Erie Flooring, Taking Global Awareness To A New Level By Jeff Carter
Erie Flooring & Wood Products in West Lorne, Ont., will soon churn out electricity with its new co-generation plant. David Goos serves as the lumber buyer at the operation.
West Lorne, Ontario—A new approach to waste-wood management and energy production could power up the lumber industry’s environmental image, according to the general manager of Erie Flooring & Wood Products.
The world’s first commerical co-generation plant of its kind has been built at Erie Flooring. It’s scheduled to go into commercial production soon, transforming wood waste into bio-oil and then using the bio-oil to generate electricity.
“Our company is taking a proactive approach to energy… There’s already another three to four plants that have been sold based on this one being up and running,” said Alan Vandenbrink.
Erie Flooring is located in the small community of West Lorne, about two hours east of Detroit, Michigan, along Highway 401.
David Goos, the lumber purchaser, said Erie Flooring manufactures both truck flooring and residential hardwood flooring. The laminated product is made to the specification of further processors. White Ash, Oak, Hard Maple and Beech are the four main species used by the firm. According to Goos, the company manufactures their products out of No.2 Common and No.3 Common.
With approximately 180 workers the company is West Lorne’s largest employer. The plant has a capacity of about 100,000 board feet a day and typically runs at two-thirds capacity. Goos estimates their annual production at close to 15 million board feet.
Four different dry kilns provide 1.1 million board feet of capacity, according to Goos. The lumber is generally dried down to seven or eight percent moisture content.
At any given time, there’s roughly 6.5 million board feet stored at Erie Flooring’s 22-acre site. Roughly 15 percent of the hardwood originates from Southern Ontario. The remainder is purchased from the United States, Northern Ontario and Quebec.
Vandenbrink said his company has an agreement to purchase electricity and supply the wood waste for their 2.5 megawatt
A variety of forklifts are in constant motion at Erie Flooring.
The co-generation plant at West Lorne was built by a consortium led by DynaMotive Energy Systems Corp., a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Overall costs for the plant, initially estimated at $10.7 million, have increased to nearly $14 million since the project was announced last spring.
The Canadian government contributed more than $4 million with a grant through Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
Vandenbrink is excited by the opportunity. He said he sees co-generation as a way the lumber industry can help supply an environmentally-friendly alternative to declining fossil fuel reserves in a cost-effective manner.
Erie Flooring is currently using older technology to deal with its wood waste. Workers load waste-wood by hand into a pair of furnaces that create the steam used as a heat source for the company’s dry kilns.
Steam energy, as much as 12,000 pounds per hour, will also be generated with the new process—but as a byproduct. The production of bio-oil and generation of electricity from the bio-oil are primary considerations.
More than enough electricity will be generated for the needs of Erie Flooring. DynaMotive’s plan is to run the co-generation plant continuously. Even when Erie Flooring is drawing electricity to meet its own requirements during peak periods of production, there will still be enough power for West Lorne, a community with a population of about 1,200.
The automated process involves the conversion of wood waste through a patented technique known as “fast pyrolysis,” according to DynaMotive company officials. At full capacity, the plant can process 100 metric tons of wood waste per day into roughly 70 tons of bio-oil, 20 tons of char and 10 tons of non-condensable gases, making it the largest pyrolysis plant in the world.
Vandenbrink said the fast pyrolysis involves a continuous “closed-loop” system into which the wood waste is added. The reaction temperature reaches 500 degrees.
“The process takes less than two seconds to produce bio-oil, char and non-condensble gases. There is zero waste as the bio-oil and char have significant commercial application and value and the non-condensable gases are recycled and produce approximately 75 percent of the energy required for the pyrolysis process,” DynaMotive officials said.
The bio-oil, which has about 50 percent of the BTU value of diesel fuel, is then used to power an industrial turbine system from Magellan Aerospace Corp., a company headquartered in Toronto, Ont.
The turbine, spinning at 14,000 revolutions per minute, generates a considerable amount of heat as byproduct. This is directed to a boiler system to create steam for Erie Flooring’s kilns.
“Bio-oil is an ideal clean fuel because it is greenhouse gas neutral, does not produce sulfur dioxide emissions during combustion and produces approximately half the nitrogen oxide emissions in comparison with fossil fuels,” DynaMotive said.
Most of the bio-oil produced will power the turbine. A purchase agreem
The old furnace at Erie Flooring will soon be replaced with the new co-generation equipment designed by DynaMotive Energy Systems Corp. in Vancouver, B.C.
ent has been reached between DynaMotive and Ontario Power Generation for the surplus electricity, Vandenbrink said.
An agreement has also been reached with a third party to take 90 percent of the excess bio-oil and two-thirds of the char.
“Based on contracts entered and the terms agreed upon, its projected annual revenue at full plant operations would be approximately $2 million,” according to DynaMotive company officials.
With the West Lorne co-generation plant up and running, DynaMotive looks to move forward to other projects, including an energy-from-waste project for Megacity Recycling Inc. of North York, Ontario, and an energy-from-wood waste project for the Pikangikum First Nation in Northern Ontario. There are also project proposals in South America and Europe.
From the global forest industry alone, there’s enough wood waste for the production of 300 million barrels of bio-oil annually, DynaMotive estimated. There’s a market for bio-oil in Europe, where legislation is mandating the use of renewable energy sources and fuel prices are higher, perhaps better reflecting the supply situation then in North America, according to Vandenbrink. The company’s goal is to produce bio-oil at a cost that’s competitive to diesel fuel and natural gas prices in North America. The new energy source will be a major change for West Lorne’s lumber industry, which dates back to the 19th century.
Erie Flooring is a member of the Canadian Lumber Assoc. and the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. The plant was purchased in the 1970s by Satin Finish Hardwood Flooring, a family-owned company in Toronto.
“We are concerned with the environment and want to improve our community. With the help of DynaMotive, we can do both of these things while also making our plant more efficient and giving us the ability to produce an even better product,” Goos concluded.