NSF International becomes SBP-approved certification body

From Biomass Magazine
By Sustainable Biomass Partnership

The Sustainable Biomass Partnership has today announced that NSF International (NSF) has become an ‘SBP-approved’ Certification Body. NSF has provided evidence that it meets the SBP requirements regarding its existing accreditations and has demonstrated sufficient resource and competence to manage the SBP certification programme under the SBP Framework.

The SBP Framework of standards and processes enables Biomass Producers, typically pellet and wood chip mills, to demonstrate that they source their feedstock responsibly and that it complies with the regulatory, including sustainability, requirements applicable to power generators burning woody biomass to produce energy.

NSF has been approved for the certification, in Canada and the United States of America, of Biomass Producers and the biomass supply chain, for example, Biomass Producers and components of the downstream supply chain, such as trade, transport and processing that require Chain of Custody certification.

Peter Wilson, Executive Director of SBP, commented, “On behalf of SBP I am pleased to confirm that NSF’s application is approved. NSF has been through a rigorous approval process, culminating in a final review and recommendation for approval by SBP’s independent Technical Committee.

“This is the second such approval of a Certification Body, and the first in North America. This progress provides a good foundation for implementation of the SBP Framework throughout the woody biomass supply chain”.

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Three former Coast Guard biomass boilers on way to Alaska

From Biomass Magazine

By Katie Fletcher

Three biomass boilers are being shipped to Haines, Alaska, with the potential to heat a variety of buildings throughout town. The boilers are expected to arrive next month and utilize either wood pellets or locally produced wood chips as a feedstock.

Upon arrival in Haines, the boilers manufactured by Unilux will remain in storage for the next year or so. Twelve to 24 months later they are expected to be up and running, displacing around 80,000 gallons of heating oil. “We are either going to be installing biomass heat in eight or nine municipal buildings, or creating a district heating system,” said Darsie Culbeck, contractor for the borough to help facilitate the biomass project. “In either case, the Coast Guard boilers will be useful.”

The boilers could be used to heat the school, the pool and Chilkat Performing Art Center. Culbeck said hopefully the district heating system will heat the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), the school, the pool, the vocational technology building, the library, the administration building, the public safety building and maybe the city shop.

Culbeck said the feedstock could be pellets from British Columbia or Seattle, but that they are looking at locally produced wood chips as well. The boiler specifications are 1.5 MMBtu, 1.7 MMBtu and 500,000 Btu.

Haines borough officials recently approved the $60,000 purchase of the used boilers. The purchase includes the three boilers, 60-ton storage silos and an accumulator tank. Funding for the installation is provided through the $1.2-million Haines Borough Municipal Buildings Biomass Project grant. A resolution was voted upon at a recent borough assembly meeting, allowing borough manager, Dave Sosa, to make the purchase—five of six voted in favor. “The $60,000 was over the manager’s spending authority so it had to go to the assembly for approval,” Culbeck said.

Overall, the system was originally valued at over $450,000. The boilers were previously used in Sitka for heat by the U.S. Coast Guard, but a mishap occurred and the project was abandoned. “The combustion chamber of one of the two new pellet boilers in the AIRSTA Hanger suffered an explosion due to the buildup of the explosive gases hydrogen and carbon monoxide during testing by the installation contractor,” Culbeck said. “The building’s HVAC control system also played a role in this. This system was designed in-house by an engineer unfamiliar with biomass boiler systems.”

According to Culbeck, the result of the explosion caused some blowout plugs on the boiler to pop (as designed), some deformation of exterior non-structural panels and the chamber door to forcefully blow open (as designed) to avoid a much more catastrophic pressure buildup. The water pressure vessel side of the boiler remained undamaged.

He added that the boiler design itself was not without some blame. “The control system should have had more checks in it to detect that combustion was not happening,” Culbeck said. “The components were in place, but the boiler control logic did not take advantage of them. These have since been addressed by Unilux.”

These boilers joins five other biomass systems in town, one in a municipal building. “The success of these boilers caused me to write the original grant and pursue biomass funding,” Culbeck said.

Cost savings, a lower carbon footprint and the chance to become more energy independent top the list of potential benefits of the biomass system, according to Culbeck. “If we can source local wood chips, we are less impacted by global events and interruptions in the supply chain,” he said. “Currently, the municipality spends about $300,000 annually on heating oil. Most of this money leaves town immediately. The same amount spent on local biomass could have a multiplier of four to six times. This creates jobs and stimulates the local economy.”

Unilux will train the locals hired to operate the system. “I’m excited to be moving this forward,” Culbeck said. “Even with all the challenges and risks, I believe it is the right thing to do for our community. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the economy and it shows the kids that it’s worth taking a chance to move a good idea forward.”

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Lignetics Acquires Geneva Wood Fuels

Lignetics Inc. has announced the acquisition of the assets of GF Funding LLC (whose facility was formerly known as Geneva Wood Fuels), expanding its footprint into Maine and upper New England.

Lignetics is the largest residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S. which now has a production capacity of approximately 550,000 tons of wood pellets per year. The company is the only pellet manufacturing company that has wood pellet manufacturing plants on both the East Coast and the West Coast in six plant locations in the states of Maine, Oregon, Idaho, West Virginia and Virginia.

Ken Tucker, CEO of Lignetics stated, “Completing this acquisition is in line with our strategy to continue to expand our geographic footprint in the U.S. and remain the market leader in the residential wood pellet industry.” Tucker added, “Geneva has great customers which we look forward to continuing to support with the help of Jeff and Lucinda Allen and the rest of the team in Strong, Maine, whose goal is to continue to provide a superior product and excellent customer service.”

Financing for the transaction was provided by Taglich Private Equity LLC, management and Gladstone Capital Corporation, who provided subordinated debt and equity financing, along with Texas Capital Bank, who provided senior debt in support of the transaction. Will Morris, Managing Director of Taglich Private Equity noted that Lignetics continues to be interested in exploring additional add-on acquisitions. “We are excited about this acquisition and the growth opportunities in our business to support us in our goal of being the largest and highest quality residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S.”, stated Morris.

Lignetics was founded in 1983 and is one of the founding pioneers of manufacturing premium wood pellets and Pres-to-Logs® fire logs for home heating. Lignetics offers a broad array of products that include wood fuel pellets in bagged and bulk form, animal bedding pellets and shavings, BBQ pellets in a variety of flavors and compressed wood bricks and logs. For more information on Lignetics and all its products, visit http://www.lignetics.com.

Lignetics acquired the wood pellet manufacturing facility of GF Funding LLC, based in Strong, Maine, which produces hardwood pellet fuel for residential and commercial use. The facility produces Maine’s Choice and Geneva Wood Pellets brands of residential hardwood pellet fuel which can be found at independent retailers and select chains throughout the Northeast.

Taglich Private Equity LLC is a financial sponsor which has been investing since 2001 in lower middle market manufacturing, business service and consumer product companies. Taglich has completed transactions totaling over $500 million funded primarily with capital provided by Taglich Brothers, Inc., a full service brokerage firm managing capital in both public and private investments. Taglich focuses on finding sound investment opportunities with capable management and delivering significant growth resources and capital to portfolio investments. For more information on Taglich Private Equity LLC please visit http://www.taglichpe.com.

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Matching Pellet Supply With Growing Demand

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From Biomass Magazine
By Ron Kotrba

Few events can sour the experience of domestic, residential pellet stove users more than being unable to buy product during a cold snap. “Frankly, not having enough products to meet demand is my major concern,” says Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing for Somerset Pellet Fuel, a Kentucky-based pelleting operation with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons. Somerset’s raw material comes to the facility already kiln-dried from its hardwood flooring plant. The company’s pellet customers are big box stores such as Tractor Supply Co. and Lowe’s. “All of us in the pellet industry want the market to grow,” Stringer says. “If customers can’t get pellets, they won’t buy the stoves and it hampers growth in the industry.”

Supply shortages are part of any growing market, but the business of residential wood pellets is different than many other, more predictable industries. It’s an emerging market that is based on unpredictable events such as oil and natural gas prices, the housing market, weather, the economy and even politics.

“The past year has been difficult with supply and demand,” says James Mayer, salesman for PelletsNow LLC, a third-party distributor of pellets in the Northeast supplied by Maine Woods Pellet Co. LLC. “Demand is greater than supply and it’s hard to meet the needs of our customers the way they want to be met.” He says while demand usually slows down in spring and summer, this season it hasn’t.

PelletsNow has a retail network of 150-plus small businesses in the Northeast. According to data from a recent Pellet Mill Magazine distribution survey, less than 50 percent of respondents’ annual production is sold to big box stores, leaving a majority of domestic market sales to smaller retail outlets. “We don’t deal with big box stores, mostly just mom-and-pop stores,” Mayer says. “We have a couple of retailers that have five or six locations, some have four that do 10,000 tons out of one retail location.” He says the small retailers in his network really distinguish themselves by getting to know their customers and the product, and by delivering product to the customers’ homes—even bringing a pallet jack to the customers’ driveways or helping hand-stack product.

Dejno’s Inc. operates a 40,000-ton pellet facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and has a fleet of 35 trucks and 600 trailers to deliver its Dejno’s brands of hardwood blends and softwood blends. “We’ve been in business for 10 years and we’ve seen the ups and downs—the times of extra supply and then crisis management where everyone’s out,” Dejno says. Located between Milwaukee and Chicago, Dejno’s pellet facility doesn’t have a dryer, so the plant doesn’t process green product the way other facilities do. It receives sawdust directly from suppliers such as sawmills.

Dejno says pellet shortages in stores are oftentimes beyond the retailers’—and his—control. “Weather, propane and petroleum price spikes, or a housing market downturn where the raw material is not available—there’s always a reason,” he says. “But from my perspective, there’s no doubt it’s not a pellet production capacity issue. No one in the industry thinks that. It’s not a capacity issue—except when the market gets to crisis mode and then it’s a matter of playing catch-up.”

He says in times of tight supply the industry does tend to see pellet mills pop up to meet growing demand, but then there’s a glut and facilities that aren’t the lowest-cost producers shut down. “I do wish the market didn’t have the ups and downs it does,” Dejno says. “It could be a good, stable, dependable business model, but we have to contend with these factors that make it fluctuate wildly. But fundamentally, I don’t think it’s a production capacity issue.”

Stringer says it’s less about production capacity and more of a raw materials supply issue. “Having the raw material source, especially a quality supply of sawdust, is critical to efficient production and to making a quality product,” he says. “So, in my view, it’s all about raw material supply. I can build a plant, but without raw materials, it doesn’t operate.”

Sally Goossen owns Green Friendly Pellets LLC, a 17,000-ton mill in Plainview, Minnesota. The plant has moved several times since it opened in Balsam Lake, Minnesota, in 2008. From there it was relocated to New Richmond, Wisconsin, and then to Plainview, Minnesota, and it may soon be moving again to either a reservation in North Dakota or near Bemidji, Minnesota, to be closer to feedstock. Like Dejno’s and Somerset, Green Friendly Pellets doesn’t have a dryer so the facility takes in prepped sawdust. Goossen says in New Richmond, the company dealt more with retailers but since moving to Plainview, it does more wholesaling. In addition to its own production and labels of PennyWise and Green Friendly Pellets, her company buys product from Spearfish Pellet Co. LLC and bags and sells it under the Stall Pro brand. She wholesales product to a distributor, Industrial Builders, which sells to hometown retailers such as Ace Hardware stores. Goossen also notes the pine pellets from Spearfish, South Dakota, are used as an absorbent in the shale fracking industry on the completion side.

As to why the industry experiences shortages at times, Goossen says there’s “a lot of little things happening” that affect supply and demand. For starters, the growth in pellet stove users has been “dramatic,” she says. “A few years ago in my home town of Balsam Lake, no one had a pellet stove. Now everyone in my neighborhood has one.” She also says that additional outlets for pellets, such as the use in oil fields or even oak heating pellets for barbeques, increases demand and tightens supply. “The Lumberjack brand, instead of having 20 semiloads a month for heating pellets, they’re now being distributed as barbeque pellets,” Goossen says. She also mentions that a few plants have closed in Minnesota, which has affected supply. “Demand went up, but production didn’t,” Goossen says. Finally, Goossen notes that a lot of mills have been, or are being, developed in the Southeast to satisfy European demand. “That wood waste could be used for the U.S. market, but it’s used for pellets that are going to Europe,” she says.

The biggest variable, according to Mayer, is the price of oil and natural gas. “When it goes down, people are less apt to use wood pellets,” he says. “When it goes up, they’re more apt to use wood pellets. So what’s going on with the fuel market—and politics—is big.”

Alleviating the Pinch
So, with factors beyond anyone’s control such as energy markets, politics, the economy, housing and export markets, expanding uses and the weather, how can producers, distributors and retailers better predict the market to keep shelves stocked without holding too much inventory?

“You can never forecast to a tee,” Mayer says, “but if you look at last year’s numbers, including spring and summer sales, the mills that are online, supplies and oil prices last year, weather forecasts and the economy, then 50 to 75 percent of the time you can do a decent forecast.”

Capital and storage space are two major problems with keeping retailers adequately stocked, according to Mayer. “No one wants to sit on product for more than a month or two,” he says.

When weighing which situation is worse—not having enough product to meet demand or stocking too much inventory—Dejno says it depends on point of view. “It’s worse not to have product,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s worse to have retailers’ expectations of your capacity and inventory, and not being able to perform. Either their expectations were wrong or their numbers on what you can do are wrong. There’s not a shelf life on this stuff, it doesn’t expire. Sure it costs money to carry over inventory, but it’s not like it is spoiling.”

According to data gathered from Pellet Mill Magazine’s distribution survey, nearly 24 percent of producer-respondents offer storage for their customers’ off-season purchases at a fee, and nearly 22 percent offer storage at no fee. The remaining 55 percent offer no storage. Dejno says occasionally he stocks inventory for his customers if they don’t have the storage space. “They don’t want to be left shorthanded,” he says. “Sometimes if they do a prebuy we’ll stock more inventory for them.” Mayer says transportation and storage are the biggest variables and the largest cost. Using PelletsNow’s partner, Quest Transportation, the company drops product directly from Maine Woods Pellet Co. to retailers. “Storage has always been something we have looked at, but it’s a lot of cost,” Mayer says.

Buying early can help alleviate the supply crunch later in the season. “We’ve had more customers this year make an effort to put their orders in early,” Mayer says, adding that some of them have already ordered one-third to one-half of their predicted supply for the upcoming season. Goossen says for the pine pellets used as absorbents in oil fracking operations, orders have been put in six months ahead of time to ensure supply.

She says the issue with the local hardware stores comes down to risk of investment, noting that last year there were a few stores in Hudson and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, that were out of pellets for weeks, which surprised her considering natural gas prices were so low. “For them, they would have to buy through a distributor and purchase a semiload at a time, so the company is putting out this money up front hoping that the local customers come there to buy [versus going to a big box store],” Goossen says. “They’re putting up this investment and hoping they’ll buy at 25 cents more a bag or $1 more a bag from the local place, and now you’re housing 24 pallets outside and trying to keep them from the weather, or rodents. So the biggest complaint I hear is putting up $4,000 in August and maintaining a semiload of pellets, but come January they may be out, and if they order more and pay a premium for that, and have to turn that price over to the consumer, they will go to a big box store like Menards. I’ve seen it happen.” She says Menards has called her a few times in the past month. “They’re anxious for pellet purchasing in the upcoming season,” she says.

“This is a business that requires investment,” Stringer says. “Clearly, for the manufacturer, you are holding a lot of pellets in the summer so that you can meet the demand in the winter. It is a cash investment that you have to make, in my mind, to be a good supplier.” For retail, Stringer views it the same way. “The best suppliers can afford to invest in pellets when they get them in the summer months, or at least the months prior to winter and they stock up,” he says. “Otherwise, they are going to be caught up in the scramble that we see each year. I don’t think there is a magic solution for that. It is the business.”

A piece of advice Dejno offers retailers that want to alleviate the madness when demand is crazy and supplies are tight is to keep the good buyers employed. “That’s the reason we run into issues—when we’re dealing with a new buyer,” he says. “We don’t do a whole lot with big box stores, it’s mostly small retailers such as garden shops and independent businesses. There are only a few big box stores we regularly work with, but when they have a changeover in responsibilities it feels like we’re reeducating them all over again. When there’s a shortage, they scramble and buy stuff going into next year. When they’re comfortable and supplied well, they’re not interested in putting in inventory for the next season.”

Retailers carrying multiple brands might also help offset tight supplies in the heating season. Mayer says some of the retailers he services sell several brands. “That’s good—they need a diverse line of products,” he says. Dejno says many retailers have realized that more brands are better because it helps with fluctuation. “What we find is when a retailer is short on a brand and orders are way behind, we get a lot of calls in those times of shortages,” he says. “We don’t take on new customers at that time. We call them back in the off season so we don’t deplete our inventory.” Many of his customers have been with the company for five to 10 years, and Dejno says he doesn’t want to short loyal, long-term customers to satisfy new orders.

Ultimately, the best solution to tight supplies of pellets during the heating season may boil down to two simple, but very important, elements: communication and relationships. “We have strong relationships with loyal customers and we agree to target volumes to deliver to each customer,” Stringer says, adding that there is always more demand than he can deliver.

“Once we get into the season, like right about now, the best plan for me is to be in contact with my customers once a week to find out what their customers are saying—are they buying sand, are they buying salt, what’s the consensus,” Mayer says. “Then they ask me what’s going on with the mill and ask if there are any changes. That way the retailers know and they aren’t out of the loop.” Mayer says there needs to be better communication on all ends—between pellet manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and home owners; and even between pellet producers, wholesalers and stove manufacturers. “I enjoy talking to retailers about trends and forecasts,” Mayer says, adding that he has seven or eight retailers in strategic locations throughout the Northeast that he distinguishes as superior based on their sales. “I give those guys more than one call a week and ask them more in-depth questions and tell them, ‘When you get to 50 or 100 calls a week, give me a call.’”

Dejno says, “If you have long-term relationships on both sides, you get used to a comfort level of what is in inventory and on-hand vs. what your customers’ expectations are. The more you communicate, the better it is for their situation.” He says at least three points during the year—preseason, in-season and end-of-season—his company has good conversations with its dealer-customers. “We just learn from each season, and find that comfort level on how to go forward,” he says. “Sometimes the solution is literally communication. The best thing is when there’s a buyer that understands the market risks of not building up inventory on their side. Everyone wants just-in-time delivery but with this product, it’s about building up inventory on both sides to be prepared for a run.”

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South Korean Market On Ice

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From Biomass Magazine

By Tim Portz

The Biomass Magazine and Pellet Mill Magazine team prides itself on nearly constant communication with industry professionals. We set goals. We track our progress towards those goals. We use that outreach to produce stories, webinars, conference panels and blogs. We do this because we recognize that the industry’s news is all “out there”, amongst all of you.

This point was reiterated and underscored during a conversation I had with Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. While writing a feature for the September/October issue of Pellet Mill Magazine I learned that the WPAC had successfully made a case to add wood pellets to a list of cargoes exempted from a rule that required the vessels carrying them to have inert gas fire protection system. For more on that, I urge you to read the feature when the issue shows up in your mailbox.

Whenever I’m interviewing someone like Gordon about something specific, I always end the conversation by asking a simple catch-all question. “What else has been going on?” Gordon’s response had me scribbling and shaking my head in disbelief that I had not yet heard about the issue he was outlining for me.

For now, the Canadian-Korea pellet trade is at a stand-still and really has been since this spring. The stoppage can be traced back by a decision by the Korean government to require a either FSC or PEFC chain-of-custody certification for all bids submitted to wood pellet tenders (basically an RFP). This caused a number of reactions including the issuance, Gordon tells me, of certificates that were later deemed to be fraudulent by some Vietnamese pellet producers (currently the largest supplier of wood pellets to Korea).

In reaction the Korean government, via the Korea Forest Service and the Korean Forest Promotion Institute eliminated this chain-of-custody requirement and replaced it with a require for government-issued and notarized documentation for all the fiber that went into the manufacturing of a given load of pellets. This documentation has to be completed for each load or container that contains pellets. While the administrative burden alone makes this situation untenable, the rotten cherry on top is that because Canada is not a member country of something called the Apostille Convention, they are not even legally able to provide this kind of documentation.

The bottom line, written in bold on a memorandum Murray sent to his members is this. This means that Canada presently has no way to legally ship wood pellets to South Korea.

More information about this situation can be gleaned from a PowerPoint presentation available on the WPAC website. The slides supported a presentation that Murray gave at the BC-Korea Trade and Investment Forum earlier this summer.

From what I gather, this issue is top of mind for Gordon. He’s been meeting with Korean officials this summer, getting the Canadian government as well as the Sustainable Biomass Partnership involved, and will be traveling there again this month. As the second largest export market for Canadian pellets, Murray’s urgency is understandable.

Serendipitously the final issue in the 2015 calendar for Pellet Mill Magazine focuses entirely on Asian production and consumption. I’d say we’ve found our cover story.

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Wood pellet boiler rebates available in Vermont

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From Biomass Magazine
By Renewable Energy Vermont

Through a generous opportunity, Vermonters now have a short-time frame before the new year to capitalize on a fantastic incentive offering that helps them save money, while supporting Vermont jobs and sustainable forests, while making sure they stay warm this winter.

Vermonters can get up to $5,500 to help switch from fossil fuel to local wood heating. Cash incentives are available from the Clean Energy Development Fund and Efficiency Vermont. Renewable Energy Vermont and the Renewable Energy Resource Center have partnered to help promote the incentives.

“We’ve been very happy with our decision to switch to a wood pellet boiler. Not only do we save money every year on our fuel bill, but we also love the fact that we’re helping to keep forests intact and logging jobs going,” says Mark Bushnell of Middlesex.

Vermonters who make the switch to wood pellet fuel typically save $1,500 annually when compared to oil and propane fuel heating options. And for those who are used to whole-home heating through their traditional boiler, the wood pellet boiler keeps it simple and complete. Advanced wood pellet boilers are fully automatic, so there’s no work for the home or business owner.

“I heated my home for years with a standard wood stove, but I’m happier with my wood pellet boiler. The new boiler is much more efficient and better for the environment because it is cleaner burning. And it feels great to be off fossil fuels,” says Susan Clark of Middlesex.

Wood pellet boilers, though not well known in the United States, are the primary way of heating in some parts of the world, including Upper Austria where more than 40,000 homes and businesses heat with wood from their background in an easy, seamless way. In fact, the State of Vermont and Upper Austria are involved in a Sister Statehood Agreement to help learning across both sides of the Atlantic to increase the uptake of this sustainable, local heating option.

“For many years, Vermont has been a national leader in the use of modern wood heating systems in large buildings like schools, office buildings, and apartment buildings. With pellets now available in bulk using specialized delivery trucks that conveniently blow pellets into a fuel bin and heating systems that are fully-automated, many homeowners and small businesses are also making the switch from oil and propane,” said Adam Sherman of the Biomass Energy Resource Center.

Read the original here. http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/12349/wood-pellet-boiler-rebates-available-in-vermont

USDA announces incentives to establish biomass crops

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From Biomass Magazine
By USDA Farm Service Agency

On Aug. 19, USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini announced that enrollment has begun for farmers and forest landowners seeking financial assistance for growing new sources of biomass for energy or biobased products within designated projects areas. The funds are available from the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Biomass energy facilities or groups of producers may submit proposals for new BCAP project areas. Proposals will be accepted on www.grants.gov through Nov. 6. USDA will also allocate $7.7 million towards four existing BCAP project areas in New York, North Carolina, Ohio/Pennsylvania and Kansas/Oklahoma, targeting the establishment of an additional 10,500 acres of shrub willow, giant miscanthus, and switchgrass for energy. Project area sponsors include Chemtex International, Aloterra Energy LLC, Abengoa Biomass LLC and ReEnergy Holdings LLC. Farmers and forest landowners may enroll for biomass establishment and maintenance payments for these four sites through Sept. 25.

In June, USDA began accepting applications from foresters and farmers seeking financial assistance for removing biomass residues from fields or national forests for delivery to energy generation facilities; the deadline for those applications is Sept. 4. The retrieval payments are provided at a cost-share match of $1 for $1 up to $20 per dry ton with eligible crops including corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. The energy facility must first be approved by USDA to accept the biomass crop, and deliveries to the facilities can continue until Dec. 11.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes funding each year for the program to assist with the establishment and delivery of biomass for energy or biobased products. To date, BCAP has provided incentives for producers across more than 48,000 acres in 71 counties and 11 different project areas. For more information on the program or to enroll in updates, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap or contact your local FSA county office. To find your nearest FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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Biomass: Canada H1 wood pellet exports edge up 1% on-year

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From Platts McGraw Hill Financial

Canada exported 781,083 mt of wood pellets in the first half of 2015, nudging up 1% on the year-earlier period, as increased deliveries to the UK offset declines in shipments from Italy and South Korea, according to Statistics Canada data Monday.

The country’s H1 pellet exports to the UK — Canada’s largest customer for the fuel — were 587,205 mt, up 26% on the year.

Exports to Italy in the six-month period declined 62% on the year to 42,799 while those to South Korea fell 47% to 33,221 mt.

Sources said weak demand in the residential heating pellet market explained the on-year fall in Italian deliveries, while the drop in Canadian shipments of industrial pellets to South Korea was attributed to stiffer competition from local Asian suppliers such as Vietnam and Malaysia.

The US remained the second-largest destination for Canadian pellets, taking delivery of 90,288 mt in H1, up from 87,945 mt in the corresponding 2014 period.

Total Canadian pellet exports in June were 128,403, 5% higher on the year but 8% lower than May. Of this amount, 97,326 mt were shipped to the UK, up 39% on a year earlier but 12% lower than May.

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Surveying Pellet Producers

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From Biomass Magazine
By Anna Simet

To put together this survey, our team worked with Pellet Mill Magazine editorial board members—who are mainly pellet plant CEOs/operators—so we have a hunch the results will be of interest to you.

Are you a manufacturer of wood pellets? Or, do you work at a plant and can speak on its behalf or forward to the appropriate person?

If so, I have a quick favor to ask of you, and you’ll be rewarded for your time.

My colleagues have put together a survey that we would really appreciate you take. It’s short, and it’s easy, and doesn’t require any typing at all, just some clicking. It is aiming to gain insight as to how producers get their product to market, beginning with onsite storage and working its way to how they are currently managing the distribution of their product.

To put together this survey, our team worked with Pellet Mill Magazine editorial board members—who are mainly pellet plant CEOs/operators—so we have a hunch the results will be of interest to you.

We promise, survey responses will remain confidential and the information will be presented only in aggregate. The survey results will be featured in the September/October issue of Pellet Mill Magazine, which is focused on distribution and distribution infrastructure.

So as a reminder, the more responses we get, the more valuable the results will be. Since the survey was launched earlier this week, they’ve been coming in steady, we’re pushing 40 as of right now—here’s a little sneak peek at to the info we have received.

Question No. 3:

How much of your annual production is sold to Big Box retailers?

Less than 50%……………….. 58.2% of respondents

Between 50 and 75%……….23.53% of respondents

Between 75 and 90%………..11.76% of respondents

Over 90%………………………..5.88% of respondents

And one more:

Question No. 6:

How many orders during the 2014-15 heating season was your facility not able to

Immediately fill (back ordered)?

None………………………..42.86% of respondents

Between 1 and 30……..42.86% of respondents

Between 30 and 100…..8.57% of respondents

More than 100…………….5.71% of respondents
 

Those are the results of two of 12 questions, so if you’re interested in seeing what the others are, go view/take the survey here,  and we’ll soon deliver the results, which we are confident will be interesting and helpful.

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Energy bill includes language benefiting bioenergy, algae

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On July 22, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources introduced a bipartisan energy bill, titled the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.” The committee was scheduled to hold business meetings on the bill on July 28 and July 30 to markup the legislation.

According to information released by the committee, the legislation includes five titles, including those focused on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation. The process to put the bill together included listening sessions with stakeholders held in Washington, D.C, and across the nation. The committee also held four legislative hearings on 114 pieces of legislation.
 A summary of the bill published by the committee indicates Title III of the bill, which focuses on supply, includes provisions aimed at providing an energy supply that is increasingly abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure. The title focuses on renewable energy, traditional resources, and non-fuel minerals. In the summary, the committee said the responsible development of American resources, including hydropower, geothermal, bioenergy, and rare earth elements, will strengthen our economy, competitiveness and security for decades to come.

According to documents published by the committee, section 3017 of the bill focuses on biopower. It amends section 9008 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to provide research assistance for the development of biopower and bioheat projects. It also expands the authority of the Biomass Research and Development Board to consider biopower and bioheat projects and authorizes grants to support innovation and market development of biopower and bioheat systems. The bill would require the secretaries of agriculture and energy to set up two working groups to collaborate on project implementation and to share best practices. In addition, the legislation would establish a low-interest loan program in the USDA’s Rural Development Office to support the construction of residential, commercial or institutional and industrial bioheat systems. The bill would also permit loans for bioheat and biopower residential, commercial or institutional, and industrial wood energy systems to be made under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program under Section 2 of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The bill would also benefit algae research and development. According to the Algae Biomass Organization, the legislation includes language that would prioritize research and development of carbon utilization technologies under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy program. The bill would add “improving the conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels” to the list of DOE Fossil Energy research and development objectives.

“We thank the committee for acknowledging the growing importance of carbon utilization technologies in addressing our nation’s energy future and economic health,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the ABO. “Innovators across the country are developing processes that can transform carbon dioxide into valuable products that range from plastics to fuels, and from feeds to fertilizers. This prioritization will hasten the day the algae industry can create thousands of jobs by using the waste gases from power plants to make valuable products we need, while giving those power plants a chance to reduce their emission for a profit rather than at a cost.”
Additional information on the bill can be downloaded from the committee’s website.

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