Exhibitors report positive outlook, serious interest at IBCE

By Sue Retka Schill | March 26, 2014

Attendees at the 2014 International Biomass Conference and Expo in Orlando, Fla., March 24-26 came from 41 counties, 48 states and eight Canadian provinces to learn more about the growing biomass-to-energy sector. The 1,110 attendees heard from 136 speakers in workshop panels and had the opportunity to visit with about 200 exhibitors from all areas of the biomass industry.

"The biomass industry is moving forward in a positive way," said exhibitor Tammy Hippchen, business development specialist with Biomass Energy Lab, which offers testing and lab services to the biomass industry. "The industry has turned a corner, and now we're meeting people that have real projects who are looking for partners, and not just those saying ‘I have an idea.'”

"There is a lot more serious interest this year," reported Mike Curci, biomass sales for Andritz, supplier of pelletizing systems, boilers and other technologies to the biomass industry. The good season for pellet producers stimulated more inquiries from potential domestic producers, he reported. "I have a positive attitude on the industry, and not just for white pellets," he added, mentioning the number of projects beginning to move forward using torrefaction technologies.

Other exhibitors echoed the optimistic outlook for both the U.S. and international biomass industries. "We're seeing growth coming back in the U.S.," said Joel Moore, east coast distribution manager for Hallco Industries, manufacturer of hydraulic conveying systems. "Though, we're focused on growth outside the country," he added, saying the biomass conference helps the company make new international connections.

"We are operating globally, and in general we have a positive outlook," said Dave Floyd, CEO of Biomass Engineering and Equipment, providers of biomass handling systems. "There are different drivers, but just the geopolitical situation with Russia on the march has more of Europe thinking about how to move away from Russian natural gas," he said, adding that the U.S. market is harder to read due to the greater influence of incentives and policy.

The uncertainties in the regulatory environment has gasification technology provider PHG Energy focusing more on municipal projects, said Chris Koczaja, vice president of sales. The advantage for municipal projects, he explained, is that they tend to focus on longer time frames and have access to cheaper capital. U.S. municipal projects tend to be focused more on waste streams being gasified for electricity, heat or steam, while woody feedstocks are targeted more in Canada, Europe and elsewhere.  "What I've seen in the past three or four months is making me more optimistic than I've been in the past three to four years."  Projects that were put on hold are now being dusted off and moving forward, he said.

"The increasing number of success stories in biogas in piquing people's interest," reported Kyle Goerhing, regional sales manager with Eisenmann. "The people coming to us are genuinely interested in anaerobic digestion," he said, adding that the final event of the biomass conference, Thursday's tour at Harvest Power of Orlando, is "good timing at the right place."

This was the sixth annual conference sponsored by Biomass Magazine and organized by BBI International. Next year's conference is scheduled for April 20-22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn.