Wednesday, December 4, 2013

There could be more wood boilers in United States

Using wood as a source of energy, if done in sustainable manner, can help replace fossil fuels. Wood could be also used as the main power source for boilers. In fact, Charles Ray, assistant professor of wood products operations, Penn State, believes that there is a significant number of companies that would be able to economically convert their operations to wood boilers for heat and power.

This mainly refers to companies that have access to large timber resources and a friendly regulatory environment. Of course, as already said above, only a sustainable management of wood resources could serve as a solution to replace fossil fuels.

Natural gas still has the edge in terms of cost-competitiveness  when compared to wood but in some areas wood could be competitive with other fuel sources, such as oil, propane and coal. Ray said that the best US states for conversion to wood boilers would be Maine, Texas, New York, Florida and Georgia.

According to data from Energy Information Administration there are 63,000 industrial and commercial boilers in use in the United States. Half of this (31,776) are powered by oil, coal and propane, generating the energy equivalent of 287 million barrels of oil a year.

It is unlikely to expect that all these boilers could be converted to wood because this would lead to a massive wood consummation of approximately about three times the wood available in the area. However, this doesn't mean that the certain amount of companies, particularly the large ones with the adequate resources to receive, store and load tons of wood chips and wood pellets, couldn't make a sustainable switch to wood boilers.

Ray also pointed to the fact that the country's paper industry once consumed the largest portion of wood chips to make paper, but the remaining paper mills need far less wood now making wood more accessible for other purposes, including power and heat generation.