Meanwhile, while Montanans and Oregonians seem to be ambivalent about the industries they have, entrepreneurial Coloradans are still working on getting an industry so as to avoid burning dead lodgepole in piles.
Check out this story in the business section of the Denver Post.
Mark Mathis was looking pretty smart in early 2008.
He was harvesting Colorado beetle-kill and converting the state’s flood of dead trees into pellets for affordable home heating. Then the price of oil collapsed — falling by more than $100 a barrel in a year — and suddenly, pellets were no longer the inexpensive option for heat. Mild winters further eroded pellet demand, and Mathis’ once-boundless plan withered along with the entire biomass and alternative-energy industries.
Five years later, Mathis’ Kremmling-based Confluence Energy is surging with a new mission.
“We are taking on kitty litter,” he said.
Mathis is doubling down on his plan to capitalize on environmental concerns, this time with a
biodegradable beetle-kill product that cleans up oil, gas and solvent spills better and cheaper than the widely used clay-based products, such as cat litter. The company’s Eco-Sponge is becoming popular with oil and gas operations across the country, and strong sales — already passing the company’s heating pellets — have enabled Confluence to acquire its competitor, Rocky Mountain Pellets in Walden, doubling its capacity and making Confluence the largest pellet maker in the West.
Mathis’ Eco-Sponge aims to end the reign of clay-based absorbents in environmental cleanup work with its simplicity. Where those clay bits need to be removed once they absorb oil, gas or benzene spills, Eco-Sponge’s patented army of microorganisms consume the hydrocarbons and can be left on site as an inert material.
Mathis calls it “a composting process on steroids.”
“How often in life do you get to offer solutions for cleaning up an environmental mess like the pine beetle while making a renewable energy source and cleaning up another environmental issue? And make money doing it?” said Mathis over the din of the Walden plant’s maze of pellet-making machines.
I will be in the air, so can’t see this.. a bit off our usual topics but related, and sounded very interesting…
Here’s the link. It’s at 12 MT.
Abstract: This research explores the effect of feedback from the smart grid, smart plugs, and dashboard displays on driving, vehicle charging, and household energy-use behaviors. Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., sponsored the study and provided the University of Colorado with 28 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHVs) for a 2-year field-test in a smart-grid environment. In Boulder, Colorado, 23,000 households have smart meters; a stratified random sample of 142 of households volunteering for the smart-grid drove 2010 Prius PHVs for 9-week field tests. The utility partnered with the study by installing smart plugs in participant garages. Toyota’s interest was exploring the effects of real-world driving on PHV performance in extreme climatic conditions at high altitudes with mountainous terrain in a smart-grid environment. The utility’s interest was the potential impacts of PHV charging on the electricity grid. Using households and drivers as units of analysis, the University’s investigation addresses a range of topics, including the role of three types of feedback on driving and charging behavior: (1) the utility’s web portal that provided data on overall household electricity usage in 15-minute increments 15 minutes ago; (2) a garage smart plug that provided real-time data in 5-minute increments on a web portal, indicating timing, electricity usage, and frequency of vehicle charging; and (3) the vehicle’s dashboard displays which provided real-time feedback on mpg and on whether the vehicle is in battery-only or hybrid mode, among other information.
In addition to interview and questionnaire data, high-resolution data were collected from 27 vehicles and smart plugs for a period of about 1.5 years. Charging behavior and management are examined from various angles. Data analysis results include distributions of fuel economy, energy consumption, trip lengths, distance between charging events, and spatial and temporal distributions of charging events.
The Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory is poised to become the country’s leading producer of forest-based nanomaterials with the opening of a $1.7 million nanocellulose pilot plant. The facility will support an emerging market for new wood-derived renewable materials that will create jobs and contribute billions of dollars to the economy.
As new products are developed and commercialized, fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced, manufacturing in rural areas will increase, and many new high-paying jobs will be created. FPL’s new facility will aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of forest-based nanomaterials.
Tidwell said the plants technology will take woody material that needs to be removed from forests and develop it into a biomaterial that is commercially viable. He said the products created in the plant have the potential to replace currently-used plastics.
Vilsack said the plant represents and innovative way to create and export products that haven’t been created before.
“This is all designed to reformulate the American economy to an economy that is based on what we make rather than what we consume,” Vilsack said.
Seems like a good idea.. take something not needed in the woods, make it commercially viable and replace something that uses more fossil fuels..? No?
Production facility for renewable, forest-based nanomaterials first of its kind in the United States
MADISON, Wis. – The U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) is poised to become the country’s leading producer of forest-based nanomaterials with the opening of a $1.7 million nanocellulose pilot plant. The facility will support an emerging market for new wood-derived renewable materials that will create jobs and contribute an estimated $600 billion to the economy by 2020.
High-ranking industry, government, and academic officials will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and media is welcome to attend.
What: Grand Opening of FPL’s Nanocellulose Pilot Plant
When: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Presentations by USDA, Forest Service, and Industry Leadership
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Ribbon cutting and media opportunities for interviews
Where: U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, WI
Who: Attendees include USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman, Forest Service Northern Research Station Director and FPL Acting Director Michael Rains, and industry representatives from companies such as IBM and Lockheed Martin
The United States and other nations will see numerous benefits from the commercialization of wood-derived cellulosic nanomaterials, as they have many desirable characteristics. They can be stronger than Kevlar fiber and provide high strength with low weight. These attributes have attracted the interest of the military for use in lightweight armor and ballistic glass, as well as companies in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, and medical device industries.
As new lightweight, high-performance products are developed and commercialized, fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, manufacturing in rural areas will increase, and many new high-paying jobs will be created. FPL’s new facility will aid in the commercialization of these materials by providing researchers and early adopters of the technology with working quantities of forest-based nanomaterials.
For over 100 years, FPL’s work with academia, industry, and other government agencies has led to ground-breaking discoveries with great benefit to the public. Additional information on FPL’s research is available at http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us.
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