The use of residual forest biomass for rural development faces significant economic hurdles that make it unlikely to be a source of jobs in the near future, according to new research by economists from Oregon State University.
In a model of the forest industry, researchers in the College of Forestry combined an evaluation of costs for collecting, transporting and processing biomass with the potential locations of regional processing facilities in western Oregon.
Each location was chosen because it is adjacent to an existing or recently-closed wood product operation such as a sawmill or plywood manufacturing plant.The study, published in Forest Policy and Economics, focused on biomass generated during timber harvesting operations. Biomass consists of branches and treetops that are generally left in the woods or burned. In some highly accessible locations, these residues are ground up or chipped and used to make a product known as “hog fuel.”
“There’s a lot of interest in focusing on the use of biomass to meet multiple objectives, one of which is support for rural communities,” said Mindy Crandall, who led the research as a doctoral student at Oregon State and is an assistant professor at the University of Maine. “We thought this might provide some support for that idea,” she said. “But from a strictly market feasibility perspective, it isn’t all that likely that these facilities will be located in remote, struggling rural communities without targeted subsidies or support.”
As the world works to replace fossil fuels, wood pellets are playing a key role in decarbonizing power grids. European nations, in particular, have invested heavily in pellets for both heating and electricity generation. To supply this increased demand, global trade in pellets has doubled since 2012, with U.S., Canadian and European producers all playing a role. How this supply stream may evolve is the focus of the European Pellet Supply and Cost Analysis, a new study from RISI, an information provider for the global forest products industry.
ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2016, 4 (12), pp 6355–6361
The use of renewable biomass for production of heat and electricity plays an important role in the circular economy. Degradation of wood biomass to produce heat is a clean and novel process proposed as an alternative to wood burning, and could be used for various heating applications. So far, wood degradation has mostly been studied at ambient temperatures. However, the process needs to occur at elevated temperatures (40–55 °C) to produce useable heat. Our objective was to study wood degradation at elevated temperatures for its potential application on heat production. Two (a thermotolerant and a thermophilic) fungi with different degradation strategies were chosen: lignin-degrading Phanerochaete chrysosporium and cellulose-degrading Chaetomium thermophilum. Each fungus was inoculated on nonsterile and sterile birch woodblocks to, respectively, study their wood degradation activity with and without natural biota (i.e., microorganisms naturally present in wood). The highest wood decay rates were found with C. thermophilum in the presence of natural biota, followed by P. chrysosporium under sterile conditions. The estimated theoretical value of heat production with C. thermophilum under nonsterile conditions was 0.6 W kg–1 wood. In conclusion, C. thermophilum seems to be a promising fungus to degrade wood together with natural biota, as sterilization of wood is not feasible in practice. Further testing on a larger scale is needed to implement the obtained results and validate the potential of biological wood degradation for heat production.
By DONG Energy
For the past 18 months, Avedøre Power Station has been converting its coal-fired power station unit, and the entire combined-heat-and-power plant is now able to produce electricity and heat based on wood pellets and straw, rather than coal and gas.
“Following the conversion of unit 1 at Avedøre Power Station, we can produce heat for more than 215,000 Danish households in the Greater Copenhagen area without using coal or gas. The conversion is a major contribution to achieving a green district heating system in the Greater Copenhagen area as well as a green electricity system, supplementing solar and wind power,” says Thomas Dalsgaard, executive vice president at DONG Energy.
Pellet Mill Magazine reviews Asian wood pellet production,export and import markets of Thailand, Indonesia, China, Malaysia and South Korea.
By Ron Kotrba | November 16, 2016
…In 2014, Thailand exported nearly 111,000 metric tons of wood pellets, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). In 2015, however, Thai exports of wood pellets dropped considerably, to 25,429 tons. Contributing to Thai wood pellet exports to Japan and South Korea is BioPellets Thailand Co. Ltd. …According to FAOSTAT, Thailand’s cumulative wood pellet production has grown from 20,000 tons in 2013 to 115,000 tons in 2015.
…FAOSTAT data show that Indonesian wood pellet manufacturing doubled from 2013 to 2014, jumping from 40,000 tons to 80,000 tons in a year. Data estimates suggest a leveling off in Indonesian wood pellet production in 2015, remaining at 80,000 tons. In total, Indonesia exported slightly more than 37,000 tons in 2013, more than doubling to nearly 76,000 tons in 2014, with FAOSTAT estimates at roughly the same tonnage for 2015. A majority of Indonesian wood pellet exports are going to South Korea.
…China’s wood pellet production nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, from 200,000 to 370,000 tons, according to FAOSTAT data. While 2015 production estimates show a leveling off, the country’s exportation of wood pellets skyrocketed from 2013 to 2014, jumping from a mere 3,293 tons in 2013 to 165,654 tons in 2014. Nearly all of the increase in production from 200,000 to 370,000 tons from 2013 to 2014 went to exports. However, though Chinese exports hit record highs in 2014, they nosedived a year later. In 2015, Chinese exports sank to 52,025 tons. According to an Argus Biomass Markets report, this marked reduction in Chinese exports was in large part due to cheaper Vietnamese competition carving out market share in the demanding South Korean pellet market.
…South Korea imports rallied from 122,447 tons in 2012 to 484,668 tons in 2013 to an impressive 1.85 million tons in 2014, according to official FAOSTAT data. Imports backed off in 2015, down to 1.47 million tons. Domestic production estimates are stagnant from 2012-‘15 at 15,000 tons annually.
FutureMetrics recently published a white paper, titled “The Lowest Cost Solution for Maximum Decarbonization of the Power Sector While Maintaining Grid Reliability,” that compares two scenarios for powering carbon emissions in the power generation sector.
The first scenario assumes coal plants are retired and replaced with new combined cycle natural gas generation stations. The second assumes that existing pulverized coal plants are modified to use wood pellets rather than coal. Within the paper, author William Strauss notes his analysis shows converting coal plants to wood pellets is the solution that provides significantly higher carbon dioxide reduction at a lower net monetary cost per avoided ton.
As wood pellet imports in Japan begin to accelerate, industry professionals offer cautious optimism that an Asian market opportunity for North American producers has arrived.
In July, Japan imported 52,000 tons of wood pellets, eclipsing the previous monthly high of 51, 500 tons set in December 2015. Additionally, monthly volumes in 2016 have been more consistent in contrast to the peaks and valleys that defined 2014 and 2015. As a result, Japan is expected to finish 2016 having imported between 350,000 and 400,000 tons of wood pellets and producers around the world are optimistic that Japan’s wood pellet demand is set to rise steadily to 1 million tons per year within the next handful of years.
Wood pellet imports to the U.K. fell 24 percent year-over-year in August after record high imports during the first half of 2016, but are expected to reach a new all-time high this year, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.
Maine is poised to finally begin shipping wood chips to Europe for power generation next year if plans underway at Eastport and Searsport stay on schedule.
After years of false starts, these developments would be especially welcome now, as the ongoing decline of the paper and in-state biomass power industries has hit hundreds of loggers and truckers who used to harvest and move fiber to Maine mills and generators. The value of U.S.-based wood fuel sent to the European Union in 2015 exceeded $684 million, according to export research firm WISERtrade, but none of it came from Maine.
The state’s first opportunity could come next year in Eastport, where the port authority has been working on export plans since 2009. A company it has partnered with is building special equipment that processes the chips to standards required in Europe. Chris Gardner, the authority’s director, said that while the equipment may be ready by year’s end, he thinks it’s more realistic to begin exporting wood chips in 2017.
US utility company Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) has issued a request for 750,000MWh of energy located in its territory, including biomass and landfill gas installations.
Results from the request for proposals (RFP) will help DEC meet North Carolina’s 2007 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), which mandates the company generate 12.5% of its retail sales in the state by renewable energy or energy efficiency programmes by 2021.
The RFP is open to biomass, landfill gas, solar, wind, and other facilities that qualify as a renewable energy resource under REPS requirements, excluding swine and poultry waste.