Is Biocoal the Answer?

biocoalA recent Bangor Daily News article (here) discusses how the new owners of two paper mills in Millinocket, Maine plan to use this technology to convert wood waste into torrefied wood also known as biocoal. Proponents tout the technology as carbon neutral if waste material is used as the source for the process.

Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 01, 2011, at 12:56 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Cate Street Capital has purchased for more than $20 million the North American rights to the technology to manufacture biocoal, a huge step toward adding the production of treated wood at its Katahdin Avenue paper mill and creating several hundred jobs, officials said Thursday.
Cate Street subsidiary Thermogen Industries LLC secured exclusive rights from Scotland-based Rotawave Biocoal to manufacture a type of machine — called Targeted Intelligent Energy System, or TIES — that makes biocoal, or torrefied wood, which would replace coal burned at electricity plants, Cate Street spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said.

“It is the most tangible sign of our commitment to moving this project forward,” Tranchemontagne said Thursday of the $20 million deal. “We have the technology. We have a wonderful site at the end of the Golden Road and we have a labor force that is ready and willing to work. Those are some key pieces to any business looking to start up.”

If Thermogen’s plans reach fruition, Cate Street senior vice president Richard Cyr said, Thermogen’s production of biocoal would help transform the state forest products industry.
Thermogen and Cate Street subsidiary Great Northern Paper Co., which operates the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills, would also benefit from several independent and ongoing governmental and private business initiatives.

Those initiatives include the $10.5 million reconstruction of 233 miles of northern Maine railroad tracks, the expansion of the shipping port in Searsport, Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to extend a natural gas line to the Katahdin region by 2013, and Cate Street’s own revitalization of the mills.

By acquiring the rights to TIES, Rotawave Biocoal’s microwave-based biocoal production system, Thermogen has solidified plans to install five or six TIES machines in Millinocket starting in November 2012. Creating jobs for 22 to 25 workers directly and dozens of truckers, loggers and other support providers indirectly, the first $35 million TIES machine would supply United Kingdom utilities with biocoal, Cyr said.

Millinocket would be the site of the first of four or five biocoal mills eventually nationwide, Cyr said. Rotawave’s attempt to sell its technology rights to a Vancouver company that would have built a biocoal factory in British Columbia last year fell through, he said.

“We have been looking for a home for Thermogen for two years. Over that time we have been studying a lot of technologies,” Cyr said, calling Rotawave’s “the one that created the best end product.”

Engineers are developing plans now to site the machines at the Millinocket mill as Cate Street assembles its financing and seeks engineers to build the Rotawave machines, Cyr said. Cate Street hopes to have the design and financing ready within four months, with mill site work possibly beginning then as well, Tranchemontagne said.

2 Comments

  1. Okay, I’ll bite. It’s late Friday afternoon with my UO Ducks just a couple of hours away from clinching the Rose Bowl against the hapless Bruins.

    What was the question again? Oh, yes, “Is Biocoal the Answer?”

    So, the story tells of a scheme to get wood energy from Millinocket, Maine (that’s the middle of Maine, not the coast) to Great Britain (“the first $35 million TIES machine would supply United Kingdom utilities with biocoal, Cyr said”). Great Britain is the country that is on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — over 3,200 miles distant from Maine.

    Wow! What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?

    If I got really bored, I could find the generously perverse government subsidies, likely on both sides of the Atlantic, that are financing this loony notion. But, a beer run is needed before kick-off . . . so I’ll leave that task to another eager reader.

  2. I gotta agree with Andy on this one. Everything about this “smells funny”. Even the name “Biocoal” makes me think “fossilized turd”. Such an energy source shouldn’t be considered “green” if you have to transport it so far, including the return trip. Not to say it is useless technology but, better to keep it local.

    Love seeing Oregon teams “Beat LA”.

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