April 15, 2016

In this Week's Pellet Wire:

EPA's Biomass Workshop Presents Many Arguments in Favor of Biomass

PFI attended EPA's forum last week titled "Stakeholder Workshop: Fostering Constructive Dialogue on the Role of Biomass in Stationary Source Carbon Strategies."

Overall the event was very pro-biomass energy, as the guests - economists, scientists and state policy experts - generally espoused the economic and environmental virtues of utilizing forest-biomass for energy.  Anti-biomass activists were present to ask pointed questions of the panelists, but their role was minor and the presenters were the focus. Panelists that were particularly good for the industry were Seth Walker from RISI, Marcus Kauffmann from the Oregon Department of Natural Resources and Anna Dirkswager from Clean Energy Minnesota.   

The real question is what effect this forum will have on EPA's actions regarding forest bioenergy and whether the EPA will provide certainty around carbon neutrality. It is unclear at this point when or if EPA is going to come out with a policy on how biomass will be treated in the Clean Power Plan and other environmental rulemakings. 

We will continue to work with EPA, our Members of Congress who support biomass, and our colleagues across the forest products value chain to press for clear national policy on biomass that fully recognizes its carbon benefits. 

Other highlights from the full-day workshop include:

  • Dr. Justin Baker with RTI International presented data on the types of wood used as biomass fuel and Seth Walker, an economist with RISI, presented research on the forest stocks of the United States. Both agreed that biomass is not a market driver, but a byproduct of the forest products industry. Walker also pointed out that revenue from biomass is an incentive for landowners to keep and maintain forests.

  • Dr. Greg Latta from the University of Idaho presented carbon modeling research, showing that in all likelihood U.S. forest stocks are stable or increasing. He also mentioned that older forests consume less carbon, and therefore a healthy forest products market, including biomass, can enhance atmospheric carbon reduction.

  • Forestry and energy experts from Minnesota, New Hampshire, California, Oregon and South Carolina discussed the contributions of biomass to their states' economies and environmental policy. Despite the many differences among their states, the speakers all agreed that a strong biomass market enhances the health of their states' forests and is helping their states reduce reliance on fossil fuels.     



Update on BTU Act and FAA Bill

Thanks to all who took the time to encourage their Senators to support the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, known as the BTU Act. Unfortunately, early this week Senate leadership opted to remove the tax title from the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill, which could have included the BTU Act.

Senators Ayotte (R-NH), Collins (R-ME) and King (I-ME) were leaders in championing the BTU Act. Although the tax title was removed from this bill, we are laying the groundwork for inclusion in a future tax package.

PFI Chairman Presents at the Pellet Stove Design Challenge

Last week, PFI Chairman Stephen Faehner presented at the Pellet Stove Design Challenge, organized by The Alliance for Green Heat (AfGH) and sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) in Upton, NY. Attendees included EPA representatives, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), and academia, along with stove manufacturers and others from the private sector. One panel focused on Policy & Regulatory issues, including the desire for cleaner burning and higher efficiency stoves.  

Chairman Faehner spoke on the robustness of the PFI Standards program, and its contributions to improved pellets in the Northeast market. He also addressed the role of PFI and its experts in the pellet fuels arena, and emphasized the need to reduce regulatory hurdles for all in the pellet fuels industry.

There were some impressive pellet stoves which went through AfGH/BNL protocol for emissions & efficiency performance. After several three-test sessions the clear winner was the Wittus, with impressive emissions below 0.5 g/hr and higher efficiency (AfGH/BNL method) around 75%.

Wood Bioenergy Conference & Expo Held in Atlanta

The first week of April, the Wood Bioenergy Conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Several PFI members were among the 250 attendees, along with other companies representing the domestic and export pellet industries.

The keynote session featured an upbeat look at bioenergy markets from John Keppler, CEO of Enviva, and an overview by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities' Carlton Owen on the need for a bioenergy check-off program. The program would encompass domestic pellets, biomass power and export pellet markets. Other keynote panelists included Pete Madden, CEO of Drax Biomass, who delivered a detailed look at the company's plans for growth in the United States, and Ontario Power Generation's Brent Boyko, who spoke of his company's conversion of two Canadian coal-fired plants to 100% biomass pellet fuel. 

The conference's breakout sessions also included three tracks, one each on technology, projects and operations and wood chipping. Speakers covered moisture control developments, emissions control technology, harvesting efficiency and the regulatory environment. 

To view the conference's full agenda, please visit http://bioenergyshow.com/.

Save the Date!

The date is set for PFI's 2016 Annual Conference. Join us July 24-26 at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC! 

The PFI Annual Conference highlights the various applications of densified biomass, as well as trends and best practices within the densified biomass industry. It attracts a broad range of individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, and local, state and national governments from North America and beyond. The conference features two days of educational sessions as well as industry exhibits, extensive networking opportunities and a golf tournament. 

Visit PFI's website for more information. Be sure to watch this space, as registration will open soon! Sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities are available now!

Upcoming Industry Events

June 6-9, 2016 : European Biomass Conference & Exhibition

June 15-17, 2016
: International Bioenergy Conference

July 24-26, 2016
: PFI Annual Conference

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Industry News

Industry talks highs, lows, opportunities at biomass conference
Biomass Magazine
Low oil and power prices and a warm winter are the predominant reasons that it's been a challenging year for every sector of the biomass industry. Association leaders participating in the International Biomass Conference & Expo general session discussion didn't skirt around that fact, but they also shined some light on promising solutions to the problems faced and highlighted each sector's bright spots.

The Clean Power Plan and a push for renewed tax credits were emphasized during the panel, fronts that the usually-fragmented industry have united on. Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, said the U.S. EPA's recent workshop focused on biomass in the CPP-which was held despite the CPP's current legal limbo-was encouraging, and conveyed a strong message that biomass can play an important role in state implantation plans (SIP).

Read the Full Article

SAD 44 board to revisit discussion on pellet boiler
Lewiston Sun Journal
The School Administrative District 44 board of directors will revisit whether to add a pellet boiler to Crescent Park Elementary School at its meeting on Monday, April 25.

Superintendent David Murphy said the Facilities Committee looked at the possibility of adding a backup pellet boiler system to the school.

"The school currently operates on an oil furnace," Murphy explained. "By adding a wood pellet system, it would give the district the option to take advantage of different heating methods, depending on the weather."

He said the pellet system would work in tandem with the oil furnace at the school.

"When it's not very cold out, or when the weather is nicer, the school would be able to work on fewer BTUs using a pellet system," Murphy said. "When there's extreme cold, we could switch over to an oil furnace. It could also depend on whatever is cheaper at the time."

Read the Full Article

Misconceptions aren't helping the debate over biomass
Bangor Daily News 
Over the past eight months, the state has lost 1,000 direct jobs and an equal number in associated businesses, such as logging, because of the shutdown of three pulp and paper facilities, four pellet mills and two biomass electric facilities. As Sen. Angus King described it recently, Maine is in the midst of an "economic hurricane."

Now, as a result of the warmest winter on record, the lowest fossil fuel prices in six years and a glut of natural gas, another hit to Maine's forest products industry is right around the corner. This will potentially eliminate $300 million in annual economic investment and create a multimillion-dollar waste wood disposal problem for which no one has a solution.

Read the Full Article



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