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Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/05/2008 1:17 PM

I have heard of small scale pellet plants built on flatbeds so they can be taken to the biomass location. Several manufacturers build small scale equipment, but I have not found that many small scale plants are in use. Farmers, woodlot owners, factories, scavengers etc. could have a new income stream producing pellets from biomass sources including forest and agricultural residue, weeds, grass clippings, leaves, paper, sawdust, coppiced fast growing trees, nut shells, pits, etc. The pellets could be used internally,or marketed.

Quality control of combustion qualities and ash produced are a big issue. Especially if marketed for residential use. Operator training is vital also.

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#1

Re: Is a small scale biomass pellet plant practical?

03/05/2008 1:58 PM

It seems that what you are asking is for someone to do a cost/benefit analysis. That would have to be done on a case by case basis. Farmer A might have enough good clean debris to make the capitol outlay worthwhile.

It might make sense in some areas for equipment rental companies to offer this stuff on a daily or weekly rate.

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#2

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/05/2008 4:49 PM

Seems like it would make sense for someone to do on a contract basis, where a guy owns & operates the plant, and goes around to to peoples fuel sources for pelletizing. Would also be of potential interest to logging companies to get rid of slash, shorts and waste right in the field.

Yes, controlling the quality would be dificult, though, with the varied infeed materials.

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#3

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 5:35 AM

Hello ronwagn

The Pellet making company locally near Christchurch, took some 12 years to develop and successfully make pellets from a single material.

That Company eventually had to ask for financial assistance from the opposition: A coal supplier, who purchased the business to obtain captive customers who had escaped the coal suppliers.

That wood waste material was Pinus Radiata = Monterey Pine, which is quickly grown commercially in huge forests in New Zealand.

There are always problems of moisture content, resin stickiness and the like, also some similar looking timber is quite different to process, while some wood is not even cost-effective to process.

So your multi-stream idea would not be fruitful, as the requirements for the varied fuel sources are so vastly different.

While your idea sounds good, as far as I know, no person has managed to successfully solve the multi-source fuel problem.

Nice try, though.

Kind Regards....

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 9:10 AM

Shell Oil tried sawdust woodwaste only pellitizing plants In N Ontario in the early 80's . Two plants - both lasted about 5 years.

I don't know much about production problems but their proposed selling price in bulk to local industries was so high that we were better to burn natural gas & avoid the pollution issues with solid fuel burning.

Varying quality of product would be a huge issue for those buying & controlling the burning.

Local composting for home heating is an idea that needs development and can accept varying qualities of feed stock - to a degree . Bagged dry waste would be a nice way of receiving matreials for a householder who is willing to work at composting

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#13
In reply to #4

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/07/2008 9:05 PM

The compost heating system is a good idea, but I don't know the details. I guess it runs like and enhanced geothermal setup. This would be good for a serious gardener or greenhouse production. You can also combine it with a rabbit ranch and worm farm.

An individual has and advantage of scale ,in reverse, over a big corporation. He or she can make do with a modest profit and have a good lifestyle, close to the earth.

Love your handle, Biomass Nut, as I am one myself. Love all the other alternative energy techs too. Energy independence and distributed , low cost, energy are my goals.

Hopefully plasma assisted gasification has changed the big pictures for the corporations. Check out Coskata's techniques. I wonder if talented individuals or small groups might be able to adapt similar technology. I know that regular gasification is a possibility. I like the "presto log" and pelletizing route , as well as charcoaling and biochar for soil enrichment also.

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#6
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 12:57 PM

I fear that you are right in many respects. Possibly some new binders, techniques, and machinery will make it possible in the future. I hope that single sources such as switchgrass, miscanthus, corn (maize) waste, hybrid poplar, salix (willow) can be processed efficiently. There are salix farms in europe that use the wood for pellets very effectively. As more people attempt to use various sources, the knowledge base will grow. If the knowledge is shared, and progress will be made.

Other forms of biomass fuel such as charcoal briquettes, wood chips, straw bales, etc are also being used. Charcoal briquettes are popular in the poorer countries where fuel is scarce. Special stoves are used that are much more efficient than the traditional fires.

Stove technology may be more important than the form and type of biomass. Small scale gasifiers are possible and , if pollutants can be managed well, could be used for heat and electrical production. I hope that engineers can make this a common technology soon.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/07/2008 7:12 AM

I have been in contact with a farmer in Nova Scotia that is planning exactly that. He is growing switchgrass and is planning a pelletizing plant-on-a-flatbed.

I was looking into converting the abundance of fallow and abandoned fields in New Brunswick, where my parents live, to switchgrass production, through a combination of purchase and lease agreements. Currently, the respective land owners have to pay to have their unused fields bushhogged, or they get overrun with alder.

The local wood pellet mills are too busy to run switchgrass, hence the need for the flatbed unit.

I think some good cautionary points have been made here, but there is also evidence of strong market potential, in the right environments and with the right "grass roots" approach.

The "economically modest" maritimes, long cold winters, lots of (potential) local resources, a farmer's co-op approach, and the Canadian Federal government's mandate (read subsidy) to replace a percentage of oil/gas/electricity winter heating with biomass, all make for a strong case to pursue it here.

Look into the Dell-Point Europa 75, it is a very efficient (and attractive) gasifying multi-fuel pellet stove.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/07/2008 8:35 PM

You sound like you are in a perfect situation for a pellet plant. You have lots of available land at low or no cost. Switchgrass, mixed grasses, miscanthus should all be considered. I would also look at willow (salix) and your native alder. You might want to test them all for yield and pelleting properties. I take it that you think the Europa 75 can handle the ash content. You also have a lot of need for heating, and electricity is an option too. You should not have any trouble with marketing.

Ecologists favor mixed grasses, and claim a superior yield also. You might want to do a search on mixed grasses for pellets. I don't know if that would complicate your processing though.

I would think that our northern tier of the USA would have millions of acres of land in similar situations. Hopefully our government will be more encouraging to small operators as well.

All the best,

Ron Wagner

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#17
In reply to #10

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/18/2009 11:22 PM

Could you tell me who the farmer in Nova Scotia is? I have recently been researching the use of switchgrass for making pellets. I have a significant amount of land available and am considering a "personal sized" operation as a trial.

InstrumentKyle

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#18
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/19/2009 1:31 AM

Hi Kyle,

I have not been in touch with the farmer in N.S. for a while, as my parent's cicumstances have changed and pursuing this venture has been indefinitely postponed. But if you would like me to connect you with him, send me an email at grkadisch@rogers.com, and I will forward it to him.

I would highly recommend checking out www.reap-Canada.com for switchgrass information.

-Gerry

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/26/2009 10:24 PM

Reap Canada is a nice site. I plan to order the two CD set on bioheat. I think that ordinary stoves can be used until better stoves become available. They have to be heavy duty. Not pellet stoves. Pelleting is very expensive. briquettes or mini logs might be more practical for small scale producer/users. See stoveworksusa.com Thanks, Ron Wagner

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#5

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 11:46 AM

My ex-brotherinlaw owned a wood based manufacturing company for many years. He made speciality oak trim for custom doors and cabinets. Handling the waste sawdust became a problem. He bought a machine to press the sawdust in to small logs resembling what we used to see sold as Presto Logs. He could never really find a commercial market because he just could not produce enough to meet demand. However, being in the Pacific Northwest of the US where a great number of people still heat with wood stoves and inserts, I heated my house, he heated his house and shop, and most of the rest of the family heated their homes with the little logs. In places like the Northwest, a small pelletizing business might just work, but transportation of the pellets becomes the issue

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#12
In reply to #5

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/07/2008 8:39 PM

I forgot to ask you what kind of press and process he used. This might be a lot more practical for the individual user. Could you fill us in on the details?

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#7

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 1:16 PM

One of the biggest problems I have had with pellets to date is their moisture wicking properties. A small hole in a bag can ruin the whole bag. I wonder if there might be some type of resin that can be sprayed on the mix prior to pelletizing that would both waterproof the pellets and add to thier fuel load.

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#8

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 1:17 PM

Can you list some of the manufacturers? I am working on an algae biomass project and am looking for an economical solution for small scale gasification.

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#9
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/06/2008 7:20 PM

Take a look at pelletpros.com and briquetting.com . Do a search on Google for small pellet machines. I takes a lot of time to sort it all out. There are small presses that might meet your need also. Also do a search on briquetting. There is a cross over in the terms also. Some briquetting tech. is designed for poor villages , and is very inexpensive. As usual, be careful how you spend your money. Also you need to be committed to a long learning curve.

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#14

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/20/2008 11:17 AM

Hello Everyone

My name is Christopher Scott, Director of PelHeat Limited. We are based in the UK and we are developing the PelHeat Mobile Pelletizer. The unit can process a wide variety of materials. You can find out more information on our website at www.pelheat.com.

Just a few points on what has been mentioned in the posts:

  • Moisture control is very important
  • Your pellet burner needs to be able to handle a variety of ash contents and corrosive qualities in different raw materials.

On this scale it is a skilled process, and not for everyone at this stage

I have also created a basic guide on the pelletizing process with our unit:

Thanks

Chris Scott

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#15
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/20/2008 12:25 PM

I haven't studied your material yet, but am anxious to know if you recommend a certain stove or stoves. That is the second part of the problem. I am fond of the low tech stoveworksusa.com stove. It is not decorative, but practical. The addition of a home scale scrubber would make it more acceptable in urban areas. One is now available or close to production according to one of our bloggers.

This is very serious and important work. Home scale, and larger scale stoves and boilers for commercial use could greatly relieve the demand for foreign oil and natural gas for heating. Even electricity could be produced. Waste, peat, grasses, coppiced trees, etc. could all be used for pellets.

Thanks for your contribution,

Ron Wagner

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

03/20/2008 1:34 PM

Hi Ronwagn

We are installing a Tatano unit, it is sold in the UK by TRECO. The unit can burn any biomass pellet. However to do this it is a more labour intensive and simple product, but it is also heavily engineered, so will withstand the corrosion of say straw pellets. There is information on this boiler and others on my blog at www.biomasspellet.co.uk.

The pellets you produce on a small scale, with have widely varying ash contents and corrosive qualities, so at this stage if you are going to produce your own pellets the only suitable boilers/stoves and the simple but heavy built units. Basically very similar to old coal boilers, hopefully there will be more units in the future which can utilize different pellet fuels, but with the convenience features of the premium wood boilers.

Thanks

Chris Scott

www.pelheat.com

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#23
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/27/2009 9:20 PM

I was very impressed by the Tatano product line. I haven't seen anything to compare to it, on a more advanced type unit. You seem to have it all together. Let me know when you have a price on your trailer system. I will try to pass on the info to potential customers, and generally spread the word. Have you contacted the commercial woodworking sites? Can you bypass the pelletizing and use wood chips and other forms? Possibly mini bales of grasses? Shredded grass etc?

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#20
In reply to #14

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/27/2009 4:30 AM

Hi, this is instrumentkyle . I followed your link from the discussion on biomass pelletizing. I am interested in your portable unit. I'm thinking about producing pellets on a "personal sized" level. So far in my shopping I haven't found a pelletizing system which can handle a volume which makes it pheasible(IE:my time is worth something) , at the same time avoids huge initial investment. Maybe this isn't even possible and that type of operation is only for old retired guys. Perhaps a unit which is a little larger which can supply a local market as well as my own heating is more realistic? My eventual goal is to have an additional income on the farm.

I have a few questions pertaining to your portable unit...

What thru-put/capacity are you hoping to achieve with the unit? Would you consider a PTO driven modification (decrease the cost due to eliminating the diesel engine)?

A few other question pertaining to the biomass pelletizing process...

Could the hammermill be replaced by a hailage harvester IE:sizing done at havest ? Harvest the grass at desired RH and store in a silo or silage bunker? Can switchgrass be pelletized without a binding agent if the RH at the optimum?

Good luck with your testing. When pricing is available, let me know.

Sincerely,

Kyle

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/27/2009 5:01 AM

Hi Kyle,

As the post you are responding to was submitted as "guest", I don't think Christopher will be notified as to your reply, unless he checks back to this thread and looks for it. You would be better off corresponding with him through the link he provided.

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#22
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Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

05/27/2009 5:27 AM

Thanks Gerry!!

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#24

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

06/19/2009 12:21 PM

We have very practical and operating machines that mix- pellatise cool and remove fines all in one small and inexpensive (around 20k) unit.

These sytems are designed to run 24/7 if necessary and can pellatise wood sawdust WITHOUT the need for binders - they can also pellatise any biomass product - straw/switch/paper etc - we have a working small plant in PEI you are welcome to come visit

Paul

www.lawsonmills.webs.com

902 314 6555

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#25

Re: Is a Small-Scale Biomass Pellet Plant Practical?

11/13/2014 1:34 AM

hi, ronwagn. Are you building your Small Biomass Pellet Plant? I'm also interested in biomass pellets.

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