Shredding innovations fuel greater biomass potential

UK, 22.08.2019

XR mobil-e | Shredding of residual wood

The processing of various types of wood ‘waste’ has long been common in industry. For decades sawmills have turned wood shavings into useful industry by-products and savvy manufacturers have sought to convert offcuts into woodchips that can be utilised elsewhere.

In more recent times of course, the number of projects seeing waste wood transformed into a renewable energy source has certainly rocketed. So, whilst biomass operations are not new, their growing prevalence in the resource space suggests we could see further market evolution over the next three to five years.

With increased operations comes greater market yield, but capacity – per plant – is now not the only priority, certainly not for more pioneering operators.

Biomass producers have undoubtedly become acutely aware of their ‘green’ credentials, largely due to the increased environmental pressures now being imposed on businesses worldwide. Consequently, a number of wood waste handlers have, quite rightly, begun to look closely at energy efficiency, to reduce fuel consumption costs and boost the net environmental gain of their lines – without any detrimental impact on product quality or throughputs.

Technological innovation of course makes this possible so, keen to compete on a global playing field, many machinery manufacturers have worked hard to satisfy these market demands, by design.

Shredding innovations in action

When organics recycling and renewable energy expert Eco Sustainable Solutions sought to overhaul its biomass shredding technology, for instance, the goal was to decarbonise the organisation’s approach to alternative fuel production.

Converting over 300,000 tonnes of waste into saleable products per annum, the business is no stranger to the energy market. But having recently installed a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant to harness the value of the fuels from its Parley (UK) facility, the objective was to improve the net environmental gain of their closed loop operation.

Eco Sustainable Solutions therefore invested in the highest specification mobile UNTHA XR3000C unit, with 2 x 132kW drives. The shredder processes Grade C wood waste to produce a P63 specification biomass fuel in a single step, at a rate of 25tph, or a pre-break output at 40tph.

With a hard-faced rotor, quick-change screen, wide sweep ram and specialist biomass cutting system, the machine achieves a low wear rate to minimise whole life costs. But of particular interest – in a market dominated by diesel shredders – was the XR’s Eco drive, which hit the headlines over the past 18 months for its ability to reduce energy consumption by up to 50%.

This is made possible thanks to rigorous engineering-led R&D. Water-cooled synchronous motors that can work tirelessly without overheating now exist, delivering highly sought-after uptime. A purely electric driven machine is also far ‘greener’ than one with a conventional electro-hydraulic drive option, without the operator encountering any detrimental impact on capacity.

Eco Sustainable Solutions’ operations director Justin Dampney explained: “Because we can self-power the machine using our own electricity generation, we’re further closing the loop of our Waste to Energy business operations. 

“But the story doesn’t end there. We’re currently exporting our biomass product, but it will soon be used as fuel within a large scale domestic green energy plant. If we’re going to the effort of manufacturing a renewable energy source, it’s important that we maximise the commercial and environmental benefits stemming from the process.”

Eco’s first trial of the XR was more than two years ago, and such is the magnitude of the investment, that extensive due diligence continued in recent times to verify the throughputs and homogenous quality of the output product.

Stressing the opportunities that come with change, Justin concluded: “This is traditionally an energy-hungry sector, with noisy, high-wear and high-maintenance equipment. But as we prepare to upscale our renewables agenda, it’s important that we have the most cost- and environmentally-efficient technology in place to support our operations.

“We’re looking forward to putting the shredder through its paces as our business evolves.”

An investment in next-generation technology – and the hunt for decarbonisation – of course comes at a cost. As a result, many operators have – perhaps understandably – allowed their decision-making to be driven solely by financial factors. However bottom line impact is influenced by far more than the price tag of the assets concerned. For example, fuel consumption savings alone can soon accelerate the payback period for such capital assets.

Efforts should be made to maximise uptime too, because with long maintenance intervals, robust foreign object protection and machine flexibility to handle different applications, comes greater production capacity that also contributes to the business case.

So, should decarbonisation be a priority for all biomass producers? In an ideal world yes, because the technology exists to make this possible and the numbers stack up far more than they ever have before. If complete decarbonisation is unfeasible, maximum environmental gain should be the next-step priority.