News | February 2018

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Enviva Will Acquire New Colombo Plant

Enviva JV Development Company LLC is purchasing the Colombo Energy wood pellet production plant in Greenwood, SC, and has plans to to acquire, develop and construct wood pellet production plants and deep-water marine terminals in the Southeastern U.S.

Enviva Holdings, LP announced that its development subsidiary, Enviva Development Holdings, LLC, has entered into a new joint venture, Enviva JV Development Company, LLC, with affiliates of The John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.). The new joint venture will be managed by Enviva and supported by the Hancock Renewable Energy Group, a unit of the Hancock Natural Resource Group.

“The new joint venture is expected to develop and construct new production plants and marine terminals required to serve the growing Asian and European markets,” says John Keppler, President and CEO of Enviva.

Through their affiliates, Enviva and John Hancock will provide the capital to the new joint venture needed to fund the acquisition of the Greenwood plant as well as the planned development of a deep-water marine terminal at the Port of Pascagoula, Miss. and at least two additional wood pellet production facilities.

The first investment of the new venture will be the acquisition of the Greenwood (Colombo Energy) plant and related assets from The Navigator Company, S.A., a large Portuguese paper and pulp company. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2018.

The Greenwood plant commenced operations in October 2016. The new venture expects to complete the production ramp and invest incremental capital in the Greenwood plant required to improve the operational efficiency and increase the production capacity of the facility. The production of the Greenwood plant initially will be sold to Enviva Partners, LP under a take-or-pay off-take contract and will continue to be exported from Enviva’s deep-water marine terminal in Wilmington, NC.

“The Greenwood plant is well-constructed, strategically located in a deep natural resource basin and has a strong manufacturing base to build on,” Keppler says. “We are excited to bring this team into the Enviva family and to grow this plant into a world-class production facility.”

The existing joint venture between affiliates of Enviva and John Hancock will retain ownership of Enviva Pellets Hamlet, LLC, the entity constructing a 600,000 metric tons per year production plant in Hamlet, NC. Enviva expects the Hamlet plant will be operational in the first quarter of 2019. Production from the Hamlet plant is contracted to supply MGT Power’s Teesside Renewable Energy Plant, which currently is under construction in the United Kingdom.

Though it’s unclear what additional investments and upgrades will be made to the former Colombo Energy 500,000 metric tons capacity Greenwood facility, Colombo brought on the plant with Spanish equipment manufacturer Prodesa as a key supplier, including Prodesa’s ProMil-Stolz equipment. Ultimately Prodesa supplied the complete milling, pelleting and cooling lines, including five dry hammermills, 15 pellet mills, five vertical coolers and more than 1,800 instrument signals that process through the PLC to enable a safe and well informed operation of the plant, with more than 11,250 HP installed.

The facility has been focused on processing pine roundwood. It also features a Price LogPro drum debarker, BRUKS horizontal drum chipper, BRUKS circular blending bed stacker reclaimer, BRUKS green hammermills, TSI rotary dryer.

Rentech is Selling Fulghum, NEWP

Rentech has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while proceeding to sell its Fulghum Fibres, New England Wood Pellets and Atikokan, Ontario wood pellet facility properties.

The subsidiaries of the Rentech company conducting its Fulghum Fibres business in the U.S., which have not filed for bankruptcy protection, entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement with an affiliate of Scott Davis Chip Company, Inc. of Brent, Ala. for the sale of the assets of that business. The closing of this transaction is subject to specified closing conditions, including the approval of the Bankruptcy Court. The Fulghum base purchase price is $28 million (which includes the assumption of approximately $20 million of debt).

Scott Davis Chip Co. is a family owned business that operates a chip mill, trucking firm and other assets.

Rentech purchased Fulghum Fibres in 2013 for $112 million, including 32 wood chip mills, six of which were in South America.

Also, the subsidiaries of the Rentech company conducting its New England Wood Pellet business, which have not filed for bankruptcy protection, entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement with Lignetics of New England, Inc., a subsidiary of Lignetics, Inc., for the sale of the assets of that business. The NEWP purchase price is $33 million (approximately $10 million of which is expected to be used to pay off debt).

Lignetics is the largest residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S., with pellet manufacturing plants on both the East Coast and West Coast.

Rentech acquired New England Wood Pellet and its three pellet manufacturing facilities in 2014 for $35 million.

The subsidiary of the Rentech company that owns the Atikokan Facility entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement with 2607043 Ontario Inc., an affiliate of True North Timber, a forest resources company, for the purchase of the assets of the Atikokan operations. The Atikokan purchase price is CAD$3.2 million (approximately CAD$1 million of which is expected to go toward debt).

Rentech’s Wawa wood pellet facility in Wawa, Ontario remains idle. Rentech has applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for the appointment of a receiver and manager to facilitate the sale or liquidation of the Wawa plant.

Steeper, Silva Partner On Renewable Crude

Steeper Energy, a Danish-Canadian clean-fuel company, is partnering with Silva Green Fuel, a Norwegian-Swedish joint venture, to construct an industrial scale demonstration plant at a former pulp mill located in Tofte, Norway with plans for a commercial scale project.

Steeper will license its proprietary Hydrofaction technology to Silva, who will build the facility over the next 18 months. The demonstration plant will use woody residues as feedstock that are converted to renewable crude oil and, in turn, will be upgraded to renewable diesel, jet or marine fuel.

Steeper’s Hydrofaction technology harnesses water brought to super-critical conditions, to cost effectively convert biomass to high value liquid biofuels.

The partnership between Silva Green Fuel and Steeper will confirm engineering data and design protocols to de-risk future commercial scale facilities planned to be built by Silva and will be offered by Steeper globally to other biofuel project developers.

According to Steeper Energy’s co-founder and CEO, Perry Toms, “This partnership positions Steeper Energy as a leader in providing advanced renewable fuels that can not only help reduce net carbon emissions, but also produce in-demand renewable diesel for use in heavy and long-haul transport sectors.”

Silva is a joint venture between Norway’s Statkraft, a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, and Sweden’s Södra, a cooperative of 50,000 forest owners with extensive forestry operations and a leading producer of paper pulp, sawn timber and bioenergy.

Steeper’s biofuel can be easily integrated into existing petroleum infrastructure and is physically comparable to fossil fuels. Although initially focusing on low-value forestry by-products such as forest residues or mill wastes such as sawdust, Steeper’s technology can also utilize many other biomass feedstocks, including urban organic wastes, agricultural residues, animal manure and algae.

Steeper Energy is actively entertaining partnerships with biomass aggregators or energy producers to develop similar commercial-scale projects.

Torrefied Pellets Plant Planned For Estonia

Baltania, a 100% owned subsidiary of Dutch private equity investment firm Momentum Capital, has made a conditional investment decision to commission an industrial scale torrefaction bio-coal plant in Vägari, Estonia. Value of the investment is approximately EUR 45 million. Providing that all conditions of the investment decision are met, the construction of the bio-coal plant will start in Q2 2018.

Baltania’s production will focus on torrefied bio-coal pellets produced from sustainable woody biomass. The bio-coal pellets can be used to partially or to fully replace fossil coal in electrical power or heat generation plants as a sustainable alternative without significant additional investment in plant conversion.

The bio-coal plant will be commissioned on CEG’s torrefaction technology. The output capacity of the bio-coal plant will be approximately 160,000 tonnes of torrefied bio-coal pellets per annum. The main customer base will consist of utility companies in Nordic countries and Central Europe.

The investment of approx­imately EUR 45 million will be funded by Momentum Capital together with other investors and financial insti­tutions. European Union has approved a NER300 grant of EUR 25 million for the torrefaction project. The torrefaction project will be carried out in cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of the Envi­ronment.

The bio-coal plant investment will have a significantly positive impact on employment in surroundings of Vägari. The bio-coal plant will offer directly at least 30 jobs in production, added with many overhead support opportunities via third party local businesses to be selected. In addition, approximately 300 jobs will be created in harvesting and logistics, and more than 200 temporary jobs are to be created during construction of the bio-coal plant.

Pöyry, one of the world’s leading engineering and consulting companies, has been assigned to carry out a torrefaction project feasibility study on behalf of Baltania.

Is Young Poplar The Biofuel Answer?

In the quest to produce affordable biofuels, poplar trees are one of the Pacific Northwest’s best bets—the trees are abundant, fast-growing, adaptable to many terrains and their wood can be transformed into substances used in biofuel and high-value chemicals that we rely on in our daily lives.

But even as researchers test poplars’ potential to morph into everything from ethanol to chemicals in cosmetics and detergents, a commercial-scale processing plant for poplars has yet to be achieved. This is mainly because production costs still are not competitive with the current price of oil.

A University of Washington team is trying to make poplar a viable competitor by testing the production of younger poplar trees that could be harvested more frequently—after only two or three years—instead of the usual 10- to 20-year cycle. These trees, essentially juveniles compared with fully grown adults, are planted closer together and cut in such a way that more branches sprout up from the stump after each harvest, using the same root systems for up to 20 years. This method is called “coppicing,” and the trees are known as poplar coppice.

The team is the first to try converting the entire young tree—including leaves, bark and stems—into bio oil, a biologically derived oil product, and ethanol using two separate processes. Their results, published this summer in two papers, point to a promising future for using poplar coppice for biofuel.

“Our research proved that poplar coppice can be a good option to meet the cheap, high-volume criteria of biofuel feedstock,” says lead author Chang Dou on both papers, a doctoral student in UW’s Bioresource Science and Engineering program. “Our findings are significant for the future biofuel industry, and the ultimate goal is to take poplar coppice biofuel a step closer to the pump.”

Poplar wood chips from older trees have been the focus of most research, mainly because wood parts contain the highest concentration of sugar, which is important for making ethanol and chemicals. Earlier studies show that poplar wood chips are a viable biofuel source, but costs still don’t pencil out, especially since trees are cut just once every 10-plus years. Additionally, other tree parts go to waste when only the trunk is used, making the process more inefficient and wasteful.

However, if poplar were planted close together like an agriculture crop, and whole trees were harvested on a much quicker cycle, it could make sense from a cost perspective and offer a short return on investment—and be more attractive for farmers.

“We have the environmental incentives to produce fuels and chemicals from renewable resources, but right now, they aren’t enough to compete with low oil prices. That’s the problem,” says Renata Bura, a UW associate professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the senior author.

Bura’s research is part of the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project, directed by UW professor Rick Gustafson, is a consortium of universities and industries led by the UW whose goal is to lay the foundation for a Pacific Northwest biofuels and bio-based industry based on poplar feedstock.

For this study, trees in Jefferson, Ore.—one of the four study sites—were planted in rows close together in spring of 2012 and harvested less than two years later before the leaves had fallen. The UW team first tested whether entire young poplar trees could be converted into sugar by a process that uses high temperature, pressure and enzymes to break down the wood materials into sugar. From there, it is possible to make ethanol, acetic acid, lactic acid and other valuable chemicals by fermenting the sugar.

After processing the trees, the researchers found that leaves are poor performers and lowered the overall sugar output, not just because leaves are naturally low in sugar, but they also contain other chemicals that impede the sugar-releasing process. When scaled up to a commercial operation, leaves should be removed and may be used for other purposes, such as feed for animals.

They also tested whole poplar trees from the same plot in another conversion process that uses much higher heat—upwards of 500 degrees Celsius—to transform the tree materials directly to bio oil in a process called “pyrolysis.” Research is under way to convert this dark brown oil to a transportation fuel that resembles gasoline or diesel.

In the experiment, the researchers found that including leaves didn’t make a big difference to the quality of the resulting bio oil. When scaled up, producers could ultimately save time and money by not separating leaves from branches to achieve similar quality oil.

The young poplars used in the study have similar properties to shoots that would sprout from a stump in a true coppicing operation. Using that cutting method, it is possible to harvest trees every two years for up to 20 years without the added effort and cost of pulling up roots, preparing the soil and planting new trees that is required in usual planting regimes.

Ultimately, the researchers say that coppice poplar is likely the best balance of cost and reliability for Pacific Northwest growers to produce biofuel.

“Currently, we are looking at how we can grow poplar for monetized ecosystem services,” Bura says. “In the future, we envision a bio-based industry that will provide multiple environmental benefits, will invigorate rural communities and will serve as a bridge to a fully developed biofuels industry.”

Other co-authors on the papers are Fernando Resende, a UW assistant professor of environmental and forest sciences; Devin Chandler, a UW graduate student in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program; Wilian Marcondes, a UW exchange student from the University of São Paulo-Brazil; and Jessica Djaja, a UW undergraduate student. The research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This article was written by Michelle Ma for University of Washington News web site.

Forest-Residue Based Biorefinery Announced

Velocys plc reports it has signed a site option agreement with Adams County in Mississippi for its first U.S. forest-residue based biorefinery to be located in Natchez.

Velocys has been offered economic development incentives from Adams County valued at $42 million. The project expects to qualify for additional incentives up to $15 million, provided by Mississippi’s Advantage Jobs Act and other statutory tax incentives.

Velocys has also received commitments from Adams County worth $4 million (relating to the land and upgrades to the site) and $1 million site upgrade commitments from local utility suppliers.

The 100 acre Natchez site was confirmed after the company analyzed a broad set of operational and tax considerations at 12 possible sites in four states in the Southeast.

Velocys is maintaining its list of other attractive sites in the region, which could host plants with capacities totaling 100 million gallons over the next 10 years. Velocys remains in close contact with the economic development officials in these other states regarding the locations and timing of future renewable fuels facilities.

Pinnacle Seeks Public Offering

Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc, a wood pellets producer owned by Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp., has filed a preliminary prospectus with the Toronto Stock Exchange for an initial public offering of its common shares.

The company, which serves large European and Asian power generators such as Drax Group Plc, RWE Ag and Mitsubishi Corp., expects to raise about C$175 million ($136.10 million) from the share sale.

The offering could be the second-biggest renewable energy IPO in Canada after TransAlta Renewables Inc. raised C$221 million in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Pinnacle, one of the world’s biggest producers of wood pellets, intends to use the IPO proceeds to pay down debt and fund construction of more facilities.

ONCAP, a unit of Onex that focuses on the middle market, had acquired a majority stake in Pinnacle in 2011 for C$71 million, according to ONCAP’s website.

Weir Engineering Completes Valve Work

Weir Engineering Services has partnered with Lynemouth Power Station at Ashington, UK to contribute to the project that will convert the plant from a coal fired to a biomass fired power station, including the overhaul of 11 butterfly valves and gearboxes. An engineering team from service facility in Alloa (Clackmannanshire, Scotland) overcame the challenge of dealing with valves in very different conditions, after being repaired by several companies over the years.

The valves were installed in 1972 when Lynemouth Power Station started to generate electricity from coal. The project to convert the station to biomass was confirmed after its acquisition by Energetický a Průmyslový Holding (EPH), and will allow the plant to generate up to 420 MW of low carbon electricity. 

The quality standards applied by the customer required an extensive report of the differences found, detailing defective, worn or damaged components, along with the proposed repair strategy. After a process of stripping down, cleaning and inspection, including Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), the team noted that most of the coating was worn and, in some cases, peeled off. Actuator mountings on the gearboxes and gearbox housing had also suffered severe corrosion. 

Brian Fairley, Supervisor at Weir, comments, “Each valve required a bespoke design to cater for the variety of different dimensions for disc and shaft seals. In order to carry out the overhaul, our expert team measured each body and disc to calculate the required seal dimensions. The bearing trunnion housing of the valves had been machined out over the years and replaced with different solutions, again all solutions were bespoke, so we’re proud to have met the challenges posed by the project and delivered for this customer.”

The shafts had also suffered from wear due to the ingress of debris from failed shaft seals. The team machined them back and re-sprayed metal surfaces to recover the required design dimensions. They also agreed to a standard size to repair, or removed the helicoils of the valve body flange holes, which had been fitted in different sizes and locations on valve flanges.

 Along with the 11 butterfly valves and gearboxes, the teams in Alloa and Teesside (Middlesbrough, England) completed the overhaul of 42 turbine relief valves, three lid assemblies, three in situ seat replacements, 48 onsite overhauls of valves, seven condensate extraction pumps, seven booster pumps, two CW pumps; and two main boiler feed pumps. Two Nash pumps have also been added for overhaul and the Weir team is supporting Lynemouth by installing all overhauled pumps.

James White, Contract Engineer, explains, “The differences found in the valves made the spares identification and manufacturing a serious challenge. However, we’ve delivered a very successful result for the customer. As a result of this project Lynemouth Power Station now has fully overhauled valves fit for a further 10 years of power generation.

Also at Lynemouth:

Cement-based technology has been used to provide anti-corrosion protection to steel at a new materials handling facility under construction at Lynemouth Power Station. Cemprotec E942, a high performance, anti-corrosion cementitious coating, has been specified by Sir Robert McAlpine to protect new steel piling totalling 1,500 m2 to ensure that the 20-year design life of the steelwork is achieved. E942 is manufactured by Flexcrete Technologies Ltd., part of the AkzoNobel group of companies. Cementitious technology was chosen for this project due to the ability of Cemprotec E942 to provide enhanced chemical and abrasion resistance while ensuring rapid completion of the coatings work due to limited preparation requirements of the steelwork.

The Power Station is being converted from coal burn generation to biomass in order to supply the National Grid with up to 390 MW of low carbon electricity, supplying enough power for almost half a million residential homes. The biomass conversion will save 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide in comparison to coal.

Sir Robert McAlpine is constructing the materials handling facility at the power plant and an anti-corrosion coating was needed for protection of the sheet piling in the new rail offload areas. CSC Services UK Ltd, a specialist repair and coatings contractor to the power and water industries, was appointed to carry out the application work. The interlocks between the sheet piles and any voids were first filled with Cemprotec Clutch Filler, a uniquely formulated cementitious material for sealing the surface gaps between piles prior to the application of a Flexcrete cementitious anti-corrosion coating.

A 1 mm stripe coat of Cemprotec E942 was then applied over welds, flanges, cut edges, plates and all fixings including nuts and bolt heads. Cemprotec E942 is a waterborne, epoxy and cementitious modified polymer coating which provides innovative stand-alone, anti-corrosion protection. It can be applied to damp substrates and achieves bond when just surface rusting has been removed.

With a water-based composition, Cemprotec E942 releases no strong odor or hazardous solvents during application and is non-toxic, so can be applied in enclosed locations. Cemprotec Edge Scrim was embedded on all welds and cut edges before a 1mm coat was Cemprotec E942 was spray applied to the complete surface area of the sheet piles. Just 30-60 minutes later a second 1 mm coat was applied to provide excellent anti-corrosion protection. Cemprotec E942 is CE-marked in compliance with the demands of BS EN 1504.

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