So often in the past, we have seen possible losses of industries used as justifications to attack environmentalists and government environmental regulations. There is often a knee jerk reaction by certain politicians using these tactics to make political hay. But before people jump to conclusions about what is triggering this sale, here’s some key facts in the article. They point to a number of issues that have nothing to do with government regulations, environmental concerns, etc. In fact, biomass has been given more than it’s fair share of government giveaways in the areas of regulations. Some might ask, “what regulations? Because it was exempted from EPA rules.
We have been reporting on those issues for over 8 years now. Search on this web site for the word “biomass” to see the whole series of articles.
What is known: Nippon has been trying to make a living in a declining market segment, while expanding their product offerings. Apparently that hasn’t been working out.
Nippon is the only maker of telephone book paper in the United States…..Company officials have said they have been trying to move away from telephone-book paper by offering other paper products.
Also: the co-generation plant has cost them much more than expected, and apparently the manufacturer was sued by them over the defective boiler. To be clear, biomass plants (burning of “hog fuel”) like this were allowed by a bill that was passed in the Washington State Legislature during the height of the last decades’ fuel crisis (remember about 2004-08 when fuel was extremely expensive?). It was supported by both Kevin Van De Wege, and Steve Tharinger, among others. I asked Steve and Kevin personally at the time about the concerns but they shrugged them off. It was clear that to them, they saw biomass as a ‘job creator’ technology.
Many other environmentalists challenged the idea that burning what was essentially ‘slash’ (left over biomass from logging) was a bad idea, and that it was unproven as a technology. The bill clearly stated, at that time, that the technology was ‘experimental’ and that the legislature was going to re-evaluate it later. They never have. It’s still considered an experimental technology.
This blog covered the protests when they happened.
EPA allows biomass to be exempt from greenhouse gas emissions rules for 3 years.
Protests over biomass plants being licensed.
Mason County biomass plant shut down.
Scientists disturbed at biomass as future “green” energy source.
What else is known:
The cogeneration plant was built to produce “green energy” for sale that is generated by burning biomass material.
But the plant was plagued with operational problems and higher-than-expected construction costs.
Construction ended up costing $20 million more than the original $71 million estimate projected in 2010.
Nippon and FSE Energy, which manufactured the boiler, reached a confidential, out-of-court settlement over the facility’s defective boiler and $17 million in disputed monetary charges.
Hopefully Nippon can find a buyer that can guide this plant into production of products that the market wants, and that the biomass plant finally gets working, or shut down, which may be the right thing to do. It would be interesting to understand whether the paper mill would be able to buy cost effective electricity compared to the biomass plant.
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Filed under: Biomass Cogeneration, Nippon Biomass Project, Puget Sound | Leave a comment »