News | August 2014

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Aspen Power Could Be Back In Business

Aspen Power, the biomass power plant that started up in 2011 in Lufkin, Texas, but went down a year later with market and financial issues, appears to be making a comeback.

InventivEnergy, LLC has select­ed NRG Energy Services LLC to restart the plant and operate and maintain the facility.

The Aspen power plant had a rated generation capacity of 50 MW but had reached 57 MW before it went down, requiring 1,200 tons of wood daily, when Wood Bioenergy magazine visited it in 2012.

Work to restart the facility began in mid-May and commercial operations are expected to be achieved this summer. NRG is hiring the site management team and operating staff, according to Don Poe, president, NRG Energy Services.

John Keller, CEO and founder of InventivEnergy, comments, “We are very excited to team up with NRG in bringing Aspen back on-line and combining its top-tier O&M capabilities with InventivEnergy’s proven expertise in power plant asset management, value enhancement and optimization.”

An Angelina County judge gave the okay for the plant’s trustee to re-commence operations at the biomass facility. U.S. Bank, the financial overseer for the project, had filed a motion for an order authorizing their advisor, InventivEnergy, to restart and oversee the operation of Aspen Power while the property is for sale.

Bluewater Energy Solutions had handled the extensive commissioning process at the original startup. Almost immediately, the production operations were curtailed when gas prices plummeted along with electricity demand and undercut Aspen Power’s cost dynamics. Operations resumed but financial issues set it back again.

The facility started up with a GE turbine and generator purchased used from the city of Lakeland, Fla. Factory Sales & Engineering supplied a 460,000 PPH boiler. Progress Industries supplied much of the handling mechanisms on the wood yard.

In May 2013 a district judge signed an order giving control of Aspen Power to its investors. The Angelina and Neches River Authority Industrial Development Corp. reportedly issued $53.3 million worth of revenue bonds to the company for the purpose of building the plant in Lufkin under a loan agreement.

One of the original partners was Danny Vines, a native of Lufkin, who was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Texas Bio-Energy Policy Council. Another of Vines’ companies, Angelina Fuels, was involved in biomass collection for the power plant including the operation of a John Deere slash bundler.

RusForest Pellet Mill Lands Contract

RusForest AB, a Swedish forestry company with operations in Russia, has signed a long-term contract for pellet sales from the company’s LDK-3 wood pellet mill in Arkhangelsk. RusForest has entered into a sales contract for 60,000 tons of pellets to be sold through one of the leading trading houses and used as fuel in various European coal-fired power plants. The sales agreement will be complemented by spot market sales of the company’s pellets.

RusForest began shipments in March from its new 100,000 tons pellet mill, which was built with an investment of EUR 12 million. RusForest secured financing from CentroCredit, a Russian bank. The mill actually started operations in January. RusForest contracted with AS Hekotek, a mechanical engineering company, to build the facility. 

UPM Biorefinery Channels BioVerno

UPM has signed a sales agreement for UPM BioVerno renewable diesel, produced in UPM’s Lappeenranta Biorefinery, with NEOT (North European Oil Trade). NEOT specializes in oil and biofuels wholesale. Large Finnish service stations, ABC, St1 and Shell, get their fuels from NEOT.

“UPM’s renewable wood-based diesel, UPM BioVerno, is produced using the company’s own innovative process in Finland. Thus it is excellent that we are able to use it in Finnish vehicles as well. We are satisfied with the agreement with NEOT and the fact that UPM BioVerno will be distributed to Finnish service stations,” says Petri Kukkonen, Vice President, UPM Biofuels.

UPM BioVerno is made from a pulp production residue called crude tall oil. The Finnish made fuel reportedly works well in all diesel engines and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Extensive fleet tests conducted with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland showed that UPM BioVerno diesel works in cars just as well as any regular diesel, according to UPM.

The biorefinery, in development since, 2012 and at cost of EUR 150 million, is reportedly nearing startup and will produce 100,000 tonnes annually of advanced second generation biodiesel for transport.

More Drax Pellet Plants In U.S.?

UK-based Drax, which is converting coal fired units at its electricity facility in Yorkshire, England to woody biomass fuel, and which indicated it wants to add to its pellet production capacity in the U.S. beyond previously announced and ongoing pellet plant construction at Gloster, Miss. and Bastrop, La., has made inquiries about building plants in Magnolia, Miss. and Calhoun Falls, SC.

Abbeville County, SC has passed an ordinance that would allow the sale to Drax interests of a 199 acre tract of land about three miles from Calhoun Falls, which is on the western border of South Carolina, 60 miles northwest of Augusta, Ga.

Meanwhile an air permit application filed with the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board for a pellet mill in Magnolia, Miss. reveals Drax interests under the project name of Pike BioEnergy LLC.

Drax is already building two other wood pellet mills, at Amite BioEnergy LLC in Gloster, Miss. and Morehouse Bioenergy in Bastrop, La., each 450,000 metric tons production capacity. The company is also building a terminal at Port Allen, La., from where it will export its pellets.

Drax supplies 7-8% of the UK’s electricity demand.

USDA Kicks In New Round Of BCAP

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications from biomass conversion facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural resi­dues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50% ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from national forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

For more details on applications and deadlines on BCAP, visit a local FSA county office or go online to

Greenleaf Proceeds On Acquisition

Greenleaf Power LLC announced the closing of a $100 million growth capital facility, the proceeds of which will be used to fund the continued growth of the company through acquisitions.

Based in Sacramento, Calif., Greenleaf Power has acquired five biomass facilities—four in the Western U.S. and one in Quebec—representing approximately 145 MW since its inception. Greenleaf Power is backed by Denham Capital, a private equity firm.

Mohegan Tribe Enters Wood Pellets

Northwest Wood Products, LLC, a new subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, has acquired Pennington Seed’s wood pellet production plant in Peebles, Ohio and related equipment and assets of Pennington’s Kenbridge, Va. facility. The agreement also includes the acquisition of Pennington’s pellet production plant in Ligonier, Indiana in the near future.

Northeast’s primary product will be sold under the trade name ThermaGlo. The pellets will be available in 40 lb. bags for home use, in bulk loads for industrial customers and in container shipments for international markets.

Northeast expects to produce more than 130,000 tons of pellets annually at its Ohio and Indiana facilities, which will be in production within a few months.

Good Earth Power Assumes FS Project

Good Earth Power and Campbell Global (formerly The Campbell Group) officials are implementing the first phase of the ambitious 4 Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) across four national forests in Arizona after the original holder of the 4FRI Phase 1 contract couldn’t obtain financing. The unprecedented initiative covers thinning and eco­system improvement activities on 300,000 acres during the next 10 years (Phase 1), with an overall goal to treat 2.4 million acres in the region.

Pioneer Resources of Montana was awarded the Phase 1 contract by the Forest Service (FS) in May 2012 but couldn’t obtain financing for its business plan, which included a sawmill, fingerjoint plant, furniture component plant and biofuels refinery to process logs and fiber coming off tracts specified in “task orders” generated by the FS and given to the contract holder. The con­tract was transferred to Oman-based Good Earth Power (GEP) in fall 2013, and in December GEP announced Campbell Global had been hired to manage the woods activities and contractors performing thinning and understory removal.

Pioneer had planned to build its facilities in Winslow, Ariz., but Good Earth officials have already received approval from the Forest Service to locate facilities in Williams, which is closer to the initial 4FRI task order project areas in the western part of the state. Most of the initial projects are in the Kaibab and Cococino national forests near Williams.

Officials with Good Earth have yet to announce the actual facilities planned for Williams and would need approval from the Forest Service to significantly alter terms of the original contract. At the press conference announcing the new contract holder last fall, Good Earth Power Global CEO Jason Rosamond said the company would follow the initial wood products facilities plan, but was also exploring wood fuel pellet production and biofuels.

Each task order covers a certain acreage and includes specific management activities to be completed in a set time frame, up to several years depending on project size. Steve Horner, Campbell Global’s Area Manager overseeing the projects, acknowledged the task order process is a good year-plus behind, but added that the company is making progress in ramping up project activities. The FS plans to issue another 25,000 acres of task orders in 2014.

The 4FRI initiative is heralded as an unprecedented ecosystem-scale project that “goes big” outside of the traditional FS timber/salvage sale programs. After a series of catastrophic wildfires hit the state in the past 15 years, including the 468,000 acre Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002 and the 2011 Wallow fire that scorched 538,000 acres, federal land managers realized they needed to manage overstocked forests at the ecosystem level.

The group chairman and co-founder of Good Earth Power is listed as Alawi Zawawi, who is also the Chairman of the Omani family conglomerate, the Zawawi Group, which the web site states is a large family multinational with numerous businesses in the Gulf, U.S, Africa, India and Europe. Good Earth Power apparently originated as a developer of renewable electricity in Africa.

M-E-C's Dave Parker Dies In Oklahoma

David M. Parker, longtime president, CEO and chairman of the Board of M-E-C Company, one of the major wood raw materials dryer suppliers, died April 29 in Tulsa, Okla. He was 82.

Parker was born in Peoria, Ill., where he was active in Boy Scouts and attained the status of Eagle Scout. After graduating from Peoria High School, he served in the U.S. Army for two years, receiving an honorable discharge with the rank of Corporal.

Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was a Certified Professional Engineer.

Parker began his career with ADM in Neodesha, Kans. in 1957. In 1961 he was instrumental in form­ing M-E-C Company, where he served as President for 45 years, retiring in 2011. Under his leadership, M-E-C became a major, worldwide supplier of industrial process equipment for many different industries. Major emphasis was placed on supplying drying systems to the forest products industry for preparing wet wood waste for use in the manufacture of fuel pellets, particleboard, medium density fiberboard and oriented strandboard.

In 2001, M-E-C purchased assets of Smith Engineering and formed Pro-Environmental, Inc., manufacturer of environmental abatement equipment.

After Parker’s retirement, he served as chairman emeritus until his death.

Parker is survived by Joan, his wife of 59 years, and three children, Stephen, Pam and Lynn. Also surviving are four grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

Funeral services were held May 5 at Moore’s Southlawn Chapel, Tul­sa, Okla.

PFI Will Participate In Briquette Studies

Pellet Fuels Institute is part of a team led by California’s Humboldt State University (HSU), which was awarded a U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) grant that will be used to conduct a joint study on bioenergy technology. The $5.8 million grant, one of the largest ever received by HSU, is part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a collaborative effort between the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that supports renewable energy research in the rural United States.

PFI, one of 15 partner organizations chosen by the university, will support two projects funded by this research, both relating to “briquetting,” or the process of densifying forest residues into compact, energy efficient portions for use in biomass thermal applications.

“Some of the major barriers to utilizing forest residues are related to the high cost of collecting, processing, and transporting feedstock to conversion locations,” says the project’s lead principal investigator, HSU Forestry Professor Han-Sup Han. “This study will take innovative approaches that cost-effectively handle forest residues and produce quality feedstocks in the woods. Furthermore, removing forest residues helps reduce fire risk, supports forest restoration efforts and rural communities and prepares for planting trees.”

In the first project, PFI will assess the adaptability of existing commercial biomass briquetting equipment for use as a field deployable system. The mobile system would be usable in or near woods to process a variety of forest residue types. Rather than hauling residues to a facility for processing, this technology would enable manufacturers to densify residues on the spot, allowing for enhanced ease and efficiency of transport. PFI will address issues inherent in creating a field deployable system, including the necessary support and material handling equipment.

For the second project, also expected to last two years, PFI will conduct a comparison of the logistics, output and economics of on-site versus mobile briquetting units. This study will aim to identify strategies to improve the economics of forest biomass utilization.

PFI Will Participate In Briquette Studies

The Suskwa and Gitsegukla First Nations announced plans to build a $26 million wood pellet facility near Hazelton, BC, signing an agreement with a consortium of Korean investors. The facility will produce 200,000 tonnes of white and torrefied black pellets per year, which will be exported to Korea to fuel electricty plants.

The plant, called GITXSAN Bio-Energy, will be 50% First Nations-owned through their Tricorp development company and 50% owned by a consortium of Korean companies including Samsung, Hosanna-GREC, Halla and Hanwa groups.

GITXSAN Bio-Energy CEO Haksung Lee said they’re looking to build other plants across the province.

Vancouver-based Global Bio-Coal Energy will be managing the plant’s construction and supplying the technology. Construction should begin this summer. The First Nations also purchased the Morning Glory sawmill to supply raw material to the pellet plant.

PFI Will Participate In Briquette Studies

Wood pellet exports from the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, from 1.6 million tons (approximately 22 trillion Btu) to 3.2 million tons, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than 98% of these exports were delivered to Europe.

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