Page 1

September/October 2018


SMARTS Perspective, Advice From Industry Pros PAGE 14


Biomass Buying Tips PAGE 34

AND: Pallet-Derived Wood Pellets PAGE 28




T S I INE) L L N O E E INT & R P R ( F








Deadline: Octoberr 31 Listings Do Not Automatically Renew Please Create a New Listing

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06 EDITOR’S NOTE Not Rocket Science, But Not So Easy By Anna Simet


COLUMNS 08 Biomass Utilization: Options to Realize Maximum Value By Bob Cleaves

09 RNG to Provide RFS Environmental Benefits By Marcus Gillette


10 Midterm Elections, RVO Decisions and Lame Duck Tax Relief By Michael McAdams



14 Wood Yard Wisdom Biomass Magazine discusses wood yards—from equipment selection, common mishaps and innovation—with industry experts. By Anna Simet

22 Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Sustainable Resources Group specializes in helping clients find ways to draw value out of waste streams. By Ron Kotrba

28 From Pallets to Pellets Pellet producers using wood pallets as feedstock say those doing so responsibly and passing industry standards tests should be allowed fair market opportunities. By Patrick C. Miller


34 Avoiding and Preparing for Volatility in Feedstock Availability and Pricing

Knowing factors that influence the cost of wood in a local wood basket allows buyers to develop strategies to assure supply and mitigate price risk. By Eric Kingsley

36 The Slippery Slope of Biolubricants and Biogreases The lubricants industry is aware of the need and demand for environmentally-conscious options, but despite the advantages, there are challenges for consideration. By Raj Shah



28 ¦ADVERTISER INDEX 2019 International Biomass Conference & Expo Air Burners, Inc. AMANDUS KAHL GmbH & Co. KG Andritz Feed & Biofuel A/S Astec, Inc. Biomass Magazine's Industry Directory Biomass Magazine's Top News BRUKS Siwertell CPM Global Biomass Group Evergreen Engineering Hurst Boiler & Welding Co. Inc. IEP Technologies KEITH Manufacturing Company McLanahan Corporation ProcessBarron Rotochopper Inc. RUF Briquetting Systems SCHADE Lagertechnik GmbH Tramco, Inc. Vecoplan LLC Vermeer Corporation Williams Crusher

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Not Rocket Science, But Not So Easy


Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Applicable to many life circumstances, the cliché rings particularly true when it comes to a pellet or bioenergy facility’s fiber stream. Regardless of what’s wanted or expected, it may not always be what is received. Coincidentally, all three of my interviewees for page-14 feature, “Wood Yard Wisdom,” said that very thing. Operators of these facilities can’t just press pause, so making do is usually the only option. From the start, ensuring their equipment is robust enough to handle fuel variations is essential to preventing malfunctions, unexpected down time and financial hits. Also in the spirit of this month’s theme of feedstock sourcing, sizing and handling, Ron Kotrba interviewed Sustainable Resources Group for his feature article “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” on page 22. SRG’s niche is helping its customer find innovative solutions to waste disposal, and its most recent partnership involves collecting spend coffee grounds and using them to make fireplace logs, soil amendments and grilling pellets. Deeper into this issue, Staff Writer Patrick Miller digs into wood pallet-to-pellet operations, which source Chris Wiberg of Timber Products Inspection referred to as “a hot button issue.” There are several producers who recycle wood pallets and manufacture wood pellets out of those no longer useable, and while some think differently, they believe their products deserve the same benefits and treatment as those sourcing raw wood fiber. We’ve also included a contribution article by Innovative Natural Resource Solutions’ Eric Kingsley, in which he uses his vast experience in wood fiber supply and demand to provide some valuable tips on what large-scale wood buyers can do to ensure a consistent, price-stable and sustainable supply of wood. Something that stood out to me in the piece was Kingsley’s reminder that it’s not just about a fiber user’s own interests and purposes. He writes, “Treating suppliers like you care about their success (because you do, even if only selfishly) helps them become part of your success.” Kingsley drives home the notion that doing research and knowing your local wood basket can make things go a lot smoother, adding that while buying biomass isn’t easy, it also isn’t rocket science. As demonstrated by the variety of stories in this issue, the topic of feedstock logistics is complicated and encompassing of many subcategories, but we hope you’ll find that the content we’ve provided rounds out this theme nicely.




2019 International Biomass Conference & Expo

EDITOR Anna Simet

Savannah, Georgia





MARCH 18-20, 2019

Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop––the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. (866) 746-8385

2019 Advanced Biofuels Conference JUNE 10-12, 2019

Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis, Indiana With a vertically integrated program and audience, the Advanced Biofuels Conference is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels including cellulosic ethanol, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. | 866-746-8385



Please check our website for upcoming webinars

Justin Price, Evergreen Engineering Tim Portz, Pellet Fuels Institute Adam Sherman, Biomass Energy Resource Center

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Biomass Utilization: Options to Realize Maximum Value BY BOB CLEAVES

This month’s Biomass Magazine theme is centered on feedstock—sizing, handling and sourcing. I wanted to highlight another relevant topic that I think goes well with the feedstock theme: maximizing the utilization of the fuels used at biomass power facilities. Most of us in the biomass power sector are contending with ever-tightening margins. The rapid growth of heavily subsidized wind and solar, along with advancements in procuring natural gas, have had the effect of lowering power prices. In some cases, they have dropped beyond the point that biomass power can be sustained with profit, or even at cost. If these trends continue, the success of biomass power facilities may increasingly depend on greater efficiency in operations and optimal utilization of our fuels. Fortunately, there are many opportunities in these areas that BPA members are considering for additional revenue streams. Thermal utilization: After achieving goals to meet ambitious renewable power standards, some corporations and NGOs are looking to renewably sourced thermal energy as the next benchmark for sustainability. The Renewable Thermal Collaborative, launched within the past year by the World Wildlife Fund in partnership with several large corporations including Procter & Gamble, GM and Mars, seeks to reduce carbon emissions through the use of renewable energy for heating and cooling applications. Partnering existing biomass power facilities with the development of new factories, warehouses or data server facilities would be a natural way to take advantage of the heat released by biomass facilities, while helping corporations further reduce their carbon impact. Attracting new, heat-devouring businesses to pair with biomass facilities may be a ripe policy angle to explore with state governments, which have the means to attract new businesses with tax credits and other incentives, and would surely like to take credit for bringing jobs and economic development. Colocation: Colocating with a corporation outside the realm of biomass may be out of the question, based on lack of supportive state policy or other reasons. However, colocation with a biofuels producer or other user of low-value organic materials might make more sense. Combining two businesses that use similar feedstocks can create economies of scale, streamlining both businesses. Several of our members are exploring this 8 BIOMASS MAGAZINE |SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018

opportunity, and we are aware of entrepreneurs working on equipment that will make it easier and cost-effective to combine biomass power with biofuels development. Carbon capture: Following the so-called 45Q carbon capture tax credit passed earlier this year by Congress, biomass facilities should begin to consider the possibility of capturing carbon for geological storage or other uses. While the technology is still likely too expensive for most biomass power facilities to implement, it’s probably only a few years until it’s widely accessible. The 45Q tax credit will only help speed up this process by offering a credit of up to $50 per ton of carbon captured— not an insignificant amount—which will help offset the cost of the technology. Biochar: In a similar vein to carbon capture, another byproduct of biomass power facilities may soon gain in value. By adjusting the temperature at which fuel is burned, biomass power producers can create a byproduct called biochar. More substantial than the fly ash produced from biomass burned at higher temperatures, biochar has many potential applications. Depending on the content and acidity of the biochar, which can be tested via a tool on the International Biochar Initiative website, it can be used as a soil amendment to help retain moisture and nutrients, as an additive to animal feed to aid in digestion, or in wastewater treatment for odor control. While biochar has yet to catch on in a meaningful way, it holds a lot of promise and could represent a lucrative opportunity for biomass power producers. Finally, I’d like to note that Biomass Power Association has created a new, affordable level of membership. We are welcoming biomass industry vendors of all types as sponsors to our organization, no matter where your company falls on the supply chain. If you support the biomass power industry in any way, whether as a fuel supplier, equipment manufacturer or another type of vendor, please get in touch with us to learn about how you can get more exposure to potential clients and support the biomass power industry in its policy initiatives Author: Bob Cleaves President, Biomass Power Association

RNG to Provide Future RFS Environmental Benefits BY MARCUS GILLETTE

This summer, the U.S. EPA issued its second triennial review of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Critics of the RFS program were quick to laud certain summary findings of the report, primarily the argument that the RFS has cumulatively had as much, or more, negative overall environmental impact compared to the benefits it has achieved in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through increasing nationwide use of biofuels. Some critics even called for full repeal of the program. A deeper dive into the report, however, reveals that far less concern is warranted than the initial headlines might suggest. Reason 1: EPA’s report doesn’t assess life cycle GHGs. Although rogue GHGs present the world’s largest environmental challenge, EPA acknowledges that the report didn’t consider life cycle GHG emission impacts of biofuel. EPA states that it determined not to expand the scope of the assessment beyond the explicitly enumerated requirements in the law, which does not require GHG life cycle analysis. Excluding GHG life cycle analysis when analyzing environmental impact is incongruous, especially considering that advanced and cellulosic biofuels, by definition, must have lifecycle GHG emissions that are at least 50 or 60 percent less, respectively, than the baseline life cycle GHGs. In reality, the fastest-growing segment of the RFS is cellulosic biofuel, including renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG facilities easily meet the law’s 60 percent GHG emission savings threshold. According to RNG project analysis using the GHGs, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model by Argonne National Labs, RNG facilities regularly capture, destroy and displace GHG emissions to realize 70 to 300 percent lifecycle GHG emissions savings. As such, a life cycle assessment of the RFS would result in findings that show substantially greater environmental benefit. Reason 2: Land use impacts from crop-based biofuels are largely sunk costs. EPA’s report attributes a significant amount of the program’s undesirable environmental impacts to land-use changes related to crop-based biofuels. Critics using the report to add fuel to their argument for RFS repeal focus attention on conventional, crop-based fuels that have historically provided growth to the program. However, they neglect the law’s requirement that program growth beyond 2014 must come from advanced and cellulosic biofuel. From 2005 to 2014, the RFS spurred the rise of the modern corn ethanol industry. Historic analysis may provide an intellectual exercise that properly informs future policy decisions, but regret over sunk costs should not color an environmental analysis of how the program is performing today. A cost-benefit environmental analysis of the RFS moving

forward is far more helpful. EPA should ask what fuels are growing at the highest rate, and what impact do they have on the environment? While a majority of biofuels used in the RFS have thus far been in the conventional category (i.e. corn ethanol), trends show that the annual growth rate of cellulosic biofuels is now outpacing other fuels categories by more than double, and corn ethanol by nearly 20 times. Cellulosic biofuel’s 30 percent growth rate continues with the 2018 volume standard of 288 million gallons and EPA’s proposed 2019 standard of 381 million gallons. The RNG industry provides over 95 percent of the cellulosic biofuel used in the RFS program. With more than 50 RNG production facilities under construction or having reached stages of substantial development, the RNG industry is primed to meet EPA’s projected growth. Reason 3: Continued future growth of RNG will yield increased overall environmental benefit from the RFS. RNG facilities capture methane emissions that would otherwise be flared or escape into the atmosphere from waste streams at landfills, wastewater treatment facilities and anaerobic digesters. They convert methane into a fuel that is interchangeable with conventional natural gas, and can fuel natural gas vehicles including passenger buses, 18-wheelers and refuse trucks. EPA’s life cycle analysis distinguishes RNG transportation fuel as among the biofuels with the most environmental benefit. As discussed above, by definition, in being eligible for the cellulosic biofuel category of the RFS, RNG derived from the organic content in wastewater, MSW in our landfills, and from dairy and farm waste results in life cycle GHG benefits of 60 percent or more, compared to the diesel fuel baseline. Utilization of RNG as a transportation fuel not only helps mitigate methane emissions, it helps sequester carbon from certain sources. Under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the California Air Resources Board finds the reduction in carbon emissions from using RNG transportation fuel derived from organic waste in landfills and wastewater to be comparable to the carbon intensity of electric vehicles. RNG from dairy waste results in a carbon intensity score around negative 200, by far making it the lowest-carbon fuel available. RNG is already accepted in the marketplace, and is a win-win for both a clean environment and clean economy today. Its increasing use as a renewable fuel will result in future environmental benefit from the RFS, and for our planet. Author: Marcus Gillette Director of Public Affairs, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas 916-588-3033


Midterm Elections, RVO Decisions, and Lame Duck Tax Relief BY MICHAEL MCADAMS

With former U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt taking aim at the biofuels industry, what started out as a challenging year is now winding down on an ostensibly more moderate and manageable note. While little is getting done on the legislative front at the moment, there are several efforts to keep eyes on the RFS and advanced biofuels industry in the coming months. This is not to say we can take a back seat; we must still remain vigilant and engaged. But EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s hand seems to be steadier than his predecessor’s, and matters at EPA appear to be moving in a more transparent and thoughtful direction. When testifying recently before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the acting administrator was judicious in answering questions about EPA’s small refinery exemptions (SREs). He has publicly stated that there should be more transparency in the process for granting SREs, and that it would be difficult to find the “disproportionate economic hardship” described in the statute, given currently low RIN prices. These are both positive signs for our industry. Positive signs long overdue, given the storms we have weathered over the past several months—calls to permit RINs for exported biofuels, handing a free pass on compliance for PES, and EPA granting 48 SREs from compliance with the RFS. On the plus side, House Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., continues to hold substantial congressional hearings on the state of the RFS program. These hearings have investigated potential changes that could address the disagreements between corn ethanol and the oil industry. On the Senate side, Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, continues to thoughtfully engage with stakeholders, and encourage the development of solutions that will help move the RFS program forward for everyone. These are not easy tasks, but I truly appreciate the leadership both men are providing in their endeavors. As for the mess Pruitt left behind at EPA, the agency is now facing at least three lawsuits challenging its determinations in granting the 48 SREs for compliance years 2016 and 2017. These suits challenge the manner in which the SREs were granted, the criteria used to grant them, EPA’s failure to provide information on the determinations in response to numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, and specific determinations.


So what should we expect this coming fall? To start, Congress has 15 scheduled legislative days prior to its midterm elections—not much time to get a lot done. We should continue to be on the lookout for new proposals for RFS reform that could be released in order to create momentum for comprehensive reform in 2019. Comments on EPA’s proposed 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations are due on August 17. The agency will begin reviewing comments, and I suspect we will see a final RVO released after the midterm elections, but before the statutory deadline of Nov. 30. Furthermore, we can expect to see some initial motions on the SRE lawsuits pending against EPA in the coming months. On the tax front, I expect the earliest we will see meaningful tax extenders conversations materialize will be during the lame duck session after the midterm elections. A change in majority control of at least one of the chambers could further complicate the conversation on tax, teeing up a January timeline for clarity on extenders much like we saw in 2017. Recently, trade associations including ABFA and the National Biodiesel Board joined coalitions from the trucking and fuel marketing sectors in calling for a straight extension of the biodiesel blenders’ credit. This unified effort makes it far more likely that we can negotiate a good path forward for the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries—hopefully, a longer-term agreement negotiated as quickly as possible. We are all working toward this goal. As always, we have much to do this fall. Stay engaged, and be sure to vote this November to remind our public servants about the importance of the RFS and its broad impact on America. Author: Michael McAdams President, Advanced Biofuels Association


Burke joins Aries Clean Energy as general counsel Robert W. Burke has joined Aries Clean Energy as executive vice Buke president and general counsel, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience as general counsel for domestic and international energy companies. Previously, Burke has managed corporate governance, government affairs and compliance on behalf of multinational companies, and has served on the boards of directors of private and publicly traded companies headquartered in the U.S. and abroad. He has served in leadership roles in a diverse spectrum of companies, including Edison Mis-

sion Energy, PPL Global, Competitive Power Venture and Vogt Power International. Burke earned his Bachelor of Arts from Providence College, and a Juris Doctorate from University of Virginia School of Law.

Bruks Siwertell hires Crosswhite, debuts new conveyor Bruks Siwertell has appointed Kristi Crosswhite as the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new marCrosswhite keting coordinator. In the position, Crosswhite will focus on improving brand recognition in the areas of port, storage and conveying technology, as well as managing


trade shows, publications and handling all marketing needs. Crosswhite has 15 years of experience in sales, customer service and marketing industries. Bruks also announced its new Belt Conveyor, a system composed of a standard belt supported on a bed of pressurized air, over a formed steel trough. The new design eliminates idlers and maintenance issues associated with traditional conveyor design, as well as safety and environmental issues caused by airborne particulates commonly generated by other conveyor designs. The basic components include the head unit, tail unit, and the required number of intermediate sections, with the only rotating elements being the head and tail pulleys. The conveyor is equipped with an enclosed cover and integrated air slide return that provides for a dust-free system.


Vecoplan introduces new shredder

Vecoplan has introduced its VEZ 3200, a shredder with a powerful, single-shaft preshredder with high-throughput capacity. It is ideally suited for the manufacture of refuse-derived fuels from production and sorting waste, packaging material and the high-calorific fraction of domestic and commercial waste for use as an energy source in cement works and power stations. The VEZ 3200 was designed on the basis of the successful VEZ 2500 TV with the objective of developing an even more robust, powerful and economic component. All areas subject to particularly high forces and loadings in the shredding process have

been specifically reinforced. Along with more compact external dimensions, a lower loading edge has been incorporated to simplify feeding of the machine by wheel loaders and stacker trucks, as well as an infinitely adjustable pusher speed, improved curved pusher and an enclosed design, making hazard points on the outside of the machine inaccessible.

AEBIOM changes name to Bioenergy Europe

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) has rebranded as Bioenergy Europe, with an aim at giving a clearer, more united voice to Europe’s first source of renewable energy.

Biomass is also Europe's first source of locally produced energy, representing more than 60 percent of the total renewable energy consumed, and employing more than 500,000 people. AEBIOM, which has accompanied this transition for nearly 30 years, decided to change its name to reflect the evolution of the sector. In this context, said Bioenergy Europe's president Didzis Palejs, “Bioenergy Europe is a choice of clarity and simplicity. Recent EU debates have shown many misleading perceptions; we, as a trade federation, have the duty to better explain our daily commitment to EU citizens.” Jean-Marc Jossart, Bioenergy Europe's secretary-general, said the rebranding also reflects the internal evolutions of the association, as Bioenergy Europe experienced an outstanding growth in recent years, passing the symbolic milestone of 100 members.

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WISDOM Many factors come into play when designing the ideal wood yard and fuel handling system for a bioenergy or wood pellet operation. BY ANNA SIMET


pfront capital budgets, operating budgets, climate, space, fuel quality, local regulations, facility size and even more factors come into play when choosing a bioenergy or pellet manufacturing facility’s wood yard and fuel handling system, and each scenario presents its own complex set of design challenges. When John Saucier of ProcessBarron is explaining wood yard options to customers, he explains these factors and the degree of influence they should have on decision-making, laying

out three different categories for potential options—fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual. “For fully-automated from the time the trucks come in until the fuel is burned in the boiler, it is never manually handled, other than maybe a truck tipper that has to be operated by the driver,” Saucier explains. “All of the storage is stacked out and reclaimed, and there is basically no mobile equipment needed.” Facilities with lower capital budgets may not opt for fully-automated wood


yards, he adds, but those located in cold, wet climates tend to go this route, due to the manpower required and efficiency losses that occur when operating facilties in harsh climates. “This scenario is very labor-conscious, and tends to be the route of large-scale facilities with a high throughput of biomass, or facilities in northern climates. Or, if you get into urban areas where dust or noise is a factor, where there are space constraints, or even just the visual effect, it might drive you toward an automated wood yard.


Fiber is dumped from a truck at Drax’s Morehouse Bioenergy’s wood yard in northeastern Louisiana. The pellet plant, commissioned in August 2015, sits on 138 acres of land and can produce up to 525,000 metric tons of pellets annually. Andritz Inc. supplied the project’s chipping and screening equipment. PHOTO: DRAX BIOMASS

Everything is contained in silos or storage buildings that are more compact, whereas a manual wood yard tends to be spread out on a large acreage.” Although they are smaller-scale, universities tend to go this route, according to Saucier. “We’ve done three university projects, and all were fully automated, and up north,” he says. “Being on campus, they’re landlocked and in that urban environment, they all had a tighter space, and university labor costs tend to be more expensive.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum is a fully manual wood yard, a labor-intensive option that might have as many as three or four pieces of mobile equipment. “From the time the trucks come in and dump fuel, it’s manually stacked up into piles, and then pulled back out of the piles to be reclaimed and sent to the boilers,” Saucier says. “Mostly, it’s guys out there doing the work. Conversely, this option is more popular at smaller mills that have lower throughputs. Anyone who can operate with one

or two frontloaders will most often go this route. Smaller plants in the South do as well, if it’s a rural area, if labor is cheap, and weather isn’t a factor. Finally, semi-automated is a middle-ground solution, Saucier says, that doesn’t lean heavily on operational or capital costs. “With semi-automated, you will see some automation in the stackout or reclaim end of the fuel-feed chain, and this can keep your upfront investment and operational costs in check.”



Radial stackers are used to store and reclaim wood chips in a semi-automated wood yard configuration. PHOTO: PROCESSBARRON


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Once a wood yard layout is selected, there are plenty of considerations for equipment selection. For pellet manufacturing operations sizing fiber on-site, the most important part of equipment is the chipper, according to Dave Evans, area sales manager at Andritz.

Designs Dos, Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ts

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a firm proponent of making minichips, or some people call them microchips,â&#x20AC;? Evans says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is reducing the wood logs into small particles that can be dried immediately, instead of receiving bigger pulp mill chips, and having to reduce those further to get them to a size appropriate for the dryer,â&#x20AC;? Evans says, adding that Andritzâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s HHQ mini chipper is a popular choice for its pellet manufacturing customers. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re getting residual chips from local sawmills, chip ends, some logs, some dry material and some not, a real mishmash of material, it wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t apply, but it does to mills being built with its raw material supply being logs.â&#x20AC;? Bringing in logs instead of chips


or sawdust may be a cost equation, as some wood is cheaper to buy in its whole form, but it may also be an economic decision, Evans says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;With a chipper, you have much bigger economies of scale, when you can produce your minichips directly from round wood, rather than buying individual truck loads from raw material from either an in-woods chipper or a sawmill. You will also always make a high-quality, uniform thickness and length material that will also dry uniformly, and thus give you the fiber you need at the lowest horsepower energy per ton. Smaller mills will buy residual materials, but a mill thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s built to produce 250,000 dry tons of pellets or more, they are looking at wood to supply their raw material needs.â&#x20AC;? After a chipper, Evans says, a crane to handle the wood is an important component. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A crane can store a lot of wood in a relatively small area, and also provides a way to very evenly feed the raw material through the process so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chipped at an even rate.â&#x20AC;? On the bioenergy facility side,



BOOSTING YOUR BUSINESS FROM FIELD TO FUEL H OW CAN WE H E LP FU E L YO U R B U S I N ES S? In manual woodyards, operators use front-end loaders to move the wood fuel to the reclaimer. PHOTO: PROCESSBARRON

the main equipment factor for consideration is not necessarily any particular component, but rather, how it’s designed, according to Justin Price, principal at Evergreen Engineering. “Your mass flow through the system—it’s critical in how it’s delivered, but also the volumetric flow through the system. Along with this is consideration of peak demand, average demand, and the difference between the two. If you design on the average, your average is great, but if you’re constantly getting the hot and the cold, you sort of miss the design. So don’t just design for average flow rate conditions; design for peak flow rates, and consider frequency and durations of those.” For pellet facilities, Price says aside from the same raw material mass flow considerations for bioenergy facilities, what’s sometimes overlooked is handling of the actual pellet, once it’s made. “You really have to minimize impact to that pellet, because of durability and generation of fines,” he explains. “Big drops into si-

los, long transitions, those things can cause degradation of the wood pellets—a lot more dust and damage to product. More time should be spent on focusing on good transitions, and proper handling of the product.” Improper transitions between conveyors and leakage, spillage over the belts, improper seals and inadequate loading zones are other design flaws Price sees at bioenergy facilities. “At pellet facilities, we see issues with the design of silos, storage bins and intermediate storage such as hoppers and bins—a lot of bridging issues. If you don’t get good material flow through those silos, or uniform flow, it will cause plugging, or rat holing. Those are the most common, but other issues that we see, though not as often, are wrong-sized screening applications and hammer mills, and a lack of understanding of feedstock size and variation.” That might mean a producer specifies three-inch minus chips, but gets in softball-sized material. “Biomass fuel standards that have come

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out have come a long way in helping define that product, but there really has to be an understanding of where the material is coming from, potentials for size variation and lumps,” Price says. “In a wintery climate, it might be frozen wood, and you can get things as big as a football. Saucier reiterates Price’s remarks. “Wood yards are often designed too light of duty for what’s perceived as an easier-to-handle, cleaner, better quality fuel that what you’ll really have,” he says. “A common mistake is to believe that when a supplier brings you an initial sample of material, that’s what you’ll be getting for the next 20 years. The most common thread in what we see in wood yards is that they’re underdesigned to handle difficult fuel that they will receive down the road—stringy, dirty, not as homogenous and doesn’t flow as well. In two years,

you might have a very different fuel than when you started. “ So what’s the difference between an underdesigned fuel handling system, and an adequate one? “The difference is motor horsepower, the drive design, and general strength of all of the components—shafting, bearings, chains, belts, and sometimes, even the structural components of the system,” Saucier says. And the cost difference? It might be 20 to 40 percent of the overall job cost, according to Saucier. “If you’re talking fully automated, you could be talking millions more, and for totally manual, maybe the hundred thousands range.” Specifically on underdesigning, Price says not to skimp on belt width and feed. “The rest of it tends to work itself out,” he says. “Screens are second—make sure you have the right type, and the right screen particle size separation.”

For those looking for improvements or upgrades to existing wood yards, there are some features to incorporate—not necessarily sweeping changes, but small, technological improvements that have made a big difference over time.

Innovation, Evolution

Wood yard and fuel handling technology has evolved over decades, Evans says, and most innovation is based off what already existed, such as the microchipper. “The pellet chipper, specific for pellet facilities, came around in the early 2000s, and that really was a development of a standard pulp chip-type chipper. Pulp chips might be three-fourths of an inch long. Mini chips are a third of that, so you’re looking at making quarter inch chips instead of three-fourths inch chips—it’s not revolution, it’s evolution in existing design.”

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Stackout and reclaim systems have also been adapted from the pulp and paper industry, and “most have been out and around for 40 to 50 years,” Evans says, but small changes have made a difference. “New technology in screening for these chips might be something like an Andritz jet screen, which screens chips via an air knife,” he says. “It’s a relatively new process for wood chips, whether pulp mill or minichips—one of these is installed at Georgia Biomass.” Price says he is seeing more belt monitoring systems for both biometric and flow rates and tension on the belt for wear. “There are new products coming out, and I’m seeing more focus on operators for cleaning and maintenance, which I think stems from having dust hazard analyses (DHA) conducted. Due to upcoming OSHA DHA requirements, we’re seeing more attention being

paid to combustible dust. Even though the product might be 50 percent moisture or considered wet fuel, that material that does sit on the ledges and in the hoppers will dry out, and then become combustible dust.” Conveyor technology systems are another bright spot, Price says. “Some manufacturers are doing a better job of understanding demands of the product, and building more robust machines,” he says. “I’m seeing a lot more use of enmass conveyors, drag chains like Tramco’s, and there are companies doing a great job bringing new products to the market. Bruks is another—those guys have been doing conveyors for a long time, and they’re doing a really good job incorporating some unique designs into the features of en mass conveyors—a lot of them now have explosion panels built into them, and things like that.”

The bottom line is, wood yards and fuel handling systems should be designed to handle the lowest-quality fiber a plant might receive. “You might plan to have a minimum of three-inch material, and end up with smaller than one inch,” Evans adds. “So you’ll have waste or potential jam issues—stuff falls through onto the bark belt, and ends up jamming up your process. You plan that you’ll have the best, but you need to expect that you’ll get some of the worst.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4961


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aking sustainability a profitable reality—that’s the tagline of Sustainable Resources Group LLC based in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, 40 miles west of Philadelphia. Founded in 1985 as Land Resource Recycling Management Inc., in its early days the company primarily managed land application of biosolids in New Jersey, according to Peter King, vice president of SRG. King has been with SRG for 19 years and is “the heart and soul of the company”—as described by others within the firm—given his knowledge of all aspects in what SRG does and his willingness to get down and dirty on jobs other firms might turn away.

In 2001, LRRM became a wholly owned subsidiary of ECOR Solutions Inc., and the company expanded to managing food processing and drinking water plant residuals through land application, composting, animal feed, energy production and manufactured soils. In 2008, ECOR Solutions and LRRM combined and took on a new name: Sustainable Resources Group. “This new name better describes what we do today,” King says. Chairman Greg Campbell says SRG has provided sustainability solutions to the food processing, water and wastewater industries for more than 20 years. “We turn organic waste that would otherwise end up in land-


fills or streams into either a source of energy or useful products such as animal feed, fertilizer or soil additives,” Campbell says. “We also are actively using anaerobic digesters to turn high-BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) waste into energy.” The company has a fleet of vacuum tankers, frameless dump trailers, walking floor and van trailers. SRG also leases property for drying processes and liquid storage. King says SRG is actively working with seven on-farm anaerobic digesters where liquid food processing residuals are mixed with manure to create gas for power generation. Connor Gingrich, an SRG project manager with a focus in sales and marketing, says in



COFFEE Sustainable Resources Group, a firm dedicated to helping organizations turn costly waste into revenue-generating income streams, is embarking on a new project that has the potential to be the biggest initiative in company history. BY RON KOTRBA

the coming years, SRG plans to offer turnkey operations for large corporations looking to find better renewable power options. “Ideally,” Gingrich says, “we will implement a digester than can provide power directly back to where we are receiving the material from.” The majority of SRG’s revenue, according to Campbell, comes from Fortune 500 companies committed to environmentally sustainable solutions. “Most people don’t realize that these sustainable solutions are almost always less expensive for our clients than sending waste product to a landfill or other, less environmentally friendly solutions,” he says. “SRG works closely with our clients to engineer solutions to minimize

waste streams, saving them millions of dollars each year.”

Case Study

In one case study that exemplifies how SRG can turn problematic, costly waste into revenue streams for its clients, SRG was engaged to investigate a problem managing sludge at one of its client’s out-of-state manufacturing facilities. Liquid waste from the prepared foods manufacturing process was piped to an on-site pretreatment facility for dewatering. The remaining solids were then transported to a landfill where more than half of the daily truckloads were rejected for high free liquid content. The cost of trucks

returning to the plant, and having to repeat the dewatering process, was significant. SRG identified high levels of grease in the sludge, making dewatering particularly difficult. After gaining approval and permits from the state, SRG conducted a study on various land applications for the sludge. The month-long study ultimately indicated that the overall cost and inefficiency of the process eliminated this option as a viable alternative. After investigating other uses, composting was identified as an economically viable solution. Eight months later, SRG implemented a process for collecting sludge at the plant and transporting it to a nearby composting facility. A decade later, SRG was BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 23

¦PROFILE still transporting 30 tons of dewatered waste a day with dump trailers from the plant to the compost processor. The client eliminated a sludge problem and reduced annual waste management costs by nearly $100,000, while concurrently moving closer to becoming landfill-free by having waste repurposed. While conducting the sludge management study, SRG also identified large volumes of high-quality oven grease that was going directly into the sewer lines. SRG recommended the grease be captured for transport and resale. Nearly 20 tons a week of high-quality grease that was once being wasted, causing potential problems for the city sewer system, is now collected and generating revenue for the client. Another challenge at the client’s plant was high amounts of organic waste from a frozen foods manufacturing process. SRG assisted in the design and implementation of a recycling solution for nearly 12 tons generated daily. After setting up the means for collection, the food waste is powdered and sold for use as a chicken feed ingredient. On top of solving various organic waste challenges, SRG also implemented a solution for the client’s cardboard recyclables, redirecting 125 tons of corrugated cardboard a week to a local paper mill, which buys the material. The client is now 100 percent landfill-free and saves $225,000 a year because of the changes SRG implemented.

“As an organization, SRG is excited to help other organizations meet their profitability and environmental goals,” says Jason Litman, SRG business unit manager. “We believe those two areas are not mutually exclusive. This ‘win-win’ attitude is what makes SRG a great partner for organizations across the country.” Litman joined the company in early 2018 with more than 10 years of leadership experience across multiple industries in supply chain, logistics and project management experience. When asked where he believes some of the biggest untapped resources in industrial waste reside, Gingrich says the food processing industry is megalithic. “SRG is building a strategy to best implement our methods to a larger clientele,” Gingrich says. “By doing so, we expect to have a presence all over the U.S. by 2025, whereas right now we are mainly in the Northeast, Southeast and a bit into the Midwest.” Gingrich is a Penn State student studying energy business and finance, with minors in information sciences technology and Spanish. “I joined the company last November and have focused on different projects for the company, looking at where we can best expand our business,” he says.

Spent Grounds

One of the most promising areas SRG has identified for expansion is in finding practical applications for spent coffee


grounds. “We are working on a brand new partnership in the Northeast involving the collection of spent coffee grounds,” Litman says. “SRG will save our customer from having to send the grounds to a landfill, which is expensive and harmful to the environment. We have a few different options of how we can recycle these grounds and turn them into a product sold to consumers. This has the potential to be the biggest initiative in our company’s history.” Litman and Gingrich are heavily involved in SRG’s spent coffee grounds project. As the business unit manager, Litman is responsible for all profit/loss and business development-related matters on the project, while Gingrich’s role is developing the best strategy to make spent coffee grounds a viable byproduct for purchase. Gingrich says the spent coffee grounds project is SRG’s largest biomass-related work. The firm recently solidified a contract with major food company and instant coffee pioneer Nestlé for its spent coffee grounds left over from its instant coffee production process. Instant coffee is made from brewed coffee that is then dehydrated through one of a few different techniques. Instant coffee production, therefore, results in spent coffee grounds just as brewing coffee does. According to Gingrich, in late November, SRG will begin the collection of Nestlé’s spent coffee grounds. The company hopes to leverage

Sustainable Resources Group ships waste such as spent coffee grounds with walking bed trailers. PHOTO: SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES GROUP

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One land application of wastes such as spent coffee grounds is to inject it into cropland for different soil controls. PHOTO: SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES GROUP

this arrangement to eventually move toward collection of a majority of spent coffee grounds produced in the U.S. Since 2004, SRG has been supplying spent coffee grounds to Jarden—recently bought out by Royal Oak Enterprises—for the production of fireplace logs. Royal Oak produces 700,000 fireplace logs a year from spent coffee grounds supplied by SRG. “Our current emphasis on spent coffee grounds

could ultimately divert millions of tons of waste grounds from landfills and turn it into useful products or energy,” Campbell says. In addition to soil amendments and fireplace logs, SRG finds spent coffee grounds versatile enough for many applications. “We have looked at the fuel pellet industry,” Gingrich says, “and realized it was a pretty flooded market. So we moved our focus to the cosmetics industry, using the coffee in

face scrubs as well as the activated carbon market.” SRG is currently developing grilling pellets from spent coffee. The company had a booth at the 2018 Pellet Fuels Institute Annual Conference, where grilling pellets was a hot topic. “We wanted to get our name out there in this industry,” Gingrich says. “We believe using spent coffee grounds for grilling pellets is quite a revolutionary idea—and


While land applications for spent coffee grounds are beneficial and environmentally friendly uses for an industrial food processing waste, Sustainable Resources Group has new ideas for the material—such as developing grilling pellets. PHOTO: SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES GROUP

what better way to show off our process than the PFI Conference. A large focus of the spent coffee grounds project is to find ways to use the coffee in grilling, which we believe to have a great effect on flavor.” SRG prides itself on making sustainability a profitable reality. As a result, it mainly focuses on the food processing industry to help companies achieve more sustainable options for their waste through land appli-

cation, composting and different processes, such as turning spent coffee grounds into cosmetic ingredients, fireplace logs or grilling pellets. “Every day, we focus on new ways to not only be innovative in the industry, but how to achieve sustainability during that process,” Gingrich says. “We are looking to break through the composting market in the Southeast U.S. while acquiring more spent coffee grounds for our coffee project

in the process. Over the next few years, as this project helps our company grow, we will be implementing new strategies to take organic residuals to new heights.” Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Biomass Magazine 218-745-8347

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from Pellets Perspectives vary on whether wood pallets are a suitable pellet feedstock, but those using them insist it’s a good use for the fiber, and that their product can stand up to tests. BY PATRICK C. MILLER


he ubiquitous wood pallet is often seen hoisted by a forklift and piled high with new, shrink-wrapped goods headed to market. Pallets have become such a common sight in the world of logistics that the public doesn’t view them with suspicion, or consider them particularly controversial. But that changes when the discussion turns to what happens to wood pallets at the end of their useful lives, which can be more than a decade. It’s not a trivial subject. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, there are 1.8 billion pallets—93 percent made of wood— in use in the U.S. every day, and 3.3 billion a day throughout Europe. Turning them into a fuel source when past the point of recycling not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but also keeps millions of tons of solid waste out of landfills each year. But from the U.S. EPA’s perspective, using wood pallets as a pellet feedstock is too great a risk to the environment and the public. In March 2015, the EPA published its final rule on new source performance standards (NSPS) for new residen-

tial wood heaters. The 82-page document mentions pallets just once, and that’s to list them among prohibited fuel sources for wood heaters manufactured after May 15, 2015. “The standard that the EPA put out is a problem, and I think we should get it changed, because it’s based on misperception,” says Joe O’Brien, president of Eastford Wood Fibre LLC in Princeton, Massachusetts. Eastford not only recycles wood pallets by repairing them and putting them back into service, but also uses them as a feedstock for its home heating Blackstone and Still River wood pellet labels. “Wood pallets are lumped in with construction and demolition wood,” he says. “I can see why you wouldn’t want that wood in a pellet. You don’t know where it came from, what it was used for or anything of that nature.” Billy Hoskins, vice president of sales for Easy Heat Wood Pellets in South Charleston, Ohio, also believes the EPA gave wood pallets a bum rap as a pellet fuel feedstock. “We don’t want tires and we don’t want railroad ties—we’re all in agreement there,” he says. “But we think that


wood pallets—under the right format and the right processing—are a suitable feedstock and a sustainable feedstock.” O’Brien insists the perception that wood pallets in general are dirty, because they’re exposed to or treated with potentially harmful chemicals, isn’t accurate. This is especially the case for Eastford, which is primarily in the business of selling recycled wood pallets back to the food and pharmaceutical industries, where cleanliness isn’t an option—it’s usually a requirement.

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association says about 1.8 billion wood pallets are in use in the U.S. every day. Some wood recycling companies take in pallets no longer suitable for use, and process them into wood pellets. PHOTO: NATIONAL WOODEN PALLET AND CONTAINER ASSOCIATION

“We sell pallets to a beverage company, and they have to go through a room that’s ultraclean,” he relates. “You can’t sell them a dirty pallet. The majority of pallets are very clean, and you don’t use treated wood to build pallets. You use dry hardwoods or softwoods, most of it virgin. We’re not interested in dirty pallets because we can’t resell them,” O’Brien continues. “The providence of the pallet is important. You have to know that it’s a clean pallet so that you can resell it back into that same industry.”

The feedstock for Eastford’s wood pellets comes from broken boards removed from damaged pallets being recycled, as well as pallets that have reached the end of their lifecycle. According to O’Brien, the company produces about 40 to 45 tons per day of waste wood that’s ground and used for its wood pellet feedstock. Nails in the waste wood aren’t an issue, O’Brien says. “We’ve been grinding pallet wood for 20 years,” he explains. “If you’re going to sell it to anybody, you’ve got to get

the metal out. There are big magnets that take all the metal out. We’re recycling the metal too, because there’s value in it. We’re in the recycling business first.” Easy Heat wood pellets are manufactured by BDL Supply, a family-owned business that has manufactured wood packaging since 1968, and pellets since 2010. It makes pallets, crates, blocking and bracing with a primarily hardwood material feedstock. Used and new waste lumber is ground to provide the wood pellet Feedstock. Easy BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM 29


Heat produces about 25,000 tons of pellets annually for sale to residential consumers. Hoskins says a unique aspect of Easy Heat’s wood pellet operation is that its feedstock isn’t exposed to the outdoors and doesn’t gets wet, muddy or dirty from coming into contact with the ground. The company has a robust internal testing program to measure the pellets for moisture, bulk density and other factors. The pellets are also tested to meet the EPA-approved wood pellet standards of the Pellet Fuels Institute, according to Hoskins. “We believe in standards, and we believe in testing,” he says. “We test with the same lab that the people who make certified wood pellets do. And the results say—the majority of the time—that we pass the standards test. We just can’t be a part of the PFI program because of the one mention of pallets by the EPA.”



Hoskins is frustrated that the agency puts wood pallet feedstock in the same class as materials that would obviously cause air quality concerns. “The people who wrote the rule at the EPA see pallets as back-alley stuff, and I don’t think that’s the reality of the pallet industry,” he says. “It’s generational companies that provide a service and keep pallets out of landfills. Pallets take produce across the country today. It’s a clean process. Most of us are very sophisticated operators. We worry about safety and worry about cleanliness and being a good vendor.” Hoskins and O’Brien recognize that there are bad actors in every industry, and know that not all companies exercise the same level of quality control over their wood pellet feedstock. However, they strongly disagree with the EPA’s one-sizefits-all approach to prohibiting pallets as a wood pellet feedstock


“If we can pass the testing process and have robust internal testing and follow everything that the PFI standard puts out there, then why shouldn’t we be able to participate?” Hoskins asks. “Now, if I can’t pass, then that’s on us for a number of different reasons. We have to improve our processes, or our feedstock has to improve. I’m not against the standards and I’m not against testing or certification. The only thing I’m against is that the EPA has excluded us.” From a regulator’s perspective, Lisa Rector, senior policy analyst with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, references a two-year study of wood pellet fuel characteristics the organization released in June 2013. NESCAUM is a nonprofit association representing pollution control agencies in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and


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Eastford Wood Fibre has been grinding waste wood from wood pallets at its facility in Eastford, Connecticut, for more than 20 years. The company uses clean pallets for the process and removes all nails for metal recycling. PHOTO: EASTFORD WOOD FIBRE LLC



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Chris Wiberg, vice president of laboratories at Timber Products Inspection and Biomass Energy Lab, says there are arguments on both sides as to whether wood pallets should be used as a feedstock for wood pellets. PHOTO: TIMBER PRODUCTS INSPECTION

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New York, providing them with scientific, technical, analytical and policy support. Rector notes that after analyzing wood pellets from more than 100 different manufacturers—buying multiple bags from multiple locations—researchers found many pellets which they classed as “not normal.” The elemental analysis revealed contaminants such as magnesium, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and even sulfur dioxide. In some cases, she says it was evident the wood feedstock was contaminated, but in others, it couldn’t be determined with certainty whether the contamination was naturally occurring or came from an unknown outlier. Thus, the “not normal” language was used. “One of interesting aspects is what should happen when we think we have a case of an improper product,” Rector says. “What should we do about it? It’s really complicated. It’s not illegal to make a contaminated pellet, but it is illegal to burn it. Right now, homeowners are on the hook the way the rules are structured. Without some type of mechanism to ensure that a pellet is clean, you’re leaving it to a ‘buyer beware’ situation. You don’t want to put burden on the consumer. It just isn’t common sense, and the retailer isn’t going to do it, either.” NESCAUM has studied wood pallets as a feedstock. One problem Rector sees is that the pallets can travel around the world where they’re treated with fungicides and insecticides in other countries, sometimes causing elevated mercury levels. There’s also no way of knowing what the pallets used internationally may have been exposed to, she notes. She applauds PFI’s efforts to develop standards for wood pellets. “If you


want to sell a product that’s labeled, if you want the quality mark, then it has to be a quality product for all,” Rector explains. “The requirements must be focused on using clean wood and assuring a clean wood standard.” One person who’s been closely involved in developing PFI’s wood pellet standard is Chris Wiberg, vice president of laboratories at Timber Products Inspection and Biomass Energy Lab in Duluth, Minnesota. He runs an independent third-party lab that tests both virgin wood feedstock and recycled feedstock. He says the use of pallets is a hot-button issue in the wood pellet industry. “The regulators say there’s too many opportunities for something to slip through the cracks. They’re not comfortable with it, and want a blanket exclusion,” Wiberg relates. “But shouldn’t the standards themselves dictate whether or not it’s used? If there’s something we need to watch out for,

Solid Fuel

tell us what it is. Let us test it and prove it one way or the other. There’s arguments being debated on both sides.” Tim Portz, PFI executive director, says the pellets from pallets issue must be resolved. “There needs to be a home for wood fiber when it becomes worn out,” he says. “We need to figure out the reality. When you look at this issue, the one thing that’s clear to me is that more work needs to be done to make consumers and retailers aware of quality programs in place to assure consumers that they’re buying a quality product that meets the PFI standards.” O’Brien says manufacturers using pallets as a feedstock need to work with PFI and the pallet industry for a solution. “A pallet works hard for all of its useful life and then has value in heating somebody’s residence or business,” he notes. “It’s the best use of a renewable resource that I can think of. You use some energy to harvest it, then it serves a purpose for somewhere between


four and 12 years and then it converts to an energy product. How can you beat that?” An open, honest dialogue with the EPA is also needed, Hoskins says. “I tend to think that recycling is good and—if done properly within the rules and within certain standards—it’s the right thing for our world,” he says. “If our company can’t pass or Joe’s company can’t pass, or some other company can’t pass, then we shouldn’t be making pellets. I understand that. Our argument is that we’re fairly confident we can pass.” Until the manufacturers, the researchers and the regulators can arrive at a compromise, the issue of whether wood pallets represent a viable feedstock for biomass fuel will continue to generate a certain amount of angst in the industry. Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, Biomass Magazine 701-738-4923


A large wood yard enables buyers to continue operating through feedstock supply disruptions. PHOTO: INRS

and Preparing for Volatility in Feedstock Availability and Pricing BY ERIC KINGSLEY


or two decades, I have worked with developers and financers to build or acquire biomass energy projects, including electricity generators, wood pellet mills and liquid fuel plants. I have had the opportunity to work with a full range of developers—large utilities converting coal plants to wood fuel, sophisticated investors that have enjoyed success in other energy arenas and now are looking for opportunities in wood, and ambitious entrepreneurs looking to make a project work. Invariably, I am asked something like, “How do we contract to make sure that we will always have all the wood we need, and lock up the price for the next five to 10 to 20 years?” There is usually an awkward silence after I answer, “You can’t, at least not like you’re thinking.” Wood fuel isn’t like other commodity energy sources such as coal, natural gas, oil or even corn. There isn’t a national (or global) open, real-time price discovery system, as there is for commodity fuels. There aren’t usually lots of creditworthy entities looking to serve as suppliers, and no one entity controls the entire supply chain—for example,

forest landowners own the wood, and loggers own the ability to harvest, process and transport the wood. All of that noted, there are many things large-scale wood buyers can do to ensure a consistent, price-stable and sustainable supply of wood. First, let’s address the perception that wood prices are volatile. Simply put, they’re not. Sure, prices can move up and down, but over time, they are remarkably stable. For a project in Maine, we recently analyzed biomass prices, compared to oil and natural gas for a large-scale heating project. Over the past 20 years, biomass was not only cheaper and had a lower rate of inflation, it had significantly less cost volatility than either of the fossil fuels. It turns out that when people mention “volatility” around biomass, I think what they are really saying is “uncertainty and unfamiliarity.” Biomass is a localized market, dependent upon a range of factors that many aren’t familiar with. It doesn’t have open and forward pricing, like you find for oil, coal and natural gas. Biomass isn’t a standard fuel, and a financial analyst in New York or a utility executive in Houston may

have reservations about the ability to get fuel, at a price that makes a project financeable. Here are some things to be aware of, and actions to take Kingsley to help biomass projects secure a consistent supply at a reasonable and understandable price. Biomass availability, and to some extent spot pricing, can be impacted by weather and seasonality. In the Northeast, for example, we know that mud season comes between winter and spring every year. When it’s muddy and the ground and roads are soft, loggers can’t work in the woods, and trucks can’t move on the roads. Plan on it. Build a wood yard large enough to get through the supply disruption, and fill it over the winter. For

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).



Trucks waiting in line to unload at a biomass wood yard will end up costing the facility. PHOTO: INRS

large-scale users of biomass, just-in-time deliveries will eventually mean an empty wood yard and an idled plant. Biomass is a low-value forest product. Landowners make their money growing sawlogs for lumber and pulpwood for mills. Biomass is worth less than these— often a lot less. In New England, a recent analysis showed that biomass was over a third of the volume harvested, but represented just two percent of the revenue a landowner receives. In practical terms, that means nobody is trying to grow biomass, and nobody wants a biomass-only harvest. Biomass is reliant upon and supports other forest product markets. Know about the other, higher-value markets for wood, and figure out how to work within the market dynamics they create. Some biomass can come right from other forest industries. Sawmill residue—the bark, chips and sawdust produced when cylinders (logs) are turned into rectangles (boards)—is a great opportunity to secure supply. Be aware that volume of residue will be driven by lumber demand, and never a biomass user’s needs.

Diesel is an input to every ton of wood. Diesel inputs can vary significantly by type of biomass, equipment used for harvesting and processing, and distance from the woods to the market. All of that noted, a decent rule of thumb is two gallons of diesel are used in the harvesting, processing and transport of a ton of wood chips. Suppliers have no control over the cost of diesel, and need it to deliver wood to a facility. Incorporating a diesel adjustment clause that everyone understands—one that moves up and down according to a known benchmark—can make sure suppliers are able to operate profitably, while ensuring that reductions in diesel are reflected in the price paid for biomass. If a facility has concerns about what might happen with diesel prices, and thus their wood prices, diesel prices can be hedged years into the future. The ability to get a truck in, unloaded and out of a facility quickly is important to loggers. As trucking capacity becomes constrained, it becomes increasingly expensive to have trucks waiting in line to unload. Facilities that think they don’t eventually pay for a truck waiting an

hour or more to unload are kidding themselves. Whatever number of truck dumps you think you need, buy one more—it will save you money over time. More than almost anything else, buyer behavior is critical to biomass pricing. While it is true that suppliers need markets to sell to, this isn’t a one-way relationship. Try running a biomass facility without suppliers. Biomass plants should strive to be a stable market for wood fuel, pay a price that allows suppliers to operate economically, and communicate with suppliers when there are problems. They should expect the same behavior from their suppliers. On rare occasion, a situation presents itself where wood can be purchased, subject to a formulaic price, for years into the future. These are hard to come by because of the disaggregated supply chain in the forest industry—landowners control the land, and loggers control the means of harvest. Neither can contract for something they don’t control. In a few locations in the country, there are large landowners who have strong relationships with suppliers, and if this situation exists, it is a great way to secure supply and price. Expect to pay a premium for contracted supply. Buying biomass isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. Knowing what factors influence the cost of wood in a local wood basket allows you to anticipate price changes, and develop strategies to assure supply and mitigate price risk. Treating suppliers like you care about their success (because you do, even if only selfishly) helps them become part of your success. For decades, forest industries have opened their scales and seen trucks full of wood arrive. With thoughtful planning and simple risk mitigation, wood can be relied upon as a pricestable fuel. Author: Eric Kingsley Partner, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC


The Slippery Slope of

Biolubricants and Biogreases BY RAJ SHAH


he lubricants industry is acutely aware of the need for environmentally conscious options and sustainable development choices. In response to demand, biolubricants and biogreases began to make their mark a few years back. The term biolubricants applies to all lubricants that biodegrade expediently, and are nontoxic for both human beings and aquatic habitats. They may be plant-oil based, or synthetic esters manufactured from modified renewable oils. Furthermore, in keeping with the public demand for utilizing renewable resources and increasing concern for products that protect or reduce the amount of harm to the environment, lubricant suppliers have begun seriously employing the use of a diverse panoply of bioproducts. Included in this trend are biogreases that degrade into simple substances not detrimental to the environment, and in some cases, are even based on renewable raw materials. These lubricating greases are especially tailored to applications where there is a great possibility of product seeping into the natural environment. Although biogreases have been in existence for a long while, they have been unable to fully realize their potential and proper place in the grease market. Presently, the rising costs of crude oil, the depletion of crude oil reserves globally, and worldwide concern for environmental preservation have all contributed to reinvigorated interest in developing and employing environmentally friendly lubricants derived from alternative sources. Biogrease is also known as an environmentally acceptable lubricant (EAL). This apt

terminology denotes lubricants that have successfully achieved standards set for biodegradability, toxicity and bioaccumulation potential. They are likely to have little or no impact on the aquatic environment compared to conventional lubricants, whereas lubricants that are hypothesized to have positive environmental properties—but have yet to be proven to meet these high standards—are known as environmentally friendly lubricants (EFL).This is a bit of a misnomer, since they are not actually environmentally friendly, but are hypothesized to pose a minimal impact on the natural environment. Biogreases are particularly well-suited for lubrication of forestry machinery, construction vehicles, rail curve, rail flange and marine applications. In all the aforementioned examples, there exists a clear loss-lubrication situation where the lubricating grease eventually ends up in either soil or water. Currently, the market contains several high-performance biogreases, but produced volume remains scanty. Some issues impeding the pathway to biogrease’s mainstream viability pertain to its performance level—perhaps not always sufficiently justifying the cost incurred, as well as the fact that current legislation does not favor the use of these alternative lubricants. The efficacy of biogreases is usually highly reliant on the specific base fluid utilized, and the consensus of biolubricants has been that they are low-performing products, which isn’t always the case, and is usually only a major factor where vegetable oils are employed. This was typically what biolubricants were based on in the past. These products often had inferior

performance in comparison to equivalent mineral oil-based greases. Another problem was that they were prone to age hardening. The comparison is not a perfect one though, since the main factor at that time was biodegradability as opposed to top performance, under vast temperature span. It still maintains a valid place in this niche market segment, however. Today, most modern biogreases are formulated with different biodegradable synthetic esters that are expensive, and since the majority of a grease formulation consists of oil, the ester is a major contributor to the product’s cost. Customers are often reluctant to pay such a premium solely to have a biodegradable product in their range. More price-competitive vegetable oil-based products are available, but incapable of delivering sufficient in-service performance levels required by certain market demographics that would otherwise be benefited by the use of a biodegradable grease. In the event of consumption volumes increasing, lubricating grease manufacturers would be able to produce biogreases more economically. As it stands now, the biogrease market is stuck in a stalemate situation that needs to be ameliorated if it were to gain any true traction as a viable alternative. Biolubricants are derived from vegetable and plant oils, a variety of nonfood biomass energy. Our planet is highly dependent on the use and consumption of fossil fuels to fulfil its energy needs. However, our petroleum-based economy may not be sustainable indefinitely. Therefore, alternatives need to be explored beyond merely inexpensive, nonrenewable, fossil-based oils and materials to meet our en-

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).


CONTRIBUTIONÂŚ ergy requirements. Biolubricants is the term Today, market demands and develop- based sealing components. These mechanisms used mainly to refer to liquid oils derived from ment for biolubricants and transportation are optimized for its use under mineral oils, renewable or biomass feedstocks. They are fuels have increased environmental compat- therefore new design protocols may be necesformed by heating biomass in the absence of ibility, reduced harmful emissions, improved sary when running together with EALs. This oxygen, called pyrolysis, or partially combusted performance (including longer lifespan and means it is crucial to consider the consequencin a limited oxygen supply to produce an oil- energy efficiency), and most notably, has de- es of using these new ecofriendly lubricants on like liquid. This bio-crude oil is further refined creased our dependence on fossil fuel energy. the entire tribosystem before replacing more into various other biolubricant and bio-oil- This reinvigorated zeal for vegetable oil as traditional mineral oil. based products. biobased lubricant has increased exponentially While there are sure to be some growing It must be noted that there are some as environmental awareness has grown and pains, the current drive toward conservation is technical difficulties that are associated with become a mainstream concern. Emphasis on sure to continue to propel renewed fervor in this conversion process, as the acidic value and development of renewable, biodegradable and the use of modified natural oils for nonedible water content of the resulting biocrude oil is environmentally safe industrial fluids such as automotive and industrial purposes. The past high, plus energy (possibly fossil fuel energy) biolubricants has led to the expanding use of few decades have resulted in exciting progress has to be consumed in its production. This is natural fats and oils for nonedible, industrial in the use of reliable biodegradable lubes and in stark contrast to plant and vegetable oils, purposes. greases from a variety of renewable sources which are composed primarily of different It should be noted that transition to bio- that promises to keep the world flowing tonatural oils, fats and acids, making them bio- based, high-performance lubricants requires ward a more ecologically sound tomorrow. degradable and nontoxic. These natural oils keen insight into the interdependence between sometimes have good lubricity without the physiochemical and tribological properties of %LRPDVV0DJD]LQHSDJHLVODQG& Author: Raj Shah need for additional additives, and come in a the biobased ingredients. Transitioning from a Director, Koehler Instrument Company range of viscosities. However, the properties tried and tested mineral oil to an of some kinds of vegetable oils, such as low tally acceptable lubricant or EAL will substan631-589-3800 melting points and oxidative stability, can limit tially impact the mechanisms relying on the oil their use as a biolubricant. performance of journal bearings, transmission Alternatives to petrol, diesel and other gears, thrust bearings, ball bearings, cam foltypes of fossil fuels have already been put into lowers and, perhaps most dramatically, rubbereffect in a number of biomass-based transportation fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol. Biofuels obtained from sugar cane and oil crops for transportation, unimaginable a few 3HOOHWL]LQJ decades ago, are now becoming a bit more quotidian, thanks to advanced biofuel pumps &+3 being installed in filling stations in certain areas. Consequently, it could be viewed as a &HOOXORVLF natural progression that, as well as filling our (WKDQRO vehicles with biofuels, we should also fill them up with biolubricants.  5HFHLYLQJ The replacement of fossil fuels and min 6L]LQJ eral oils with newer, biodegradable lubricantbased oil can aid in substantially diminishing  &RQYH\LQJ environmental impact and pollution. Vegeta 6FUHHQLQJ ble oils have a large number of other innate  6HSDUDWLQJ positive attributes that imbue them with an advantage over conventional petroleum oils as  6WRUDJH the feedstock for biolubricants. Some of the qualities of vegetable oils, such as excellent &DOOIRUD biodegradability and low ecotoxicity, are of IUHHEURFKXUH particular importance for oils and lubricants used in environmentally sensitive areas. Despite the many advantages of plantbased oil products for biolubricant production, there are challenges for consideration. These include operating temperature limitations, low flash point and potential fire hazards, quick aging and degradation of bio-oils, lack of viscosity range, poor low-temperature fluidity during winter months, compatibility with existing oil seat and gasket materials, and easy formation  Â&#x2021;YHFRSODQOOFFRP of sludge resulting in filter clogging and increased maintenance.



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2018 September/October Biomass Magazine  

The Feedstock Sourcing, Sizing & Handling Issue.

2018 September/October Biomass Magazine  

The Feedstock Sourcing, Sizing & Handling Issue.