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Bioenergy Report: Meeting the demand

Feb. 29, 2012 - During the second day of the Bioenergy Conference & Expo, after the keynotes, there were a series of sessions exploring the difficulties associated with obtaining, utilizing and optimizing resources in a biomass facility.


March 1, 2012
By David Manly


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Feb. 29, 2012 – During the second day of the Bioenergy Conference & Expo, after the keynotes, there were a series of sessions exploring the difficulties associated with obtaining, utilizing and optimizing resources in a biomass facility.

Robert Synk, the manager of products with The Parton Group, discussed the complicated nature of how to maximize biopower availability to meet the ever-increasing demand. His solution was to expand the definition of what “biomass” is to include timberwood resources that are left underutilized due to the declining nature of the solid wood manufacturing and pulp & paper industries.

“By expanding the biomass definition, there will be four times more biomass available if it includes whole tree chips and underutilized pulpwood.”

Following that, Richard Vlosky took to the podium to discuss a recent survey that he and his colleagues at the Forest Sector Business Development program at Louisiana State University completed to determine the possibility of forest landowners contributing to the biomass industry.

The survey, which contacted 980 small forest landowners, discovered that around 90% of them plan to harvest their trees in the near future, and that 62% were open to the idea of using biomass for energy. However, before any decisions would be made, the respondents had three main prerequisites: that it not upset current markets, that a profit can be made and that is does not harm the environment (soil, water and wildlife).

“The money question,” said Volsky, “was would they be willing to participate in management activities geared towards biomass production? And only 51% said yes.”

“Therefore, further education and outreach is needed to sway public opinion.”

The final presenter of the session was Jonathan Rager from Poyry Management Consulting on how to determine if a biomass plant is a viable business model and what can be done to optimize it.

According to Ragre, with the biomass pellet market poised to triple (or quadruple) within the next 10 years, there are four easy steps that any supplier or consumer can do.

Firstly is to know the entire market value chain, from output to input, as well as expanding into non-traditional product development, such as bio-degradable diapers and soy-based bio-foam) to help foster dynamic growth. The next step is to maximize the supply chain and decreases the costs of transportation of your feed streams. Next is to rank the technological innovations that your company/plant has access to using a metric to determine if it is needed.

“The final step, and most important,” said Rager, “is how to foster and utilize winning partnerships and relationships within your business.”

“You need to identify potential and attractive partnerships, evaluate their potential and screen them for the best fit to your business model.”

According to Rager, once all those steps are complete, you will have a suitable base to build, expand and promote your biomass


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