Biomass supply and demand surges in Wash.

2012-03-16 Ashley Bach

This has been a good month for biomass in Washington. Peter Goldmark, the State Commissioner of Public Lands, jut released a report showing that 3 million tons of woody biomass, double the amount that’s currently extracted, can be removed from the state’s forests without hurting forest health.

Standing next to Goldmark at the video conference was Bill Hermann, owner of Hermann Brothers Logging & Construction Inc. in Port Angeles, according to the Peninsula Daily News.

Hermann said…that his company’s biomass-related activities have created 25 to 30 new jobs, about one-quarter of his workforce.

“During the past few years, it’s been a stabilization function of our business,” Hermann said in a later interview.

“The lumber markets and such are up and down, but this pretty much goes on steady every day.”

The Washington Department of Natural Resources report shows that “sufficient biomass is left scattered on the landscape, both preexisting biomass and as the result of timber harvest,” according to Biomass Magazine.

“Approximately 66 percent of the forest biomass produced during logging operations stayed on the landscape,” Goldmark said. “So this study demonstrates there is ample supply of forest biomass to support expansion of Washington’s bioenergy sector…it is a key link to ensure [the state’s] bioenergy sector is based on sound science and sustainability principles.”

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire also recently signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield that makes electricity produced from older biomass facilities eligible under Initiative 937, the state’s renewable energy mandate. The legislation will have particular benefit for Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging and Weyerhaeuser Co.’s Longview plant, according to the WNPA News Bureau and Associated Press.

“In terms of saying legacy biomass — hog fuel, black liquor — is renewable, it means those mills now have a little bit more stability in their business’ bottom line,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield explained that Longview Fibre mill, one of the eligible biomass facilities, has investments contingent on getting this bill passed. According to Hatfield, there are around 1,000 people working at that facility.

The bill was approved in the Senate 45-1 and in the House 89-9.

“We need to do everything we can to use our renewable natural resources efficiently, and not pick winners and losers along the way,” said Mark Doumit, the Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, in a press release. “If we want healthy working forests we must ensure that our rural resource lands remain economically profitable.”