Canadian Biomass Magazine

Biomass and Innovation

April 22, 2010
By Bill Tice

A capacity crowd of over 600 people filled the Wheeler Pavilion at the Oregon Logging Conference (OLC) in Eugene, Oregon, in late February 2010 to hear Nate Clark deliver the keynote address.

A capacity crowd of over 600 people filled the Wheeler Pavilion at the Oregon Logging Conference (OLC) in Eugene, Oregon, in late February 2010 to hear Nate Clark deliver the keynote address.  Clark, who is director of public affairs for John Deere’s Construction and Forestry Division and John Deere Power Systems, captured the audience’s attention by merging his thoughts on “innovation” with the OLC’s 2010 theme of “Forest biomass – Fuel for the Future?”

Photo: John Deere

The topics were a natural fit.  Oregon’s loggers are keen to learn more about how woody biomass can help their logging businesses grow and prosper.  And John Deere is promoting its involvement in biomass and biomass harvesting, especially with its newly formed strategic alliance with Adage, a bioenergy joint venture between Areva and Duke Energy.

This alliance between John Deere and Adage was announced in early February 2010 and is expected to bring technology and process innovation to the fuel supply for sustainable wood biomass power projects.  The first project on the books as part of the alliance will be a proposed biomass power facility in Mason County, Washington, that will involve collecting, bundling, and transporting woody debris and logging residues from regional logging operations.  All of the equipment used to gather and bundle the wood debris for the Mason County plant is manufactured by Deere.


“The strategic alliance with Adage is an excellent example of how we can work within new and innovative business models,” explained Clark in a post-OLC interview.  “This alliance is innovative because it places stakeholders in new roles.  For example, John Deere is responsible for biomass harvesting and feedstock transfer services.  That’s something we haven’t done before, but we are experts in equipment and in forestry operations, so it just makes a great deal of sense.  And similarly, our loggers are placed in a somewhat different and exciting role because they are going to be working with John Deere directly instead of the landowner or the mill.  They will still be doing what they know best, which is harvesting, but they will be working with an equipment manufacturer over a long-term sustainable project to harvest and deliver the biomass.  What we are seeing is the key stakeholders doing the things they are extraordinarily good at, but doing it in slightly different ways, and that is providing new opportunities.”

Clark says that biomass use is complimentary to the more traditional uses of forest fibre such as by the sawmilling and pulp and paper industries, and he doesn’t foresee any issues with competition for wood fibre.

“In terms of fibre supply, we believe we can help address any possible concerns by developing equipment that improves the utilization of currently harvested forest resources.  But even more importantly, we can help expand the universe of economically available forest resources.  Our bundler is a perfect example of this because it permits the harvesting and use of previously unutilized materials to generate energy.  We will be able to do more in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.”

For Clark and many people involved in forest harvesting, biomass creates a sense of optimism during what has been a difficult time.  “Even in the face of adversity, it is critical for us to act courageously and take a first step for logging customers in support of this opportunity created by biomass, as it can result in many economic, political, social, and environmental benefits,” Clark concludes.

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