Mining Moving Toward More Environmentally Sustainable Practices

Businesses and industries around the world are becoming increasingly more environmentally sustainable with a significant emphasis on conservation, sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. We came across an industry that is also under pressure to make changes due to finite Earth resources. The mining industry has also adopted environmentally responsible practices. This is done not only to keep up with new regulations, but to ensure that any form of mining (i.e. mineral and ore) is environmentally sustainable and to take care of the environment. There are an increasing number of innovative technologies and processes mining companies are implementing that further environmentally sustainable practices.

Reclamation Projects

This popular process is predominantly implemented in the US, where landscape of old mines is restored with vegetation. In this method, the land is contoured and covered with topsoil spread before seeding and planting, to ensure that the landscape is of the highest quality. The National Mining Association in the US stated that more than 2.8 million acres of previously mined land have already been converted into green areas like parks and wildlife reserves.

Zero Discharge Water Programs

An important and efficient environmentally sustainable practice carried out by a number of mining companies are zero discharge water programs. This process takes mining wastewater and makes it viable for reuse by removing waste from the water. There are two methods used in zero discharge programs, including vacuum evaporation and crystallization methods. These help to eliminate costly waste disposal – saving the environment, but also helping mining companies to lower costs.

Green Mining Technologies

One of the biggest changes in mining is the implementation of new green mining technologies. These are helping to make equipment and vehicles more efficient by cutting fuel consumption while still maintaining high levels of performance. These technologies improve efficiency while also helping to make a mining company’s new mine truck range cost-effective while boosting productivity. This has proven very effective, with many case studies from zinc and other mineral mines around the world benefiting from increased productivity rates due to greener technologies.  Other green mining technologies include new processes for acid rock drainage (where sulphide minerals in waste rock and ore are exposed to air and water) and introducing better ventilation systems which help filter out any negative particles.

The mining industry is becoming more eco-friendly by implementing more environmentally-conscious practices and introducing new innovations that help cut down the carbon footprint of their company. Mining for minerals and ore can damage the Earth, but innovation in the mining industry is improving sustainability by returning temporary mining project locations to their natural state, reducing waste streams, and improving the processes used in mining.

How to Cut Energy Costs During the Coldest Days of Winter

A Warm Greenwood Wood Boiler Home

Winter may usher in the holidays and beautiful, snowy scenery, but it also brings soaring energy costs. As the mercury sinks like a stone, it becomes more and more difficult to keep your home comfortably warm. It’s tempting to reach for the thermostat and crank it up, but first, you may want to consider a few more environmentally friendly tips. When the winter weather gets you down, turn to the following options to keep yourself warm without racking up huge heating bills.

Install a Greenwood Boiler

Oil, natural gas and electricity may be popular heating options, but they aren’t the only game in town. A wood-fired boiler is a fantastic renewable heating alternative, and Greenwood’s central heating systems are specifically designed to maximize efficiency. The Frontier Series boiler uses wood gasification technology to burn wood with startling efficiency, resulting in virtually no smoke, ash or creosote. By converting nearly 90 percent of the wood’s energy into heat, the Frontier wood boiler may reduce home heating bills by up to 70 percent. A pellet boiler, meanwhile, offers fully automated burning of wood pellets or in some models agro-pellets and grains for unparalleled convenience. Their high-efficiency operation can cut your heating bills in half when connected to a radiant or forced-air heating system.

Use a Smart Thermostat

Perhaps the easiest way to save on heating costs is to use only as much heating energy as you need. While it’s possible to do this on your own, a smart thermostat makes the job far easier and more efficient. In fact, according to a 2016 study, thermostats are the most popular smart technology product to be installed renovating homeowners. Once this device is synced up to your wi-fi router, you will have remote access from a computer or app. This way, you can be away from home and still have the ability to specify exactly what temperature settings you’d like to use at any given time for up to seven days in advance. As the thermostat uses its “smart” software to learn your energy usage habits, it will automatically turn on and off based on your schedule. This allows you to cut down on wasteful heating when no one is home without sacrificing your personal comfort, resulting in up to 12 percent savings on your monthly heating costs.

Enhance Your Insulation

It’s unfortunate that even the most effective and efficient heating won’t do much good in a poorly insulated home. A tremendous amount of heat is lost through walls, roofs and floors that aren’t properly insulated, which means outfitting your home with new insulation may lead to some serious savings. In fact, the EPA estimates that insulating the typical home could give back as much as a 20 percent savings on total heating and cooling costs. While completely insulating a home may seem like a significant investment, the cost is generally recouped via energy savings in as little as five years.

Spring for Energy-Efficient Windows

Along with inadequately insulated walls and roofs, another major point of heat loss is outdated or inefficient windows. Up to a quarter of a home’s heat loss comes from the windows, but upgrading to newer energy-efficient windows can keep far more of that precious heat where it belongs – inside your home. If you suspect your windows may be a culprit behind your home’s excessive energy use, look for new windows that bear the EPA’s ENERGY STAR label. This certifies that the windows are specially constructed to resist heat transfer and are ready to save you 12 percent or more on your energy costs.

Get an Energy Audit

Do you know how much energy your home actually uses and where that energy goes? Few people do, which is why a home energy audit is a highly recommended step in cutting down on energy use. An energy audit conducted by a professional will help you analyze precisely how much energy your home uses, while also identifying air leaks and other inefficiencies that could be costing you money. Many utility companies offer free or discounted energy audits to their customers, and any associated costs are well worth gaining the knowledge needed to maximize your home’s efficiency.

With rising energy costs and mounting environmental concerns, it’s no surprise that nearly everyone is on the lookout for new ways to reduce their energy use. The bitter chill of winter only makes this process more difficult, but it also presents an opportunity to improve the efficiency of your home and identify potential areas of concern. Follow the simple tips above and you can stay toasty warm all winter long without dreading opening that next utility bill.

Special thanks to Kate Voss for this blog post. Based in the Windy City and fueled by coffee and chocolate, Kate’s an MSU alumni with a passion for recycling and refurbishing old furniture. Her favorite Girl Scout Cookie is the trefoil.







Are Oil Companies Endangering California’s Water Supply?

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club filed a suit against the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), a Californian regulatory body that allegedly allows oil drillers to pump contaminated water back into aquifers.

California oil drillers have been receiving a lot of negative attention lately on the environmental front, with LA residents claiming that operations were a factor in the recent earthquakes because drilling causes ground movement and property damage. Oil drilling in America is definitely not looking so good at the moment.

The slump in commodities has devastated countries where oil production is prominent, but none have seen as damaging impact as the United States. While investment continues to pour into Iraq’s rich oil fields, and new partnerships happen between oil and gas giants, America keeps shutting down its rotaries. And the fact that the country is banned from exporting its oil makes it all the more difficult to deplete the excessive supply.

But with the closure of oil companies, the extra stock has been slightly more manageable, allowing a select few rotaries to sustain operations. However, the issue currently at hand is whether these drillers are carrying out environmentally friendly practices like they have advertised, bringing us back to the legislations in protecting California’s drinking water.

Hollin Kretzmann, the staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, expressed that, “It’s inexcusable that state regulators are letting oil companies dump toxic waste fluid into California’s water supplies during the worst drought in 1,200 years.” Our groundwater needs all the protection it can get, and the community must do everything in their power to keep these wells safe. At the time the suit was filed, the state has discovered 23 wells that have been injected with wastewater and are continuing their investigation with others.

California is in a state of extreme vulnerability right now. The injections and the recent oil spill in Santa Barbara have prompted the state to pass several environmental bills that would cut down oil consumption by 50 percent by 2030, thereby reducing greenhouse gases by 2050.

Guide to Buying Firewood

Buying your first cords of firewood can be an intimidating process. The units of measurement are unfamiliar, you might not know what to get, or who to get it from. Here’s a little advice from Greenwood for you “green” firewood buyers out there.

1.) Buy Local

Though you can buy firewood at retailers like Lowes, Walmart, or Home Depot, a word of caution: their firewood is almost never local! You should never buy firewood that comes from more than 50 miles of your home, and really, it shouldn’t be more than a couple miles. It’s not just about supporting your local economy—non-native insects and diseases can be transported by firewood and infect your local forests. If you love where you live, protect it by buying local firewood! You can also check for a certification from the Department of Agriculture on some wood that ensures it has been heat-treated to kill pests.

2.) Know Your Cords

A cord of wood is technically 128 cubic feet of tightly-stacked split wood, typically measured as being 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and eight feet long. A standard piece of firewood will be 16” long, meaning that a cord is three rows of firewood deep. The term “face cord,” sometimes called a “rick,” means that it’s only one log deep, making a “face cord” 1/3 of a full cord of wood.

3.) Find a Seller

There are lots of people you can go to for firewood, and it might take a little digging before you find a seller you want to stick with. As we said, steer clear of retail stores like Lowes–not only is their firewood rarely local, but you want to keep the money in the hands of the actual foresters. And even though places like Walmart are usually where you go for deals, their firewood will be more expensive than if you cut out all the middle-men involved in packaging, shipping, and storing, plus the store’s mark-up. You can use Craigslist to find great deals, but be wary of non-professional operations and only go through these kinds of sellers if you know exactly what you want and how much it should cost. Sites like Yelp are also a great resource for listing local firewood companies, but the best way is hands-down to get a referral. If you have a friend with a wood stove or boiler, ask them where they get their wood and if they’re happy with it. Word of mouth will rarely steer you wrong in such a personal industry.

4.) Delivery Fees

Know what to expect from delivery fees. Most local sellers won’t charge you for delivery; if you live slightly further away, they might have a fee, but it shouldn’t exceed $100. You also have the option to have your wood either “stacked” or “dumped” on delivery. As it sounds, “stacking” means they will unload the wood and stack it for you, and “dumping” is just laying it in a pile on the ground for you to stack yourself. If you have a complicated or ornamental stacking method, and you trust your seller, skip the stacking fee, but beginners should have their firewood stacked, not only because the seller will likely do it properly, but also because you’ll be better able to gauge the dimensions of the cord.

5.) Understand Market Conditions

Wood prices can vary wildly, and all kinds of factors affect them—season, location, type of wood, and contingent events will all impact the price. For example, if there is a beetle infestation one year and acres of trees are felled to prevent it, prices will drop. If there’s a particularly long, cold winter, prices will go up. Hardwood is generally much more expensive, but it’s also better for your furnace and burns longer. (Check out our blog post on how to choose your fuel for more information.) It’s best to buy as much of your wood in the summer and early autumn as possible, because you can be certain that an emergency cord in February will cost you a lot more than if you’d planned ahead.

6.) Be Suspicious

Above all, don’t let yourself be swindled! There are a lot of disreputable firewood sellers out there, especially because anybody with a pick-up, a chainsaw, and a Craigslist post can become a wood seller. Make sure you’re getting a full cords worth. If you’re buying out of a pick-up, remember that a small pick-up can only hold about 1/4 of a cord; it takes a long-bed pick-up with racks to hold an entire cord. It’s also crucial that you make sure your wood has been properly “seasoned,” which means that it was left to dry for at least six months after being felled, ridding the wood of its excess moisture and enabling it to burn properly. When you get your firewood delivered, be sure to ask for a receipt that names the seller, the price, and the amount of wood—reputable dealers will not refuse you one.

Now’s the perfect time to start laying away wood for the winter if you haven’t already. Though daunting at first, you’ll be an old hand soon enough, and the glow and warmth of your Greenwood boiler will be a fine reward for your hard work.

Washington Throws Weight Behind Biomass Fuel

Wood boiler owners and enthusiasts are already well aware of the environmental benefits of biomass fuel. Biomass fuel is extremely sustainable, thanks to contemporary methods of responsible forestry and incredibly efficient burning rates. It also provides cozy, natural heat with minimal re-stoking! But the advantages of biomass boilers are becoming obvious to the government, too, and in our modern, conservation-aware political climate, interest in biomass heat is rising.

One of the first big publicity breaks in Washington for biomass thermal energy was in the 2014 Green Proving Ground report, in which the General Services Administration (GSA) concluded that biomass heating could replace fuel oil-dependent facilities nationwide.

The report noted that buildings that rely on fuels like diesel, home heating oil, or propane are especially costly, and that “biomass heating systems may offer a clean, reliable, and economical heat source for large heat loads of buildings.” The GSA was interested especially in exploring the use of biomass heat in remote areas—especially Alaska—to which fuel shipping is expensive and proximity to the biomass resource is very close. During their boiler tests, the boilers were run at only 45 percent capacity, and produced an average efficiency of 85.6 percent, which met the GSA expectations; they also noted that had they been running the boiler at full capacity, as they are intended to be run, it would have performed even better. The findings of the GSA study were strongly in favor of increased use of biomass boilers, even noting how well received they are by communities due to their low emissions and support of local jobs and economies!

This report was a big step forward for biomass fuel, which had previously had many limitations and restrictions for use in industrial, institutional, and commercial settings where the EPA had previously though a boiler would produce too many pollutants. And last March 2015, President Obama’s Executive Order “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade” strongly promoted the use of biomass heating as cost effective and environmentally friendly, and worthy of exploration by federal agencies. The Order calls for a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across federal operations by 2025, and it’s exciting that biomass heat will likely play a part in this reduction.

From homes to the Oval Office, people are getting excited about the possibilities biomass heat might bring. Call us at Greenwood about getting this incredibly clean heat source installed in your home!

How To Size Your Wood Boiler

We have a lot of people asking us how to best determine the proper size or output of a wood boiler for their home. There are a bunch of things to consider when sizing a wood boiler – home insulation, interior/exterior temperatures, wood type/quality to name a few.

Avoid a Common Mistake

One of the common mistakes made when determining the BTU or energy required to heat your home is to look at your current boiler or furnace. Often people look at the sticker on their current system, indicating its size. However, it is possible that your previous heating system was inaccurately sized. By using this approach, you are banking your future comfort on the accuracy of the installer who originally sized the equipment. It also neglects any adjustments or improvements you made to your home – insulation, windows, and leak repair, etc. Primarily, your energy requirement is determined by the square footage of your home, the quality of your insulation, the type of wood you’ll be using for your boiler, and of course the temperature of your region.

The Perils of Oversizing a Wood Boiler

One of the most common techniques used in traditional wood boiler sales is that, ”Bigger is Better” – WRONG! Today’s modern wood boilers, like the Greenwood® Frontier CX, actually work best when it’s working its hardest—if your boiler is operating far below its capacity for most of the year, it can lead to a host of problems. It won’t burn as efficiently, meaning it will produce more smoke and creosote. This means you’ll need both more wood and more frequent cleaning – both ash removal, internal heat exchanger and your chimney. An over-sized boiler also leads to corrosion and other maintenance needs, not to mention it takes up more space in your home. In summary, you lose money not only on the initial purchase of an over-sized boiler, but also through continually wasted fuel and damage.

Rule of Thumb on Boiler Sizing

If you have followed John Siegenthaler, a wood boiler hydronics guru, he strongly advocates to size your wood boiler to 60-80% of your peak demand. The peak demand is the energy your home needs during the coldest week or two of the winter. More than 80 percent of the time, you’ll only be using ½ of your heating system’s capacity. Therefore, to achieve the best annual performance (including spring and fall with warm days and cool nights!) and save you the most money on your annual energy bill, it is best to follow Siegenthaler’s advice and purchase a wood boiler that is sized to cover 60-80 percent of your home’s heat load. There will, on average, be about ten or fewer days per year when your system will not meet your needed usage, but this just means you’ll either have to compensate with your existing system or just re-load the appliance with wood more often.

What to Expect with a Greenwood®

On your average heating days, you’ll probably only need to restock your boiler every 10-14 hours, but on those extremely cold nights you might need to load it more often. See the following chart to gain a better appreciation of what to expect with a Greenwood Frontier CX in your home.


Radiant Heat versus Forced Air

One of the great things about a Greenwood boiler is that it can be attached to many different types of heating systems. But how do you know which heating system you have, and what’s the difference? There are two primary kinds of heating systems in most North American homes – forced air and radiant heat. Here’s a brief overview of each, with an idea of how a Greenwood boiler might complement an existing system.

Forced Air

If you grew up in a home where you heard the phrase “heat rises a lot during the winter, you were definitely living in a forced air home. This style of heating system has been around a long time, and is the most common and least expensive option. Forced air uses a furnace (or wood boiler!) warming air that is then circulated throughout your home by a series of ducts and vents. One of the most common complaints against forced air systems is that they don’t evenly heat a room, especially a room that does not have adequate insulation. The hot air concentrates near the ceilings, the floors often feel cool, and there are “hot spots” near vents and colder areas that are far from vents.

Forced air systems are also not good for people with allergies or respiratory problems because they stir up dust, dander, and allergens by moving air throughout the house and sucking in irritating air-borne substances like pollen from the outside. They are, however, easy and inexpensive to install, and can be made considerably more efficient with the use of a programmable thermostat. Further, in some situations with very high ceilings and large open floor plans, forced air can actually be more efficient than radiant heat.

Connecting a Greenwood boiler to a forced air heating system is one of the most common installation scenarios. The Greenwood® is located where it is convenient to load it with wood (often in a garage or basement) and hot water pipes run to your domestic hot water tank and your existing forced air heating system. Much like your existing system, the Greenwood boiler is controlled by the existing thermostat already on the wall inside your home.

Radiant Heat

Radiant heat is common in the Northeast and is a very popular choice of heating systems in new construction, and with good reason. Radiant heat warms a home through the floor itself, or through wall mounted radiators and transfers heat by infrared radiation and convection. Electric radiant heating uses a system of cables built into the floor, while hydronic radiant systems use water-filled tubes that basically turn your home into a radiator. This type of installation not only creates a warm and comfortable floor that is a pleasure during a cold winter, but it keeps the heat from occupying only the top half of a room. And because there are no artificial indoor winds circulating dust or other irritants, radiant heat is the best choice for anyone with sensitive lungs.

The main drawback of radiant heat is that it’s difficult and expensive to install after a home has already been built. It’s easy to lay down the tubes or cables beneath the floorboards when you’re constructing a house, but retro-fitting an existing floor can present a challenge, especially if your floors are made of expensive or delicate materials. However, some of the cost of radiant heating is offset in the savings—radiant heating requires about 18 percent less energy, and up to 30 percent less in some homes, than forced air. Those savings quickly add up.

Connecting a Greenwood boiler to a radiant heating system is also a very common installation scenario. The Greenwood® is located where it is convenient to load it with wood (often in a garage or basement) and hot water pipes run to your domestic hot water tank and your boiler or delivery system. Much like your existing system, the Greenwood boiler is controlled by the existing thermostat already on the wall inside your home.

If you’re wondering what the greenest heating option is for your home, or how a Greenwood boiler might work with your current system, give us a call! We’d love to talk about your options for home heat.

A Closer Look at CrossFire™ Combustion

If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, happens inside a Greenwood boiler, allow us to walk you through our patented CrossFire™ combustion system that makes possible this incredible super-efficient heating source.

The key to the CrossFire™ system is the second combustion. Humans have harnessed the power of the first combustion for thousands of years—everyone, even children, know that when you burn a log, it gives off heat. Until recently, no one took it much farther than that, which is why wood-burning stoves were so wasteful—they were wasting the opportunity of the second combustion.

When wood burns, much of the organic material is carried upward in a gray gaseous form, commonly known as smoke. When you burn wood in a chimney, this smoke condenses again when it hits the cooler air away from the fire. This condensed smoke is called creosote, and contains about 50% of the possible energy from the wood. As most chimney owners know, if creosote builds up in your chimney, it can pose a serious risk to your home, as at very high temperatures creosote can combust, causing a chimney fire that could lead to a house fire.

The brilliance of CrossFire™ combustion is that it takes the danger of creosote build up and turns it into an opportunity. After the gasses separate from the burning wood, over-fire aird is added in what’s known as the “crossfire zone” of your stove, raising the temperature by adding oxygen and completing the second combustion in the “burn-out zone,” where temperatures can be as high as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat is then transferred to the water-tube exchanger, heating the water that then heats your home.

This model improves on older models, which used downdraft technology rather than pushing the air upward and out. This downdraft technology would cause bad smells and looked dirty. With CrossFire™upward combustion, you can enjoy the beauty of your fire without the smell or mess and at a greater level of efficiency.

This video demonstrates the beauty of the CrossFire™ Combustion:

Wood Burning Stoves, the Forestry Industry, and the Environment

Much has changed about wood-burning stoves and the forestry industry in the last hundred years. Unfortunately, the opinions of many people have yet to catch up with the modern-day realities of these industries. Both forestry and wood stoves have evolved over time to become allies of the environment.

Advancements in Wood Heating

Wood-burning stoves haven’t historically been much a friend to nature, but today there are clean-burning, high-efficiency wood heating systems available that are actually one of the greenest ways to heat your home.

Traditional wood boilers have recently come under regulation by the US EPA. Unfortunately, according to the EPA, of the 12 million wood stoves in America, 9 million of them are older, non-EPA certified, inefficient stoves that have caused so much air pollution in the past. These old stoves waste about 60% of the wood burned in them, and much of that unburned carbon goes into our atmosphere, meaning that not only are these stoves polluting the air with unburned particles, but they’re also causing problems like asthma, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, or even premature death. Further, because these old stoves are inefficient, they require far more firewood to operate and waste precious forest resources. Modern wood boilers, conversely, use almost 90% of the energy in wood, burning cleaner and only require several logs a couple times per day, and they emit drastically fewer pollutants.

Advancement in Forestry

The forestry industry has an unfair reputation for destroying our woodlands—in fact, for the last several decades, logging has been at the front of replanting, restoring, and caring for our forests.

Gone are the days when foresters were clear-cutting regions of old-growth forest and leaving fields of stumps behind. The timber industry has realized that in order to survive, they must be sustainable, and three quarters of the trees planted today are from forest product companies and private timberland owners. Though they still clear-cut, the land is always replanted, and the new saplings are able to grow more quickly because they aren’t competing with older trees for sunlight or nutrients. Cutting down swaths of dead or infected trees is also crucial for preventing forest fires from spreading quickly, and allows new healthy growth room to prosper. Because of these modern forest industry practices, our forest lands are actually expanding. Today we actually have much more forest than we did 70 years ago, and they continue to grow.

The Economy

Every dollar you spend on timber stays in the local forest economy. Conversely, 78 cents of every dollar spent on imported fossil fuels leaves the country and the region. Oregon and Washington are the number one and two producers of softwood in the nation. When you include Idaho, this region produces more than $11 billion in annual wood product sales. Lumber money is very important to the Pacific Northwest, and heating your home with wood is a great way to use local, sustainable resources and keep your money in the pocket of your own economy.

What It Means

Choosing a wood boiler is a great way to help the environment, help your local economy, and help our forests prosper. Here at Greenwood, we make some of the finest, most efficient wood boilers on the market. Call us today about installing this incredible, sustainable heat source in your home!

Wood Burning Versus Pellet Burning

Pellet and wood burning stoves are two bio-mass options for clean-burning fuel. How do you know which is right for your home?

Frontier Series Wood Boiler

The Frontier Series is out signature wood boiler—the most capable wood boiler ever, it will guarantee your home decades of warmth and efficiency. The Frontier boiler will convert up to 89 percent of the energy in wood fuel into warmth for your home, saving you up to 70 percent on your electric heating costs. You can count on them to be safe, and to burn so cleanly there will be almost no creosote buildup.

Pellet Stoves

Pellet stoves are  wood pellets, agro pellets, grass pellets, or grains, meaning that you have a lot of flexibility in your options.

What’s the Difference?

Each boiler has its own distinct traits and advantages. The wood boilers are more efficient—they will save you approximately 20 percent more on your energy cost, and they use approximately 9 percent more of the fuel source. They also offer the unbeatable eGlow™ Experience, plus the experience of heating your home from firewood, which has such a deeply-rooted history and natural legacy. However, pellet boilers are much easier to use. Because they don’t require firewood, you don’t have to deal with acquiring, stacking, splitting, and storing cords of wood. And though you only have to load the Frontier boilers about twice a day, the Denali boilers can run for 2-3 days on one pellet load, making them a better choice for families who are absent for days at a time or simply don’t have the time or resources to manage a store of firewood. However, pellet stoves need to have their heat exchanger brushed clean every 1-2 weeks.

Both pellet and wood boilers are excellent EPA-approved ways to heat your home. Almost all pellets and firewood you’ll find in America are harvested and produced domestically, so choosing either means supporting the economy.

If you want to know more about which boiler you should choose, call us here at Greenwood today! We would love to walk you through your options and help you get the incredible, efficient Greenwood radiant warmth into your home.

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