The focus of this article is biomass and the potential for our community. Council?s goal has been to seek out ideas and projects that would diversify our economy and Biomass has the potential to do just that. I have attended two conferences now and have been learning the language and meeting the key players in the industry. There are at least seven factors that contribute to a successful bid for a biomass project. These factors are: a reliable source of fuel, easy access to the power grid, a rail line, plentiful water supply, financing, purchasers of the product and above all, community support. As you can see from the list, we are in an enviable position.
There are essentially four products that could be generated from biomass.
? First is the generation of electrical power. There are various methods to do this but the end result is that the power is linked to the BC Hydro Transmission system and sold. Having this plant on our doorstep would also alleviate our power supply problems.
? Second is the production of petroleum products. Any type of fuel or oil can be produced from wood under the right process.
? Third are wood byproducts such as compressed wood pellets, hence, the need for rail for transport.
? Fourth is the byproduct of this process – heat. Waste heat could be efficiently piped anywhere within a two km radius of the plant to heat buildings, but having a biomass plant that close to town may not be desirable. However, the idea of locating greenhouses beside the plant is worth consideration by some entrepreneur. There would be a consistent and reliable source of heat all year at almost no cost.
I was pleased to see the interest when Mr. Pat Jarvis, an energy consultant, came forward looking for support for a 100MW generating plant with a process to produce diesel fuel. Cost would be in the $400M range. Council is working with Mr. Jarvis to move his proposal forward, but this will be a long term project as we need to go through many regulatory bodies, environmental studies and an approval process for the sale of power to BC Hydro.
Biomass plants can be built to make fuel/pellets only, power only, or a combination of the three. As you can imagine there is a wide range of plant sizes and configurations. Our area currently uses about 3-4 Megawatts(MW). BC Hydro indicated that a plant which produced electricity only would cost about $2M per MW or just under $10M to meet our needs. In the meantime, at the conference, BC Hydro put forward a request for proposals under a new program call Community Based Biomass (CBB). They would support two communities who wanted projects under 5MW who had power reliability issues and an overabundance of pine beetle wood. I could hardly contain myself as I jumped to my feet to exclaim that CBB was for Tumbler Ridge! The feedback from that meeting was overwhelming and I have great hope that something positive will develop. Projects under 10MW do not have to go through all of the regulatory processes. A plant of this size is a foot in the door at a reasonable financial obligation by some investor. It would meet our current needs and open the door for larger projects. The down side is that most Biomass companies deem that this size of project is too small. They consider 20MW is most profitable. Nevertheless, Council is pursuing this concept with vigour.