Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mobile Wood Torrefiers for Carolina Bio - Coal

North Carolina doesn't have significant coal deposits. But it does have large amounts of forest, with massive concomitant wood waste. This wood waste can be converted into "Bio-coal" using mobile wood torrefiers that can be transported to processing points within the forest itself. Torrefied wood weighs only 1/3 the full weight of wood waste, but still contains 80% of the energy. This densification of biomass energy allows for less expensive transport to coal-firing power plants, where the torrefied wood can be co-fired along with coal to provide vital electric power and heat energies.
Woodchips are abundant in North Carolina while coal is all imported from other states. More importantly, woodchips are a carbon neutral source of energy. For a state that spends more than $4 billion a year importing coal, use of torrefied wood could result in an economic windfall.

Hopkins explains that nearly half of the state's forests are not adequately thinned because landowners lack a market for small diameter trees, rotten or unusable trees and logging residue. That land could be producing more valuable wood products if it was managed more effectively, he says.

If woodchips were collected and sold to help fire North Carolina's energy generating plants, the state's tax base could be increased by nearly $400 million a year, Hopkins estimates. Since the torrefier machine is small enough to transport, it could be set up close to forest-clearing operations, making the process even more efficient. _NCSUNews
The same economics applies to any region that contains appreciable forest area. Massive quantities of wood ends up rotting in forests around the world, releasing large amounts of carbon without providing any useful service. By densifying and transporting waste biomass to power plants -- preferably IGCC plants with CHP -- the inevitable release of carbon will be accompanied by significant productive use, and displacement of the use of more polluting coal.

Serious-minded persons understand that modern humans must use fossil fuels in order to bridge into a more sustainable energy future. But the sooner we can begin shifting the burden onto biomass and other renewables, the sooner our energy future can be placed on a firmer foundation.

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