Tour to showcase Washington CHP, AD facilities

By Lisa Gibson | December 09, 2010

The U.S. has tremendous untapped potential for biomass-fired district heating networks, specifically in areas such as the Pacific West, with its abundant woody biomass resources. Tour participants at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show Jan. 10-12 in Seattle, Wash., will have the opportunity to see firsthand how such an operation functions.  

Seattle Steam provides heat to roughly 200 buildings in Seattle’s Central Business District and First Hill neighborhoods, delivering up to 300,000 pounds of steam per hour via 18 miles of steam pipe, according to the company. Consumers include hospitals, hotels, college campuses and office buildings.

In 2009, Seattle Steam converted to biomass and now uses about 250 tons per day of clean urban wood waste including composted woody waste, land clearing, and clean construction and demolition wood. As a result, the company has lowered its carbon footprint by 50 percent, or about 45,000 tons annually, it said. The company also uses the ash byproduct in industrial applications, resulting in a zero-waste operation.

In addition, the introduction of biomass into the energy production stream provides more price stability. A direct benefit is that the money spent on wood fuel to heat Seattle will be spent locally as opposed to spending millions of dollars annually for natural gas from Canada.

Another stop on the tour will explore a state-of-the-art anaerobic digester and composting facility operated by Qualco Energy, which consists of a Native American tribal group, salmon recovery proponents and a consortium of farmers. The digester is connected to a dairy operation with about 1,200 cows, according to Mark Hintz, consultant with business development consulting firm SeaHold LLC, hired by Qualco Energy. “The anaerobic digester uses codigestion, primarily dairy nutriments and a variety of additional feedstock,” he said. The manure is moved through a mile-long pipeline to the plug-flow digester, producing biogas with more than 50 percent methane which is fed into a generator to create electricity for sale to local utility Puget Sound Energy. Qualco’s digester has been operating since 2007, but the company began producing electricity in 2009, Hintz said.

BBI International, Biomass Power & Thermal’s parent company, is looking into a possible third tour location and will announce any changes as soon as they happen. To check for updates, find information about the conference or to register, visit