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NEWS RELEASE · 27th September 2010
Ministry of Forests and Range
The BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada are assessing the feasibility of a pilot plant to commercially produce torrefied pellets from wood waste, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.

"Torrefied pellets are made from the dry, blackened material that remains after forest biomass is exposed to extreme heat. This residue is then shaped into pellets or briquettes that pack much more energy density than regular wood pellets," said Bell. "These enhanced pellets have the potential to make B.C.'s wood pellet industry even more competitive on a global scale."

The energy density of torrefied pellets is 22 per cent to 24 per cent higher than regular wood pellets. Due to their higher energy density, torrefied pellets represent a 40 per cent to 50 per cent reduction in transportation and storage costs compared to traditional wood pellets.

Torrefied pellets are also water-repellent, decrease fire risks in transportation and storage by generating less dust, and can be made from a wide range of raw biomass feedstocks. They are also more practical for converting coal-fired power stations in Europe, the world's largest market for pellet products.

Torrefaction involves a thermo-chemical conversion of biomass at 200 to 320 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-starved environment. During the process, water and combustible gases are removed from the biomass to produce fuel for heating and energy needs. Torrefied biomass is considered to be an improvement on current wood pellet products and an environmentally friendlier alternative than fossil fuel-based coal.

Torrefaction technology has been successfully tested in laboratory conditions. The BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada are now funding a $170,000 engineering study to determine if the technology is feasible on a commercial scale.

"Torrefaction is one of the most promising new technology applications for use in bioenergy," said BC Bioenergy Network executive director Michael Weedon. "Indications are that it will substantially improve the economics of wood pellet applications and accelerate replacement of fossil fuel-based coal with a more sustainable fuel source."

"With the BC Bioenergy Network's help, we may be able to implement torrefaction on a commercial scale," said Wood Pellet Association of Canada executive director Gordon Murray. "A successful pilot plant would lead to widespread deployment of torrefaction technology by the entire Canadian pellet industry. This would give our producers a significant advantage in an increasingly competitive global market."

The feasibility study is expected to be complete later this fall. The BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada will review and analyze the results in conjunction with the Ministry of Forests and Range and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Funding possibilities for a pilot plant will be explored if the study determines that torrefaction technology is commercially feasible.

The feasibility study directly supports the BC Bioenergy Strategy goal to promote wood pellet production and facilitate market develop opportunities within the province and around the world. It also supports the Ministry of Forests and Range priority to improve forest residue utilization by using wood waste as a bioenergy source.

Established in April 2008 with a $25-million grant from the provincial government, the BC Bioenergy Network is an industry-led association that acts as a catalyst for deploying near- term bioenergy technologies. It also supports research for the development and demonstration of sustainable technologies to build a world-class bioenergy capability in B.C.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada membership includes pellet producers, traders, shipping companies, port facilities, and industry suppliers. The association promotes the growth and success of the Canadian wood pellet industry. Its other main purpose is to conduct applied research for the purpose of improving the safety and competitiveness of Canadian pellet producers.