Today around the world the interest in pellets is growing. One of the largest industries currently for pellets is the animal feed industry. Animal feed formulas are prepared, then through heat and pressure in a pellet mill reformed into pellets. Animal feed pellets store better than loose animal feed and also take up much less storage space, it is also easier to ration out set amounts of feed. These advantages are what have developed the feed pellet industry in the size it is today. As oil and gas prices continue to rise, pellets are now being taken seriously as a high efficiency fuel. Many different possible organic fuel sources can be compressed into pellets. Currently the most popular form of fuel pellet is the wood pellet or more specifically the premium wood pellet. Wood in pellet form is a very efficient burning fuel. Due to the high density of the wood in pellet form, a much higher heat value and less ash and particulates are produced compared to burning wood logs for example. Other possible organic fuel sources which can be processed into fuel pellet include straw, miscanthus and hemp. A lot of waste streams could also be pressed into fuel pellets, these include agricultural residues and even cardboard.
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Burning wood pellets is relatively straightforward; they produce very little ash and have no significant issues with corrosion. Therefore they also require very little maintenance with some pellet stoves and boilers operating for several months at a time unattended. Burning fuels such as straw or cardboard pellets presents more issues. These issues relate too much higher ash contents, possible clinker and slag formations and corrosion issues. Sulphur and chloride are contained within some organic fuels are highly corrosive elements. Coal for example contains high levels of Sulphur, burning corrosive fuels in burners not designed to cope with the fuel can quickly corrode the burner. BBQ wood pellets are also growing in popularity over gas BBQ’s, using hard and softwood pellets for cooking can make some of the best BBQ food available.
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All pellets are produced with the same equiptment with the a few basic changed in the setup. Firstly the raw material needs to have relatively low moisture content, and particle size also needs to be fairly small. This material is then feed into a pellet machine referred to as a pellet mill or pellet press. In the pellet machine there is a roller and a die, as heat and pressure increase the raw material is compressed through the die into pellets. As the pellets come from the machine they are very hot, and they must be cooled before they turn hard. The pellets sometimes must also be sieved to remove fines before they are packaged.
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