Wood: Fuel of the Future?

It seems the term “wood waste” is on its way out of the tree care industry’s lexicon. What was once a nuisance byproduct of pruning and a hassle to dispose of has evolved into a hot commodity for those who can establish a connection with energy markets. For the past couple decades the biomass buzz has centered around biomass plants, which purchase the debris for conversion into electricity, but new technology is expanding the potential for waste wood.

In late July, researchers reported a milestone achievement in the field of wood waste recycling: ethanol was produced from wood waste. While the concept of using woody debris as an ethanol source is not new and the process has been studied on a small scale, this was the first successful production of commercial-scale quantities. The chemical company who made it happen, INEOS Bio, said the gasification and fermentation processes used to create the fuel were unique to the project. Though they wouldn’t disclose exactly how much fuel was produced, but did reveal that it could be measured in “truckloads.” And, INEOS Bio is not alone in the pursuit of commercially available wood-derived fuel.

Earlier this year KiOR, a renewable fuels company based in Mississippi, announced that it had achieved successful production of diesel fuel and gasoline from waste wood. The facility used pine wood chips, previously used to feed a paper mill, to produce the first renewable hydrocarbon fuels in the United States manufactured at commercial scale and derived solely from nonfood material (eliminating the food versus fuel debate). The company’s renewable gasoline is the first renewable cellulosic gasoline ever registered by the EPA for sale in the U.S.

As processes become perfected and technology advances even further, I’m sure the potential for biomass conversion to usable fuels, energy and more will exceed what anyone ever thought could be done with “wood waste.”

See page 7 of this issue to read the story of Wood Resource Recovery, a Florida company that found success in the biomass market.

Coming Next Month

Fall is just around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: TCI Expo – and this year’s show promises to be bigger and better than ever. In next month’s issue we’ll have all the information you’ll need to maximize your time in Charlotte.

Katie Meyers