How much do you know about biomass wood pellets?
Biomass wood pellets or biomass fuel pellets are increasing being used as a new kind of renewable energy alternative to oil, gas and electricity. Much of the biomass wood pellet material comes from waste sawdust, shaving, and chips remaining after lumber production. Through the process of grinding, compressing and shaping, a pellet plant can produce wood pellets with high quality. Traditionally, trees were chopped and sawdust to make firewood which was then burned, releasing its energy for heating or to boil water. Although we have been burning firewood for thousands of years, the problem with this that we need an enclosed area to store the chopped firewood to keep it dry.
Also, burning firewood in a wood burning stove may look nice but is inefficient as the wood may be wet and does not provide enough heat throughout the home, and once burnt it produces a lot of ash and resides which need to be cleaned. Cutting down trees and burning wooden logs uses up our natural resources as well.
Wood pellets, also called “wood fuel pellets” on the other hand, are a man-made product produced under intense heat and pressure as the biomass materials are compressed into a pellet form. This gives them a uniform shape, size and density making them ideal as an alternative fuel source.
Wood fuel pellets can be used as a home heating fuel in biomass boilers or special pellet burning stoves. Pellet stoves are better than regular open wood fireplaces, because they burn cleaner with much less smoke and soot.
Because wood pellets are extremely dense and contain low moisture content (lower than 10%) means that the pellets can burn in the stove at a very high combustion temperature with improved efficiency and much lower ash content (less than 2%) compared to burning conventional firewood. On the process of production, no additives or adhesives are added. For this reason, biomass fuel pellets can be burnt directly without poisonous gas emission, and the combustion efficiency of the pellets is up to 80%. Compared with traditional fossil energy, biomass wood pellets have many advantages in human production and life. Though we don’t know how long the fossil energy will be dried up, one thing that is entirely clear is biomass wood pellets would be the most important renewable energy in the near future.
As the cost of heating our homes using fossil fuels, such as heating oil and natural gas increases, more and more people are looking at pellet heating as a serious alternative. A large number of pellet stoves, forced hot air heating furnaces and wood petted burning boilers are all available on the market to take advantage of this new biomass heating material. In some countries they are mixing and co-firing wood pellets with coal to produce electricity.
Commercially sold wood pellets are usually made in large pellet mills from recycled biomass wastes which are then compressed and extrude into pellets. But small domestic sized pellet mills are starting to become more common and affordable even for home owners.
Widely use of biomass wood pellets in the world
Biomass fuel pellets are widely used for residential heating and thermal power generation in many countries. In recent years, wood pellets have already been a staple in Europe’s energy sector, gained popularity in the United States, especially in areas where biomass energy is used for heat – as people realized the importance of sustainability on ecology and economy. Wood pellets can offer a completely sustainable alternative to other fuel sources. Considering the environmental factors, biomass wood pellets are preferable to coal for electricity generation because they burn cleanly.
By the statistics, more than 1,000,000 homes in the US currently use wood pellet stoves for heating. Convenient and widely available, biomass wood pellets are supplied on a small scale and commonly in bagged form. Increasingly now, factories, housing complexes, and office buildings, especially in Europe, are using biomass wood pellets to provide heat on a larger scale. Coal-fired electric plants in Europe have begun incorporating biomass wood pellets in their production process because of the government mandates for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions regulation. This forward-looking utility of combined fuel sources for electricity generation is the future of clean energy, ecologically sound energy creation in the United States.
Advantages of biomass wood pellets
Clean and green. Biomass wood pellets as a new kind of renewable energy alternative to coal and natural gas. Friendly to the air, during the production process, no additives or adhesives are added, what’s more, the carbon dioxide can be used for the photosynthesis of plants.
High combustion efficiency. With low moisture content, and the combustion air is easy to adjust, biomass wood pellets can be easily burnt just with a piece of paper; the combustion efficiency is up to 80%, and the heat of burning a ton of biomass wood pellets is equal to 0.8 tons of coal.
Convenience in transportation and storage. After the process of compressing, the biomass wood pellets can be easily packed and transported, which can save a lot of space and money.
Safety in use. Biomass wood pellets are produced from virgin wood and natural crop straw, free of any chemicals, so it won’t cause poisoning, blast or leak accidents.
Sustainability. After the wood pellets were burnt, the ash could be used as fertilizer to promote the growth of plants. It’s an important step to realize the sustainable use of resource.
How to make biomass wood pellets at home
With the ability for people to make their own wood pellets at home, pellet stoves either for home heating or as part of a fireplace now have more appeal than ever. Making wood fuel pellets is a little more advanced than just chopping up firewood, but with a little knowledge of how to make your own wood pellets and have the right tools it’s not that difficult.
The first step to make your own wood pellets is to get your raw material. This can be waste wood or a variety of different renewable sources and other forms of biomass. The material needs to be broken into small pieces small enough to fit through your pellet mill’s die holes for extrusion.
Wood pellet mills compress the raw material at high pressure and temperature so the biomass materials may need to be dried first to lower their moisture content. For the best quality pellets your material should be about 15% moisture content.
For some materials you will have to add binders such as vegetable oil in order to bind the pellet together. But with many softwood materials like pine and spruce they contain enough natural occurring agents to bind the pellet together. The high density of the finished wood pellets allows for convenient handling, bagging and efficient storage.
Prices of pellet stoves vary and can cost well into the thousands, but wood pellets are fairly reasonable to buy, and a little can go a long way reducing your payback period. Pellet stoves are easy to load and becoming more affordable each day so you should check with your local dealers to get a good idea of what is available and how much your installation and running costs are going to be.
Making your own biomass pellets can be classed as a green energy fuel source, in the sense that it is a carbon neutral source of energy. Carbon is consumed during the life cycle of the tree or organic crops and then released again once the pellets are burnt.