Torrefaction Ventures Announced

On November 21, Enviva LP announced that it had formed a partnership with ConocoPhillips to create a new company, ECo Biomass Technologies, to manufacture and bring to market torrefied wood pellets. Enviva, which already has a large presence in wood pellet production in the U.S. and Europe, notes that “although torrefaction is widely used in many industries, its adaptation to the renewable energy industry has yet to be proven cost-effective and scalable.” The account published by PRNewswire says the joint venture “will use a combination of proprietary and acquired existing technologies.” That account states that ECo Biomass’s “initial” facility is scheduled to be operational in 2013, although it does not mention a location (or even a country) or production volume estimate. It does mention that customers would be “major utilities.”

Torrefied wood, often mentioned as a successor to wood pellets, is the product of an energy densification process, similar to charcoal production. It not only has more energy value per unit weight than wood pellets have but superior handling characteristics.

A few days later, on December 1, Thermogen Industries LLC, a subsidiary of Cate Street Capital, announced that it had purchased rights from a Scottish firm to apply a torrefaction technology known as Targeted Intelligent Energy System (“TIES”) and planned to apply the process at Cate Street’s Great Northern Paper Company’s Millinocket, Maine plant. According to the Bangor [Maine] Daily News, “Thermogen has solidified plans to install five or six TIES machines in Millinocket starting in November 2012” and “hopes to have Thermogen producing 100,000 tons of biocoal annually by the end of 2012, eventually increasing that to 1 million tons.” For now, the entire production will be shipped to the U.K., although a separate (December 8) account quotes a senior Cate Street executive, “If there was an interest in the U.S., and there definitely is, we would prefer to sell it here. It is cheaper.”