There’s never been a better time for lumber industries to start making wood pellets

Your sawmill is churning out heaps of money. Unless you’re discarding mill residues.

The inflationary climate on the tail of the pandemic is a double punch to the world economy. A cash squeeze across major markets is piling extra pressure on timber-related products. Construction projects are being put on hold, people are having second thoughts about that new kitchen, while supply routes become ever more fragile.

However, if this environment has weakened demand for timber products, it has opened a new opportunity for their by-products. Uncertainty over the energy sector sparked a rush for wood pellets.

There’s never been a better time for lumber industries to start making wood pellets

But wood pellets are not simply compacted sawdust

In Europe, where the energy scare is strongest, consumers are stocking pellets for home heating systems. Unsurprisingly though, domestic-use pellets must meet strict certification requirements, as Salmatec Marketing Manager Timo Müller explains.

“Unlike other pellet products, sizing is crucial here,” Mr Müller tells us “Wood pellets must adhere to a standard between 3.15 mm and 40.0 mm.” Pelletizers engineered for this type of pellets have special knifing technology that cuts pieces with millimetric precision.

Moisture control presents another critical challenge. The ideal water content in wood pellets hovers between 7%-9%. Moisture holds the milled dust particles together, but the pellets must be dry enough to burn efficiently. On the other hand, insufficient moisture makes them flaky.

The pre-pelletizing drying stage typically lowers water content to around 10% before a small amount of water is added again during the conditioning process. This moisture creates a homogeneous input material. But a conditioner does more than that, clarifies Mr Müller: “It softens the wood material to enhance adhesiveness and distributes particles evenly to enable a smooth production process.”

Households are warming up to wood pellets

Manufacturing wood pellets is an intricate process, but the current conditions are favorable for investment. Anxiety over oil and gas supplies in the last months sent markets scrambling for alternative heating methods that ease pressures on centralized distributors.

Wood pellets take the heat off energy providers and put it in people’s homes.