Biofuels ~~~~~~~

A year ago Enviva was trading at $55.

“The company says that we use mostly waste like branches, treetops and debris to make pellets,” the whistleblower told Mongabay a year ago. “What a joke. We use 100% whole trees in our pellets. We hardly use any waste. Pellet density is critical. You get that from whole trees, not junk.”

But junk wood is cheap, while whole trees are not, and therein lies a part of Enviva’s operational problems…

“Enviva built a business model saying it uses mostly scrap and waste from lumber mills and cut sites to make its pellets,” he said. “If that were true, its feedstock would basically be free. But it has to buy trees, a lot of trees, and it’s competing for them with other companies that want that wood. Loggers sell to the highest bidder, right, and that drives up the price. It’s something Enviva can’t control.”

DB2

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This is good news in the long run. We can stop this practice through sheer economic forces. We can see an innovator come along later and use the junk. It can be pressure-treated in some fashion to make the pellets.

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It is green energy. But is it economical compared to the alternatives.

All sorts of other biomass is possible. Corn stover. Weeds of many varieties. Some one should collect some data. What crop produces the most energy from available sun? And especially on soil not suitable for row crops? Then can it be processed to fuel pellets economically?

Charcoal briquettes are glued together with starch. The same should work for all sorts of vegetation when suitably dried.

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This is good environmental news!!!

“If Enviva indeed fails to load the bulk carriers to Europe with tons of crushed forests, the EU, and the Netherlands in particular, are expected to seize the opportunity to accelerate the phasing out of [forest biomass for energy] subsidy flows,” said Swart, referring to the billions of dollars paid annually by the EU to subsize wood pellet purchases. “In addition to the decision of the Dutch government last year to immediately stop all subsidies for new biomass projects, this will also limit long-term subsidies.

“We know that EU biomass from [manufacturer] Graanul Invest [in the Baltic states] has been limited since the Ukrainian war,” Swart noted. “With Enviva falling short, if this [trending] development continues, European governments will ideally focus more on [natural] gas as a transition fuel and redirect biomass subsidies to real forms of sustainable energy such as hydrogen and investment in energy savings.”

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There is competition for “junk” wood. The notorious “Innerseal” siding was made of sawdust. I think it was Louisiana Pacific that made it’s millwork from gluing together bits of leftovers after larger pieces of lumber where cut to length. Anderson’s replacement window line is made of “fibrex”, which is vinyl mixed with sawdust. Charcoal is made from “junk” wood. A major brand of charcoal, Kingsford, was originally made at the Ford plant in northern Michigan, which made the wood station wagon bodies of the 30s and 40s, and sent the wood scraps to the charcoal plant.

Steve

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What a coincidence! Yesterday for the first time I saw large bags of wood pellets on sale at an ALDI supermarket. It said the pellets were 100% wood scrap.

The Captain

Years ago I invested in biofuels but it was a loosing proposition. Growing crops for biofuel is bad for soil and water. That leaves waste and scrap as raw materials and it’s hard to see that competing in scale with oil, coal, and gas. Local projects like bio-gas from landfill dumps makes sense but biofuel as a global industry does not, too hard to reach economies of scale.

BTW, bagasse (sugar cane dry fiber) not used as fuel in the sugar mill has been used for decades to make fiberboard. Nothing is wasted, molasses is used to make rum, and a black scum that is extracted while cleaning the syrup is used by the pharmaceutical industry. There is a lot of ‘good stuff’ mixed in with the cane, snakes, toads, topsoil, and more.

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Hemp. Bamboo. Anything fast growing and fairly dense (mutually contradictory terms?).

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But it is good for getting votes in farm states, especially from the corn interests.

Steve

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The Captain

I think we should note that ag is very big business in the US and drives much of our domestic economy.

Farmers are experts at raising crops. If we want green energy from biomass, farmers can make it happen.

Seems like we have quite a few who think their food comes from the grocery store.

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