Expanding the Typical Retrofit Mindset

By Anna Simet | March 28, 2013

Normally when I think of a conversion or retrofit in the biomass industry, moving from fossil-fueled boilers and infrastructure to biomass boilers is what comes to mind.

Just this week, however, I’ve come across two instances of shuttered wood products facilities being converted into pellet plants, a refreshing deviation from my old retrofit mindset.

I can remember when I first came onboard Biomass Magazine in 2008, there was lots of talk about potentially converting some of the closed or closing pulp and paper mills into integrated biorefineries. Most of what was proposed didn’t happen, mostly due to financial reasons.

It’s been pretty quiet for a long while, but maybe things are beginning to turning around.

In Kimberly, Wis., a former NewPage paper mill that closed in 2008 and left 600 people out of work, has been proposed for conversion into a wood pellet plant. Reports Milwaukee newspaper BizTimes, “The former mill site—portions of which have been torn down since the Ohio-based company closed the facility — is a suitable location because it is set up for truck traffic, has rail access and features warehouse space that would require little renovation to be ready for production.”

The man proposing the plan is quoted saying the wood pellet operation could directly and indirectly employ anywhere between 500 and 1,000 people.

It’s still pretty preliminary, but that would have a huge positive impact on the surrounding community.

The other project I came across is a lot more mature—a particleboard plant near Bancroft, Ontario, that has been converted into a 300,000-metric ton wood pellet plant, by FireLogic Inc. Located on 152 acres, all buildings, material receiving, handling, storage, conveying, drying and screening equipment are in place, and the only things missing are the hammermills, pellet presses and finished pellet handling equipment.

It’s actually up for sale or rent, and you can find out more details here.  

On that note, these are good examples of stories we will be featuring in an upcoming conversion/retrofit issue of Biomass Magazine. If you have an ongoing, proposed or completed project that doesn’t seem to be on our radar, email me at