Letters to the Editor

It was a great to read your very comprehensive article titled "Not So Run of the Mill" in the September issue of Biomass Magazine. It really brought forward how some in the forest products industry are viewing pulp and paper mills as potential locations for biorefineries, as well as a possible new business model that may actually revitalize the industry.

As discussed in the article, there are so many advantages in having a biorefinery collocated in a pulp and paper mill: It creates valuable new products for the mill, reduces energy costs, uses waste streams effectively for power production, and enables the sharing of utilities and resources. While your article focused largely on the potential production of cellulosic ethanol in the pulp and paper mill setting, we believe that biomass gasification and the production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids, or biocrudes, may offer a more compelling business case for the industry than does cellulosic ethanol. While cellulosic ethanol technologies are still at the experimental level, biocrudes from biomass use proven technologies. The process doesn't depend on feedstock type and has the potential to utilize a wide range of biomass streams, including what we believe is an untapped resource-namely byproduct or "waste" flows from forest and agricultural sources. Thus, we would be tapping into the largest potential sources of renewable biomass energy in the United States.

Another major advantage of biocrudes is that they are fungible. They can be shipped to the petrochemical refiners and processed as "standard" crude, thus eliminating many of the logistical issues associated with ethanol. Biocrudes also represent a cleaner and purer source of crude oil because they contain no sulfur. As with other biofuels, biocrudes help to fulfill the federal government's mandate of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions.

In light of these benefits, we at Flambeau River Papers have expanded our focus since your article was published. Although we have considered the production of cellulosic ethanol, upon much evaluation we believe that the risk-reward ratio relating to biocrude production is indeed favorable in some cases. In fact, we are now looking at biomass gasification technologies to produce biocrude, while becoming the first pulp and paper mill in North America to be free of fossil fuels.

Bill Johnson
Flambeau River Biofuels LLC

I enjoyed your article on [biochar] ("Pyrolysis Char Rejuvenates Tired Soils" in the October issue). I believe we will find that soil regeneration will be the most significant key to sustainable, consumable crop generation and healthy forest management. This will not only apply to any bioenergy-related feedstock, but also to human consumption crops.

We have just developed a process for local communities to take vegetative material like forest slash and convert it into 0.2- to 2-millimeter particles that have been tested to show they have great value in soil regeneration due to quick soil absorption qualities. Our processed end-product not only restores carbon back into the soil, but also recharges the soil with nitrogen, ammonia, nitrates, phosphorus, potash, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and boron, depending on the source. We are still studying the impact of this process on agricultural slash and are optimistic that we can reduce reliance on petrochemical fertilizer.

I would hazard a guess that the study of soil regeneration will have a higher impact on global rural economies for becoming self-sustaining than any other area of study. Keep up the good work on keeping us all informed on what's going on in our world.

Chris Casson
FG Enterprises LLC