Story by David Knight,
As a new year approaches it’s fitting to note some U. S. wood energy projects revealed thus far in 2011 and to update the progress of several previously announced works. German Pellets GmbH will erect its largest wood pellet plant to date—it operates nine in Europe—near Woodville, Texas. German Pellets Texas LLC will build the facility on an inactive chip mill site it has acquired from North American Procurement Co. (NAPCO). The new company will dismantle the chip mill and build a new one to support its pellet plant, which will require a million tons or so of softwood fiber per year in producing some 500,000 metric tons of pellets, which will be shipped to electric power companies in Europe. It is expected to be in production by late 2012.
Interestingly, German Pellets’ Texas plant will go up adjacent to a 50 MW wood-fired power generating facility going forward by the East Texas Electric Cooperative. When completed in 2014 the project will require about 500,000 tons of wood fiber annually. NAPCO has signed supply agreements with both Woodville operations.
At Sacul, Texas, perhaps 60 air miles northwest of Woodville, work is progressing on Southern Power’s 100 MW power generation complex, which is expected to become operational in mid 2012 at a cost of $500 million. It will need 1.1 million tons of wood fuel annually. The state’s first wood-fired power plant, a 50 MW facility at Lufkin that will use about 500,000 tons of feedstock annually, started up in August.
German machinery manufacturer Dieffenbacher and German utility company E.ON are partnering with Westervelt Renewable Energy (WRE) in a pellet plant WRE now has under construction in west Alabama near Aliceville. That plant will come on line in a few months with an annual capacity of 280,000 metric tons and an annual pulpwood appetite of 500,000 tons. Most of the output, at least initially, will be sent abroad via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. WRE is a unit of The Westervelt Co., a diversified entity that owns 500,000-plus acres of timberland in Alabama and Mississippi.
In an announcement with a dubious twist, officials of U. S. EcoGen Polk LLC claim the company will construct and operate a 60 MW power plant in central Florida (Fort Meade) that will use eucalyptus from yet-to-be-established EcoGen-owned plantations as its dedicated feedstock. If built, the $200 million project is expected to start up in 2014. Officials estimate the plant will require up to 500,000 tons of fuel per year.
Also in Florida, Rentech, Inc. says it is inching ahead with plans for a 55 MW power plant in the panhandle at Port St. Joe that would burn some 930 dry tons of woody biomass per day; and American Renewables continues in its drive to erect a 100 MW facility near Gainesville. This plant would use about a million tons per year of wood fuel, including logging and wood processing residues, pulpwood and “clean municipal waste.” Rayonier, owner of substantial timber holdings in north Florida, has initiated a fuel supply relationship to provide part of the volume.
Other activity flows out of Georgia, where engineering work has reportedly begun on a 56 MW cogeneration plant near Dublin. Green Power Solutions, a partnership between Beasley Forest Products (hardwood sawmill-chip mill) of Hazlehurst, Ga. and Land Care Services, a local site work and grading company, is the developer. Green Power would sell electricity to Georgia Power Co. and provide process steam to SP Newsprint’s local mill. The project would consume upwards of a million tons of wood fuel per year.
Fram Renewable Fuels and Telfair Forest Products say they will jointly build a small pellet plant at Telfair’s wood shavings plant at Lumber City, Ga. Using up to 350,000 tons of softwood per year, the plant will produce 125,000 tons per year. Owners hope to have it going by the first quarter of 2012. Most volume will be exported to Europe. Fram opened a pellet plant at Baxley, Ga. several years ago and its owners indicate the company is evaluating other Georgia sites and opportunities for expansion.
Within 18 months or so, Graphic Packaging International will have completed an $80 million expansion of its biomass energy system at its paperboard mill in Macon, Ga. The 40 MW project will make the mill more energy self-sufficient, lower its long-term electricity costs and reduce its carbon footprint. The mill expects to become a net producer of electricity as the system consumes about 400,000 tons of wood biomass per year.
Meanwhile, GlobalAtlanta.com revealed recently that the Georgia Ports Authority is partnering with Logistec USA to bolster cargo-handling capacity at Brunswick. This project reportedly is in anticipation of additional pellet and chip exports.
In the first half of 2012 Ameresco will complete construction of a $795 million cogeneration complex at the U. S. Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River Site near Aiken, SC. Ameresco has contracted with DOE to finance, design and build the facility and to operate and maintain it for 20 years. The system, which will use forest residues, discarded wood products and discarded tires, replaces outdated technology that uses fossil fuels. DOE’s web site indicates the complex will have the “capacity to combust 385,000 tons of forest residue annually.”
MeadWestvaco Corp. has begun preliminary talks with timber dealers and loggers about supplying wood fuel for its $285 million steam-power facility at its paperboard mill at Covington, Va. The project, set for startup in two years, involves a new boiler and 75 MW steam turbine generator. The company has not publicly disclosed how much fuel volume it will require annually but observers see 500,000 tons as a possibility.
Elsewhere in Virginia, at South Boston, the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) and Novi Energy are jointly pursuing a 50 MW biomass-fired power project. NOVEC has received a $90 million loan from the USDA Rural Utilities Service to help build the $180 million facility. Meanwhile, Enviva LP in October signed a contract with Dominion Virginia Power to supply wood fuel for Dominion’s existing coal-fired power plants at Southhampton and Hopewell, Va. Combined, the plants will require 900-plus truckloads a week. Last spring Dominion announced it is seeking authorization from a state utility agency to convert these plants to biomass fuel, operating them consistently at the 50 MW level. The third plant is located at Altavista.
Enviva, of course, is better known as an international pellet manufacturer and provider. It has two large pellet plants under construction in eastern North Carolina at Ahoskie and Garysburg—they’ll need well over a million tons of hardwood between them each year—and is partnering with Bumpass Energy (BE) for three years to expand (up to 350,000 tons per year) and operate BE’s existing chip and pellet facility at Bumpass, Va., located some 40 miles northwest of Richmond. All output will be shipped abroad from Enviva’s deepwater port at Chesapeake, Va. In 2010 Enviva acquired two small pellet plants in Mississippi and months thereafter expanded them somewhat. It is now shipping that production from a Gulf Coast port. It has indicated it will build yet another large pellet plant in either coastal Virginia or North Carolina—insiders predict southeastern NC—while evaluating possible additional pellet plant sites in either Mississippi or Alabama.
Several other smaller pellet plants have been announced in Virginia but it’s not likely that all will be built. In North Carolina Duke Energy is moving ahead with plans to partially convert its Buck and Lee coal-fired power plants to wood fuel.
Three Dimensional Timberlands LLC says it will build three biomass plants in Oregon. Using logging residues and unmerchantable trees, the plants would produce bio-char and pyrolysis oil to replace heating oil. Construction is underway on a $250 million 50 MW wood-fired cogeneration project at Domtar’s paper mill at Rothschild, Wis. The facility will supply electricity and steam for Domtar’s mill; We Energies will market surplus electricity. Completion is projected for 2013.
Once thought dead, a 75 MW wood-fired power plant in Berlin, NH is moving forward. Construction is underway on Berlin Station, which will require about 750,000 tons of wood fuel annually once it becomes operational in late 2013 or early 2014. The $275 million plant is going up on property that was formerly part of the Fraser Papers pulp mill, which closed in 2006. Looking to the European market, F. E. Wood & Sons recently revealed plans to erect a 300,000 tons per year pellet plant at West Baldwin, Me.
Here’s hoping the new wood fiber consumers will approach the procurement field a little differently, offering realistic prices, long-term contracts and fuel adjustment provisions—but loggers should not bet their newest old skidder on it.