Partners in Profit

In the midst of producing the final issue of Biomass Magazine in 2014, dedicated to biomass integrations, conversions and colocations, the International Panel on Climate Change released a report urging a phase-out of fossil fuel energy this century.
By Tim Portz | November 25, 2014

Timing is everything. In the midst of producing the final issue of Biomass Magazine in 2014, dedicated to biomass integrations, conversions and colocations, the International Panel on Climate Change released a report urging a phase-out of fossil fuel-based energy this century. The recommendation seems so impossible that it almost takes on a darkly comedic tone. As impossible as it may sound, in some parts of the world, this transition is already well underway, as Anna Simet reports in her page-14 feature, “A Dot on the Map.” Her story continues her ongoing coverage of the conversion of Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan and Thunder Bay power stations. Ontario is actively phasing out coal, and if the guidance from the IPCC begins to gain traction with more governments around the world, conversions like OPG’s will serve as a model of how fossil fuel assets can be repurposed and repowered with biogenic inputs.


We also look closely this month at integrations and colocations. Katie Fletcher’s page-38 feature, “Good Neighbors” finds anaerobic digestion enjoys nearly a complete market share within the emerging fleet of cellulosic ethanol production facilities. While the technology has been introduced at starch-based ethanol plants, as Fletcher reports, they are an exception, as the technology was added after plants were constructed and commissioned. For the three Midwestern commercial-scale cellulosic facilities coming on line in Kansas and Iowa, the technology was included in the earliest designs and is a critical component of the process.


In my page-24 feature, “Hand and Glove,” I highlight two pellet production facilities that were deployed alongside existing sawmills. Don Wagner, Appalachian Wood Pellets general manager, helped me understand how pellet production was a natural progression for the plant’s sister company, Allegheny Wood Products. “It was just a continuation of vertical integration,” he told me. The facility enjoys a number of competitive advantages because of this strategy, and Wagner’s team is bullish about its future.


Biomass-derived energy pairs well with other bioenergy generation as this issue makes clear. The open question is: Will Atikokan-like conversions become more common as we drive geologic carbon out of our energy portfolio?


Our industry enjoys tremendous opportunity and continues to prove itself unique amongst renewables, for its ability to offer the same energy products, with the always-on, baseload qualities energy users require. If we’re to come close to achieving even a fraction of the audacious recommendation  the IPCC has made, biomass’s biggest era must be in front of us.