News | June 2017

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Drax Plans Upgrades At Louisiana Pellets

Drax Biomass intends to make a number of improvements to the idled Louisiana Pellets (formerly German Pellets) wood pellet operation in Urania, La. Drax is targeting early 2018 for the plant to resume production though the timeline could change. Drax was the winning bidder for the operation.

Meanwhile Drax is waiting for creditors’ advisors to announce a new auction date for the Texas Pellets facility in Woodville, Texas and port operation in Port Arthur, Texas. That bidding process was put on hold following a conveyor-loading fire. Texas Pellets was also an affiliate of German Pellets and like Louisiana Pellets filed for bankruptcy.

Drax Biomass, which operates wood pellet plants in Bastrop, La. and Gloster, Miss., wants to more than double its current production capacity to self-supply 20-30% of Drax Power Station’s demand in the UK while also competing for supply contracts in new biomass markets. Drax Biomass also operates a port storage and transit facility in Port Allen, La.

Drax Biomass also announced it is beginning capital expenditure projects at its two wood pellet mills in the Southeast. Drax wants to increase production capacity from 450,000 metrics tons annually to 525,000 metric tons at each plant.

Former LP Exec Leads Westervelt

The Westervelt Co. named Brian Luoma as President and CEO, succeeding Mike Case, who announced his retirement after more than 32 years with the company. Luoma over sees Westervelt Lumber, Westervelt Renewable Energy, Westervelt Forest Resources, Westervelt Communities, Westervelt Ecological Services and Westervelt New Zea - land.

Luoma most recently served as executive vice president and general manager, Siding, with Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Jon Warner, Chairman of the Board at The Westervelt Co., based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., comments, “Brian’s proven leadership and vision will be essential in leading our company.”

“I am thrilled to join the Westervelt team,” Luoma says. “The company’s commitment to excellence and focus on sustainability are the driving forces behind 133 years of success.”

Westervelt operates a high production, modernized southern yellow pine sawmill at Moundville, Ala., a large industrial wood pellet plant in Aliceville, Ala., and owns/manages 500,000 acres of timberland.

NESTEC, Lundberg Form Partnership

NESTEC, Inc. and A.H. Lundberg Systems Ltd. announced a strategic alliance to mutually promote their technologies in North America and other parts of the world.

“This partnership is an exciting opportunity to expand the reach of new and state-of-the-art technologies in the U.S. It will also provide NESTEC with a complement of proven control systems to further strengthen its broad spectrum of single source clean air solutions,” the companies stated. “This important collaborative effort will enhance our industry leadership positions in a continuing effort to support the global health of the environment.”

A.H. Lundberg Systems Ltd. is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and has been a leader in wet electrostatic precipitators (WESP) and mass and heat transfer technologies since 1954. Its cutting edge refinements of WESP technologies specialize in controlling emissions in the wood products industry, fiberglass industry, and other industries at numerous installations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and other areas of the world.

“We look forward to working with our customers as a common alliance to provide the quality technology and service that both of our companies have a long reputation for,” they added. Visit

Vincent Authors ‘Against The Odds’

Reflection and leadership in rural American resource communities provide hope for a path forward, particularly surrounding environmental tensions, offer authors Bruce Vincent, Nicole J. Olynk Widmar and Jessica Eise in their recently published book Against the Odds: A Path Forward for Rural America.

The book follows the life of Vincent, a rural Montana logger and resource worker who led loggers in the “Timber Wars” of the late ’80s and ’90s, while his community struggled and he and his fellow workers encountered public opinion in urban America building against them. Woven into his tale are historical context, examples and research, drawing readers along his path of self-reflection toward his concluding vision of hope for a meaningful reconciliation and environmental progress.

“America is ready for a new environmental vision,” says Vincent, who is now a public speaker since his logging business folded due to a cessation of governmental logging contracts in his area. “The old environmental movement was timely and necessary but failed to mature beyond a three-word vision of, ‘stop doing that.’ Rather than remaining disenfranchised and sidelined, I believe a new environmental movement can be led by rural people. We live too close to the ground to pretend to know all the truth, but we are close enough to apply science while providing from and protecting Earth.”

Vincent formed an unlikely partnership with two coauthors who shared his vision for progress in rural American communities, but from a different backgrounds and perspectives.

The book is separated into three parts, covering the life of Vincent, the evolution of the environmental movement and a path toward pro - gress.

Against the Odds is available on Amazon.

Oates Is Alabama’s New State Forester

Alabama Forestry Commission has selected Rick Oates as the new Alabama State Forester.

Oates, 49, recently served as forestry division director at the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA), where he was also executive director of the Alabama Treasure Forest Assn. and director of the organization’s catfish and wildlife divisions. He previously served as chief of staff for commissioner of Alabama’s Dept. of Agriculture and Industries and held various posts with the Alabama Forestry Assn.

Oates received a BS degree in natural resources from The University of the South and a MS degree in forestry from Auburn University.

Lawsuits Puts Owl Designation On Hold

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has agreed with an American Forest Resource Council appeal on behalf of many wood products companies, which challenged a district court’s decision not to hear AFRC’s lawsuit to overturn the 2012 designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of 9.29 million acres in Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl.

The lower court had said that AFRC didn’t have “standing” to challenge the critical habitat designation. But the Court of Appeals disagreed.

Circuit Judge Griffith Kavanaugh stated, “The Council (AFRC) has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forestlands, that Council members obtain their timber from those forestlands, and that Council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forestlands. We conclude that the Council has standing.”

The Court of Appeals ordered the district court to hear the case.

The acreage in question is mostly federal forestland along with more than 290,000 acres of state of Oregon lands.

The case goes back to 2008 when FWS revised its critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, but which was challenged in court by industry and preservationists, and which culminated in the 2012 designation.

Pellet Operation Aims To Assist Landowners

Drax Biomass and American Forest Foundation announced a multi-year project to invest in the future of small family landowners around Drax’s Morehouse Bio- Energy facility in northeast Louisiana. The five-year, $1.1 million project—the “Morehouse Family Forests Initiative” (MFFI)—will provide landowners with the tools and resources to implement forest management practices that can increase the commercial, recreational and ecological value of their lands, and maintain crucial habitat for the region’s diverse wildlife.

MFFI aims to increase the number of family landowners in northeast Louisiana and southeast Arkansas who actively manage their lands in accordance with the principles of sustainable forestry. Specifically, the project will encourage habitat improvements, forest biodiversity and certification in the American Tree Farm System MFFI also supports the Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Partnership, a program recently launched by AFF and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help Southern family forest owners protect at-risk wildlife, while at the same time encouraging sustainable wood production.

Last year, AFF released a report, Southern Wildlife At Risk: Family Forest Owners Offer a Solution, that found family forest owners, who own nearly 60% of the forests across the South, are key to ensuring the sustainability of the region’s forests. According to the report, 87% of surveyed landowners said the protection and improvement of wildlife habitat is a top reason for owning land. Seventy- two percent have already implemented one or more forest management practice to support wildlife conservation, with 73% indicating a desire to do more in the future.

The same study also found that the cost of wildlife habitat improvement is a key barrier to action. In many cases, the potential revenue generated from harvesting operations, including thinning for improved stand producticity, can help offset these costs and incentivize greater implementation of forest man - agement practices. As evidence of this market response, 85% of surveyed landowners who harvest or thin their forests have also implemented other wildlife-improvement activities, as opposed to only 62% of those landowners who haven’t harvested or thinned.

Landowners who participate in MFFI will receive technical assistance and other resources to help them create individualized land management plans. These plans are a critical step toward certification under the American Tree Farm System, which can open up new commercial opportunities for landowners seeking to supply wood to the forest products manufacturing sector. This approach is based on AFF’s successful work in the Cumberland Plateau of Alabama, where the conservation group is working with hundreds of land - owners to implement forest management practices that will improve wildlife habitat, water quality and overall forest health.

North Dakota Study Focuses On Biochar

The North Dakota Forest Service (NDFS) sponsored a feasibility study by Wilson Biochar Associates to analyze new, low-cost methods of converting dead and diseased trees to biochar.

NDFS works with state, federal and private partners to help landowners manage and regenerate windbreak trees and shrubs.

Shelterbelt renewal is a good opportunity to realize the benefits of biochar at minimal cost. Dead and diseased trees have to be disposed of anyway, and they can be processed into biochar on site using low-cost technologies and standard forestry equipment.

The resulting biochar is pathogen free and it can be incorporated directly into the soil, along with appropriate fertilizers, to prepare it for new plantings. Biochar can help young saplings withstand drought, flooding, disease and other harsh conditions, such as saline or alkaline soils.

Wilson Biochar Associates examined three case studies using three different methods of low cost biochar production, analyzing production methods and costs. All the methods use the principle of flame carbonization. Flame carbonization takes advantage of the fact that wood burns in two stages, a gasification stage that burns with a flame, and a solid fuel combustion stage that reduces charcoal to ash. Using either an open burn method or a container, the burning process is interrupted before the solid fuel combustion stage, saving the char to be used as biochar for soil improvement. The flame carbonization methods analyzed include specially constructed open burn piles called Conservation Burns and several types of containers called Flame Cap Kilns.

The case studies are based on actual job sheets for shelterbelt renewal projects. Wilson Biochar Associates created a spreadsheet model for estimating biochar production efficiency and costs for each scenario. The cost per cubic yard of biochar produced ranged from $23 to $62. The cost per ton of biomass processed ranged from $21 to $28.

Biochar markets are still immature, but bulk totes of biochar generally sell for between $200-$400 a cubic yard. The report, Converting Shelterbelt Biomass to Biochar, is available online at: wba-converting-shelterbeltto- biochar.pdf.

Agreement Ensures Green District Heating

DONG Energy has entered into a 15-year agreement on the supply of district heating from the Herning Power Station in Denmark until 2033.

The agreement entails that Herning Power Station establishes a flue gas condensation plant. This will enable Herning Power Station to render even more energy from the wood chips used as the primary fuel source.

“I’m pleased that Herning Power Station will continue to provide stable, green district heating to our heat customers in Herning, Ikast and Sunds. With the new agreement, we’re making Herning Power Station even more efficient and consequently more climatefriendly,” says Thomas Dalsgaard, Executive Vice President, DONG Energy.

The new heat agreement covers 2019-2033. DONG Energy expects to begin building the new flue gas condensation plant in the fourth quarter this year.

Herning Power Station has a capacity of 80 MW electricity and 174MJ/s heat. Since 2009, the power station has been able to run solely on biomass—primarily wood chips supplemented with wood pellets.

Thunderbolt Biomass To Build Pellet Mill

Thunderbolt Biomass, Inc. is launching a wood pellet operation in Allendale, SC. The company is planning to invest $6 million in the project, creating 35 jobs.

Located on an eight-acre site, operations will be housed in a 14,550 sq. ft. metal building and have a capacity of 60,000 tons per year.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approv - ed job development credits related to this project. Allendale County was also awarded a $100,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant to assist with costs related to this project.

“We are very happy to be build - ing this plant in an area of abund - ant forestry resources, infrastructure and with the active support of the S.C. Department of Commerce and the SouthernCarolina Economic Alliance, whose personnel and expertise were critical in bringing this project to Allendale,” comments Thunderbolt Biomass President Knox Grant

Oregon Counties Want $1.4 Billion

A class-action lawsuit filed in March 2016 on behalf of 15 Oregon counties and more than 150 local taxing districts is moving toward trial to address the state’s alleged failure to maximize revenues to counties reliant on Oregon Forest Trust lands that generate funds through timber sales and pass that money along to local governments to fund education, public safety and other services.

Certified as a class-action suit this past October, the lawsuit seeks $1.4 billion in damages to the counties because the state has breached a state law contractual obligation to manage Oregon Forest Trust lands for the “greatest permanent value.” The counties claim Oregon has failed to manage for the greatest permanent value by emphasizing other values than timber production, causing a loss of revenues to the counties of at least $35 million annually since 1998 when the Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) changed priorities in a management plan that was adopted in 2001.

Background on the case dates to the 1930s and ’40s, when counties conveyed ownership of cut-over and abandoned tax debt land back to the state with an agreement to share in the timber harvest revenues. A 1941 law directs the Board of Forestry to manage state forests for the “greatest permanent value.” In 1998, the ODF sought to define the term and added other values in addition to timber production with an administrative rule and adopted a new management plan three years later that reflected the change in priorities. But the counties say that administrative move can’t cancel out the 1941 law.

A deadline for counties to opt out of the class action suit passed in mid January, with one county dropping out. “The fact that more than 95 percent of counties and taxing districts stayed in the class is a major testament to the seriousness of this issue for rural counties,” says Roger Nyquist, Chair of the Linn County Board of Commissioners that initiated the suit. “We all feel the strain on our budgets and can no longer allow our citizens to bear the burden of the state’s breach of contract.”

Several motions are now before the judge in the case, which is undergoing the discovery process, with administrative deadlines in early summer and fall. Counsel for the counties John DiLorenzo believes the case will go to trial in early 2018 barring a settlement or other delay.

DiLorenzo says the case is a straightforward breach of contract, and he’s encouraged that the judge seems to be taking the same view. The state is sure to argue that conservation- related values must be taken into consideration when determining the “greatest permanent value,” and that times have changed, DiLorenzo says. But he intends to prove the ODF can still meet all federal and state environmental protection requirements at a higher level of timber harvest— but is choosing not to in order to emphasize other values in violation of the 1941 directive.

According to a release from the Oregon Forest Industries Council, in previous cases Oregon courts have ruled that the state is contractually bound to manage Forest Trust Lands for the benefit of the 15 counties it acquired land from in western Oregon more than 70 years ago. The release says administrative rules adopted in 2001 “resulted in a significant difference between what rural communities are receiving versus what they could receive under best forest management practices that balance harvest with environmental protection. At a time when rural government budgets are being squeezed, the state’s action has created more stress on public safety, education and other basic services rural citizens need.”

DiLorenzo says the case also reflects Oregon’s demographic makeup, in which a big majority of voters live in urban areas like Portland, Salem, Eugene and Bend. The state of Oregon has every right to enact policies that reflect the conservation values of those urban populations, he adds, but the state shouldn’t expect rural counties and their residents to be the ones who are shouldering the costs of such policies to the detriment of rural schools, sheriff departments, day care centers, libraries and other services.

In a local news article, Nyquist said the counties aren’t “chasing a pot of gold,” and that what they’d really like is for the state to manage its timberlands properly and uphold its end of the agreement made with the counties a long time ago.

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