Green Energy seeks wood-based hurricane debris

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted August 29, 2008 at 10:10 a.m. CST

As Hurricane Gustav slowly makes its way towards the Gulf of Mexico, residents and businesses in the U.S. Gulf Coast are preparing for the storm by taking measures to prevent as much damage as possible. However, New York City-based Green Energy Resources is preparing for the debris recovery from this hurricane and any others that may make landfall this season.

The waste wood supply company has announced it can take up to 10 million tons of wood debris from hurricane disasters if it becomes available. Current storm tracking models show that Gustav is predicted to make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast the first week of September, almost ensuring storm wood that will need removal. The problem, according to Green Energy, is that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are usually in charge of storm wood removal and they don't like to share.

Joe Murray, president and chief executive officer of Green Energy, said his company has repeatedly offered to take up to two million tons of waste wood produced by storms, but FEMA and other contractors "don't want to be bothered." Murray said the standard removal practice is to hire contractors to remove the product, which is then either trucked to a landfill or openly burned in large piles. According to Murray, every ton of wood burned produces up to three tons of methane gas that is dispersed into the atmosphere. Wood taken to landfills quickly fills the space and results in taxpayers having to pay a higher premium for waste disposal. As well, Murray said FEMA contractors often charge bloated rates to haul the product, which all goes back to the taxpayer.

Murray has a better plan for the storm wood. "We're very interested in getting as much as we can," he said. "We should be a part of the contractor clean-up efforts. We have a good use for it." Murray has been feverishly contacting clients worldwide who will purchase the collected storm wood and, in turn, use it for renewable energy purposes. That's Green Energy's specialty. Since 2003, the company has been exporting woodchips to Europe, and due to increased demand for renewable sources of fuel, recently made its services available throughout the United States. Green Energy's removal fee? Nothing. "We just want [FEMA] to give it to us," he said. Green Energy's clients absorb the cost of transporting the product.

Transportation logistics are the largest problem for waste wood suppliers, but Murray said Green Energy has railcars and barges ready to be put to use and is in the process of securing ships capable of transporting 50,000 tons of waste per load. He estimated that it would take over a year to completely remove 10 million tons of waste wood from its location, but added that is a normal timeframe. "There are still piles [of wood] sitting in Texas and Louisiana from 2005," he said. Realistically, Murray said that if his company can acquire between two and five million tons of storm wood he'd be "happy as a clam" and could disperse of the entire load in about six months.

Storm wood can be used for electricity generation as a result of co-firing, direct burning or the use of wood pellets. And when the wood is used for renewable energy purposes, it also qualifies for carbon credits, which leads to Murray's new strategy to acquire the wood. His company is requesting the public's help in ensuring waste wood gets put to a useful purpose by purchasing carbon offset credits on Green Energy's Web site. Credits are available at a cost of $6 per carbon ton. Two tons of carbon offset credits are the equivalent of one ton of waste wood. Buyers will receive carbon offset certificates and can track the credits through Green Energy's Urban Tree Certification System software database. The company will use funds received through the sale of carbon offset credits to procure waste wood from storm-damaged areas.

Parties interested in purchasing carbon offset credits can do so at the company's Web site,

For more information on disaster debris clean-up, read "Dealing with Disaster Debris" in the September issue of Biomass Magazine.

Meanwhile, Green Energy announced Aug. 26 it plans to repurchase two to three million shares of stocks over the next 6 to 12 months or sooner. Murray said current share values don't reflect the strength of the company or its contracts. Since it began four years ago, the company has turned a profit. Green Energy, which has not raised any public money, operates on its own self-generated revenues and has no debt.