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Torrefaction Project Updates

March 19, 2014
Author: LeAndra Spicer
Biomass provides a renewable and carbon neutral energy source, but the storage, transportation, and use of wood pellets is not without challenges.  Two unique processes – torrefaction and steam-exploded technology – eliminate some difficulties, such as moisture content and energy density, associated with traditional wood pellets. Companies on board with these technologies are making news this month.

Vega Biofuels and partner Agri-Tech Producers (ATP) have announced plans to build a torrefaction facility in Allendale, South Carolina. The joint venture will operate as ATP-SC, LLC and produce torrefied bio-coal and biochar products from primarily wood biomass.

The Allendale facility will serve as a pilot plant for additional plants the company hopes to build across the globe. Bio-coal produced at the plant will be shipped to Europe from the Port of Savannah. Vega and ATP also plan to build a bio-coal manufacturing plant in South Georgia.

Another torrefaction joint venture, this one between Solvay Energy Services and New Biomass Energy, has announced the start of industrial production. The Solvay Biomass Energy plant in Quitman, Mississippi is expected to produce 250,000 tons of torrefied biomass by the end of the year, up from the current output of 80,000 tons.

Cate Street Capital has announced its pellet manufacturing subsidiary, Thermogen Industries, will license Zilkha Biomass Energy Black Pellet technology for use at a wood pellet facility in Millinocket, Maine. The company explained the move away from microwave torrefaction technology provided by Scotland-based Rotawave to Houston-based Zilkha’s steam-exploded process as necessary to meet customer demand. It is not yet known if the $25 million bond approved by the Finance Authority of Maine back in October will apply to the change of plans.

The new steam-thermal plant is expected to ring in at $140 million, double the original $70 million torrefaction plant, employ 50 people, and triple capacity to 300,000metric tons per year. Construction is tentatively slated to begin in May or June.

In addition to the plant in Millinocket, Thermogen plans to construct a facility with equal capacity in Eastport, Maine. Zilkha has produced black pellets at its 40,000 metric ton plant in Crockett, Texas since 2010. Its second plant, at the site of the former Dixie Pellets plant in Selma, Alabama, is scheduled to come online later this year and produce 275,000 metric tons annually.

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