News | October 2019

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Enviva Completes Public Comment Process

Enviva Partners, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, issued a statement thanking the North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) for their work to ensure that residents’ and other interested parties’ voices were heard during a month-long public comment period including a public hearing held at the Northampton County High School on August 20. The comment period and hearing were part of a permit modification process initiated by Enviva’s request to increase air quality controls and annual production capacity at its Northampton wood pellet production plant. 

The plant is currently permitted to produce up to 535,260 tons of wood pellets per year while utilizing up to 30% softwood on a 12-month rolling basis.

The permit application calls for emission reduction controls while increasing annual production to 781,255 tons per year “by upgrading pellet dies with a new prototype,” and increase the amount of softwood processed from 30% to a maximum of 80% “to meet new customer demands for increased softwood percentage and production rates.”

The air control plan calls for installing a new direct-fired wood dryer equipped with a new wet ESP and regenerative thermal oxidizer and installing a new RTO after the existing wet ESP on the existing dryer; the plan also calls for removing two existing green wood hammermills, constructing five new green hammermills and installing two new dry shavings hammermills and affiliated dry shavings material handling equipment.

Economic analysis data indicates that Enviva’s Northampton plant contributes over $150 million annually in regional economic impact. The plant supports nearly 300 direct and indirect jobs and the plant’s average hourly wage is more than double the per capita county income. Enviva has invested over $100 million at its Northampton plant, and in addition spends approximately $70 million in operating expenses per year. Enviva reports that the United States Census Bureau indicates the number of families in Northampton County living below the poverty rate has decreased by over 15% since Enviva’s Northampton plant opened.

Enviva purchased the 121 acre plant site near Garysburg in August 2011 and produced its first pellet in April 2013. The North­ampton plant was the company’s first greenfield pellet mill along the Atlantic Coast, following the startup of a plant at a former wood products plant site in Ahoskie, NC. Enviva now operates seven wood pellet plants.

Germany Saying Goodbye To Coal

Germany will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years (as of 2038) to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, the government’s Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment reported.

The government convened the commission last summer to develop a broad social consensus around structural changes to energy and climate policy in Germany.

Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years.

The plan includes $45 billion in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions.  

The decision to cease coal production follows an earlier move by the German government to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. Twelve of the country’s 19 nuclear plants have been shuttered so far.

 The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means that Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65% to 80% of the country’s power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41% of the country’s electricity. 

There are still 20,000 jobs directly dependent on the coal industry and 40,000 indirectly tied to it.

The panel that made the recommendation included leaders in the federal and state governments along with top industry and union representatives, scientists and environmentalists.

Included in the recommendations is that the phase-out target be reviewed every three years. Also, the final deadline could be moved forward by three years to 2035.

The initial targets are considerable, calling for a quarter of the country’s coal-burning plants with a capacity of 12.5 gigawatts to be shut down by 2022. That means about 24 plants will be shut within the first three years. By 2030, Germany should have about eight coal-burning plants remaining, producing 17 gigawatts of electricity, the commission said.

Strangers Scope Out Enviva

Enviva issued a statement that on August 20, the day of a public hearing concerning its plant at Northampton (Garysburg, NC,) two individuals claiming to be Danish reporters followed a logging truck from a job site around Clayton, NC to Enviva’s Sampson facility, some 50 miles away. The two made their way onto Enviva’s property briefly to take photos and film. They were addressed and dismissed by Enviva staff. The individuals were driving a van with South Carolina plates.

“This is not the first time that unwanted ‘journalists’ have ventured to an Enviva entrance. I expect it will not be the last,” comments Chris Brown, Community Relations Manager for Enviva.”I wanted to share as a heads up for wood dealers, loggers and others in the forest products industry who might want to take precautions for daily operations and closing down a job site in the evening.”

Enviva Continues To Build Markets

In addition to 2,000,000 metric tons per year of long-term off-take contracts with Japanese counterparties, Enviva has recently executed several agreements with Japanese counterparties totaling more than 1,000,000 MTPY of additional volumes, including:

—A 15-year, take-or-pay off-take contract with a major Japanese trading house that is a new customer to supply a new biomass power plant. Deliveries under the contract are expected to commence in 2022 with average volumes of 60,000 MTPY of wood pellets.

—A 20-year, take-or-pay off-take contract with a major Japanese trading house to supply a new biomass power plant. Deliveries under this contract are expected to commence in 2024 with volumes of 400,000 MTPY of wood pellets.

—A 10-year, take-or-pay off-take contract with a major Japanese trading house to supply a biomass co-firing power plant. Deliveries under this contract are expected to commence in 2022 with volumes of 210,000 MTPY of wood pellets.

—A 17-year, take-or-pay off-take contract to supply a coal-to-biomass conversion power plant project currently being developed by a group of Japanese industry leaders. Deliveries under this contract are expected to commence in 2022 with volumes of 340,000 MTPY of wood pellets.

In addition, Enviva executed a firm 2-year take-or-pay off-take contract with Albioma Le Moule, a leading renewable energy generator in Guadeloupe, to supply a power plant currently being converted from coal-fired to biomass-fired, which Albioma reports will increase the share of renewable energy on the island from 20% to 35%. Deliveries under the contract are expected to commence in 2020 with volumes of 130,000 MTPY of wood pellets.

Global Wood Bio Trending Positive

Recent developments continue to underline the continued strong growth expected in global demand for industrial grade wood pellets, including:

• In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass a law to bring GHG emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with its previous target of at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels. The government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change estimated that in order for the country to achieve the net zero emissions target, 15% of the UK energy mix would need to come from biomass, up from approximately 7% currently.

• The newly elected President of the EU Commission has announced the goal to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To make this happen, she has committed to propose, in her first 100 days in office, a European Green Deal, which is expected to include the first European Climate Law that will set the 2050 climate-neutrality target into legislation. This enhanced EU climate goal could lead to increased carbon pricing over time and improve the competitive position of biomass, especially in countries such as Germany, where coal continues to form a significant portion of the electricity and heat generation mix.

• Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy expects the law adopting the goals recommended by its Commission on Growth, Structural Economic Change and Employment to phase out coal will come into force by early 2020. The law is expected to provide specific dates for the shutdown of coal- and lignite-fired power plants. Several German utilities have publicly confirmed they are assessing options to replace coal with biomass for some of their combined heat and power assets.

• In June 2019, Poland’s government published the draft amendment to its Renewable Energy Sources Act as the government seeks to accelerate renewable energy development to avoid the cost of missing the renewable energy targets set by the EU’s Renewable Energy directives. During the first quarter of 2019, over 100 megawatts of new biomass generation capacity was launched in Poland, bringing total biomass capacity in the country to more than 1.4 gigawatts.

FutureMetrics Leads Vietnam Pellet Plant

FutureMetrics announced that a project that it has guided for over two years is now producing high quality pellets. Under the guidance of FutureMetrics’ operations expert, John Swaan, a new 120,000 metric ton per year pellet plant located in Binh Dinh province Vietnam has reached the commercial operation stage.

 When FutureMetrics was retained by Ayo Biomass in early 2017 the objective was to build a world-class pellet mill that broke the stereotype of the typical Vietnam pellet factory. Ayo wanted to produce pellets that would be on par with North American industrial wood pellets in terms of quality, consistency, sustainability, and to have the pellets produced in a plant that is safe, clean and reliable.

From the beginning, Swaan insisted that no corners would be cut. He helped Ayo design an industrial wood pellet factory that would not be out of place in British Columbia or in the Southeast U.S. The plant has been built with high quality equipment, including six Andritz PM30 pellet presses and a dryer by U.S. dryer specialist Player Design.

The pelleting island process flow is optimized with a vertical configuration from the metering bins, to the pellet presses, to the coolers. The production is controlled by an integrated process control system that monitors every stage in the process.

Finally, as Swaan says, even with the best equipment and process controls, if it is not properly operated and maintained, safety, quality and reliability will degrade. Swann provided many hours of operating and maintenance training throughout the construction phase and during cold and hot commissioning.

Enviva Gears Up For Lucedale Plant

Enviva reports that in July the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Permit Board unanimously approved the air permit for the proposed wood pellet plant in Lucedale, Miss., which is the principal permit required to begin construction.

In addition, Enviva continues to evaluate a potential wood pellet production plant in Epes, Alabama, along with other sites in Alabama and Mississippi, which would export wood pellets through the Pascagoula terminal.

Enviva reports that its industrial wood pellet plant in Hamlet, NC plant is now operating and expects to exit 2019 with a production run-rate of 500,000 MTPY and will reach its nameplate production capacity of 600,000 MTPY in 2021.

Enviva announced that projects to increase the aggregate production capacity of its wood pellet production plants in Northampton, North Carolina and Southampton, Virginia by approximately 400,000 MTPY are progressing, as detailed engineering is in process, major pieces of equipment are being delivered, and site preparation work is advancing. Enviva expects to complete the construction of the expansion activities in the first half of 2020 with startup thereafter, subject to receiving necessary permits.

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