Teru Talk News

Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume IV, Issue 15, April 14, 2014 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "Terú")  

Teru's Trash Talk

It's a fair question and one that we're often asked: is "forest biomass residual" really a waste? After all, Teru Talk is all about clean waste conversion - and if biomass in forests isn't really a Waste, why even mention it? OK, this is in large part a Word Game, you say potaaato, tomaaato - but let's look at the basics and draw a line.

What society calls a Waste, we see as a resource about to be wasted. Forested areas get choked with brush and scraggly trees because we haven't allowed any fires to do the work for the past 100 years. We now understand that we need to clear out some of the overgrowth, and that means we need to get rid of the stuff we've cut back. When timber management practices leave the tree tops, stump, branches, and brush behind to be burnt in piles, to us that fits the "resource-about-to-be-wasted" category. When the Utility companies clear under their endless power lines, when agencies and property owners need to reduce fire risk by clearing brush around structures, you guessed it: they tend to make big burn piles. That's a Waste.

Yep, we certainly should be doing Something with all that excess biomass besides torching it. But just because something seems like a good idea does not mean we should or even could make it happen. Forests are not the easiest or cheapest places to get things in and out of. Some of the left-overs should be left to rot, or maybe chipped and spread out over the forest floor. When the piles are close to a road, it’s a bit cheaper and easier to use the chipped wood along those same roadways, or trundle off down to the nearest big biomass plant. All good ideas, all great ways to use that forest biomass, and altogether insufficient to make a dent in management of, say 100,000 acres of overgrown woods. Get back in more than a half mile or so, and those resources are just too expensive to do anything with, other than light a match to it.

There are really bright people who argue incessantly about how much is enough, how much is too much biomass to leave on the forest floor. Argue on and on about the "carbon balance" and whether or not a super-dense forest landscape is better than one that has been thinned out. We'll leave those squabbles to the Biology Brains to figure out, but there will be Some Amount that does need to be removed from any one forest, depending on what measures you use. If you measure the vast amount of smoke and sheer destruction caused by a catastrophic fire of the scale that has scarred great stretches of land in the Western US of late, you might argue for more thinning, rather than less. If indeed we wait until something like the Rim Fire blackens another state-size patch of forest, most would certainly call that a Waste of Resources.

It gets right back down to how we count the money, and who pays. Removing enough of the biomass that would otherwise be simply "wasted" from a forest can't usually be paid for from the proceeds of turning that woody excess to power or fuel. Instead, let's count on the avoided costs we garner from less wildlands destruction, less loss of property, less loss of watershed integrity, less loss of life. Losing a few hundred tons of wood chips may or may not be a "waste", but losing an entire forest and the communities within it certainly qualifies.

Hey Rube!

Weird as the global weather continues to be, this Fire Season is shaping up to be a real challenge. Think about what biomass resources you can manage, what biomass usage policies you can positively impact. Together, we can "chip away" at this mountain of a problem. Take a look at Placer County's video below and think about what you can do.

This Week's Top Story

Ameresco Biomass Cogen Plant Uses Damaged Wood from Ice Storm

Massachusetts based Ameresco, Inc has announced that its biomass cogeneration facility located at the US Department of Energy (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina is utilizing storm-damaged timber as a result of the major ice storm which impacted the US southern region during February 11-13, 2014. 04/09/2014

The Week's News

Xergi Contracts to Supply Turnkey Biogas Plant to Méthalandes in France

Denmark based Xergi A/S has announced an order from the biogas company Méthalandes to build France's largest biogas plant to date based on waste products from agriculture and the food industry. 04/11/2014

GSO Invests $150MM in Rentech to Fund Growth in Wood Fibre Business

Los Angeles based Rentech, Inc has announced that GSO Capital Partners LP (GSO), the credit investment arm of Blackstone, will invest $150 million in Rentech in the form of $100 million of convertible preferred stock and a $50 million term loan. 04/11/2014

SENA Waste Services Wins Contract to Operate and Maintain Edmonton MRF

Alberta based SENA Waste Services has announced that the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has awarded it a five-year contract worth up to $45 million to operate and maintain the 64,000-square-foot Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC). 04/10/2014

Placer County Forest Biomass to Energy Initiative Releases New Video

The Placer County Air Pollution Control District in California has released the final version of their video on the University of California (UC) Berkeley Blodgett Forest Research Station Biomass Project. 04/09/2014

LEC and M Energy Partner to Restart 140MM Litre Australian Biodiesel Plant

British Columbia based Lignol Energy Corporation (LEC) has announced signing a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with South Korea company M Energy Co, Ltd (M Energy), establishing the framework for the two companies to restart LEC’s 140 million litre per year biodiesel plant and incorporate M Energy’s proprietary pre-treatment technology. 04/08/2014

Zayed Future Energy Prize Launches Global Outreach for Current Competition

The Zayed Future Energy Prize has announced a global outreach campaign to drive awareness and promote submissions for the seventh edition of awards for innovation in renewable energy and sustainability, which closes July 14, 2014. 04/08/2014

CRIBE Invests up to $1.5MM for Ensyn's RFO™ Biofuels Plant in Renfrew

Ontario, Canada based Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE) has announced making an investment of up to $1.5 Million in Ensyn Technologies’ Renfrew biofuels facility for capital improvements to increase production capacity. 04/08/2014

LanzaTech Moves to Establish Global Headquarters in Illinois

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced that LanzaTech, a company founded in New Zealand, will establish its global headquarters in Illinois. 04/07/2014

EC Proposes to End Support for Food Crop Based Biofuels by 2020

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has provided a synopsis of recent European Commission (EC) findings, stating that the EC has made a "bold but simple proposal" to end all policy support for food crop based biofuels. 04/07/2014

BCBN Supports Diacarbon Energy’s Pilot Torrefaction Project with $1MM

BC Bioenergy Network (BCBN) has announced that it will provide $1 million in funding to Diacarbon Energy Inc (Diacarbon) to demonstrate its Torrefaction Bioreactor Technology. 04/07/2014

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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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