Business Briefs

By Anna Simet | February 11, 2019

Kusano joins FutureMetrics
FutureMetrics Inc. has hired Yoshinobu Kusano as policy advisor regarding the Asian wood pellet markets. Kusano has extensive experience in the wood pellet sector and will provide FutureMetrics with updates and analysis on current and evolving policy in the high-growth regions of northeast and southeast Asia. 

Kusano’s experience, contacts and knowledge about policy will enhance FutureMetrics' understanding of the current and future Japanese and South Korean markets for industrial wood pellets. He is currently the executive advisor and the head of the fuel procurement group for Biomass Energy at Renova, a Japanese developer and operator of renewable power projects.  Prior to Renova, he spent several decades with Sumitomo Corp., leading their wood chip and wood pellet group.

Wheeler nominated to head EPA
On Jan. 9, U.S. President Trump formally nominated Andrew Wheeler to serve as administrator of the U.S. EPA. Wheeler has held the post of acting administrator since July 9, following Scott Pruitt’s resignation earlier that month.

Wheeler’s nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Trump nominated Wheeler to fill the role of deputy administrator of the EPA in January 2018. The Senate approved that appointment in April, by a vote of 53 to 45.

Information released by the White House indicates Wheeler previously served as a principal and head of the energy and environment team at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting. Prior to joining Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, he worked at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for 14 years, serving in various roles, including as the majority and minority staff director and chief counsel. He began his career at the EPA as a special assistant in the toxics office where he received three bronze medals.

PFI submits NSPS comments
On Jan. 14, the Pellet Fuels Institute continued its ongoing effort to eliminate the inclusion of minimum pellet fuel requirements in the New Source Performance Standard by submitting written comments to the U.S. EPA prior to the comment deadline.

Tim Portz, executive director of PFI, said the organization’s comments are a refrain of the position that the organization has held and argued for since at least 2015. “Including minimum pellet fuel requirements in federal regulation will not advance the aims of the Clean Air Act and will unfairly burden pellet manufacturers with compliance requirements not born by any other fuel type in the wood heat category,” he said. “The challenge for the PFI is helping stakeholders in the regulatory community understand that our opposition is not to standards or minimum requirements, but to codifying those standards and requirements within a piece of federal regulation.”

EIA: 780,000 tons of densified biomass fuel sold in September
The U.S. EIA released data showing that U.S. manufacturers produced approximately 720,000 tons of densified biomass fuel in September, with sales reaching 780,000 tons.

The data was released as part of the December edition of EPA’s Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report, which includes data for September. The EIA collected data from 82 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel to complete the report. The report does not include data from facilities with annual production capacities of less than 10,000 tons. These smaller facilities report data annually, rather than monthly.

The 82 manufacturers who submitted data for September have a combined annual production capacity of 11.76 million tons and collectively had an equivalent of 2,088 full-time employees, according to the EIA.

Pöyry selected as EPCM contractor for torrefied pellet plant
Pöyry announced Baltania OÜ has awarded the company an engineering, procurement and construction management services contract for a torrefied pellet plant under development in Vägari, Estonia.

Construction of the project is currently scheduled to be complete during the first quarter of 2020. Once operational, the plant will have the capacity to produce 157,000 metric tons per year of torrefied pellets made from forestry wastes and byproducts of the wood processing industry.

The torrefaction process employed by the facility will be based on Clean Electricity Generation B.V.’s technology, which converts biomass into torrefied pellets and biochar utilizing its proprietary torrefaction reactor.

Air permit issued for Enviva Pellets Hamlet
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality has issued an air permit for the Enviva Pellets Hamlet LLC facility in Richmond County. In response to community concerns, DAQ staff closely analyzed estimated emissions of the Enviva facility along with other emissions sources in nearby communities, including Dobbins Heights and Hamlet. Analysis of the expanded area shows that the operation of the Enviva facility, within the limits of the final permit, would comply with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Pinnacle announces name change 
Canada-based pellet producer Pinnacle Renewable Holdings Inc. recently announced it has changed its name to Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. The company’s stock trading symbol on the Toronto Stock Exchange will remain as PL. Stock was expected to begin trading under the new name on Jan. 4.
Pinnacle currently operates eight wood pellet production facilities in western Canada and one in Alabama. The company also owns a port terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Efficiency Vermont announces rebates for efficient wood and pellet stoves
Efficiency Vermont is partnering with participating stove dealers around the state to apply a $650 discount at the point of purchase for select stove models. To qualify for the rebate the stoves must be professionally installed.

According to the Vermont 2016 Wood Heat Baseline Study, 38 percent of homes in the state are heated in part by wood. The wood heat industry supports more than 1,000 full-time jobs and displaces approximately 68 million gallons of fuel oil each year.

The Efficiency Vermont discount is available through participating retailers who sell cordwood and pellet stoves that meet efficiency and emission standards. Larger rebates of up to $1,000 are available for Vermonters who are replacing older model stoves and taking them out of service.

Astec CEO Brock resigns, Dorris serves as interim
Astec Industries Inc. announced that Benjamin Brock has resigned as president, CEO and member of the board of directors, effective Jan. 21. The board has appointed Richard Dorris to serve as interim CEO until a permanent successor is named. Dorris has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer since 2014. In addition, the board appointed William Gehl as chairman of the board, effective immediately.

Brock said, “It has been a privilege to work alongside Astec’s dedicated employees over the past 26 years and to lead the company as CEO for the past five years ... After 26 years of service, I am confident that now is the time to pursue new personal and professional interests. I look forward to watching Astec’s continued growth and success in the future.”

The Astec board has initiated a search process to identify a permanent CEO, and will be working with a leading executive search firm to assist in its efforts.

Enviva to expand Southampton plant capacity
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Enviva Partners will invest at least $75.7 million to expand its operation in Southampton, Virginia. In addition to increasing wood pellet production by a third to approximately 750,000 metric tons per year, the expansion will allow for the processing of sustainably sourced pine at the existing facility, significantly augmenting the company’s usage of fiber from Virginia forests. Virginia successfully competed with multiple Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast states for the project.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. to secure the project. Northam approved a $400,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Performance Program, an incentive that encourages capital investment by existing Virginia companies. Enviva is also eligible to receive sales and use tax exemptions on equipment associated with the expansion.