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Duluth, MN ( --- A harsh propane drought, resulting in shortages and rapidly rising prices, has left many northlanders searching for alternative sources of heat.
Mark Jeronimus, owner of The Fireplace Corner in Duluth, sells gas, wood, pellet, and electric fireplaces... all alternative forms of heating over the typical furnace.

He says in the past, nearly 75% of sales were from gas fireplaces, but this winter that has changed due to the polar vortex.

"Just because of the real extremes we've got, and with lack of fuel in certain areas, and cost of fuel even when it's available. So pellet has just exploded again," said Jeronimus.

He says pellet fuel is the most reliable type of fuel out there today.

"It's a compressed wood, it's extremely dry so it doesn't have the creosote issues that a wood burning unit has. It's inexpensive to operate, and it doesn't demand the class A flue. It can be vented directly out the wall much like our gas fireplaces can," he says.

For Ben Jorgenson, a young man living in Duluth, the severe shortage of propane has had a major effect.
"We had our furnace go out twice, it's fuel oil, so in addition to it being out we have to fill the tank frequently," said Jorgenson.

He also says 100 gallons of fuel costs about $400, putting a large dent in his pocketbook.
"We just threw a space heater in the upstairs bedroom and just hung out in there, so we didn't spend much time out," said Jorgenson.

Jeronimus says infrared space heaters are extremely efficient during times like these.
"Inexpensive, quick, easy, put it in, anybody can operate it, and it's safe."

As for Jorgenson, it's all about keeping up on keeping the fuel tank full, which will cost a great deal of money for the remainder of the winter.

"I hope we have an early spring."

Anyone having problems affording home heating this winter can call the energy assistance program in their county to see if they quality for aid.

Read the original article and watch the video here.

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Energy analysts blame record demand, record withdrawals from storage and risks to short-term production.

NEW YORK (AP) — The frigid winter of 2014 is setting the price of natural gas on fire.

The price in the futures market soared to $5.18 per 1,000 cubic feet Friday, up 10% to the highest level in three and a half years. The price of natural gas is up 29% in two weeks, and is 50% higher than last year at this time.

Record amounts of natural gas are being burned for heat and electricity. Meanwhile, it's so cold that drillers are struggling to produce enough to keep up with the high demand. So much natural gas is coming out of storage that the Energy Department says supplies have fallen 20 percent below a year ago — and that was before this latest cold spell.

"We've got record demand, record withdrawals from storage, and short-term production is threatened," says energy analyst Stephen Schork. "It's a dangerous market right now."
Natural gas and electric customers are sure to see somewhat higher rates in the coming months. But they will be insulated from sharp increases because regulators often force natural gas and electric utilities to use financial instruments and fuel-buying strategies that protect residential customers from high volatility.
To understand the price increase, just look at the thermometer. A second major cold snap this month is gripping much of the country, including the heavily-populated Northeast. And forecasters are now predicting colder weather in the weeks to come, extending south through Texas.

Natural gas is used by half the nation's households for heating, making it the most important heating fuel. Electricity is the second most popular heating source, and electric power generators use natural gas to generate power more than any other fuel except for coal.

Commodity Weather Group, which predicts heating demand for energy companies and consumers, said in a report Friday that periodic breaks in the cold weather are expected to be "weaker and briefer, extending the duration of colder weather" in late January and early February.

There are a couple of other factors at play. In the past, much of U.S. natural gas was produced in the Gulf of Mexico. If weather disrupted supplies there, it was typically in the early fall, during hurricane season, when heating and electricity demand are low and natural gas storage facilities are mostly full in preparation for winter.

Now, much of U.S. production comes from on-shore formations that are more susceptible to cold, ice and snow. Wells that are not designed for such extreme conditions can freeze, halting production.

"Now the threat to production is when demand is at its highest," Schork says.

Also, electric utilities have for several years been switching to cheaper natural gas for power generation. And new pipelines aren't being built fast enough to deliver all the gas required at times of high demand. That can lead to regional shortages that send prices skyrocketing.

In some producing regions in Pennsylvania gas was selling for below national benchmarks Friday, But closer to East Coast cities it was selling for 10 times those benchmarks because producers couldn't get their gas into packed pipelines, according to Citibank energy analyst Anthony Yuen.

When the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Station in Maryland shut down earlier this week because of an electrical problem brought on by snow and ice, power generators across the East Coast scrambled to replace the lost power by cranking up natural gas-fired plants. That sent natural gas prices for immediate delivery, known as the spot price, to a record $120 per 1,000 cubic feet in some markets on the East Coast. To put that in perspective, that's equivalent to oil at more than $700 per barrel.

Analysts say there is plenty of gas to replenish supplies, and drillers will likely ramp up production so they can fetch prices they haven't seen since June of 2010.

That could push prices back down somewhat in the coming weeks. If, that is, the weather warms up later in February and March. If it's still cold when baseball season opens in early April, though, Schork says, "we'll be looking at much higher natural gas prices."

Read the original article here.

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On November 8, 2011, the Pellet Fuels Institute announced the launch of the PFI Standards Program, a third-party accreditation program providing specifications for residential and commercial-grade fuel.

The American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) serves as the program’s accreditation body, providing program implementation and enforcement, as well as facilitating program enrollment.

Lignetics has been accredited by a PFI Standards Program auditing agency and are permitted to display the Quality Mark on their bags of fuel found in the marketplace.

  • Linn, West Virginia Facility (Registration Number:   03304)

  • Kenbridge, Virginia Facility (Registration Number:  03434)

  • Sandpoint,  Idaho Facility (Registration Number:  03208)
Program Documents
There are three main documents that serve as the basis of the program. These documents have been modified over the last year and contain a variety of new information.

Pellet Fuels Institute Standard Specification for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel This document is the backbone of the program. It outlines the actual grade parameter test method requirements for densified fuels registered in the program.

Pellet Fuels Institute Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel QA/QC Handbook Provides quality control and quality assurance procedures for the production of residential /commercial densified fuels.

American Lumber Standard Committee, Incorporated, Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel Enforcement Regulations This document outlines the roles and responsibilities of the auditing agencies, the laboratories, and the oversight requirements of the Accreditation Body.

A fourth document, the North American Grading and Quality Management System for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel, should be used as a supplemental reference tool. It outlines the roles of all program entities.

PFI Standards Background

PFI initiated redevelopment of its standards in 2005 and has implemented a program that has been proposed to be incorporated by reference into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters. EPA is mandating the regulation of pellet fuel through its NSPS and has voiced its support of the PFI Standards Program for inclusion in the NSPS. A draft of the NSPS is expected to be released by EPA in Summer 2013.

For the purposes of the NSPS, pellets that are tested through the PFI Standards Program are assured to be qualified to a specified grade and can be properly matched to the appliances that are permitted to burn them.

The PFI Standards Program addresses the needs of consumers, fuel and appliance manufacturers and the EPA. The greatest differences between previous programs and the current program include: independent third party inspections, sampling, testing and overall program oversight. Many key components of the earlier program remain intact.

Pellet Fuels Institute
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American Lumber Standard Committee
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From Biomass Magazine online
By Kolby Hoagland | January 03, 2014

EIA's Annual Energy Outlook on Biomass Power

By Kolby Hoagland | January 03, 2014

With the new year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) offers the early release of their energy production and consumption forecasts for the United States all the way to 2040 in the Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). Last year’s AEO predicted a sharp increase in the use of biomass fuel in cofire scenarios at coal fired generation plants. EIA assumed that state and federal emissions regulation would demand carbon emissions mitigation by cofiring biomass with coal. As can be seen in the graph below, EIA continues to predict a steady increase in cofiring of biomass based on current policy trajectories. The 2014 AEO forecast for cofiring is slightly delayed and smoother than 2013 but continues to project that cofiring will have the greatest influence on the growth of the biomass sector with an annual growth rate of 14.5%.

The 2014 AEO also forecasts growth of biomass use in non-grid connected, industry generated biomass power. Private industry currently possesses close to two times more biomass power generating capacity for its private use than the biomass power sector can put onto the grid. Industry’s production capacity for private use totaled 4.9 gigawatts in 2012, while grid-connected biomass power capacity rates in at 2.7 gigawatts. A number of companies in the paper and pulp industry along with other large wood and biomass industries produce all the electricity that they use onsite and do not put any of their capacity onto the grid. As the graph below indicates, the 2014 AEO forecasts further growth of private generation capacity of biomass power.  Non-grid connected biomass power generation has an annual growth rate of 2.9% while grid-connected biomass power’s growth rate is 0.9%. I will go out on limb and assume that the risk price spikes and purchasing electricity on the open market influences large corporations with access to biomass fuel to pursue private generation.

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By BBI International | December 23, 2013

BBI International announced this week the agenda for the technical sessions of the 7th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo, North America’s largest and fastest growing biomass conference, taking place March 24-26 in Orlando, Fla. The 2014 agenda—featuring four comprehensive tracks—is

tightly focused on leading edge developments in the biomass industry, from feedstock cultivation, harvest and storage to conversion technology, project finance and regulatory guidance. 

The 2014 main program will include 30-plus panels and more than 100 speakers, including 90 technical presentations, all within the structured framework of four informative tracks:

Track 1: Pellets & Densified Biomass
Track 2: Biomass Power & Thermal

Track 3: Biogas & Landfill Gas 

Track 4: Advanced Biofuels & Biobased Chemicals 

"Our agenda already boasts more than 100 of this industry’s sharpest minds and we haven’t even published the agendas of the two pre-conference seminars that we’ll be hosting on the Monday preceding the event. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have more than 150 speakers and moderators on our various agendas," says Tim Portz, vice president of content and executive editor for BBI International. "Watching the International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda come together is always a humbling, yet a gratifying experience. I’m grateful for the incredible biomass experts that continue to support this event with their expertise.”

In addition to the main conference agenda and expo hall, BBI has added two preconference events. The first is called the Pellet Supply Chain Summit, which is focused on what is arguably the hottest and fastest growing segment of the biomass industry. The second event is called the Bioenergy Project Development Seminar that will focus on projects either proposed or currently under construction in the biomass industry. “Because of the addition of the two preconference events, many new faces are expected to be at this year’s show,” says John Nelson, director of marketing at BBI International. “Having such a large pool of industry experts to draw upon has allowed us the opportunity to create both a strong main conference and preconference agenda. We are excited to be announcing the preconference seminar lineups soon.” 

To view the agenda for the technical sessions, visit: 

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