Page 1

MARCH/APRIL 2019

Fiber

Factors Consistency is Key Page 12

PLUS

Innovations in Drying Page 18

CPM’s Momentous Growth

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Contents »

MARCH/APRIL 2019 | VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 2

04 EDITOR’S NOTE

Heart of the Process By Anna Simet

05 EVENTS 06 COLUMN

ENplus: The US Perspective By Chris Wiberg

07 COLUMN

Through a Glass Darkly By Tim Portz

08 COLUMN

Convincing Plant Managers to Spend Money By Holger Streetz

10 BUSINESS BRIEFS 30 MARKETPLACE

Page 18

FEATURES 12 OPERATIONS

The Value of Experience Design and operations of a successful wood pellet plant boils down to experience, skill and attention to detail, with a heavy focus on fiber. By Anna Simet

18 DRYING

Pellet Mill Magazine

Advertiser Index 2 16 32 10 11 27 15 17 20 29 21 23 9 31 14 22

2020 International Biomass Conference & Expo Acrowood Corporation Astec, Inc. BHM Great Lakes Venture – Pellet Plant For Sale CPM Global Biomass Group

A New Wave of Drying Techniques Around the world, the biomass industry is looking for innovative ways to economically and efficiently dry fiber. By Patrick C. Miller

24 PROFILE

Built to Last California Pellet Mill has expanded over the years through smart acquisitions buttressed by reliable equipment and top-notch service. By Ron Kotrba

Columbia Industries, LLC Fagus Grecon, Inc. Industrial Bulk Lubricants (a Dansons company) John King Chains USA Mid-South Engineering Company PAL s.r.l. Phelps Industries Port of Stockton ProcessBarron RUF Briquetting Systems Timber Products Inspection/Biomass Energy Laboratories

CONTRIBUTION

28 TECHNOLOGY

Biomass Conversion: Moving Advanced Carbon Materials to Market Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute is experimenting with a variety of pellet shapes and binders. By June Breneman Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling

COPYRIGHT © 2019 by BBI International

TM

WWW.BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM/PELLET 3


« Editor's Note

Heart of the Process

Anna Simet

EDITOR asimet@bbiinternational.com

When the team at Biomass Magazine was deciding which stories we would pursue for this fiber-focused issue, any single one of these topics—sourcing, storing, sizing, drying, handling and more—has enough influence on pellet manufacturing to serve as a lone feature topic. However, we were able to cover many of these angles in just a few stories, as many of them are highly correlated and have ripple effects on the next preparation step. For example, for my page-12 feature, “The Value of Experience,” I spoke with several industry experts about a range of topics surrounding pellet plant development. In each instance, the conversation navigated toward fiber. I asked questions about siting facilities, plant design, assembling a team, operations challenges and more, and it all boiled down to really having an in-depth understanding of forestry and fiber characteristics—not only how these characteristics impact each component of pellet production, but also how they change during the process and influence pellet quality. As wood pellet industry veteran Les Otten told me, “Some assume that any fiber will do, that during the process it will straighten itself out, but it’s not the case. If it’s garbage in, it’s garbage out.” I also visited with Mid-South Engineering’s Scott Stamey and Evergreen Engineering’s Justin Price, who went into detail about how important it is to send a consistent “recipe” of fiber into the process, particularly when it comes to size and moisture content. Also in this edition, you’ll find our page-18 feature, “A New Wave of Drying Techniques,” by staff writer Patrick C. Miller, which focuses on cutting-edge drying technologies in development around the world. Drying can have a significant impact on plant efficiency, and while these technologies are new and not in widespread use, they very well may be in the future. Developers are eager to get to that point. “We are open and ready for any cooperation with industry,” says Siegfried Egner of Fraunhofer IGB, which headed up SteamBio, a recently completed project that uses super-heated steam to dry fiber. There is plenty more in this issue, but what’s clear in the wake of reading all of these stories is that feedstock can make or break an operation—whether it is too far a distance to be economical, insufficient quality, too wet or dirty, or inconsistently fed into the system. Excluding expertise drawn from many years of work in the wood pellet industry, it’s truly the heart of the process.

4 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019


Industry Events »

Editorial

PRESIDENT & EDITOR IN CHIEF Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com EDITOR Anna Simet asimet@bbiinternational.com SENIOR EDITOR Ron Kotrba rkotrba@bbiinternational.com STAFF WRITER Patrick C. Miller pmiller@bbiinternational.com ONLINE NEWS EDITOR Erin Voegele evoegele@bbiinternational.com COPY EDITOR Jan Tellmann jtellmann@bbiinternational.com

Art

ART DIRECTOR Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

Publishing & Sales

CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Howard Brockhouse hbrockhouse@bbiinternational.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com CIRCULATION MANAGER Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & ADVERTISING MANAGER Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR Dayna Bastian dbastian@bbiinternational.com

Waste Expo

May 6-9, 2019

Las Vegas Convention Center (South Halls) Las Vegas, Nevada

Now in its 50th year, WasteExpo has been the premier event in North America serving the $85 billion solid waste, recycling and organics industry, bringing together more than 14,000 industry professionals from around the world each year. With an expanded conference program organized by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), 600+ of the industry’s leading suppliers, and support from Waste360, WasteExpo provides a comprehensive and unduplicated experience concentrating on the issues and trends critical to the solid waste, recycling and organics industry in both the private and public sectors. 203-358-9900 | www.wasteexpo.com

European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (EUBCE)

May 27-30, 2019

Centro de Congressos de Lisboa – CCL Lisbon, Portugal

The European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (EUBCE) is the leading platform for the collection, exchange and dissemination of scientific and industrial know-how in the field of biomass, attracting over 1,500 participants from more than 65 countries. For almost one week, new scientific and technical breakthroughs will be presented, sustainability will be assessed and the framework for the best exploitation of biomass discussed. +39 055 5002280 | www.eubce.com

2020 International Biomass Conference & Expo

February 3-5, 2020

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Nashville, Tennessee

Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop—the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. (866) 746-8385 | www.biomassconference.com

EDITORIAL BOARD

Stan Elliot Pacific Coast Pellets Bruce Lisle Energex Corp. Derek Nelson Forest Business Network T.J. Morice TNT Ventures LLC Tim Portz Pellet Fuels Institute

Subscriptions to Pellet Mill Magazine are free of charge—distributed bimonthly—to Biomass Magazine subscribers.To subscribe, visit www.BiomassMagazine.com or you can send your mailing address to Pellet Mill Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 866-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational.com. Advertising Pellet Mill Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Pellet Mill Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 866-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational.com. Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Pellet Mill Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to asimet@bbiinternational.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

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« Column

ENplus: The US Perspective BY CHRIS WIBERG

For the January/February issue of Pellet Mill Magazine, Ron Kotrba wrote an article focused on the ENplus wood pellet certification scheme, and included viewpoints from several stakeholders. After reading the article, I thought it would be well timed to provide a summary of the ENplus program regarding how it has been implemented in the U.S. As the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s Executive Director Gordon Murray pointed out, the U.S. does not have a national licenser so the mode by which certification is gained is different than in Canada. And as Bruce Lisle of Energex said, managing the cost of wood pellet certification schemes in general can be tricky if you are also implementing other certifications, such as the PFI Standards Program. The following is a summary of the status of the ENplus program in the U.S. The European Pellet Council is the overall owner of the ENplus wood pellet quality certification scheme, but EPC allows national wood pellet trade associations to manage the scheme in their respective countries. In Canada, WPAC applied to EPC for national licensor, and was awarded the responsibility. This means that for all Canadian companies wishing to certify to ENplus, the overall program is managed directly through WPAC. EPC has not awarded the national licensor responsibilities to any of the U.S. national associations, so U.S. companies wishing to certify to ENplus need to work directly with EPC. The certification process itself is essentially the same within the U.S. and Canada. Approved ENplus inspection bodies are used to conduct an audit of the wood pellet production site, and approved testing bodies are used to verify that the manufactured product is in conformance with the ENplus grade requirements. Nonconformances are documented, and an overall inspection report is provided to a certification body for review. Once the production site is confirmed to be in conformance with ENplus, the certification body submits a conformity report to EPC (or WPAC in Canada) for completion of the licensing agreement. Once the licensing agreement is finalized, the certification body issues the formal certificate, as well as the certification seals and logos. Approved inspection and testing bodies are listed on the EPC and WPAC websites. Control Union is the certification body for both the U.S. and Canada. Annual reporting and payment of program royalties is coordinated directly through EPC or WPAC. Aside from the nuts and bolts of how to get certified, the bigger issue for ENplus in the U.S. has been competition with the PFI Standards Program. The certification schemes are very similar when it comes to the process of managing quality at the production site and in overall cost, but the grade criteria for each is different, inspection mechanisms are different, and there are enough other differences to keep these schemes as separate certifications. Market dynamics have historically played a large part in determining which certification 6 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

scheme is adopted at a production site. For the U.S. residential heating market, while both certification schemes are referenced in the U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards as acceptable programs, the PFI Standards Program has the greatest recognition by retailers and consumers. Therefore, if the primary focus is on the U.S. residential heating market, then the plant generally gets PFI certified. Conversely, if the primary focus is to sell into the European residential heating market, then ENplus is the preferred option. In some instances, U.S. wood pellet producers have found value in certifying to both PFI and ENplus, but in most cases, producers choose one or the other, depending on which yields greater value for their intended markets. Currently, there are 35 production sites certified to PFI and 10 certified to ENplus. There are two sites certified to both PFI and ENplus. Geographically, the majority of the PFI-certified plants are in regions where the domestic heating season is long, and ENplus-certified plants are predominantly located in warmer regions that have access to overseas shipping ports. So, what do you do if you want to sell into both the U.S. and European residential heating markets? In a few cases, producers have certified to both PFI and ENplus, but this has been relatively uncommon due to an issue with the ENplus royalty system. To calculate royalties, ENplus takes total production and subtracts tonnages sold to power companies and tonnages sold as animal bedding. The remaining tonnage is assessed the ENplus royalty (assuming it is considered ENplus compliant and being sold into a heating market), whether it is sold under the ENplus seal or not (e.g., product sold under the PFI quality mark is still assessed an ENplus royalty fee if it is considered to comply with ENplus). This situation has prevented several U.S. wood pellet producers from pursuing ENplus certification. As a result, ENplus is more commonly adopted by producers that have a strong focus on selling into the European heating market, or are largely producing fuel for power plants but can make a dedicated batch of ENplus product for the European residential heating market, without incurring royalties on the balance of their production. The ENplus quality certification scheme serves an important role for U.S. wood pellet producers, but as Kotrba’s article brings to light, there is at least one key issue that has limited its adoption within the U.S. Fortunately, ENplus is undergoing revisions and the issue has been acknowledged by EPC, so timing is good to discuss this situation and perhaps reasonable adjustments can be made to allow for greater adoption within the U.S. Author: Chris Wiberg Manager, Biomass Energy Laboratory 218-428-3583 cwiberg@tpinspection.com


Column »

Through a Glass Darkly BY TIM PORTZ

The 2018-‘19 home heating season is a perfect case study of the yearly challenge wood pellet manufacturers and their retail partners face when trying to plan for, produce and have available enough wood pellets to meet demand. Ours is an industry with its very own Goldilocks-like dilemma, with every member in the wood pellet supply chain hoping to maintain an inventory position that is “just right.” In a perfect world, wood pellet producers can fill every order they receive throughout the heating season, and enter the spring and summer inventory build-up months with very little carryover. In that same, perfect world, every retailer selling pellets would see its last pallet sold just as their first load of garden mulch arrived, ready to occupy the just-vacated floor space. It is, of course, absurd to hope for such a perfect balance of pellet supply and demand, but the thought exercise is helpful in illustrating the enormity of the operational challenge wood pellet producers face each year. Compounding this challenge is that, arguably, the biggest driver in annual pellet demand is the depth and length of winter. Pellet usage correlates tightly to heating degree days, and year-to year-variances of 10-15 percent are not uncommon, as what each winter will bring is anyone’s guess. This winter has the Upper Midwest mired in a winter that doesn’t seem in any hurry to end. Early March delivered many days where daytime high temperatures matched the historical daytime average low. Weather can also introduce less obvious challenges for producers. Each year, the forest products industry must manage through mud season, the period when the ground softens as it thaws, making it impossible for logging crews to get into the woods to harvest logs for waiting sawmills. Mud season has been a reality in the forest products sector forever, and for the most part, the industry has developed strategies to build up inventory in woodyards to see them through mud season without interrupting production. Occasionally, Mother Nature throws the sector a curve ball. Many parts of Pennsylvania experienced record-breaking rainfall year in 2018, creating what one Pennsylvania-based PFI member called a “nine-month mud season.” For large portions of the prime pellet manufacturing season, upstream logging

grounds to a virtual halt. Without logs, sawmills throttle back, idle or shutdown altogether, and the residue streams upon which pellet producers rely slow to a trickle. This year, concern about tight fiber inventories started to surface in late summer. These are the vagaries of our industry, and they come with the territory. Recognizing that each year will bring with it weather variables that we can’t predict makes it crucial that we have a complete understanding of the measurable variables that impact our business. No. 1 on that list has to be the number of wood pellet-burning appliances sold each year. Last year, the PFI launched Operation 100k, an ambitious effort to reestablish 100,000 units as the yearly average number of pellet appliances sold. While the effort was broadly cheered by our membership and board, it brought into sharp focus how little we really know about how many appliances are sold each year, where they are sold and how they are used. While a total number is published annually in a summer issue of Hearth & Home, a magazine serving the specialty hearth sector, the detail behind it is a little thin. For wood pellet producers, this needs to change, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the hearth sector to increase overall appliance sales visibility without encroaching on anyone’s proprietary marketplace intelligence. Finally, it is worth asking when the impact of the exploding barbecue pellet market will begin to impact annual demand. While the pellet usage per appliance is a tiny fraction of heating appliance usage, the units out there are adding up quickly, and it isn’t outrageous to suggest their total demand will begin to be felt. In an industry that has to confront so many variables that we will never be able to predict, the importance of understanding the things we can has never been greater. Author: Tim Portz Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute tim@pelletheat.org pelletheat.org

WWW.BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM/PELLET 7


ÂŤ Column

Convincing Plant Managers to Spend Money BY HOLGER STREETZ

The goal of a plant manager is to produce wood pellets of adequate quality at an efficient rate with reasonable production costs. Maintenance managers are investing in equipment and man-hours to reduce unplanned downtimes and constantly improve efficiency. Sometimes, the goals of the plant manager and the maintenance manager are opposing. A good maintenance plan helps clear the mist. Every well-run plant has at hand a maintenance plan that describes all scheduled maintenance tasks. The possibilities for displaying the plan range from a white board at the manager’s door to tablets or smartphones with individual tasks for every staff member. A well-working example that I witnessed was use of project management software to keep digital track of all tasks while handing out them out on paper, which were then returned, signed by the staff member who performed the task. Essentials of a Maintenance Plan The daily maintenance routine includes moisture control before and after the maturing vessel and the pellet mill, and a visual inspection of the die for honey combing, microcracks, wear patterns and foreign material. The roller inspection includes adjustment toward the die, wear patterns and temperature monitoring. With the Andritz LM 26, a jack shaft temperature measurement helps keeping track of the belt wear. Additionally, checking the fill level of consumables and air pressures are daily tasks that ensure no running dry. The weekly check should include a thorough hammer mill inspection, especially for wear of sifters and hammers. All magnetic separators should be inspected and cleaned. The moisturizer needs a control check and recalibration if necessary. The pellet mill inspection includes cleaning the feed chutes and sifters, cleaning the crumbler, collector and fans, as well as roto shakers or other conveying equipment. Finally, the knives are checked for sharpness. Monthly and annual inspections can include belt changes, conveyor lubrication, oil filter changes and other tasks according to equipment manufacturer specifications.

8 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

Optimization Process Downtimes are always a bottleneck. Many plants have regular shut downs, during which all larger equipment like dryers and conveyors are maintained. Usually, the whole operations staff and third parties help keep the shutdown as short as possible. It is the unplanned downtimes that cause the biggest pain, since they involve excess costs due to express response and spare part delivery, opportunity costs and emergency service charges from third parties. However, every unplanned downtime is an opportunity, because it reveals weaknesses and the unbiased status quo of equipment condition. Assessing these weaknesses with your in-house team leads to solutions for the future. Sometimes, it makes sense to involve third parties for a different perspective, because they don’t lack organizational blindness. An adjusted maintenance plan that is put into action should be the result of this process. A thorough documentation includes a standardized incident report to help reveal recurring shortcomings and systematic premature failures. The questions to be answered are: What went wrong? What caused the failure, and how can the failure be prevented from occurring in the future? Getting the Go for Investments Operational excellence comes from well-maintained equipment. By sharing the optimization process and maintenance plan with the plant manager, he understands the importance of investments in equipment, staff training and consulting. A change toward overall equipment effectiveness and efficiency is the change from run to failure, to predictive maintenance. This approach helps align efforts toward a more efficient plant with less downtimes and improved results. As a bonus, a well-maintained plant has lower safety risks, because with a solid maintenance plan, safety and efficiency are concurrent goals. Author: Holger Streetz International Operations Manager, Bathan AG h.streetz@bathan.ch +491-735918-550


Business Briefs

PEOPLE, PRODUCTS & PARTNERSHIPS

Pinnacle reports record sales Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. released its fourth quarter 2018 financial results, reporting record pellet sales and new, longterm pellet contracts. Pinnacle sold a record volume of 1.6 million metric tons of industrial wood pellets in 2018. The company secured six new long-term contracts with customers in Japan totaling $1.9 billion last year, including an additional contract during the fourth quarter. The company also secured two long-term contracts with CGN Daesan Power Co. Ltd. in South Korea, totaling $1 billion. EIA releases densified biomass fuel report The U.S. Energy Information Administration released data showing that U.S. manufacturers produced approximately 750,000 tons of densified biomass fuel in October, with sales reaching 900,000 tons. The data was released as part of the January edition of the EIA’s Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report, which includes data for October. The EIA collected data from 82 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel to complete the report. The report does not include data from facilities with annual production ca-

pacities of less than 10,000 tons, as smaller facilities are reported to report annually, rather than monthly. In October, respondents purchased 1.5 million tons of raw biomass feedstock, produced 750,000 tons of densified biomass fuel, and sold 900,000 tons of densified biomass fuel. Production included 174,077 tons of heating pellets and 571,430 tons of utility pellets. Domestic sales reached 287,689 tons at an average price of $162.04 per ton. Export sales reached 613,872 tons at an average price of $164.07 per ton. Pacific Bioenergy contracts with Japan power plants Pacific BioEnergy Corp. announced Jan. 18 that it has entered into two new long-term pellet supply contracts with Japanese power producers. Commencing in 2020 and 2022 respectively, PacBio will be supplying a combined 170,000 metric tons per annum to them by 2022. PacBio’s pellets will be delivered to newly built, dedicated biomass power plants. This new business for PacBio has been and will be intermediated through Sumitomo Corp., PacBio’s 48 percent shareholder and marketing partner.

FOR SALE - New Wood Pellet Producon Plant - 400,000 ton/year WAWA, ONTARIO - Turn Key - 350,000 sq , up to 70  clear height - 8,000  private Rail Spurs - 250 acres, 31 MW Power (very favorable rate)

Going Concern Price CAD $25 Million ~USD $19 Million Will sell Land, Building & Equipment separately

Further details at: www.BHMGreatLakesVenture.ca

George Hasenberger 613-242-1612 / George@BHMGreatLakesVenture.ca 10 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019


Business Briefs Âť

ProcessBarron featured on World’s Greatest! ProcessBarron, an industry leader in total system solutions for air, ash and bulk materials handling, was selected by How2Media to be featured on Episode 268 of the show World’s Greatest!, which aired Jan. 21 and 28. After consideration of multiple companies, How2Media invited ProcessBarron to be featured on the show for its work in design, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and repair of air, ash, and bulk materials handling equipment. In September, How2Media visited ProcessBarron in Pelham, Alabama, to see the company in action. The company filmed interviews with executives, toured the facilities, captured employees at work, and saw firsthand the services provided to customers on a daily basis.

Player Design, Unitemp hire Nesbitt Unitemp Dry Kilns and Player Design Inc. have hired Kevin Nesbitt as national sales manager for the Unitemp Dry Kiln and Player Design rotary wood dryer and energy system product lines. Nesbitt has over 24 years of capital equipment sales in air pollution control and Nesbitt dryers. He received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, College Station, and a master’s degree the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Nesbitt serves on the board of directors for the Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association. In his new role at Unitemp Dry Kilns and Player Design, he is responsible for North American sales and marketing.

SHARE YOUR INDUSTRY NEWS: To be included in the Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos, if available) to Business Briefs, Pellet Mill Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also email information to asimet@bbiinternational.com. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.

Growing toward a greener, cleaner future. (YHU\\HDUFRPSDQLHVDUHWXUQLQJPLOOLRQVRIWRQVRILQGXVWULDO ZDVWHLQWRPLOOLRQVRIGROODUVRIUHVHOODEOHUHXVDEOHPDWHULDOV 7RJHWKHU&30DQG'L3L6\VWHPVKHOSPDNHLWKDSSHQ :HȇYHMRLQHGIRUFHVWREULQJ\RXWKHZRUOGȇVEHVW PHFKDQLFDODQGK\GUDXOLFEULTXHWWLQJWHFKQRORJ\

We’re taking the fossil out of fuel.

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« Operations

THE VALUE OF

E X PE R IE NCE Design and operation of a successful wood pellet plant boils down to experience and attention to detail, with a heavy focus on fiber. BY ANNA SIMET

J

ohn Swaan is the kind of guy a wood pellet operation wants on its team. With decades of experience in forest management, fiber logistics and pellet production, Swaan is armed with knowledge that can’t be acquired by reading any manual or textbook. Having founded wood pellet manufacturer Pacific BioEnergy Corp. 30 years ago, Swaan has witnessed the success and demise of many operations. Perhaps a bit of consolation for those failed projects is that almost always, valuable knowledge has been gained. “Fairly complex lessons have been learned in the wood pellet industry in the past 30 years, and they are still being learned,” Swaan says. “This has provided us with guidance. The devil is really in the details, and the details really matter.” By details, Swaan refers to everything from siting a plant to design, fiber prepara-

tion and understanding how it affects each plant component. Before any of that is considered, Swaan says the first matter of business is finding that niche experience, which he deems crucial. “There are two categories of developers—first, the small ones, who usually have their own ideas about how this should work and think that it looks relatively simple, so they do it their way,” he says. “Then, you have investors, who may hire a contractor, design/engineering firm and equipment suppliers. A lot of them may have huge balance sheets, but not a whole lot of expertise in this area, and then the plants end up not working and under litigation.” When it comes to experience, MidSouth Engineering is one firm that has been involved in the industry for more than a decade, and has provided engineering services for the majority of large pellet facilities in

12 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

the U.S., projects ranging from minor upgrades and troubleshooting, to complete facility design on both greenfield and brownfield projects, according to Scott Stamey, senior project manager. Like Swaan, Stamey emphasizes the importance of experience and expertise. “There are countless details in respect to the handling and process of biomass from the tree to the finished pellet, and overlooking these can negatively impact production and quality for years to come,” he says. “Major variables that can affect the design of a new facility or expansion include the range of raw material properties—present and future—sizing and drying process requirements, future expansion options, shipping and receiving logistics, level of automation, and any pellet quality requirements. Every project is different, so engineers must be sure to fully understand the owner's needs and goals.”


Many variables can affect the design of a new pellet manufacturing facility or expansion, including raw material properties, future expansion options, shipping and receiving logistics, level of automation and more, according to Mid-South Engineering's Scott Stamey. Every project is different, so engineers must be sure to fully understand the owner's needs and goals. PHOTO: BIOMASS MAGAZINE

Specifically, the first and perhaps most important detail to consider is feedstock, according to Swaan, and it should be the No. 1 focus in determining where and how a successful pellet plant should be placed. Focus on Fiber Fiber should be within 75 miles of a plant, and quality is important, Swaan emphasizes. “Some assume that any fiber will do, that during the process it will straighten itself out, but it’s not the case,” he says. “If it’s garbage in, it’s garbage out. And it’s also important to understand difference species of wood, and how consistent you have to be with moisture content, and handling of the material.” Fiber should be uniform and homogenous as presented to the pellet mill, Swaan reiterates. “This is a critical piece of understanding to make this successful—not only

production itself, but it also has correlation on maintaining uptime, which is critical to your margins.” Justin Price, principal at Evergreen Engineering, explains exactly how that consistency of fiber handling and moisture content can influence plant operations and end product. “Typically with pellet mills, we’re buying residuals—planar shavings, green sawdust, dry sawdust, chips and so on—all of those products and how they’re organized in your yard and fed into your systems, that’s going to impact your process,” he says. “You want to control the green fiber both in size and moisture content for a tighter consistency.” That’s done through good screening and fiber-sizing mechanisms to homogenize the material, according to Price, as well as recipe-based blending. “Fiber piles should be separated by supplier, so that you

can blend accordingly, and manage the feed rates of each of those products into the system,” Price says. “If you have a frontend loader, it might be one scoop of the green and two scoops of the dry, depending on the moisture content. If you’re using bins or hoppers, then you can control feed rates of those coming into the process, making sure of uniform, consistent size coming into the dryer.” Although every individual particle size won’t be of the same moisture content, Price says, the heat required for the process becomes more homogenized. “For a lot of rotary dryers, when the fiber goes in, the heavy, wet stuff goes to the outside of the dryer. As it dries, it moves down the length of the dryer, loses weight and falls to the center, where the air flow picks it up and carries it through the dryer. If you have a dry particle coming in, it’s not going to stay

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« Operations

on that outer ring of the drum dryer very long—it will fall in faster—and the wet material will stay in the dryer longer.” Sending a consistent product through the dryer it will result in a better end product. “So your key performance indicators are moisture content, routine sampling of raw materials for size considerations going into the dryer, and then comparing that to the heat and energy input—you’ll find what works for that plant to get a uniform drying system.” When material comes out of the dryer, it should again be sampled for moisture and size. “A lot of times, the material is overdryed, and water has to be added back in ahead of the pellet mill,” Price says. “If you have very consistent moisture content, you can minimize the amount of water you put back in for conditioning.” As for how often material should be sampled, Price says that if the infeed is consistent—fiber is coming from the same

‘Safety in the production and storage of wood pellets has seen improvement, as well as research over the past several years, as the industry is recognizing some of the unique challenges that pellets present.’ —Scott Stamey, Mid-South Engineering sources, and weather is normal—operators could get by with four to six times per shift. “If you’re getting torrential downpours and your product is stored outside, you’ll want to pay more attention to that, and do it more often. It’s important to get your operators in tune with that, why it’s important, and understand the effects on the process recipe. If moisture content is all over the map, you’ll see it in your pellet—telltale

C AT C H T H E

MARKET SHARE

signs. It will form differently, the durability will change and it won’t stick together, and an there will be unbalanced flow through your pellet mill. People tend to focus on size a lot, and that’s very important, but if moisture content is bouncing around, you’ll see the same effects.” Tracking downtime is essential to minimize it when related to issues caused by inconsistent fiber, according to Price. “If you

The Total U.S. Wood-Burning Appliance Market (including fireplaces, freestanding stoves, and inserts)

13% Market Share Pellet Appliances*

87% Market Share Briquette-Friendly Appliances*

YO U ’ V E B E E N M I SS I N G

Versati wood and biomass briquettes are quickly becoming Versatile ag go go-to o-to biofuel for consumers all over the U.S. They are clean, clea eaan, af affordable, and can be used in any wood-burning device from from fr om fireplaces fireplace and stoves to fire pits. Briquettes will open doors to new fi markets and growth oppo opportunities for your business, and because they can be made from materials you already process (and then some), it’s simple to get started. Plus, with substantial savings on energy, maintenance, and labor, briquettes are cheaper to make per ton than pellets! What are you waiting for? For more information call 440-365-0400 or visit www.ruf-briquetter.com and catch the market share you’ve been missing! *Source: Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association – based on appliance shipments from 1998-2011.

14 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

NOW UNDER ONE RUF


move from reactive-based maintenance to a more plan-based program, you can start looking at eliminating the short-term interruptions. If a guy goes out, shuts the hopper down, grabs a sludge hammer and beats on it for 30 seconds to keep it running, that doesn’t show up in a downtime report, because that’s become the operating procedure, even though it isn’t normal. When you identify the things that are causing you downtime, you can put in a procedure to prevent them.” More Considerations Design/Build Besides having a person experienced in plant design, an expert process technician is a must, Swaan says, as pellet plants are difficult to operate. “You need someone who’s going to keep it going. We now have years of understanding surrounding what particulate size works best at what part of the process, and that comes down to the

Pacific BioEnergy Corp. has been a leader in the development of the wood pellet industry in British Columbia since it was founded as Pellet Flame in 1994 by John Swaan. PHOTO: PACIFIC BIOENERGY

experience. A 747 or any kind of aircraft has the capacity to get off the ground itself, but you want a confident team or pilot that know how to fly it, and fly it well, or it will be disastrous. You really have to understand how to stay operating and the dynamics of

the process—that’s something you just can’t engineer.” On the current cost of building new plants or expansions, Stamey says it varies considerably. “We don’t recommend thinking about the construction of a pellet plant

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in terms of a cost per ton of annual capacity,� he says. “These numbers can be misleading, since there are a wide range of assumptions that need to go into them. Costs can vary greatly depending on the raw materials—a facility supplied by 100 percent dry planer shavings will require significantly less processing equipment than a facility supplied by 100 percent round wood, for example.� Costs related to site development and shipping and receiving logistics are often underestimated when considering project budgets, but can greatly impact the total capital required, Stamey adds. “A preliminary study where the project is defined and a high-level cost estimate is performed can be done quickly and affordably, and will give you much better information for making decisions.� Safety One nice thing about wood pellet production is that nearly all processes within the facility have existed in other wood product facilities for decades Stamey says. “Safety in the production and storage of wood pellets has seen improvement, as well as research over the past several years, as the industry is recognizing some of the unique challenges that pellets present.� “You really have to understand that you’re dealing with something very explosive and flammable,� Swaan says. “Some of us have gone through explosions and fires, and know there should be someone around the table who is going to give you some guidance on safety, based on references.� The typical price tag for adequate safety and fire protection at pellet mills ends up being three or four times more than what was initially thought, in Swaan’s experience. “The principles are all the same, no matter how small or large the facility,� he says.

ĹšĹ?ƉWĆŒĹ˝Ä?ÄžĆ?Ć?Ĺ?ĹśĹ?Ç†Ć‰ÄžĆŒĆšĆ?Ć?Ĺ?ĹśÄ?ÄžϭϴϾώ tÄžÄ?Í—Ä‚Ä?ĆŒĹ˝Ç Ĺ˝Ĺ˝ÄšÍ˜Ä?Žž WŚŽŜĞ͗͞ϰώϹͿώϹϴͲϯϹϹϹ 16 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

Permits/Emissions Air permit requirements are constantly evolving for the pellet industry, Stamey points out, so coordinated plans involving permitting consultants and process engineers are more important than ever. Price agrees. “You should be very aware of what your emission factors are when you’re doing your permit,� he says. “You don’t want to have to come back later and add a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO). It boils down to environmental engineers, finding equivalent test data and vetting your permitting process thoroughly.� A developer should consult with engineers and technology specialists that work in the wood products industry, Price says. “As processes become more refined,


Sending a consistent fiber mix—in size and moisture content—into the pellet manufacturing process will result in a better end product. Fiber piles should be separated by supplier and blended accordingly, with feed rates managed, says Evergreen Engineering's Justin Price. PHOTO: BIOMASS MAGAZINE

I think we’ll see testing show we’re getting higher volatile organic compounds (VOCs) out of processes than we expected, and this goes back to drying. Typically, if you’re doing a very good job drying wood products, you’re capturing those VOCs in the dryer. But as you go through the pellet press, you will reach temperatures where VOCs can come off. I expect to see some facilities impacted by this, where they don’t have VOCs reported correctly in their permits.” Price says that in time, he suspects there will be more regulatory focus on green hammermilling. “Green milling tends to get material into that temperature range for VOC release, so they may look at that, particularly as our industry comes

under more scrutiny from an environmental and sustainability point of view.” As for the tongue-in-cheek that wood pellet production is an art, Swaan says he views it a bit differently. “I think of it as more of a skill,” he adds. “You need a skillset—it’s basically 75 percent technological, and 25 percent skill. If you don’t place importance on the skillset, the other 75 percent doesn’t matter—the plant is not going to operate.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine 701-738-4961 asimet@bbiinternational.com

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Headquartered in Ried im Traunkreis, Austria, Cona Solar has more than 30 years of experience designing and building solar drying facilities for food and biomass fuel in remote regions of the world. The company has had success solar-drying wood chips in northern climates. PHOTO: CONA SOLAR

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Market Drying »

A NEW WAVE OF

DRYING TECHNIQUES From Europe to Latin America, the biomass industry is developing better drying technologies. BY PATRICK C. MILLER

A

round the world, industry is looking for clean, efficient and economical ways to dry wood chips for biomass heating. Whether it’s a multinational, high-tech research, development and demonstration project, a novel off-the-grid system based on solar energy or a unique dryer using low-temperature heat to remove as much moisture from wood chips as possible, there’s more than one way to dry a chip. SteamBio is a recently completed project funded by the European Commission and supported by 11 partner organizations in four countries: Germany, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. Its objective is to create a commercially viable platform to stabilize biomass materials near their source for biochemical and bioenergy uses. The system uses super-heated steam in a controlled atmosphere to dry wood, making it more economical to ship from the remote forests where biomass fuel is often harvested before shipment to the cities where it’s used. The project, which began in April 2016, was coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB based in Stuttgart, Germany. A consortium was formed, which then applied for and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation research program. The number and diversity of partners in the project provided skills ranging from end-user to all aspects of economy and sustainability. Siegfried Egner, head of the physical process technologies department at Fraunhofer IGB, says SteamBio relies on the torrefaction process in which woody biomass is heated with steam at ambient pressure to a temperature above 392 degrees Fahrenheit. “The major challenge was the complexWWW.BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM/PELLET 19


« Drying

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ity,” he says. “We achieved a stable performance, including handling of the solid (self-igniting) and liquid (ATEX) products.” As Egner explains the process, “Some light wood compounds get volatile and are captured with the surplus steam. The remaining solid is then easily ground due to the loss of the inner ‘glue.’ It is hydrophobic, so it can be stored in the open in rain and snow. It has higher temperature in an incineration boiler and represents a higher specific energy content per mass, which is important in the economics of long-distance transport. As the material is easily ground down to small sizes, it forms a highly reactive source for chemical use of the carbon source. This process has application to the wood pellet industry because the pellets can be formed and stabilized with the torrefaction process.” A SteamBio demonstration unit was built by Heckmann Metall in Germany and commissioned in December 2017. It was then shipped to Duruelo de Sierra, Spain, in January 2018, and remained open to visitors until July 2018. The SteamBio continuous processing technology platform is scalable, and has been proven technically at industrial scales with temperatures above 572 degrees. “The European Commission-funded project has finished, but further pilot plants representing the next generation are intended and planned,” Egner says. “We are open and ready for any cooperation with industry—in particular with companies that want to take a license to market the process after getting a knowledge transfer from us. Cooperation can be organized directly or via our legal entity in the U.S.” On the other end of the temperature spectrum is the Dryer One drying system, designed and manufactured by Technic One in Thimister, Belgium. From the outside, a Dryer One unit could be mistaken for a large aluminum grain bin. According to Rashid Shakir, founder, president and applications engineer with Green Globe Services in Jessup, Maryland, one might need to get within 10 feet of the dryer to hear what’s going on inside it. Unlike conventional rotary drum drying systems that rely on high heat, people can work inside a Dryer One system while it’s operating. Shakir, who’s spent 38 years in the biomass industry, first learned of Dryer One in 2013 while attending a trade show in Germany. He was looking for European technologies to bring to the U.S. through the company he founded in 2010. Technic One’s dryer technology was originally designed for a company handling various waste products from the baking industry and using a multitude of dryers to do it. Their method was costly, inefficient and labor intensive. Shakir was impressed that Technic One had designed and developed a single dryer that could handle all the products. The company now has four dry-

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The SteamBio project, funded by the European Commission, uses super-heated steam in a controlled atmosphere to dry woody biomass fuels. The torrefaction process creates a hydrophobic product that can be stored in rain and snow and economically shipped long distances. IMALPALGroup_PelletMill_2019_Mar-Apr.pdf PHOTO: FRAUNHOFER IGB

1 05/03/2019 10:02:50

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« Drying

ers in operation, two under construction and two more on the drawing board. Shakir recognized that the technology also had the ability to dry biomass materials. “This is a very low-temperature dryer,” he says. “We are drying at almost half the temperature of the flash point of the dry wood— 192 to 200 degrees air temperature. With conventional dryers, you are feeding hot air at 600 to 1,200 degrees. It takes a lot of fuel to heat 70-degree air to 1,000 degrees. You need a lot of thermal energy to do that.”

The Dryer One system, designed and manufactured by Technic One in Belgium, uses low-temperature air to dry wood chips on two circular platforms that rotate in opposite directions, resulting in a uniform, high-quality biomass fuel. IMAGE: DRYER ONE

22 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

A Cure for Thermal Shock When wood chips at an ambient temperature of 60 to 80 degrees are introduced into a drying chamber at high temperature, it subjects the product to thermal shock, according to Shakir. “A very fine layer of caramelization happens, which actually blocks the product from releasing the internal moisture to bring it out to evaporate,” he explains. “Also at this high temperature, you need a longer residence time and much tumbling. You need agitation. You need particle-to-particle friction. You have to have a lot of agitation in the system to get the moisture out.” Another reaction at high temperature occurs when natural resins and oils evaporate from the wood, which Shakir says not only reduces the thermal energy of the wood chips, but also emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that must be captured to stay within air quality regulations. In a conventional dryer, tumbling and agitation of the wood chips result in dust and particulate matter that must be collected in a baghouse, cyclone or scrubber. Within a Dryer One system are an upper and a lower circular plate upon which the wood chips rest as they rotate around a central column, providing an even drying process. The chips start on the lower plate and are then transported by a bucket elevator or worm drive to the upper plate where they rotate in the opposite direction. The heated air is drawn in from the bottom and circulated upward through the wood chips. Dried material is removed through the top of the


Drying »

dryer to the packaging area while moistureladen warm air is ventilated out the top of the structure. “It’s a very slow operation,” Shakir says. “There’s no vibration, so you don’t need heavy-duty foundations. It’s a very quiet operation. When things don’t rumble or vibrate a lot, they can last a long time because there aren’t any deteriorating factors on mechanical elements. They can run many years without wearing down, lowering maintenance costs and increasing life expectancy.” The advantages of the Dryer One system, Shakir notes, are greatly improved fire safety from low temperatures, an automated system that can be adjusted on the fly to provide the desired amount of moisture removal, wood chips of consistent quality with higher thermal energy value and no upfront investment for emission control systems. “If you have more control on consistency of your production, you have less waste and it costs you less thermal energy to dry it. All of this accumulates at the end for a better profit yield.” Sun-dried Economics If high-temperature steam and lowtemperature air drying don’t fit the bill, then perhaps good old reliable solar energy is the answer. Located in Ried im Traunkreis, Austria, Cona Solar has more than 30 years of experience around the world in using the sun’s rays to dry everything from fruit to lumber. “The advantage is that the sun doesn’t send you a bill,” says Johanna Astecker, a company spokesperson. “You invest once in a solar drying system and in several years, it’s practically free. And your wood chips have a lot more calorific value—up to 60 percent more.” Cona Solar might never have used its technology for drying wood chips if a company executive’s wife hadn’t asked him how it was that he could dry tea leaves and logs in remote regions of the planet, but not figure out how to dry the wood chips that fueled their home heating system. Today, Astecker says Cona Solar tailors each drying system it builds to fit a customer’s need, using the sun’s

energy and a minimal amount of electricity to remove anywhere from 15 to 45 percent of the moisture from wood chips. For anyone who thinks solar drying is limited to warm climates, Astecker says the system runs in Ireland, Ethiopia or Nicaragua. “We need a roof oriented toward the sun, but we can work with south, east and west roofs in the northern hemisphere,” she says. “In a region with less sun, we can use more sun collectors and get good drying results. We have areas in Austria with cold but clear days that dry a lot of material—even in the winter. Winter drying won’t work well in a region with a lot of fog. However, if the summers are more favorable, the yearly average might be the same.” How effective is Cona Solar’s sun-powered drying technology? Astecker says a few

years ago, the renowned University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna was teaching students that biomass drying isn’t cost efficient. “They did several projects analyzing our systems and confirmed that it’s really economical and cost efficient,” she says. “Sizes with solar areas 24 square meters through 800 square meters all have the same efficiency.” Whether it’s drying wood chips with high-tech steam, using unconventional lowtemperature units or relying on the sun’s rays in hard-to-reach rural areas, the biomass industry is finding unique and innovative ways to get the job done. Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, Pellet Mill Magazine 701-738-4923 pmiller@bbiinternational.com

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« Profile

BUILT TO

LAST

California Pellet Mill has expanded over the years through smart acquisitions buttressed by reliable equipment and top-notch service. BY RON KOTRBA

It just runs.” This is the well-known tagline of California Pellet Mill. The company has virtually cornered the market on all types of processing equipment to grind, crush, crumble, break, flake, hull, hammer, shred, condition, pellet and cool practically anything. It sells and services machinery and equipment to the animal feed, oilseed processing, corn wet milling, pet food, ethanol and, naturally, wood pellet industries. While CPM is a leader today in pelleting, particle size reduction equipment and automation with facilities throughout the world, its roots are much quainter. CPM’s origins date back to 1883 in Napa Valley, California, where the Toulouse & Delorieux Co. manufactured presses, crushers and stemmers for the wine industry. Nearly 50 years later, at the height of the Great Depression in 1931, the company built its first pellet mill, a 30-horsepower flat bed with stationary flat die. With that development, CPM was born. In the ensu-

ing decades, CPM created more pellet mill models with added features. The company’s acquisition phase began in the 1980s when it bought up Roskamp Roller Mill Co. and Champion Hammermills to create Roskamp Champion. In late 2017, Roskamp Champion produced its 500th SP3200 flaking mill, which has become an oilseed processing industry standard. The next acquisition was in 2002 when CPM purchased Beta Raven, a leading supplier of feed mill automation and ingredient scaling systems. Since then, the company has absorbed a number of different equipment and processing firms, including Crown Iron Works, SKET, Century Extrusion, Wolverine Proctor, Nanjing Ruiya Polymer Processing Equipment, Greenbank Technology and, of particular note to the biomass industry, the Italian firm Di Più Macchine Impianti. Founded in 1996, Di Più is a leading supplier of mechanical and hydraulic briquetting machinery and replacement parts.

24 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

Di Più has been organized under CPM Europe B.V. and plays a vital role in CPM’s Global Biomass Group. “Our product technologies and market positions are complementary in every way,” says Maarten Visser, director of CPM Europe and the company’s Global Biomass Group. The acquisition of Di Più greatly expanded CPM’s agglomeration portfolio, serving biomass, recycling and metal waste industries with sales, service, production and process technology centers in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Tim Gilbert, CPM Global Biomass Group’s sales and applications manager for North and South America, says the Di Più acquisition helps CPM add to its growing abilities in the biomass market. While some may have initially questioned whether the acquisition of a briquetting company was a good addition to CPM, Gilbert says, “Now that we have it, we’ve found that we are in some of the smaller applications where briquetting makes more sense. And these applications don’t need complete cooling and


Market »

CPM pellet mills employ a gear drive instead of a belt drive, which the company says helps provide 97 percent energy efficiency, equipment longevity and less maintenance downtime. PHOTO: CALIFORNIA PELLET MILL

preparation systems like you have in the pellet industry.” Since the Di Più acquisition, CPM has added even more companies, including Proline Engineering and D&G Electrical Engineering. “CPM is a growth-oriented company,” Gilbert tells Pellet Mill Magazine. “We are growing yearly through acquisitions and growth of our core companies.” If the tagline about CPM’s equipment is “It just runs,” then the company’s slogan for its business model could easily be, “It just grows.”

Interestingly, the company whose growth has been defined by savvy acquisitions over the years was itself acquired in late 2018 by American Securities LLC. In a Nov. 16 press release, Ted Waitman, president and CEO of CPM, said, “CPM has a strong history of market leadership. We are excited about our new partnership with American Securities to continue investing in product innovation, geographic expansion and growing our aftermarket sales across all of our segments.” In the same release, Michael Sand, a managing di-

rector of American Securities, said CPM’s “leading technology, brand reputation and long-standing customer relationships make [the company] a strong fit for our investment strategy.” Pellet Mill Magazine reached out to Amy Harsch, American Securities’ media contact, to inquire about the acquisition, but she had no comment. “It is our policy to not provide comment or interviews beyond what has been issued in press releases,” Harsch says. Gilbert says from an overall operations standpoint, nothing much has changed since the acquisition—

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More than 1,000 CPM wood pellet mills are in operation today throughout the world. PHOTO: CALIFORNIA PELLET MILL

likely a welcomed observation for CPM’s loyal customers. Pelleting CPM’s first pellet mill built in the 1930s was a flat die machine. “Shortly after that, the company switched to a ring die pellet machine and gear-drive units,” Gilbert says. “We are one of the only pellet mill manufacturers that uses a gear drive. Our pellet mills don’t have the issues you see with beltdrive machines.” He says belt-drive mills often feature two motors whereas CPM’s units utilize one motor directly coupled to the gear drive. “This gives our pellet machines 97 percent efficiency compared to some of the belt-drive machines that can be as low as 89 percent efficient,” Gilbert says. “This is critical because you want to put as much energy as you can into making pellets, not wasting it to efficiency losses.” The gear drive is the main differentiator between CPM machines and the competition, Gilbert says. “It provides the ability to do

maintenance quickly, such as changing dies. It can take up to eight hours to change dies on some machines. On ours you can do it within two hours to get the customers up and running again.” Since the early switch from flat to ring dies, CPM has continually adapted its base equipment for different applications, through changing speeds and increasing the strength of the main shafts and gears. “Now we work with die geometry to make sure we get proper hole counts and angles in order to get the most throughput and highest durability,” Gilbert says. CPM not only supplies the wood pellet industry with its efficient gear-drive mills, but many of its other specialty equipment as well. “When I make a quote to a prospective customer, I include everything on the dry side of the plant, with the exception of the conveyance system,” Gilbert says. “This includes everything from the hammer mill to the conditioning, pelleting and cooling systems.” Conditioning systems are

26 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

employed to control moisture of the wood flour going into the mill. “If you’re running various woods, you may have a range of moisture,” he says. “Our conditioning system can add moisture to get a consistent level throughout the material.” Gilbert says CPM Europe was at the forefront of the EU pelleting industry in the early days, supplying the necessary equipment to the burgeoning industry, which, at the time, was largely focused on feed applications. Then, as the industry moved to the U.S., and more interest grew in pelleting wood as opposed to feed products, CPM had to adapt. “CPM has always been known in the feed pelleting industry,” Gilbert says. “We have approximately 70 percent market share of the feed industry, with tens of thousands of feed pellet mills in operation.” CPM was so entrenched in the feed market, which was going strong, that it was a late entrant to the wood pellet industry. Despite its slow arrival to the wood pellet game, CPM has made up lost


Profile »

‘We are one of the only pellet mill manufacturers that uses a gear drive. Our pellet mills don’t have the issues you see with belt-drive machines.’ —Tim Gilbert, CPM Global Biomass Group’s sales and applications manager for North and South America ground relatively quickly. Today, in certain regions such as Europe and Asia, CPM has a 50 percent share of the wood pellet mill market. In other regions, such as North and South America, CPM has carved out up to a 30 percent share. More than a thousand CPM wood pellet mills are in operation today, Gilbert says. Key to securing this respectable portion has been personnel. “The main thing is having the right people in place—commissioning engineers and project management—to grow and support the market,” Gilbert says. “And we have to be equally prepared as this market moves forward again.” The biggest area of current growth, which should be no surprise to anyone in this space, is the Asian markets. “Vietnam, Korea, Thailand—we’re putting a lot of equipment out there,” Gilbert says. Other significant areas of growth, Gilbert notes, include the western U.S., Canada and South America. “Ninety percent of our business is greenfield projects,” he says, adding that a big challenge to being dependent on greenfield projects is customers securing project development financing. “The other 10 percent of our business is customers who might have old CPM mills not built for wood pelleting, and they want to replace them with our wood pellet mills,” Gilbert says. “Or prospective customers that have ‘brand X’ mills and want to replace them with CPM mills—things like that. There are also plants that’ve been shuttered and they’re restarting now. We’re

seeing people bring more idled equipment back into operation, and CPM is there to help with that too.” As Gilbert spoke with Pellet Mill Magazine in early March, he was on the road helping a customer make process alterations to ensure their CPM equipment runs properly after the changes. “We are a service-oriented

company,” he says. “The application experience CPM has is critical to the customer. The services we offer when we sell equipment—such as providing our expert commissioning engineers, and after that we have application engineers available at start-up or when the customer changes their process— are vital. We also have service technicians available to assist in the off chance there is a breakdown, or if they need more training on maintenance items. But again, as our tagline says, with the CPM gear-drive machine, ‘It just runs.’” Author: Ron Kotrba Senior Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine 218-745-8347 rkotrba@bbiinternational.com

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PHOTO: NRRI

BIOMASS CONVERSION:

MOVING ADVANCED CARBON MATERIALS TO MARKET

A

NRRI is experimenting with a variety of pellet shapes and binders to create enhanced BTU output biomass-based fuel products. BY JUNE BRENEMAN

s demand for composites in automotive, construction, aerospace and electronics sectors expands, there will be an increasing need for advanced carbon materials from biobased resources. But there are hurdles to moving new materials to market. Is your business ready to address this market opportunity? The Natural Resources Research Institute, an applied research arm of the University of Minnesota in Duluth, has a pilot demonstration-scale biomass conversion lab specifically

designed to deliver industry-relevant production capabilities, support commercialization efforts and reduce private sector capital investment risk. An on-site, pilot-scale hydrothermal carbonization unit can process high moisture content biomass, eliminating the need to dry the biomass materials before conversion to higher carbon products. The NRRI Biomass Conversion Lab produces carbon-based, natural feedstocks using a rotary dryer and high-temperature kiln combined with compaction equipment. The

unique drying and roasting capacity at the lab can convert a variety of biomass species, from wood chips and forest residuals to agricultural byproducts like corn stover or switchgrass. Carbon-based, sustainable feedstocks include activated carbon, charcoal briquettes and pellets, agglomerated biochar, solid biofuel briquettes and pellets, advanced inoculant carriers and biobased fertilizers, advanced plastics compounding fillers, biochar powders, and other value-added, high-carbon products.

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pellet Mill Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).

28 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019


Contribution » Market, Testing Opportunities The carbonization of raw biomass feedstock to desired fixed carbon content allows for the creation of a variety of agglomerated structures, from such as 2-4 millimeter (mm), free-flowing spherical beads to 0.25-1.5-inch solid biofuel briquettes. Depending on the application, very fine powder material to wellcompacted agglomerated products can be routinely produced. Advanced products for battery and electronic applications can be derived from the processed biomass. NRRI’s lab has rotary briquetting machines and pellet mills to densify enough carbonized feedstock to allow industrial evaluations for testing the produced solid fuels. On-site analytics are available to validate and document fuel specifications and chemical content to meet international and domestic fuel standards. NRRI has technical expertise in creating advanced agglomerates to meet targeted or desired product specifications. A variety of binders can be tested for efficacy. Laboratory facilities can take gram quantity formulations to barrel quantities for trial sales or performance testing and validation. NRRI partners with industry in a variety of R&D applications and contract service work. Nonfuel products can be developed for field testing or for use in industrial markets such as plastic compounding. Equipment Overview The equipment in NRRI’s lab includes the following. Torrefaction Kiln: A 2-foot by 24-foot rotary kiln capable of generating up to 6 tons of woody biomass chips daily into high-energy content, torrefied feedstocks at temperatures spanning 250 to 950 degrees Celsius. NRRI has demonstrated the ability to deliver uniform, dry solid products that meet targeted fuel specifications similar to western coal. In addition, chars and activated carbon are new products that can be produced with the established capabilities. The kiln has the capability to process materials to temperatures as high as 1,150 degrees. Hydrothermal Carbonization: A semicontinuous, 20 kilogram-per-day hydrothermal pipe reactor capable of transforming wet, grassy or fibrous biomass feedstocks into a variety of forms and shapes, from pellets to briquettes to 2-3 mm spherical agglomerate, to finely divided biochar powders and fillers.

Densification Equipment: • Komarek B220: 15 horsepower, 12-inch rotary briquetter with multiple-sized pockets and dies capable of up to 300-pounds-perhour output. • CPM 40 horsepower pellet mill: Capable of up to 500 pounds per hour, equipped with a variety of die configurations spanning from one-eighth to one-fourth-inch pellets or even three-fourth-inch cubes. • Hobart extruder: 5-inch screw equipped with 3-4 mm die plates. Transforms wet, pasty feed stocks into 3-4 mm extrusions. • 30-inch coating spheronizer: Capable of transforming wet biochar or biocoal extrudate into 3-4 mm spherical, coated beads such as those used in the fertilizer sector. NRRI’s lab has a rotary briquetting machine and pellet mills to densify enough carbonized feedstock to conduct a burn trial at a power plant. On-site analytics are available to validate and document fuel specifications and content to meet international and domestic fuel standards. NRRI has technical expertise in creating advanced agglomerates to meet targeted or desired solid fuel specifications. A

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variety of binders can be tested for efficacy, and laboratory facilities can take gram quantity formulations to barrel quantities for trial sales or performance testing and validation. NRRI partners with industry in a variety of R&D applications and contract service work. Future processing equipment includes a demonstration-scale, moving-bed carbonization system that is currently being installed at the facility to complement the kiln-based process. In late 2019, a new, steam-based boiler system will be implemented, capable of producing 100 kilowatts of electricity using biomass-based fuels with a direct grid connection. The current technologies at NRRI’s Biomass Conversion Lab, along with the new torrefaction system and advanced generator coming in late 2019, can accelerate the transition of biomass to new market opportunities and reduce industry risk. Contact: Don Fosnacht Director, NRRI Energy Initiative Director dfosnach@d.umn.edu 218-788-2682

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,Žƚ^ƉƌŝŶŐƐ͕ZͻĂƌLJ͕EͻKƌŽŶŽ͕D ǁǁǁ͘ŵƐĞĐŽ͘ĐŽŵͻϱϬϭͲϯϮϭͲϮϮϳϲ WWW.BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM/PELLET 29


« Marketplace

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International Biomass Conference & Expo

Erin P.B. Zasada

John D. Schroeder

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30 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2019

The 13th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo will take place February 3-5, 2020, at the Gaylord Opry Resort & Convention Center, Nashville, Tennessee. This dynamic event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals.

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2019 March/April Pellet Mill Magazine  

The Equipment Innovation, Maintenance and Repair issue

2019 March/April Pellet Mill Magazine  

The Equipment Innovation, Maintenance and Repair issue