Business Briefs

Industry news and announcements from the May/June issue of Biomass Magazine, including announcements from: the European Biogas Association, Vecoplan, Morbark, FutureMetrics, Drax, USIPA and more.
By Biomass Magazine | May 10, 2020

Dekker serving as EBA director 
The European Biogas Association has appointed Harmen Dekker as its new director. In the position, which he began on April 1, Dekker will reinforce the activities of the organization in Brussels and is co-responsible for executing the strategy of the association in the coming years. As an advisory board member, Dekker was already providing the EBA with essential guidance on policy questions. He has worked for nearly 15 years in the sustainability sector and built his career in the water and gas sector, where he has held different managerial positions. He joins the EBA after five years of service at DMT Environmental Technology, where he was business development manager, working on the expansion of the biogas sector into new markets.

Vecoplan hires, promotes key staff
Vecoplan has hired a new marketing department head and has named a new director over its parts and service operation. Also in its employee news, the company has named its employee of the year.
Kirsti Nelson has been hired as director of marketing and communications to lead the department into new and increased market concentration. She brings to Vecoplan over 15 years’ experience in industrial manufacturing industries including paper, furniture, recycling and waste. She has served in both marketing and sales roles for American businesses and German-owned companies with U.S. operations.

Nelson earned an MBA in marketing and operations from Vanderbilt University and holds a public relations professional certificate from the University of Virginia.

Additionally, Vecoplan’s after-market department has new leadership with the promotion of Mike Wilhoit to parts and service director. Wilhoit has worked for the company for 17 years, serving in the production and engineering departments, also holding for a time the position of vice president of operations.

Also within the parts and service department, Phillip Thompson has been named Vecoplan’s 2020 Employee of the Year. Thompson has been with Vecoplan over 12 years. He began his tenure in 2006 doing quality control and delivery for mobile shredding trucks, then moved to the parts and service department. As part of his award as employee of the year, Vecoplan has given Thompson an all-expense paid trip.

Morbark introduces two new horizontal grinders
Morbark LLC a leading manufacturer of forestry, biomass, tree care, sawmill and wood recycling equipment, has debuted the 2400X and 3000X Wood Hog horizontal grinders.

Ideal for niche markets like municipal solid waste, pallet recycling, sawmills, nurseries and tree care debris, both grinders are perfect for processing yard waste, brush and other mixed woody feedstock into saleable product. Designed to be modular and available in multiple configurations for various applications, these grinders can take businesses to the next level. These newest models in the X Series of next-generation horizontal grinders from Morbark follow the successful launches of the 3400X in March 2017 and 6400X in May 2018 and maintain Morbark’s focus on versatility, transportability and operator friendliness.

One of the most important features of the 2400X and 3000X is their compact size. Their standard width makes them within the legal transport width in any country. The models also share design features like the sloped infeed sides, which improve operator sight lines for more efficient loading of material, and easy-to-load grate systems.

Campbell joins FutureMetrics
FutureMetrics has hired Hanna Campbell as a logistics specialist. Campbell brings a new dimension to the company’s ability to provide due diligence studies for existing and proposed industrial wood pellet projects, feasibility analyses for project developers, and CIF costing analysis for pellet buyers and intermediaries. 

Campbell is a 2012 graduate of the US Air Force Academy.  After graduation, she served in the Air Force as a logistics readiness officer on several teams focused on maintenance support, logistics readiness and mission support.  While serving, she received several commendations for superior and highly effective work. Her Bachelor of Science degree from the Air Force Academy was built around an engineering core curriculum. Her major was in political science and foreign studies with a focus on Asia. Campbell also has a minor in Chinese language.

Permitting process for AEG CoalSwitch plant impacted by COVID-19
U.K.-based Active Energy Group plc announced on March 30 that the public comment period for the construction and air permit needed for the company’s proposed CoalSwitch plant in Lumberton, North Carolina, has been extended through April 27 due to the COVID-19 crisis. AEG announced the following day that it has entered into an agreement to acquire 100 percent ownership of the saw mill and saw log export activities at the Lumberton site.

According to AEG, the extension of the comment period was issued in response to the cancellation of a public meeting that had been scheduled for March 16. The company said the North Carolina Division of Air Quality will continue to accept public comments on the draft permit before final action. A previous extension had been granted through March 27.

Active Energy’s CoalSwitch technology produces high-calorific, high-bulk-density biomass pellets, according to the company.

Gevo to push forward with project funding amid COVID-19 layoffs
Gevo Inc. announced that due to the impact the COVID-19 virus has had on the economy and the company’s industry, it has suspended production operations at its production facility in Luverne, Minnesota, for the foreseeable future. In connection with the suspension of operations and the overall economic disruption caused by COVID-19, Gevo also made the difficult decision to terminate 30 employees, cutting across Agri-Energy’s operations at the Luverne facility and Gevo’s headquarters in Colorado.

Gevo expects to continue the production of renewable isooctane and sustainable aviation fuel from the plant in Silsbee, Texas. Additionally, Gevo intends to continue developing its hydrocarbon business, including the planned expansion of the Luverne facility, Furthermore, Gevo plans to continue the development of its biogas projects in Northern Iowa.

COVID-19 delays construction of UK biomass plant
Construction on the Tees Renewable Energy Plant, a 299-MW biomass power plant in the U.K., was suspended on March 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A small number of critical maintenance staff remain onsite. MGT, the owner and operator of Tees REP, did not indicate when construction on the facility might resume. The Tees REP facility has been under development for several years. The European Union approved U.K. state aid for the facility on January 2015. MGT Teesside announced in August 2016 that financing arrangements for the plant had been finalized. That same month, Enviva announced its previously announced take-or-pay offtake contract to supply wood pellets to the facility was firm. Tees REP was scheduled to become operational in 2020. MGT did not comment on how the COVID-19-related delay could impact that timeline.

Drax: Operations continue during pandemic
Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, released a statement on March 25 explaining how Drax and its employees are working to ensure the U.K. is supplied with the power it needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gardiner thanked Drax and employees, contractors, supply chain workers and their families for their support and hard work during difficult and uncertain times, noting all of Drax’s sites have implemented strategies to reduce the chance of spreading the virus and have operational plans in the place to ensure power continues to be delivered to the grid.

At Drax Power Station, the company has had as many employees as possible work from home. The company has also arranged for the separation of key operational teams and employees so that they are physically distanced from each other, Gardiner said. Strict controls have been implemented for visitors, contractors and suppliers. The company is also working closely with wood pellet suppliers and rail and port infrastructure groups to ensure continuity in the supply of biomass fuel. Gardiner said the Drax executive committee is meeting regularly via video conference to discuss contingency plans as the situation changes. The company is also working closely with the U.K., U.S. state and Canadian governments, National Grid and Ofgem, he said.

USIPA: US wood pellet exports continue uninterrupted
During the global coronavirus pandemic, U.S. industrial wood pellet producers continue operations, ensuring no supply disruptions for global customers depending on their product for renewable wood heat and power production.

In a March 20 statement, the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association said that to date, its members are reporting that wood pellet production has not been impacted, and the full U.S. supply chain continues to operate without disruption. “During these unprecedented times our thoughts are with all of those affected, as well as those around the world working to contain the COVID-19 virus,” said Seth Ginther, USIPA executive director. “With new details emerging daily on the spread of COVID-19, our industry is focused on ensuring the safety and well being of our work force, the local communities where we operate, and business continuity and reliability of supply for our customers globally.”

At the federal level, Ginther said, the U.S. government issued guidance and identified the energy, timber and wood products industries, among others, as essential critical infrastructure. “Initial action from state governments indicates that wood pellets are considered a strategic asset for COVID-19 response in the delivery of power and heat generation…We are working closely with U.S. federal and state agencies, as well as our members and partners around the world to ensure U.S. wood pellets continue to provide reliable power and heat during this challenging time.”