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Your way to a BLTC

Practitioners’ Guidebook is a compilation of the main BioRES project results and deliverables. The purpose of the Guidebook is to provide practical guidance on basic terminology and methodology on the biomass logistics, how to establish and operate a BLTC as regional hub in its different stages of business development.

Practitioners’ Guidebook is for everybody involved in the BLTC essential information for practitioners across Europe.

As defined by the BioRES project, “Biomass Logistic and Trade Centres (BLTCs) are local or regional centres with optimised logistics and trading organisation, where different woody bioenergy products (and/or heat) are marketed at standardised quality focusing on the domestic market uptake. It’s an innovative business model competitively operating as an intermediator to organise local woody bioenergy value chains between local biomass suppliers and customers of different scales from private households up to large heat and power plants. In Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Finland BLTCs of different shapes with own production, storage and logistic facilities are competitively operating.”

BLTC can operate from different basis of business models. A BLTC is not always a representation of a single business model but often a combination of different business models. Moreover, a business model might change during the operation from one form to another due the business development.

Most typical business models:

A cooperative is a legal entity which is owned and controlled by its members. Members often have a close association with the enterprise as producers or consumers of its products or services, or as its employees. The co-operative model is flexible and may be applied to different purposes from social services to business ventures. A cooperative as an operator model for a BLTC is useful when main deliverers of BLTC are farmers or forest owners, typically rather small forest area. Members of a cooperative hold a share which is connected with a certain forest area and a fixed delivery amount of wood per year. The cooperative has to take every year the defined delivery amount of wood from each member. The members are liable up to certain percentage of the share value which were bought at the beginning of membership.

A limited liability company (Ltd./Lld./GmbH) is a type of legal entity very common in Germany and Austria for instance. The main task of a limited liability company is to be profitable in its operation and thus generate profit for its owners. The owners have to invest their own capital for the company. The minimum share capital required to establish varies between countries, but for instance in Germany it is EUR 25,000 and in Austria EUR 35,000 (can also be made up of contributions in kind). At the time of registration, 50% of this liability amount in cash.

A limited liability company is managed and legally represented by its managing directors (at least one managing director is usually required). By issuing binding instructions or directions to the managing directors, the owners may exercise direct influence on the management of the company. In order to be valid, a limited liability company must be entered into the commercial register. A limited liability company is an operating model for a BLTC especially, if there’s no forest ownership involved in the business. The limited liability company may have full supply chain services from harvesting and transportation of raw material, production of wood energy products and/or heat services and finally sales and delivery, or it can be only a sales platform of products.

A networking company is a business model, where a group of companies establish together a new company which is administrating the operations through its member companies. The member companies are also members of the board of a networking company and thus they are actively involved in the decision making of a networking company. As in limited liability company, also a networking company has a managing director who is selected by the board of a networking company. The benefit of a business model is that network combines the expertise and resources of individual companies and thus even out the seasonal challenges of operational environment by a more wide spectrum of services. The member companies are responsible to give their own resources for the benefit of other companies in the network.

See more of BLTC business models from Deliverable D2.1 “Report about Potentials and Limitations for the Transfer of Good Practise Examples”

Criteria for economically and environmentally sustainable BLTC

There are several operating good practise examples of BLTCs or woody energy cooperatives from Austria, Finland and Slovenia which are all operating competitively. The analysis of these examples carried out in BioRES project highlighted the most important factors which need to be considered for establishing BLTCs as regional hubs for woody energy value chain management. All cases stress sufficient biomass supply covering the demands of current and future customers in the region, sufficient storage capacity for wood fuels, with option to install drying facilities and good access to transport infrastructure. The establishment of a BLTC is a commercial enterprise and thus in order to be competitive, the Market for services/goods offered by the BLTC, with consideration to competing other fuels and Investment/finance options for the establishment of the BLTC needs to be properly addressed.

Location of a BLTC

In the assessment process for prioritising feasible BLTC locations and dialogue with local stakeholders and potential investors for BLTCs all listed criteria below need to be evaluated.

A) Biomass potential in the region
(30-40 km as orientation), for instance: technically and economically feasible availability of wooden raw material, sources of biomass, suppliers and their location;
B) Consumer market situation for wood: trade situation, customer buying capacity, existent wood industry and suppliers, potential market actors of a BLTC;
C) Price and supply structure of competing energy supply: potential of fuel switch from fossil fuels to woody bioenergy products;
D) Number and composition of farmer cooperatives and forest owners/associations in the region interested in participating in the supply chain management and operating of BLTC; if there are, some of the important information about them are: size of the average forest/land plot, potential of annual raw material supply, available transport infrastructure, available technology and mechanical equipment;
E) Investment/finance options (local, regional, national, private-public);
F) Type of current wood supply actions in the region: wood energy production;
G) Features of possibly feasible location/plot for BLTC set-up: e.g. accessibility to supplier/consumers, exposed surface, road network, available technical equipment, close to city/town/village, storage facilities;
H) Sustainability: Existing certified forests and operators, Availability of accredited certification bodies:

Sustainability in forestry and along woody bioenergy supply chains

Illegal logging and associated trade remains a problem of international concern, contributing to the process of deforestation and forest degradation. These together can be responsible for about 20 % of global CO2 emissions, threatening biodiversity, and undermining sustainable forest management, distorting market prices and leading to extensive tax revenue losses.

At EU level, the EU Timber Regulation entered into force in March 2013, it is currently the key regulation that addresses this risk. This measure prohibits the placing on the EU market of illegally harvested timber or timber products, including wood fuels, wood chips and pellets, and lays down mandatory obligations on suppliers to document and exercise due diligence when placing domestic or imported timber or timber products produced on the EU market. Other efforts also exist at EU level to improve Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).

It can be useful to follow certain standards, such as the ISO standard 13065:2015 “Sustainability criteria for bioenergy” which focusses on the origin and sustainability of solid biofuels in terms of an environmental, social and economic basis. If certification is required to prove sustainability, then the most widely recognised certification schemes are FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody Certification (CoC). Sustainability schemes imply there is traceability along the supply chain and therefore these schemes are intended to cover this. Chain of Custody allows the producer of wood fuels to use the product claims on their products, such as the FSC logo.

The feasibility study is representing the key success factor for a successful investment in a new Biomass and Logistic Trade Center. It contains all relevant market and financial aspects, in order to secure a profitable project. Within BioRes we developed a model for a feasibility study based on two pillars.

The first pillar is representing the market conditions and is analysing the qualitative framework of the potential investment. Some contents of this pillar are: The foreseen business & ownership structure and legal form of the company; the range of products and services the BLTC will provide; a first draft project documentation; vicinity to a city and distance in km; transport connections; forest biomass potential in the supply region (technically & economically feasible potential); total use and sales of woody biomass in the region; price and supply structure of competitive energy supply; description of Business Segments and Processes on the BLTC; the needed personnel (number, education) and human resource planning (fulltime/part-time, share of staff cost in relation to total operation costs and description of the job task for each staff member; timetable for setting up the BLTC; risk assessment and risk mitigation options.

The second pillar is an Excel based calculation sheet. Based on this tool the operators gets an overview about the revenues and summery costs per year, the costs per produced or traded unit and finally the cumulative net present value. Typical investment costs at a BLTC are a weighbrigde, drying system, sieve system, wood splitter, Vehicles and wheel-loaders. Costs for buildings and plot are compound of warehouse, plot pave, office container or house, grounds, costs for electricity, water, office equipment and project planning costs.

Model Calculation cumulative net present value for a BLTC

Risk assessment and management, identifies any risks, which can endanger the setting-up process of the BLTC and its operation. Risks are divided in generic and BLTC specific risks regarding the concrete BLTC operator condition and supply and demand relation. Figure 2 shows some identified risks and risk mitigation options.

Type of risk

Identified risk

Risk mitigation

Generic

Lacking supply of woody biomass material

Diversified structure of supplier and wide range of wood biomass sources (forest residues, sawmill residues)

Generic

Local demand for wood chips and processed firewood is not developing

Installation of biomass boilers in public buildings, but also in private households; increase domestic biomass market demand, e.g. the establishment of communal biomass district heating plants. Lobbying activities for proper policy in order to boost biomass installations.

Specific

Project financing

Accept the support of external financing institutions and experienced market actors to minimize most of the risk factors associated with the realization of the investment.

Risk assessment and management

The timeline for setting up a BLTC depends on many different factors and the individual local frameworks and conditions. Main drivers for a proper development of a new business are motivated and well skilled local investors, appropriate support schemes for investments in the production of solid wood fuels and heat, local demand for wood chips, processed firewood or heat. Figure 3 provides a possible timeline for setting up a BLTC. Due to legal regulations the timeline can vary from project to project.

 

Year 1

Year 2

 

Year 3

 

Brainstorming, Preparation of a feasibility study and a business plan

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation for submission

of call application, funding

 

 

 

 

 

Construction of ware house

 

 

 

 

 

Information campaign

 

 

 

 

 

Start of operation test phase

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis of operation

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis of wood chips and wood logs market

 

 

 

 

 

Investments in machinery

 

 

 

 

 

Test operation of BLTC

 

 

 

 

 

Full operation of BLTC

 

 

 

 

 

Time line for setting up a BLTC

Contracts and model agreements

A BLTC requires contracts to ensure the security of resources in form of raw material and of services. A contract provides the necessary legal guarantee of the security of supply and sales for the operator of a BLTC and thus is the basis for the predictability for the operator and the provider of services. Additionally contracts are needed as a basis for budgetary planning and for price calculation of the products to be sold. Contracts are needed to ensure the ongoing and sustainable operation of a BLTC especially with regard to quantities. It is therefore up to the respective operator which contracts are relevant for his BLTC. However, a certain flexibility needs to be built into account for fluctuations of supply as material provision cannot always be predicted to 100%. For example a deviation of +/- 15% is advisable in the case of the fulfilment of delivery quantities.

There are three main types of contracts, which are needed by a BLTC:
1) Contracts that regulate the supply of raw material;
2) Contracts that regulate services; and
3) Contracts that regulate products to be sold.

The decision which contracts are required depends on the respective framework conditions. For example, if a BLTC already has a lorry-truck or a tractor with a trailer, Contract II (contract for work and labour – see below) would be void as it controls this transport. The same contract type may also be superfluous if the raw material stems from own stakeholders or if there is an indication of an oversupply on the market, thus securing of the raw material by means of a contract may not be deemed as necessary.

Template for a model agreement between supply and demand side

Market introduction

Each target group has its individual demands which the biomass logistic centre as professional energy service provider must react to. Furthermore, regionally different geopolitical and social framework conditions require actions which are coordinated locally with the operators. Thus, regarding their market presence, biomass logistic centres in urban environments with young and dynamic population structures act differently than biomass logistic centres in rural areas which are characterized by a strong sense of tradition and mostly elderly population. In this context, a differentiated consideration of different customer segments appears most effective. To guarantee a successful market introduction and also successful ongoing marketing activities it is advisable to prepare an individual yearly marketing plan for each BLTC. Possible activities are: School trips to biomass logistic centres; contact associations; schedule initial interviews with heating plants; editorial contributions in regional magazines and municipal newspapers; display folders at events in the region; announcement of open house days with storage promotion; reminding about heating season in editorial contributions; open house day with storage promotion at the biomass logistic centre; delivery, appearance at different trade fairs and regional markets; These activities are planned one year ahead on month by month basis.

Introduction to Standards

To ensure that BLTCs provide constant high quality products, certain measures need to be taken into account in the production and storage of the wood fuels sold. Quality can be assured by certification and standardisation. Using standardised fuels also assures users that the fuel is compatible with their stove or boiler requirements.

Quality assurance and quality control are essential in providing constant high quality wood fuels. International ISO-standards and European EN-standards nowadays cover the solid biofuels production chain setting requirements for raw material, production, transport, handling, storage, quality measurement, and quality properties of the fuels. The standards are built of normative (or compulsory) specifications identifying an acceptable range of measured values and informative specifications which should be stated. The trend has been a shift from National to European (EN) to International Standards (ISO). Currently ISO standards are available for a major part of the production chain and EN standards are still used for certain quality measurement methods and quality assurance. However, ISO standards to supersede these EN standards are in the making at different stages. The standards related to solid biofuels are presented in the table below.

The relevant standards in quality assurance and control system of a BLTC

Relevant standards according to Biomass Trade Centres II IEE project Applicable standard in December 2015
CEN/TS 14778-1:2005 EN 14778:2011 Solid biofuels – Sampling
CEN/TS 14778-2:2005
CEN/TS 14779:2005
CEN/TS 14780:2005 EN 14780:2011 Solid biofuels – Sample preparation
CEN/TS 15370-1:2006 Solid biofuels – Method for the determination of ash melting behaviour – Part 1: Characteristic temperatures method
CEN/TR 15569:2009 Solid biofuels – A guide for a quality assurance system
EN 14961-1:2010 ISO 17225-1 Solid biofuels – Fuel specifications and classes – Part 1: General requirements
EN 14918:2009 (ISO 18125 standard in development) Solid biofuels – Determination of calorific value
EN 15103:2009 ISO 17828 Solid biofuels – Determination of bulk density
EN 14774-1:2009 ISO 18134-1 Solid biofuels – Determination of moisture content – Oven dry method – Part 1: Total moisture – Reference method
EN 14774-2:2009 ISO 18134-2 Solid biofuels – Determination of moisture content – Oven dry method – Part 2: Total moisture – Simplified method
EN 14774-3:2009 ISO 18134-3 Solid biofuels – Determination of moisture content – Oven dry method – Part 3: Moisture in general analysis sample
EN 15148:2009 ISO 18123 Solid biofuels – Determination of the content of volatile matter
EN 14775:2009 ISO 18122 Solid biofuels – Determination of ash content
EN 15234-1:2011 Solid biofuels – Fuel quality assurance – Part 1: General requirements
EN 14588:2010 ISO 16559 Solid biofuels. Terminology, definitions and descriptions
EN 15289:2011 ISO 16994 Solid biofuels — Determination of total content of sulphur and chlorine
EN 15105:2011 ISO 16995 Solid biofuels. Determination of the water-soluble chloride, sodium and potassium content
EN 15290:2011 ISO 16967 Solid biofuels. Determination of major elements. Al, Ca, Fe, Mg, P, K, Si, Na and Ti
EN 15297:2011 ISO 16968 Solid biofuels. Determination of minor elements
EN 15296:2011 ISO 16993 Solid biofuels. Conversion of analytical results from one basis to another

The ISO 17225-1 standard “Solid biofuels – Fuel specifications and classes – Part 1: General requirements” sets general requirements for solid biofuels raw materials. It classifies different raw materials which can be used. An example of the highest level of detail is coniferous stem wood with bark originating from forest. Another example is chemically untreated broad-leaved wood by-products and residues. Hence it does not go into high detail specifying the species of the tree, or the geographic origin. The ISO standard 13065:2015 “Sustainability criteria for bioenergy” is more focused on the origin and sustainability in terms of an environmental, social and economic basis. In the pellet certification scheme (ENplus) the certification of the feedstock (forest management certificate) is asked, but it is not compulsory for certification. The material used (i.e. harvesting residues, saw dust, whole tree chips…) needs to be stated in the certification requirements.

The additional parts to ISO 17225 describe the requirements for different types of solid biofuels in more detail than the ISO 17225-1 which states the general requirements. These are recommended for small scale appliances, and hence the main customer segments of BLTCs.

The EN standard 15234 “Solid biofuels – Fuel quality assurance – Part1: General requirements” sets the basic principles in fuel quality assurance for professionals in the business. It gives an excellent framework for a quality assurance system as it sets requirements for the biofuels producer

How to get certified and what are the advantages

In addition to quality standards, quality certification is growing. There are both national and international certification schemes. Certification schemes ensure that standards are being followed. For pellets the most common scheme is ENplus, which is based on the ISO 17225-2 standard “Solid biofuels — Fuel specifications and classes — Part 2: Graded wood pellets”. This certification also exists for briquettes but it is not currently as widely spread. In the domain of wood chips and firewood there are no widely spread international certifications, only national ones with varying market uptake.

Sustainability certification can also be important in some markets. Sustainability schemes imply there is traceability along the supply chain and therefore these schemes are intended to cover this. The most widely recognised certification schemes are FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody Certification (CoC). Chain of Custody allows the producer of wood fuels to use the product claims on their products, such as the FSC logo. For a BLTC willing to be CoC certified the first step is to have an idea of the certified forest resources in the area. If the BLTC has a significant area of certified forests in the area, and wishes to be FSC CoC certified, it should contact an accredited certification body active in the region. The certification body will do an initial audit, and if the BLTC meets the certification requirements it becomes certified. After being certified, the certification body will do audits on the BLTC to ensure that the BLTC is still meeting the criteria.

Benefits of Chain of Custody Certification:
– Customer is ensured of the products legality and sustainability
– Helps in complying with EU timber regulation
– Improves management procedures
– Increases transparency in the supply chain
– Supports access on the international market
– Marketing benefitFor additional information visit fsc.org or pefc.org

ENplus pellets

In the ENplus certification scheme all the companies in the supply chain from the mill to the end user need to be certified when selling bulk pellets. The BLTC does not need to be certified if the BLTC sells only sealed bagged pellets. The ENplus certification for a trader selling bulk pellets (here the BLTC) sets rules for the marketing, storage, transport vehicles, delivery, sampling and sample storage of the pellets. The aim is to ensure that the quality of the pellets remains high until the end user. For more information on ENplus pellets: www.Enplus-pellets.eu

Benefits of ENplus certification:
– Well known worldwide with global production and hence large supply base
– Well defined quality requirements which are maintained until the end-user
– Quality is assured by the ENplus seal

Regional consumer information and public awareness raising

Gas, oil and lignite are widely used in Europe. However, in several countries switching from fossil fuels to woody bioenergy for resource efficient generation of power and heat is still in its infancy. Thus, intensive consumer information campaigns are necessary to create awareness for the benefits of bioenergy and to promote the concept of Biomass Logistic and Trade Centres (BLTC). Socio-economic benefits like cost savings and job creation, consolidation of regional business cycles as well as ecological benefits like CO2 emission reduction and sustainable development of forestry need to be promoted.

Public relations, consumer information and marketing strategies

To establish local biomass markets it is very important to generate a demand for potential consumers. This can be achieved by raising awareness and informing about the advantages of the utilization of woody biomass using instruments of public relations and marketing strategies.

Looking at starting BLTCs an overall concept for local campaigns needs to be developed. An important part of these campaigns are continuous public relation measures including:
– articles in newspapers or online media, online presentations, own websites, social networks, direct mailing, TV, radio…
– trainings
– public events;

e.g. for the BioRes project several “Consumer information days” were organized (talks and information stands on fairs/roadshows/municipal events); for established BLTCs open days and guided tours on-site are advisable; production and/or utilization of information materials targeting potential consumers; e.g. within BioRes following items for this purpose were produced:
• Brochure: Heating with firewood, wood pellets, wood chips and wood briquettes
• Brochure: Quality criteria and quality assurance measures for woody bioenergy products
• Youtube-Video: Biomass Logistic and Trade Centres

– information on fairs
– organization of guided tours

For directly advertising a BLTC or above mentioned events marketing instruments and strategies are required, like:
– definition of target groups; e.g. private households, the public sector, SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), politicians, local media…
– generation of brands; for BLTC(s) and/or product lines
– strategic cooperation with companies, regional entities and organizations; e.g. local authorities, forest owners, the chamber of commerce, producers of relevant technology (boilers, chippers etc.), bioenergy associations
– choice of materials; e.g. brochures, flyers, give aways, fair information stands.
– choice of media; e.g. newspapers, online media, TV, radio.
– seasonal plan, about which measures should be applied during certain time spans of a year

Main arguments and contents to be transported

To ensure economic profitability, a Biomass Logistic and Trade Center (BLTC) needs to manage both the supply and the demand side. The BLTCs supported by BioRES, for instance, aspire to close sales agreements with energy consumers in rural areas for 1,000-1,500 tons per year. To achieve such ambitious sales targets, it is advisable to involve potential customers at an early stage of setting up a BLTC.

Trust in energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and convenience of the use of quality-controlled woody bioenergy products instead of fossil fuels or traditional fire-wood has to be built over time. Providing high quality and reliable services is of course the most important ingredient of building long lasting and resilient consumer relationships.

Objectives of campaigns prior to and during development of BLTCs have a focus on consumer information and acquisition of potential customers for BLTCs. Main arguments identified to be transported in these campaigns are:

– Lower price of woody biomass
– boost of the local economy by buying local products
– environmental benefits (CO2 emission reduction, sustainable development of forestry)
– promote fuels with high quality, regional supply chains and the role of BLTCs

National market information on woody bioenergy products



The average prizes of the main woody energy products for the domestic market in Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia are collected before the heating season on an annual basis in September.

Overview of European standards (CEN) and international (ISO) quality standards on solid biofuels
The European standards focus on non-industrial uses whereas the international standards will also include industrial use of the solid biofuels.

Three new country fact sheets about the woody energy market in Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia are now available!
Fact sheet (2016): Woody energy market in Bulgaria
Fact sheet (2016): Woody energy market in Croatia
Fact sheet (2016): Woody energy market in Serbia

References
Information compiled by project partners: REGEA for Croatia, Serbio for Serbia and BGBIOM for Bulgaria.

Basic specification

In the 3 countries the main woody energy products have the following basic specifications in common:


firewood

the length of 25, 33, 50 and 100 cm and the moisture content of 20% or 50%


wood chips

categories P16, P31.5, P45, P63, P100 and moisture content of 20%, 30%, 40% or 55%


wood pellets

6 mm size with a moisture content of maximum 10% and differen package type (price per ton for loose pellets or price for tone for packaging in 15 and 20 kg bags respectively)
In all 3 countries ENplus certified wood pellets are produced for export and are differiented in certified and non-certified in prize overviews per country.


wood briquettes
with a moisture content of maximum 10% and different package type (price per ton for loose delivered briquettes or price per ton for packaging in 15 or 20 kg bags )

charcoal
depending on granulation and packaging

The three country tables show the total price range of main woody bioenergy products for end consumers in Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria in comparison with the corresponding prices for most relevant fossil fuels being substituted in relation with the same energy content than 1 ton of the respective biomass product.

The range of MWh for firewood, wood chips and charcoal reflects the variation depending mainly on
(1) the tree species
(2) bark content and
(3) moisture content.

The energy content of natural gas is converted from MWh/m³ to MWh/t for direct comparison with average energy content of biomass in MWh/t unit. The given variation in the energy content for natural gas (12.7-14.1 MWh/t) reflects the utilization of lower and upper heating value depending on the usage of small scale condensing boilers or industrial scale combustion processes.
The variation for heating oil reflects the different oil types from light heating oil up to heavy heating oil.

The quality level of woody energy products has a significant impact on the competiveness to the main counterpart fossil fuels in comparison to the same energy content.

Charcoal trading is significant in Serbia. Due to current market crises, there is no price difference of certified and uncertified pellets in Serbia.

NEW Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Croatia for the heating season 2016/2017

NEW Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Serbia for the heating season 2016/2017

NEW Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Bulgaria for the heating season 2016/2017

Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Croatia for the heating season 2015/2016

Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Serbia for the heating season 2015/2016

Price overview of woody bioenergy products in Bulgaria for the heating season 2015/2016