News | April 2014

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More Pellet Output For UK's Drax?

UK-based Drax reports it is developing options to add 2 million tonnes of its own wood pellet production, focusing on North America and 250,000-500,000 tonne plants.

The company is already building pellet plants in Amite, Miss. and Morehouse, La. with a combined pellet production capacity of 900,000 tonnes, and is building a port facility at Baton Rouge with an export capacity of up to 3 million tonnes. The company is targeting commercial operation at Amite in the first quarter of 2015 and at More­house in the second quarter of 2015, with each plant requiring another six months to reach full capacity.

The UK’s largest power station, Drax is set to become the UK’s largest single renewable electricity generator through the operation of the new biomass facilities currently being launched. The biomass conversion will ultimately see three of the six generating units at the power station converted to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal. The first unit has been running successfully on biomass since last April, with the second planned for April of 2015 and the third in 2016.

Farm Bill Includes BCAP Funding

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as The Farm Bill) includes the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to support the establishment and production of eligible crops, including woody material, for conversion to bioenergy in selected BCAP project areas, and assist agricultural and forestland owners and operators with the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility.

The USDA has budgeted $25 million for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018 for BCAP, with not more than half of that amount paid per year for collection, harvest, storage and transportation matching payments.

To be considered for selection as a BCAP project area, a project sponsor must submit to the USDA a proposal that includes a description of the land and crops, a letter of commitment from a biomass conversion facility that the facililty will use the eligible crops; and evidence that the biomass conversion facility has sufficient equity available if the facility is not currently operational.

In making the selection of BCAP project areas, the USDA shall consider the volume of the eligible crops and the probability that they will be used for the purposes of the BCAP; anticipated economic impact in the proposed project area; the opportunity for producers and local investors to participate in the ownership of the biomass conversion facility in the proposed project area; and the variety in biomass production approaches including harvest and post-harvest practices.

Once approved, the contract shall have a term of not more than five years for annual and perennial crops or 15 years for woody biomass. USDA will make establishment and annual payments directly to producers to support the establishment and production of eligible crops on contract acreage, with a producer defined as an owner or operator of contract acreage that is physically located within the BCAP project area. Eligible crops are definied as renewable biomass harvested directly from the land, including residue. Eligible land includes primarily non-industrial private forestland. Establishment payments shall not be more than 50% of the costs of establishing an eligible perennial crop, but not to exceed $500 per acre including, in the case of nonindustrial private forestland, the costs of site preparation and tree planting.

The annual payment amount will determined by the USDA and can be reduced if the eligible crop is used for purposes other than the production of energy at the biomass conversion facility.

Under the Assistance With Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation heading, the USDA shall make a payment for the delivery of eligible material to a biomass conversion facility to a producer of an eligible crop that is produced on BCAP contract acreage; or to a person with the right to collect or harvest eligible material.

The USDA may provide matching payments at a rate of up to $1 for each $1 per ton provided by the biomass conversion facility, in an amount not to exceed $20 per dry ton for a period of two years.

 Other energy developments in the Farm Bill include:

  •  $75 million for each year from 2014 through 2018 for biobased product manufacturing, which means development, construction and retrofitting of new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment and required facilities that will be used to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products.
  • $20 million for each year from 2014 through 2018 for advanced bio­fuels
  • $20 million for each year from 2014 through 2018 for biomass research and development
  • Cool Planet Breaks Ground In Louisiana

    Cool Planet Energy Systems, a technology company producing green fuels and biochar products, broke ground on its first commercial facility in Alexandria, La., dubbed Project Genesis. The facility is designed to produce 10 million gallons per year of high-octane, renewable gasoline blendstocks, as well as biochar, all made from wood residues.

    The facility will be located at the Port of Alexandria, on the Red River Waterway.

    “Cool Planet’s unique business model of building smaller, significantly less expensive facilities closer to the biomass feedstock will allow them to expand rapidly, achieve lower scale-up risk, and continuously innovate and improve with each facility,” says Cool Planet Board Member Basil Horangic.

    Cool Planet strategic investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy), and the Constellation division of Exelon.

    Sonoco Completes Boiler Conversion

    Sonoco dedicated its new biomass facility and boiler at its Hartsville, SC plant, part of a $100 million investment in the Darlington County compound.

    “We took more than two years to complete final engineering, fabricate the boiler, put together the infrastructure and complete construction of what we believe to be one of the nation’s most state-of-the-art biomass co-generation boiler systems,” says Sonoco President and CEO Jack Sanders.

    In 2011 Sonoco committed to a $75 million investment to replace two aging, coal-fired boilers and add the new biomass boiler. The new boiler is fueled primarily by woody biomass from regional logging activity, but can also run on natural gas. The boiler will produce about 16 MW that will be consumed by the manufacturing complex, as well as steam that is used in the paper making process.

    Georgia Power Finally Nixes Biomass Plans

    Georgia Power plans to file a request with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to decertify Unit 3 at Plant Mitchell in Albany, Ga. and cancel a proposed conversion of the coal-fired unit to biomass. The company stated that after extensive review and analysis, the conversion would not be cost effective for its customers. If the request to decertify the 155 MW unit is approved, it will be retired by April 2015—the compliance date of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule.

    Since proposing the conversion to biomass in 2008, Georgia Power has worked to assess the project in light of new EPA regulations, as well as changing market and economic conditions. In addition to increased capital costs and costs related to en­­viron­mental compliance, multiple other factors, such as the recent economic downturn and lower natural gas prices, have significantly reduced the project’s value and benefits for customers, according to Georgia Power. The company also considered switching the unit to Powder River Basin (PRB) coal or natural gas, neither of which proved viable.

    Fort Drum Nears Purchase Agreement

    The Defense Logistics Agency - Energy, in coordination with the U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF), issued a “Notice of Intent to Award” to ReEnergy Holdings LLC the purchase of up to 28 MW of electricity from the ReEnergy renewable energy biomass facility at Fort Drum, NY. This project will include a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement and provide the installation with 100% energy security, according to the Army.

    This is the U.S. Army’s largest renewable energy project to date. The Notice of Intent to Award is a significant milestone that brings the Fort Drum project closer to contract award.

    The EITF remains committed to executing large-scale renewable energy projects to achieve the U.S. Army goal of one gigawatt (1,000 MW) of renewable energy by 2025. The EITF currently has eight projects in the contracts and agreements phase representing nearly 175 MW of potential capacity.

    ReEnergy took over the site in March 2012 and spent $34 million converting the idled coal plant into one that can burn a wide range of wood products and forestry resi­dues. The 60 MW plant opened last May.

    The military’s push for renewable energy stems from the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, which called for 25% of the energy used by the Department of Defense to come from renewable sources.

    Port Facility Project A Go In Pascagoula

    Jackson County supervisors authorized the borrowing of up to $24 million for the Port of Pascagoula (Miss.) to build a wood pellet exporting facility on Bayou Casotte. Florida-based Green Circle Bio Energy Inc., which plans to build a $115 million wood pellet plant in George County, will use the site to export up to 500,000 tons of pellets per year to European utility companies.

    The export facility will cost $30 million, with $15 million of that ­coming from port bonds. The state has put up $10 million for the project, and the terminal operator will invest $5 million. The facility will look similar to a grain elevator or bulk commodities facility, with silo storage facilities, an unloading facility for trucks and rail cars and a conveyor delivery system to the ship ­loader.

    An additional $14 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery discretionary grant program will also work in conjunction with the project for intermodal improvements. That TIGER grant will relocate the railroad interchange in downtown Pascagoula and move it east of Miss. 611 and will reroute the Mississippi Export Railroad’s line after it ­crosses the bridge near the old International Paper Co. site.

    Instead of asking for $15 million in bonds, the port asked to borrow up to $24 million to give the project a cushion in case additional modifications to the wharf are needed.

    Pellet Plant Gains Steam In Snowflake

    Southwest Renewable Resources has started up a wood pellet plant at the site of the former Smith Moulding plant near Snowflake, Ariz. The operation currently employs five while running one shift, but will increase to 12-15 employees and run around-the-clock by the end of the year, according to Tracy Wilson, one of three partners in the venture along with Allen Kauffman and Dan Holderman.

    They bought the pellet-making equipment from the owners of the now defunct Precision Pellet business last December. “These gentlemen who had the pellet facility we bought did a very good job of creating clean pellets,” Wilson says. “When the logging industry shut down they had to shut down. We bought their equipment, and they trained us and taught us how to operate it, so we’re making a very clean pellet.”

    Wilson says Southwest Renewable Resources is also busy developing other uses beyond wood stove pellets, including making a product for use as fuel in biomass electric cogeneration plants. 0“We’re getting a lot of interest from overseas,” he says.

    Based in Apache Junction, South­west Renewable Resources chose the abandoned Smith site for several reasons, one being that it’s close to I-40 so they can truck-ship.

    Wilson says Apache Railway might play a part in the company’s shipping strategy. “We’ve been approached by some Asian buyers that are interested in the fact that we’re right by that rail spur that goes behind Smith Moulding. They want to know if we can ship by rail to the West Coast to ship to users, businesses and cogeneration plants in Asia.”

    Another reason for locating the business in Snowflake is a growing opportunity for obtaining the raw materials. “Logging operations are now under way with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative,” Wilson says, adding that he hopes to make use of some of the biomass from the 4FRI and other thinning operations.

    This report appeared in Arizona Journal.

    Sweden Firm Opens Pellet Plant In Russia

    RusForest AB, a Swedish forestry company with operations in Russia, is completing construction of its wood pellet mill at the company’s LDK-3 sawmill complex in Arkhangelsk.  RusForest engaged AS Hekotek, a mechanical engineering company, to build the pellet production facility, which will have an annual capacity of up to 100,000 tons and will allow RusForest to monetize its sawmill byproducts by exporting wood pellets to Europe.

    Total investment for the pellet plant is EUR 12 million, including value added tax, with approximately 70% financed by local bank facilities.

    Ethanol Study Finds Major Gains In 2013

    Renewable Fuels Assn. unveiled a study by ABF Economics entitled “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States” which found that the 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2013 created 86,503 jobs and sustained an additional 300,277 indirect and induced jobs, while contributing $44 billion to America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and adding $30.7 billion to household incomes.

    Additionally, the 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol displaced 476 million barrels of imported oil, saving Americans $48.2 billion in oil imports, according to the study. That equals roughly 13% of last year’s expected crude oil and petroleum imports.

    PFI Leader Testifies At EPA Hearing

    Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) Executive Director Jennifer Hedrick presented testimony at the U.S. En­vironmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) public hearing on the proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for New Residential Wood Heaters in Boston, Mass. The draft rule cites PFI’s Standards Program as the model for implementing industry-wide fuel standards.

    “Over the last 10 years, PFI has demonstrated its commitment to industry and consumers by cultivating a strong fuel standards program,” said Hedrick in her testimony. “It is the only North American organization that has both created and implemented a third party pellet accreditation program based on industry best practices. PFI’s Standards Program showcases our industry’s commitment to providing consumers with a reliable, efficient and environmentally sound fuel.”

    Under the Pellet Fuels Institute Standards Program, outside auditing agencies—which themselves must be certified by way of a strict qualification process overseen by the program’s accreditation body, the American Lumber Standard Committee—subject participating wood pellet manufacturers and their products to rigorous testing procedures.

    Only if the independent third party auditing agency determines that both the manufacturer’s wood pellet fuel and also their production processes consistently meet the quality stipulations outlined in the standards program, will the PFI program then allow an official quality mark to be issued for that pellet manufacturer and displayed on their product packaging.

    She also emphasized the need for parallel stove emissions requirements that are both achievable and affordable.

    “The EPA’s inclusion of the Pellet Fuels Institute standard in the NSPS demonstrates the understanding that it’s not simply the fuel or the stove, but the synergies of both components that contribute to optimal heating performance and a clean burning, efficient and enjoyable product for consumers,” Hedrick said.

    Hedrick joined members of PFI and other contributors to the densified biomass industry at EPA’s day-long hearing which provided the opportunity to comment about the proposed rule. The Pellet Fuels Institute will be submitting detailed written comments in response to the proposal prior to the May 5 deadline.

    New York Steps Up For Wood Energy

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $3 million has been awarded to 18 research institutions, technology developers and biomass-fuel businesses to encourage the growth of high-efficiency, low-emission wood-fired heating equipment. These projects support the governor’s Renewable Heat NY program, which looks to encourage the expansion of the high-performance biomass heating market and raise consumer awareness, support the development of advanced technology heating products, develop local sustainable heating markets and encourage the use of this renewable fuel.

     “By investing in advanced biomass technologies across the state, we are actively reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and building a greener New York,” Cuomo says. “We are supporting projects that phase out old, inefficient and polluting technologies and helping to grow the biomass clean energy industry.”

     The funding is awarded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Energy and Environmental Performance of Biomass-fired Heating Equipment pro­gram. In addition, as part of the Renewable Heat NY initiative, NYSERDA is developing a Biomass Heating Roadmap for New York State, which will be released this year to assess policy strategies and economic and environmental impacts.

    Some of the award recipients include:

    —Clarkson University (Saranac Lake), $267,500 – Two automatic high-efficiency and low- emissions wood pellet boilers made by Evoworld (Troy) will be installed in residential locations by Clarkson University. One boiler will be placed in a shipping con­tainer outside one of the homes, while the second boiler will be placed in the basement of a second home. The advanced wood pellet heating systems will include ­thermal storage tanks and bulk ­pellet storage to enable a fully automatic system with maximum seasonal efficiency. This project will evaluate for two years the ­performance and emissions of these made-in-New York units under the cold winter conditions in Northern NY.

    —Research Foundation of SUNY Canton (Canton), $163,000 – Automatic wood pellet heating systems will be installed in three buildings in St. Lawrence County to demonstrate how these systems will operate. Systems include a high performance wood pellet boiler, thermal storage and bulk pellet storage. This project will support high-efficiency, low-emission goals, as well as the bulk wood pellet market, and will be included in SUNY Canton’s heating curriculum and available to the public during open houses at Cornell Cooperative Extension at Canton.

    —Northeast Forests LLC (Thendara), $98,000 – This project will evaluate the costs and processes involved in producing and supplying low-moisture-content wood chips. The results will be shared with the forest product community. The intent is to encourage the use of low-moisture wood chips for better combustion that can lead to the creation of moisture-content industry standards, as has already occurred in Europe.

    —University at Buffalo Research Foundation (Buffalo), $300,000 – The university is work­ing with Econoburn (Brocton) to develop a commercial two-stage wood hydronic heater with im­proved combustion chamber design and added sensors and con­­trols to improve efficiency and lower emissions.

    —Hydronic Specialty Supply (Cassadaga), $227,500 – This project will develop Made-in-NY residential and commercial firewood gasification boilers that can maintain high efficiency and low emissions due to an innovative staged-com­bustion design with smart sensors and controls for optimizing performance. These boilers, coupled with thermal storage, are expected to demonstrate results of double the efficiency of conventional wood boiler technologies, and a corresponding decrease in wood use.

    —Advanced Wood Combustion Technologies LLC (East Aurora), $49,000 – The project goal is to create a two-stage retrofit prototype for single stage outdoor wood boilers that can become commercially viable. The goal of the retrofit is to increase thermal efficiency by 40% and greatly reduce fine particle and carbon monoxide emissions.

    —Clarkson University (Syracuse), $102,000 – Clarkson will evaluate a commercial pellet boiler that has an electrostatic precipitator emission control technology, which is part of the eight million BTU combined heat and power system at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s new Gateway building. Emissions from both premium wood pellets and willow pellets will be examined. Data will benefit a companion Cornell University air quality modeling project.

    —Cornell University (Syracuse), $125,000 – This project, in conjunction with the previous Clarkson project, will conduct field measurements of the combined heat and power system at SUNY ESF during the use of two types of wood pellet fuels. The goal is to advance air quality modeling capabilities for use in urban environments.

    Amer Plant Undergoes Torrefaction Testing

    A consortium consisting of Topell Energy, three electricity companies (Essent, Nuonand GDF SUEZ) and ECN has successfully completed a large scale co-firing test with torrefaction technology at the Amer power plant in Geertruidenberg in south Netherlands.

    Nikolaus Valerius, head of the Dutch Essent power plants, comments, “We tested the torrefaction technology at the Amer power plant where we have been producing green electricity with sustainable biomass for over 10 years. In the test, we efficiently dried biomass and converted it into light, dry and very energy-dense ‘biopellets.’ The successful large scale co-firing of the biopellets is an im­portant step in our contribution to a renewable energy supply where green materials are most efficiently and sustainably used.”

    In the trial, a total of 2,300 tons of biopellets were transported, handled, co-milled and co-fired. Rob Voncken, CEO of Topell Energy, comments on the process: “The co-firing test took place in percentages ranging between 5% and 25% (on one mill) between 1st November and 30th December 2013 at the Amer power plant. No adverse effect on milling and burning was detected in any of the tests. The trial therefore confirms that high quality biopellets can be produced and co-fired at large commercial scale. Together with its high energy content and density, this confirmation makes torrefied biomass a potential better alternative to conventional wood pellets to substitute fossil fuels.”

    After this successful trial, some of the parties involved are now discussing the next steps to mobilize larger quantities of torrefied pellets for the production of green electricity, in view of the requisites of the Dutch Energy Agreement which will come into force in 2015.

    Essent is the largest producer of renewable energy in The Netherlands. The total production capacity of Essent/RWE in The Netherlands is 4,500 MW. Topell Energy is a Dutch clean technology company.

    Leidos Seeks Buyer For Plainfield Facility

    Leidos announced that its Plainfield Renewable Energy project in Plainfield, Conn. has achieved commercial operation and is attempting to sell the facility. The facility will power the equivalent of 37,000 homes using a variety of fuel sources, such as wood from construction and demolition debris, recycled wood pallets and land clear­ing materials. Connecticut Light & Power will purchase 80% of the power from the plant based on a 15-year off-take agreement.

    Leidos will operate the plant and commence marketing efforts to sell the facility to renewable power plant investors in an effort to maximize the value of the investment for shareholders.

    Last October Leidos, acting in its capacity as a secured lender, reported it had reached an agreement to assume ownership of the 37.5 MW facility.

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