has a lot of forest product experience in sawmills and pellet mills.”
Nina Mrose, Enviva’s vice president of communications and public affairs, notes that the company’s business model is to fully contract its production capacity. “Given that
our existing production capacity is already sold and spoken for, as we sign these additional long-term contracts, we need to create additional capacity in order to fill those commitments,” she explains. “We have a lot of customers in Europe, but we increasingly have much more geographic diversity in our customer base. Recently, we’ve been signing more long-term contracts with Japan.”
Enviva chairman and CEO John Keppler recently reported that the company “executed a new 17-year offtake contract with a premier Japanese trading house, adding another major investment-grade counterparty to our growing and diverse list of customers. Deliveries under this contract are expected to start in 2023, with initial volumes of 100,000 metric tons per year for the first five years, increasing to 175,000
metric tons per year thereafter.” Chris Tynan, Enviva’s vice president of expansion projects, says the company’s portfolio is designed to support customers over the lives of its assets. With more and more customers in Japan and other Asian markets, Enviva has turned to either expanding or building additional assets in the U.S. Southeast. Authorized in 2018 with a combined budget of $130 BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 33
The father and son team of Tony (left) and Dean Wood continued a long family tradition in the forest products business by forming T&D Wood Energy and breaking ground on a 35,000-ton-per-year wood pellet plant in Sanford, Maine. PHOTO: T&D WOOD ENERGY
million, the Northampton and Southampton expansion projects will produce an additional 400,000 metric tons of pellets per year. With the two expansions about an hour away from each
other, they are being managed as a single project, Tynan says. “Major pieces of equipment have been ordered and detailed engineering is nearing completion,” he adds. “We expect to have construction
completed by the first half of 2020, contingent on receiving all permits.” Tynan notes that Enviva has historically focused on greenfield development and acquisition for growth. “Be-
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yond providing the volume to meet our long-term obligations, it also increases the financial competitiveness of the existing assets, given that it’s additional fixed-cost absorption on the same asset
CONSTRUCTION¦ T&D Wood Energy's pellet plant was designed and built by Mainebased Player Design Inc. The plant incorporates Player's proprietary furnace and dryer systems, as well as an integrated control system to maximize production and minimize energy use. PHOTO: T&D WOOD ENERGY
base,” he adds. “It also helps us maximize the great work of our best-in-class people at the Northampton and Southampton plants, in order to get more pellets while improving safety outcomes.”
Enviva broke ground on the Hamlet pellet plant in November 2017, and is beginning the final stages of the commissioning process. It is expected to produce 600,000 metric tons of pellets per year, beginning in the second quarter this year. The pellets will be shipped by rail to the company’s marine terminal at the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina. When it comes to new additions or expansions, Mrose says Enviva prefers to stick with what’s been successfully proven to work.
“Generally, we follow a buildand-copy approach,” she says. “With Hamlet and the other new facilities in the planning stages, we take a look at the best of what’s worked at the other plants to inform our design. Nothing’s radically new. It’s all things that have been tried, tested and perfected at other plants that we’re using in the new design.” Further down the road, Enviva is planning the next wave of development in what it refers to as the “Pascagoula Cluster” in Mississippi and Alabama. “It will be a number of plants comparable in size to our larger plants that would feed into a new marine terminal at the Port of Pascagoula,” Mrose explains. “The permitting process is underway for the port facility, as well as the plant in Lucedale, Mississippi. Those are
both pending final investment decisions and the issuance of the permit to move forward. We’re looking to break ground this year on the first plant and the port facility pending permits and final investment decisions. Keppler says Enviva plans to deploy about $130 million in capital, generating a $30 million lift in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization on an annual basis. “Those are very attractive investment opportunities, and certainly we continue to explore those within our broader assets,” Keppler says. The bottom line is that the wood pellets Enviva is committed to deliver will displace more than 64 million tons of coal. “That's an amazing statement about sustainability, but exactly how
¦CONSTRUCTION we're doing that showcases some of our innovation and leadership on the topic,” Keppler adds.
Building the Maine Line
Before construction began on the T&D Wood Energy pellet plant, the Maine Technology Institute conducted a design evaluation. This enabled the company and Player Design to select the best commercial technologies available for feedstock and fuel preparation. PHOTO: T&D WOOD ENERGY
36 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
Wood recalls how F.E. Wood & Sons struggled to find a way forward after its last mills closed and efforts to build a new industrial plant fell through. This led to the formation of T&D Wood Energy about two years ago, and the search for an opportunity that was a good fit for the Wood’s business plan and the region. “We were itching to get back into it in a way that we could have a sustainable long-term future,” Wood says. “We didn’t want to be in a downward-facing commodity; we didn’t want to be in a business that didn’t do some good for the community and for the region. Wood pellets were a good mix. We have a lot of long relationships with sawmills, loggers and landowners in the area whose markets were suffering.” Wood says the town of Sanford gave the company the “red carpet treatment” to help it locate the pellet plant in the community. The Pleasant River Lumber sawmill proved a good choice logistically, providing most of the feedstock. “We’re also bringing in sawdust and chips from several other sawmills in the region,” Wood notes. “With the strength of the pine sawmill market and saw timber market right now, they need a home for their waste products. We’re giving them another outlet.” The Sanford pellet plant was engineered and built by Maine-based Player Design Inc., which used a proprietary furnace and dryer system. “We did a design evaluation with the Maine Technology Institute that allowed us and Player Design to go out into the market and look at all commercially available production processes for wood pellets and for heating and drying—feedstock preparation and fuel preparation,” Wood says. “We did a thorough evaluation before we started selecting equipment. Player signed on as our lead contractor, executed the
project and now is turning it over to us as a fully operational facility.” The plant uses an integrated control system, which enables operators to balance feed rates and fan speeds— maximizing production and minimizing energy use. “We’re getting the lowest greenhouse gas footprint that we can,” Wood says. “We’re burning all biomass to generate our process heat. It’s sourced locally from the same loggers and sawmills supplying our feedstock. Energy efficiency is the name of the game because electricity isn’t cheap. We were awarded several grants based on this innovative design.” The sole product from the plant is %LRPDVV0DJD]LQHSDJHLVODQG& Wood & Sons Premium Wood Pellets made in Maine and sold by independent retailers—not big-box stores— throughout the Northeast. “The independent retailers are the backbone Enviva broke ground on its Hamlet pellet plant in November 2017 and is beginning the final stages of the process. Beginning in the second quarter this year, pellets produced at the plant will be of our plans,” Wood says. “We like commissioning shipped by rail to the company's terminal at the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina. that because it ties to the community PHOTO: ENVIVA and it ties to having happy customers. We have to make a really good product and stand by it. The people who 3HOOHWL]LQJ own and operate these retail stores care most about their customers. They &+3 have really good fuel and really welltuned and well-serviced stoves.” &HOOXORVLF Wood believes the approach T&D (WKDQRO Wood Energy used to find a location and build its plant with the assistance 5HFHLYLQJ of Player Design resulted in a bet 6L]LQJ ter facility and a better product that’s &RQYH\LQJ good for the environment and the local economy. “Rather than just sup 6FUHHQLQJ plying a single piece of equipment or 6HSDUDWLQJ rather than us, as owners being hands 6WRUDJH off, it was a collaborative process,” he says. “We ended up with a much bet&DOOIRUD ter product at the end of the day as a IUHHEURFKXUH result.”
Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine email@example.com 701-738-4923
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Opportunities for Biomass Utilization in the Last Frontier For the first time in more than 30 years, cofiring tests were performed at a utility-scale power plant in Alaska. BY ZACKERY WRIGHT, DAISY HUANG AND DAVID NICHOLLS
ofiring coal and biomass is often a relatively simple process in which fuels are mixed prior to being combusted in a power plant. Although cofiring has been practiced for decades and is well-developed in Europe, it has been slow to catch on in North America. Coal is the primary fuel used to generate electricity in interior Alaska, including five small power plants, all grate systems less than 30 MW in size. total of about 600,000 tons of coal are combusted for power annually in Alaska, with local economic benefits associated with its mining, transporting and sales. The Usibelli mine, near Healy, Alaska, is the stateâ€™s only operating surface coal mine, producing about 1.5 million tons of coal per year and supplying all of the coal-burning facilities in the state. The coal power plants in interior Alaska serve a diverse client base, including a university, a municipality and two military bases. Fairbanks, Alaska, has great potential to utilize biomass cofiring, because the regionâ€™s power plants are all located near biomass resources. Fairbanksâ€™ power comes from mostly
stoker-fired grate systems, which are the easiest to convert to cofiring. This is especially true when cofiring wood with coal at small percentages or with similar particle sizes; for example, wood chips and pea coal. Some of this resource is being used as a feedstock for a pellet mill in North Pole, Alaska, which is approximately 10 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The Aurora Power Plant, located in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, was the site of the cofiring test burns. This facility has a 32MW nameplate capacity, sells up to 25 MW to a local utility, and burns about 210,000 tons of coal per year. Net electrical generation is close to 180,000 megawatt-hours per year. In addition to electricity, the plant provides steam and hot water for a district heating system serving downtown Fairbanks. This network includes approximately 15 miles of buried pipeline and reaches approximately 50 buildings.
Grate Systems Overview, Challenges
In grate-fired systems, the grate provides four main functions: to provide a platform for fuel drying, to burn the fuel, to distribute
combustion air and dispose of ashes. Grate systems, either stationary or traveling, are most common for small-scale energy production facilities (i.e., less than about 50 MW) that combust solid fuels. In grate systems, larger fuel particles of both coal and biomass can rest on the grate, while any fine particles that are included in the fuel mix will burn in suspension above the grate. Research discussed in this article was completed at a combustion unit utilizing a conical fuel delivery system, which is a cone-shaped chamber located adjacent to the combustion chamber. The conical receives fuel until a certain predetermined level is reached, and then dumps fuel by gravity into the combustion chamber. An advantage of gravity-fed conicals is their reduced likelihood of jamming, a problem sometimes encountered with other types of fuel distribution systems. However, a disadvantage of conicals is that the gravity feed can sometimes distribute different-sized particles unevenly in the combustion chamber.
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38 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |MAY/JUNE 2019
CONTRIBUTION¦ Wood Fuel Quality
be a consideration for other cofiring facilities (for example, municipal power plants) located centrally in or near a downtown area. If Aurora were to cofire on a regular basis, or at higher percentages of biomass, additional storage and handling equipment would be needed. For small-scale grate systems, the easiest way to get a uniform fuel mixture is ususally to combine biomass and coal as it is transported inside the facility, often by conveyor. Despite the potential challenges of mixing wood and coal particles in real time during conveyance, our procedures resulted in very uniform fuel blends—credit to the power plant personnel in charge of fuel handling. It should be noted that although the procedure for introducing the biomass to the coal stream was simple for short tests, its manual nature makes it unsuitable for continuous cofiring, which would require a retrofit to the feed and mixing systems. Goals of the study included: to test the proof of concept of cofiring quaking aspen wood chips and coal, under two different cofiring percentages; to measure the combustion gases in stack emissions during cofiring; and to identify any operational problems or challenges at the power plant associated with cofiring.
Many fuel-related variables can influence the effectiveness of cofiring operations, such as moisture content, the percentage of biomass included in the fuel stream, relative energy content, fuel particle size distributions and quality (including the presence of bark, needles and dirt). Fuel characteristics can also influence other operational aspects of cofiring, including fuel storage and conveying, mixing, distribution on the combustion grate, composition of combustion gasses and ash generation. In this study, the wood and fuel particles were approximately the same size, facilitating mixing and conveying. The bulk density and particle geometry of the wood and coal can influence the mixing properties of the blend. In the combustion chamber, wood fuel can potentially burn more rapidly than the coal. Thus, mill residues from an ongoing wood products facility are a preferred source for reliability and consistency, especially if available at low cost. Alaska is perhaps unique in that the local subbituminous coal has about the same Btu content as dried wood fuel (both are close to 8,000 Btu per lb.). Therefore, mixing these fuels should require little adjustment to feed rates to achieve the same energy output. This is not the case in the contiguous U.S., particularly where eastern coals are used, which may have as much as twice the energy content of biomass.
Cofiring tests were conducted on two consecutive days in March 2015 at the Aurora Power Plant in downtown Fairbanks. Wood chips were provided by Superior Pellet Fuels in North Pole, fewer than 10 miles from the power plant. We utilized approximately 40 tons of clean, uniform aspen chips, sized to 1.5
Wood/Coal Mixing, Conveying
Aurora Power Plant presently has limited outdoor storage area for wood fuel. This could
inches maximum dimension or less. A frontend loader was used to transport the chips to the fuel feed system. Once fuel was inside the plant, a conveyer belt system was used to mix wood and coal uniformly to the desired ratio. Cofiring tests were implemented at two levels: 2.4 percent by energy value for the lowlevel testing day, and 4.8 percent of energy value for the high-level testing. Baseline data representing the power plant’s standard combustion conditions (i.e., coal only) was collected for approximately one hour each morning. Afterward, blended fuel (coal with biomass) was introduced at the prescribed rates. Actual cofiring rates were determined by collecting fuel samples at the accessible point closest to the combustion chamber, immediately before fuel was introduced into the conical. Wood was then separated from coal, and each were weighed. The coal energy content data was provided by plant personnel, and wood energy content was determined by oven-drying samples and testing them in a bomb calorimeter. The composition of combustion gases were measured through the primary exhaust stack on the power plant roof. Combustion gas measurements were taken with a combination of three devices: a Bacharach brand PCA3 portable combustion gas analyzer (inserted into the stack), a TESTO brand analyzer (also inserted into the stack), and fixed, in-plant monitoring equipment. The Bacharach analyzer was used to collect O2 (percentage), CO parts per million (ppm), CO with respect to O2 (ppm), combustion efficiency (percentage), CO2 (percentage), and excess
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¦CONTRIBUTION air (percentage). The TESTO unit was used to measure NO and NO2 (ppm) along with the same parameters as the Bacharach analyzer. Opacity was measured by Aurora Power Plant’s in-house monitoring equipment. Data was collected either once every two minutes (Bacharach) or once every 30 seconds (TESTO).
Low-level cofiring tests: Average flue gas concentrations for CO increased markedly (by 82.4 percent) versus coal-only combustion. This was in contrast to CO2 concentrations, which decreased by 7.5 percent for lowlevel cofiring. Also for low-level cofiring, NO decreased by 20.32 ppm or 17.7 percent, and NO2 increased by 2.27ppm or 13.3 percent (all versus coal-only combustion). Other cofiring research (Tillman, et al. 2001) has indicated a greater than 1 percent reduction in NOx compounds for each 1 percent level of cofiring. Finally, opacity increased slightly due to low-level cofiring, from an average of 5.7 to 5.9 percent (cofiring versus baseline). Thus, higher CO levels and particulate carryover can occur when cofiring wood and coal (versus burning coal only).
High-level cofiring tests: For high-level cofiring, average combustion gas CO content increased by 74.0 percent, from 127 to 222 parts per million (ppm), versus coal-only combustion. It is likely that higher CO levels were the result of either higher moisture content of wood (and the need to vaporize this moisture) or insufficient overfire air, which limited complete combustion. Similarly, CO2 concentrations were 21.6 percent higher. Also for high-level cofiring, NO increased slightly from 100.33ppm to 101.16ppm and NO2 decreased from 20.38 ppm to 18.42 ppm versus coal-only combustion. Also for the high cofiring level, opacity increased slightly (from 6.0 to 6.1 percent) due to cofiring, however, it is unknown whether this is within the normal operating variation of the plant. Several similarities between low- and highlevel cofire tests were observed. First, flue gas CO increased substantially with the addition of biomass to the fuel mix. Mean opacity increased, although only slightly, on both days when wood fuel was introduced, and 100 percent coal was no longer being burned. Although these levels showed very little difference, opacity could become an important
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future consideration because of air quality concerns in Fairbanks (particularly during winter months). Thus, any cofiring strategies aimed to reduce opacity could become beneficial.
Power Plant Operations
Totential logistic and operational challenges when cofiring were also observed. Our work in Alaska confirmed what numerous studies have observed—that cofiring biomass at low levels in grate combustion systems can be performed with relative ease, having only minor impacts on plant operations, including fuel storage, handling and performance. For low-level cofiring, the mixed fuel burned well with no issues or adjustments to combustion conditions. However, high-level cofiring was slightly more challenging, requiring careful control of feed rates to maintain uniform combustion across the grate. The wood’s high moisture content, estimated to be close to 40 percent green basis, was likely a factor influencing combustion during the high cofire tests. In addition to generating greater incomplete combustion products such as CO, high moisture conditions also require more turbulent mixing in the flame zone for complete combustion to occur.
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CONTRIBUTION¦ Since the wood fuel was well-screened, individual particles were uniformly sized, and were only slightly larger than most coal particles. This could explain the relative ease of fuel mixing, and the uniform conditions occurring throughout conveying and combustion. The gravity-fed conical did a good job of distributing fuel uniformly across the grate, which was also likely related to the uniform chip size and moisture content. The following specific comments were offered by the plant operator who monitored cofiring testing: • Cofiring rates: In general, aspen chips cofired at the low rate introduced no problems or challenges. For the high cofiring rate, there was some minor segregation of aspen chips from coal. Combustion was also somewhat more difficult due to greater level of moisture in the combustion chamber. • Moisture content: lf chips had been at a lower moisture content, rather than fresh green, they might have burned more uniformly with more consistent steam load, even at the higher cofire rate. • Spatial distribution of wood and coal: In general, the spatial distribution of wood and coal in the combustion chamber was quite uniform, and no problems were noted. • Particle size range: If wood chips were oversized or too stringy, they could get caught in the under bunker part of the fuel conveying system, causing problems. Chips or hog fuel up to a 2-inch size maximum dimension range could work well for the plant’s current fuel handling capability. Sawdust size should work well as long as it can be conveyed satisfactorily. • Contaminants: Dirt, small rocks and other contaminants could be a problem, but not a cofiring showstopper. Any rocks in bottom ash would need to be run through a crusher, creating an additional processing step.
Based on our research, we expect that cofiring low wood ratios would also be feasible at other four Fairbanks area power plants, since they are all of similar size, grate arrangements and coal types. Perhaps the most important finding was that CO levels increased on the order of 70 to 80 percent, versus coal-only combustion. This was likely due to the high moisture content of the aspen chips, resulting in less efficient combustion. However, this condition could potentially be mitigated as plant operators learn how to best fine-tune overfire air conditions. These factors point to the strong feasibility of cofiring green chips at
levels up to about 10 percent of energy value, as was done in the study. If cofiring were adopted on an ongoing basis, wood products facilities near Fairbanks would have a viable market for their waste wood residues, a condition likely to occur in many parts of the contiguous U.S. where power plants are located in forested regions. Contact: David Nicholls Forest Products Technologist, U.S. Forest Service firstname.lastname@example.org 907-738-2176
The tests at Aurora Power Plant demonstrated that cofiring relatively small amounts of biomass with coal is technically feasible with no equipment modifications needed, and minor impacts on plant operation. An important consideration was that the cofire tests were done under ideal conditions using highquality wood chips, purchased at higher prices than most run-of-the-mill-biomass that could be economically feasible on an ongoing basis. BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 41
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