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.
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Since the EPA decided many years ago that volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions must be controlled, state agencies and pellet plant operations, along with many others, have gone about the task of making it happen.


By Malcolm Swanson | February 27, 2015

To people outside the forest products industries, it is surprising to learn that the nice fresh pine fragrance our noses detect around a wood pellet plant is actually evidence of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  Since the EPA decided many years ago that VOC emissions must be controlled, state agencies and pellet plant operations, along with many others, have gone about the task of making it happen.  Wood naturally releases VOCs whether it is still standing in the forest, being harvested, or processed into a product such as wood pellets.  The natural VOC release is accelerated when heat is applied, as in a drying process, or when more fiber surface is exposed, as in size reduction via hammer milling.  Also, forming the dried wood dust into pellets tends to release more VOCs, because of the application of a significant amount of energy to the material and the resulting temperature rise.

Accelerated VOC release in the pellet making process is not only an emissions issue but it also represents a loss of energy from the pellets.  VOCs are natural chemical compounds that have energy content.  Obviously then, the better job we can do of minimizing the release of VOCs from the wood, the higher the energy content of the pellets.  So, the best means of VOC emission control is to, as much as possible, avoid releasing these valuable compounds from the wood in the first place.

Of course, regardless of how we process the wood into pellets, some VOCs will be released from the wood.  To keep the plant operation in environmental compliance, the VOCs released from the wood must be contained and controlled within the plant system.  There are two fundamental approaches to VOC control.  The most widely used approach is to incinerate the VOCs in a regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTO) or regenerative catalytic oxidizer (RCO) at the plant’s exhaust points.  A wet  Electrostatic Precipitator (WESP) is typically used upstream to reduce the contamination that occurs in the RTOs and RCOs.  This method is necessary when using the conventional convection type rotary dryers.  A newer approach involves using a hot oil tube dryer, operating with a hot oil temperature of about 500 degrees Fahrenheit (vs. the 1,100 F hot gas temperature of the convection dryers), to remove water while removing less of the hemicellulose.  The various compounds that make up hemicellulose are those that, when evaporated in the drying process, become VOCs.  These compounds have relatively low boiling points, so, the drying temperature makes a difference in the mass of VOCs liberated.

There is a significant difference in the economics of the pellet-making operation between these two different approaches to the VOC emissions issue.  The WESPs, RTOs or RCOs required with the conventional dryer systems are major pieces of capital equipment. They must be maintained and require fuel and electricity to operate.  By contrast, VOC control is incidental with the hot oil tube dryer.  No additional special equipment or capital equipment is needed.  Also, no purchased fossil fuel is needed.  In fact, the VOCs that are evaporated from the wood in drying, although not a lot, are used as part of the fuel to run the drying process.  So, instead of VOC destruction adding expense, it actually reduces operating cost.

One large plant has a natural gas cost of $1.25 per metric ton of pellets or $625,000 per year for 500,000 tons.  By contrast, the hot oil tube dryer system burns no fuel at all for destruction of VOCs.

In addition to the avoiding the cost of fuel and maintenance for WESP or RTO type systems, a benefit is found simply keeping in the pellets what would, in the convection dryer systems, become VOCs.  Hemicellulose has a higher heating value of 13.6 megajoules per kilogram, so, it has an energy content that is worth keeping. To determine the quantity of the VOCs being released from the wood in the pellet-making process, consider what EPA’s document, AP42, shows as the uncontrolled emission factor for condensables from the drying process of particle board making.  (EPA considers this the process most similar to pellet making.)  AP42 shows 1.1 pounds per ton. (See AP42, 10.6.2.)  For a pellet plant producing 500,000 tons of pellets per year, the uncontrolled dryer emissions of condensables would be 550,000 pounds per year. Although experience shows that the pellets actually have a little more energy per ton when the material is dried in a hot oil tube dryer, the simplest way to show some value to this is just to consider that the 550,000 pounds per year of mass largely ends up in the pellets. That means, in effect, that a producer would have an extra 250 tons per year to sell.  Since the cost of the overhead, material, and production are there either way, the entire sales price of $45,000 goes straight to the bottom line as net profit.

Going back to EPA’s AP42 emission factor for condensable VOCs, we see that it is just that, condensable VOCs.  Also, it shows only the VOCs from the drying process.  The total mass is easily twice this amount when we include noncondensables and emissions from other steps of the process such as dry hammer milling, pelletizing, and cooling.  Because the hot oil tube dryer has a hot oil heater combustion chamber available in which to burn VOCs, noncondensables are scavenged from their various sources and used almost entirely as fuel for the drying process.  This means that either some of the incoming green wood that would otherwise be used as fuel isn’t used that way and is, therefore, available to become pellets, or some purchased fossil fuel is not needed.  In either case, a conservative way to apply a value to this is to say it is about the same as the additional pellet value associated with the condensables.  So, the total additional pellet sales will be about $90,000.  Again, this total goes straight to the bottom line because all costs are already there.

As briefly mentioned above, retaining as much as possible in the pellets rather than evaporating it results in a higher energy content in the pellets. The jury is still out on exactly how much advantage, since it is virtually impossible to get a valid direct comparison but it appears to be on the order of 0.5 gigajoules per ton. Since this is anecdotal information at this point, the value is not included in the following totals.

The maintenance cost for the WESPs and RTOs and associated equipment is around $2.25 per ton or about $1,125,000 per year.  The capital cost of the equipment is about $13 million. 

This rather simplistic analysis does not attempt to address the cost of downtime associated with regularly washing the ceramic elements of the RTOs, etc. So, there is considerably more money that could be added to this bottom-line advantage calculation, if one wanted to take the time to work it out. Obviously, the assumption is made here that the capital cost and maintenance cost of the two different dryer islands (not the back end pollution controls) are at least similar.  That may or may not be true, but there is no doubt that WESPs and RTOs or RCOs are required with the convection type dryers and are not required for the hot oil tube dryer systems. 

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By Bear Mountain Forest Products

The two longest running wood pellet manufacturing companies in the U.S. have announced a merger that will create the largest residential wood pellet fuel producer in the United States. Ken Tucker, CEO of Lignetics Inc. and Bob Sourek, CEO of Bear Mountain Forest Products Inc., announced that the two companies have completed a merger, creating a company that will now have a production capacity of approximately 450,000 tons of wood pellets per year. The company will also be the only pellet manufacturing company that will have wood pellet manufacturing plants on both the East Coast and the West Coast. The combined company will have plant locations in Brownsville, Oregon; Cascade Locks, Oregon; Sandpoint, Idaho; Glenville, West Virginia; and Kenbridge, Virginia. The merger brings together some of the industry’s most well-known brands including Golden Fire, Lignetics, Bear Mountain, America's Best, Pres-to-Log, Dry Den, Cozy Den and EZ Equine.


"Completing this merger marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our two companies’ history, making us the market leader in the residential wood pellet industry in the U.S.," Tucker said.


Bob Sourek added, “We are excited about the merger with Lignetics and the ability to offer all of our customers a more diverse product offering, now from five different plant locations.”


In addition to having the market leading, high quality brands of wood fuel pellets (Golden Fire, Lignetics, Bear Mountain, America’s Best and Pres-to-Logs), the array of products that the combined company will be able to offer its customer base is now even more diverse. In the animal bedding category, products feature the patented Dry Den Animal Bedding Pellets with Zeolites, the EZ Equine 100 percent All Natural Pine Animal Bedding Pellet, and Cozy Den Premium Shavings in both pine and cedar. In the product category of fire logs and bricks, the featured products are Bear Mountain Bear Bricks and Pres-to-Logs fire logs, which have been on store shelves since the 1980’s. Additionally, the merger will strengthen the companies’ position in the BBQ pellet market with increased production and distribution of Bear Mountain BBQ Pellets.


Financing for the transaction was provided by Taglich Private Equity LLC, management and Gladstone Capital Corp., which provided subordinated debt and equity financing, along with Texas Capital Bank, who provided senior debt in support of the transaction. Tucker and Sourek also noted that the transaction will give the company the capital base to pursue expansion plans at their current facilities, as well as exploring potential future add-on acquisitions. Tucker noted, “We are excited about the growth opportunities in our business and believe we have chosen excellent financial partners to support us in our goal of being the largest and highest quality residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the U.S.”

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From Domestic Fuel.com

A group from Montana is turning waste into biodiesel. This story from KBZK-TV in Bozeman says Full Circle Biofuels in that city is making the used cooking grease from restaurants into the green fuel.


“Restaurants will have this and they will dump their used fryer oil into here. And then we’ll come and pump it out of this little hole on top whenever they’re full,” Full Circle Biofuels director Jesse Therien said.


Therien turns that waste into something people can use: biodiesel. It’s an alternative to petroleum-based diesel, with some added benefits like reduced emissions.


“It’s biodegradable, it’s nontoxic, it’s renewable and ours in particular is made from recycled materials,” Therein said.
Therien collects used fryer oil from more than 60 restaurants in Bozeman and Belgrade. “Right now we’re bringing in about 4,000 gallons a month but that is likely to double in the next little while. We have all the Walmarts in the state and then Cody, Wyoming as well,” he said.


The company says a school district and the city there have approached it to make biodiesel to go into buses and snow plows.

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By Wood Resources International LLC | February 09, 2015

Pellet exports from North America rose in the third quarter of 2014 after a stable first half of the year that could be characterized as a temporary plateau. While pellet exports to Europe were up just marginally, the increase to Asia was more noticeable. Up until 2014, more than 95 percent of wood pellets leaving US and Canadian ports were destined for Europe.

However, during 2014 there was a shift in Canadian exports from Europe to Asia, with pellet plants in British Columbia shipping record volumes to South Korea during the third quarter of 2014, as reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review. (Note. Due to irregularities with Customs data, NAWFR collects trade data from a number of sources including Canadian and US customs export data, European import data and from quarterly conversations with both pellet exporters and port contacts.)

Total Canadian overseas pellet exports rose slightly in the third quarter of 2014 from the previous quarter, but they were still 15 percent below their high of over half a million tons in the last quarter of 2013. Shipments from both Western and Eastern Canada to Europe fell in the first three quarters of 2014; in the third quarter of 2014, shipments were at their lowest level since 2011. Export volumes for the Asian market have followed a more positive trend, with increased shipments for six consecutive quarters.

British Columbia’s pellet shipments overseas will likely remain stable during most of 2015 until the first of five announced pellet mills starts commercial operation late in 2015 or early 2016. There are currently plans to add over 800,000 tons of pellet capacity in the province during 2015/16 with South Korea being the target market (read more about the expansion plans in the NAWFR, www.woodprices.com).

In the US, pellet exports continue to be dominated by bulk shipments out of the U.S. South to Europe, with only minor container volumes primarily shipped from the U.S. West Coast to Asia. The U..S overseas pellet exports rose to over 1 million tons in the third quarter of 2014, with the growth in shipments having continued without pause since late in 2011.

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