Material Prep Vital for Quality Pellets

By Pellet Mill Magazine | October 01, 2020

Spotlight: Vecoplan

From processing raw material to bagging finished pellets, Vecoplan Midwest designs, builds, and installs complete pellet production systems. In the wood processing market for longer than 50 years, the company is known for its shredder machines, but also builds complete systems for sawmill discharge, boiler infeed, wood waste recycling and comprehensive pellet plants in a vast range of sizes, says Ralf Rosenkranz, Vecoplan AG area sales manager.

Vecoplan’s real core competency is resizing raw material, an essential component to manufacturing high-quality pellets, Rosenkranz says. “This can be done with shredders, but also with chippers or mills. Factors to be considered when choosing equipment include material composition—such as the amount of bark on the log—moisture content and raw material particle size.”

To maintain the homogenous material quality that wood pellet manufacturing requires, it is important to have a system capable of processing raw material effectively while simultaneously accommodating these factors, Rosenkranz says. “In a pellet plant, multiple pieces of equipment are used to obtain the end result. For example, in installations Vecoplan has done in Texas and Louisiana, plants that process 500,000 tons each year, virgin logs get debarked and chipped, milled prior to drying, and then milled again.”

While three-stage resizing systems are common in Europe, in the U.S., two-stage is the norm, according to Rosenkranz. “We recommend the three-stage resizing because material can be dried in a more homogenous way, but we offer both concepts,” he says. “The machinery is the same, but the configuration is different.”

Material resizing systems are not just an assembly line of different types of equipment, Rosenkranz points out, but rather, different process steps that must smoothly interact. “The goal of the systems is to achieve a homogenous product for pelletizing while maximizing energy efficiency,” he says.

“Combined with Vecoplan conveying, storing and sorting equipment, preparation of the raw material should end just before the actual pelletizing process to result in a consistent, high-quality fuel pellet.”

Vecoplan works with its customers on all aspects of pellet plant design, from supplying the automation controls for the entire system to installation with in-house and outsourced experts. Rosenkranz notes the crucial task of obtaining accurate information from its clients to deliver the best solution for each specific operation, particularly regarding raw material details. “To enable us to choose the right equipment, it is of the essence to know the characteristics of the material to be used—hardwood, softwood, with or without bark, input size, etcetera—as well as the type of pellets that will be produced, whether its industrial or home heating pellets. This tells us where we’re coming from, and where we need to go.”

If such details are uncertain, Vecoplan will help customers select a flexible resizing solution, Rosencranz adds. “The more information we have from the input material and the destination, the better we can choose the right equipment to make your facility efficient and profitable.”