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Wood Pellet Mills: Cutting Operational Costs When the Industry is Growing

Biomass fuels have been watched for many years now, leading to questions of environmentally friendly options, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. From these conversations, wood pellets have emerged as the fastest growing biomass option over the past 10 years. One of the key reasons is the European Commission’s 2020 climate and energy package, says the US Energy Information Administration. Their goal is to decrease overall greenhouse gas emissions, ensure energy from renewables and improve energy efficiency; each of these categories by 20%.

These objectives have increased production in the United States, to the point of making the United States the “single largest wood pellet producer in the world” according to Forbes.com.

With the demand of wood pellets increasing so quickly, Wood Pellet Producers are expected to keep up. That means increasing their production, warehousing and shipping, not to mention their staffing numbers. So when you are paying out in so many directions to appease the demand, where are you able to keep your costs down? Answer: Wear Materials

“Movers and Shakers” of Wood Pellets
Materials require transportation. As the logs or remnants of wood are brought in to Pellet Mills, they need to be moved or transported around the facilities. Typically, this is done on some form of truck. The truck beds are having consistent impact from the wood being dropped onto it. Regardless of the size of wood, over time the impact will destroy the bed, making a replacement necessary and adding costs to the organization. However, with the correct through-hardened steel, your truck bed can be insured with a liner to take the brunt of the impact. The liners can be replaced as needed, providing a strong layer to the truck with minimal overall costs.

Not to mention, another benefit of through-hardened wear steel, you are able to line your truck bed and still add minimum weight. The through-hardened steel will enable you to utilize a thinner gauge, typically yielding a lower cost, and providing 3-5 times the wear life of commodity AR wear steel. This lighter weight ensures more wood being processed at one time.

As the material is being shaken through screens during processing, the wood chips are hitting the face of the screen. The impact will damage and wear out the screen overtime. If the screen was made with wear steel, instead of mild steel, then it could withstand a longer lift. Not only providing less downtime, but also decreasing your stocked replacement inventory. Allowing your costs to be used elsewhere in the growing demands of the industry.

“Conveying” the Importance
Conveyors are essential to producing wood pellets. There are multiple transfer points throughout the process that the wood chips are moved with conveyor systems. With wood pieces repetitively moving along the conveyor belt, they create an immense amount of friction and abrasion to the walls of the conveyor. This friction wears down the walls and will require the processes to stop if wholes appear in the walls. Stopping means, downtime and higher labor costs.

To keep these costs down, a superior material needs to be put in place. Chromium carbide overlay plate is ideal for high abrasion settings such as this. As the wood is moving the overlay is taking the beating, while protecting the walls of the conveyor. Should the chromium carbide overlay wear through, the time and replacement costs are lower than replacing the system. Especially, once they part has been used once, it can be made repeatedly.

“Hammer”-mill It Home
Hammer mills are a vital part of the wood pellet process. They pulverize the wood and pushes it through a number of areas typically including screens, grate bars, and hammers. Each of these pieces will wear down over time as they hit and beat the wood pieces through the mill. Consider changing out these pieces with ones made of through-hardened wear steel and see the effects of your savings. You’ll see a longer stint of the mill needing less servicing, equating to more product produced. The through-hardened steel can take the impact of the material against the hammers/bars/screens and process better than any AR steel available. More product produced will also entail higher numbers for your wood yard and lower overall operation costs.

There is a lot data to support the belief that the wood pellet industry is going to continue to grow, even with a dip in this past year's production due to a warmer winter. As it does, operational costs will continue to grow with it. You can keep it in check with the right materials. Through-hardened wear steel and chromium carbide overlay will help with downtime costs, inventory stock, and labor costs by extending your equipment’s production life. These simple, yet profound, changes will assist your company with keeping your bottom line in place.

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