News | 2nd Quarter 2011

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Wood Bioenergy Magazine Promotes Event Scheduled For February 2012

The Bioenergy Fuels & Products Conference & Expo will be held February 28-29, 2012 at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Wood Bioenergy magazine is a media sponsor for the event.

In 2010, a bioenergy conference day was held as part of the Panel & Engineered Lumber International Conference & Expo at the Omni Hotel. The success of the 2010 bioenergy portion has prompted the show organizers—Panel World Inc. and Georgia Research Institute—to offer separate Bioenergy and Panel events.

The Panel & Engineered Lumber International Conference & Expo will be held March 1-2, immediately following the Bioenergy Conference & Expo, again at the Omni Hotel.

Thirty speakers/moderators and 48 exhibitor companies participated in the abbreviated bioenergy event in 2010.

“The interest in that single day event and the positive response from it has inspired us to expand the Bioenergy Conference & Expo,” says Rich Donnell, co-chairman of the conference and editor-in-chief of Wood Bioenergy magazine.

Donnell says both the Bioenergy Conference & Expo and succeeding Panel Conference & Expo will be held in the Grand Ballroom North of the Omni Hotel, which will allow some exhibitors with synergies to both industries to remain in their exhibit booth locations for both events.

Exhibitor sponsorship packages are now being made available, and the organizers are requesting presentation ideas for various subject matter in the wood bioenergy fields (see page 7).

“We expect to nearly double the number of speakers and sessions,” Donnell says, adding that moving the bioenergy event into the Grand Ballroom North will offer enhanced audio/visual capabilities and an overall upscale environment.

“There are lots of other energy conferences going on, but ours is the only one with a ‘wood’ bioenergy emphasis, just like our magazine,” Donnell adds. “This is also why it makes sense to offer these close-coupled events, which have tremendous ‘spill-over’ into each other, especially with regard to raw material issues.”

For exhibiting information, contact Fred Kurpiel, 678-642-1238; e-mail [email protected].

Range Fuels Shutdown Causes Major Heat

Potentially the largest cellulosic biofuels plan of its kind, Range Fuels in Soperton, Ga. shut down in mid January. The company began producing cellulosic methanol in August and reportedly produced a small amount of cellulosic ethanol shortly before closing.

Range Fuels President and CEO David Aldous says there are still technical and non-technical issues to work out. He says the plant continues to have problems with its feed system, thus limiting the throughput of the plant. “This throughput limitation coupled with the fact that we do not have an industry mechanism to price carbon, or in other words capture the value of low carbon fuels and chemical feedstocks, makes us a high cost biofuel producer,” he says. “Until we resolve our feed challenges, add additional capacity and/or get a RIN (Renewable Identification Number) in place to help supplement our revenue we will operate in campaigns.”

The Soperton Plant is permitted to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol and methanol each year.

The announcement caused a scathing editorial (The Range Fuels Fiasco, February 10) on the Wall Street Journal web site, wsj.com, which said subsidies for renewable energy are ill-fated, as exemplified by Range Fuels. The article denounced Vinod Khosla, one of the principals behind Range Fuels.

Khosla responded in a letter: “Government support aims to fill the commercialization gap in many nascent industries. About $100 billion was used to support the nuclear industry as it was getting started, support that continues through efforts like subsidized loan guarantees, decommissioning funds and subsidized insurance. Government support of nascent industries drives more innovation capitalism, creates competition and ensures global competitiveness. Though most legislation is imperfect, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water and throw out all government efforts… Range’s original formulation may not have been successful, but such risk-taking deserves applause, not derision.”

CEO David Aldous also responded: “Solutions to the monumental U.S. energy, environmental and economic challenges will not be solved by small private companies alone. It will take broad private and public collaboration. It requires continuity of policy and strategy to provide a consistent business climate that will attract long-term investment to this capital-intensive industry. It will require a wide range of solutions and technologies across the energy and environmental spectrum. Range Fuels employees have put heart and soul into trying to change the way America produces energy. Commercializing first of a kind technology is difficult work. Converting wood waste and on-purpose energy crops into high quality syngas on a commercial scale had not been done before Range did it. This syngas can be converted via a number of technologies into methanol, ethanol, other transportation fuels and chemical building blocks. This is a significant step in the advancement of numerous cellulosic biofuels technologies.

“Cellulosic biofuels and chemical building blocks will ultimately be successful. As with many other industries, our early production begins at the peak of the cost curve. Economies of scale and operational excellence will dramatically drive down costs in the future. The financial crisis has slowed our industry progress but it continues to move forward. Innovation in energy solutions can either happen in the U.S. or we can wait and import the technology and associated products from China. China already invests more than double the amount of the U.S. each year in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“When gasoline hits $4.50 per gallon, let’s chat again,” Aldous closed.

Greenleaf Continues Acquisition Binge

Greenleaf Power has purchased Colmac Energy Inc., one of the largest biomass facilities in California. Colmac Energy operates a 47 MW facility in Mecca and sells its electrical output to Southern California Edison under a long-term agreement. The plant is fueled primarily by clean diverted wood waste, green waste and agricultural residues.

“With the addition of the Colmac facility, Greenleaf Power has more than 100 megawatts of capacity, and is using its multiple facilities to maximize efficiencies,” says Hugh Smith, president of Greenleaf Power.

Earlier this year, Sacramento-based Greenleaf Power purchased a 30 MW biomass plant in Wendel and a 28 MW biomass plant in Scotia.

Aspen Power Nears Energy Production

The new Aspen Power operation in north Lufkin, Tex. should be producing energy in May, according to company President Danny Vines.

“We’ll be generating power by early May and be in our final commissioning process,” he says. Part of the final commission process is to test emissions levels, in accordance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality guidelines. The 50 MW power plant will convert logging debris into electricity.

Woodville Power Project On Go

The board of the East Texas Electric Cooperative (ETEC) approved moving forward with the development of a 50 MW Woodville Renewable Power Project (WRPP) located near Woodville, Tex. When completed in 2014, the biomass plant will convert excess wood waste into power for ETEC’s member cooperatives.

“On behalf of the nearly 308,000 members of the 10 rural electric cooperatives that comprise ETEC, I am pleased to announce our decision to move forward with the construction of the Woodville Renewable Power Project,” says Edd Hargett, General Manager of ETEC.

ETEC has licensed NAPCO, locally owned and operated in Woodville, as the provider of wood chips and other wood materials to fuel the plant.

“The ETEC biomass plant will definitely be beneficial for the local timber industry in these difficult economic times,” says Lonnie Grissom, President of NAPCO.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2012 with the goal of providing clean, renewable power to cooperative members by 2014.

ETEC is a not-for-profit electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Nacogdoches, Tex.

Georgia Biomass Approaches Startup

Georgia Biomass’ new pellet plant in Waycross, Ga. is producing pellets in a pre-commissioning stage and the actual startup date should be in the second quarter, according to reports.

Georgia Biomass is a subsidiary of RWE Innogy. The plant is expected to produce 750,000 tons of pellets annually. Ground was broken on the plant March 24, 2010.

The pellets are initially to be used as fuel in RWE Innogy power plants in the Netherlands, and expanded into Germany, Italy and the UK.

Conifex Proceeds With Bioenergy

Conifex Timber Inc. has initiated an approximately $45 million (Cdn.) bioenergy generation project at its Mackenzie (BC) sawmill site, scheduled for commercial production of electricity in the summer of 2012. In connection with the project, Conifex has entered into arrangements with Dresser-Rand Canada, Inc. for the manufacture and purchase of a 36 MW steam turbine generation set. The project is expected to generate approximately 230 GWh of net energy per year.

The biomass power generation segment will complement Conifex’s existing woodland operations and lumber manufacturing business. Waste fiber from Conifex’s saw­milling and timber harvesting operations will be used to fuel the bio­­­­energy plant, which in turn will supply power to its sawmills and for potential sale to BC Hydro. In addition, the extraction of the turbine has been sized to accommodate future lumber drying requirements of the Mackenzie operations.

Dominion To Convert Three Power Stations

Dominion Virginia Power plans to convert three Virginia power stations from using coal to biomass. The power stations in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton counties are identical and went into operation in 1992. If the conversions are approved by local governments, the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Corp. Commission, they could begin burn­ing biomass in 2013.

Dominion plans to meet the ­state’s voluntary Renewable Port­folio Standard, which calls for 15% of the company’s generation to be from renewable resources by 2025. The company successfully met the 2010 milestone of 4%.

Each of these units can currently produce 63 MW of electricity of ­peaking power. When converted, they would generate 50 MW each, but operate essentially all of the time.

The stations would obtain most of their fuel from the waste wood left from timber operations and would comply with a Virginia law regulating the use of biomass for electric generation. Dominion will also be adhering to its allocated cap of 1.11 million tons per year of green wood chips and related tree materials.

Adage Moves Away From Power Plant

Representatives from Adage have notified the Port of Shelton (Washington) of their intent to halt development of their proposed wood‐fired power plant in Mason County.

“Adage was confident that it was well on its way in obtaining the necessary environmental and construction permits and had secured the necessary contracts for their fuel supply,” notes John Dobson, executive director. “However, since many utilities in Washington State have or will meet the public’s mandate (Initiative I‐937) for renewable energy over the next three years, the demand for this power plant’s output is simply not there.”

Adage had planned to build a 55 MW wood‐fired boiler to generate electricity. The project would have represented a potential $250 million investment in Mason County.

Adage is a bio‐power joint venture formed between AREVA and Duke Energy.

New Expo Scheduled For Portland In 2012

The Timber Processing & Energy Expo is scheduled for October 17-19, 2012 at the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center in Oregon. The event will be sponsored by Hatton-Brown Publishers Inc., which publishes several magazines in the forest products industry, including Wood Bioenergy, Timber Processing, Panel World and others.

Hatton-Brown views this event as primarily a wood products machinery event (including the lumber, engineered wood products and panel industries), with complementary support by the energy sector including mill-related wood based heat energy (lumber drying, cogeneration, etc.). The event will include seminars covering mill operational issues.

The Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center is conveniently located off Interstate 5 between downtown Portland and Vancouver, Washington.

Timber Processing & Energy Expo is scheduled for Hall D, which encompasses 72,000 sq. ft. and an abundance of outdoor space. Hatton-Brown is nearing completion of the initial floor plan layout and exhibitor costs.

Forest products industry veteran Fred Kurpiel will handle exhibit space sales, while Hatton-Brown Chief Operating Officer Dianne Sullivan serves as Show Manager. Contact Kurpiel at 678-642-1238; e-mail [email protected]. Contact Sullivan at 334-834-1170; e-mail [email protected].

EPA Defers GHS Requirements

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to defer, for three years, greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting requirements for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources. The agency intends to use this time to seek further independent scientific analysis of this complex issue and then to develop a rulemaking on how these emissions should be treated in determining whether a Clean Air Act permit is required.

The agency will also issue guidance shortly that will provide a basis that state or local permitting authorities may use to conclude that the use of biomass as fuel is the best available control technology for GHG emissions until the agency can complete an action on the three-year deferral in July.

Rayonier To Supply Gainesville Plant

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) has initiated a fuel supply relationship with Rayonier to supply logging residue, pre-commercial thinnings and other clean, renewable wood fuel for the proposed 100 MW biomass plant in Gainesville, Fla.

American Renewables will build, own and operate the GREC facility and will sell all electricity generated from the facility to Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), the municipally-owned utility that serves the Gainesville community, under a 30-year power purchase agreement.

American Renewables also announced a supply relationship with a provider of urban wood waste which will provide the facility with nearly half its fuel needs.

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center has received all necessary construction permits and governmental approvals and intends to begin construction in the next month. The facility should be operational by December 2013.

Coskata Looks At Alabama

USDA intends to provide a $250 million loan guarantee in support of a commercial biorefinery that will utilize Coskata Inc. technology in Greene County, Alabama. This is a project financing mechanism defined by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s 9003 Biorefinery Loan Gua­rantee Program. The guarantee will be the largest ever awarded for a biofuel facility, and will allow the Coskata-supported facility to move forward with financing the construction of the 55 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol facility.

The facility is currently the largest planned cellulosic ethanol facility in the country and is expected to bring 300 construction jobs and 700 direct and indirect jobs to the Boligee area. The Crossroads of America Industrial Park was chosen as the site based on its proximity to an abundant supply of wood biomass, and because of the resolute support for the project by state and local officials.

Coskata has been demonstrating the commercial viability of its process for over a year at the company’s integrated biorefinery in Madison, Pa. The process leverages proprietary microorganisms and efficient bioreactor designs in a three-step conversion process that can produce fuel-grade ethanol from virtually any carbon-based feedstock, including wood and wood waste, agricultural waste, energy crops and municipal solid waste. The process produces approximately 100 gallons of fuel from each dry ton of biomass, according to Coskata.

Coskata is privately held, and to date has been funded entirely by its equity investors, including Khosla Ventures, Blackstone Cleantech Ventures and the Blackstone Group, Advanced Technology Ventures, GreatPoint Ventures, Total Energy Ventures International (part of Total, one of the world’s major oil and gas groups), Coghill Capital Management, General Motors and Globespan Capital Partners.

From Particleboard To Pellets

Wood Fuel Developers, LLC, an affiliate of Chester, Va.-based Industrial TurnAround Corp., will invest $8.6 million to implement a wood pellet manufacturing operation in Waverly, Va. (Sussex County) at the site of a former particleboard plant.

“The Sussex County Project offered a unique opportunity that enabled us to expedite our business and marketing objectives by acquiring an existing facility including site infrastructure, buildings, machinery and the purchase and installation of new equipment,” says Steve Gordon, President and CEO of Wood Fuel Developers.

EPA Continues To Study Boilers

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Clean Air Act standards for boiler and certain incinerators that achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50% from an earlier proposal issued last year, according to EPA.

The Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) welcomed the revised final regulations for Area and Major Source biomass boilers. “Based on our preliminary review, the revised standards are moving in the right direction,” says BTEC Executive Director Kyle Gibeault. “The greater use of biennial tune-ups for most biomass boiler units is a sensible and practical method for reducing fuel consumption and emissions while keeping compliance costs to a reasonable level.”

Because the final standards significantly differ from the proposals, EPA believes further public review is required. Therefore, EPA will reconsider the final standards under a Clean Air Act process that allows the agency to seek additional public review and comment. EPA’s reconsideration will cover the emissions standards for large and small boilers and for solid waste incinerators. EPA will release additional details on the reconsideration process in the near future to ensure the public, industry and stakeholders have an opportunity to participate.

Oglethorpe Power Halts Biomass Plans

Oglethorpe Power is putting its plans to construct three 100 MW biomass power plants on hold indefinitely due to regulatory uncertainty. In 2008, Oglethorpe Power announced plans to build up to three biomass plants in Georgia.

Construction was scheduled to begin this year on the first plant in Warren County, but that’s no longer in the power utility’s plans, the company announced, due to a string of government regulatory issues that have surfaced over the past year and a half.

“We feel there is still considerable uncertainty over whether biomass generation will be treated as a renewable resource and will be considered carbon neutral,” according to Oglethorpe Power.

North America Feeds Pellets To Europe

According to North American Wood Fiber Review and Wood Resources International, demand for wood pellets in some European countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark and the UK, has outpaced domestic production over the past few years. This has resulted not only in increased imports from neighboring countries, but also from North America. Over the past 10 years, Canada has been the major overseas supplier of pellets to Europe, reaching about 1 million tons in shipments in 2010.

The U.S. did not start exporting pellets until 2008 when 85,000 tons were shipped to the Netherlands, but exports have since taken off, reaching almost 600,000 tons in 2010. In fact, the total shipments from the U.S. and Canada have almost doubled in just two years.

The majority of North American pellets have been shipped to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Belgium, with occasional shipments to Sweden and Denmark.

Kior Receives Loan Guarantee

KiOR, Inc. has received a term sheet for a loan guarantee supporting an over $1 billion biofuels project from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program. The project would convert wood biomass into drop in biofuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel.

KiOR’s project under the DOE loan guarantee program will consist of four biorefineries that will contribute approximately 250 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The first two plants are expected to be in Mississippi, with additional sites planned in Georgia and Texas.

The project’s first facility, planned in Newton, Miss., is expected to be the largest cellulosic biofuels facility in the U.S.

Enviva Acquires Port Terminal

Enviva LP has acquired a Chesapeake, Va. port terminal to satisfy growing overseas demand for renewable biomass. Previously owned by the Giant Cement Company, the terminal will create the capacity to receive, store and load in excess of 3 million tons of sustainably generated woody biomass for export each year.

One of the few terminals on the Eastern Seaboard suitable for the export of wood pellets, it will serve as the shipment point for biomass manufactured at Enviva’s announced wood pellet plant in nearby Ahoskie, NC. Enviva will continue to ship wood pellets manufactured in the Gulf region, including its Mississippi plants, from Mobile, Ala.

Terminal upgrades are expected to be complete in November to coincide with pellet production at the Ahoskie facility.

Announced last December, the pellet plant, which is in construction, at full capacity will require 740,000 tons (mostly roundwood) a year and produce 333,000 tons of pellets, all destined for commercial consumption in Europe.

Enviva, whose U.S. headquarters are in Richmond, Va., acquired two Mississippi pellet operations last year.

Enviva President and CEO John Keppler says Enviva will become the largest U.S. exporter of “solid bound mass fuel.”

Eden Pellets Leases Chesapeake Site

Two Colorado businessmen plan to hire 20 workers and spend $6 million to start a wood pellet manufacturing business at Chesapeake, Va. Eden Pellets has leased 60,000 sq. ft. in the building that once housed Chesapeake Hardwood Products. The company plans to produce 60,000 tons of pellets in its first year of operation.

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