Vancouver-based Global Bio-Coal Energy Inc. (GBCE) has announced it has ordered its first commercial-size bio-coal manufacturing unit and will open a 25- tonne-per-hour production facility in Terrace BC early in 2011 after successfully concluding an agreement with Vitol Broking Limited of London England, the world's largest energy trading company to purchase all the bio-coal it can produce.
In making the announcement GBCE Board Chairman John Bennett explained that the agreement with Vitol 'was the final piece of the puzzle needed to create a viable biocoal industry in British Columbia and the rest of the world.'
The agreement means that Vitol, through GBCE, will purchase and distribute all the biocoal that can be produced in British Columbia and elsewhere. 'We can now not only provide the technology to produce bio-coal and deal with waste wood, but also bring with it a long-term, built-in market for the end product.'
Mr. Bennett said the Terrace facility will be the first of its kind in the World to use the patented continuous-feed, Rotawave Targeted Intelligent Energy System (TIES) to produce bio-coal from waste wood biomass for use in existing coal-fired power plants.
'Our bio-coal product has been thoroughly tested and accepted by coal-fired power producers in Europe.' said Mr. Bennett. 'It meets their standards and requirements for an alternate fuel with which to replace the use of natural coal and they don't have to spend millions of dollars refitting their operations to accommodate biomass. They can also avoid costly storage and handling issues associated with raw wood bio-mass and pellets.'
Mr. Bennett explained that GBCE's bio-coal 'meets or exceeds the power industry's requirements for grindability, BTU values, moisture content and related physical characteristics.' GBCE, he said, has signed Memorandums of Understanding with fibre suppliers in the province. 'Our target is to produce three million tonnes of bio-coal per year for the world market which would also allow us to generate some 60 megawatts of green electrical power from the gas produced as a bi-product.'
The company issued invitations to tender in late May to a number of BC forestry operators in the Northwest and Interior of the province. 'We can use a variety of fibre ranging from beetle killed pine to spruce, fir, cedar, hemlock alder and poplar among others., ' he said, adding 'and we are not looking for biomass that can be used for commercial dimensional lumber, food or other manufacturing.'
According to Mr. Bennett, British Columbia can easily support 30 such facilities. The biocoal industry could generate $1 Billion CDN in export revenue for the province and create 600 new jobs to operate the facilities. The industry could also put some 4,800 to 5,800 people back to work in harvesting, transportation and support jobs in the forestry sector.
The TIES technology was developed by Rotawave Ltd. of the UK who developed and patented the Targetted Intelligent Energy System which allows for the high-speed, lowenergy production of bio-coal from bio-mass. This is an extremely clean technology,' he explained. 'The heat, steam and gases are continuously recycled inside the process to pre-dry the fibre before treatment and to drive the power generators. The excess heat can also be distributed into communities to provide heat.'
'Until the TIES system came into being, potential bio-coal producers faced the challenge of finding ways to produce commercial scale volumes of bio-coal economically and efficiently. Our system, operating at relatively low-temperature will produce up to 65 per cent yield if the average moisture content of the wood is 25 per cent. This exceeds other systems that are still in the prototype development phase,' added Mr. Bennett.
Even working quietly to establish the market, Mr. Bennett explained the company has received expressions of interest from Ontario, Montana, Iowa, Colorado and other locations in the technology. 'We have already signed an off-take agreement with an international energy marketer for up to 10 million tonnes per year.'
Production at the Terrace facility is targetted to begin in February or early March 2011. 'We are also negotiating for other locations in the Central and Northern Interior of British Columbia providing job potential in communities hard hit by the mountain pine beetle, the downturn in the forest sector and the recession,' said Mr. Bennett. 'If you spread 4600 jobs over 30 communities this translates into more than 150 permanent, full-time jobs per community.'
'It is also encouraging that already existing forest companies are showing a great deal of interest in bio-coal production since it could represent a significant revenue stream for them by using what has traditionally been valueless waste material' concluded Mr. Bennett. Credited with helping locate the new facilitate in Terrace, which has been hard hit with mill closures and subsequent layoffs, are the Terrace Mayor and Council, the Northwest British Columbia Forest Coalition and The Skeena-Nass Center for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE) organized the first meeting in Terrace with Canadian Bio-Coal and continued to pursue and support this project, providing valuable information on the region and its resources, leads on potential site locations for the project, and acting as a local guide
In reality, however, it was the provincial government that set the stage for the creation of a sustainable bio-coal industry,' noted Mr. Bennett. 'Over the past few years we have discussed this project with various government ministers who dealt effectively with access to fibre issues, First Nations participation and other obstacles. Their mission to create clean energy is what initially drove this forward.'
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, Parliamentary Secretary for Pine Beetle Community Recovery to the Ministry of Community and Rural Development has been an enthusiastic and effective supporter of this project from the beginning, said Mr. Bennett. 'She has certainly helped the project along.'