Lignetics: Manufacturer of Premium Wood Pellets, Pres-to-Logs® Fire Logs, and Fire Starters

Welcome to Lignetics' blog where we will be posting current information about the wood pellet, fire log, and fire starter industry. We welcome your comments and additions as we develop what we hope will be an up-to-date information center on all developments concerning wood pellets and fire logs.

By John Davis


The home state for Arbor Day, the national holiday honoring trees, is handing out some money to help develop woody biomass into energy. The Nebraska Forest Service is offering two cost-share assistance grants that could cut utility costs for private, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Part of the new TREES Heat Nebraska program, these grants are designed to help establish woody biomass utilization markets, specifically for heating and cooling and for generating electricity…
Organizations that could benefit include municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, livestock and agricultural facilities and horticulture greenhouses.

“The grants will help cover the upfront costs of installing wood-fueled energy systems,” said Adam Smith, NFS forest products utilization team leader. “Historically there has been a lack of capital assistance for the development and installation of these energy systems, often derailing potential projects. Utilizing these grants will allow organizations to more quickly benefit from fuel savings—potentially realizing a 50 percent energy savings per month,” Smith said.
Two different types of grant funding are available:

1) cost-share assistance to public, private, for-profit and not-for-profit agencies or organizations located in Nebraska to purchase and install woody energy systems, including the construction of new systems and the renovation or expansion of existing energy systems;
2) cost-share assistance for contractual services for technical engineering feasibility studies that investigate the potential for wood energy use. NFS encourages facilities to engage with NFS early in the project planning process.

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From the Washington Times
By Mary Esch

    TROY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched a $27 million initiative to build the market for high-efficiency, low-emissions wood heating systems in the state.

The program, launched Tuesday at Troy-based Evoworld, a maker of high-efficiency wood-pellet boilers, is aimed at developing more clean technology manufacturing in the state along with a skilled heating system installer base and sustainably harvested wood fuels from state forests.

The money is coming from New York’s share of proceeds from the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

John Rhodes, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the program will lower costs for efficient, low-emissions wood heating systems for residential and commercial installation.

“In rural New York, many homeowners spend up to 30 percent of their income just heating their homes,” said Matt McArdle, chairman of the New York Bioenergy Alliance. He said the technology exists today to provide a renewable, lower-cost alternative to fossil fuels.

The Renewable Heat NY program will offer incentives to retire and recycle highly polluting outdoor and indoor wood boilers and stoves and replace them with efficient, low-emissions wood heating systems.

A new residential pellet heating system costs about $2,000 to $6,500. NYSERDA is offering a $1,000 incentive for homeowners who buy a new, high-efficiency, lower emissions pellet stove and recycle an existing, highly polluting wood stove. Financing is available for the remaining cost. A small commercial pellet boiler costs about $22,000, and NYSERDA will provide an incentive equal to 25 percent of the installed cost. Large commercial installations can receive an incentive of 25 percent of the installed cost, up to $150,000.

“NYSERDA will jump-start the initiative with large anchor projects, which will help increase demand for wood pellets and decrease the costs for smaller residential and commercial customers as the market grows,” Rhodes said.

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From Biomass Magazine
By Tim Portz

Focused on innovation, reliability and efficiency, pellet press manufacturers are keeping pace with demands of rapidly expanding pellet markets.

Machine design and manufacturing history books are littered with stories of machines that were initially designed for a particular task in a particular industry, but were modified to perform a similar task in an altogether different industry. The story of wood pelleting presses is one of them. The idea of compressing materials into a pellet originated in the feed industry as a way to conglomerate a variety of feed ingredients. Livestock farmers were discovering that their animals were picking out and eating only certain ingredients from feed bunkers and leaving behind other ingredients, including important nutrients. Pelletizing presses emerged as a means of solving this problem, as these varied components were pelletized forcing livestock to consume every component of the ration.

“In the late ‘80s, those presses underwent some modification so that they could handle the stress of pelletizing wood. Pellets made from feed products pelletize much easier than wood,” says Mike Curci, capital sales manager of biomass for Andritz. Scott Anderson, general sales manager for CPM, echoes that sentiment. “Pelleting wood is not a single thing. It is one of the most difficult things that you can attempt to pelletize,” he says. “The customers have very tight quality specifications. It is a real challenge taking a natural product with the variations that you are going to get in nature and spitting out a consistent, tightly controlled final product.”

The fundamentals of making a wood pellet are common throughout the industry. Essentially, making a pellet is an exercise in extrusion. Woody material is driven through a die under extreme pressure and cut to length. Material is forced completely through the die by new material entering the other end of the die.

It is here that the commonalities end and the differences between pellet presses begin to become evident. While subtle variations abound from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally pellet presses can be distinguished from one another in two ways. The first is the means by which power from the motors is delivered to the pellet press. The second is the shape of the die itself.

Gear Driven vs Belt Driven

All pellet presses rely on horsepower generated by large electric motors. The manner in which this power is delivered to the press itself is where the differences can be found. The power from these motors is transferred either by gears or a belt. Both gear-and belt-driven pellet presses can be found throughout the industry, and the manufacturers of each stand ready to articulate the value of their approach.

“We are a gear-driven pellet mill,” says Anderson. “Some customers, many users, have a feeling that a gear drive is a less desirable design than a belt drive design. That’s a situation that we frequently have to overcome. We talk about the robustness, the lower overall maintenance cost of a single reduction gear drive, versus the cost of replacing belts, even if it’s just the preventative maintenance aspect and the energy efficiency of a gear drive versus a belt drive, which can be substantial.”

 Manufacturers of belt-driven pellet presses are quick to remind their prospects and customers of the risk of  using gear-driven presses: the shock that results when wet material or tramp metals show up in the pelleting chamber and that sudden energy is transferred directly back to a gear box. “The v-belt drive protects the pellet mill from severe shock loads and pelleting surges, thus reducing potential damage to the motor and machine,” says Curci about Andritz’s belt-driven approach.

Gear-driven manufacturers note that belts cannot completely transfer the energy from the motor without some loss, while belt-driven manufacturers assert that the power loss with belts is modest. Jase Locke, the biofuels application manager at Ponca City, Okla.-based Bliss Industries says of Bliss’s belt-driven presses, “We feel that with our machine the way it is set up and driven, our belt is 95 percent efficient transferring that horsepower from the motor down to the front end.”

Ring Die vs Flat Die

A difference that is easier to visually discern is the shape and position of the pellet die itself. The names of the dies aptly describe their differences in shape, but there are also differences between the two approaches that are not immediately evident. In ring die pellet presses, the die itself moves around a series of rollers, whereas in flat die pellet presses, the die is stationary and the rollers move around a vertically oriented shaft and deliver power downward onto the die.

Patrick Clark, Amandus Kahl vice president of sales and marketing, points to the advantages of this die orientation, saying, “feedstock that is light and fluffy and has difficulty flowing can create problems for pellet producers. With a flat die press the material comes straight into the pelleting chamber via gravity. We also have an excellent transfer of energy for hard materials; the woods, and the hulls off of cereal grains.”

Normal Wear and Tear

For pellet producers, the name of the pellet-press game, regardless of style, is to keep them up, on line and making pellets. Any downtime a producer experiences, whether planned or unplanned, means lost revenue. Pellet press original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) know and keep this top of mind as they design and build their machines. “I think the biggest key to a pellet producer’s success is efficiency and reliability,” says Curci. “We all know that margins are very slim and if we can help protect those margins for the producer, that is key.”

Pellet press OEMs deploy a number of design strategies to extend the lifetime of the wearable parts while also trying to synch up component life cycles so that items are ready to be serviced or replaced at or around the same time.

Amandus Kahl extended the life of bearings by slowing down the main shaft. “Our main shaft speed is approximately four times slower than others, so we’ve got increased bearing life,” says Clark.

For Bliss Industries, distributing roller wear evenly in its three-roller presses synchronizes roller wear for the 33 plants that operate their presses. “If you look at a two-roll press, the leading roll gets about 70 percent of the material, and the back roll gets 30 percent,” says Locke, “so that leading roll wears out faster than the back roll. With the Bliss three-roll press and the way we feed it, each roll gets about 33 percent of the material. In pellet facilities, down time means lost money, so we want everything to wear out those rolls evenly.”

In an increasingly competitive environment, press OEMs are acutely aware of the ongoing costs of operating their and their competitor’s presses. “If our capital expense is higher,” says Anderson, “we’ve got to demonstrate our value through a lower overall operating expense.”

Robust Demand Across Entire Industry

Articulating their competitive advantages is top of mind for OEMs as the pellet market continues to experience a robust period of growth. For CPM, the robust activity in planning and building of export-scale facilities drove a decision late last summer to put together a sales and marketing team with an exclusive focus on this market. “That demand is certainly one of the things that showed us that we need to carve out a group dedicated solely to the wood pellet industry,” says Anderson. “That was a decision that was made due to two main factors. One is the predominance of European companies that are either partially or wholly owners of new industrial wood pellet plants that are being built in the Americas, as well as that group’s broader experience with modern pellet plants.”

Curci, too, sees increased activity with producers and developers eyeing the growing export market. “What we’re seeing is a trend where we’re moving away from the infancy of the industry and we are starting to mature,” he says. “With that maturity we’re seeing a lot of activity with large-scale producers.”

While all OEMs are aggressively calling on and targeting the up-and-coming fleet of export-scale facilities, no one is overlooking the continued opportunities amongst existing, operating pellet mills that service the residential market, particularly after last winter’s heating season. “Some of these smaller facilities, especially with last year’s heating season being as strong as it was, now have the opportunity and the ability, both financially and marketwise, to add a little extra capacity,” Curci says.
Clark agrees. “That 50,000 to 100,000 ton a year market is still there with last winter’s extreme cold and extreme fuel prices, the wood pellet market is still there to offset that,” he adds.

Locke notes that existing Bliss customers are thinking similarly. “We’ve seen our existing customers adding capacity going into this year’s heating season and we’re very hopeful that they do so.”

Still, the market inertia delivered by the rapidly growing demand for wood pellets overseas is moving press OEMs to react, with both organizational changes and design changes. Dieffenbacher has introduced a pellet press that is capable of producing up to 20 tons of pellets per hour from a single unit. CPM continues to support four manufacturing centers globally and has just opened a parts and service facility in Jackson, Miss., to support customers in the Southeast U.S. Bliss Industries, while admittedly a much smaller organization, is feeling the market pull created by this export market after having won the business for pellet presses at the recently built and commissioned, Go Green International pellet facility, a 200,000-ton facility near Paige, Texas.

Growing industries generate profits and drive reinvestment within their supplier base. As the pellet industry grows, innovation will undoubtedly continue to emerge from the industry’s enviable stable of pellet press OEMs.

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From Biomass Magazine
By Erin Voegle


The USDA has published its Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, a document that builds on progress made to date to identify voluntary actions that can be taken to reduce methane emissions through the use of biogas systems. It outlines strategies to overcome barriers limiting further expansion and development of a robust biogas industry in the U.S. The USDA also noted that the roadmap supports the U.S. dairy industry’s 2008 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by 2020.  The Biogas Opportunities Roadmap is related to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was released in June 2013, and the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, which was released by the White House in March.

As part of the March 28 release of the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the White House indicated the USDA, U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Energy would release a biogas roadmap this summer, an action that has now been completed with the Aug. 1 publication of the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap. In March, the White House’s strategy also noted the EPA would take action to reduce methane emissions from new landfills. Proposed rulemaking to do that was released on June 30.  
The roadmap estimates there are currently approximately 2,000 sites in the U.S. producing biogas. With proper support, more than 11,000 additional biogas systems could be deployed in the U.S. “If fully realized, these biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more than 3 million American homes and reduce methane emissions equivalent to 4 to 54 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the annual emissions of between 800,000 and 11 million passenger vehicles,” said the authors in the report.

Within the roadmap, the USDA, EPA and DOE outline four specific actions the federal government will take to increase the use of biogas. First, the USDA, EPA and DOE will promote biogas utilization through their existing agency programs by ensuring that existing criteria for technical and financial assistance considers the benefits of biogas systems. This includes leveraging more than $10 million in research funding to enhance the economic viability and benefits of biogas systems and coproducts and strengthening programs that support the use of biogas for clean energy, transportation fuel, renewable chemicals and biobased products.

Second, the initiative will foster investment in biogas systems. To help overcome the financial barriers to widespread investment in biogas systems, the USDA will lead efforts to improve the collection and analysis of industry financial and technical data needed to track the performance of anaerobic digesters, evaluate current loan and grant programs for opportunities to broaden the financing options available for biogas systems and review federal procurement guidelines to ensure products of biogas systems are eligible for and promoted by applicable government procurement programs.

Third, the USDA, DOE and EPA will aim to strengthen markets for biogas systems and products. This includes the review of opportunities to overcome barriers to integrating biogas into electricity and renewable natural gas markets, including the modernization of existing federal incentives provided for renewable energy generation.  In addition, USDA, EPA and DOE will drive the creation of tools to help industry broaden the market development for energy and non-energy biogas systems products.
Finally, the USDA will establish a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Working Group that includes participation from the DOE, EPA and dairy and biogas industries. In collaboration with industry, the working group will publish a progress report in August 2015 that identifies and prioritizes policies and technology opportunities to expand the biogas industry and reduce GHG emissions.

Representatives of the American Biogas Council have weighed in on the release of the roadmap, noting its potential to boost current efforts to expand the biogas industry. "Federal agency commitments in the biogas roadmap will boost industry efforts already underway to grow U.S. biogas business," said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the ABC. "Biogas system technologies are commercially proven but certain existing policies, plus a lack of awareness and recognition of biogas system benefits, limit industry growth. The activities outlined in the Biogas Roadmap, when properly executed, will take a large step forward to remove obstacles currently limiting construction of new biogas systems."

"While the roadmap appropriately increases federal and local government focus on the significant environmental benefits biogas systems bring to air, water and soil, we in the industry also see the opportunity to build strong businesses," said Wayne Davis, chairman of the board of the ABC. "The policy adjustments and new voluntary initiatives in the biogas roadmap will help create a more fertile environment to stimulate business growth using programs and resources already in place, but better coordinated and utilized."

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federal, said the roadmap will help stimulate the merging biogas market in ways that could provide revenue-generating opportunities for dairy farms. “This validates the proactive and voluntary path the industry is already taking to reduce methane emissions, and provides direction for future actions and opportunities,” he said.

A full copy of the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap can be downloaded from the USDA website.

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