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Ground breaking held for Hat Creek Bioenergy plant

Ground breaking held for Hat Creek Bioenergy plant
Ground breaking for the 3 MW Hat Creek Bioenergy plant combined heat and power (CHP) and biochar plant being built in Burney, California (photo courtesy West Biofuels).

In the United States (US), thermochemical biomass technology developers West Biofuels, LLC along with partners, has broken ground on a 3 MW bioenergy plant in Burney, California (CA) that will convert forest waste and sustainably sourced wood to renewable electricity, heat, and biochar. The new source of clean, renewable energy will help reduce wildfire risk, lower California's carbon footprint, and strengthen the region's economy.

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The bioenergy facility is owned by Hat Creek Bioenergy, LLC (Burney), and developed in collaboration with West Biofuels, LLC’s (Woodland), engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) management team and local partners, including Fall River Resource Conservation District in McArthur.

Why is a finance guy out here in Burney breaking ground on a bioenergy facility? It all started 18 years ago with a very smart neighbor where we discussed a very simple question. How can we reinvent energy production to increase our independence and lower our carbon footprint while creating economic growth? Nearly 15 years of science, research, and development later, we’re now one of the state’s foremost experts in converting organic byproducts into forms of renewable energy. It’s been an interesting journey, and we’re thrilled to break ground on a bioenergy facility that will create new local jobs and clean power for thousands of homes and businesses, explained Peter T. Paul, Majority Owner of Hat Creek Bioenergy, and CEO of West Biofuels.

Local employment opportunities include 60 part-time construction jobs and over 22 full-time jobs in operations, management, maintenance, and technical and administrative support.

With logging and lumber mill jobs on the decline, this new bioenergy facility will provide quality jobs and careers with family-sustaining pay and benefits.

I always tell people that I’m so blessed to live here because it’s the most beautiful place on Earth. And it can also be a hard place to earn a living. To house a project of this scale and scope is a game changer for the community and will benefit the region for decades to come. Thank you to Peter Paul and everyone involved for taking a risk and investing in our community, said Perry Thompson, President of Hat Creek Construction & Materials, Inc.

The biomass feedstock will be procured from local forest restoration projects resulting from five years of drought and the related resurgence of bark beetle infestation in fir and pine trees.

This innovative, public-private ecological project represents a triple win for the region. By sourcing slash and dead trees from local forest restoration projects, the Hat Creek Bioenergy facility creates community-scaled power while improving forest health and reducing the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires that could devastate the community, said Todd Sloat, Project Manager of the Fall River Resource Conservation District.

The raw forest biomass will be converted into syngas, which is a gaseous alternative fuel that can ultimately be used for renewable heat and electricity.

Our 3 MW bioenergy facility will provide enough clean energy to power about 3 000 homes each year, which is roughly the number of residents living here in Burney. This project represents years of advanced research and science, supported by our team of passionate experts and partners that stretch across the globe. We’re excited to show the world how biomass can transform the way we produce energy, said Matthew Summers, Chief Operations Officer of West Biofuels.

In 2017, the state of California recognized the bioenergy facility with a US$5.0 million grant through the California Energy Commission (CEC) in partnership with the Fall River Resource Conservation District.

The CEC is proud to support this project. It will not only help the state meet its nation-leading climate and energy goals, but it will also help create jobs, said Rizaldo Aldas with the CEC.

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