How About 10 More Weeks of Winter?

Editor's note from Biomass Magazine, Issue 1, 2022.
By Anna Simet | March 03, 2022

The groundhog said six more weeks of winter, but most pellet producers wouldn’t mind if it extended long beyond that. As discussed in a subsequent column by Tim Portz, Pellet Fuels Institute executive director, while heating degrees days (HDD) in most pellet-consuming regions are currently mirroring or ahead of year’s heating season—a win, of course—a closer look is a little more telling: This year lags the long-term HDD average by quite a bit. As for what this might mean, I will direct you to Portz’s speculations, which you can find on page 6.

As for other content in this issue of Pellet Mill Magazine, be sure to check out “From Family Roots to Fiber,” on page 14. Written by freelancer writer Alison Lee, the feel-good story chronicles the Schrock family’s journey from an animal bedding manufacturer to the largest wood pellet producer in Michigan (with numerous other products), complimented by a full-scale trucking business that adds tremendous value to the operation.

Our other feature article in this issue, “Now and Beyond 2027,” page 10, profiles the Lynemouth Power Station conversion in northeast England, which included massive investments in material handling infrastructure—not only at the plant, but also the Port of Tyne, which receives the wood pellet shipments consumed by the plant. A focus of the discussion I had with Jonathan Scott, the station’s commercial and fuel director, was that while completing the conversion and successfully reaching full operations was a tremendous accomplishment, it is certainly not the plant’s end game. When that work was finished, the focus quickly turned to the future, which may involve biomass energy carbon capture and storage, or BECCS. Scott told me that Lynemouth is currently working with the government to understand if the project is viable, and whether it would receive necessary support to move forward.

As for contributions in this issue, topics include the critical nature of thorough project planning and effective communication to all stakeholders, and understanding ash fusibility and its causes. The latter errs on the side of technical, but Chris Wiberg, vice president of laboratories at Timber Products Inspection/Biomass Energy Lab (and a frequent Pellet Mill Magazine contributor) excels at conveying the subject matter in an easy-to-digest manner. In this article, page 22, he dives into troubleshooting the potential causes of ash fusion and how to identify it based on the appearance of the ash, or clinkers.

As a final note, allegedly, Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting early springs and more winter since the 1880s, with 105 continued winters and 20 early springs predicted. This equates to a 39% accurate rate, according to Stormfax Almanac. Not a great record, considering with 130-plus years of experience. 

Anecdotal weather predictions aside, to all my producer friends and other stakeholders, here’s to some long cold snaps on the back end of winter.

Author: Anna Simet