Continuity Amidst Uncertainty

Despite the ongoing pandemic’s effects on the world economy, at least one thing has remained unchanged—heat, power and fuel are still needed, and will continue to be.
By Anna Simet | September 03, 2020

Despite the ongoing pandemic’s effects on the world economy, at least one thing has remained unchanged—heat, power and fuel are still needed, and will continue to be.

For residential wood pellets, manufacturers are potentially positioned to have a record season, with millions of Americans now staying at home rather than going into the office or school. Diving right into content in this issue of Biomass Magazine, you’ll read more on that in both features authored by Tim Portz, executive director of the Pellet Fuels Institute. In his page-13 story, “Business as Unusual,” Portz details how one pellet manufacturer, Indeck Energy Wood Pellets, has adjusted its operations in response to COVID-19, in order to continue making fuel and capture opportunities on the horizon. The story nicely compliments “Connecting Fiber Makers with Fiber Takers” on page 15, which details producers’ past and year-to-date-fiber purchasing habits and expenditures. Things look good so far this year, as EIA data suggests that 2020 may see record wood fiber purchases by pellet producers since the 2016 launching of the Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report. Portz paints a picture of cautious optimism as producers prepare for the upcoming heating system, with reports from retail partners that pellet BBQ sales are up significantly, and heating pellet appliance sales also up. One crucial question remains, however, and that’s whether fiber streams from hardwood sawmills—already affected by the trade war with China—will be further impacted by the pandemic, and thus create a strain on producers’ supply chains.

In our final feature, “Analyzing Automation” on page 18, I discuss automation and smart technologies with experts from Valmet, Siemens and Martin Engineering, how automation has evolved over the decades and the benefits of today’s ideal systems. Companies like these are continually advancing these technologies to meet power facilities’ evolving needs, including protection against increasingly common cyber-attacks.

For more aligning with our operations and maintenance co-theme, be sure to check our page-26 contribution article, “Ensuring Plant O&M Expense Matches its Market Mission,” by Clive Watson, Solomon & Associates, for advice on how to first identify a facility’s market mission, and then determine what’s most important among cost control, reliability and efficiency.

Moving on to dust control and fire and explosion protection, check out “Preventing Dust Explosions in Pellet Production,” by Clive Nixon, BS&B Safety Systems, for guidance on tailoring prevention and mitigation solutions to the specific application.  Related to that topic, we have included two company spotlight articles on Rembe and CV Technology, both field experts that have much to offer when it comes to ensuring facilities are safe and in line with regulations.

The last story I’ll highlight is our exclusive, quarterly excerpt from Forisk Consulting’s upcoming wood fiber review, in which author Andrew Copley evaluates the pandemic’s effects on eastern Canada’s forest industry in Q2 2020, and subsequent impacts on the region’s fiber markets.

Things seem to change almost weekly during these unprecedented times, but we’re confident many of our industry sectors are seeing growth nonetheless and will come out even stronger on the other side. Meanwhile, we here at Biomass Magazine wish you good health and prosperity, and will continue to bring you accurate, in-depth and timely industry news and information.


Author: Anna Simet
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