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February 28th, 2013

Torrefied Wood: A New Renewable Energy Export For New England?

by Andrew Price, President & COO

Thermogen Industries has made some very big announcements recently about a new energy product, torrefied wood pellets. Although compatible with residential and commercial wood pellet stoves, Thermogen has indicated that its torrefied wood pellets are not currently targeted at local consumers. Instead Thermogen indicates it has its sights set on coal fired power plants in the UK and Europe. Thermogen has proposed building a production facility in Eastport Maine that could cost as much as $120 million, as well as a $48 million production facility in Millinocket Maine.

The Millinocket facility, located at the former Great Northern Paper mill, is expected to begin production in late 2013 or early 2014 and turn about 250,000 tons of wood into 110,000 tons of torrefied wood pellets annually. Wood pellets produced in Millinocket would be loaded on ships in Searsport before being sent to Europe. The larger Eastport Facility, pictured on a Thermogen linked website, will reportedly produce between 200,000 and 300,000 tons annually for export at the Eastport marine cargo terminal. 

The special wood pellets, called Aurora Black by Thermogen, are created by applying heat and microwave energy to biomass. The biomass is then ground into powder and formed into uniform pellets. The pellets resist moisture, making it possible to ship them across the Atlantic without compromising their energy content.

By co-firing the Aurora Black pellets with coal, power plants can reduce sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and greenhouse gas emissions and comply with more stringent air pollution regulations. Regulations in Europe, combined with a much lower stock of forestland across the pond, appear to be driving Thermogen’s investments in Maine. The product could eventually see use in the US as well, however, either at the individual consumer level or at US coal fired power plants.

Aurora Black, and similar products, may eventually be used to reduce emissions at a few domestic coal plants. This could mean further jobs and investment in the US wood products industry, an sector that has suffered along with the paper making industry.

Thermogen is a subsidiary of Cate Street Capital. Cate Street, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is described on the Thermogen website as “an investment fund and operating company specializing in “green” technologies and environmentally sustainable development projects.”

(Tags: Thermogen, Biomass, Cate Street Capital, Coal, Maine, Electricity, Power Generation, Torrefied Wood)

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