A New Year, New Administration and the Pandemic Backend

Anna Simet discusses the 2021 International Biomass Conference & Expo, the new Biden administration, and other issues facing the biomass industry.
By Anna Simet | February 08, 2021

When the pandemic hit the U.S. in late winter of last year, our team at BBI International and Biomass Magazine had just held the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, I had read a few news articles about COVID-19, but I really wasn't concerned about being affected. Suffice to say, I think everyone at the conference—which was upward of 800 people—would have been shocked to discover that, next year, they would be joining virtually to avoid the spread of a disease that has impacted the entire world. But with all of us well into the swing of Zoom, Google Meet and Skype, we’re very confident that year’s conference, in its virtual platform, has so much to offer. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the event preview, “All Things Biomass From Your Desktop,” on page 20.

Moving on to other topics covered in this issue, focused on project development, you’ll find feature article “Sawdust Strategies” on page 14, which discusses sourcing residuals from sawmills for pellet production. Whether built on-site by the sawmill itself, a colocated joint venture of a sawmill and a developer, or a supply contract between an offsite pellet producer and a sawmill, using this material for pellet production offers numerous advantages. These include, but aren't limited to, a lower carbon footprint, minimal or zero transportation costs, and no drying costs for this material. Apart from the benefits, however, there are some potential risks involved. John Swaan, one of the industry experts I spoke with, said that risk lies mainly within being dependent on an industry that has ups and downs, so the value of a “Plan B,” or finding a way to mitigate that risk, could be crucial.

On the note of fiber, you’ll find Forisk’s Wood Fiber Review on page 24. In this quarter’s exclusive preview, author Andrew Copley covers the U.S. Northwest, discussing implications of the fire season and pandemic, lumber prices and downstream effects on residual chip prices, and a sawdust glut flattening prices in every region.

The final article I’ll touch on is “Getting Biomass Ash to Flow Again,” which details work done by Jenike and Johansen at three Dominion Energy biomass power plants. This technical article discusses some problems each of the facilities was having with their ash silos and how they were resolved. With more power stations evaluating their options in a low-carbon future—in fact, all three plants were converted from coal—engineering solutions like those detailed in this article will be increasingly required.

As I write this, we’re less than a week out from the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, and as with most administration transitions, there remains some uncertainty as to what’s in store for sectors such as ours. We’ll be discussing that with our industry leaders general session roundtable during the virtual International Biomass Conference & Expo, and we look forward to answering questions and bringing you some fresh and insightful perspective for 2021 and beyond.