News | August 2017

Trying to keep up with all the latest news in the biomass industry can be a daunting task, however, with the help of Wood Bioenergy magazine and our ever-updating blog site—staying up-to-date has been made significantly easier.

For the latest in news, visit or blog site.

Biomass Benefits Top Natural Gas

Biomass Power Assn. released a study by two professors demonstrating dramatic carbon benefits by using forest residue-based biomass fuel instead of natural gas in a power generation facility. The study, conducted by Dr. Madhu Khanna, Distinguished Professor in Environmental Economics at the University of Illinois Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, and Dr. Puneet Dwivedi, Assistant Professor in Sustainability Sciences at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, found that emissions from a biomass power facility using forest residue-based fuel are 115% lower than those of a natural gas facility in one year. Over 100 years, those savings remain at 98% after accounting for emissions from logging activities.

“Assessment of the carbon intensity of biopower, in the near term, depends a lot on whether the carbon accounting is conducted at the stand level or at the landscape level,” says the study’s authors. “When biomass is being sourced continuously for a power plant, as in this case, accounting for carbon effects across the landscape from which it is being obtained is more appropriate than at a single stand level. When we do that, we find that the savings from avoiding emissions from decay of residues that would be left in the forest more than make up for the emissions generated in the process of collecting and transporting residues for power generation.”

The authors noted that this finding was specific to use of residues for power generation and that a similar landscape scale analysis needs to be conducted for other forest biomass to determine its greenhouse gas intensity relative to fossil fuels.

“Congress overwhelmingly voted to acknowledge the carbon neutrality of biomass, and the results of this study confirm the wisdom of that vote,” says Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of Biomass Power Assn. “As expected, biomass fuels are vastly preferable to natural gas from a carbon perspective. In addition to the carbon benefits of biomass, the existence of a biomass facility in a forested area promotes jobs and healthy forests by creating a market for low value wood products. As a nation, we can’t afford not to promote the use of biomass.”

The project examined the carbon intensity of a 50 MW capacity biomass power facility in New Hampshire with a 43 MW net output on the electric grid, comparing it to that of a typical combined cycle natural gas facility.

The study took into account the rate of decay of forest biomass, and the carbon and methane emissions from decay that would have occurred if these materials were left on the forest floor rather than used for power generation. It also took into account incidental carbon emissions incurred during harvesting, chipping and transportation.

Pinnacle Plans Pellet Plant In Alberta

Parkland County, Alberta officials confirmed that Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. will be constructing an $85 million wood pellet plant in Entwistle. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. to Parkland County and the hamlet of Entwistle,” Mayor Rod Shaigec says. “The positive economic impact this investment will have on our community is tremendous.”

The plant will be located one kilometer east of downtown Entwistle with access to the Canadian National Rail line, with the plant being operational by the spring 2018.  Once in production, the plant will create 70 full-time positions.

The plant will cover six hectares and is expected to produce 475,000 metric tons a year, which will be shipped by rail to the Pinnacle port in Prince Rupert.

Today, Pinnacle runs seven pellet plants throughout BC, producing more than one and a half million metric tons annually. The plants are located in Houston, Burns Lake, Meadowbank, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Armstrong and Lavington.

International Markets Are Heating Up

Enviva reports several recent developments that continue to support the significant growth in demand expected for wood pellets, especially in Enviva’s core markets of Europe and Asia:

As the European Union’s proposed 2030 goals for further emissions reductions and increased renewable energy generation progress through the legislative process, the European Union is developing a new strategy to almost completely decarbonize its economy by 2050. In addition, EURELECTRIC, an association that represents 3,500 companies across the European electricity industry, announced that power generators in most European Union countries committed to eliminate investment in new coal-fired power plants after 2020. These events demonstrate both the continued regulatory and energy industry support for further de-carbonization in Europe.

The United Kingdom recently completed a full 24-hour period without burning coal to generate electricity, a major milestone in its efforts to displace coal-fired generation. In addition, the UK Dept. of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) completed a study that confirmed wood fiber sourced using practices employed in the Southeast United States is a low-carbon, sustainable source of energy. After agreeing last year to extend the UK government’s powers to award new contract for difference (CfD) incentives for low-carbon energy projects out to 2026, the BEIS is now considering the potential implications of the study on future policy decisions and CfD awards.

Driven by consumer preference, several multi-national corporations have announced specific commitments to significantly reduce carbon emissions and increase adoption of renewable energy across their operations and supply chains. Biomass-fired generation for the power and thermal needs of these operations is a reliable complement to intermittent wind and solar power.

Enviva reports it remains in active discussions with customers in Europe and Asia for long-term off-take contracts for the supply of wood pellets and points to possible new capacity under development throughout the Southeast U.S., including at sites in Lucedale, Miss. and Abbeville, Ala., as well as other sites positioned to take advantage of the existing terminal capacity at the Chesapeake and Wilmington terminals. In addition, Enviva continues to evaluate its option to build and operate a marine export terminal at the Port of Pascagoula, Miss., which could support wood pellet production from a potential production plant in Lucedale and other potential facilities in the region.  

Enviva Looks Hard At Danville Site

During its regularly scheduled meeting, the Danville-Pittsylvania (Virginia) Regional Industrial Facility Authority (RIFA) approved a purchase agreement with Enviva Development Holdings, LLC for a project of “regional significance” in the Berry Hill Industrial Park in Pittsylvania County. The project will represent a significant private investment in the region, with a value in excess of $100 million. The agreement is for a 168 acre tract of land.

Sherman Saunders, RIFA chairman and member of Danville City Council, comments, “The evaluation conducted on this site over the coming months could result in a regionally significant project that would provide good paying jobs and shared revenue to our region. We look forward to working with Enviva Development Holdings, LLC as they conduct due diligence on this site.”

“As power producers increas­ingly turn to sustainable, renewable processed biomass fuel to reduce their carbon footprint, Enviva Development Holdings, LLC will continue to look to great communities like the Danville / Pittsylvania County, Virginia area to become a part of the long-term critical supply chain infrastructure to fill those fuel supply needs,” comments K.C. Tripp, vice president of communications and public affairs, Enviva Development Holdings, LLC. “The action taken by the RIFA board today is an important milestone that enables us to begin our due diligence process on the site and the opportunity.”

Danville is located just above the North Carolina border, due west of two Enviva pellet plants.

Conference Touts Benefits Of Biomass

The 25th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Stockholm reported 1,537 conference delegates from 70 countries.

Henrik Hernrooth, Chairman of the Board of Pöyry PLC and Chairman of the Climate Leadership Council, Conference General Co-Chair, comments, “I feel that we need to gradually move from sustainability debate into sustainable action. In order to define what is sustainable we need better measurements of biomass. Biomass is visible from the satellite and it is an interesting carbon stock that we can now measure with proper tools. Much of the debate about future is about threats. We need to move this debate into a positive vision.” 

Gustav Melin, Managing Director, Svebio, adds, “In the last 10 years, we got three times more carbon assimilated in biomass than what is needed for one year global energy supply. So, I would like to say to all scientists: stop talking about bioenergy as a limited resource. All facts show that there is enough biomass for all energy needs.”

Nicolae Scarlat, Technical Programme Chairman, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Directorate for Energy, Transport and Climate, summarized the conference. “We need long-term vision, policy consistency and stability; we need transformation of the economy, not a marginal change; we need technology specific policies instead of technology neutrality; we need to phase-out fossil fuels and keep fossil carbon in the ground.”

The 26th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition will take place in Denmark on May 14-18, 2018.

Weyerhaeuser Selling Uruguay Operations

Weyerhaeuser Co. is selling its timberlands and manufacturing business in Uruguay to a consortium led by BTG Pactual’s Timberland Investment Group (TIG), including other long-term institutional investors for $402.5 million in cash.

The transaction includes more than 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares) of timberlands in northeastern and north central Uruguay, as well as a plywood and veneer manufacturing facility, a cogeneration facility, and a seedling nursery.

“Our Uruguay business is a unique combination of high-quality timberlands, value-added manufacturing operations and skilled and dedicated people, and this transaction will best position the business to reach its full potential,” says Doyle Simons, president and CEO.

Good Earth Project Gets ‘New Life’

A new investors group that has taken over daily operations of Good Earth Power AZ is seeking to ramp up the company’s execution of a far-reaching Forest Service stewardship contract that sought to thin or otherwise treat 300,000 acres in 10 years beginning in 2012, but has barely covered 10,000 acres in the five years since.

Another big change—aiming to give the effort a fresh start—is a company name change from Good Earth Power to NewLife Forest Products.

The project encompasses the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests and their ponderosa pine stands, and comes on the heels of years of devastating wildfires.

After a group of investors stepped in to take operational control of Good Earth at the end of 2016, a recent report says the investors are making multiple changes to increase output and completion of “task order” activities that accompany specific on-ground projects.

One key is to pursue a less vertically-integrated business model and work more with outside contractors as opposed to owning timber harvesting, chipping or trucking capacity, for example. Already the company has announced a partnership with major Phoenix-based trucking firm Knight Transportation, and foresters are looking to bring in experienced loggers from the Pacific Northwest to add to harvesting capacity.

In addition, NewLife Forest Products is planning a new small log mill that will help reduce chip production, plus adding a composting operation to help increase overall biomass utilization.

Withered and non-existent forest products industry infrastructure in the region has hampered the project from the beginning due to a lack of markets for the large volume of logs and especially biomass coming off thinning and other stewardship activities.

Recently, the company’s Heber, Ariz. sawmill was closed for renovations to increase log processing capacity and was reportedly re-starting operations. Meanwhile the new small log project replaces a mill previously planned for Williams, Ariz. that never got off the ground.

In the meantime, hog fuel and chips are going to Gro-Well, a soil additive company, and the biomass-powered Novo Power plant.

With such lofty goals to reduce fire risk on millions of acres across Arizona, the first major contract for the Forest Service’s (FS) Four Forests Restoration Initiative has a rocky history:

First, the FS in 2012 awarded the contract to a Montana-based firm with little experience over a local group seeking to build an OSB plant to utilize the small diameter material. Yet Pioneer Forest Products could never gain financing for its plans to build a cutting mill and small log facility along with a biofuel plant.

In 2013 the contract was transferred to Good Earth Power, a company with even less experience, and overall operations have sputtered since as Good Earth sought to establish markets and outlets for logs and biomass. The Campbell Group was brought in to aid procurement, but that relationship soured into a lawsuit, and Good Earth was the subject of 20-plus complaints received by the FS about late payments and non-payments.

NewLife Chief Operating Officer Bill Dyer says the company can’t change what has happened in the past but is looking to make it right and move forward. According to Dyer, tactical execution has been lacking in operations. “What we’re trying to do is bring tactical execution to the project,” he says.

^ Top