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Author Topic: Anybody making wood pellets?  (Read 1033 times)

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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Anybody making wood pellets?
« on: September 18, 2017, 09:25:30 pm »
   I've seen ads and videos of the pellet makers. I even got an unsolicited offer from some company one time to buy one but when I replied with several pointed questions like electric power requirements (3 phase or ??), moisture content of the sawdust to use. etc. And I never heard from them again. (I wish I knew other pointed questions to turn off the people trying to sell me extended warranties on my vehicles.)

   Anyway, are any small sawmill operators out there making pellets out of your sawdust? If so what kind of machine are you using and how is it working for you. Thanks.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Indyguy

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 09:09:11 pm »
I had looked at one... it ran a 50hp electric... basically they are a meat grinder on steroids with a die plate about a foot thick.   Not cheap but used ones are around

Offline rjwoelk

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2017, 11:14:27 pm »
Looked into it once or twice. Pretty expensive you need to dry your material to 12 %  the size of wood has to be just so so. Then a way to cool them. Yes all duable but at what cost. It is a crying shame to throw so much scrap into the burn pile.
I am looking at trying composting it. One bucket of manure 2 buckets wood chips. Or 1 bucket of saw dust. If one could get chicken manure right fresh maybč 1 to 6 ratio. I am getting 50 cubic ft of chainsaw chips for every 7 cord of firewood. Plus a bunch of splinters.
I had looked at one... it ran a 50hp electric... basically they are a meat grinder on steroids with a die plate about a foot thick.   Not cheap but used ones are around

Was that perhaps a feed mill pellet machine
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 02:15:02 pm »
rjwoelk,

   I don't understand your comment "Then a way to cool them." If you are pressing sawdust into pellets why would you need to cool them?

   I know it is hard to burn fresh sawdust piles but I wonder what the moisture content of fresh sawdust is and how quickly it would dry to the 12% you mention.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 03:34:31 pm »
When the pellets come out of the press they are hot and need to be cooled. Both for storage reasons and to make sure they hold together instead of making dust again.

I have looked several times at the product Silvana Trading offers. In particular they offer a complete unit in a 20ft sea can all ready to go. I've got the material to feed it but not sure of accessing a market to sell it. So as of yet I've done nothing about it. Been a couple of years now since I researched so my remembered numbers won't be accurate but I seem to remember the numbers saying it would pay off in about 3 years.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 08:22:49 pm »
   Thanks Griz. I wonder if you are not talking about a much bigger operation than I am thinking of.

   I e-mailed a company out in Colorado (I think based on machine/company name) a couple of days ago but no response so far. My experience is most experienced companies have an auto response confirming your request then inundate you with information trying to make a sale so I am getting a little more concerned every day this may be a bust like my last attempt.

   One of these days I bet one or more of the larger sawmill makers will design and sell if making fresh cut sawdust into pellets is or become economically feasible. It looks like it would be a natural sideline.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline rjwoelk

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 10:19:04 pm »
I picked up a load of hardwood in Indiana several years ago and they had been pelletizing but gave up on it just could not make money at it. They turned around and used the saw dust and planer shavings to fuel their burner for the kilns instead. There are several different kinds out of asia and india that make pellets or a 3 to 4 inch round stick. Those just keep pounding the sawdust or chips into a long tube and the high heat kind of bakes it solid. Sort of like the way a baler works a auger feeds into a tube and the plunger packs it into a tapering barrel. They looked pretty crude what I saw.
Lt15 palax wood processor,3020 JD 7120 CIH 36x72 hay shed for workshop coop tractor with a duetz for power plant

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2017, 12:30:48 pm »
They looked pretty crude what I saw.

That's exactly what I found with anything below about $10,000.00  After that they looked a little better and after about $20,000.00 they started to look like something you could trust for consistent production. But for all those that are machinists and fabricators those cheap Chinese ones look like they could be put to good work. Not for me though, I need something I can buy parts for.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2017, 12:58:08 pm »
   From the few responses here I gather the wood pellet processors are not widely used or effective using sawdust.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Magicman

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2017, 08:01:21 pm »
When I was president of our county's forestry assn., I toured a commercial pellet manufacturer's operation.  My opinion upon leaving was that if the operation was not subsidized there was no way that it could turn a profit.

They were using paper mill quality wood chips which first had to be either dried or humidified to reach the proper level of moisture content.  The chips then went through a hammer mill before they were fed into the pellet presses.  Yes, that produced a tremendous amount of heat so the pellets were cooled before being bagged.  Any amount of sawdust would prevent the pellets from properly forming and holding together.

A search for pellets here on the FF should turn up several topics.
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2017, 08:28:38 pm »
Lynn,

  Thanks. I checked this thread and see there were a couple back 8-10 years ago but it was people asking similar questions to mine. I have still not seen any reports from any members who have been successful making them.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline r.man

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2017, 11:11:34 pm »
I only know of two machines in our area, one was in a plant and I think it was a 300 HP electric motor that drove it. They made lots of pellets for a few years but eventually closed due to lack of profit. The other was a small unit bought for a woodworking shop. I think it was a 5 HP and they never did get it to make decent pellets. They tried a bunch of things but it constantly plugged the plate or stalled the motor. I was interested in the whole process so I spent some time with the fellow drilling out the plugged extrusion plate and listening to him telling me about the things they had tried with this machine. Eventually they repurposed it to some other use.
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Offline Roadrunner32

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2017, 09:30:52 pm »
Wv miller,  I have a 10"  pto powered chinese pellet mill.  I'll tell you what I know, you can pm me if you want, heck you can even come and get it to try for a while.   it's a long story as to why I got it, but  when we were fooling with it, I had a lot of other irons in the fire, so I don't think  I gave the project enough time. I did learn a few things,  we could get it to make ok pellets with leaves and dry shredded grass (think fall clean up).   when we tried sawdust, it would seize up in the die if the die wasn't warmed up, or  the dust was not super fine.  seizing up meant diassembly, and drilling out the die with a twist drill.   again, I should have spent more time on material prep. hammermilling is pretty important. I didn't do that.  I do think it would have helped.   when it did work on material it liked, it would really crank out the pellets!  Any how, i'm finally on here after years of great reading.  I'm in morgantown wv by the way, I haven't filled out my profile.   

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2017, 07:57:57 am »
RR32,

   Thx for the info and invite. Based on what you are saying here it does not look like a pellet mill is what I am looking for at this time. May check again in a few years and see if the technology has improved enough to make it worthwhile.

   Basically I was looking for a use for my wet sawdust pretty much as I generate it. If I have to spend that much time and money drying and prepping it then a lot of maintenance on the machine it would not be worth it to me. Basically at this point it seems "The juice ain't worth the squeeze." Your info was the kind of info I was looking for.

    Not sure when we may get back up to Morgantown but if I see we are coming may give you a call. Our daughter is a WVU grad from a few years back. If you get down this way we'd love to have you come see us.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline TKehl

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Re: Anybody making wood pellets?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2017, 11:47:58 am »
WV, I, like you, think this would be a good idea.  I've dug into it looking for people who have done it successfully and haven't found any on a small scale.  If someone has, I expect they could make more money with a "how to" seminar than from the pellets themselves.   :D

I think if someone were to aggregate the sawdust from several mills, they may be able to justify the additional expense for prep etc.  However, I've found several of them that went broke. 

Yet, someone is successfully making pellets as I see pallets of them outside TSC and the like.  Not sure if it's keeping a trade secret or they just use other materials other than sawdust.  ???

I suppose one could make those pressboard "logs", but I can't see them selling well other than urban areas with a fireplace for ambiance.  I think a source of "waste" heat would be needed to make even that viable.

My conclusions have been that the best uses of dust are mulch and bedding, medium for growing mushrooms, and a carbon source for compost (It's no coincidence that many Amish and Mennonite sawmills are right next to the butchers.  Waste stream + waste stream=dirt!). 
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