The new operation will use a Gen-
eration 9 Siempelkamp ContiRoll con-
tinuous press, which is 10 feet wide and
115 feet ( 35 meters) long. CalPlant will
be staffed by 115 full-time employees
with 450 part-time jobs created during
the annual straw-collection period.
The mill will be able to produce
MDF thicknesses of 2.0 mm to 30 mm.
Columbia Forest Products, which is
CalPlant’s exclusive sales agent, is an
investor in the project and has been an
important partner during development
of the project.
In addition to its formaldehyde-free
adhesive system, which will comply
with new Federal TSCA Title VI regulations on formaldehyde emissions
from composite panels, CalPlant’s
operations will produce significantly
less volatile organic compound (VOC)
emissions due to its feedstock and is
expected to be a minor source of emissions under EPA rules.
Its reclamation of approximately 20
percent of the Sacramento Valley’s rice
straw waste will also result in significant savings of the water now used to
flood fields to decompose straw after
the annual harvest.
Uhland said that CalPlant assumes it will provide at least half of its
production to the California market.
The current California MDF market
demand is over 300 MMsf ¾-inch.
Uhland said that project finance
was a challenge in establishing this
“A non-recourse, off-balance sheet
project financing relies solely on the
four corners of the project’s contracts
to help ensure on-schedule, on-budget
construction,” he said. “This means the
contracting parties (builder, equip-
ment supplier, off-taker, raw material
suppliers, etc.) are required to provide
adequate levels of guarantees in an ef-
fort to mitigate risk—in essence, lend-
ing their balance sheet and enhancing
the credit metrics of a project.
“In our case, for example, the
equipment supplier is guaranteeing
production volume, board quality,
maximum resin consumption, etc.; raw
material suppliers are guaranteeing
long-term fixed price supply con-
tracts; and the off-taker is providing a
long-term, minimum floor price sales
contract for 100 percent of the annual
production. Add that this is the world’s
first commercial scale rice straw-based
MDF facility, and one can imagine
the level of contractual guarantees
required from the different lender/
Uhland said that CalAg, during its
20-year R&D and project development,
worked with a number of first-genera-
tion strawboard pioneers.
“All of those early developers
thought the best use of the annual
post-harvest straw could be used to
make particleboard. Rice straw, how-
ever, being an aquatic plant consisting
of high-quality waxes, repels moisture/
water, and we discovered it repelled
the pMDI resin also. Experts on the
wood industry agreed -- ag residuals
should be used to produce fibers, not
Today, there is only one other
producer using wheat straw or any
ag material. They produce door core
panels that they use internally.
CalPlant I, LLC and its predecessor company, CalAg, LLC, have spent
many years researching, developing,
and patenting a process to make MDF
using annually renewable rice straw as
the feedstock, the disposal of which
has posed environmental issues in
California. It has worked extensively
with Columbia Forest Products and
Siempelkamp to develop capabilities
well-suited to the MDF markets the
plant will be serving. See https://cal-
At design capacity, the Willows, California, plant will produce more than 140 million square
feet (¾-inch basis) annually.