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ReEnergy Biomass Maine receives grant to produce biochar

January 11, 2023  By ReEnergy Biomass Maine


Photo: Annex Business Media

ReEnergy Biomass Maine, which operates biomass power facilities in Maine’s Androscoggin and Franklin counties, has been awarded $523,900 in grant funding to produce biochar.

The funds will be provided through the Forest Recovery Initiative of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, administered by the Maine Technology Institute, which aims to support Maine’s forest products industry and strengthen the state’s economy. Awards are intended to support forward-looking industry projects that address new market demands, provide new sustainable products, or otherwise advance the long-term stability of the forestry industry.

“We thank Governor Janet Mills, the state legislature and the Maine Technology Institute for their support of our project and the forest products industry, and we look forward to begin this exciting new project at our facilities in Livermore Falls and Stratton,” said Mark Thibodeau, the regional manager of ReEnergy Biomass Maine. Thibodeau will oversee ReEnergy’s biochar projects.

The award will fund half of the project costs to acquire equipment that will produce biochar using a gasification and biochar extraction process.

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ReEnergy Biomass Maine operates two biomass facilities in Maine. ReEnergy Stratton, a 48-megawatt biomass power facility located in the Village of Stratton and the Town of Eustis in Franklin County, produces approximately 355,000 net megawatt-hours of electricity each year — enough to supply about 46,000 homes. A portion of ReEnergy Stratton’s electricity is sold to the adjacent Stratton Lumber mill, while the balance is supplied into the regional electricity grid. ReEnergy Livermore Falls, a 39-megawatt biomass power facility located in Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County, has the capacity to produce approximately 284,000 net megawatt-hours of electricity each year — enough to supply about 37,000 homes. The facilities are owned by ReEnergy Biomass Operations and ReGenerate Energy Holdings.

Both facilities generate baseload renewable electricity using sustainably harvested logging residue and mill residue that is procured from approximately 100 large and small logging and wood processing companies and approximately 20 sawmills. In addition to the 48 full-time employees at the two sites, the operations of the two ReEnergy facilities are estimated to support an average of an additional 259 jobs per year through indirect and induced impacts.

A portion of the facilities’ biomass fuel is converted to biochar through a gasification process in the boiler. The new equipment will help convey and process the biochar for storage and shipment. The project will create an estimated 2-4 new jobs and provide support for the existing workforce.

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that is a stable form of carbon that cannot easily escape into the atmosphere. It can be manufactured from forestry waste and shows promise in mitigating climate change and improving soil quality while also reducing waste.

These two facilities expect to generate up to 8,000 tons of biochar annually with greater than 80% carbon content beginning in 2023. The biochar ReEnergy produces can be used in activated carbon markets for filtration systems, used as a concrete additive, or marketed to regional farms as a soil amendment that will help soils retain nutrients and water and store carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years. As a soil enhancer, it can increase soil biodiversity and discourage deforestation and conversion of agricultural land for development.

Maine farmers already are using the Stratton facility’s wood ash, also known as fly ash, as a soil amendment. In 2021, the Stratton Facility produced more than 19,000 tons of wood ash that was used by approximately 60 Maine farmers.

 


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