Canadian Biomass Gets Government Boost

canada flagA dozen biomass projects in Manitoba, Canada, are getting a boost from the provincial and federal governments. This article from Canadian Manufacturing says the $500,000 in assistance is designed to help end coal use in the province.

“There are renewable energy resources readily available for use as biomass energy sources,” Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Ron Kostyshyn, said. “By increasing our capacity to make and use green energy we are reducing carbon emissions in Manitoba while promoting the growth of new industry.”

Among the proposals selected to receive funding two projects to convert a coal-fired heating systems to a biomass and funding for new equipment for Southeast Pallet and Wood Products in Blumenort, Man., which will allow the company to double its annual biomass processing capacity.

The program is funded partly through Manitoba’s Coal Tax, and like other bio-fuel programs across the country aims to promote the growing industry as well as reduce emissions.

Secy Vilsack: Continue to Tout Biofuel Benefits

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, spent the morning back in his home state of Iowa (Vilsack is a former Iowa Governor) to kick off the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. He began his remarks by saying its great to be back in Iowa and great to be back in front of folks who understand the importance of the renewable fuels industry. He also mentioned he is proud of the work the USDA has done to help expand the industry.

The key focus on his speech was the amount of people, both consumers and legislators, who don’t see the benefits of this industry the way we see them, who are attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the courts, and attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard in the halls of Congress. “But we continue to point out to those who oppose this industry, the benefits of the country.”USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack during 10th Annual Iowa Summit

For example, the ethanol industry has helped reduce the price of gas at the pump, even as gas prices go down, and given consumers choice at the pump. He also noted biofuels benefit the farm and rural communities, and help to reduce the trade deficit.

Vilsack discussed several of the programs the USDA has implemented to help grow and improve the industry including the Biomass Assistance Program, Biomass Research Centers and Loan Guarantees. But he said he was most excited of the new markets that are being developed. He also highlighted the Farms to Fly program that is looking at producing renewable biofuels for the aviation and shipping industry as well as biofuels for our military.

We need consumers to understand that every time they go to the pump, they are helping the industry. He also stressed the importance of the blender pump program and continuing to bring more mid-level blends to consumers.

In closing, Vilsack said expanding the renewable fuels industry is more than just the benefits (choice at pump, environment, national security, etc.). “It’s really about preserving the value system of rural America. This is an industry that allows us the process of diversifying the opportunities in rural America, to support production agriculture, to expand the biobased economy…so that we have more stable farm income and we give people opportunities to live, work and raise their families in rural areas. That is important to me.”

Listen to USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s full remarks: Vilsack Remarks During IRFA Summit

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Enviva Buys Virginia Wood Pellet Plant

envivaEnviva has bought a Virginia wood pellet fuel plant for $131 million. This news release from the company says the Southampton plant will produce more than half a million metric tons per year of the green fuel and brings Enviva’s production capacity to 2.2 million metric tons per year.

“We are excited to announce our first drop-down transaction with our sponsor. The fully-contracted Southampton plant is a world-class facility that fits seamlessly into our core business and will significantly increase our production capacity and the tenor of our contracted cash flows,” said John Keppler, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The acquisition, which is expected to be immediately accretive to the Partnership’s distributable cash flow per unit, provides the opportunity to substantially increase our distribution while still maintaining conservative coverage ratios.”

“Having a strong sponsor is a major advantage during a period of choppy financial markets,” said Mr. Keppler. “Our sponsor’s support ensured that this highly accretive transaction was completed on schedule.”

The conflicts committee of the board of directors of Enviva’s general partner, comprised entirely of independent directors, approved the terms of the transaction. Evercore served as exclusive financial advisor to the conflicts committee on the transaction. Andrews and Kurth, LLP served as legal counsel to the conflicts committee. Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. served as legal counsel to the sponsor’s joint venture.

New Report, Some Hits…Some Misses for Renewables

A new report, “Some Hits, Some Misses…All-in-All…To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt,” looks at the accuracy of the forecasts for renewable electricity made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its monthly “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (STEO) reports. Published by the SUN DAY Campaign, the report finds 2015 forecasts have generally followed the actual pattern of ups-and-downs in electricity generation rates from renewable energy sources. However, finds the report, with a few exceptions, EIA underestimated the actual overall growth.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign notes that EIA’s monthly predictions of new capacity from renewable sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, have been lower than what went into production. He says EIA has failed to capture the magnitude of the swift growth rates in utility-scale solar. Forecasts, he predicts, will likely be exceeded by actual growth. For example, EIA’s 2016 predictions of 0.6 percent – 0.7 percent for utility-scale solar’s share of total U.S. electrical generation will very possibly be met a year earlier. Predictions of 10 – 12 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity installed between 2014 and 2016 are also likely to be exceeded.

Bossong finds that 2015 reports began with more optimism about the prospects of hydropower and wind, than what has actually gone into production. However, generation by wind and hydropower new appear to be bouncing back, he says. Despite a slow start to the year, Bossong ultimately, EIA forecasts will be underestimated as wind generation is headed for levels above those recorded in 2014 while hydro’s shortfall for 2015 will more than likely be less than EIA anticipated.

“While EIA’s short-term energy forecasts can provide a very useful pulse of changes in the nation’ energy mix, they tend to mirror the agency’s long-term forecasts which notoriously low-ball expectations for renewable energy growth,” explains Bossong. “In recent years, renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, have vastly outpaced and outperformed EIA’s predictions – even those made for very short-term time periods.”

In addition, Bossong’s analysis finds actual end-of-the-year figures for new capacity and electricity generated by both nonhydro renewables, and renewables including conventional hydropower, will likely exceed EIA’s predictions by at least modest levels. It is almost certain, adds Bossong, that the majority of new electrical generating capacity installed during 2015 will be from renewables and renewables will account for more than 17.5 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity by year’s end.

Power Generation Fueling Global Biomass Growth

woodpelletsThe global biomass market has been growing and will continue to do so, thanks to power generation. This analysis from P&S Market Research says increased use of biomass pellets in power generation, along with increased government initiatives and stringent environment regulations, are the key drivers promoting the growth of the global biomass pellet market.

The power sector application segment is expected to witness the fastest growth (12.4% CAGR) during 2015 – 2020, in the global market. Based on application, the heat sector segment held the largest market size, with 14,256.0 million tons volume in 2014, and it is expected to reach 27,122.3 million tons by 2020, growing with a CAGR of 8.7% during the period 2015-2020.

The global biomass pellet market was valued at $6,976.3 million in 2014, and it is expected to grow with a CAGR of 11.1% during 2015 – 2020. Europe accounted for the largest share of the global biomass pellet market with 20,000.0 million tons consumed in 2014. The major reasons behind growth of the market in the region were low GHG emission from biomass and increased government initiatives for renewable technologies. The market in Europe is expected to maintain its growth rate, mainly driven by various subsidies and legislation.

In 2014, North America accounted for the second largest share in the global biomass pellet market, in terms of value and volume. The major reason behind growth of the market in the region were increasing demand of biomass pellets in industrial sector, strict environmental regulations, and increasing concern for global warming. Therefore, the high rate of depletion of fossil fuels and increasing demand for the reduction of greenhouse gases are indirectly creating ample opportunities for the growth of the North American market.

The report adds that higher levels of investments in the biomass industry are helping advance the technology, making biomass more competitive against conventional fossil fuels.

ExxonMobil, Wisc. Partner on Biomass-Biofuel Project

exxonmobilOil giant ExxonMobil has partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison on a project to turn biomass into biofuel. This article from Lab Manager says the two inked a two-year research agreement.

UW–Madison long has been known for its expertise in biomass conversion, and the project leverages the university’s expertise alongside the resources and technology development of ExxonMobil. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW–Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.

“The science of biomass conversion is very complicated,” Huber says. “In this project we are doing the long-term fundamental research to understand the chemistry involved in the catalytic process of converting biomass into diesel and jet fuel. Our goal is to generate knowledge about what’s possible, and what’s not possible.”

Researchers have used expensive precious metal catalysts such as platinum for biomass conversion. Huber’s group, however, has been working to develop new catalytic materials that are orders of magnitude cheaper than precious metal catalysts.

“The challenge is to make biomass-derived fuels cost-competitive with petroleum-derived diesel fuels,” says Huber, who also is affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW–Madison.

The project allows extensive collaboration between ExxonMobil scientists and UW–Madison students, who will gain experience collaborating with an industrial partner.

“This agreement continues ExxonMobil’s commitment to partner with top universities and scientists to research and discover next-generation energy solutions,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company. “We are continuously investigating new ideas and technologies and we are looking forward to working with the team at the University of Wisconsin on this project.”

This is the latest in a series of research partnerships ExxonMobil established with some of the leading universities around the world, including MIT, Princeton, Michigan State, Northwestern, Stanford and Iowa State University.

Report: Renewables Fastest Growing US Power Source

According to GlobalData, non-hydro renewable energy will be the fastest growing power source in the U.S. through 2025. Installed capacity is expected to increase from 121.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 216 GW in 2025. “US Power Market Outlook to 2025, Update 2015 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape,” finds the strong rate of growth suggests that the current U.S. government fully supports the growth of clean generation technologies. The U.S. was one of signers of the most historic climate treaty agreed upon in Paris earlier this month during COP21.

GlobalData logoChiradeep Chatterjee, GlobalData’s senior analyst covering Power, warns that this positive forecast for non-hydro renewables could be subject to the result of the 2016 US presidential election, with a Republican victory likely to mean considerable changes to present policies due to the party’s lower support for green energy projects in general.

“There are several renewable power regulations that have been implemented or revised by the Obama administration in 2015 that will aid the production of renewable energy,” explained Chatterjee. “For example, the Fannie May Green Initiative provides smart energy through financing solutions, while the Weatherization Assistance Program, instituted by the Department of Energy, offers grants to improve the energy efficiency of resident low-income families. Such initiatives are positive steps to achieving green targets established by US states.”

Targets take the form of Renewable Portfolio Standards programs, state policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy supplied to consumers by a utility within the state should come from renewable sources.

“Generally, the objectives are ambitious, ranging from 10% to 40%, with a variety of target dates. However, there is considerable variation between individual states, as Hawaii is aiming for renewables to constitute 100% of all energy use by 2045, while South Carolina is targeting just 2 percent by 2021.” Chatterjee concluded, “Attitudes towards the growth of green energy differ throughout the US, and it must be acknowledged that other sources of power will remain dominant throughout the forecast period.”

Emerging Nations Hit Record Clean Energy Investments

According to the new report Climatescope, developing nations have surpassed the world’s wealthiest countries in securing more renewable energy investments. Climatescope is a clean energy country competitiveness index, interactive report and online tool supported by the U.S., U.K. and Inter-American Development Bank Group. The report unveils a portrait of clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America Climatescope2015and the Caribbean. The group includes major developing nations China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as dozens of others. Energy solutions reviewed included solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal, biomass, and other zero-carbon emitting technologies (excluding large hydro).

The news came shortly before a round of UN-organized climate negotiations kicked off in Paris prior to the start of COP21. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which released the report, says these talks often focus on the question of how much capital wealthier countries should make available to lesser developed countries to address the climate challenge.

Climatescope’s key findings include:

  • For the first time ever, over half of all new annual investment into clean energy power generating projects globally went toward projects in emerging markets, rather than toward wealthier countries.
  • New investment in renewables soared in 2014 in the 55 Climatescope countries assessed to hit a record annual high of $126bn – up $35.5bn, or 39%, from 2013 levels.
  • The results were substantially bolstered by the remarkable growth in China, which added 35GW of new renewable power generating capacity all on its own – more than the 2014 clean energy build in the US, UK, and France combined.
  • Meanwhile, “South-South” investment (funds deployed in Climatescope nations from banks or other financial institutions based in those countries) surged to $79bn in 2014 from $53bn the year prior.
  • Continuing declines in clean energy costs appear to be driving growth. Costs associated with solar photovoltaic power have ticked down 15% year-on-year globally. Solar is particularly competitive in emerging markets which often suffer from very high power prices from fossil generation while also enjoying very sunny conditions.
  • A total of 50.4 gigawatts (GW) of new clean capacity was built in Climatescope countries, marking a 21% uptick from the prior year. In another first, renewables capacity deployed in emerging markets topped that in wealthier Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.
  • On a percentage basis, clean energy capacity is growing twice as quickly in Climatescope nations compared to OECD ones.

The report found that progress was achieved during 2014 despite a number of countries in the survey seeing economic growth rates slow. Average gross domestic product growth across Climatescope nations slipped to 5.7 percent in 2014 from 6.4 percent in 2013 with the slow-down most apparent in major nations, Brazil, South Africa, and China. Despite the pullback, these three countries attracted a total of $103bn in new clean energy investment in 2014.

PHG Energy Kicks of Waste-to-Energy Project

Construction of a new gasification plant at Lebanon, Tennessee’s waste water treatment facility is underway following a groundbreaking ceremony held last week. Tens of thousands of tons of sewer sludge, used tires and industrial wood waste will be processed to produce electricity to help power the plant.  PHG Energy of Nashville is designing and building the new facility, which will include utilization of the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit with a full capacity of 64 tons per day through the system.

Lebanon Groundbreaking 11-12-15 smaller size

From left to Right: Chris Koczaja (vice president of implementation and engineering at PHG Energy); Tom Doherty (environmental specialist with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead; Lebanon Councilman Fred Burton, Ward 2; Lebanon Councilman Rob Cesternino, Ward 3, and Jeff Baines (public works commissioner for the city of Lebanon)

“This facility is going to be a model for waste-to-energy partnerships,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said of the project, “as well as the first stage in moving our city completely away from dumping waste into landfills.”

Gasification is a clean thermo-chemical process that breaks down biomass-based material in a high-heat and low-oxygen environment. According to a PHG Energy press release, there is no incineration or burning involved in the process. The only residue after production of synthetic fuel gas is a carbon biochar that has multiple agricultural, industrial and direct fuel uses.

Tom Doherty, Environmental Specialist with the Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said the new facility is an important step forward in efforts Tennessee and his department are fostering across the state. “When we look at the thousands of tons of wood waste and sludge this plant will cleanly process, that is a tremendous step forward. One of the most exciting parts of deploying this technology in Lebanon is that hundreds or tons of scrap tires will be put to beneficial use while saving Wilson County a considerable portion of their previous disposal expense.”

TDEC has awarded the project funding of $250,000 through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, and facilitated a subsidy of 70% of the $3.5 million financing’s interest cost through the Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds program.

BIO Applauds Renewable Chemicals Act Bill

Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Coon (D-DE) and Al Franken have introduced a new bill, S. 2271 the Renewable Chemicals Act of 2015. If passed, the legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits for the production of renewable chemicals and investments in renewable chemical production facilities. The companion bill in the House is H.R. 3390.

bio-logoAccording to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) the Renewable Chemicals Act would create a targeted, short-term tax credit of 15 cents per pound for production of eligible renewable chemicals from produced from biomass-based feedstocks. Instead of the production tax credit that is currently in place, producers could choose to take a 30 percent investment tax credit for qualified investments for new renewable chemical production facilities.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said in response to the legislation, “Creating incentives in tax policy will help drive U.S. industrial biotech companies to continue to innovate and develop new renewable products in the chemical space. Incentives that support renewable chemicals will promote enhanced innovation in the chemical industry, the construction of next generation integrated biorefineries while creating new jobs and enhancing environmental benefits.”

“We thank Senator Stabenow for her leadership in support of initiatives that help grow the bio-based economy and boost the agriculture and manufacturing sectors in America,” Erickson continued. “This legislation will allow U.S. companies to better compete in a rapidly growing global chemicals market.”