September 19, 2008
By Ford Gunter
Houston Business Journal
Green Energy Resources will take Ike debris ó like that pictured above
in the River Oaks neighborhood following the storm ó and convert it into biofuel.
To help answer the question of what to do with Houston's 5.6 million cubic yards of tree and yard waste from Hurricane Ike, Mayor Bill White decided to hold a contest for ideas. While White's deadline for submissions was set for Nov. 14, two companies are already moving to convert the waste into energy.
New York-based Green Energy Resources Inc. bought 20,000 tons of Ike wood for $1.50 a ton and is selling it to a power plant near Waco for electricity generation. San Diego-based Sempra Energy is temporarily converting the 170-megawatt Twin Oaks plant to generate biofuel.
Green Energy President and CEO Joe Murray, who is based in San Antonio, is not sure about Sempra's long-term plans, but says his company has access to plenty of green fuel components from Ike.
"We could feed them for a year," he says.
Murray is in the market for more than 1 million more tons of Ike waste wood, which coincides with his estimate that Texas will add more than 250 megawatts of wood-fired power plants in the next three years. As long as the green waste isnít processed ó essentially fed into a wood-chipper ó Murray says the fuel will keep for about two years.
"It's a cheap price, but here's the catch: to deliver it is not cheap," Murray says. "There are no real facilities nearby. The only reason it's feasible right now is the price of the project."
Because of a Federal Emergency Management Agency incentive for processing storm waste, most of the city's Ike wood comes chipped, meaning Murray canít build an inventory and is subject to demand from biomass plants.
Eventually, he'd also like to get access to Galveston's green and construction waste.
"We could use the construction and demolition wood from Galveston, but it would have to be shipped by rail to a buyer in Quebec," he says.
Murray's company, which is made up of about a dozen employees, generated about $9 million to $10 million in revenue in 2007. And with president-elect Barack Obama's pledged green energy initiatives, Pink Sheet-traded Green Energy Resources is looking to acquire a company to move up to a major international market.
"We're really just looking for the right company," Murray says.
Meanwhile, another company, The Woodlands-based Biofuels Power Corp., recently announced that it will manage a new four-megawatt power plant fueled by green Ike waste that will directly benefit the Houston grid.
The six-acre site near Humble will feature a 2.5-megawatt steam turbine and a 1.5-megawatt diesel electric generator provided by Biofuels Power in exchange for 30 percent equity in the project. Landowner DSMC has donated the land on a 10-year lease, as well as infrastructure and fuel, for 30 percent equity. For a 10 percent stake, Houston-based Texoga Technologies Corp. will provide expertise in retrofit and carbon sequestration via several abandoned oil wells on the site, which sits atop the Humble Salt Dome.
The remaining 30 percent is owned by tax credit financing partners.
Officials from Biofuels Power Corp. could not be reached for comment on the project.
"The Humble project gives us an extraordinary opportunity to help with the Hurricane Ike cleanup, convert tons of pre-chipped waste wood into green electricity and sequester exhaust emissions in a legendary oil field that has been largely inactive for the last 50 years," Biofuels Power Corp. President and CEO Fred OíConnor said in a prepared statement.
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