Remember that most dealers are doing their absolute best to give you accurate information and a fair deal.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Remember that most dealers are doing their absolute best to give you accurate information and a fair deal.
Friday, October 10, 2008
News release from HHT and Harman-
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Transportation is our largest energy requirement
While thermal heating accounts for about 25% of our energy requirements the US focus for the conference was on vehicle fuel, and electrical generation. The Swedish presenters and attendees shared their success with biomass and roundwood district heating, large scale, small scale and residential heating in addition to their electrical generation and co-generation facilities.
Forty-eight percent of Sweden's energy comes from Biomass and 63% from non-petroleum sources. District Heating is the most common thermal biomass use with 10 Megawatts being the average size. This is an excellent model of a (carbon nuetral) closed system- wood chips/biomass pellets --> heat --> ashes--> fertilizer...
Emissions by energy sector are 24% transportation, 20% industrial, 28% homes and buildings, and 32% Electrical.
Globally petroleum demand is at 82 million barrels per day, and although there is concensus that peak oil occurred in 2006-2008 it is estimated that by 2020 global demand will reach 120 million barrels per day. India and China's demand alone help cement this demand curve rise.
Very interesting presentations on global warming, including a CO2 chart showing atmospheric CO2 levels over the last 600,000 years with an average swing from 50 ppm to 250 ppm. Until 1800 that is when we have had a steady rise from just above 50 ppm to 380 ppm in 2004, and an estimated destination of 750 ppm by 2100. Renewable fuels including biomass wood pellets are part of the solution to help slow the rise of CO2 in our atmosphere.
There were two big things I came away from the conference with. First, there is not one answer, not one fuel solution. It will take the cooperation of technologies and methods to help meet global transportation, industrial, thermal, and electrical demands.
The other was when Mr. Michael Bruce, the Senior Advisor for Finance, from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sector of the Department of Energy did his presentation on government subsidies, tax credits, and support programs provided by the DOE. When Bruce Lisle, the former Pellet Fuels Institute President, asked him why there was no mention of or allowance for thermal, which accounts for 25% of energy, in his presentation, funding, or support. After sharing a puzzled deer in the headlights look with a fellow presenter he said they had no allocation for thermal because we have natural gas. (PERIOD!) Follow up questions tried to pursue the lack of consideration for something that is so significant to be responded to that we don't need any programs for thermal or thermal biomass.
I encourage each and every one to write a letter to your local congressmen/women, senators, and Mr. Bruce. If you need help finding contact information for your local representatives e-mail me and I will assist you. Mr. Bruce's contact information is:
Senior Advisor for Finance
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20585
Saturday, August 23, 2008
First would be the supply chain. Now, instead of scrambling to secure your year's supply in April (along with 50-70% of other users) you could have your fuel delivered to your home throughout the year as you need it. This would help to level the pricing as well. Instead of being dramatically "cheaper" in the spring and "expensive" in the winter it will be affordable year round. The convenience and ease will increase dramatically. No more lugging bags and filling your stove daily. Even my mid-step system allows me to fill my Harman Bulk Bin every week to three, instead of daily even if I did use bags in the past. Oh yes, then there are the bags. How much extra cost will we save when we don't have fifty disposable bags, and a plastic hood, and plastic wrap for the pallet? The environmental benefit aside those bags cost $$$! They also represent additional weight in shipping. All the little pieces add up to the benefits of bulk!
Monday, August 11, 2008
This is a very high demand year for pellets in New England. Mills run twenty-four seven to try to keep up with demand. This could close NEWP for several weeks putting a crimp or at least a delay in supplies. The good news is that they should still be able to receive raw material supplies so that when they are back up and running they have ample sawdust to work with.
Picture from WMUR
Update The remaining silo that was smoldering was extinguished then emptied. Fire fighters are shoveled out the largest (80 ton) silo, that held finished product, by hand. Over two dozen towns responded to the site over the last 22+ hours. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries.
For video coverage see WMUR at http://www.wmur.com/news/17155015/detail.html
BIG THANK YOU to all the firefighters that responded and helped with this situation. Crews from 25 towns responded. Some of those from volunteer departments. The last crew pulled out around 1:00am this morning.
All firefighters did a great job containing the situation, preventing injury, and saving the equipment from damage where they could.
Silos are a little wet, but o.k. Some equipment inside may need minor repair but NEWP is confident that they will be up and running in a very short amount time.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Demand for sawdust has grown tremendously, with prices in some parts of the country doubling. But the housing slump means there's less of this unlikely commodity to go around. Nina Keck reports.
Listen at http://marketplace.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=marketplace/pm/2008/08/06/marketplace_cast1_20080806_64&starttime=00:23:17.0&endtime=00:27:00.0
TEXT OF STORY
Kai Ryssdal: Even if you don't read the financial news all that closely, you can probably name at least a couple of commodities right off the top of your head, right?
I bet sawdust didn't come to mind. Most of us probably think of it as something to sweep into the garbage after the sawing's done, but demand has grown enormously.
As Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports with wood manufacturing and construction down due to the housing slump, sawdust is at a premium.
Nina Keck: Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford, Vermont produces between 25 to 30 tons of sawdust a week. Underneath the saws, a conveyor belt carries a steady stream of the sweet smelling remnants to a huge pile.
Owner Ken Gagnon says he sells most of it to area farmers.
Ken Gagnon: The sawmill business and agricultural farming have been hand in hand through history, so there's always been a market for a certain amount of sawdust, whatever the farmers could use for his cows.
But sawdust has come a long way from its use as a cushy barn bed. Landscapers and gardeners like it for mulch while meat smokers use it as an aromatic flavoring. Finely ground sawdust is a lightweight filler in many plastic products. It's used to make particle and fiberboard and it's become a valuable renewable fuel source in the form of wood pellets.
Charlie Niebling runs a wood pellet plant in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
Charlie Niebling: With heating oil approaching $5 a gallon, people are genuinely concerned and anxious. A lot of people are thinking seriously about alternatives now.
Niebling says he can't make wood pellets fast enough. But while demand for wood byproducts is at an all-time high, supplies are down.
Ken Gagnon and mill owners across the country blame the drop in construction.
Gagnon: We've been going through a correction for pretty near two years here on our level, so we're actually not producing as much lumber as we could, which has an indirect effect on how much sawdust we make.
But if sawdust is so precious, I asked Gagnon why not make more of it? For now, he says, even in the middle of a housing slump, it's still more profitable to mill lumber.
Gagnon: It may come to a time where the byproducts are going to be the saving grace of the lumber industry. I think the housing market will come back, but I really see the byproducts, primarily the biofuels, whether it's sawdust or chips, will be a big part of things to come.
Chris Recchia thinks that's already happening. Recchia is Executive Director of the Biomas Energy Research Center.
Chris Recchia: This has transitioned from a waste product, a byproduct, to a real commodity. That is the turning point that we're at right now, which we think is a very good thing.
Because, Recchia says, it's encouraging better use of resources. Typically when loggers finish a job, they'll leave behind a lot of low grade cuttings not suitable for lumber. Now that wood byproducts are fetching a higher price, loggers can process and sell what they used to consider waste wood to people like Charlie Niebling of New England Wood Pellet.
Niebling: We are purchasing material from logging contractors who harvest this low grade material that otherwise has little value, take the bark off of it for us, chip it and send the chips to us and that simply wasn't possible three or four years ago.
Niebling says in their company, the term "waste wood" no longer exists.
For Marketplace, I'm Nina Keck in Chittenden, Vermont.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
So, off to muggy South Carolina for the meeting. There were probably approximately 250 people in attendance. This has grown impressively. According to one long time member they started back in Missouri in the early 1990's with six people meeting in a hotel room. In attendance were mostly fuel manufacturer's, pellet mill equipment manufacturer's, two maybe three stove manufacturer's reps- including Dan Henry from HHT, a couple of commercial boiler manufacturer's, and three maybe four dealers.
The board meeting took place the day before we arrived. There was a little "professional" scuffle that changed their intended path for leadership. Scott Jacobs from Ozark Pellets in Missouri emerged as the new PFI President, replacing long time President Bruce Lisle of Energex.
After opening comments John Swaan from the Wood Pellet Association of Canada was first to speak. He talked of the success in exporting fuel to Europe. How we exported more pellet fuel to Europe last year than we used domestically, and future growth potential. He was followed by Christian Rakos from an Austrian company who affirmed the success of wood pellet for use as fuel and energy, and said that they would be willing to share their experiences to help us grow.
Dave Atkins did a presentation on a program called Fuels for Schools in which chip fired and/or pellet fired boiler systems were being installed in schools through a grant program. The savings experienced by these schools was impressive.
A representative from ACORE (American Council on Renewable Energy) did a presentation on the potential of biomass energy, and how the pellet industry could benefit from partnering with ACORE.
Then the conversation really steared toward commercial/industrial uses and introduced the catch phrase of the weekend- Biomass Thermal Energy. Their presentation conveyed to the fuel manufacturers that the real growth in the industry was in commercial and industrial applications. Large boiler systems are beginning to emerge, and larger players are developing ground level partnerships for energy production, and industrial applications. There were a couple of larger boiler manufacturer's present who presented their system, and partnership proposals to install these larger systems which would be delivered by bulk from the manufacturers directly.
They also spoke of new legislation that would subsidize biomass use for power production. There was concern among the group about raw material difficulties, and how this would magnefy the issues if they were competing against groups that could use the subsidy. Talk shifted to government affairs with the usual plea for funds for lobbying efforts. This is where the PFI seems to get stuck. The talk of raw material shortages arises. Then it is clarified that the easy and inexpensive raw material is getting difficult to get. You have to pay where ten years ago you may not have... Then talk turns to growing both individually and as an industry. A great number of pellet mills are not interested in growth. I can see their point. Growth is risky- Remember what happened the last time the industry took a big leap in 2005 pulling in all sorts of fuel from Canada's West coast and put big bucks into processing plants? We certainly do. To put a number on it, dealer's who grew capacity to meet the last demand bubble lost five figures, pellet mills lost six to seven figures, and stove manufacturer's lost seven or eight figures. That is a lot of zeroes!! Thus the PFI divides. Small stable growth to support local residential markets on one end, and the extreme company that wants to go all commercial industrial and spend every penny on government lobbying on the other.
The conference had it's light moments, like when Dan Henry's friend sang a song he had written in the seventies about a Plain Ol' Brown Recyclable Paper Sack (I think I got it right??), and it was good to see familiar faces, and try to get a feel for their take on the current situation.
There was a good conversation about standards. They have come up with a label and testing system that will classify wood pellets more consistently, and slightly more accurately. The big definer will still be ash content, although it will also include btu's sodium content, etc. This will help the end user have a better idea about what is in the bag as 99% of pellets on the market claim premium status by the current definition.
I do have to say that as a dealer I would have been very disappointed if I attended the PFI conference hoping for answers about pellet fuel availability and solutions for the current situation in the Northeast. There really, that I noticed, was no talk of residential use, dealers, or supply issues in the Northeast.
The focus of this conference was commercial and industrial applications, using wood pellets for thermal energy, and obtaining government support.
I walked away from the conference with two main thoughts- We are now exporting more inexpensive wood pellet fuel to Europe than we use domestically, while importing even more expensive oil. The growth of this industry, at least by the the main Northeast pellet manufacturer's desire, is in commercial and industrial applications.