Tag Archives: pellets

[NEWS] Mohegan Tribe Expands Biomass Energy Business

– January 16, 2018, Norwich Bulletin

moheganThe Mohegan Tribe has created a company to export wood pellets as fuel to plants that produce electricity in the nation and worldwide.

Mohegan Renewable Energy recently acquired a 100,000-ton per year manufacturing plant in Crossville, Alabama, which along with a Jasper, Tennessee plant, will ship more than 180,000 tons of wood pellets per year to major utilities. More than 50 workers will be added in the coming months.

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[NEWS] Questions As U.S. Wood Pellet Makers Expand Production

– by Jacqueline Froelich, January 1, 2017, NPR

wood pellets 600The wood pellet fuel industry is growing in the United States. The largest chip mills across the South are gobbling up hardwood forests to meet demand for overseas customers.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Wood Pellets are big business. U.S. companies send almost a billion dollars worth of wood pellets to the European Union, which uses them to power energy plants. But the appetite overseas for wood pellets has conservationists in the U.S. worried about our forests. Arkansas Public Media’s Jacqueline Froelich reports.

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[OPINION] How Trump Could Save Coal With Wood Pellets

– by William Strauss, March 15, 2017, Biomass Magazine

CoalDemandforPowerGenerationChart-01_14894189956464-300x300-noupThe use of U.S.-produced wood pellet fuel blended with coal in large utility power stations could sustain coal mining jobs, create tens of thousands of new jobs in another sector that is experiencing significant job losses—the forest products sector—and stimulate billions of dollars of new investment in new U.S. manufacturing plants.

By supporting the blending of industrial wood pellet fuel with coal in pulverized coal (PC) power plants, policy will lock in the need for PC power plants, therefore guaranteeing significant demand for coal. This well-proven strategy, which is already in place in many other countries, can provide certainty for the need for U.S.-produced coal for decades, and certainty for U.S. coal mining jobs.

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[NEWS] Biomass Heating Could Get a “Green” Boost With Fungi

– by American Chemical Society, October 19, 2016, Science Daily

fungi-on-woodchips-begkrhIn colder weather, people have long been warming up around campfires and woodstoves. Lately, this idea of burning wood or other biomass for heat has surged in popularity as an alternative to using fossil fuels. Now, in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report a step toward a “greener” way to generate heat with biomass. Rather than burning it, which releases pollutants, they let fungi break it down to release heat.

The benefit of biomass, which consists of plant material and animal waste, is that there is no shortage. It is produced continuously in enormous quantities as a waste product from paper and agricultural industries. But burning it emits fine particles and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, linked to health and environmental problems. So scientists have been trying to figure out how to use biomass with minimal emissions. One approach involves adding microorganisms that can degrade the materials. In this process, heat is released without giving off fine particles or VOCs. So far, most investigations into this method have involved room-temperature conditions. But for sustained use, these reactions would need to take place at temperatures above ambient conditions as heat is produced. Leire Caizán Juanarena and colleagues wanted to warm things up to see how much heat they could coax out of the process.

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[NEWS] Drax Biomass Signs Deal with Enviro Group to Avoid Logging in Wetlands

– by Stephanie Riegel, October 19, 2016, Business Report

drax_logoGeorgia-based Drax Biomass International—which stores the wood pellets it manufactures in those two massive white domes at the base of the Mississippi River bridge in Port Allen—signed a deal today with an environmental group, pledging not to source its timber from the cypress and tupelo stands found in forested wetlands like the Atchafalaya Basin.

The pledge was largely symbolic. In the two years since the company began operating in Louisiana, it never has sourced its timber from forested wetlands. However, a DBI spokesman says it wants to be an industry leader in establishing best practices because others in the wood pellet and logging industry are eyeing the cypress-tupelo swamps as a potential source for mulch and wood pellets.

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[NEWS] Increase in Wood Heating Predicted This Winter

– by Erin Voegele, October 14, 2016, Biomass Magazine

wood_heating_homestead

Photo: Homestead.org

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the October edition of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, along with its Winter Fuels Outlook, predicting household expenditures on natural gas, heating oil, electricity and propane will increase this winter.

According to EIA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts this winter, measured in heating degree days, will be 3 percent warmer than the previous 10-year average, but much colder than last winter, which averaged 15 percent warmer than the 10-year average nationally.

Within the report, the EIA notes the number of households using cord wood or wood pellets as the primary spacing heating fuel has increased 26 percent since 2005, reaching approximately 2.5 billion households in 2015. In addition, approximately 8 percent of households use wood as a secondary source of heat, making wood second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel.

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[OPINION] Helping Low-Income Vermonters Heat with Wood

[Read the opposing view, “Montpelier, Vermont’s Biomass Heating Facility Nothing to Celebrate,” by Willem Post, Consulting Engineer.]

– by Jessie-Ruth Corkins, Operations Director, Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative

The Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative (VSHI) is a small non-profit based out of northern Vermont, started by myself and other eager young students and teachers. We have helped 25 Vermont families on state fuel assistance transition to wood pellet heating and advocated for smart decisions regarding the long term sustainability of Vermont’s forest resources within a comprehensive renewable energy plan for Vermont.

VSHI was formed in 2008, just after many Vermont high schools had transitioned to woodchip heating. As a student at the time, I was motivated by the dreadful effects of climate change, and an understanding that transitioning more of Vermont’s infrastructure to wood heating presented both a solution and a challenge for the long term sustainability of our state’s forests. Could we heat more homes, businesses and schools in Vermont with wood? And who would advocate for our low-income neighbors who are forced to make tough decisions to stay warm during the winter?

Historically in Vermont and today, in places all around the world (for example Haiti), economics and lack of planning have caused severe forest resource depletion. Our Green Mountain state was once significantly cleared for pasture land and timber. And in the last 10 years multiple proposals have been on the table to use Vermont’s forests for more energy production, but deciding which proposal makes the best sense remains the question.

The Biomass Energy Resource Center published numbers in 2011 stating the available wood from our forests that could be harvested annually and remain a sustainable output long-term is roughly 2,000,000 green tons/year. Currently we are harvesting about ½ our capacity and could increase harvesting by 900,000 tons/year. To put that in perspective, that’s ½ cord of wood per person in Vermont, which doesn’t equal much heat per person, given Vermont winters.

Use of wood in the 21st century is complex but meaningful. With invasive species and many of ways to turn wood into energy, deciding the scale and type of energy output that makes sense for Vermonters moving forward is a fundamental question. VSHI does not support electricity generation from wood given the energy lost during conversion, and because turning Vermont’s limited wood supply into electricity would not reduce anyone’s electric rates. Instead we advocate for wood pellet production through small co-operatives around the state. Wood pellets are an easy to use and safe alternative to firewood and often make sense in low-income households. Transitioning more low-income Vermont homes to wood pellet heating would reduce the burden for monetary fuel assistance in Vermont.

Finally, while I support the Vermont Public Service Department’s work to advance wood heating technologies in Vermont—specifically though grants to schools and municipal buildings—they are missing a sub-set of Vermonters who can’t afford the transition to greener heating on their own. I encourage the Clean Energy Development Fund (a subset of the Vermont Public Service Department) to partner with Vermont’s Fuel Assistance Office and other key players to encourage Vermont-scale pellet production and invest in transitioning more homes in Vermont to wood pellet heating within the finite limits of the resource.

Jessie-Ruth Corkins is Operations Director of Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to the establishment of affordability and sustainability in Vermont’s home heating economy.

[AUDIO] The Future of Biomass Energy in New England (with Evan Dell’Olio, Roberts Renewable Energy)

The Future of Biomass Energy in New England

STREAM OR DOWNLOAD AUDIO HERE 

The Great North Woods of New England is a source of clean air and water, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, tourism and recreation. The bioenergy industry also considers it an abundant source of fuel for heating and electricity.

On Thursday, October 20 The Biomass Monitor spoke with Evan Dell’Olio, Director of External and Regulatory Affairs for Roberts Energy Renewables, who has analyzed current trends to lay out his predictions for the future of biomass energy in New England.

The Biomass Monitor conference calls are held the 3rd Thursday of every month. For the recording of this call go to thebiomassmonitor.org and subscribe to our free, monthly online journal investigating the whole story on bioenergy, biomass, and biofuels.

[OPINION] Montpelier, Vermont’s Biomass Heating Facility Nothing to Celebrate

[Read the opposing view, “Helping Low-Income Vermonters Heat With Wood,” by Jessie-Ruth Corkins, Operations Director, Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative.]

– by Willem Post, Consulting Engineer

The Montpelier District Heating Plant is a joint project of the City of Montpelier and the State of Vermont to provide local renewable energy to downtown Montpelier. With the rebuilding of the State’s existing central heating plant, modern wood-fired boilers will heat the Capitol Complex and connections will be put in place to expand its service area to City and School buildings as well as connect to private buildings in downtown Montpelier.

Before renovation, the heating plant was fired with only No. 2 fuel oil to produce steam to heat state office buildings. After renovation, the heating plant is fired with about 85% wood chips and about 15% No. 2 fuel oil, and a hot water distribution loop was added to heat other buildings.

The claimed benefits of the renovated plant include:

Reduced health threatening air emissions from fuel combustion in downtown Montpelier by as much as 11 tons per year.

As will be shown, that claim is invalid,

Replacement of approximately 300,000 gallons of oil per year between the State and downtown buildings as a prime fuel source with locally/regionally produced wood chips keeping that economic activity in the northeast.

As will be shown, that claim is only partially valid, as about 15% of the plant heat input from No. 2 fuel oil continues to be required.

Fuel cost stabilization for city government and the school department allowing tax dollars to potentially be redirected toward services or infrastructure rather than to pay rising oil prices.

As will be shown, those savings are due to significantly undercharging for the heating services, i.e., the plant is operating at a significant loss.

An economic development opportunity in downtown Montpelier by providing a cleaner and potentially cheaper source of heat for private building owners.

Whenever one group of people get a benefit, another group has to pay for it, i.e., contrary to claims, there is no free lunch.

The removal of many private oil furnaces and underground fuel oil storage tanks from potential flood areas.

A minor side benefit from a $20 million project.

An analysis of the operating costs and emissions of the plant shows:

– The rates at which heat is charged to building owners are much too low, i.e., the plant is operated at a significant loss of $400,000 – $450,000/yr. This excludes any financing and depreciation costs.

– The CO2 emissions with a mix of wood chip/fuel oil are about 4,446 ton/yr versus about 3,699 ton/yr with 100% fuel oil, an increase of about 447 ton/yr.

– The emissions other than CO2 increased from about 5.72 ton/yr (100% No. 2 fuel oil) to about 11.92 ton/yr, an increase of 6.2 ton/yr.

– The particulate matter, PM, increased from about 121.8 lb/yr (100% No. 2 fuel oil) to about 910.8 lb/yr (15% No.2 fuel oil/85% wood chips), an increase of about 7.5 times; most of that PM is harmful PM2.5, which is difficult to collect with electrostatic precipitators.

If this were a private, unsubsidized project, servicing a loan of $20,000,000 at 3% interest/yr for 40 years, the annual payments would be $865,247.56/yr.

The economics of this project are dismal and the plant emits significantly more CO2 and particulate matter, PM, than heating with fuel oil; a perfect example of:

– The state’s wasteful meddling that is making less efficient Vermont’s energy sector, thereby adversely affecting Vermont’s future economic growth, job creation and standards of living.

– Politicians and various renewable energy interests banding together to improve re-election prospects and feather their renewable energy nests at the expense of the rest of Vermonters, who get taxed extra by these same politicians to pay for it all.

– More such politics-inspired, uneconomic wood chip plants in Vermont would be another, multi-decade headwind for Vermont’s fragile, near-zero-growth economy.

Despite press releases crowing of “success,” there is nothing to celebrate having such wood chip plants. District heating systems are based on bygone technology, which has been surpassed by modern building envelope and building system design since about 1973, more than 40 years ago.

[Read the un-excerpted piece at Energy Collective.]

Willem Post is a consulting engineer and project manager specializing in energy efficiency of buildings and building systems. He has performed feasibility studies, wrote master plans, evaluated and performed designs for incineration systems, air pollution control systems, utility and industrial power plants, and integrated energy systems for campus-style building complexes. 

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