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Biomass utility project update

by paul spencer Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 02:02:19 PM EST

For those who don't know, I have 3 partners in an LLC, and we have been working on the following project for the last 3 years. Looks like we are getting close.

Here is our latest update report. It re-introduces some of the history of the project as a device to remind folks on our e-mail list about certain development details, since I only send out an update about every 6 months or so.


Our Wind River Biomass Utility (WRBU) LLC partners propose to deploy an appropriately-sized, therefore sustainable, efficient, and relatively low-cost system for the production, utilization, and sale of woody-biomass-based fuel and energy.  There is a site, there are target industries, and there is biomass in the vicinity of the site.

The site is 25 acres of the Trout Creek Field in Skamania County's Wind River Business Park, located in Hemlock, WA (formerly a tree nursery for the U.S. Forest Service, run by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest).  This site is surrounded by Fir and Hemlock forest, both private and federal, with some WA State forestland nearby.  Many of the stands in these forests are over-crowded with young trees that need thinning to improve forest health, restore wildlife habitat and species diversity, and reduce hazardous fuels.  In addition there are commercially-viable stands that are ready for sale, which can provide large quantities of potential biomass via the 'slash' residue from harvest activities and the small-diameter tops of trees that the sawmills would rather not buy.

The target industries are wood-based fuel(s); greenhouses; and space and water heating for local forest-product businesses and site facilities.  The key element is a combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system, fuelled by a portion of the collected biomass.  The greenhouse and wood-fuel combination of heat customers spreads the useful application of the thermal-energy output over the seasons of the year.  Greenhouse facilities need heat in the Winter and Spring months for obvious reasons.  A wood-fuel business tends to concentrate production In the Summer and Autumn, due both to the normal weather conditions which limit timber harvest in Winter and to product preparation for the high end of the market cycle for wood-based fuels.  

Greenhouse operations can have a substantial market in the Portland, OR metropolitan area (an estimated 85% of produce purchased in this area comes from hundreds and thousands of miles outside of our region).  Our LLC obtained a USDA REAP grant in early 2014 for a feasibility study of agriculture-based thermal customers and the associated supply chain.  The final report will be finished at the end of March, 2015.  The technical details were completed last Autumn.

There are at least two types of wood-fuels products that will fit our projected operation: heat-treated firewood or compressed fuel-briquettes.  We are discussing a relationship with Bear Mountain Forest Products regarding the wood-fuel briquettes.

Our plan is to eventually generate an average of 2 megawatts of electricity and to size the other industrial operations to utilize most of the 'waste' heat produced in the electrical generation process.  We intend to deploy in two phases of nearly equal heat-output capability.  Each phase will be dependent upon securing thermal-energy customers that will provide the foundation of revenue to justify the capital expense for the increased capacity.  This will also allow for a stepped development of the raw-material resource contracts needed to support the utility's operation and, thus, the energy needs of future customers.

Current Status of the project:

1.    Proposed wood energy system design is a Chiptec gasifier with burner connected to a thermal-oil-heat-exchange system to drive Organic Rankine Cycle turbine(s) with a high-temperature water heat-capture system for thermal-energy service to heat customers located contiguous to the generating utility.

2.    Brief review of Wallowa Resource's Feasibility Assessment (April 2014) for the Port of Skamania County concerning a woody-biomass-based combined-heat-and-power (CHP) facility at the Wind River Business Park in Hemlock, WA.

a.    The Wind River Business Park site is a former USFS tree nursery surrounded by Gifford Pinchot National Forest and private timberlands with WA DNR timberlands nearby. It is at the end of an under-utilized 12.5 kV electrical power line; there are 160 acres of nursery fields available; there is a newly-drilled, lined, and currently unused water well with a 300 gpm capability. Broadband is also available at the site, plus several vacant buildings. There is a potential space-heating customer currently working in a building that is piped for hot water heating.

b.    The site is centered within several timberland ownerships: federal, WA State, and private. The local sawmill is located about 7 miles south in Carson, WA; and they have expressed interest in our business as a customer for the small ends of logs that they are required to remove from USFS lands under stewardship contracts. The site is at the end of an under-utilized 12.5 kV electrical-transmission line, connected to a PUD substation in Carson.

c.    Access is via State Route 14 to Wind River Highway to Hemlock Road - all-weather surfaced roads maintained year-around by State and County road crews. The gated and fenced field where the biomass utility will be located has a central gravel road designed and built under USFS control for heavy truck use.

3.    Our (WRBU LLC) system design (as modified from the WR study for the Port):

a.    Favored option for our LLC is similar to the Wallowa Resources' recommended option of "100 kWe", except that we will have the capability to generate 600 kWe.  

b.    Electrical power rates are calculated at 80% of our PUD's retail electrical rate, both for outside sales and internal use (since internal usage would mean buying power from our PUD at the retail rate).

c.    Water rate is not determined, but the well on-site is a County-owned, Port-managed system; therefore, the rate should be competitive with area water rates. Broadband is available at the standard rate for this area.

d.    Markets for the utility:

-    Puget Sound Energy has suggested that they can pay $60 per MWh for our type of renewable power per a recent feasibility study for Central WA University. (PURPA rates for Pacific Power in WA state for 2014 are approximately $41 per Mwh, but 'wheeling charges' would reduce this revenue by about 15%.

-    Thermal power is priced at $12 per MMBtu. This latter figure is the assumed price within our feasibility/market study for greenhouse customers of the utility, funded by a USDA REAP grant.

-    The market for produce alone is much larger than the ultimate cababilities of greenhouses that can be supported by the planned utility:

-       The industrial rate for natural gas in WA state has averaged around $8 per MMBtu for the past several years.  We will supply heat, measured by flow gauge and input-minus-output temperatures.  The customer will avoid the capital and operating costs for burner/boiler/controls/etc.  Customer will also avoid 'waste heat' escaping with the burner exhaust.

-    The fuel briquette business has a separate analysis and pro forma, but the market is known and growing.

4.    Miscellaneous positives for the WRBU project:

a.    Both the GPNF and WA DNR are planning forest management activities on nearby watersheds in the near future, increasing supply and decreasing transportation costs.

b.    The LLC has purchased the major equipment (new) needed to begin Phase I production of thermal energy at our site at a large discount via a grant from WA State Dept. of Commerce, authorized by Governor Inslee.

c.    Our County and our Port authority are supporting the project by writing flexible lease terms for our 25-acre site, including a nominal rental fee until plant commissioning.  Final draft is due March 10.

d.    Our Port is currently planning a new water supply system at the Trout Creek Field, based on their new well with accommodations for our plan.

e.    We purchased a Small Generator Interconnection study from the Bonneville Power Authority, which has been completed, and we all have sufficient understanding of the steps necessary for interconnection when/if electric energy prices support our target output (2 MW).  Our local PUD was involved in that process and supports our project.  BPA has stated that they will relax their limit for Tier I allocations to allow purchase of 1 MW of electricity from our utility with no penalty.

f.    The LLC has arranged for a loan for development money for up to $50,000 from an environmental foundation for lawyer and permit fees.
-    The Clean Air Agency was contacted in 2013 and  indicated that the project sounded trivial from their viewpoint, but will require a permit fee and review.  
-    Stormwater permitting requirements are unknown at this point, but will probably involve a retention pond below the log storage yard.  
-    Skamania County was contacted in 2014 about land-use permitting.  This area is unzoned, but is designated for industrial use.  A building permit will be required, plus environmental review and road engineering.

5.        The LLC won a USDA Wood-to-Energy Grant for a final engineering study in August 2014.

a.    The engineering contractor for the study is Tom Miles of T R Miles Technical Consultants Inc. with primary subcontractor, Wisewood, Inc. (Andrew Haden)

b.    W2E Grant - Goals and Objectives include engineering drawings and specifications for:
-    Process equipment and mechanical interconnections;
-    Structures to house and support process equipment, raw material storage, product storage and distribution, including layouts;
-    Electrical control equipment and electrical interconnections, including layouts;
-    Thermal-energy (hot water) control and distribution equipment and interconnections;
-    Pollution-control equipment;
-    Environmental permit applications.

c.    Drawings and specifications will be prepared by professional engineers registered in the state of Washington.

d.    The study is past the basic design stage and is currently receiving quotations for equipment purchases and building costs.

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Great project, Paul! I look forward to being able to visit that area this summer or next, given my own health situation and am fascinated by all aspects of your project.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2015 at 10:38:51 AM EST
Let me know when you make your plans.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2015 at 02:49:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this, Paul (that I only just got to). I'm going to have to summarize the project for our local energy transition group. There's quite a lot of wood around here, and we might be able to think about a smaller-level application of what you are doing there.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 28th, 2015 at 02:04:27 PM EST
Ask me about anything that you might need to know, and I will try to answer. One of our main strategic goals is to create a model for similar, smaller-scale, distributed-energy projects.

Don't know if this applies in your neighborhood, but the forests - particularly federal - in our area need major restoration work, and this project is seen by almost everyone out here as facilitation for some of this work.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Apr 1st, 2015 at 05:02:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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