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Nippon Paper Eyes 'Roasted' Wood Pellets as Earnings Source

Nippon Paper Eyes 'Roasted' Wood Pellets as Earnings Source | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Nippon Paper Industries will begin tests next spring on a process it plans to use to mass-produce efficient-burning wood pellets as a biomass fuel for electricity generation starting in fiscal 2018.
     The so-called torrefied wood gets its name from torrefaction, a process similar to coffee roasting. Wood is heated at relatively low temperatures for less than an hour to yield a substance that burns with double the heat volume of wood chips, effectively doubling the power generation efficiency.
     Despite global research on torrefied wood as a biomass fuel, few companies have taken the next step to develop a means of mass production. Nippon Paper intends to leverage its papermaking experience to quickly establish this as a source of earnings for its energy business.
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Wood Bioenergy Update

Wood Bioenergy Update | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Wood bioenergy projects have slowed in the U.S.; meaningful potential growth, if realized, will occur in the next five years.
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Regionally, the U.S. North still has the largest share (47%) of viable wood bioenergy projects while the South accounts for 53% of the potential wood use for bioenergy

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The single largest source of growth in U.S. wood bioenergy markets remain pellet projects planned and under construction in the South built to serve export markets to the U.K. and EU.

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New federal analysis favors Maine biomass plants

New federal analysis favors Maine biomass plants | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A new analysis by the federal Environmental Protection Agency may be good news for Maine firms that make electricity by burning wood, but some environmental groups are crying foul.

The new EPA analysis, issued last week, suggests how the federal government will count greenhouse gas emissions from wood-fired biomass facilities, and an accompanying memo from a top-ranking EPA official suggests biomass producers will likely get a pass when it comes to strict, new carbon dioxide regulations.

Carbon dioxide is a gas byproduct that comes from burning any carbon-based fuel, including coal, petroleum and wood, and it is largely blamed for the effects of global climate change.

But the new analysis suggests that because wood-fired biomass facilities are fueled with forest byproducts, namely leftover branches, limbs, chips and sawdust, the net impact on the environment is neutral over time. The analysis involves some complex science that models the amount of CO2 live trees absorb compared to the amount that's released when they either decompose naturally or are burned for energy.

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Environmental group asks province for probe of NSP biomass supply

Environmental group asks province for probe of NSP biomass supply | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A Cape Breton environmental group is calling for an emergency review of harvesting practices at Nova Scotia Power’s biomass plant in Point Tupper.


On Friday, the Margaree Environmental Association issued a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil requesting a delay in harvesting to allow the province to examine the plant’s wood supply.


Association co-chair Neal Livingston said the plant has shown itself to be a “voracious” consumer of wood fibre. Not only is quality material being directed to the plant, there is also too much forest resource being cut, he added.

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NSP has said up to 650,000 tonnes of wood waste will be needed to run the plant per year. The 60-megawatt power generating station, located in Richmond County, is part of Nova Scotia’s plan to source 25 per cent of the province’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.


But in recent months, business owners who rely on the forest for a living have told The Chronicle Herald that high-quality hardwoods are making their way into the biomass plant.

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On Friday, NSP spokeswoman Neera Ritcey denied that quality hardwoods are winding up that the plant.


“We require our suppliers to follow strict conditions on the biomass they supply for use at the plant,” Ritcey said in an email. “We have checks and balances in place to ensure rules are followed.”

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Wood Fuel Prices in US South - 1Q2014

Wood Fuel Prices in US South - 1Q2014 | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Wood fuel delivered prices in the first quarter of 2014 increased $1.04 per ton, or 5.2 percent, from the first quarter 2013 average price of $20.05 per ton. Since fourth quarter 2013, prices increased $0.88 per ton to an average price of $21.09 per ton.
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Breaking out individual price components from the total delivered price into wood raw material and freight costs makes it clear that wood raw material costs are the main cause of the upturn. In 1Q2014, freights costs increased an average of $0.03 per ton, but wood raw material costs increased $1.01 per ton.


The reason for the increase in wood raw material costs is two-fold:


  • Demand for wood fuel increased, as total purchases by volume were 9 percent higher in the first quarter of 2014. The increase in demand has been driven primarily by dedicated biomass power facilities opening and pulp and paper mills converting from coal-fired to biomass boilers in response to electricity and natural gas prices increases of 6.1 percent and 31.1 percent, respectively.
  • A total of 571 inches of rain fell in 2013, which was the second largest amount of rainfall across the South over the last decade. Southwide rainfall amounts increased 22.2 percent from 2012 to 2013, and this caused delayed effects of constrained supply due to a shortage of available inventory during the first quarter of 2014. Our data supports a correlation between increases in rainfall and increases in wood raw material costs.


The combination of increased demand and heavy rainfall influenced the escalation in wood fuel delivered price.

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Cate Street changes ‘whole nature’ of Millinocket pellet plant proposal

Cate Street changes ‘whole nature’ of Millinocket pellet plant proposal | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

A New Hampshire investment company has changed the “whole nature” of its proposal to build New England’s first torrefied wood facility at the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill, leaving unclear the status of the $25 million state bond backing the project, officials said Thursday.


Cate Street Capital’s plans now call for replacing the $70 million microwave torrefaction plant with a $140 million steam-thermal plant like those built in Crockett, Texas, and Selma, Ala. The new plant would employ 50 people instead of 35 and more than triple the amount of pellets created and tree wastes used annually, Cate Street spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said. Torrefied wood pellets are described as a renewable substitute for coal.

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Wood Pellet Developments and the Relevance to U.S. Timberland Investments

Wood Pellet Developments and the Relevance to U.S. Timberland Investments | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Wood bioenergy markets interest forestland owners and timberland investors for a simple reason: potential returns on capital. Higher demand for pulpwood and other lower-valued forest residues can strengthen prices and increase returns to landowners for any investments made in their forests. However, the reality is that new wood bioenergy markets are small relative to traditional forest industry demand, and they are incredibly localized based on specific and primarily pellet-producing facilities.

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Pellet plants in the U.S. today have two primary markets: domestic U.S. home heating and European industrial markets for electricity and cogeneration. While a surge of proposed domestic projects occurred in 2009 and 2010 to take advantage of pellet use from increased petroleum prices, most recent investments have supported pellet plants intent on exporting to the EU, especially the U.K. These projects are larger than their domestic counterparts, consuming hundreds of thousands to over one million tons of wood per year, versus the typical fifty to two hundred thousand tons per year for domestic plants.

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Wood pellet projects represent one sub-sector within the overall wood bioenergy market. There are 122 pellet plants operating in the United States, 10 plants under construction, and 47 in the planning stages. Regionally, the North leads the U.S. with the most pellet plants operating, while the South leads in growth with 11.6 million tons of pellet production capacity in development.

 

While more than 800,000 U.S. homes use wood pellets for heat, global wood pellet markets are growing largely in response to EU renewable energy mandates. Pellet production globally increased from 8 million metric tons per year in 2007 to more than 15 million metric tons in 2010. Currently, Europe consumes most of this production. In 2012, European consumption of wood pellets was 14 million metric tons alone. The European Union estimates that the EU will consume 17 million metric tons in 2014 (EU Biofuels Annual 2013).

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The data specific to pellet plant announcements and development in the U.S. tell a story of two market strategies. The U.S. domestic market for pellets relies primarily on smaller producers who rely on low cost manufacturing residuals.This strategy complements the U.S. forest products sector, and has an immaterial influence on timberland investments. The pellet export market from the U.S. has encouraged investment in larger scale facilities that, by necessity, focus on procuring traditional pulpwood roundwood. This strategy competes with traditional pulpwood users while providing a growth market in key local markets in the U.S. Southeast for timberland owners. Overall, however, large-scale pellet sector success remains hinged to EU policies and, in the near term, realized demand from U.K. power plants. Within the overall forest products industry, wood pellets represent a niche opportunity reliant on specific, critical factors associated with logistics and the economics of pulpwood and residuals.


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Cool Planet to build 3 biorefineries in Louisiana

Cool Planet to build 3 biorefineries in Louisiana | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Cool Planet Energy Systems President and CEO Howard Janzen have announced the company will build three biorefineries in Louisiana with a capital investment of $168 million. The project will consist of modular biomass-to-gasoline refineries in Alexandria, Natchitoches and a site to be determined.

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Cool Planet will begin construction in January 2014, with the first site at the Port of Alexandria beginning operations in late 2014. Construction will begin on the second biorefinery at the Port of Natchitoches by the summer of 2015, with a completion date in the summer of 2016. The third site is scheduled to come online in late 2016 at a Louisiana site to be determined.

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Cool Planet will harvest wood waste and forest byproducts to make gasoline at its initial commercial-scale facilities in Louisiana. Each biorefinery will be capable of producing 10 million gallons of high-octane, low-vapor pressure gasoline for strategic distribution through existing market channels and for blending at Louisiana refineries. The fuel will be compatible for use in existing vehicles on the road today. The company’s business model calls for developing 400 of the micro-refineries across the U.S. in the next decade.

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Using a proprietary process, Denver-based Cool Planet also will market biochar, a byproduct of the refining process that will be used as an agricultural supplement to boost water retention and reduce carbon released from crops. This process makes Cool Planet’s overall production cycle a carbon-negative process – meaning the project will achieve a net reduction of greenhouse gases.

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Cool Planet’s production plants will be 100 times smaller than a typical oil refinery, but the company’s largely prefabricated systems can be moved near concentrated biomass sources, reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiency. Those savings will enable the company to produce gasoline that’s competitive with oil refineries at prices as low as $50 per barrel while eliminating the need for government fuel credits or subsidies

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As key partner departs, future dims for Michigan cellulosic biofuel plant

As key partner departs, future dims for Michigan cellulosic biofuel plant | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The exit of its majority owner and operator leaves the future uncertain for a long-delayed project that has attracted at least $120 million in public financing to turn wood from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into fuel for vehicles.


New Hampshire-based biofuels company Mascoma Corporation announced in 2011 that Valero Energy would provide up to $50 million in financing for a $232 million facility in Kinross Charter Township, Michigan, and purchase the 20 million gallons of ethanol it would produce annually.


However, Valero spokesman Bill Day confirmed in an email that the company “is no longer involved in the Mascoma cellulosic ethanol project” but declined to give further details.

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Europe Seeks Green Fuel in U.S. Forests

Europe Seeks Green Fuel in U.S. Forests | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Loggers here are clear-cutting a wetland forest with decades-old trees. Behind the move: an environmental push.

The push isn't in North Carolina but in Europe, where governments are trying to reduce fossil-fuel use and carbon-dioxide emissions. Under pressure, some of the Continent's coal-burning power plants are switching to wood.


But Europe doesn't have enough forests to chop for fuel, and in those it does have, many restrictions apply. So Europe's power plants are devouring wood from the U.S., where forests are bigger and restrictions fewer.

This dynamic is bringing jobs to some American communities hard hit by mill closures. It is also upsetting conservationists, who say cutting forests for power is hardly an environmental plus.

Sam Radcliffe's insight:

Thanks to Jeff Wikle for this.


Today's (6/6/13) WSJ has several letters to the editor related to this article.http://goo.gl/MMh9e

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Biomass Demand to Triple by 2030

Biomass Demand to Triple by 2030 | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Biofuel mandates and growth in the biochemicals industry are expected to triple demand for biomass by 2030, placing pressure on available feedstocks, according to a report by Lux Research.


The report, “Finding Feedstocks for the Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals of Today and 2030,” said today biofuels and biochemicals need more than a billion metric tons of biomass material each year to replace about three percent of total petroleum products. The report predicts that figure will skyrocket to 3.7 billion mt of biomass needed annually by 2030.


Biofuels mandates, which require large masses of sugars, cellulosic biomass and waste feedstocks, will cause several regions will encounter major stress on available biomass, the report said. For instance, the EPA is proposing a 62 percent increase in the amount of cellulosic biofuels that refiners must blend into their gasoline and diesel, despite a federal court’s decision last week to strike down its 2012 standard for the fuel.

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Report shows 100 biomass power projects came online in 2012

Report shows 100 biomass power projects came online in 2012 | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects has released its latest Energy Infrastructure Update, which includes data through Dec. 2012. The update includes statistics on a variety of energy types, including biomass.

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Report highlights also point out that Rollcast Energy Inc.’s 60.5 MW biomass-fueled Piedmont Green Power in Barnesville, Ga., is now online. The facility will take in 500,000 tons of woody biomass feedstock annually. The feedstock is comprised of urban wood waste, as well as mill and logging solid waste. Power generated at the plant is being sold to Georgia Power Co. under a long-term contract.


Verso Paper’s 25 MW biomass-fueld Bucksport Mill expansion was also brought online. The facility, located in Bucksport, Maine, utilizes papermaking byproduct and logging wood waste as feedstock. Electricity generated at the plant will be used to power the mill, with excess sold to the local grid. 

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Cellulosic biofuel to surge in 2013 as first plants open

Cellulosic biofuel to surge in 2013 as first plants open | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Cellulosic biofuel companies will boost production almost 20-fold in 2013 as the first high-volume refineries go into operation, signaling a shift from an experimental fuel into a commercially viable industry.

Production of the fuel made from crop waste, wood chips, household trash and other non-food organic sources will reach 9.6 million gallons (36 million liters) in 2013, up from less than 500,000 gallons this year, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and obtained by Bloomberg News.

That gain will leave the industry short of the government’s target for 1 billion gallons that gasoline and diesel producers are expected to blend into their products next year under a federal energy regulation. The industry may not meet those targets for another five years, and companies from Kior Inc. (KIOR) to Abengoa SA (ABG) are closing the gap.
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Legislators approve $13.4 million bailout of Maine biomass industry

Legislators approve $13.4 million bailout of Maine biomass industry | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The Legislature voted Friday to back a $13.4 million taxpayer bailout of at least two of the state’s six ailing biomass energy plants that support hundreds of logging jobs.

The 25-9 vote in the Senate and the 104-40 vote in the House followed lengthy debate and closed-door negotiations. Legislative leaders sought to balance the goal of saving the jobs of loggers with the less attractive job of finding public money to prop up ailing power generators owned by multinational private-equity firms.

At the end of the private talks, lawmakers agreed to avoid tapping the state’s rainy day fund for the bailout by diverting the money before it gets into the fund.

The amended proposal generated lengthy debate. Opponents argued that the bill contained no guarantees that it would save the remaining biomass energy plants and will likely only benefit three of them. Supporters countered that lawmakers had no choice but to try to save a group of workers who stand alongside fishermen and lobstermen as cogs in the state’s blue-collar economy and its cultural identity.
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Drax publishes biomass supply data in bid to address sustainability concerns

Drax publishes biomass supply data in bid to address sustainability concerns | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Energy giant Drax has sought to alleviate concerns about the environmental impact of its ambitious plans to shift from coal to biomass power, publishing comprehensive new sustainability data alongside its annual report last week.
The company last week confirmed that pre-tax profits rose last year to £166m, as the company continued work on “Europe’s largest decarbonisation project whilst producing eight per cent of the UK’s electricity”.
The report revealed that a third of the power plant’s generating capacity is now the result of biomass generation, adding that its third converted biomass unit is due to come online in the third quarter of this year.
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Can bioenergy replace coal?

Can bioenergy replace coal? | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Like all renewable energy in the European Union, bioenergy has struggled against low-priced coal imports, low carbon dioxide prices in the emissions-trading system, and an economic and regulatory backlash against renewable-energy policies, including substantial cuts in government support. But don’t count out biomass-based energy just yet. Although today it fails to compete on cost with other renewables such as wind and solar, we believe bioenergy not only has the potential to significantly improve but could even become cost competitive with coal.

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How can that happen? We believe the levelized cost of bioenergy—its cost per kilowatt-hour—has the potential to be reduced by almost half by 2025, making bio-based electricity close to competitive with coal depending on the type of plant. While there’s no denying this would require significant effort, it doesn’t require technological breakthroughs but rather simply making better use of the opportunities already at hand.

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Supply of woody biomass for energy from privately owned forests in Europe overestimated

Supply of woody biomass for energy from privately owned forests in Europe overestimated | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The European Commission expects the use of biomass for energy in the EU to increase significantly to meet a legally binding target of at least 20% of the EU’s total energy use from renewable sources in 2020. In response to the increased demand, the EU member states have estimated the direct supply of biomass from their forests to increase by 45% on a volume basis between 2006 and 2020. A new study, led by Kristina Blennow from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), shows for the first time that European private forest owners are not as ready to increase the supply of woody biomass for energy as assumed.


Fifty percent of the forest area in Europe is privately owned. The private forest owners’ attitudes towards supplying biomass for energy so that the targets can be met and the related economic policy instruments are extremely important. Considering the beliefs and desires of the land owners in designing land-use policies is crucial for their effectiveness. This study shows that the future supply of woody biomass for energy from privately owned forests in Europe and the effectiveness of economic policy instruments to mobilise woody biomass from them have been overestimated.

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A Giant Step for Pellet Capacity

A Giant Step for Pellet Capacity | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

More than 4 million metric tons of new wood pellet production capacity are currently under construction throughout North America, over 3 million tons of which are scheduled to come on line this year, and 600,000 tons by spring. Such capacity growth is unprecedented in the North American pellet industry, which is comprised of some 160 facilities, with a total installed capacity of around 13 million metric tons. Not only will the capacity added this year grow the industry’s output  by nearly 25 percent in just one year, but facilities scheduled to come on line in 2015 will bring the two-year expansion closer to 33 percent.

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The vast majority of under-construction capacity is represented by producers already engaged in pellet production. ––Fram Renewable Fuel LLC, Enviva LP, German Pellets GmbH, Drax Biomass, and Zilkha Biomass Energy––developers who are engaging in follow-up efforts to add to their existing capacities. Still, there are plants under construction that represent a company’s first production effort. Vulcan Renewables, with an initial planned capacity of nearly 150,000 metric tons, is Vulcan’s first facility. 

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The funnel of pellet production projects under development but not yet under active construction numbered as high as 27 facilities with more than 7 million tons early last year. As the industry continues to grow, however, questions about the resiliency of this marketplace momentum are beginning to surface. The required volume from U.K.-based power producers is significant, but the risk of having demand tied up in one or two planned facilities is already apparent. In December, the conversion of the massive Eggborough Power Station, which would have created another infusion of Drax-like demand, was omitted from a list of projects deemed provisionally affordable. Stakeholders are already working to get the Eggborough conversion back on track, but demand volatility of this sort is certain to impact the development of projects not yet underway. Eggborough’s fate will have little bearing on the production class of 2014, however, and regardless of demand trajectory at the year’s conclusion, it will go down as a year of unprecedented expansion in the biomass industry’s hottest sector.

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Rothschild biomass plant only getting 10 percent of fuel from forest waste as proposed

Rothschild biomass plant only getting 10 percent of fuel from forest waste as proposed | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The recently built power plant at Domtar paper mill in central Wisconsin is getting only 10 percent of its fuel from logging waste, which originally was supposed to supply nearly all of the plant's energy needs.

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We Energies told the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in its permit applications which were required to build the facility, that logging waste would supply the vast majority of the plant’s fuel. The PSC approved the plant’s construction over the objection of neighbors and critics in the wood industry who said forest waste would not provide enough fuel for the operation and that the plant inevitably would drive up wood prices.

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Domtar initially targeted tree tops and other logging waste as its anchor fuel for the power plant, said Jeff Plunkett, the company’s procurement manager. Instead, wood from land cleared of trees for expanding farms and housing developments and residue from saw mills and paper mills has been a “huge source for us,” he said.

Sam Radcliffe's insight:

"...expanding farms and housing developments..." Are we really talking about northern Wisconsin? 

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We Energies, Rothschild, WI woody biomass plant begins commercial operation

We Energies, Rothschild, WI woody biomass plant begins commercial operation | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

We Energies announced today that the biomass-fueled power plant on the site of Domtar Corporation’s Rothschild, Wis., paper mill was placed into commercial operation Friday, Nov. 8, after testing and commissioning activities were successfully completed.


Wood, waste wood and sawdust are being used to produce up to 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity; steam provided by the plant is also supporting Domtar’s sustainable papermaking operations.

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More than 400 workers contributed to the construction of the biomass plant, which also will support approximately 150 permanent jobs in the region, including independent wood suppliers and haulers from northern and central Wisconsin who will secure waste wood for the project.


Under Wisconsin law, utilities statewide must use renewable energy to meet 10 percent of the electricity needs of their retail customers by the year 2015. With the commercial operation of the Rothschild biomass plant, We Energies estimates that it now has secured enough renewable energy to remain in compliance with the state mandate through 2022.


In addition, Domtar’s use of the steam produced by the plant will help improve the paper mill’s energy efficiency and reduce overall emissions at the site by more than 30 percent.

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The Real Threat to Forests in the US South

The Real Threat to Forests in the US South | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

There was a time, not long ago, when the largest threat to forests in the United States was widely believed to come from the forest products industry. Vilified by environmental groups and the media alike, the forest products industry was at worst responsible for razing forests and endangering vulnerable species.

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Now, however, there is a new “bad” guy in town—the wood bioenergy industry. Recent reports suggest (though hardly prove) that wood bioenergy—particularly the US-South-to-EU pellet trade—is “wrecking some of the finest forests in the US.[1]” Most of the claims proffered in these reports lack both substance and evidence and defy both forest science and logic.

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If none of these assertions about the size and nature of the wood bioenergy industry are true, what is the real threat here, the thing we should really be worried about? Earlier, I pointed out that, at best, the industry is barely tolerated when it comes to discussions of forest health and sustainability. There are worse things than barely being tolerated though. A growing number of forces want the forest products industry to just go away, and they have the resources to relentlessly pursue that end.

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Right now, the bioenergy movement is the best vehicle eNGOs have for stopping harvest activity. The new wood bioenergy participants have softer views on sustainability, after all, so collaborating with environmental groups may seem to them like a good idea. After years of dealing with eNGOs, however, we should know better. These groups have adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy, and if they are successful in dividing the industry, then the implications beyond bioenergy are immense. The forest products industry may have slipped to Public Enemy #2 in the eyes of environmentalists during the fight over wood-based bioenergy, but make no mistake: once wood bioenergy is dead, these  groups will turn their attention (strengthened by the win) back to the pulp/paper and solid wood industries. In the meantime, they will enlist the support of the traditional forest products industry to fight the battle over bioenergy.

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As long as eNGOs succeed in dividing the industry, the result will be a weakened supply chain, one that cannot lead—but can only react—to the conversation. A divided industry is one that siphons value out of the supply chain.

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How Reporters Miss the Forest and the Trees When Covering Wood Bioenergy Markets

How Reporters Miss the Forest and the Trees When Covering Wood Bioenergy Markets | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

While the general public’s understanding of wood bioenergy remains incomplete, recent reporting on the issue fails to meaningfully inform readers on the status of woody biomass supplies and the actual development of wood bioenergy markets in the U.S.  In fact, several articles suffered from three common errors we observe in major media coverage:

  1. Failure to provide context.
  2. Improperly assigning “causal” relationships.
  3. Errors of fact.

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Wood bioenergy in the U.S. faces limits to growth.  No one will be vacuuming U.S. forests to feed UK power plants.  The economics, logistics and sustainability of such strategies fail on multiple levels.  This is why markets in other regions such as South America, Russia and Canada continue to scale up capacity.  The facts, context and market relationships highlight a stuttered, evolving wood bioenergy market in the U.S. that continues to feel its way forward as part of the large, established wood-using forest industry.

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Is the U.S. Torrefaction Market Moving?

Is the U.S. Torrefaction Market Moving? | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

... just this week, Thermogen Industries signed a letter of intent with the Eastport Port Authority in Eastport, Maine, to build a 200,000 to 300,000-ton torrefied wood pellet manufacturing facility on land adjacent to the port’s Estes Head Terminal. Following completion of engineering and site design, Thermogen aims to formally begin the permitting process with a goal of starting construction as early as possible in 2014. In Millinocket, Maine, the company already has a fully-permitted project that work on began in October.


Down in Mississippi, New Biomass Energy just reported it had made a third shipment of torrefied wood pellets—4,000 tons—to Europe. The company is working on expanding its plant to commercial scale—150,000 to 200,000 tons—and expects the project to be complete this year.

Finally, Oregon-based H3M Energy has reached several milestones in the las few years, including completion of a 50,000-ton demonstration-scale torrefied briquette facility, and construction commencement of a small commercial plant.


While Europe continues to be well ahead of us in regard to torrefaction, the market here appears to be progressing.

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Biomass and Biopower: What’s the Outlook?

Biomass and Biopower: What’s the Outlook? | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

I remain cautiously optimistic. It appears that projects related to biomass and biopower have a chance to make a contribution to the U.S. energy mix, and my reasons for this follow.

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First, the Obama administration’s drive for renewable energy production and research will continue, as was vividly pointed out in the passing of fiscal cliff legislation.

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The administration’s intent in respect to certain biopower competitors, such as low-cost natural gas, is less obvious. Natural gas prices have been on a downward skid since January 2012, and currently they hover a little over $3 per MMBtu. This is a challenge for biomass, especially since the administration’s most effective carbon reduction method has been the replacement of coal power generation with natural gas generation.

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So the concurrent innovation of American oil and gas explorers and the administration has indirectly made new natural gas power generation the winner. This inadvertently hurts biopower, since the cost of biomass-derived power simply cannot beat out that derived from natural gas produced and sold for less than $5 to $6 per MMBtu.

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The federal government is not exclusively driving the bus on making natural gas a winner over biomass and other renewable energy forms, however. Industry and economics are playing a role. At a recent energy conference, I was caught off guard slightly when several energy executives representing utility, power plant equipment and services, and energy regulatory entities all believed that abundant North American natural gas resources would most likely hover between $4 and $6 per MMBtu for decades. For these folks, that makes natural gas very competitive, with ample room for coal to remain a major player. Biomass remains a player only when state or regional incentives come into play, or when feedstocks are fairly cheap.

Sam Radcliffe's insight:

Count me among those who refuse to invest in or have confidence in an industry that cannot exist without government support.

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Forest Products Society journal publishes special biofuels issue

Forest Products Society journal publishes special biofuels issue | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
A series of articles published as a special issue on biofuels by the Forest Products Journal highlights the relative impact of 15 different uses of biofuels on reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy independence.
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