Pharmachem invests in green energy for its Avoca Plant

Pharmachem invests in green energy for its Avoca Plant

The new biomass-to-energy system reduces steam generation costs at Avoca plant, one of the largest botanical extraction facilities in North America.

A biomass-to-energy system capable of consuming 10 tons of biomass per hour, and producing 30,000 pounds of steam per hour has been installed at the Avoca  extraction facility, Merry Hill, NC, according to David Peele, President of Avoca, Inc., a division of Pharmachem Laboratories, Kearny, NJ.  Costing approximately $6 million, it is one of the first such installations in the U.S., and the first installed on the East Coast.

Avoca, Inc., one of the largest botanical extraction facilities in North America, relies on steam for processing a variety of ingredients, especially clary sage for the fragrance industry. The company previously relied on three diesel-powered boilers for its steam, but wanted to switch to a more sustainable and cost-efficient power source. Earlier this year, two biomass boilers were installed, replacing the diesel boilers. The new boilers became fully operational September 1, 2011.

“With the biomass-to-energy system, we’ve reduced our steam costs by 90%,” reported Peele. “During the 2011 sage harvest, which is 140 days long, we burned about 4500 gallons of diesel fuel per day. Plus, when we finish extracting sage, we had 99% of what we started with — or about 25,000 tons of biomass."

Peele added, “The new system enables us to utilize the biomass byproduct of our facility, and at the same time, meet our long-term energy needs very cost efficiently. It provides us with a reliable, sustainable source of energy and assures our customers that we will remain competitive on all our products for years to come.”  

During the peak season, the two biomass boilers work at the same time. Once the sage season is over, just one of the boilers can supply the facility’s steam needs. Absent the sage biomass, the biomass boilers can be powered with wood chips, or other biomass sources. Converting to the biomass-to-energy system had other positive environmental impacts, according to Peele.  “With the biomass system, we’ve diverted about 110,000 cubic yards of material that would otherwise go into a landfill.  Reducing this waste on an annual basis will result in about $1 million in savings. Next year our sage harvest will increase by 50%, creating even more savings in disposal costs.”

The biomass boilers were purchased from Alternative Energy Solutions International, Inc., Wichita, KS.  One of the reasons Avoca chose this particular biomass boiler system is that there are over a 1000 similar units, of all sizes, operating worldwide.

"Leadership in any manufacturing industry is demonstrated by considering the future health and safety of our environment, and this investment is one that will deliver a positive impact in the North Carolina area in which our extraction facility is located," said David Holmes, founder and president of Pharmachem. "The investment equally demonstrates social conscience, an integral part of Pharmachem's mission plan as a vertical operation."

About Avoca

Avoca, Inc. is the world’s premier botanical extraction company - a custom developer and manufacturer of extraction products and services. Part art and part science, we blend, extract, concentrate, crystallize purify and isolate unique products for our customers, based upon their specifications. Avoca operates a solvent extraction facility operating under food grade GMPs.

About Pharmachem Laboratories, Inc.

Pharmachem Laboratories, Inc., Kearny, NJ, is a family of companies specializing in the manufacture and supply of custom and branded nutritional ingredients, as well as process services. The company is a NOP-Certified organic handler and processor, operating 10 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. It is also cGMP compliant, producing a variety of ingredients—vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals—under strict quality control. For further information call 800-526-0609, or visit


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