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FutureMetrics' William Strauss outlines the many benefits expanded pellet heating could bring to the U.S.

By William Strauss | March 29, 2014

When people talk about energy, particularly at the federal level, they think of electricity and transportation.  In the northern states, those two large sectors account for about 65 percent of energy use.  The other 35 percent—which is heat for homes and businesses— is often ignored in policy discussions.

The reason this matters is that the heat in many homes is produced from burning imported petroleum-based fossil fuel in boilers or furnaces. For northern states that are dependent in part on heating oil and propane, the majority of every dollar spent on heating fuel leaves the regional economy, and much of that money spent on heating leaves the country.

 If heating oil were a product of U.S. petroleum, at least the money spent would stay in the country.  But most of the heating oil refined in the U.S. for the northern markets is not. Only about 19 percent of the heating oil refined in the Gulf Coast refineries comes from petroleum extracted from U.S. wells
At a price of $3.80 per gallon, FutureMetrics estimates that about 770,000 jobs are exported to the other countries that supply the petroleum for heating oil and some of the propane used to keep Northern Tier states’ homes and business warm.  This estimate excludes areas that already heat with natural gas or electricity, and areas that are likely to get natural gas.

A very optimistic scenario might suggest that by 2020, most urban centers will have natural gas.  But that will leave a lot of homes and business on heating oil or propane.  The pictured chart shows the number of rural households in the northern tier states that are not on natural gas, most of which will never have a natural gas connection.

It would be irresponsible, given the current demands by the pulp and paper industry, to suggest that there is sufficient sustainable forest feedstock today to make pellets to heat 6 million homes.  But the world is changing, and demand for fiber from our working forests for papermaking will change dramatically in the coming decade.

We are already almost half way to having enough pellet fuel for 6 million homes.  Currently, the U.S. produces nearly 10.4 million tons per year of wood pellets annually.  Another 7.9 million tons of capacity is under construction or in the advanced development phase.  Some of the existing production and almost all of the new capacity is earmarked for export into overseas markets.  If those pellets were to stay here for our heating markets, they would heat almost 2.6 million homes.

The conversion from petroleum-based heating fuel to premium wood pellet fuel has many benefits, which accrue from three key pathways that have positive multiplier effects: More than 75 percent of each dollar spent on heating oil does not stay in the local economy, and jobs are exported along with that money.  Locally produced pellet fuel keeps almost 100 percent of every dollar spent circulating locally; pellet fuel is about half the price of heating oil for the same heating energy, and those savings increase the income that households and businesses have to spend in the local economy; the supply chain for harvesting, manufacturing and distributing sustainable biomass creates jobs.

Additionally, the conversion of 6 million homes and businesses from heating oil and propane to wood pellets would reduce net carbon emissions in the U.S. by 81.6 million tons per year.

The premium wood pellet sector can deliver lower end-user heating costs, a higher degree of energy independence, needed jobs from three important pathways, and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions while doing so.

Author: William Strauss
President, FutureMetrics
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From Biomass Magazine
By Sue Retka Schill | March 10, 2014
A new white paper from FutureMetrics LLC makes the case for pellet heat, analyzing the number of rural households and the availability of sustainable forestry resources, concluding that not only will buying local for pellet heat lower consumer heat and hot water energy bills, but keep the money in the local economy and create jobs.

In the paper, William Straus, president of FutureMetrics, says more than 4.3 million northern tier homes that are dependent on heating oil or propane will most likely never get pipeline natural gas or home-delivered compressed natural gas (CNG).  States vary widely in the fuel used for heating. In Illinois, 79.7 percent of homes are on natural gas while in Maine 68.7 percent of homes and businesses use heating oil and only 5 percent on pipeline natural gas.

Drawing from U.S. Census and Energy Information Administration data, the paper looks at the number of household in northern tier states in rural areas that are not on natural gas, estimating the total at about 6 million. Michigan leads with close to 850,000 households, followed by Ohio and New York with about 700,000 each and Wisconsin at about 525,000. Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois hover around 400,000 households, followed by Iowa with 300,000 and Maine and Oregon at around 250,000 households.

Strauss then overlays U.S. Forest Service inventory data to asses which states could sustainably supply 100 percent of its rural homes with wood pellets for heating, citing  Maine, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, Vermont and Pennsylvania as all having sufficient resources to supply households in those states, plus the potential to export to other states.

The paper delves into price comparisons with competing fuels. “The current retail price for pellet fuel in the New England area is between $200 and $250 per ton,” it says. “CNG is not competitive with pellet fuel at a delivered price equivalent to $376 per ton of pellet fuel.”  And, though natural gas has been economical for those who can get, “there is another natural gas market trend that will support pellets remaining cost competitive for heating,” the report says. “As the U.S. exports more natural, prices will be set by global rather than domestic markets.”

“High efficiency fully automatic pellet fueled boilers, and the bulk pellet fuel delivery trucks to serve them, need to become more commonplace in the U.S. just as they already have in many European countries and some areas in the U.S. Northeast like Maine and New Hampshire,” the paper concludes.

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March 18, 2014                   

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Ken Tucker (208) 263-0564
Taglich Private Equity Completes Acquisition of Lignetics, Inc.

Sandpoint, Idaho – Ken Tucker, CEO of Lignetics, Inc. (“Lignetics”), announced today the acquisition of Lignetics by Taglich Private Equity LLC (“Taglich”), Management and Gladstone Capital Corporation, who provided subordinated debt and equity financing, along with Texas Capital Bank, who provided senior debt in support of the transaction.  "Completing this transaction marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Lignetics’ history as the market leader in the residential wood pellet industry," Tucker said.  "The management team of Lignetics is very excited to be partnering with Taglich, and looks forward to their support in our Company’s continued growth and development.”

Tucker also noted that the transaction will give Lignetics the capital base to pursue expansion plans.  "We were looking for investors that would bring stable leadership to the company and a long term view, and this transaction has accomplished that," said Tucker.  “We are excited about the growth opportunities in our business and believe we have chosen excellent partners to support us.”  

William Morris, Managing Director of Taglich Private Equity added, "Taglich is excited about our investment in Lignetics and we are proud to be able to support the Management Team in the continued growth of the organization, both organically and through add-on acquisitions.  We view our investment as a true partnership with Management and are very excited about the Company’s future growth prospects."

Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Sandpoint, ID, Lignetics manufactures and distributes branded wood pellets from its three U.S. production facilities.  With more than 30 years in the wood pellet industry, Lignetics is one of the founding pioneers of manufacturing premium wood pellets and Pres-to-Logs® fire logs for home heating.  Lignetics has a long tradition of providing the highest quality wood pellets used as a renewable fuel for home and industrial heating, animal bedding under its “EZ Equine” brand, absorption products used in the oil & gas industry as well as barbeque wood pellets.  Lignetics also manufactures all-natural Pres-to-Logs® fire logs, which along with their wood pellets, are 100% renewable and are generated from recycled sawdust at lumber and flooring manufacturing facilities that could otherwise be destined for landfills.  Only all-natural materials are used in the production of Lignetics wood pellets and Pres-to-Logs® fire logs, ensuring a clean and safe burn.

Taglich Private Equity LLC is a financial sponsor which has been investing since 2001 in lower middle market manufacturing, business service and consumer product companies.  Taglich has completed transactions totaling over $450 million funded primarily with capital provided by Taglich Brothers, Inc., a full service brokerage firm managing capital in both public and private investments.  Taglich focuses on finding sound investment opportunities with capable management and delivering significant growth resources and capital to portfolio investments.  For more information on Taglich Private Equity LLC please visit   
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Energy analysts blame record demand, record withdrawals from storage and risks to short-term production.
Steve Schutz of New Berlin knows how frustrated people can get when their heating bills soar and they have only one choice of heating fuel, such as propane, which has tripled in price in recent weeks. Schutz, owner of Sunnyslope Gardens Inc., lowered his heating bill between $2,000 and $3,000 a year by installing wood pellet stoves in his greenhouses and home nine years ago.

Now the stoves are his primary heating source, supplemented by natural gas.
Every morning, Schutz checks his stoves and empties the ash pots. It takes him about an hour to make the rounds for six stoves before he leaves them unattended.
“There is a learning curve. You’re dealing with fire, so you have to check things,” he said.
A lot of people appear to be lining up for that learning curve, especially in rural areas, where they’ve faced propane shortages as well as rising prices.
National trade groups say sales of pellets and pellet stoves are climbing this year, the result of a winter people are likely to remember for decades.
Dejno’s Inc., a pellet manufacturer in Kenosha, Wis., has seen its business heat up as more people turn to pellet stoves and dial back their propane use.
The Kenosha mill takes sawdust and shavings from companies in the home construction industry and presses those waste materials into pellets.
It keeps the waste out of landfills and is a renewable source of homegrown energy, said Larry Dejno, company vice president.
Earth Sense Energy Systems, in the Outagamie County town of Dale, Wis., claims to be the nation’s largest pellet stove dealership.
“Sales are much stronger than average now, driven by high propane costs more so than the cold,” said Chad Curtis, operations manager for the company, which has been in the pellet stove business for 22 years.
The stoves burn compacted pellets, usually made of wood, but some models can burn nutshells, corn kernels and small wood chips. They’re more convenient to operate than ordinary wood stoves or fireplaces, and some have much higher heating efficiencies, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
A stove rated at 60,000 Btu can heat a 2,000-square-foot home, while a stove rated at 42,000 Btu can heat a 1,300-square-foot space, the agency says.
What most homeowners want to know is how much money they could save from heating with a pellet stove compared with using propane, fuel oil or natural gas.
With propane priced at more than $4 a gallon, an equivalent amount of heat from wood pellets would be about five times cheaper, according to Mark Knaebe, forest products technologist with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory.
“It’s a no-brainer for propane and fuel oil users. You would want to switch over to a good wood system,” Knaebe said.
For someone heating with natural gas, the savings wouldn’t amount to much, Knaebe said. That could change, though, if natural gas prices were to increase considerably, as they have in the past.
When propane and fuel oil prices rise, so do pellet stove sales.
The best time to buy a stove and pellets is in the summer, when people have forgotten about heating costs and stove dealerships want to clear out inventory from the previous winter.
Stove prices vary widely, from about $1,200 to $4,000, plus installation and other costs that could include a higher home insurance premium for having a wood burner. The cost of pellets is about $4 per 40-pound bag, with many homeowners using a bag a day to heat their homes or supplement another source of heat.
Most of the stoves don’t need an expensive chimney. Free-standing units resemble a conventional wood stove and generally heat a single room well. But they won’t heat adjacent areas unless there’s a fan to move the warm air between rooms.
The stoves have a fuel hopper to store the pellets until they’re needed for burning. Most hoppers hold 35 to 130 pounds of fuel.
A feeder device, like a large screw, drops a few pellets at a time into a combustion chamber for burning. How quickly the pellets are fed into the burner determines the heat output.
The stoves have to be cleaned by the homeowner, including emptying a pot that holds the ashes. They also require electricity to run fans, controls and pellet feeders. Under normal usage, a stove would use about $9 worth of electricity a month, according to the Department of Energy.
“Unless the stove has a backup power supply, the loss of electric power results in no heat and possibly some smoke in the house,” the agency says.
Many people use a pellet stove to supplement or replace their main heating source until propane, natural gas or fuel oil prices go down. For comparison purposes, the Forest Products Laboratory has a fuel-cost calculator on its website,
The current propane crisis is a reminder that it’s smart to have two ways to heat your home, said John Crouch, spokesman for the Pellet Fuels Institute in Sacramento, Calif.
“It gives you some independence. When you have only one way to heat your home, you’re stuck with whatever that fuel price is,” he said.
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SOURCE: BBI International

February 20, 2014

ORLANDO, FL – (Feb. 20 2014) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced 18 projects that receive funding through the Renewable Heat NY program, to help install high-efficiency, low-emission wood-fired heating equipment, according to a recent article in Biomass Magazine.

The funding is being awarded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's Energy and Environmental Performance of Biomass-fired Heating Equipment program.

Besides helping cover costs of advanced biomass heating systems, Renewable Heat NY is being designed to facilitate workforce training and manufacturer support for field testing, equipment certification and early stage product development. NYSERDA is developing a Biomass Heating Roadmap for the state, which is slated for release later this year and will assess policy strategies and economic and environmental impacts.

Award recipients to date include:
Clarkson University, Potsdam, $80,000. This project will study the presence of carbon monoxide in wood pellet storage facilities and in the laboratory due to offgassing, and investigate methods to improve air quality in pellet storage areas.

Clarkson University, Saranac Lake, $267,500. Two fully automatic high-efficiency and low-emission wood pellet boilers made by Evoworld will be installed in residential locations by Clarkson University. One boiler will be placed in a shipping container outside one of the homes, while the second boiler will be placed in the basement of a second home. This project will evaluate for two years the performance and emissions of these units under the cold winter conditions.

The Wild Center & Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, Tupper Lake, $126,000. Recipients will add two 850-gallon tanks of thermal storage to an existing combined pellet boiler and solar thermal project at the Wild Center. The program will evaluate the improved efficiency of this system for two heating seasons, which is expected to approach 85 percent. Clarkson University will perform the third party evaluation.

Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Lake Placid, $190,000. This project will study the winter characteristics of wood smoke particulate matter concentrations in a rural valley community over two winters. Monitoring will identify weather conditions leading to high wood smoke, and help address air quality and public health planning needs. Research Foundation of SUNY Canton, Canton, $163,000. Fully automatic wood pellet heating systems will be installed in three buildings in St. Lawrence County to demonstrate how these systems will operate.

Northeast Forests LLC, Thendara, $98,000. This project will evaluate the costs and processes involved in producing and supplying low-moisture content wood chips. The results will be shared with the forest product community.

Vincent's Heating & Fuel Service LLC, Poland, $110,000. Vincent's will purchase an 8-ton, wood pellet delivery truck to expand its residential and commercial delivery capacity, expanding the bulk wood pellet market in upstate New York. NYSERDA funds will be used to give the truck the pneumatic ability to deliver bulk pellets.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, $66,000. The project will replace older wood stoves and a few outdoor wood boilers in the region with wood pellet stoves and wood pellet boilers that provide higher efficiency and lower emissions.

Finger Lakes Research Conservation and Development Council, Bath, $97,000. This project will evaluate a commercial biomass boiler designed for grasses, examining both thermal efficiency and emissions performance when burning grass pellets produced in the Southern Tier.

University at Buffalo Research Foundation, Buffalo, $300,000. The university is working with Econoburn to develop a commercial two-stage wood hydronic heater with improved combustion chamber design and added sensors and controls to improve efficiency and lower emissions.

Hydronic Specialty Supply, Cassadaga, $227,500. This project will develop residential and commercial firewood gasification boilers that can maintain high efficiency and low emissions due to an innovative staged-combustion design with smart sensors and controls for optimizing performance. These boilers, coupled with thermal storage, are expected to demonstrate results of double the efficiency of conventional wood boiler technologies, and a corresponding decrease in wood use.

Advanced Wood Combustion Technologies LLC, East Aurora, $49,000. The project goal is to create a two-stage retrofit prototype for single stage outdoor wood boilers that can become commercially viable. The goal of the retrofit is to increase thermal efficiency by 40 percent and greatly reduce fine particle and carbon monoxide emissions.

University of Rochester, Rochester, $300,000. The University of Rochester's Medical Center will study community levels of ambient wood smoke and its link to cardiovascular disease. Previous URMC studies in Rochester found that 30 percent of wintertime fine particulate matter was from wood smoke.

Clarkson University, Syracuse, $102,000. Clarkson will evaluate a commercial pellet boiler that has an electrostatic precipitator emission control technology, which is part of the 8 MMBtu combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry's new Gateway building. Emissions from both premium wood pellets and willow pellets will be examined. Data will benefit a companion Cornell University air quality modeling project.

Cornell University, Syracuse, $125,000. This project, in conjunction with the previous Clarkson project, will conduct field measurements of the CHP system at SUNY ESF during the use of two types of wood pellet fuels. The goal is to advance air quality modeling capabilities for use in urban environments.

College of Science and Forestry, Syracuse, $150,000. This project will evaluate hot water extraction and flue gas drying technology as an alternative to conventional wood chip drying methods, as the hot water extraction process is one way to reduce ash content. Replicated results with many species indicate a very significant ash reduction for all conditions studied in this project. Reducing the moisture content in wood chips is essential for better combustion and higher performance for advanced wood chip-fired heating units.

Brookhaven National Lab/The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, Upton, $300,000. This project will develop a more accurate and realistic test method for biomass heating systems, which is needed to more accurately evaluate advanced wood heating systems. The lack of such a test remains a significant market barrier for these high-efficiency, low-emissions systems. The work will also result in a lowered cost of testing for manufacturers.

The U.S. EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory has also received $150,000 to help evaluate the efficiency and emissions performance of a pellet hydronic heater using multiple fuel sources including hardwood pellets and three different types of non-woody biomass from New York. This project will inform policy makers at the federal and state level about the performance of non-woody biomass as a fuel source for heating.

This topic and more will be discussed at the International Biomass Conference & Expo, taking place March 24-26 in Orlando, FL. You can view the online agenda at

The conference will also be exploring pellet supply chains and bioenergy project development during two co-located events. These events are titled Pellet Supply Chain Summit and the Bioenergy Project Development Seminar. To learn more visit

About BBI International:
Founded in 1995, BBI International produces globally recognized bioenergy events and trade magazines. In addition to the International Biomass Conference & Expo and its allied regional events, BBI owns and operates the largest, longest-running ethanol conference in the world -- the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW) -- and the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo. The company publishes Biomass Magazine, Ethanol Producer Magazine, Pellet Mill Magazine, and Biodiesel Magazine, as well as a number of ancillary products including maps, directories, e-newsletters and other web-based industry resources.

Contact Information
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