Washington DNR to contract forest biomass

By Anna Austin
Posted March 10, 2010, at 2:23 p.m. CST

Pending Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire's signature, a bill recently passed by the Washington legislature will help build a strong forest biomass industry within the state while mitigating overcrowded or fire-prone forests on state trust lands.

According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, there are approximately 3 million acres of state trust land in Washington. The Forest Biomass Supply Agreements Bill (SB 6236) will allow the DNR to enter into long-term agreements to supply forest biomass from trust lands for energy projects/purposes. The bill goes hand-in-hand with HB 2165, which was passed in 2009 to authorize the DNR to implement forest biomass-to-energy pilot projects in eastern and western Washington.

Upon implementation of the bill, rather than having to auction each timber sales' woody biomass waste on a sale-by-sale basis, the DNR will be authorized to provide five-year contracts with up to three renewals or leases for long-term biomass supply.

Following an invitation of proposals in the summer of 2009, in January, the DNR selected its first four partners for biomass pilot projects out of more than 30 interested parties. They include Parametrix, which plans to develop a transportable fast-pyrolysis system; Borgford Bioenergy LLC, which will build Kulzer BioEnergy Park in Stevens County to generate 9.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity, bio-oil, syngas and biochar; Atlas Pellets will produce pellets from the forest biomass; and Nippon Paper will replace an existing biomass boiler at its paper mill in Port Angeles, Wash., to produce 6 MW of excess power for sale to a power utility to help meet renewable energy requirements.

The DNR will report to the state legislature in December 2010 on the progress and results of the pilot projects. It is currently pursing funding to initiate a statewide woody biomass investment-grade supply and accessibility study and hopes to have a final report by 2011.