BioGren’s pellets can renewably replace coal

Chippin in

BioGren

Photo courtesy of BioGren
The process of converting wood pellets into a renewable energy source.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

BioGren, which is pioneering the use of wood pellets as a renewable energy source, was presented to the members of the Norwegian Business Angels Network (NorBAN) recently. BioGren is a new and exciting Norwegian bioenergy startup with some of Norway’s most experienced business angels involved. The startup has a cooperation agreement with the industrial company Elkem on possible synergies. Six new investors in BioGren are doing so under the same conditions as the present investors, even if the company is entering a scale-up phase.

The Oslo startup builds on Norwegian advantages within the forest industry. They are building innovative multipurpose bioenergy production facilities at Skjerkøya in Bamle, Telemark. They will primarily use timber from the local area. The production capacity is planned for 150,000 tons with possibilities for increased production in the future.

Wood pellets of high quality are made from raw wood that has no other utilization, and from chips. The raw material is chopped into smaller particles and dried. After drying, the particles are pelletized in special pellet mills presses. Finished pellets are stored in silos before being loaded on board a ship. The location for production is favorable both with regards to raw material supply and sea access to the most important wood pellet market. The market for pellets in Europe has increased by 20 percent annually during recent years. The growth is expected to continue as pellets replace coal.

On a global scale, countries are shifting from fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal) to greener and renewable energy. Several large power plants are converting from coal to pellets. Many of the other renewable options depend on weather conditions like sun or wind, but use of wood pellets has the advantage that it can be used continuously without any external conditions affecting its production or use.

When felling trees to use in saw mills, a lot of the wood cannot be utilized. The wood might be too small, crooked or knotty, or diseased. Tops and limbs are unsuitable for processing lumber. This type of wood is suitable for BioGren. Another source of raw material will be forest thinning that promotes the growth of higher-value timber by removing weaker or deformed trees to reduce competition for water, sunlight, and nutrients. In addition, chips, sawdust, and other industry by-products can be used.

According to a paper by Elizabeth Woodworth from Enviva LP, the wood pellet industry is one of the few growing forest-product industries in today’s challenged economy. According to its website, Enviva LP, based in Bethesda, Md., has a goal to “develop a cleaner energy alternative to fossil fuels… offering electric utilities an alternative to coal… while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.” The company is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, with exports to power plants in the United Kingdom and Europe.

In the United States, the industry provides direct manufacturing jobs and indirect supply chain jobs in rural areas, and an economic incentive to forest owners to continue to invest in their forest land. At a time when many countries are concerned about both jobs and climate change, biomass-to-energy industries like wood pellets create win-win solutions for the economy and the environment.

According to BioGren’s mission statement, it “will produce bioenergy from biomass, preferably from the area in and around Grenland, Telemark. In the longer term, the geographical area can be expanded. While the production is set up to produce wood pellets for use by industry and for heating, it may, at a later stage, be relevant to develop a broader product portfolio of ‘green’ products based on the same raw material, including feed supplement and bio coal.”

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the December 28, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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