Backed by the U.S. Award for Forestry & Communities, architecture of Apology Fuels, a commercial-scale torrefaction ability in John Day, Oregon, is able-bodied underway.
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In a rural canton that’s four times the admeasurement of Rhode Island but home to alone one stop light, it isn’t generally that article abundantly agitative happens. In fact, the aftermost cogent bartering beforehand in the burghal of John Day, Oregon—considered the capital bread-and-butter centermost of Grant Canton with the bigger citizenry at about 1,700—was acceptable aback in the aboriginal 1980s, aback Malheur Barge Co. was built. Ironically, that aforementioned operation has a cogent role in an $18.5 actor activity underway—the aboriginal commercial-scale torrefaction bulb in the U.S., architecture of which is on clue to be complete by spring.
Though development of this activity has been advancing for about a decade—the aftereffect of cogent contributions by not alone the U.S. Award for Forestry & Communities, but additionally captivation of abounding clandestine companies, assay organizations, utilities, landowners and activity developers—those at the alpha accept believed in alive agilely against the end goal, rather than authoritative babble and sensationalizing the first-of-its-kind project.
That’s not to say Apology Fuels hasn’t been accessible about aggregate they are doing, and achievement to accomplish. “We aloof haven’t capital to get too far advanced of ourselves,” says CEO Matt Krumenauer. “Things change, projects don’t move forward. And we’ve had some delays—permitting and added things that accept happened during construction. We’ve been afraid to actively seek too abounding attention, set expectations too high, or get the association ever excited. At the aforementioned time, we’ve accustomed to be as cellophane as possible.”
Krumenauer has been complex in the activity from its inception, which he said began as allotment of the U.S. Award for Forestry & Communities’ mission of application markets as able accoutrement for advancement sustainable, alive forests.
Working Forests, New MarketsThe U.S. Award for Forestry & Communities is a nonprofit association accustomed in 2006 at the appeal of the U.S. and Canadian governments. The alignment works collaboratively with ally in the accessible and clandestine sectors to beforehand systemic, transformative and acceptable change for the bloom and animation of the nation’s alive forests and forest-reliant communities. “We accept that markets are one of the added able accoutrement for advancement sustainable, alive forests,” says Krumenauer, who, besides CEO of Apology Fuels, serves as the endowment’s carnality admiral of adapted projects. “Over the accomplished decade, the award has fabricated investments in a accomplished ambit of areas and technologies—it did some Fuels for Schools projects and some abate commune heating systems in rural communities, as able-bodied as assignment in gasification and biochar, acceptable ability generation—a accomplished ambit of things. Almost like a funnel, advance baby amounts of money in abounding altered things to see what’s applicable and what we could learn. About four or bristles years ago, we absolutely began to focus on torrefaction.”
That was for two capital reasons, according to Krumenauer. “First, the technology was at a abode breadth it was appealing abounding accessible for commercialization, acceptation there weren’t a lot of outstanding abstruse challenges that couldn’t be overcome—compared to aqueous biofuels, which is aloof too big of a abstruse and banking claiming for an alignment like the award to handle. So from a abstruse and banking perspective, it was an breadth adapted for the award to dive into.”
At the time, Krumenauer says, it seemed like there would be a abeyant growing bazaar for it.
“Especially domestically, with assorted types of regulations like the Apple-pie Ability Plan and states affective abroad from coal, and abeyant opportunities for utilities to advance some of those absolute atramentous assets and catechumen them to biomass. So, what we did is put calm a two-part strategy, the aboriginal allotment of which was to accompany calm the alpha industry and assorted assay institutions and companies absorbed in this, and attack to get anybody to collaborate, allotment advice and assignment calm on a precommercial akin to see if we could advance commercialization and, ultimately, bazaar adoption.”
What resulted was accumulation of the Bunch for Advanced Wood-to-Energy Solutions, done so accordingly with the USDA Backwoods Service. That accomplishment was adjourned 50-50 by the award and the Backwoods Service. “We affianced seven altered assay institutions, a brace dozen altered clandestine companies including landowners and technology and activity developers to analyze what was bare to accompany torrefaction into commercial-scale assembly and acceptance,” Krumenauer says. “We developed a assignment plan that articular a alternation of tasks—things like activity aeon assessments, assurance analyses, techno-economic analyses, a account testing program, and adorable at amalgam absolute torrefaction technology into absolute accomplishment platforms like pellet mills. That assignment plan was implemented over about a three-year period, and rather than assay work, we absolutely accustomed to focus on how to advance commercialization—practical activities that may be able to booty it to bartering scale.”
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The additional allotment of the action was beforehand in commercial-scale facilities, demography what was abstruse from the bunch and applying it to prove assembly through quality, amount and, ultimately, accredit utilities to accompany about-face to torrefied material.
At that point, the plan afflicted and the aboriginal eyes of acknowledging two accessories didn’t move forward. “The award concluded up partnering with Portland General Electric, to abutment its biomass testing—we saw that as a actual analytical piece, if we capital to see the bazaar grow,” Krumenauer says.
PGE’s 550-MW Boardman ability was congenital in the backward 1970s, but admitting its adolescent age, Oregon’s accommodation to appearance out atramentous larboard the account with the accommodation to about-face fuels or abutting by 2020. Added fuels and emissions ascendancy upgrades were disqualified out as uneconomic, but PGE explored biomass for several years. “After abounding years of aggravating to achieve it happen, if PGE wasn’t able to complete a all-encompassing torrefied biomass assay burn, that would set the industry back,” Krumenauer says. “So, we put accomplishment into basic Oregon Torrefaction, and adequately bound got a few altered accessories bearing and carrying actual to the Boardman ability so a alternation of tests could be done, including the 100-percent accomplishment completed in aboriginal 2017.”
In the deathwatch of the assay burn, it became accepted PGE wouldn’t adjudge about the abiding about-face of Boardman in the abreast future. “We regrouped afterwards that and afresh looked at the mission to actuate how we could abide development of markets to abutment backwoods bloom apology if the Boardman bulb wasn’t activity to be a market,” Krumenauer says. “We did a lot of business planning and analysis, and in 2018, the lath of the award accustomed to move advanced with Apology Fuels, which is a all-encompassing torrefaction ability dent with the Malheur Barge Co.”
Malheur Lumber—the alone actual comminute in a canton that was already home to several several—nearly bankrupt in 2012, but ironically, was able to break on its anxiety and abound from a above addition in bounded backwoods apology efforts.
Moving into MalheurMalheur Barge planned to abutting due to curtailment of balk accumulation from adjoining accessible lands, said ancestor aggregation Ochoco Lumber, in August 2012. Shortly thereafter, the Malheur National Backwoods appear the application of a 10-year administration arrangement account up to $69 actor to Iron Triangle LLC of John Day, which would defended the cilia beck the comminute so badly needed.At the time, and up until architecture of Apology Fuels, a 20,000-ton-per-year pellet comminute operated on-site, sending artefact to abounding bounded aggregate customers.
Ochoco Barge and Malheur accept been complex with Apology Fuels from the actual beginning. “They accept formed actual carefully with us to host the ability and booty a risk,” Krumenauer says. “I anticipate they accept a agnate vision—that if we can actualize a bazaar for some of the small-diameter material, it can achieve the all-embracing economics, viability, and adherence of balk sales, apology work, and the industry all assignment a little bit better. We’ve been appealing advantageous to accept them. We about accustomed to accommodate into their absolute facilities, ambience the torrefaction ability about and aural the absolute pellet comminute infrastructure. They did cease copse pellet operations aback architecture began beforehand this year, but the architecture is to still advance that adequacy already the new arrangement gets up and running.”
Building into an absolute operation has benefits, but does not appear afterwards challenges. “There accept been some amount savings—there is a lot of basement at absolute comminute sites that you don’t accept to replicate, like a log yards, chipping facilities, scales and account connections,” Krumenauer says. “But there are additionally some challenges in that you accept to admeasurement and locate things appropriately, and aback amalgam a new operation or artefact band aural an absolute one, there are some operational and procedural changes, adjustments and flexibilities you charge to accept on both ends.”
Overseeing the operations at Apology Fuels will be Bulb Manager Joe Koerner, who concluded up in the role afterwards actuality in the appropriate place, at aloof the appropriate time. Previously, Koerner had been active at a Boardman, Oregon, ability that recovered carbon atramentous out of tires. “Our artefact was angry to the activity sector, and aback the activity breadth took a dive price-wise, it debilitated our bread-and-butter model,” he says. “We abandoned the operation and were accepting accessible to advertise it aback Matt [Krumenauer] approached us and asked, ‘We apperceive you can baker tires, but do you anticipate you could baker wood?’”
Koerner’s aggregation alternate in the Boardman torrefaction assay trials in 2016, bearing about 20 percent of the actual used. “Because the ability I was at was on its way out and was awash afterwards the trials, I was larboard accomplishing some absolute contracting,” Koerner tells Biomass Magazine. “The anticipation of alive in a timber-related industry was appealing adorable to me, so aback Matt abreast me that they were architecture a bulb in John Day and asked me to run it, I said yes. I was actual advantageous that’s how it happened, and that Matt had acceptance in me.”
Koerner explains there are three capital assemblage operations at the facility—a dryer, a boiler and the torrefier.
The ProcessThe copse dent dryer, which uses activity acquired from a Hurst wood-fired boiler via hot baptize beatific through a accepted tube and carapace calefaction exchanger and stored in an cloistral hot baptize tank, assault balmy air through the chips as they move on the belted conveyor. Afterwards the dehydration process, damp agreeable will be bargain from about 50% to 10%, and activity body of the dry chips is in the ambit of 8,500 Btu per pound. “We’re application a state-of-the-art, low-temperature belt dryer, advised by IMI Industrial, for a brace of reasons,” Koerner says. “The emissions from the belt dryer will be decidedly cleaner than acceptable wood-drying equipment, but we additionally don’t appetite to drive off any airy amoebic compounds (VOCs) added than water—we alone appetite to dry it. We appetite to accumulate the VOCs there because they end up as ammunition in the additional date of the process, which is torrefaction.”
The torrefaction action uses a triple-pass rotary boom design. The copse chips admission the alternating drum, with beef aboriginal injected to balmy the boom to torrefaction temperature (about 570 degrees F), and again the copse chips are fed continuously for torrefaction. The beef is initially acrimonious with propane in a bounded furnace. “As the torrefaction action proceeds, all the gases generated are burned, and acclimated to reheat the system, as able-bodied as calefaction the average for our dryer as well,” Koerner explains. The torrefied chips—water-resistant with grindability agnate to coal—are now at a college activity body of about 9,500 Btu per pound, with a damp agreeable of about 5%. Depending on what a chump desires, the torrefaction action can be acquainted to crop college or lower activity densities. “Once we’ve accomplished affable the wood, we air-conditioned it and abbreviate it—densification will either be through pelletizing or briquetting,” Koerner says.
The all-embracing action ensures oxygen is minimized not alone to acquiesce torrefaction to occur, but to achieve best use of the activity agreeable of the generated “torr gas,” with actual little ashen energy. “We’re aggravating to booty advantage of all the ammunition that’s in the wood,” Koerner reiterates. He explains that a Hurst wood-fired boiler was called not alone to accommodate the beef the torrefaction operation needs, but the barge comminute as well. And because it’s a newer, advanced boiler, he adds, it additionally helps apple-pie up the air emissions from the site.
Once artefact is accessible for shipment, it will be beatific to barter in aggregate via truck, alternation or abyssal abode vessels, depending on the customer.
Looking at LogisticsThere is no abuse admission at the comminute site, so Apology Fuels will use a accumulator annex and alteration addition to the anchorage or the end customer. “That’s a bit bottomward the road, though,” Krumenauer says. “Since we self-funded the project, we were able to alpha construction—and go into operations—without an offtake contract. We congenital the ability at accident to be able to prove the all-embracing market.”
Through 2020, Krumenauer estimates the bulb will run at about a division of its estimated 100,000-ton-per-year capacity. “Initial barter ability adjustment all-embracing sample volumes that could be in the bags or 10,000-ton range,” he says. “We’ve talked with a cardinal of Japanese and European utilities and we abide to advance acquaintance with association in the U.S., but we haven’t committed a aggregate to any one customer. We accept to get up and active first, and ensure we’re bearing affection actual afore we achieve to a contract. We achievement to be able to get there by the end of 2020, so Joe and his operations aggregation accept a lot of assignment to do.”
About center through construction, Krumenauer and Koerner say there accept been challenges so far, but annihilation insurmountable or absolutely unexpected. “Going through the ecology action takes time and we knew that, so we set optimistic goals to get them in place,” Koerner says. “The bureau was added than accommodating to assignment with us and advice us get what we needed, it aloof took a little longer.”
New processes are difficult because of absolutely what they are, Krumenauer adds. “We can’t attending to addition torrefaction ability to acquisition out what the discharge factors are,” he credibility out. “We did accept off-the-shelf technology and cast new abuse ascendancy equipment, but we had to assignment carefully with regulators for them to get adequate with it.”
Integrating into an absolute ability has its benefits, but Koerner additionally credibility out the difficulties. “Their basement and agents accept been actual accessible to us, but it’s additionally arduous because we can’t arrest the absolute operations,” he says. “When you’re accomplishing electrical tie-ins and things like that, you accept to booty things offline, so we accept had to do a lot of analogous with the mill.”
Staffing has been addition challenge—the bulb is in an acutely rural area, authoritative it difficult to access bare accomplishment sets such as accustomed electricians and millwrights. “We’re accomplishing abounding bigger now than we were six months ago,” Krumenauer says. “There accept been some some adequately cogent architecture projects accident in the region—when the technology companies body a brace billion dollars’ account of abstracts centers, it takes a lot of the accomplished labor, and we accept agitation aggressive with those types of architecture projects.”
As for the abounding West Coast copse ability that—in theory—could be activated for bioenergy purposes, but has complicated acumen and is actual altered from the Southeast breadth greater economies of calibration achieve sense, Krumenauer says Apology Fuels is a acceptable archetype of how an article like the award can booty a accident to demonstrate. “We appetite to appearance that this can be done on a abate scale, in adjustment to abode feedstock availability first,” he adds. “If we can do this—demonstrate this archetypal of analogous accessories with apology affairs and backwoods affairs in areas breadth there’s a bazaar need—it will be a appealing cogent win for the endowment’s mission, and the backwoods account and the broader industry. I can’t anticipate of annihilation bigger to do—a lot of us anticipate we were put actuality to achieve this.”
The boiler installed at Apology Fuels is a 1,200-horsepower amalgam boiler with a reciprocating abrade Hurst Boiler Chief Engineer Bruce Coffee tells Biomass Magazine. “It will bake copse abstracts or added biomass fuels up to 50 percent damp content, and at abounding bore, will aftermath about 40,000 pounds of beef per hour,” he says.
At a antecedent location, the boiler was acclimated to aftermath biodiesel from soybeans. “It was originally congenital in 2006, so it is still adolescent in boiler age,” Coffee says. “It’s actuality adapted with new controls and adverse and should be able to accumulate clip with a cast new one.”
With advanced air emissions controls, it will be one of the cleanest boilers in the state, alive alongside a brace of abate wood-fired boilers, Coffee says.
The comminute and new project, amid in a arresting Rocky Mountain setting, are amid the bigger administration for abounding miles, Coffee adds. “The boondocks seems to be added about fishing and hiking than manufacturing, so it will be of absolute accent to be apple-pie and quiet in operation.”
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