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A North Yorkshire poultry farming family has made financial savings and increased the predictability of future input costs, by moving from oil heating to a biomass wood boiler which relies on wood pellets.
Reg Marton farms with his son, Simon, and grandson, Andy, at Rise Farm, Great Barugh, near Malton. A poultry enterprise was added to the farm business some 50 years ago and the family currently produce 500,000 broilers from six crops of birds each year, as well as growing arable crops and running a contracting business.
Mains gas is not available in the area, so oil had always been used to heat the sheds. "The price of heating has rocketed over the past two years and our margins, which were already tight, were being eroded. An attempt to cut down on oil consumption did not work out, as it had a detrimental effect on growth rates.
"The market for oil is extremely volatile and seems to be moving in only one direction - upward. This was making it difficult to predict input costs for any length of time ahead, with a similar effect on profitability."
The Martons approached family friend and neighbour, Peter Teasdale, who is a director of Land Energy, an integrated wood pellet business which offers producers a range of options for heating their sheds. The family chose a contract which gave them a free energy system, including a boiler, pellet storage facility, thermostatically-controlled hot water heaters, computer equipment and a network of pipes. Design and installation were also part of the deal.
The system, which has been operating since last August, provides all the energy required to heat the poultry housing. Hot water is dispersed through a series of metal pipes with fins attached, although underground pipework can also be installed, in cases where there is insufficient room to build heat centres attached to individual sheds.
Another element of the contract covers the costs associated with equipment cleaning, servicing and maintenance, plus related insurance premiums. Land Energy takes the Renewable Heating Incentive payments, which are offered for sustainable heating projects and linked to the level of energy generated.
In return, the Martons commit to a 10-year arrangement, which involves making an agreed fixed monthly payment, linked to the quantity of wood pellets used. This represents an approximate 20% saving in energy costs compared with oil heating, based on current prices. The monthly fee is reviewed annually and is adjusted only to take account of inflation. The contract allows the Martons to fix their heating costs for a decade ahead, irrespective of oil or biomass price increases.
The contract also permits the family to use up to 10% more wood pellets at no extra cost. This means that, in an exceptionally cold winter when spot oil prices usually rise sharply, their financial commitment remains stable.
The maximum quantity of the wood pellets held in storage for each shed is 10t, which will last for two weeks at peak times of the year. Pellet levels are monitored remotely, with fresh supplies delivered by blower truck. The system uses 6mm pellets, to facilitate their movement by auger from the store to the boiler.
"The current arrangement is working well," says Mr Marton. "If we had carried on using oil, or purchased a wood pellet heating system independently, we would have been left without any protection against energy price fluctuations.
"The idea of a wood-fuel boiler appealed to us; the option we chose involved no capital expenditure and gave us the opportunity to help the environment by minimising the farm's carbon emissions."
Woodfuel produces dry heat, compared with gas or oil, offering potential savings on litter and reducing humidity within the housing. A "weight for age" improvement rate of 5-10% is also reported, along with the potential for cutting down pododermatitis.
While many renewable heating systems depend on wood pellets, farmers can also use woodchips, taken from their own trees. It is generally recommended that virgin wood is used, as waste woodchip can cause problems with emission levels, to which legal restrictions apply.
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A quiet revolution is taking place across the Acela corridor: heating with wood finds broad new acceptance. Applications range from residential wood pellet stoves and boilers, to institutional and industrial pellet and chip h
eating of schools and factories, to district heating of downtown centers and college campuses.
Fully automated pellet systems of all sizes, bulk wood pellet delivery, refined and semi-dried wood chip
fuels, advanced technology boilers with engineered emissions controls that bring down harmful pollutants, and combined heat and electric power (CHP) systems are steadily making inroads and on the cusp of mainstream acceptance.
It was the winter of 2005, average oil prices were $2.44 per gallon, and about 30 inches of snow dropped overnight on Rhode Island. The answer to the cold: turn up the heat. Problem was, that, like the seasons, my fathers employment was cyclical. At the time, he was a hard-working Carpenter working for the Rhode Island Carpenter's Union. But, like most other Carpenters in the Northeast, finding an indoor job in the winter time was, and still is, extremely difficult. One must budget money accordingly. I'm not crying poverty —my father has put in well over 20 years with the union and has a nice hourly wage — but when it was time to fill up a 275 gallon tank, the $671 bill was hard to swallow during a time of budgeting. Do it 2.5-4 times a winter, and you start talking about paying some bills rather than others.
His answer: buying a pellet stove in the summer of 2006. I was only 15 at the time, had no idea what a pellet stove was, and hated the idea of lugging 40lb bags back and forth from the barn. The one positive of this new purchase was the fact it was going to be in the basement ... a.k.a my new bedroom.
Come to find out, this was one of my fathers smarter purchases. In 2007, average oil prices jumped to $3.44, nearly a dollar more per gallon. In 2012, the average price for oil was $3.88 per gallon.
While my days of lugging 40lb bags of pellets back and forth from the barn to my room are over, my father swears it was his best purchase to this day--and the numbers tell a fairly similar story.
The cost of the pellet stove was $3,500. Figuring that he uses 2 tons of pellets per winter (1 ton is equal to 1.5 cords of firewood) at today's average price of $217 per ton over the last 7 winters, means he has spent roughly $3,100 since purchasing the stove. Let's call it $7,000 when you add the cost of the pellet stove and the addition of the expensive piping that is needed to vent out the byproduct.
Before the pellet stove, my father used to go through 2.5-4 refills of a 275 gallon oil tank per winter season alone. Using the average oil price per season and multiplying that by three refills per winter cycle yields a total of $17,000 spent on oil, not including the yearly upkeep cost. The difference between the projected cost of oil refills vs. the actual cost of pellets ... close to $10,000.
The numbers speak volumes for how cost effective pellets stoves can be, in the right environment. Did my father use oil over the past seven years? Of course he did, just not $10,000 worth.
Wonder why universities, factories, and even government buildings are slowly switching to woodpellets and other woodburing practices as a source of heat and energy? It's not because liberals are pushing the clean energy agenda (which they are), it's because it saves money.

-Mitchell Mello
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WASHINGTON – May 22, 2013 – Today, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) voiced its strong support of Senator Angus King (I-ME) for his introduction of a bill to help homeowners and businesses across the nation meet their heating needs with renewable biomass. The bill is the first piece of legislation for the junior Senator from Maine, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has joined as an original co-sponsor.
The “Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2013” (BTU Act) would recognize biomass thermal technologies within the renewable energy provisions of the tax code. One provision of the BTU Act would include high-efficiency biomass heating technology in Section 25D of the Internal Revenue Code, the residential renewable energy 30% investment tax credit. The second provision is a tiered tax credit for 15% or 30% of the installed cost of biomass-fueled heating (or cooling) systems for commercial or industrial applications in section 48 of the tax code.
“Senator King’s bill would provide highly efficient biomass thermal equipment the same incentive that exists for nearly every other renewable energy technology, including solar heating and PV, wind, and geothermal,” said Joseph Seymour, Executive Director of the national non-profit Biomass Thermal Energy Council. “Thermal energy is typically the forgotten pathway in our national energy discussion, so we commend the Senator for recognizing biomass thermal technologies as a base-load, local, and affordable option within our tax code.”
To qualify for the 30% residential credit, biomass equipment must operate at a thermal efficiency rate of at least 75% and be used for space or water heating. Alternatively, the commercial and industrial credit criteria contain two tiers. To qualify for the first tier (a 15% credit), biomass boiler and furnace property would be required to operate at efficiency levels between 65% and 80%. The second tier (30% credit) would be available for those operating at 80% efficiency and above. Higher heating value (HHV) would be the basis for the residential and commercial and industrial efficiency measures. Additionally, both credits would have no maximum and be available for systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2016.

The BTU Act’s combination of residential and commercial investment credits would reduce the upfront capital costs of advanced biomass thermal systems. In regions of the country where businesses and homeowners rely on expensive and imported heating fuels such as heating oil and propane, biomass thermal technologies present an immediate lower cost of operation and demand for locally produced fuels.
Recent analyses of the Midwest and Northeast have found that achieving 15% and 25% of the regions’ heating needs from renewables like biomass by the year 2025, respectively, would reinvest a combined $6.7 billion into local economies, reduce the use of heating oil and propane by 2.4 billion gallons, and create an estimated 350,000 jobs.
“Today, businesses and home owners are effectively penalized if they choose to invest in high efficiency, renewable biomass heating technologies,” continued Seymour. “This bill would remove that barrier.”
More information on the BTU Act and the biomass thermal industry may be found at

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Infocast, the leading producer of cutting-edge business intelligence and networking events, is set to host their Industrial Pellet Trade and Transport Summit on July 9-11, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Summit will be the ideal place to get valuable insight into the emerging market and infrastructure build out as well as to interact with the people who will create the industrial pellet export industry of the future.
Wood pellets are in high demand in the European Union and this demand has initiated a rapidly increasing new trade in industrial wood pellet exports from North America to Europe. Exports of industrial wood pellets are forecasted to nearly quadruple from an estimated 1.5 million tons this year to 5.7 million tons in 2015. For both states and businesses across the industrial pellet trade and transport value chain, this new trade is opening up attractive new opportunities. However, the growth of the industrial pellet export industry will depend on the development of more production capacity, a robust transport and logistics infrastructure and strong working relationships among players along the value chain. Only those players equipped with the right information and able to develop the right business relationships will be positioned to capitalize on this export growth.
The Industrial Pellet Trade and Transport Summit will provide a forum where European utilities, North American pellet producers, ports, shippers, logistics companies, investors, lenders and other supply chain players gather to discuss the business of building a successful industrial pellet trade and transport value chain. All these groups will share their ideas and perspectives on how best to work together to create a supply chain that can meet the needs of the emerging market in internationally traded industrial pellets.
Speakers at the Summit include representatives from Ecofuels, Fulghum Fibres, Green Circle Bio Energy, North American Biomass, Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc., RWE Supply & Trading, Seasonus Holdings, LLC, Vectora Transportation, LLC and many more.
For more information, to register for the Summit, visit the event website at, or contact Infocast Events at 818-888-4444.

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Port of Pascagoula’s wood pellet facility gets final funding piece

The Port of Pascagoula has gotten the last funding piece in place for its wood pellet facility.
The $196 million bond bill approved during the legislative session that ended in April includes $10 million that will round out the money needed for the $30 million project. The facility will be built along two terminals on the port’s Bayou Casotte.
Port director Mark McAndrews said work should start on the facility by the end of this year, with construction expected to take about 12 months. The plan, he said, is for the facility to start shipping wood pellets by the end of 2014.
To go with the $10 million in bond money, the port is contributing $15 million. Existing terminal operators are contributing $5 million for the wood pellet facility.
Wood pellets are seen as holding significant economic potential for southeastern Mississippi’s timber industry, which has slowed due to the recession’s hit on new housing starts. The pellets are in high demand overseas for use in heating utilities. A handful of wood pellet facilities have started operation in the Pine Belt region within the last couple years. Gulf Coast Renewable Energy announced earlier this year plans for wood pellet facilities in Copiah and George counties, but will use an Alabama port to ship their products.
That illustrates the problem that has plagued the region’s timber industry, McAndrews said. There is plenty to produce and ship, but no dependably cheap way to do so.
The Port of Pascagoula could potentially serve as a primary way to get those wood pellets to market, McAndrews said.
“We’ve been looking at wood pellets as an opportunity for the port for about four or five years. This particular project has been in the works about 18 months,” he said in an interview this week.
The facility will have a similar look to a grain elevator, and will primarily be served by truck. That could change, McAndrews said, if a project to restore continuous rail service along the East Mississippi border is completed. The Rail Authority of East Mississippi received $1 million bonds to advance pre-construction work to restore 56 miles of track that has been closed since the early 1980s.
If the rail project is completed, it would offer wood pellet manufacturers direct rail access to the port. Currently, the rail runs through Mobile before heading west to Pascagoula. The port chipped in funding for an initial feasibility project. The project is geared toward offering cheap transportation for south Mississippi’s wood pellet industry. The $1 million in bond money will pay for an environmental impact analysis and other pre-construction steps, said Geoffrey Clark, RAEM’s executive director. Clark said if the analysis finds no negative impact, the project be eligible for a low-interest construction loan through the Federal Railroad Administration.
The port currently ships lumber, paper products, petroleum products, newsprint and poultry. Most everything it ships are Mississippi-originated products, McAndrews said.
“We’re going to build this wood pellet facility and we think it will be a great benefit to a lot of people in Mississippi,” he said.

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