News | December 2012

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German Pellets Reports Progress

German Pellets reported in late October that building construction was to begin in November on the new wood pellet production facility in Woodville, Texas. At the same time, the company is building its own storage facility with loading system at the harbor of Port Arthur. In the spring of 2013, the first wood pellets will be shipped from here to Europe, according to German Pellets.

Based in Wismar, Germany, the pellet manufacturer is considering the construction of additional production facilities in North America.

The Woodville facility is being built on an 80 hectare site with adequate space for storage and facility expansion. Building construction is scheduled to start in November. Work will begin on the installation of machines and equipment in December. “Most of the machinery and equipment has already been prefabricated, and the systems com­ing from Europe should be shipped within the next few days,” says company spokesperson Claudia Röhr. German Pellets will be relying on its relationships with longstanding suppliers to equip the new site with manufacturing machinery that has been used successfully in its European plants. However, the company says it will also be purchasing equipment from American machine builders.

At Port Arthur, south of Woodville, German Pellets is building five pellet silos with a combined capacity of 75,000 metric tons, as well as a loading system that can accommodate ships of up to Panamax size, which can carry up to 70,000 metric tons of wood pellets. The wood pellets from Woodville will be shipped to a British power station that has been converted from coal to wood pellets. The pellets will be transported from Woodville to the harbor with a company-owned fleet of trucks; rail transport is also possible.

The Woodville plant will be able to produce 578,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year. Long-term supply agreements have been signed for the required raw materials, according to German Pellets. The delivery of raw materials in the form of roundwood will begin in early 2013.

Biomass Electricity Knows No Bounds

The energetic use of solid biomass such as wood will increase to a larger extent than ever, according to a report from ecoprog GmbH. More than 2,200 biomass power plants are operational throughout the world, with a total capacity of 32,000 MW. In Europe alone, there are more than 1,100 active biomass power plants. Another 130 coal power plants co-incinerate biomass, according to the report.

Over the past five years, 150 biomass power plants went operational per year worldwide, each one with an average capacity of 11 MW. However, this growth will accelerate; by 2016, 165 plants with an average capacity of more than 15 MW will be commissioned per year. Investments in new construction and maintenance of biomass power plants will increase from currently 10 to more than 14 billion euros annually.

“The increasing prices for fossil energy sources, the fact that many countries aim at increasing the use of domestic raw materials and the introduction of CO2 certificates for fossil fuels in Europe have over the past years improved the competitiveness of electricity generation from biomass,” the report says.

Europe will remain the largest market for biomass power plants. More than 300 plants with a capacity of more than 4,500 MW will be constructed there. Great Britain is the largest national market where 1,400 MW of additional capacity will be commissioned by 2016. The markets in France and Poland will also accelerate significantly. Traditionally important markets such as Finland and Sweden will remain interesting mainly due to replacement and modernization measures. Only the German market, which was one of the largest in the past years, has stabilized.

Outside of Europe, most biomass power plants are located in Brazil, China and India. China and India subsidize biomass electricity; in Brazil, about 430 ethanol and sugar factories use their own bagasse to generate electricity. There are only few, but very large, biomass power plants in the U.S. and Canada. The booming gas segment in the U.S. aggravates the conditions for biomass power plants.

In terms of number of plants and capacities, Asia will supersede Europe as the leading market by 2016.

For more information on the recently published third edition of the market study Biomass to Energy, visit

Drax Sets Path Toward Biomass

North Yorkshire, UK-based Drax Group confirmed that it plans to transform itself into a predominantly biomass-fueled generator. Initially, Drax plans to convert three of its six generating units to run on sustainable biomass; the first unit will be converted in the second quarter of 2013, and the second a year thereafter.

“Our biomass plans will not only strengthen our environmental leadership position, but further enhance our reputation to stay at the forefront of developments to establish effective alternative fuel technologies for electricity generation in the UK,” according to a company statement.

According to a report, Drax Power plans to invest $1 billion by 2017 to convert the U.K.’s biggest coal-fired plant to burn wood pellets. One of the six generating units will be fully converted to wood pellets, with two additional units switching to wood at a later date. The Drax Group is investing in the modernization of its boilers and the construction of facilities to store 700,000 metric tons of wood pellets. In addition, the Group is designing special railway carriages for transporting the pellets. Each converted unit will burn 2.3 million tons of biomass annually.

The advantage of converting from coal to wood pellets, according to Drax, is that the required technical equipment and infrastructure are already in place. Drax will be emitting at least 70% less carbon dioxide, meaning the company will also spend less on carbon credits.

Wood Pellets Heating Up

A U.S. government annual assessment of prices and availability of heating fuels for the first time included information on pellets and firewood. After gas and electricity, wood is the third most common heating fuel in America, but the annual Winter Fuels Outlook had never discussed it prior to the 2012-13 heating season.

The Winter Fuels Outlook is put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical and analytical agency within the Dept. of Energy. According to EIA, wood and pellets now produce more residential heat in the U.S. than propane and nearly as much as oil. Wood produces 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) per year, propane 0.49 quads and oil 0.6.

The report said wood consumption in homes has risen over the past 10 years, reversing a trend seen in the last two decades of the 20th century.

Finnish Biomass Power Plant Begins

The new biopower plant built by Pohjolan Voima, Leppäkosken Sähkö and Metsä Board in Hämeenkyrö, Finland was inaugurated on October 9. It is Pohjolan Voima’s 15th biopower plant.

Located on Metsä Board’s Kyro board and paper mill site, the plant has an electricity capacity of 12 MW and a thermal capacity of 55 MW. It produces electricity and heat for the Kyro mill and district heat for the customers of Leppäkosken Sähkö. The plant runs on wood residues and other wood fuels. Peat is used as a support fuel. The CO2 emissions will be reduced by approximately 100,000 metric tons annually due to the use of domestic fuels instead of natural gas.

Metso supplied a Metso DNA automation system as a complete turnkey package to the plant, including all the stages from engineering to commissioning. Automation is used to control the fluidized bed boiler and the related fuel reception and handling systems. The new boiler has replaced an old natural gas-fired power plant that was controlled with Metso’s Damatic XD automation system.

Three Pellet Producers Implement Standards

Timber Products Inspection (TP) has entered into agreements with American Wood Fibers (Marion, Va. and Circleville, Oh.), Curran Renewable Energy (Massena, NY) and Marth Wood Shavings & Supply(Marathon and Peshtigo, Wis.) to provide third party testing and inspection services in accordance with the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI)/American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) Pellet Fuel Standards program.

Each of these manufacturers is currently working on setting up their internal quality management programs with the intent of complying with the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program. Once each facility is ready, TP will conduct an initial inspection to verify compliance, followed by ongoing auditing and testing to assure continued compliance.

TJ Morice, V. P. Marketing & Operations for Marth Wood Shavings & Supply and Marth Peshtigo Pellet Company, made the decision to be one of the first manufacturers to initiate implementation of the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program because of his ongoing commitment to producing a quality pellet.

“I know how important it is for consumers and our partners who sell to them to have confidence in what they are buying. If the bag says ‘Premium’ there should be a quality and control process like we and others are committing too in this process so the user is confident and every bag labeled with ‘Premium’ would be confirmed as such,” Morice states. He adds that consumer confidence in fuel grades could help increase the number of homes and/or businesses that currently heat with a renewable energy source such as wood pellets.

Each of these manufacturers will be able to display a Quality Mark on their bags indicating that they are producing pellets that are compliant with the fuel grade listed on their bag.

TP, accredited by ALSC as an auditing agency and as a testing laboratory for the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program, will help oversee the quality process, and provide necessary guidance to ensure consistent quality. Chris Wiberg, Manager of Biomass Energy Services at TP, is confident that compliance is achievable by each of these three manufacturers. “All three companies have a culture that is committed to quality. It is therefore not a surprise to me that each of them would be among the first to step forward and commit to a formal quality process.”

The PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program has been proposed to be incorporated by reference into the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters. EPA is mandating the regulation of pellet fuel through its NSPS and has voiced support of the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program for inclusion in the NSPS. Pellet manufacturers participating in the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program produce pellets that are assured to be qualified to a specific grade and can then be properly matched to appliance fuel requirements.

Pellet Plant Planned For Sandersville

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced that General Biofuels Georgia, LLC will construct a wood pellet manufacturing plant in Sandersville, investing $60 million and creating 35 jobs. Capacity of the plant will be 440,000 tons per year. Start of production is scheduled for the first quarter of 2014.

Georgia Biofuels founder and chairman Ruby Sahiwal comments: “Sandersville is an ideal setting for our pellet production facility. The timber resources are abundant, the workforce is capable and motivated and the transportation system from Sandersville to the Port of Savannah will be tremendously advantageous.”

Headquartered in northern California, General Biofuels is an international developer of wood pellet and energy crop pellet manufacturing facilities. The company has projects in Canada, the Southeast, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Enova Energy Will Build Three Plants

Atlanta-based Enova Energy Group, LLC, a developer and asset owner of renewable energy projects, says it will build three wood pellet projects in Georgia and South Carolina. Enova will export wood pellets from Savannah, Ga. to Europe under long-term contracts with public and private utilities. The facilities will each produce 450,000 metric tons annually. Each project is expected to create 150 jobs during construction and an additional 70 jobs at each facility. The projects are expected to cost $330 million combined.

One of the plants is expected to be built near Trenton (Edgefield County), SC. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2014.

Woodland Biofuels Announces New COO

Woodland Biofuels, a cellulosic ethanol company, announced that William White has joined Woodland’s senior management team as Chief Operating Officer. White was formerly the president of DuPont Canada.

Woodland is constructing a large biomass-to-ethanol demonstration plant in Sarnia, Ontario. The demonstration plant will be completed this year and Woodland is beginning the process of ramping up for commercialization.

NEWP Champions Testing Laboratories

In a continuing commitment to produce the most consistent and high quality wood pellet on the market, New England Wood Pellet has completed construction of new advanced quality testing laboratories at each of its three plants. The labs include modern testing equipment that enables rigorous testing of a range of pellet quality attributes in order to meet or exceed all requirements of the premium pellet grade standard of the Pellet Fuels Institute.

New England Wood Pellet operates three manufacturing plants in Jaffrey, NH, Schuyler, NY and Deposit, NY. Combined plant capacity is more than 250,000 tons per year.

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