Electric charcoal kiln -- candidate technology to reduce pellet cost

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EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,424
SE North Carolina
I know charcoal is dusty, and it's not better than pellets, but pellets are expensive. $275/ton. because it requires a big central factory to make, transporting wood from field to this central factory, and from factory to end users all cost money.

Cord wood cannot be automatically loaded into stove, plus the chimney sweep trouble.

Charcoal can be cooked and granulated in much smaller scale, could be made almost anywhere from any biomass. This reduces the capital, collection and distribution cost that make pellets more expensive than natural gas.

If we can make charcoal for less than $400/ton, it's a big price advantage against wood pellets.
There are no maintenance free solid fuel appliances. Pellet stoves need annual cleaning just like wood stoves. The manufacturing of pellets as a byproduct of some process is pretty easy. Collect saw dust and then press them. Drying may or may not be needed. It’s a single machine. Bag or sell as bulk. As production processes I’m guessing at any commercial scale it’s probably much cheaper. unless you are running a biomass gasification system I don’t see how you could profit. Let alone pass any environmental regulations.
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
There are no maintenance free solid fuel appliances. Pellet stoves need annual cleaning just like wood stoves. The manufacturing of pellets as a byproduct of some process is pretty easy. Collect saw dust and then press them. Drying may or may not be needed. It’s a single machine. Bag or sell as bulk. As production processes I’m guessing at any commercial scale it’s probably much cheaper. unless you are running a biomass gasification system I don’t see how you could profit. Let alone pass any environmental regulations.
Yes, but pellets are still expensive. More expensive than cord wood. How do you explain its price? There must be somewhere costly in the production or distribution.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
2,424
SE North Carolina
$400/ton charcoal is 20% cheaper per BTU than $275/ton wood pellets.
A oak charcoal has a density of? Volume matters for shipping too.
Yes, but pellets are still expensive. More expensive than cord wood. How do you explain its price? There must be somewhere costly in the production or distribution.
Production of cord wood is cheaper. Distribution is more difficult. And regional as most states won’t allow it in unless it’s been kilned. Convenience costs money. We pay that extra all the time.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
Yes, but pellets are still expensive. More expensive than cord wood. How do you explain its price? There must be somewhere costly in the production or distribution.
And how much does lump charcoal cost????? How much will it cost to develop build test and certify a stove that can legally be used in a home to burn charcoal?
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
4,073
Eastern Ontario
$400/ton charcoal is 20% cheaper per BTU than $275/ton wood pellets
Does this mean that I would burn 20% fewer bags of Charcoal than wood pellets
Let's see
I burn on average 300 bags of pellets a year
20% less is 60 Bags
So I would burn 240 bags of Charcoal or 2.4 tons
So 2.4 tons of Charcoal times 400 =960$
3 tons of pellets times 275 =825$
What's Cheaper for the same BTU's?
Or like I said I'm not good a Math
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
Does this mean that I would burn 20% fewer bags of Charcoal than wood pellets
Let's see
I burn on average 300 bags of pellets a year
20% less is 60 Bags
So I would burn 240 bags of Charcoal or 2.4 tons
So 2.4 tons of Charcoal times 400 =960$
3 tons of pellets times 275 =825$
What's Cheaper for the same BTU's?
Or like I said I'm not good a Math
Sorry my math is a little wrong. Actually 350/ton charcoal is 78% price per BTU compared to 275/ton pellets.
combustion heat : charcoal 30MJ/kg,
wood pellets 18MJ/kg, roughly equivalent to PRB coal (the cheapest coal in US)
3lb of charcoal is equivalent to 5lb of wood pellets.
300 bags of pellets (1200lb) is equivalent to 720lb of charcoal.
 
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monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
And how much does lump charcoal cost????? How much will it cost to develop build test and certify a stove that can legally be used in a home to burn charcoal?
The cost of developing and certifying pellet stove is not included in the cost of pellets. I think price of pellet stoves are OK, it's the pellets that's too expensive.
You already have the experience of making pellets, right? and you cannot find any good way to reduce cost.
So I am proposing charcoal granules instead of pellets, maybe charcoal granules is a viable path of cost reduction.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
The cost of developing and certifying pellet stove is not included in the cost of pellets. I think price of pellet stoves are OK, it's the pellets that's too expensive.
You already have the experience of making pellets, right? and you cannot find any good way to reduce cost.
So I am proposing charcoal granules instead of pellets, maybe charcoal granules is a viable path of cost reduction.
No the stove development costs won't be reflected in the price of the fuel. But there is no point in developing and producing a fuel that has no stove that can use it.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,882
Downeast Maine
I know charcoal is dusty, and it's not better than pellets, but pellets are expensive. $275/ton. because it requires a big central factory to make, transporting wood from field to this central factory, and from factory to end users all cost money.

Cord wood cannot be automatically loaded into stove, plus the chimney sweep trouble.

Charcoal can be cooked and granulated in much smaller scale, could be made almost anywhere from any biomass. This reduces the capital, collection and distribution cost that make pellets more expensive than natural gas.

If we can make charcoal for less than $350/ton, it's a big price advantage against wood pellets.
Help me understand the hypothetical situation in which someone requires an automated solid fueled appliance, but also has the time to manufacture an inefficient and dirty fuel. All of the gasses coming off of the biomass when you convert it in a DIY situation are just pollution. When modern factories produce charcoal they burn the biogas to heat the biomass to make charcoal. It's much more efficient and clean than making it the way you describe. If you account for time, which is valuable, how do you come out ahead making your own charcoal instead of buying and burning pellets?
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
4,073
Eastern Ontario
Just want to point out one fundamental mistake
your price of 275 a ton for wood pellets includes markup
by the retailer and transportation
If Charcoal costs 350 a ton to make what will be the markup and transportation
Retail is not going to sell for what it cost to make the product.
the maker wants a profit as does the retailer, your 350 a ton will be more like 450 a ton
to the end-user
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
No the stove development costs won't be reflected in the price of the fuel. But there is no point in developing and producing a fuel that has no stove that can use it.
Remember wood pellets were invented to sell wood scrap to power plants that burns nut coal. It's compatible with nut coal burners and have lower transportation cost than wood chips.
Pellets stoves were developed after the wide availability of wood pellets, but pellet stove's fuel injection method comes from "wood chip burner" and "coal stoker". You can put pellets in wood chip burner or coal stoker.

Historically progress is made one step above each other, and I hope charcoal can be a step above wood pellet stoves.
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
Help me understand the hypothetical situation in which someone requires an automated solid fueled appliance, but also has the time to manufacture an inefficient and dirty fuel. All of the gasses coming off of the biomass when you convert it in a DIY situation are just pollution. When modern factories produce charcoal they burn the biogas to heat the biomass to make charcoal. It's much more efficient and clean than making it the way you describe. If you account for time, which is valuable, how do you come out ahead making your own charcoal instead of buying and burning pellets?
The 55 gallon is only a prototype.
I think a shipping container sized kiln is the most proper for town-scale charcoal production. It's easy to capture biogas and use its heat. Electricity is only for kickstarting and "finishing" the process so the charcoal don't smoke at the end consumer.
20ft shipping container = 33.1 m3 = 1170 ft3 = around 12 ton of green wood = 4 ton of charcoal ; and you only need 1 hour to load the kiln and another 1 hour to unload it, is the labor productivity high enough?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
Remember wood pellets were invented to sell wood scrap to power plants that burns nut coal. It's compatible with nut coal burners and have lower transportation cost than wood chips.
Pellets stoves were developed after the wide availability of wood pellets, but pellet stove's fuel injection method comes from "wood chip burner" and "coal stoker". You can put pellets in wood chip burner or coal stoker.

Historically progress is made one step above each other, and I hope charcoal can be a step above wood pellet stoves.
You cannot put wood pellets in most coal stokers. You will end up with a hopper fire.

If you want charcoal to be a viable fuel for heating get to work
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
The 55 gallon is only a prototype.
I think a shipping container sized kiln is the most proper for town-scale charcoal production. It's easy to capture biogas and use its heat. Electricity is only for kickstarting and "finishing" the process so the charcoal don't smoke at the end consumer.
20ft shipping container = 33.1 m3 = 1170 ft3 = around 12 ton of green wood = 4 ton of charcoal ; and you only need 1 hour to load the kiln and another 1 hour to unload it, is the labor productivity high enough?
You then need some sort of machinery to make the charcoal a consistent size so it can be fed.
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
You then need some sort of machinery to make the charcoal a consistent size so it can be fed.
Yes, a grinder to make low density charcoal rice.

have you tried pelletizing charcoal to increase its density? I know it doesn't naturally bond, what adhesive will you add? Some online videos use starch, I wonder if waste plastics shreds can be used, do they disperse well in charcoal like in sawdust?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
Yes, a grinder to make low density charcoal rice.

have you tried pelletizing charcoal to increase its density? I know it doesn't naturally bond, what adhesive will you add? Some online videos use starch, I wonder if waste plastics shreds can be used, do they disperse well in charcoal like in sawdust?
No I havnt tried it I have no desire to try it. I also have no idea what binder would work. My engineering trading was in mechanical engineering.

And no you can't use plastic. If you are trying to come up with a viable solution it can't involve burning plastic or tires etc etc
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
No I havnt tried it I have no desire to try it. I also have no idea what binder would work. My engineering trading was in mechanical engineering.

And no you can't use plastic. If you are trying to come up with a viable solution it can't involve burning plastic or tires etc etc
Sorry my engineering trading is redneck engineering, I don't know any binder that's cheap and plentiful.
Maybe sewage sludge works as a binder because it can pelletize without a binder.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
Sorry my engineering trading is redneck engineering, I don't know any binder that's cheap and plentiful.
Maybe sewage sludge works as a binder because it can pelletize without a binder.
Good luck selling that to people lol. But it may work
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,882
Downeast Maine
How is this cost or carbon effective at this point?

What you want are municipally owned and operated biomass combined power/heat plants.
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
How is this cost or carbon effective at this point?

What you want are municipally owned and operated biomass combined power/heat plants.
CHP plants need scale to be efficient.
Biomass hates scale because it's dispersed in nature. Transporting biomass to a central plant is inefficient, that's why your pellets are 3x the price of dried wood chips.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
28,473
central pa
We had several biomass power plants in this area. They are all closed now because they were not economically viable
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,882
Downeast Maine
CHP plants need scale to be efficient.
Biomass hates scale because it's dispersed in nature. Transporting biomass to a central plant is inefficient, that's why your pellets are 3x the price of dried wood chips.
You are literally suggesting a central municipal charcoal production scheme, but a central CHP biomass facility is out of the question. This doesn't make any sense.

Edit: Also, wood chips are generally free in most places. All solid fueled appliances need sized fuel for optimum efficiency.
 

monteville

Feeling the Heat
Nov 23, 2019
346
Dallas
You are literally suggesting a central municipal charcoal production scheme, but a central CHP biomass facility is out of the question. This doesn't make any sense.
I am suggesting a distributed small scale charcoal production scheme that use inputs from a town and market to the same town.