Note: I heard from eastern readers of this blog that they would like more information relevant to the East, so here is one story. It’s nice to have a break from wildfires and associated topics.
A while back, I heard from folks in the forest industry in the southeast that they felt they were facing competition for trees from the European biomass industry. While people in the US may argue that biomass is not really a good substitute for fossil fuels, the fact is that Europe has their own system and their own beliefs about this.
Hence the market. Now, is this a problem? Fossil fuel use is reduced, landowners get money to keep their land in trees instead of real estate development and fragmentation? Sounds like a win-win?
The folks I was talking with raised the question about jobs and value to communities of exporting low value products instead of producing higher value products (hmm.. sounds familiar). The key difference from the West seems to be that these are private lands and private landowners producing the biomass, and hence no opportunities for litigation of the feds. I am sure the universities and/or others have written about these trends.. would appreciate links to such studies so that we can learn more.
Here’s an article from January about Virginia:
The Port of Chesapeake in Virginia has officially entered the biomass shipping business. On Dec. 31, Enviva LP, sent 28,000 metric tons of wood pellets to one of Enviva’s European utility customers aboard the MV Daishin Maru.
The inaugural shipment was the result of a construction process that started in February 2011 and included more than 25 independent contractors. The deep water terminal outside of Norfolk, Va., includes a 157-foot-by-175-foot wood pellet storage dome that can receive, hold or store up to three million tons of woody biomass set for export each year, all while withstanding large-scale hurricanes and earthquakes. Enviva’s new Ahoskie, N.C., pellet mill is currently supplying the Port of Chesapeake shipping site.
As the biomass industry grows and export volumes reach the millions of tons per year, Enviva will need to focus on terminal operations including issues relating to safety, quality, product reliability and product storage, according to John Keppler, chairman and CEO for Enviva. “We expect Enviva’s Port of Chesapeake facility to be a flagship operation, demonstrating excellence in this area and proving our capability to build the sustainable infrastructure necessary to support the tremendous growth that is projected for solid, renewable biomass sources,” he said.
After opening the Ahoskie facility in November 2011, the company also announced plans to build two more facilities, one in North Carolina and one in Virginia, both of which are strategically located to cut transport costs to and from the Port of Chesapeake. The deepwater facility currently employees 14 and Enviva expects that number to double in three years.