Not that many people are aware of fuel pellets. The current most popular forms of energy, which are fossil fuel based, must be replaced with sustainable alternatives. A sustainable resource is one which can be used at the current levels of consumption and future consumption levels without depleting resources. This also therefore indicates resources which can either rapidly replace them selves or there is an abundant source of that energy. Solar, wind, wave and geothermal are types of energy where they almost always available and are abundant. The question is are these forms of energy enough to meet our total energy requirements, the costs to collect the energy and times when the energy isn’t available. Due to these issues we have to construct an energy future which includes these forms of alternative energy, but also includes a resource which can cultivate and grow, which is biomass. Biomass is any living or recently dead organic mater which can be used for fuel, this obviously includes wood, however it also includes so much more. By upgrading biomass into pellets, pellet fuel is created. Pellet fuel is ideal for automatic hopper feed systems which are found in stoves and boilers. Pellet fuel is a highly compressed form of the original raw material and as such its increased density has several advantages.
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The most popular and well known form of fuel pellets are wood pellets. The increased density of a wood pellet compared to say loose sawdust or even wood logs is the reason they burn so well and work well in feed hoppers. Wood pellets have a uniform shape and size and also due to their density they flow like a liquid and are ideal for hopper systems unlike loose low-density sawdust, which will get blocked up in the hopper. The increased density of the wood pellets also means a much higher combustion efficiency is achieved compared to uncompressed wood. This means less smoke, less ash and more heat from less fuel.
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A pellet mill is used to compress the wood into wood pellets. First the wood is put through a chipper then a hammer mill to reduce its size. The wood dust is then dried and then pre-heated before it enters the pellet mill to aid lignin melting. Once the wood enters the pellet mill it is compressed between a set of rollers compressing the wood through a die.
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