Local wood purchases will be priority for Burgess BioPower

WHITEFIELD – Two officials of the company hired to handle wood procurement for the Burgess BioPower biomass plant said the company will try and buy from local loggers and foresters first. With the plant estimated to require 750,000 to 800,000 tons of biomass annually, Jimmy Carrier of Richard Carrier Trucking (RCT) said he expects the plant will be receiving wood from a 150 to 200 mile radius of Berlin.
"We're going to try and keep everybody local working first," Carrier told a gathering of forestry and natural resource professionals at the 23 annual Mud Breakfast last Friday at the Mountain View Grand resort. Carrier was joined by John Ballew of RCT wood procurement.
The gathering also heard from Dan Heald, who will manage the plant when Delta Power Services takes over operation of the facility later this year. While initial plans called for the plant to be operating this fall, Heald said that has been pushed back to the first quarter of 2014. He said heavy construction should start to slow down around July as start up and commissioning operations get underway. He said fuel deliveries will start in August and September with substantial completion now expected in mid-December.
When fully operating, Heald said the facility will consume 100 tons of biomass per hour. That will require over 100 trucks per day with the facility allowed to receive trucks 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday and ten hours on Saturday.
Heald said the biomass plant will employ approximately 30 people – a reduction from the 40 full-time jobs described during permitting.
In response to a question, Heald said the facility is about 30 percent efficient but said that will improve if Cate Street Capital is successful in finding ways to capture and reuse waste heat, steam, and cooling water.
He was also asked about the possibility of curtailments of energy production by ISO-NW, which manages the regional grid.
"That would be the exception, not the rule," Heald responded.
Burgess BioPower has a fuel supply agreement with RCT to supply all the biomass for the biomass plant. Carrier said the company expects to start signing five year contracts with loggers in June.
Carrier would not discuss price. And while the plant is designed to burn low-grade wood, Carrier did indicate there may be some species that will not be accepted because they do not generate enough heat.
Carrier said the radius for wood purchases depends on the economics of trucking. He said long hauls work if the trucker can transport material both ways. As an example, he said pulp is hauled from the Old Town Fuel and Fiber plant in Maine to the Gorham Paper and Tissue mill. On the reverse trip, hardwood chips are hauled from Gorham to Old Town.
He said he expects wood will come from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York, as well as well as Canada. Asked about Canadian wood purchases, Carrier said he does not expect Canadian wood purchases to exceed eight to ten percent.
Carrier said there will be satellite wood yards in southern New Hampshire and in Maine. He said there will also be a satellite yard off-site in Berlin in case anything happens at the biomass site.
Sarah Smith, forest industry specialist with UNH Cooperative Extension, presented a generally upbeat picture of wood markets. She noted consumer confidence is up although rural economies are still shaky. Smith also pointed to the growing Buy Local movement as a good sign for area foresters.