News | August 2012

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Arizona Project May Include Biofuels

A proposed cellulosic biofuel plant is now planned for northern Arizona as part of a major forest health restoration project stewardship contract. In May, Pioneer Forest Products of Billings, Mont. won the contract to perform pre-commercial thinning on 300,000 acres of national forests in Arizona over a 10-year period.

The largest stewardship contract ever awarded by the U.S. Forest Service, the project is part of the Four Forests Resource Initiative (4FRI) in Arizona that aims to reduce fire risk across 2.4 million acres covering parts of four national forests. The 4FRI is an unprecedented, collaborative effort that involves more than 30 stakeholder organizations ranging from local community groups to national environmental organizations, industry and economic development organizations, academics and scientists.

First phase of Pioneer’s project calls for a sawmill and edge-gluing operation in Winslow, Ariz. that will utilize small logs to make panels for door and window stock. Pioneer Forest Products CEO Herman Hauck also plans an adjacent biofuel facility that will use sawmill residuals and large amounts of biomass coming off the Cococino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests. The biofuel facility at Winslow will be owned and operated by a separate company, Hauck says.

According to 4FRI team leader Henry Provencio of the Forest Service, the group estimates the average across the 300,000 acres is about 30 tons per acre of material fit for solid products (over 5 in.) and about 15 tons per acre of biomass, though the ratio in specific sites may vary.

The 4FRI effort is important to the wood bioenergy industry to use as a rough template to potentially utilize public-land biomass throughout the U.S. West. According to federal estimates, at least 14 million acres of public timberland are in need of thinning to reduce danger of wildfire in stands that are overstocked such as in Arizona or already damaged from pine beetle infestations as in Colorado and Wyoming.

Mustus Allies With Shell Energy NA

Mustus Energy Ltd. announced that Shell Energy North America (Canada) Inc. will purchase all power and environmental attributes produced by Mustus Energy’s facility that will be built in La Crete, Alberta. The Power Purchase Agreement commits Mustus Energy to sell all its power, offsets and other environmental attributes for a 10-year period.

The biomass facility is expected to begin commercial operations by summer 2014, and will provide base-load electrical power to the Alberta grid. The facility will provide enough energy when complete to power over 30,000 Canadian homes. As feedstock, Mustus Energy plans to use the tops of aspen trees that would otherwise be discarded as waste after the trunks are processed into lumber and other products at local mills.

Forest Owners Group Condemns State

The Massachusetts Dept. of Energy Resources’ (DOER) “Proposed Final Renewable Portfolio Standard Regulations” effectively eliminate biomass as a renewable energy source and are out of step with the rest of the country, according to the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO).

“Massachusetts stands alone in effectively eliminating biomass as a carbon beneficial source of renewable domestic energy in its proposed rule,” says Dave Tenny, NAFO President and CEO. “The state has chosen to bypass the mainstream view of the forest carbon cycle in energy production, and relies instead on the selective use of assumptions that distort how the forest carbon cycle works. When considered at scales relevant to real-world forest management, the prevailing science is clear that the sustainable use of forest biomass for energy does not increase net carbon in the atmosphere.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Panel on Climate Change, the World Resources Institute and other reputable organizations around the world recognize the well-established benefits of replacing fossil fuels, which produce a one-way emission of carbon into the atmosphere, with forest biomass, which naturally cycles carbon between forests and the atmosphere, Tenny states. “The Massachusetts approach seems to take the opposite view, suggesting that fossil fuels are more carbon beneficial than biomass. We join the mainstream in rejecting this position.”

Sundrop Announces Production Partner

Sundrop Fuels, Inc., a drop-in advanced biofuels company, announced a partnership with technology and engineering supplier ThyssenKrupp Uhde for a commercial “green gasoline” production facility. The company’s inaugural plant near Alexandria, La. will yield up to 50 million gallons of renewable gasoline annually while also serving as proving ground for Sundrop Fuels’ proprietary biomass conversion technologies that will be used for future large-scale facilities.

The collaboration follows signing of a comprehensive “Front End Engineering and Licensing Agreement” between Sundrop Fuels and Uhde Corporation of America, a unit of ThyssenKrupp USA Inc. More than 70 engineers from the two companies are now working together to complete designs for the Sundrop Fuels plant, which should begin construction late this year.

Sundrop Fuels will convert sustainable forest residues and thinnings as feedstock combined with natural gas into bio-based “green gasoline” by using a commercially-proven production path that integrates gasification, gas purification, methanol synthesis and a methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process. The clean, affordable biofuel is ready for immediate use in today’s combustion engines and will be delivered to the marketplace via the nation’s existing fuels distribution infrastructure, according to Sundrop Fuels. The company’s first production plant will have a capacity of about 3,500 barrels of renewable gasoline per day.

As a key element to its first facility, Sundrop Fuels will deploy ThyssenKrupp Uhde’s High Temperature Winkler (HTW) gasification process, coupled with other well-established technologies for gas cleanup, methanol synthesis, and the MTG conversion.

Within the plant, Sundrop Fuels will demonstrate its proprietary process for biomass conversion incorporating the company’s patented RP Reactor, an ultra high-temperature technology “that generates the highest fuel energy yield per ton of biomass of any biofuels process available,” the company states. Sundrop Fuels plans to follow its first facility with larger-scale fuels plants producing nearly 300 million gallons annually, with a combined production capacity of more than one billion gallons by 2020.

Significant backing for Sundrop Fuels comes from Chesapeake Energy Corp., the largest producer of natural gas in northern Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale Field and second-largest producer in the nation. Chesapeake invested $155 million in Sundrop Fuels in mid-2011.

The company’s investors also include venture capital firms Oak Investment Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.

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