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Critical Mass

By District Energy posted 03-07-2019 00:00


Ron Kotrba, Biomass Magazine


The small but growing U.S. market for semi-dry wood chips finds its home in niche applications in the Northeast. “It’s not for everyone,” says Charles Levesque, a founding partner with Innovative Wood Fuels LLC. “Semi-dry wood chips are perfect for facilities that are maybe on the large size for wood pellets, or on the small side for traditional green wood chips. That’s the sweet spot.” Several years ago, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC partnered with North Country Procurement Inc. to form Innovative Wood Fuels, and by 2012, field research was underway air-drying various species to get a better understanding of producing semi-dry wood chips with moisture content below 30 percent. “We were trying to mimic the way they dry chips in Western Europe, using the sun,” Levesque tells Biomass Magazine. “Active drying systems are expensive and, given the size of the market, we didn’t think it made sense—and we still don’t think it makes much sense because the market hasn’t grown all that much.”  

Levesque said IWF had begun promoting semi-dry wood chips to various clients early on, working to create a market by urging owners of businesses, manufacturing centers, schools, town buildings and hospitals in the Northeast to switch from fossil fuels to biomass. “We had been doing this promotion for a while, and there was an increase in the number of installations of wood pellet and chip boilers for heating,” he says. “Then, just as things were gearing up, fossil fuel prices tanked in 2014. Things have moved a lot slower since then. There are still new installations, but not at the rate prior.”

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