News | August 2018

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Bandit Owners Selling Company To ESOP

Bandit Industries owners Mike Morey Sr., Dianne Morey and Jerry Morey announced they are selling 100% of the company to their employees in an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Under the ESOP, Bandit will retain its current leadership and key management personnel will remain in place.

The announcement comes after two previous attempts to sell Bandit Industries—once to another manufacturer and once to a private investment firm.

“We realized neither was a good fit for Bandit, so we made the decision to sell to our trusted employees,” says Dianne Morey.

“It will be fun to watch our crew take it to the next level,” adds Mike Morey, who developed the very first Bandit chipper in 1983 and founded Bandit Industries.

Bandit is growing rapidly with 20% growth per year with two plant expansions under way and several new products being introduced later this year.

“We are a leading supplier in all of the markets that we are in,” says Jerry Morey. “We have a very strong, dedicated dealer organization and a great crew, which is the key to our success. Our employees are experienced, smart and loyal to us. That is why we are so confident that an employee owned company is the right fit for Bandit. All our employees will have a stake in the company.”

Drax Takes On Fourth Biomass Conversion

Drax Power Station in the UK took a step closer in early June to achieving its coal-free ambitions by taking its fourth coal-fired power generating unit offline as part of a planned outage program as it prepares to convert it to run on sustainable biomass.

Once the upgrade is complete, two-thirds of the power station’s capacity will produce renewable power.

Drax has already invested £700 million in upgrading half the power station and associated supply chain infrastructure to use sustainable bio­mass instead of coal—transforming the business to become Europe’s largest decarbonization project.

The conversion of the fourth unit is expected to be completed over the summer, returning to service in the second half of 2018. The cost of conversion is significantly below the level of previous conversions, at around £30 million.

The company was created in response to widespread and devastating wildfires in the Western U.S. caused by forest debris and the rising demand for drop-in, cost competitive renewable jet and diesel fuels.

Drax engineers will upgrade the unit by re-using some redundant infrastructure left from when the company was first co-firing biomass with coal on a large scale, around eight years ago.

A trial last year confirmed that by modifying the old co-firing delivery system, compressed wood pellets can be delivered in the quantities required to fully convert the fourth generating unit.

Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, comments, “Switching the fourth unit from coal to biomass is another milestone in the transformation of the power station. It will extend the life of the plant, protecting jobs both here at Drax and in the supply chain, whilst delivering cleaner, reliable power for millions of homes and businesses.”

Once it comes back online, the fourth unit will help the power station, at Selby in North Yorkshire, to deliver vital reliable and flexible power needed by the grid to maintain secure supplies as more renewables come online and the sector continues to decarbonize.

Once the conversion is complete Drax will turn its attention to its remaining two coal units, which it plans to replace with gas-fired power generating units. The Closed Cycle Gas Turbines it is looking to develop could deliver up to 3.6 GW of capacity, as well as up to 200 MW of battery storage.

In the UK there has been an 84% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the last five years as low carbon generation has increased.

•Drax also announced it will pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe, which, if successful, could make the renewable electricity produced at its North Yorkshire power station carbon negative.

BECCS is vital to global efforts to combat climate change because the technology will mean the gases that cause global warming can be removed from the atmosphere at the same time as electricity is produced. This means power generation would no longer contribute to climate change, but would start to reduce the carbon accumulating in the atmosphere. The demonstration project will see Drax partner with Leeds-based C-Capture and invest £400,000 in what could be the first of several pilot projects undertaken at Drax to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.

A report by the Energy Technology Institute in 2016 has suggested that by the 2050s BECCS could deliver roughly 55 million tonnes of net negative emissions a year in the UK—approximately half the nation’s emissions target.

The first phase of the project will look to see if the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. A lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilizing the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station will also be carried out to assess potential capture rates.

FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but has become redundant on three of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur.

Depending on the outcome of a feasibility study, the C-Capture team will proceed to the second phase of the pilot in the autumn, when a demonstration unit will be installed to isolate the carbon dioxide produced by the biomass combustion.

Online TP&EE Registration Is Free

Organizers of the 2018 Timber Processing & Energy Expo (TP&EE) announce that free online registration is now open for the big machinery event to be held October 17-19 at the Portland Exposition Center in Portland, Ore. Approximately 190 exhibitors will display equipment and technologies catered to the structural veneer, plywood, mass timber, engineered wood products and lumber industries. Held every other year, this is the fourth TP&EE hosted by Panel World and Timber Processing magazines, and produced by Hatton-Brown Expositions LLC. Personnel from wood products companies and mills registering online receive free admission to all three days of TP&EE. (Walk-up fee is $20 per day.) Those with equipment companies who are not exhibiting are required to pay a fee. The 2016 TP&EE attracted 1,600 non-exhibitor personnel, representing 110 wood products producer companies and hundreds of individual mill operations. “There is tremendous action in the plywood and lumber industries right now, and we anticipate this TP&EE will be the busiest yet as mills continue to take advantage of excellent building products markets and wood products prices,” comments Show Director Rich Donnell. Register at www.timberprocessing

Pinnacle Increases Foothold In Asia

Pinnacle Renewable Holdings Inc. has entered into two new long-term, take-or-pay off-take contracts with customers in South Korea and Japan. The contract in South Korea is with CGN Daesan Power Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of CGN New Energy Holdings Co., Ltd, a diversified independent power producer in Asia. The contract in Japan is Pinnacle’s second with Toyota Tsusho Corp., a trading and investing company and a group member of Toyota. As a result of these two contracts, the weighted average remaining life of Pinnacle’s portfolio of off-take contracts with customers has been extended from seven years as of March 30, 2018, to more than nine years.  

Under the terms of the Daesan contract, Pinnacle will supply 315,000 metric tons per annum of industrial wood pellets to Daesan beginning in 2021. The industrial wood pellets will be used in a biomass power generation plant in South Korea.

“Entering into this long-term relationship with Daesan is an important milestone for Pinnacle as it represents our first long-term contract in South Korea and our largest contract to date in Asia, thereby further establishing our strategic position in the Pacific Rim,” says Robert McCurdy, CEO of Pinnacle. “Being the first long-term industrial wood pellet contract to ever be signed in South Korea, this new agreement attests to the country’s growing commitment to decarbonization.”

In South Korea, the Renewable Portfolio Standard policy aims to increase the share of energy generated from renewable sources to 10% by 2023. According to Hawkins Wright, a leading provider of market intelligence and analytical services to the international pulp, paper and biomass industries, biomass demand growth has been the strongest in South Korea over the past five years, where industrial pellet consumption increased by a compound annual growth rate of more than 58% between 2013-2017, reaching 2.5 million metric tons.

Under the terms of the Toyota Tsusho contract, Pinnacle will supply 170,000 metric tons per annum of industrial wood pellets to Toyota Tsusho beginning in 2021. The industrial wood pellets will be used by Kanda Biomass Energy K.K., which is established by RENOVA, Inc., Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd., Veolia Japan K.K.  and two other companies, in a biomass power generation plant in Kanda, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.

“We are pleased to enter into our second long-term supply agreement with Toyota Tsusho, and our fifth new contract overall in Japan this year,” McCurdy continues. “Our growing contract backlog in Japan underlines both the increasing adoption of biomass and the strength of our competitive position in this market.” 

Chunk Of East Texas Timberland Is Sold

A joint venture of timberland and institutional investors is acquiring 1.1 million acres of east Texas timberlands for $1.39 billion.

BioPower Sustainable Energy Corp. purchased the Atikokan plant from Rentech in December 2017. BioPower is a subsidiary of True North Timber (TNT), a logging contractor based in Chapleau, Ont. Both TNT and BioPower are owned and operated by CEO Mark Guillemette.

CatchMark Timber Trust, Inc., BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group, Highland Capital Management, Medley Management Inc., and a major Canadian institutional investor that’s not identified are purchasing the property as sold by Campbell Global on behalf of institutional owners of the property. The transaction is expected to be completed within two months.

CatchMark Timber Trust, Inc., a publicly-traded REIT headquartered in Atlanta and which invested $227.5 million in this acquisition, reports it will more than triple the number of acres under its control and management to 1.6 million.

According to CatchMark Timber, the acquired timberland has an attractive site index and features a rapidly accelerating inventory profile, projected to grow from a current 2.8 million tons of annual harvest volume to more than 5 million tons by 2028.

CatchMark Timber states the joint venture will assume existing long-term sawtimber and pulpwood supply agreements with Georgia-Pacific and International Paper, which run through 2029 and 2027, respectively; International Paper has an option to extend its agreement until 2032.

The acquisition is one of the largest U.S. timberland transactions since the 2007 sale of 1.55 million acres, which included the acreage in this new acquisition, by Temple-Inland to the ownership now selling it.

Wood-Based Gas, Jet Fuel Project Begins

Global Bioenergies has started a three-year project to demonstrate a new value chain combining its isobutene process with technologies developed by Sekab and Neste Engineering Solutions. The aim is to convert currently poorly valorized softwood residues into second generation renewable isobutene for subsequent conversion into gasoline and jet fuel. A €13.9m grant agreement was signed with INEA on behalf of the European commission.

The project sets the foundation of a first-of-a-kind biorefinery converting residual wood to high performances drop-in renewable gasoline and jet fuel. With an estimated forestry residues potential of 145 million tons per year, the European Union has the potential to support the deployment of hundreds of such biorefineries.

Peep Pitk, Head of R&D at Graanul Invest, comments, “We are thrilled by the opportunity to be part of industrial consortia which focus on softwood residue streams valorization in novel value chains and end-use markets. We believe it to be important to kick-start the biomaterials market with high sustainability standards, as it will add strong value to the softwood residues on long-term basis.”

The 11 project partners coming from eight EU-member States have signed an agreement with the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), which manages the Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy societal challenge of the Horizon 2020 program. INEA’s mission is to support the Commission, project promoters and stakeholders by providing expertise and high quality of program management.

The project was selected under the name REWOFUEL (N°792104), in the frame of the European HORIZON 2020 program for research and innovation, following a very selective and competitive process led by independent experts.

The objective is to demonstrate the new value chain at cubic meter scale by combining the technologies and know-how of participants as follows:

• Residual softwood supply and processing by Graanul Invest AS (Estonia)

•Softwood conversion to hydrolysates by Sekab, using its CelluAPP technology (Sweden)

•Hydrolysates fermentation to bio-isobutene by Global Bioenergies (France and Germany)

•Bio-isobutene conversion to fuel components by Neste Engineering Solutions (Finland)

•Preliminary engineering of a wood-to-isobutene plant and overall integration with a fuel conversion unit by TechnipFMC and IPSB (France)

•Evaluation of gasoline applications by Repsol (Spain) - Evaluation of Jet fuel application by SkyNRG (Netherlands)

•Valorization of the lignin side stream by Peab Asfalt (Sweden)

•Valorization of proteins from the dried killed residual biomass by Ajinomoto Eurolysine (France)

•Assessment of the sustainability and environmental benefits by the Energy Institute at the University of Linz (Austria)

Jonas Markusson, Innovation Manager of SEKAB, states, “The REWOFUEL project has great potential to become an alternative value chain to existing biofuels and to create new uses of European residual forestry resources. All parts of the process—the extraction of sugars from wood, the conversion to bio-isobutene, lignin-based chemicals and the production of gasoline and jet fuel—are well developed and are all cutting edge.”

The program covers a total budget of €19.7 million. Non-refundable grants totalling €13.9 million will be provided by the European Union, with the remainder being contributed by the participants. Global Bioenergies will be the coordinator of the project, and receive funding amounting to €5.7 million. Additionally REWOFUEL will be supported by numerous industrialists including Air France and Safran.

Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies, adds, “While we make progress on our first commercial project based on sugar beet-derived sugars, this new grant from the H2020 program further supports our strategy to diversify the feedstocks usable in our isobutene process, and thus opens the door to the deployment of our technology in many new geographies.”

Torrefied Wood Pellets Mill Gains Momentum

A proposed wood pellet production plant in Hazelton, British Columbia continues to take steps forward. Project proponents have just returned from an international pellet conference in Japan where interest in the project is strong and the demand for pellets as replacement for coal in energy production is forecast to grow dramatically.

“Our project would manufacture 100,000 tonnes of pellets a year and create about 45 full time, direct jobs and about the same number of indirect jobs in the region,” says Rick Connors of Gitxsan Forest Inc. (GFI), a partner in the proposed plant with Airex Energy. “It is about a $50 million project, and we are moving forward with potential international customers and with financing partners.”

Connors says the Japanese biomass market is forecast to grow to as much as 33 million tonnes per year as the government is mandating a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and replacing coal or using it in combination with wood pellets in energy production is one way to do this. Pellets are typically sold on long-term (10-15 year) contracts.

“Our project will make ‘torrefied’ wood pellets,” says Connors. “It is a process similar to roasting coffee beans. The advantage of torrefied pellets over the white pellets we are more familiar with is that they can be used in coal-fired plants without expensive re-fits to the plant itself. Airex has a unique technology that we will be the first to use in North America of this scale.”

Fiber for the project would be provided through GFI and other area forest licensees including a few local sawmills that will provide waste sawmill residues that are traditionally difficult to dispose of and will now be used as feedstock for the new plant.

Pellets will be shipped by rail to Prince Rupert then loaded onto bulk carriers for Asian markets.

“People in the northwest have heard plans for various pellet plant proposals over the last 10 or so years,” says Connors. “None of these have been as well thought out or planned to the same degree that we now have.

Research Focuses On Lignin-To-Fuel

Washington State University Tri-Cities associate professor Xiao Zhang is targeting the use of lignin—a common material that makes the cell walls of plants rigid—to create affordable biofuels and bioproducts.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has granted Zhang, an associate professor in WSU’s Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, $500,000 to complete the research. The laboratory is part of the university’s Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

The project will be conducted in partnership with Xuejun Pan, a professor in the department of biological systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The project will be conducted in partnership with Xuejun Pan, a professor in the department of biological systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lignin is one of the largest renewable carbon sources on Earth. It allows trees to stand, gives vegetables their firmness and makes up about 20-35% of the weight of wood. It also is one of the largest remnant products left over in the biofuels creation process.

Zhang and his team will investigate new conversion pathways to produce chemicals and biofuels without completely breaking down lignin into monomers—molecules that can be synthesized into polymers. In addition to its potential cost savings, the process could maximize carbon utilization in the biofuels creation process. It would also provide a profitable use for a waste product.

“We aim at converting lignin into a skeleton that has a similar carbon length in jet fuel range,” Zhang says. “The uniqueness is really targeting a more cost-effective process in taking advantage of the basic lignin structure of characteristics. Unlike many other processes, we don’t have to break down the lignin completely to its monomers.”

Unilever Installs Biomass Boiler

South Africa’s largest fast-moving consumer goods manufacturer, Unilever, unveiled a R50-million biomass boiler at its Maydon Wharf Factory in Durban.

“Our new biomass boiler at Maydon Wharf is illustrative of the seriousness of our commitment to sustainable living,” comments Unilever South Africa Executive Vice President Luc-Olivier Marquet. “We have previously unveiled our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which commits to reducing our environmental impact by half by 2020. This can only be achieved by putting sustainability at the core of our strategy. An important part of achieving these goals is to manage our electricity and water use, and to ensure that no non-hazardous waste goes to landfill. The biomass boiler is our latest step on this journey.”

The boiler is fueled by wood pallets, waste wood and off-cuts from local furniture and door manufacturers. The boiler consumes on average 940 tonnes of biomass a month—“roughly the weight of 375 medium-size African elephants!”

The boiler cost R50m to install, and the company estimates it will provide a saving per annum of R17m per year. This figure factors in fuel savings, and will reduce the facility’s carbon footprint. The boiler will lead to a reduction of over 30% in CO2 emissions and is projected to save 14,000 tons of CO2 every year.

The company is actively looking at the re-use of condensate, heat, water waste and flash steam in its factories, as well as new soap-making technologies that use less energy in production. Further, the company is examining the feasibility of a new dryer vacuum and solar power.

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