As you may know, biomass boilers offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy solution for a variety of industries. However, the key to maximising their economic viability and sustainability lies in their ability to utilise wood waste efficiently. If your operations involve dealing with significant amounts of wood waste on a daily basis, the installation of an industrial biomass boiler is a strategic choice. Here’s why.
Burning your wood waste onsite is almost certainly the most cost-effective and sustainable disposal method. In Europe and North America, wood waste management involves a complex recycling and disposal supply chain, making it challenging to predict the costs associated with waste disposal. However, there are some discernible trends.
Customers who consistently generate large quantities of wood waste can typically secure lower disposal costs and, in some cases, even receive a modest payment for every ton of wood waste, typically around £5/$5 per ton. This favourable pricing structure is primarily due to the economies of scale in transportation costs. The cost of logistics for collecting a ton of wood waste per week is relatively similar to collecting 40 tons per week, which is often reflected in the rates offered to customers.
Note that this varies according to the particular type of wood waste. Generally, softwood shavings are a sought-after waste stream as they are used directly in animal bedding, particularly for racehorses. Conversely, MDF dust/flour is usually the most expensive to dispose of.
There are also regional variations. For instance, we had a customer located near a chipboard factory and they received their wood waste at no cost. Larger cities, such as London, tend to have higher disposal costs due to the more expensive logistics.
Prices also significantly fluctuate over time. For example, during the pandemic, horse racing meetings were halted, leading to a sharp decrease in the demand for softwood shavings used as animal bedding. Consequently, a previously sought-after product suddenly became expensive to dispose of.
The cost of a biomass boiler installation is a vital consideration. Nevertheless, if a business is getting paid for softwood shavings and receiving £70 per ton for selling them, an industrial biomass boiler will certainly be a worthwhile investment.
In one ton of softwood shavings with a moisture content of 10%, there is a whopping 4,200 kWh of energy. At a rate of 10p per kWh, this translates into an equivalent value of £420 in energy. If you have thermal energy needs onsite, it makes perfect sense to harness your own energy supply by burning your wood waste. Furthermore, there are the ‘soft’ costs associated with disposing of your wood waste via trailers or skips. These include the logistics involved in monitoring the fill level of trailers, arranging for trailer and skip swaps, and the additional transportation required when bringing another truck to the site.
Some of our customers utilise our biomass boilers to streamline their wood waste management and gain greater flexibility. By having a silo onsite, they can minimise the space occupied by trailers. This also provides them with the option of onsite disposal, reducing their dependency on external waste disposal services and ensuring uninterrupted operations in their factories.
With a Ranheat system, you won’t have to think about or interact with wood after it has been machined or sawn. Wood waste is moved automatically and conveyed directly into a Ranheat silo, where the level is monitored and the burn rate changed depending on your heat demand or disposal requirements.
For certain projects, it is advantageous to produce electricity from wood waste. This can be accomplished at smaller scales using an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) engine, which can generate electricity economically in smaller setups than steam-based systems. When all the generated electricity is used onsite and the cost is 25p per kWh, it is possible to produce £70 per ton. However, for systems larger than 4MW, steam generation tends to be the superior choice due to its significantly higher efficiency compared to what can be achieved with ORCs.
Besides businesses in the woodworking industry, there is another notable sector that could greatly benefit from using an industrial biomass boiler. The logistics sector is known for producing a significant amount of wood waste, which can further enhance the economic viability and sustainability of biomass boilers.
Nearly every building material, car or consumer product has been transported on a pallet or some form of wooden packaging. While this packaging can be reused multiple times, it eventually reaches a point where it breaks down and becomes waste. In addition, there is now a widespread logistics trend where hubs and factories are scaling up. This causes non-woodworking factories to generate wood waste volumes similar to those of smaller and medium-sized woodworking facilities.
For example, we have encountered instances where steel-working factories produce between five and ten tons of wood waste per week. Although this quantity may not fully meet all the thermal energy needs of the site, it is enough to achieve a return on investment in less than two years when used to cover the heating base load.
Wood and wood-based products are ubiquitous, and with the growing trend for sustainable and carbon-neutral materials, we anticipate an even greater role for wood in our buildings and everyday products. This expansion will result in increased wood waste generation, offering more opportunities for appropriately scaled industrial biomass projects to effectively reduce costs and carbon emissions, and benefit both our finances and the planet.
At Ranheat Engineering Ltd, we have been designing, manufacturing and installing biomass boilers in the UK since 1991. If you are in need of some expert advice, please get in touch with a member of our team.