Your own Biofuel/Biomass Production Company

Agroindustrial and forestry residues, which are byproducts of key industrial and economical activities, stand out as potential raw materials for the production of renewable fuels, chemicals, and energy. The use ofwastes is advantageous as their availability is not hindered by a requirement for arable land for the production of food. Europe does not produce enough waste, and woodchips and palm kernel shells must be imported from non-traditional sources. Big investment opportu­nities are on offer here.

The crushed stalk of sugar cane (bagasse) is also an obvious biomass choice. Other agricultural byproducts are corn straw, wheat straw, rice straw, empty palm fruit bunches and rice hulls, and grass and forestry materials. Residues from citrus, coconut, and cassava processing also deserve attention as feedstock for the development of new and profitable activities. The industrial demand for renewable energy from biomass is growing exponentially and demand is out­growing supply.

The huge opportunity for woodpellets and agripellets lies in the fact that tech­nologies for pellet production and pellet use are fully developed and ready for the market. Moreover, they are highly competitive and have a wide range of benefits

compared to the use of fossil fuels. What is still missing is a general awareness of the potential and the opportunities associated with pellet use.

So what is required if you start a the woodpellet production plant? Wood and other biomass sources mentioned above can be used for pellet-making material and you will need long-term off-take agreements with wood mills to deliver the woody biomass to you. I once visited a ultra modern pellet plant in Belgium with a pellet production capacity of 100 000 tonnes. Unfortunately, they do not have enough wood delivered to them so they only can produce 50 000 tonnes! Different materials have different characteristics. It is important to get precise figures about the calorific value, ash, and nitrogen content of your pellet feedstock.

The first step is turning logs into chips and then turning the chips into a fine dust ready for the pellet mill. The moisture content of the particles must be mon­itored. If the particles have a moisture content over 15%, a drying solution will be required. If you want, for instance, to pelletize virgin timber the moisture content will be around 50% and drying will definitely be necessary. The cost of drying can also be expensive. Drying equipment will take up 30-40% of the total investment.

Therefore, sourcing a material that has a low moisture content is crucial to make the pellet production plant profitable. After drying, the biomass can be condensed and pressed through stainless steel rings. When the material is pressed through the steel rings, temperatures are high and can go up to 90°C. The pellet is still soft and the moisture content is more than 10%. The pellet is then moved up by a conveyor and through into a cooler. A special air flow cooler can cool the pellet down to room temperature and evaporate the moisture of the pellet to make it firm enough for storage and transportation. The moisture content is usually between 6 and 10% after cooling. A steady material supply is necessary for running a pellet plant. For instance, a pellet plant with a capacity of 20 tonnes per hour must have at least 700 tonnes of feedstock daily.

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