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The leaves are turning colors in Minnesota and the weather is doing its typical 30-degree variation from day to day, autumn’s signature in the Upper Midwest. Here, fall doesn’t last long, and it seems we only get a few weeks in between hot summer weather and the snow. During this time, homeowners play on-and-off with AC and heat, open-and-close with their windows, and go from short sleeves to warm coats on the same day.
For pellet manufacturers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and the rest of the U.S., it’s a time full of anticipation. Early and prolonged cold and snow are welcomed, with hopes that delicate balance between supply and demand has been achieved.
The past and upcoming heating season was a main topic of the Pellet Fuels Institute annal conference, which was held via a series of virtual panels from late July through early August. You’ll find an overview of the event, written by Tim Portz, PFI executive director, on page 16. Producers haven’t been phased by the pandemic and seem to be relatively unscathed so far, and the data to date—particularly the U.S. EIA’s Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report—doesn’t indicate any significant variances in fiber prices or purchases. In fact, producers may be positioned for an above-average season.
Our other feature article this month, “Front-End Expertise,” on page 10, includes some insight and advice on front-end fiber preparation, handling and design. The heart of my discussion was with Jason Kessler, president of Kesco Inc., and focused on some common oversights when it comes to system design, as well as some observations and advice drawn from decades of experience. When Kessler formed his company, it was because he saw a need to provide some real value customers, particularly when it came to filling the disconnect between process system vendors and design and construction of a cohesive system. As such, he has onboarded experienced companies as partners including Rapat Inc., Bliss Industries, Kice Industries and CV Technology, each of which bring a specific area of expertise to the table. Says Kessler, “With a limited number of strategic partners, it allows us to learn the process area for different industries and actually provide value—experience matters.”
For more on fuel preparation, particularly resizing, check out spotlight profile “Material Prep Vital for Quality Pellets,” on page 26. In it, we discuss Vecoplan’s core business—material resizing—with Ralf Rosenkranz, Vecoplan AG area sales manager. Rosenkranz makes one of the same points as Kessler, emphasizing that material resizing systems are not just an assembly line of different types of equipment, but rather, different process steps that must smoothly interact. “The goal of the system is to achieve a homogenous product for pelletizing while maximizing energy efficiency,” he says.
Finally, check out our contributions on pages 20 and 23, which cover topics including torrefaction and green lubrication programs, respectively.
The team at Pellet Mill Magazine is gearing up to refresh its annual North American Pellet Production Map. If you’re not familiar, visit our website and check it out, and make sure your operating, under construction or proposed plant is on the map. Email any additions or changes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Anna Simet