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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Manufacturing > Sourcing for Manufacturing > Recycled Materials for Green Manufacturing Best Practices

Recycled Wood Chips Find New Uses in Oil Spill Cleanup and Biomass Energy Generation

Wood is both a renewable fuel and energy generation feedstock, and a necessary part of the soil quality that prevents erosion and desertification and replenishes our living biosphere. Explore the ramifications of wood chips as a high energy biomass feedstock.

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Re-using wood waste extends from clearing hardwood trees for new-home construction to clearing up hurricane debris when it wrecks havoc on a community. Or recycling wood pallets. Or chipping demolition and construction debris into chips for mixing with coal feedstock for rather conventional energy generation.

Suppliers delivery domestic biomass - wood chips -- to energy generation plants to be mixed with coal and reduce their overall air pollution output.

Some wood reclamation companies address the growing problems of wood waste in the United States and the lack of viable local markets. Structuring waste wood into marketable commodities and solving transportation logistics to needy and underserved markets, domestic or international, is a sustainability goal. An environmentally certified product can be created when the supply chain is handled in a sustainable way.

This waste wood converted into biomass for renewable energy generation is often sold as Carbon Credits at around one carbon ton for $6.00 US. Purchasers receive a Carbon Offset Credit Certificate from the company converting the wood into biomass feedstock from waste.

There are few companies in the US reclaiming wood fiber fuel (biomass) that is 100% environmentally certified, Kyoto compliant, and specifically aimed at preserving global forests, not cutting them.

  • Relieving pressures on landfills
  • Use of storm-damaged woods
Use of urban and suburban development debris, land clearing and routine maintenance, can create jobs, and work in conjunction with emergency management agencies to reclaim and recover or reduce local tax pressures from storm damage costs.

There is no national US renewable portfolio standard, and the latest energy bill does not include one. But more than 20 states have passed laws requiring that a percentage of electricity produced come from renewable sources.

In response to these regulations, wood reclamation companies see the greatest potential market in the United States with conventional energy generation plants that mix wood with coal to reduce emissions, a process known as co-firing.

Conventional to Green...How green?

They base their business model on retrofitting plants to comply with international emissions standards as a cost-effective way for companies to reduce pollution and allow them to qualify for green energy certificates. The certificates can be used to reduce fines for higher pollution-producing plants, or they can be traded with other companies.

Wood fiber consists of four types with subcategories of sources for each.

Wood Chips

Sources Include tree services, excavators, land clearers, forest industry, and hurricane and storm damage

Tub Grinded Wood

Sources Include: recyclers, forest industry, municipalities, cities and towns

Crushed Pallets

Sources Include: recyclers and the pallet industry

Tree Bark

Sources Include: sawmills


Sources are generally factories

Carbon Sequestration Strategies

Sources are to be determined.

The European Union passed legislation to expand the portion of electricity generated by renewable fuel sources to 22 percent of the market by 2010, according to the president of the Washington-based American Council on Renewable Energy. To reach the renewable energy use goal, Europe needs about 150 million tons of wood annually.

Even though Europe is increasing its renewable energy requirements, it's still not economical or particularly environmentally friendly to shop US wood to Europe for conversion into renewable energy. The problems start with high trucking costs and continue with high pollution impact of dry bulk shipping. Ships use the dirtiest of all fuels, and shipping low-value goods thousands of miles doesn't have a very high green factor.

But for domestic reuse, such as combined value from cleaning up green waste and turning it into renewable energy feedstock, there are some advantages. Local sourcing comes from counties and cities, golf courses, and tree-servicing and land-clearing companies. Extremely wooded states face seasonal challenges that outstrip storage space.

Besides wood from forests, other sources of waste wood include old wooden pallets used to ship goods and even wood from demolished homes that can relieve landfills and the cost of tipping fees construction companies pay to dump the wood in landfills.

Wood can pile up quickly, especially after storms and recycling coordinators for recycling programs are actively seeking alternatives and solutions.

Only about 6 percent of the electricity generated in the United States comes from renewable energy sources, about half of which comes from burning wood, industry experts said.

Green Energy Resources is innovating a new use for wood chips to help clean up the oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Woodchips for the BP gulf oil spill is under "technical review" both in Florida, where Green Energy has been activated to deploy, and in Louisiana at the BP command center overseeing operations. The plan entails use of woodchips inside the booms to absorb and collect oil, skim them off the top and deliver them to power plants to be burned as energy. Wood absorbs oil...and both can be easily burned. The volume and ability to float are ideal attributes for easy deployment and recovery.

The Next Great Energy boom is woodchips. 1 billion tons needed.

Green Energy Resources (Pink Sheets:GRGR ) is moving to San Antonio, Texas. where it plans to expand, manage, develop and ship orders of its new high 16,000 BTU energy woodchips out of gulf coast ports.

The company's business model is based on high energy woodchip replacing coal at about half the cost of coal. In addition, Green Energy Resources is seeking to set up the largest scale carbon offset forestation project in the United States working with south Texas Ranchers.

High energy chips are seen as growing future resources both in the U.S. and European markets, according to Green Energy Resources CEO, Joseph Murray. Green Energy Resources plans to shift its entire operations to San Antonio but will retain its New York City address.

The Company's Business Case for Woodchips

51% of all U.S. electric power is generated from coal. The U.S. consumed approximately 965 million tons of coal for electricity in 2009 (down 10% from 2008). Co-firing at a 10% blend ratio (woodchips or pellets) will require approximately 100 million tons of new woodchips to meet demand annually. Over the next 10 years, that's 1 billion tons of woodchips.

Coal will become increasingly more expensive as mines in Appalachia are already being tapped out, creating even greater opportunities for wood in energy.

The demand does not include wood required for direct burn biomass plants (also increasing in number) or other utilizations such as wood ethanol or gasification. Green Energy Resources has worked in the U.S. market for 6 years developing a delivery supply network.

To help replenish reforestation resources such as rubber trees, Green Energy Resources has agreed to represent rubber tree plantation owners looking to rotate their trees. "GRGR" is offering 10,000 Hectacres of rubber trees for energy to global buyers.

Forestation and reforestation are highly regarded as carbon sequestration strategies, and the management of the wood resources is a challenge that will need to balance replenishment of soil nutrients to prevent soil erosion and desertification, as well as the needs for traditional uses of wood -- such as building materials, furnishings, paper, and related manufacturing materials.

Biomass reuse as energy generation is certainly one of the growing segments of renewable energy industry niches.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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