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

Podcast: Interview with Pete Friedes

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

082714-thumb friedesbookTom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.


Read more...

Register for 100 Best Companies survey

News
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
OBM-100-best-logo-2015 150pxwBy Kim Moore | OB Editor

The 2015 survey launched this week. It is open to for-profit private and public companies that have at least 15 full- or part-time employees in Oregon.


Read more...

A Good Leap Forward

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Agriculture businesses ramp up to meet international demand as workforce and succession challenges loom.


Read more...

A Taste of Heaven

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY

Craft beer comes to Mount Angel.


Read more...

Launch

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

September's Launch article features Orchid Health, BuddyUp and Inter-Europe Consulting.


Read more...

Podcast: Interview with Steve Balzac

Contributed Blogs
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

082014BalzacBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Tom Cox interviews Steve Balzac, author of "Organizational Psychology for Managers."


Read more...

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