Processing wood chip for fuel: Small scale wood chip graders, wood chip driers, briquette machines and pellet machines

Your own woodchip for fuel?

Small scale wood chip graders, wood chip driers,
briquette machines and pellet machines


Harvesting, processing and burning woodchip for heat

Choosing a biomass fuel source can be a daunting affair as there is a seemingly endless list of 'considerations'. Here we discuss using home produced woodchip as a fuel source for a biomass boiler.

Harvesting

At any scale of operation, does it make commercial sense to invest in your own harvesting equipment, storage facilities, handling equipment, maintenance, insurance, labour, training and HSE? Is it be more cost effective to employ third party contractors for either the whole of the harvesting, extracting and chipping process or perhaps just one or more part of the process? It is hard work and the kit is expensive to buy and maintain. No one will argue with you that these are not the ultimate 'boys toys' but can you really justify the capital and operating costs that go with them?

Storage

  • Annually how much fuel is required (plus contingency)?
  • Have you the space and infrastructure to store and move the fuel both before and after chipping? On top of workspace necessary to process the wood, storage for forwarded logs, split logs, seasoning logs, processed chip, drying chip and ready to use chip can really add up especially if you are working a year in hand.
  • What is the optimum method of final delivery of fuel to the boilers? Auger, creeping belt, Silo, Pit?
  • Should the fuel store and delivery system cater for chip and pellet as a contingency?

    NOTE: There are many options for fuel store designs, but the final delivery system will be by either Auger or from a Silo self-feeding system. Where dual fuel is selected, the process of moving wood chip is quite different than that for pellets. Pellets do tend to break up when in a dual system, as opposed to within a dedicated pellet delivery system, the fuel remains in good condition, this is referred to the mechanical durability.

Woodchip specification and standards

For the efficient operation of any automated boiler it is important that a consistent size and quality of woodfuel is achieved. To ensure that your wood chip meets the required standard (in terms of size, quality and moisture content) for the boiler/burner, a simple common standard (CEN/TC 335 biomass standards) for end users is employed such that each batch of home produce or bought in chip will be of a consistent quality; not only for trouble free boiler operation but also to allow a much more accurate assessment of the amount of woodfuel you will need to produce the required heat and power. Wood chip particle size and moisture content being the critical considerations for self producing operations.

Woodchip Boilers

It is not really within the remit of the boiler manufacturers to consider in depth the logistics for clients wishing to process and use their own fuel but that does not mean it is any the less important. The challenge is to process a growing tree ( average moisture content of 55%) and process it to be an acceptable size, shape and dryness to be efficiently loaded and burnt by the boiler.

Logs, briquettes, pellets and wood chip are the most popular fuel options for biomass boilers however there are only a few boiler manufacturers that have dual fuel options.

Note: Of those that do supply dual fuel you should check their operating procedures what is entailed to change fuel types as a (chargeable) recommissioning visit may be required every time you change fuel types.

Generally most boiler manufacturers will offer pellet burning boilers as a preference to wood chip, but in many instances we find smaller to mid sized operations (estates, tree surgeons, wood mills etc) where self-produced wood chip is a preferred and sustainable option.

Useful Links:

Biomass Energy Centre UK government information centre for the use of biomass for energy in the UK
Woodfuel Information Pack Impartial advice from Forest Research (Forestry Commission)


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