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A new twist on pellets

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by Richardin52, Jul 4, 2008.

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  1. Richardin52

    Richardin52 Member

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    Here’s a thought. I’ve been looking overseas at small pellet plants for about a year now. There is a lot of junk coming out of China but there is also some pretty good products and the trick is to sort out one from the other. For instance, there is a company in the US called Pellet Pro that sells an imported small pellet- making machine. I know someone who bought one and it was total junk. I also have seen several good machines coming out of China that made pellets.

    Anyway, I have found a company that sells what they call a small pellet plant that will produce from 250 lbs. To 1000 lbs. of pellets per hour (they also make larger plants too). This consists of a grinder, a drier, a pellet maker, and a cooler. I have been talking to a rep from this company for about a year now and the machine sounds pretty good. He has sent me pictures of the equipment and quite a bit of info on it. He is also telling me that if I use dry hay, I will not need the drier. I have a farm in central Maine and I cut about 221,000 lbs. of hay per year. I have been talking to a pellet mill near me about selling them hay. (I think I will need to re-seed my fields to Switch Grass) For those of you that are unfamiliar with Switch Grass, pellets made from this grass burn hotter that wood pellets but they also have more ash. I do not see this as much of a problem because there is so little ash with wood pellets if these grass pellets put out say 1/3 more ash we are still talking a very small amount of ash.

    Anyway I’m wondering if it would be feasible to form some type of co-op or something where people could invest into the machinery and then get switch grass fuel pellets for about ½ what they pay for pellets retail. Or even less if they wanted to help run the machinery too. I figure if enough people were willing to put up a little capital it would not take a whole lot to buy into something like this.

    What’s in it for me? I would have a ready outlet to sell my hay right on my farm and get a good price for it. If I can sell more hay than I currently produce I could cut more hay near my farm and increase my on farm income. Besides that I will be getting my own fuel pellets out of my own hay for just what I have invested in equipment and my time. I currently also have rentals that I supply heat to. My fuel costs to heat these buildings would be reduced substantially if I use my own hay. Also if this worked on my farm it could work on other farms and is could have a very positive impact on farms state wide.

    Your thoughts are welcome.

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  2. jawquin

    jawquin Member

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    Interesting but I believe there is quite a bit more ash generated from grass. I'm not sure the current stoves produced are ready to burn grass, hay, switchgrass pellets etc without alot of user interference. Some stoves will handle the grass pellets but there is going to be considerable more dumping and cleaning. I could be wrong though. Here is a link from a study done a few yrs ago. Good luck. ;-)

    http://www.grassbioenergy.org/res/pellet_stove_demo.asp

    You can try your stove out to see how it works by going to the feed store and buying some alfalfa pellets for a test. It will be interesting. :)
  3. ugenetoo

    ugenetoo New Member

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    if you have a stove thats set up to burn corn or other grains, you probably would be able to burn grass pellets.
    its not so much the ash that gives the problems, but the hard rocklike substance (not unlike coal ash) called clinker that is left after everything else in the pellet is burned.
    the stove needs to be able to physically deal with this clinker material.
  4. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    Knowing what I know from my experience with a grinder type ( disabled and working fine without for over a year now by me) that would be a serious consideration. The stirrrer as its called breaks up corn clinkers and send them through the small holes under the burn pan into the ash pan. I would think it would work the same way with the grass debris. Me thinks that perhaps larger and more holes would be better via a custom made burn pot. I am waiting, welder in hand for the opportunity to try some. Just like corn I bet you could "get away with" burning a certain mixture with pellets. Pellets are a fantastic catalyst for crappy too damp corn.
  5. ugenetoo

    ugenetoo New Member

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    hey driz
    i think the clinker material is the same whether grass pellets or grains. it all seems to burn up leaving what i believe to be silica that is taken up into the plant material throughout the growing season.
    thats my story anyway and im sticking with it. ;-)
  6. mjbrown

    mjbrown Feeling the Heat

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    alfalfa pellets...are these like rabbit pellets?something you can buy at a feed store?

    mike
  7. jawquin

    jawquin Member

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    Burn some grass, hay, alfalfa pellets in your stove. Let me know how much tinkering or cleaning you have to do. Maybe I tried bad ones and there is only 3 to 4 times much work. :bug:
  8. mkmh

    mkmh New Member

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    I was watching "How its made" last night and they reviewed how Charcoal briquettes are made. It was interesting as waste sawdust is of course one of the primary materials used. They also mix in a fair amount of anthracite coal dust.
    It occurred to me that it might be cool if they could start adding some of that to the wood pellet mix. I would think these types of pellets would get a much hotter, slower burn a provide a lot more BTUs per pound at only a small increase in price.

    Would not burn as clean i'm sure, and might void a pellet stove warrantee, but I would think as the saw dust becomes more scarce pellet manufacturers are going to start mixing all kinds of stuff in the blend.
  9. Richardin52

    Richardin52 Member

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    There is a lot of interest in the use of grass biofuels in the industry right now. Both the US and Canada have done multiple studies with the use of Switch Grass as a pellet fuel. Here are a few sites

    http://www.reap-canada.com/bio_and_climate_3_2.htm

    This one shows a small clip about using Switch Grass Pellets in Canada;

    http://www.pelletstove.com/switchgrass.html

    Sounds to me like it just might be the fuel of the future because it will be a lot cheaper than wood pellets.

    Rich
  10. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Don't think a co op would work. Groups of people most generally don't all think the same or might have different goals in a situation like that. Just like most family business arangements or partnerships don't work.
  11. Red Sun

    Red Sun New Member

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    One problem to overcome might be that crop fields need to be rotated every odd year, or so. Given that new (demand) pellet mills are coming online (Strong, Athens, or, NH) and the potential (commodity) for sawgrass. Your plan could also allow for those that need (feed) legumes to consider sharing, or, opt-in to use, dedicated fields, for a co-op to supply the pellet mills. Then, you could effectively have a steady supply of crop(s) to generate proper (wealth) revenues.

    The potential for a mill always exist only that the land usage is likely the key factor for this to work as well as it could. If a large scale pellet mill produces 100,000 tons of pellets and requires 30,000 tons of sawgrass stock, you'd then have to carefully plan for and dedicate equipment to make good on delivery. That I think is the challenge for the co-op to begin with, or, without its own pellet mill.
  12. ugenetoo

    ugenetoo New Member

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    ive been mixing in a small (less than 5%) amount of hard rice coal when burning grain in my harmon pc-45s. it seems to help deal with the clinker formation and it adds btus to the mix. too much though, and the stir rod tends to warp or break.
  13. Benski

    Benski Member

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    Rich,

    I am located near Montreal and I have met with Roger Samson from Reap-Canada a few times and I am also a graduate of Macdonald College where the are based.

    We are also farming here (grain corn and pigs) and have done a few trials at establishing 13 acres of switchgrass. It didn't establish well, so it is all back into soybean this year.

    It would be of great interest to us to own a small pellet machine. Another farmer about 1 hour drive from me is buying this unit from Oliotechnology from France:

    http://www.oliotechnology.fr/products-pellet|mills-en.html

    It sells for something like 6800$ CA. It is quite similar to the chinese units, but it's supposed to have better dies and rollers that can last 1000hr. The wear parts cost 600$CA.

    (I apologize, I think the link may not work as I am writing it...)

    On a larger scale, I have met with a coop promoter from Misouri called ShowMe Energy. They are more oriented to selling pellets to CHP powerplants (big things). Try www.goshowmeenergy.com

    Eventually we would like to produce enough switchgrass pellets to run our grain dryer on 100% pellets instead of propane. It requires 3 000 000 BTU/h.

    I will continue browsing in this forum as there seem to be quite a bit of infos here.

    In the mean time, I need to buy myself a pellet stove for my own house and get hands on experience with pellets.

    Thanks,

    Ben
  14. Sting

    Sting Feeling the Heat

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  15. Benski

    Benski Member

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    We initially thought about switchgrass because it would fit well in very small fields 1-2 acres we have around farm buildings and located between a road and a drainage ditch. Not convenient at all for an articulated tractor, so we'd establish SG and no more need to work with soil implements. Plus we get poor yield in those fields, but the costs for seeds, fertilizer and fuel are the same.

    Other than that, we could really use corn as fuel as well.

    Thanks,
  16. pete324rocket

    pete324rocket Feeling the Heat

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    albert county, new brunswick
    saw this advertised on kijiji ...a pellet mill, and the contact is from prince edward island, but the link to the web site does not work,so make sure you know who you are talking to,if you are interested. For some reason,I can't post the link,says "blacklisted" so I will delete the http and m,aybe you can go from there

    moncton.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-business-industrial-Make-your-own-pellets-W0QQAdIdZ139989365

    there are videos of the machine working on youtube, search for "lawsonmills" Apparently they are a manufacturer.
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