Handling Pellets – Things to Consider

An edited version of this article was published under the title “Handle with care” as a feature article in the UK “Bioenergy Insight” magazine, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2010.

It’s fair to say that Europe is a decade ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to ‘green’ issues, and no more so than in the area of renewable energy sources, particularly utilizing woody biomass as a source of fuel.

Europe is an interesting case, as on one hand, it is the world leader on green issues and has vigorously promoted biomass as an alternative fuel; and on the other hand, it is far from sufficient sources of woody biomass.

As a contrast, Canada has a tremendous amount of woody biomass. And, for decades residual wastewood has been well-utilized as a fuel source for industrial plants.  However, there is little incentive in Canada to utilize standing forests for fuel as we have such a small population, and an abundant supply of low-cost energy, for example, hydro power in BC, oil in Alberta, nuclear power in Ontario.

Likewise, Russia and the southeastern USA have large amounts of wood fibre available that can be used for energy production. Continue reading →

Biomass Handling System Design – Things to Consider

This article was published under the title “Move Your Biomass” as the cover story in the May – June 2010 issue of Canadian Biomass Magazine. Read it online at:


Biomass is not an easy material to handle. It appears in a myriad of species, forms and sizes; it knits together, doesn’t flow well, consolidates and packs easily; it can have a wide range of moisture contents, basic and bulk densities and calorific values; it will freeze; it is very dusty, catches fire easily and is self-combustible; it can contain all manner of contaminants.  Conversely, wood pellets are uniform in size and moisture content, are very free flowing, but are quite fragile and easily degrade and require special handling.

Increasing numbers of power utilities are eyeing biomass as a source of fuel, primarily as a means of lowering CO2 emissions.  New biomass boilers are being constructed but many coal-fired boilers are being converted for co-firing biomass or converted to 100% biomass.  Biomass can be introduced into combustors as `hog fuel’, wood pellets or injected as a powder.  Working in the forest and converting the wood into usable products is part of the Canadian heritage.   There are many people and companies who have extensive experience handling woody biomass in all its myriad of forms.  However, with the recent rush to `green energy’ and the identification of woody biomass as a green fuel, there are a lot of interested and well-intentioned but woefully inexperienced people vying for various grants and proposing new projects, but who have little or no experience with biomass.

Care must be taken in the design of your biomass handling system whatever the form.  The topic of design is as varied and complex as the material and the intent in this article is to cover woody biomass, in the form of hog fuel and pellets, which is utilized as fuel. I will discuss the subject in a broad-brush manner suitable for this publication.  Following is a list and short description of things to consider when designing your system. Continue reading →

Belt Conveyor Design for Use in Extreme Northern Climates

[Article updated in January 2018]

Author: Paul Janzé, Advanced Biomass Consulting Inc.

Winter Chip Pile

Designing material handling systems for use in extreme northern environments requires special care.  For example, temperatures in northern Canada can vary between -45°C in winter to +35°C in summer.  In winter, snow load, blowing snow and ice build-up are always problems to be encountered.  The product being handled can have ice particles frozen to it and can also contain loose snow. And at such extreme temperatures, steel becomes very brittle and susceptible to damage from impacts.

In warmer climates, you can push the design limits and use short, steep, small, high speed conveyors.  In extreme cold climates, simultaneously pushing all design limits is a recipe for disaster.

In extreme cold climates it’s best to be conservative in your design. Following is a list of `do’s and don’ts, which I have learned over the years. Continue reading →

Biomass Sampling

Paul Janzé, Advanced Biomass Consulting Inc.


With the current emphasis on the use of biomass for `green’ energy purposes, the importance of having good quality `hog fuel’, cannot be over-emphasized.  And to ensure good quality fuel, good sampling procedures must be followed.

Woody biomass in chip form has been utilized by the pulp and paper industry for many decades and chip quality has long been recognized as having an important effect on pulp quality; to make good pulp you need good chips.  Likewise for a biomass-fired plant to operate efficiently, it needs a reliable, constant supply of consistent quality fuel.

This article was originally written with the pulp and paper industry in mind; however, the fundamentals of sampling wood chips also apply to the requirements of sampling biomass to be utilized as fuel.

In the past couple of decades, two opposing phenomena have emerged concerning the fibre supply for pulp and paper mills.

  1. The supply of wood chips has shifted dramatically from high quality, whole log chips produced by a pulpmill woodroom, to residual chips from other processing industries, primarily sawmills.  Residual chips can present considerable problems to the pulp mills.
  2. The pulp mills have long known that wood chips of a certain size and configuration produce a better wood pulp and have been demanding a better quality product from their fibre suppliers.

Consequently, quality control of chip supply has become more important and more difficult as most mills have multiple sources for their fibre.

Continue reading →