Friday, 25 January 2008

Report on wood-fuel training

Well, the event yesterday was a great success, with about 75 people there!

The presentations were geared towards woodland owners, and started with Tom Vosper (CEN) explaining how a wood-fuel boiler works, and what goes wrong if there are leaves, bark, moisture, sticks, etc. in the fuel. Julian Morgan-Jones of SEWF then talked about the wood-fuel market in the SE, which he sees growing at several hundred percent a year for at least 5 years. There were then three case studies from woodchip producers, sharing valuable practical experience and taking questions. Finally, LC Energy spoke about their wood-fuel supply model, and a representative from Forestry Commission and SEEDA talked about capital grants that will be available for woodchip producers this year.

I think the most interesting little snippets of information I picked up were:

  • "Moving grate" style wood-fuel boilers can tolerate a higher moisture content in the fuel, as the wood chips are in the combustion zone for longer, so have time to dry out. (more info on moving grate systems).
  • Too much bark in wood-fuel leads to high ash production.
  • Too many leaves in wood-fuel leads to corrosion of the boiler, as leaves contain chlorine.
  • It's easier to stack the wood and let it dry naturally, then chip it, than to chip it green and try to dry the chips. Green chips are much more likely to compost, so need turning regularly.
  • It's easier to take the chipper to the wood, and then transport the chips, then to bring the wood to the chipper.
  • If you're a wood chip supplier, you must have spare parts in for your machinery, or a big stock of chips, as supplying parts can sometimes take a while, and people are depending on you for fuel.
There was of course much more, but the above was stuff that was new to me. We're not planning to do any woodchip ourselves, though if everyone in the woods got together, there might be scope for doing it once a year. It was an interesting day to make contacts anyway, both for work, and for our wood - Tracy spent a lot of time talking to people about SWOG (Small Woodland Owners Group).


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