The Redwood Region Logging Conference was held from March 17-19 2011 at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka. The event was well attended despite the wet and cold weather.
Forestry and construction equipment greets visitors to the 73rd annual RRLC
Gareth Mayhead from the University of California Woody Biomass Utilization Group gave a class on Woody Biomass Utilization Opportunities on Friday morning. We looked at the broad policy landscape, trends in California and grant opportunities including the FSA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Grant. A pdf of the presentation is at the bottom of this post.
Presentations from the 2 workshops held last week are now available online. Over 20 people attended the 2 hour densified wood fuels session in Eureka on October 18. Presentations are here: http://ucanr.org/EurekaOct2010. We started with the basics of densified wood fuels (including pellets, fire logs and bricks) followed by a look at some real projects including Red Rooster Fuels; a local company that has been manufacturing pellets.
A full day workshop, attended by over 60, was held on October 21 in Yreka. The workshop was organized in partnership with the Siskiyou County Biomass Utilization Group and looked at a range of topics around implementing biomass projects in Siskiyou County. Presentations are here: http://ucanr.org/Yreka2010.
Bruce Courtright speaks during the morning session at Yreka
This workshop is a follow-up to the Woody Biomass to Energy workshop held in Eureka in March 2010 (presentations from that workshop are online at http://ucanr.org/EurekaMar10_Energy).
The aim is to help the audience to understand the products in the densified wood fuels family and the opportunity for project development in Northern California. Presentations will look at the manufacturing principles, suitable feedstocks, markets and challenges.
Products discussed will include:
- Fuel logs
We will also look at five examples of project approaches in California to see how businesses have attempted to enter the densified fuels market. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion. The presenter will be Gareth Mayhead from UC Berkeley. Valerie Weyna and Ernie Schutlze of Red Rooster Heating Products, one of the few pellet mills in California, will also be talking about their experiences with manufacturing densified wood fuel products on the North Coast.
University of California Cooperative Extension Office,
5630 S. Broadway Eureka, CA
There is no cost to register if you sign-up online in advance
Registration and refreshments will be available at 12.30pm and the workshop will start at 1.00pm.
University of California Berkeley, Center for Forestry
University of California Cooperative Extension
USDA Forest Service, Region 5
Sixty five people attended our Woody Biomass to Energy Workshop that was held in Eureka last Thursday. We have posted the presentations here.The aim of the workshop was to help attendees to understand the basics of different conversion technologies including scale, cost, raw material specification and whether they are proven or emerging technologies. We started by looking at some of the basics regarding biomass feedstock sources, the potential use of this material as an energy source, competing uses for the material and an introduction to conversion pathways. It can make sense to convert biomass to energy but there are many other uses out there that may add more value.
Next we looked at proven technologies including heat applications, electricity and cogeneration (or combined heat and power). The use of woody biomass for heat is a proven technology at scales ranging from a single stove to systems providing heat to larger buildings. These “institutional” systems can make financial sense if oil, propane or electricity is replaced by biomass as a fuel (generally chip or pellets). The technology used is well proven in Europe and elsewhere in the States. It is an extremely efficient way to capture the energy in wood – some systems are 90% efficient. Generally systems may make sense in buildings that have a floor area over 10,000ft2 that use a reasonable amount of heat. It is relatively easy to identify simple payback period if you assume the replacement of an existing heat system.
Eric Almquist of Almquist Lumber discusses his cordwood boiler
Electricity generation is also a proven technology and California has approximately 30 existing biomass power plants. Typical power plants are around 20 MW in size and consume up to 200,000 bone dry tons of fuel per year. Smaller scale (down to 5 MW) facilities generally cost more per kW to build and operate. The use of biomass in a stand alone power plant is about 25% efficient because much of the heat energy is wasted in the process. If the heat is captured and used (for example to heat dry kilns) the efficiency increases to around 70%.
Glen Zane of Blue Lake Power explains electrical generation
We then investigated emerging technologies including gasification, pyrolysis and the production of liquid fuels. Both gasification and pyrolysis have been around for decades (and longer) but for the most part they are still emerging technologies due to costs, reliability and lack of markets for the products produced. Gasification of biomass has the potential to produce electricity on a small scale and there are a number of demonstration projects in California. Currently the cost of producing this electricity is expensive and would only be applicable to off-grid areas. Various forms of pyrolysis are used to produce solids (char), liquid (bio-oil) and gas. Pyrolysis can be an energy intensive process and may have future potential to produce chemical feedstocks from wood.
Greg Chapman of the Schatz Lab discusses their Ankur gasifier
The final presentation on technologies identified the three biomass to liquid fuels pathways. It then focused on starch conversion, cellulosic conversion, traditional biodiesel and synthetic diesel production. Most technologies are still emerging and the costs are challenging at present.
We wrapped up the morning session with an update on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) which is currently on hold. A comment period on the proposed new rule for the program is open until April 9 2010. We also discussed some of the unintended consequences that the program has created since it began in August 2009.
In summary heat and electricity production are proven technologies that can make sense. If you are looking for a relatively small community-scaled operation then heat can be cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives. Electricity generally makes economic sense at a larger scale. All of the emerging technologies will develop further and are likely to play some part in future energy product production. However, we warned that if a story about a technology sounds too good to be true then it generally is. For anyone interested in woody biomass to energy projects undertaking due diligence and asking the right questions is vital.
After lunch at the Samoa Cookhouse we embarked on a very wet field tour to three locations to look at a simple heat installation, a power plant and a demonstration gasifier.
Lunch at the Samoa Cookhouse
This March 25 workshop is now full. If you have not registered you can use the link to be added to a wait list. If we have any cancellations we will contact you on Wednesday March 24 to inform you if there is any space available.