By Dan Shell
Wood BioEnergy Magazine, www.woodbioenergymagazine.com
As a major player in wood fiber and organic and landscaping materials markets in and around Eugene and the upper Willamette Valley area in western Oregon, Lane Forest Products offers a broad and diverse range of products that serve a customer base ranging from large biomass power producers to weekend gardeners. The business is composed of many segments such as recycling, mill- and woods-based biomass hog fuel production, compost, soil and landscaping materials such as rock and sand—and even wood stove fuel pellets by the bag.
Lane Forest Products Vice President Oren Posner says the company got into the wood bioenergy business in 1993, when a nearby particleboard plant approached Posner about setting up an urban wood waste operation to produce particleboard furnish and hog fuel.
"We've been grinding hog fuel ever since," says Posner, who runs the company with his partner, Susan, Lane Forest Products' President. Posner started the business mainly as a firewood producer in the early '80s, moved into landscaping materials then became a major fiber producer, recycler and landscape materials supplier through the '90s.
Lane Forest Products is a large yard debris and urban wood waste recycler, and depending on grade, resulting material produced may go into hog fuel, particleboard furnish or landscaping materials. Lane Forest Products benefits from its location near several major forest products manufacturers that consume hog fuel as well as produce residual material, plus other industrial operations that operate boilers for steam and heat. Lane Forest Products also operates wood fiber concentration yards in Springfield, Junction City and Lebanon, Ore.
Working with forest products facilities, Lane Forest may supply hog fuel or raw materials or purchase or trade for higher value material such as bark that’s more valuable as a landscaping material.
In 2010, Lane Forest Products expanded its business to include in-woods grinding operations, plus on-site grinding in log yards at area mills. A major customer is Seneca Sustainable Energy, a 19.8 MW CHP facility that started up in 2011 and is located only a few miles away from Lane Forest Products’ 18-acre site in west Eugene.
At the Lane Forest Products facility, a Peterson 3450 grinder in stationary application and a BM&M screening system handle incoming wood fiber, which includes all types of urban wood and yard waste.
In-Woods, On Site
Lane Forest Products’ grinding operation features four portable Peterson 4700 Series machines, two wheeled and two tracked grinders, that perform in-woods and mill yard operations. Ideally, work sites are within 50 miles of final material destination to make transportation feasible, says John Essner, Lane Forest Products Off Site Operations Manager.
The company has its own contacts, but Seneca also refers landowners to Lane Forest Products, and “A lot of people just come to us,” Essner says, adding that mills will also call about on-site grinding as their residual inventories build.
On a biomass site, “We’ll go out after the loggers leave, pile it up in the early fall and get it ready to grind and move,” Essner says, noting that winter months are better for biomass production demand since higher moisture contents require hog fuel customers to burn more material to get the same BTU values.
Four employees are dedicated to the grinding crews, and all can work in either woods or mill yard applications. The tracked units handle in-woods grinding while the wheeled units do mill work, though all can work in either application if needed. A mixture of Peerless and Western 40-45 ft. two-axle chip trailers are used for easier in-woods access. Lane Forest Products operates five haul trucks and contracts several others for its wood fiber and hog fuel hauling.
When Wood Bioenergy visited earlier this year, one of Lane Forest Products’ in-woods grinding crews was working a tract of Weyerhaeuser land south of Eugene near the small town of Lorane. A Peterson 4710B portable tracked grinder was in operation, fed by a Deere 200 excavator working slash piles. (Interestingly, some of the biomass material produced there may have been turned into jet fuel—see below.)
According to Essner, the in-woods grinders are run with a 12 chipper bit/8 carbide bit configuration. "Even though they're more expensive, we try to run the chipper bits instead of carbide," he says. "We believe the chipper bits do a better job of cutting the wood instead of pulverizing it, and you produce less long, stringy material."
Most of the material handled is 40% MC or less, and Essner notes that the average 22-25 ton load usually translates into 13-14 BDT in decent material.
While Posner believes wood bioenergy utilization and fiber markets will grow in the long term, market conditions have led to lower prices, primarily due to a hot log export market that had helped bring more residual fiber on the fuel wood market, thus lowering prices. (The log export market has since cooled off.)
The diverse nature of Lane Forest Products business operations hedges against poor hog fuel markets, he says. "We've done fine through and after the downturn because we're so diverse; it helps insulate us from the worst market effects," Posner adds.
The Wood Bioenergy spring 2015 visit to Lane Forest Products (and also Seneca Sustainable Energy) was like the old fishing story: You should have been here last week when they were biting. Of course, it was an operator on the in-woods grinding crew when Wood Bioenergy visited last spring who said, “You should have been here two days ago. We had professors, politicians and TV crews running all over.”
Just days before the visit, the Lane Forest Products grinding job on Weyerhaeuser land south of Eugene was used as a demonstration for a group of researchers with the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), of which Weyerhaeuser is a member. The NARA is an alliance of regional universities, government labs and private industry that conducts research on using forest residuals to create bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products such as jet fuel.
The NARA group’s goal is to produce 1,000 gallons of renewable jet fuel from forest residuals, and Alaska Airlines has committed to using the fuel on a commercial flight.
And just a month before WB visited Lane Forest Products, the company was involved in a screening system test performed in cooperation with the “Waste to Wisdom” biomass utilization research project run by Humboldt State University.
The screening efficiency test was conducted at the company's Junction City, Ore. wood fiber concentration yard. The test looked at screening productivity with three sorts, accompanying diesel fuel usage rates and resulting size distributions in the screened materials.