Pellet Press OEMs are Busy People

Discoveries made while working on a feature about pellet presses and the companies that manufacture them.
By Tim Portz | July 01, 2014

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the strength and momentum of any industry can be judged by the busyness of the supply chain that serves it. Over the course of the last two weeks I’ve been working on a story about pellet presses for the August issue of Biomass Magazine. Our August issue is our equipment issue, and I wanted to a close look at the OEMs in the pellet press space. 

My first discovery was that each and every one of these organizations are busy. Bliss, Amandus Kahl, Buhler, CPM, Dieffenbacher and Andritz alike all find their technical sales reps scattered across the country servicing presses at existing customers, working with those same customers to add new capacity and working to gain a foothold with the industry’s roster of under development pellet facilities. In speaking my sources I learned that most of the technical field representatives in the industry spend as much time on the road as they do in their office, if not more. Several of them spoke of hotel and airline status with multiple brands.

Also surprising was hearing about the level of activity in the segment of the industry that predominantly serves the domestic market. No one following this industry would be surprised to learn that all of these OEMs are busy working with export facilities that have just come online or facilities under development but I heard of more than one instance of additional capacity being added at facilities serving the domestic market. Hopefully those producers adding new capacity will share that with us when we perform our annual plant data survey later this fall.  Is local demand driving these decisions or, instead, is it the continuing trend for smaller producers serving overseas markets?

In the interviews I’ve already completed, I’ve realized that there are multiple features that could be written about pellet presses. One of my interviewees opined that he could talk for hours about pretreatment strategies. “Water, steam, oil, binders…I’ve seen it all Tim,” he said. I guessed, aloud, that the species of wood must drive some of that and he answered by saying that he has seen different pretreatment strategies brought to bear on Loblolly pine with the differences being driven by the location of the mill. Any time an interview can lead to even more story ideas I’m happy.

I’ll close by asking for your participation. I’m hoping to put together a very short survey for producer’s that we can use to support the pellet press story I’m writing. I’m currently distilling my notes into 5 questions that can be answered in just a few short minutes. The questions will help us paint a picture of which pellet presses are installed, how they are being maintained and serviced, which pretreatment approaches people are using and what kind of throughput producers are experiencing. The results of this survey will be shared in aggregate only and the individual responses will be confidential. I’ll reach out to you all via email and we would greatly appreciate your responses.

Enjoy the holiday weekend and be safe.

Editor's Addendum: You can follow THIS LINK to the survey I mentioned above. I'd love to get a nice cross section of the industry to respond. Thanks in advance.