Selim Zilkha is a US based expatriate Iraqi Jewish banker who founded and sold Mothercare PLC, a pioneering childrenswear company in the UK in 1960's. With his son Michael Zilkha (who used to manage the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) they pioneered new and emerging technologies in the oil industry, earning them a reputation as “technology wildcatters.” Zilkha Energy Company bought old data from wells thought pumped dry and using computer modeling to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Locating useable reserves with pinpoint accuracy, the Zilkhas successfully reopened U.S. oil fields thought too prohibitive to drill economically. At one time they had over one and a half million acres under lease, and an enormous seismic database.
They made a fortune.
They sold Zilkha Energy to Sonat for a billion dollars in 1998 - yes that's US$1,000,000,000.
They turned their energy and interests in energy to turning a small wind energy company into one of the most respected in the wind industry by building elegant and community-integrated wind farms throughout the country. with 250,000 acres under lease throughout the US. The subsequent sale of Zilkha Renewable Energy to Goldman Sachs (Now called Horizon Energy) - netting at least US$600,000,000 - a turning point for the wind industry—signalling an important move away from petroleum-based energy to renewables. (Their Brimbo Sands wind farm in the Mersey, UK obtained a £10 MN grant from the National Lottery)
The next step for the Zilkhas energy business is : biomass.
The Power Generating Inc. system—now the patented Zilkha Biomass Unit is unlike conventional biomass units, fuel is consumed in our high-pressure combustion chamber. The proprietary direct-fired biomass-fueled pressurized cogeneration unit can be installed to produce economical energy on-site, anywhere it’s needed - and Zilkha absorb 100% of the capital cost - with all their wealth that's a handy way to invest your cash.
The company have initially focussed on wood processing and products industry: sawmills, plywood mills, oriented strand board plants and other types of board plants, and furniture manufacturers and cabinet makers typically generating 3 dry tons per hour of available wood byproduct (chips, sawdust, shavings, etc.) Zilkha claim they are competitive.
The units are said not to require water for standard operation,- which eliminates the need for a steam boiler, steam turbine, or gasification equipment, have a net CO2 emission loop of zero or less (?) and also consume volatile (VOC) emissions.
The electricity transmission crisis in California in 2001 and the 2003 black-out in the Northeast concentrated minds on the problems of large transmission grids. Coal, hydro, and wind energy are all dependent on transmission availability. This new business removes the problem - generation is done , "inside the fence"
By shifting electricity generation close to the consumer, the grid is more stable and by reducing the dependence of some medium-sized customers on the grid, everybody gains. ...er .... except the big utility companies.
There is a pressing need for alternative energy sources if we are to avoid an ecological disaster says Michale Zilkha. "The electricity we provide is green, renewable, and cost competitive. With Zilkha Biomass Energy we can help address environmental concerns."
The first installation was announced last May at New England Wood Pellet, LLC (NEWP) the largest manufacturer of wood pellet fuel in the northeastern U.S - it is a 1.5 MW unit to provide all of NEWP electric power needs and a substantial percentage of the heat it uses. Result - reduced reliance on the grid and non-renewable fossil fuels - although building work has started and completion date is unavailable - Jeff McMahon at Zilkha declined to talk about the project.
New England Wood Pellet is on track to be the largest manufacturer and distributor of wood pellet fuel in the U.S. Operation shave begun at its Palmer MA packaging and reload center, where over 80,000 tons per year of wood pellets are being imported from British Columbia, Canada, bagged and distributed throughout the northeast.
The company have also announced in October the plans to build a new 12 million plant on Route 5 just east of Utica, in the Mohawk Valley to produce 100.000 tons of pellets a year. Wood pellets provide low levels of particles (pm 2.5m) for a clean burn - see EPA site figures and 98.5% burn for low ash residues. Interestingly for a company involved in renewable energy they sell their chips in heavy duty polyethylene (oil based chemicals) sacks - and haven't considered using paper sacks - probably because of storage problems.
Reality check - if every home in the US used wood pellet stoves it would cut CO2 emissions by 8%. A 1,200 sq foot home in NY State might expect to use 3 tonnes of chips a year, at approx US$5 per 40 lb sack (approx US$250/300 per tonne Dld, dependng on Quantity/ Location.
We had a visit from Houston tonight to read this and spent a loooong time reading it.30/1/07