Wood waste is all around and ever increasing. As much as it pains tree huggers, we chop down trees to use them for buildings, paper, and seemingly everything in between. While some scientists say we have to cut down some trees in order to save them, others say we cut down too much. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, the chopping continues and there are literally tons of wood waste left behind that doesn’t get used up, but we can all agree we should do something with that waste. Today, we look at the top 10 projects from around the world that are taking the leftovers and turning them into something valuable.
West Virginia – Wood waste to diesel and biochar
In West Virginia, new company PPD of WV One got approval to build a $73 million synthetic fuel plant. The plant will convert solid waste materials, mostly forestry and wood industry waste, to diesel fuel and biochar that will be used for agriculture.
They expect to create 160 construction jobs with another 60 to 100 fulltime jobs once the plant begins operations, expected to be in the early 2018. PPD of WV One expects the plant to produce 7.2 million gallons of diesel and 7,200 tons of biochar each year, once operational. The company is now looking for another $80 million in revenue bonds to help finance the construction and equipping of the plant.
Russia – Wood waste to biofuels
As reported in the Digest in July, Russian scientists are looking at biofuels as another alternative energy source for Arctic regions, in addition to the existing wind power that takes advantage of the high wind speeds. The switch from oil and coal is already being made to biofuel from wood processing waste in some areas. There are already 10 biofuel producers and two new plants will be in operation by the end of 2017. They have 37 boiling stations already using biofuel, and another 18 will start using biofuel by the end of this year. Their hope is to decrease deliveries of coal from afar and instead use the locally available wood waste.
Illinois – Wood-based biorefineries
We reported in July that Synsel hopes to finalize financing in the next few months for two $300 million wood-based biorefineries in Ontonagon, Mich. and Lumberton, Miss. that are meant to produce synthetic gasoline, diesel and aviation. The Ontonagon project aims to repurpose the mothballed Smurfit-Stone Paper Mill that was closed in 2010 but the Lumberton site was not identified. The licensor of the technology that will be employed at the biorefineries was only identified as a major oil and gas company.
Maine –Wood-based biofuel technology
As reported in the Digest in May, Biofine is seeking investors to help it scale up the wood-based biofuel technology developed by the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute. The company invested $200,000 in an old small-scale biofuel plant that was converted to run on the technology and demonstrate its viability. It’s now ready to scale up at the Old Mill facility where it is being tested or at other mill sites across the state that have shut down in recent years due to a decline in the pulp and paper industry.
Washington, D.C. – Government help for biomass projects
While this isn’t a biomass project exactly, it’s worth being on our top 10 list because the U.S. Forest Service is working to expand renewable wood energy markets by providing technical assistance and grants to public and private sector partners through its Woody Biomass Utilization program. Their support is key to many of the biomass projects and developments out there. By supporting efforts to reuse the excess wood from forest thinnings, urban tree trimmings, and forest products manufacturing facilities as well as trees killed by fires, insects, disease, and hurricanes, the agency seeks to increase the amount of locally-produced energy while improving forest health and resilience. And for that, they are worthy of being on our top 10 list.
Minnesota – Fungi helps with wood biofuel production
In February, the Digest reported that a team of scientists found that fungi can help with biofuel production by breaking down the wood cellulose more efficiently. The scientists come from the University of Minnesota; the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Gyeongsangnam-do Agricultural Research and Extension Services, Republic of Korea; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and found evidence that brown rot fungi separate the oxidants and enzymes in time rather than in space. The team discovered this two-step wood decomposition mechanism by designing a simple, yet elegant experiment: they grew brown rot fungi in one direction along thin wood specimens separating the stages of wood decay linearly across the substrate.
Canada/Australia – Joint venture for drop-in biofuels from wood residues and biomass
Licella from Australia and Canfor from Canada formed a joint venture, as reported in the Digest last year, for low-cost, drop-in biofuels from wood residues and biomass. The joint venture, called the “Licella Pulp Joint Venture” integrated Licella’s unique Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor upgrading platform into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills to economically convert biomass, including wood residues from Canfor Pulp’s kraft pulping processes, into biocrude oil, to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals. This additional residue stream refining would allow Canfor Pulp to further optimise their pulp production capacity.
Finland – Woody biomass for chemicals
This project makes our top 10 list because it is using woody biomass not for biofuels, but for chemicals which is pretty unique. As reported in the Digest last September, BIOFOREVER (BIO-based products from FORestry via Economically Viable European Routes), a consortium of 14 European companies, started a demonstration project for the conversion of woody biomass to value adding chemical building blocks. In December 2015 the consortium applied for European funding under the Horizon 2020 program and in April 2016 the proposal was positively evaluated by Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). BIOFOREVER intends to demonstrate the feasibility of various new value chains from lignocellulosic feedstocks to chemical building blocks like butanol, ethanol, 2, 5 furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) on an industrial scale.
Maine – Wood to jet fuel technology
Another Maine project made our list, and for good reason with its funding to advance wood to jet fuel technology. As reported in the Digest in September 2016, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is investing $3.3 million to advance wood to jet fuel technology at the Technology Research Center (TRC) of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute at the University of Maine. The technology is based on FBRI’s patented thermal deoxygenation (TDO) process, which was shown to yield jet fuel test samples that have met key specification. In order to improve process economics, FBRI will investigate co-production of advanced materials, such as nanocelluose composites, as well as some high-value chemicals from woody biomass and liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This project will explore conversion of cellulose and lignin to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and use of hemicellose extract and cellulose fiber slip streams for developing high-value co-products.
Ohio – From wood chips to wood waste fuel
Last but not least on our list is a good example of how we should always be open to change and that change can bring good things. As reported in the Digest in March 2017, the Youngstown Thermal steam plant that powers district heating for the community converted its wood chip-based facility over to burning wood waste-based liquid fuel from Ensyn. The company said using the new fuel is better for the environment than what it burned previously and is easier to use. It said it is the first company in the world to use Ensyn’s fuel as heating oil and is a demonstration for other district heating facilities around the country, even recently hosting engineers from Europe to see how the transition worked.