Owning and operating biomass facilities is heavily reliant on being able to secure enough fuel to feed boilers, but Latham, New York-based ReEnergy Holdings LLC, seems to have that part of the business covered.
The company was formed in 2008 by affiliates of Riverstone Holdings LLC and a senior management/co-investor team comprised of experienced industry professionals. It has developed a business model that has helped it secure fuel from local sources, including unadulterated wood from its own construction & demolition (C&D) recycling facilities. The company says it is the largest processor of C&D debris in New England and the largest renewable energy company in the U.S. solely dedicated to producing electricity from biomass.
ReEnergy’s senior management team includes four individuals who each have more than 20 years of experience in the waste-to-energy (WTE) industry. The executive team includes Larry Richardson, CEO; Tom Beck, chief commercial officer; Bill Ralston, chief risk officer; and Greg Leahey, chief operating officer of the waste services and fuel supply divisions.
“Vertical integration of C&D recycling operations to provide fuel into our biomass business is pretty unique,” explains Beck. “There are some other larger players in the biomass-to-energy space that use a significant amount of C&D wood fuel but no others that we are aware of have gotten into C&D operations to the extent that we have.”
ReEnergy’s energy generating facilities are capable of producing 325 megawatts of installed energy generation capacity. The company owns and operates eight energy generation facilities in Ashland, Stratton, Fort Fairfield and Livermore Falls, Maine; Fort Drum, Chateaugay and Lyonsdale, New York; and Sterling, Connecticut. Two of the facilities are currently idled, but Beck is hopeful operations will resume soon.
The company’s C&D recycling facilities are located in Epping and Salem, New Hampshire; Roxbury, Massachusetts; and Lewiston, Maine. The recycling facilities in the company’s portfolio were all acquired from other operators. They have combined permitted capacity to process 1 million tons per year. The company is currently recycling 700,000 tons per year of C&D debris, including producing more than 100,000 tons annually of biomass fuel.
The majority of the fuel goes to biomass facilities and some of the lower quality fuel goes to WTE plants to fill seasonal capacity needs. High-quality wood is not used for energy generation, but goes back into the wood manufacturing process for use in low- and medium-density fiberboard manufacturing facilities.
“The vast majority of what we bring in gets reused or recycled in some fashion,” says Beck. “Roughly 75 percent of the material gets reused in some way. We are constantly looking for the best economic solutions for the products and usually it is to recycle and recover more.”
All of ReEnergy’s energy facilities use green wood waste, which is a combination of forest residues and mill residues. “Some of them only use green wood waste, while others have the ability to use other fuels such as fuel manufactured from recovered C&D materials, including some that comes out of our facilities,” says Beck.
The C&D wood is typically drier than the green wood used and use of this material in biomass facilities benefits the C&D recycler as well as the biomass facility. “The economics work for both the processor to find lower-disposal-cost outlets and the biomass facility to find a lower cost fuel,” explains Beck.
The company uses C&D wood as part of the fuel blend at three of its biomass facilities. It also is permitted to use creosote-treated wood, including railroad ties and telephone poles, at two facilities. Tire-derived fuel (TDF) also is permitted for use at two facilities. In addition, the ReEnergy Black River Facility in New York is planning to test the feasibility of using recovered waste shingles as a fuel.
A first for biomass
ReEnergy Holdings, a biomass energy and construction & demolition recycling company based in Latham, New York, takes responsible forestry seriously. The company has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Standard, which verifies that ReEnergy’s biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and sustainable forestry practices. According to Tom Beck, ReEnergy chief commercial officer, the company is the first biomass energy company to certify all of its facilities to this standard.
“Our certification verifies our biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices,” says Beck.
In voluntarily seeking this third-party certification from SFI, ReEnergy says it has made a formal commitment to procure its forest materials from qualified logging professionals who utilize best management practices and operate with an ethic of land stewardship that integrates reforestation and protects the long-term quality of soil, air, water resources, biological diversity and aesthetics.
SFI is an independent, nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving a sustainable forestry certification program that is internationally recognized and is the largest single forest standard in the world. The SFI Standard is based on principles and measures that promote sustainable forest management and consider all forest values. It includes unique fiber sourcing requirements to promote responsible forest management on all forestlands in North America.
ReEnergy says its policy is to locate its facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located. To achieve the SFI Standard Principles, Objectives, Performance Measures and Indicators, ReEnergy developed and adopted programs to guide its wood fuel procurement activities. ReEnergy is committed to annually review the effectiveness of its SFI Policy, procedures and systems and to continually improve its sustainable forestry program.
“We use a lot of different fuels. We are always trying to find the lowest-cost fuels that we are permitted for,” explains Beck. He notes that the type of fuel and cost can vary from location to location and are tied closely to such factors as energy policy and incentives, as well as market and operating conditions.
ReEnergy’s biomass facilities use in excess of 2.5 million tons of green wood annually. Beck says, “Fortunately our facilities are located in very strong wood baskets where the growth rate exceeds the removal rate.” He adds, “We are always concerned about making sure that the forests are managed sustainably.” (See the online sidebar, “A first for biomass.”)
The green wood debris or residue used by ReEnergy in its boilers is the lowest-value part of the tree. By using the residue as a fuel, ReEnergy is having a positive impact on forest health and providing a benefit loggers and land owners who would otherwise not have end markets for the waste wood.
While the majority of ReEnergy’s fuel is made up of green wood, at ReEnergy’s Black River Facility, C&D wood makes up about 15 percent and TDF makes up about 5 percent of the fuel consumption. Beck says he hopes C&D wood will become a larger part of the mix.
In addition to the C&D facilities that help feed ReEnergy’s various boilers, the company also has invested in a program to equip fuel suppliers with wood chippers. ReEnergy’s Chipper Program was designed to allow fuel suppliers to “lease-to-own” equipment provided by ReEnergy. Approximately half of the company’s green wood fuel comes from these suppliers.
“It has really provided us with a nice connection with those suppliers. We know real-time if there are any issues, and we are able to adjust and adapt accordingly,” says Beck.
All of ReEnergy’s C&D recycling facilities use what Beck refers to as standard waste processing equipment. This includes screens and grinders, conveyors, magnets and eddy currents. Other specialized equipment helps the company produce high-quality fuel and other recovered products. For example, one of the company’s recycling facilities uses a water bath float tank to increase the amount of C&D wood recovered, while others have tailored equipment to increase the output of products such as ferrous and nonferrous metals and asphalt, brick and concrete fragments.
“We recover a lot of metal, and we do what we call ‘upgrading’ of both ferrous and nonferrous metals. This provides us with a higher quality product to sell to metals buyers,” says Beck.
ReEnergy’s typical biomass facility has a large fuel yard where inventory levels are kept at much higher levels than at a typical WTE facility. Beck notes biomass facilities do not have odor issues and stockpilinig fuel helps biomass get as dry as possible before it goes into the boilers.
The biomass fuel is typically conveyed into the boilers after being run under some final magnets and screens to ensure all impurities such as rocks, dirt and metals are taken out. A final chip grind gets the fuel to the correct size of between 2 to 4 inches. Steam and electricity are produced with approximately 2 percent ash remaining. The ash is either landfilled or is used by farmers as a supplement to fertilizer.
The six operating biomass facilities generate a net 1.8 million net megawatt hours (MWh) sold per year, or enough to power 230,000 homes.
A good neighbor
Each of ReEnergy’s biomass facilities operates a bit differently. One of the company’s newest projects is located at Fort Drum in upstate New York. The Army base houses some 37,000 troops and employs about 4,000 civilians.
The ReEnergy Black River facility has 60 MW of generation capacity. Before it was idled in early 2010 by its former owner, the facility primarily burned coal to produce electricity. ReEnergy acquired the facility in December 2011 and invested more than $34 million to convert the facility to use biomass as its primary fuel. The converted facility commenced operations in May 2013 and provides all of Fort Drum’s electricity needs, which currently peaks at about 28 MW.
“We acquired what had been a coal-fired power plant that we converted, with the support of the U.S. Army, the state of New York and our investor, to biomass and other waste fuels,” says Beck. ReEnergy has a 10-year renewable energy contract with the state and a 20-year energy supply agreement with the U.S. Army.
Some of ReEnergy’s facilities produce excess steam or electricity for nearby businesses. The company’s facility in Lyonsdale, New York, provides steam to fast-food paper packaging company Burrows Paper Corp. as a low-cost alternative to using natural gas. In Stratton, Maine, ReEnergy sells a portion of its electricity to Stratton Lumber for use in lumber manufacturing.
Beck says ReEnergy’s near-term priorities include trying to restart its two idled facilities—one in northern New York state and the other in eastern Connecticut. “We are very focused on determining the future of those facilities, preferably it would be to restart them as soon as possible because of the meaningful economic impact they can provide to those two areas,” he says.
From companies that are looking for outlets for their waste residues to the power companies and businesses purchasing the power and steam, the biomass industry has many stakeholders. Local and state elected officials play an important role in the viability of the biomass industry. ReEnergy has relationships with all of these groups. The state of New York is a stakeholder because it purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) through the awarding of long-term contracts.
“There is an important overall connection with local and state elected officials who want to see facilities open, operating and economically viable,” says Beck. “They are intimately involved in our facilities and in understanding how they are doing economically.”
Beck says the company’s business philosophy is three-fold. “Our priorities are to protect the health and safety of our employees and neighbors, operate in an environmentally friendly fashion, and we seek to be an outstanding corporate citizen in the communities, regions and states our facilities are located in.” He continues, “Our philosophy has been that if we can do those three things well, the other priorities are going to be a lot easier to accomplish.”
The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR) and can be reached at email@example.com. A version of this article first appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Renewable Energy from Waste, a C&DR sister publication.