Home Back Issues July 2011 ZeaChem searches for a greener coal

ZeaChem searches for a greener coal

| Print |  Email
Articles - July 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

 

0711_ZeaChemSearches
Poplars at the GreenWood Resources farm in Boardman. The trees will be processed into liquid fuel, plastic and solid fuel.

Colorado-based ZeaChem is due to begin production at its new cellulosic ethanol factory in Boardman this fall, converting poplar trees into fuel, chemicals and plastic products for global markets.

But that’s not all ZeaChem is planning to do in Boardman. CEO James Imbler says ZeaChem is investigating ways to help Portland General Electric “green up” its Boardman coal plant with a biomass coal replacement made from poplar wood. “It’s  [a highly efficient] product, very good quality, with a consistency that makes it very attractive for some kind of combustion,” says Imbler.

PGE’s Boardman plant is the only coal plant in Oregon, and by far the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. PGE has pledged to stop burning coal there by the end of 2020 and is investigating alternative fuel sources to keep the plant operating. ZeaChem closed a $34 million fundraising round in January 2009. It plans to employ 25 people to operate the Boardman plant at the start and to expand operations over time, aided by a $25 million grant from the Department of Energy and various state subsidies. The company has signed a long-term supply contract with GreenWood Resources, which operates a huge poplar tree farm in Boardman.

As for biomass, Imbler says the plan is to extract the sugars from the poplar pulp to make ethanol and to use the dry wood to make biomass fuel to replace coal. He says the resulting coal-like product performs well but has yet to be tested by third-party labs. “That’s one reason we’re building the demo plant,” he says. “We want to run stuff and follow the molecules in circles, and make products and byproducts and do test work on all of it.”

Coal has long been an area of interest for Imbler, an energy industry veteran who formerly served as president of the sprawling Koch Petroleum. He and several other ZeaChem executives formerly worked at Evergreen Energy, a public company focused on “clean coal.”

PGE spokesman Steve Corson says PGE is aware of ZeaChem’s research into biomass but has no deal in place with the company. “We are actively researching the potential for biomass to refuel the Boardman plant once we cease the use of coal in 2020,” he says.

BEN JACKLET

 

More Articles

Managing family assets: The importance of planning ahead

News
Friday, August 22, 2014
Unknown-1BY CLIFF HOCKLEY |  OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

When business intersects with family, a host of  situations can arise. Without a clear vision and careful planning, hard-earned investments can become stressful burdens.


Read more...

OB Video: Oregon MESA

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014

ThumbOregon Business hosts an informal roundtable discussion about the Oregon MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.


Read more...

Interview: Dr. Mark Goulston

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 10, 2014
JustListenBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Tom Cox interviews Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.


Read more...

Blips and trends in the housing market

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014
062614 thumb realestateBY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER

Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?


Read more...

Oversight? Or gaming the system?

News
Monday, July 14, 2014
AmazonBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Some people think Amazon’s winking eye logo is starting to look like a hoodwink.


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS