How to make wood pellets from sawdust?

Wood and lumber industries produce huge quantities of waste during manufacturing. This waste material comprises wood chips, shavings, cut pieces, and wood dust or sawdust. All these products can be reused in various other industries or for different purposes. Sawdust is one of the most abundant waste materials from planning, grinding, sawing, grinding, drilling, or sanding wood. Different types of equipment may be used to produce sawdust. In recent years, a large industry has grown around this material. Turning sawdust into wood pellets has become a profitable and environmentally responsible industry. 

Apart from the human involvement in creating sawdust, it can also be made due to the action of animals, birds, and insects. Some birds, such as the woodpecker, drill large cavities in trees to make their nests. Insects such as ants, beetles, and termites bore into wood, producing sawdust as they drill into it. 

Where Is Sawdust Used?

The main industry that benefits from using sawdust as raw material is the particle board manufacturing industry. Sawdust is compressed and pressure treated with different types of additives to create sturdy planks that can be used to manufacture a variety of furniture, accessories, packaging, and more. 

Sawdust was once used extensively as insulation in ice houses, where it helps to keep ice in the frozen state. It can be used for kitty litter, as a fuel, in fragile packaging items, to soak up liquid spills in bars. It is used to make briquettes for fires, scattered to prevent slipping on ice, keep plants healthy and moist, as a floor cleaner in garages, and more. 

This versatile and abundantly available material is highly suitable for making wood pellets. 

Can you make wood pellets from sawdust? 

Sawdust is one of the best materials for manufacturing wood pellets. This is because its composition makes it ideal for high-efficiency heating and burning. Sawdust consists mainly of cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin. The moisture content is less than 12%, and the ash produced is less than 0.5%. It has a very high calorific value, making it easy to burn while producing a higher combustion rate. 

These qualities are the primary reasons to make pellets from sawdust. The pellets produced from sawdust are ideal for home cooking and heating purposes. Using these pellets in barbecues works out much more cost-effective compared to charcoal. In addition, traditional fuels such as petrol, propane, and natural gas can be replaced with wood pellets. 

Since burning wood pellets produces lower carbon dioxide emissions, it is a popular choice in larger applications and small and medium-sized industries. For example, power boilers and thermal power plants are increasing the use of wood pellets instead of fossil fuels. In addition, hotels and other public spaces can be heated using boilers fueled by wood pellets. 

Is it worth making your wood pellets? 

This is a question that can be answered based on your own circumstances, requirements, and budget. With the current uncertainty in oil supplies worldwide and spiraling fuel prices, many people opt for pellet heating and cooking at home. 

The process is not very complex or technical. You will have to make an initial investment in a pellet mill. The other requirement is a constant, easy, and cheap supply of sawdust. Suppose you can contact a local sawmill, wood, or furniture manufacturing firm or have access to commercially available good-quality sawdust. In that case, you can ensure a perennial supply of raw materials. 

If you plan to manufacture and sell wood pellets commercially, you have to ensure that there is a local market within a 500 km radius. The industry is still nascent, but significant indications are that it will grow and develop. As awareness increases of green energy sources, there are immense social and economic benefits of using wood pellets. 

It is important to remember that the demand for home use may be seasonal. For example, wood pellets may be used in winter heating and summer outdoor cooking. However, in factories and industrial environments, you may find a steady demand that continues throughout the year. 

How to make wood pellets from sawdust?

  • Procure the sawdust from a reliable source
  • Test the moisture content and ensure that it is around 10-15%
  • In case the sawdust is damper, dry it thoroughly
  • Sift and screen the sawdust to remove stones, plastic, metals, or other hard materials
  • You can use a magnet to remove metal 
  • Pass the sawdust through a hammer mill to bring it to overall even consistency
  • Feed sawdust into a pellet maker that has been set to the right size and shape of the die
  • The machine will automatically cut the pellets to size and drop them into a tray
  • At this point, they are very hot and soft
  • Pellets must be thoroughly cooled 
  • Once they are fully cooled and hardened, you can pack them in convenient storage bags for home use or commercial retail
  • It is better to pack in smaller quantities
  • Store in a cool, dry place
  • If you’re transporting them to another location, ensure that they’re packaged carefully

How do you make hardwood pellets?

This can be done by procuring raw materials from sources that use hardwood. Furniture and flooring industries typically use high-quality hardwoods such as oak, cherry, walnut, teak, etc. You can use sawdust, wood shavings, chips, or broken pieces from these industries as raw materials for pellet making. You may have to hammer larger pieces thoroughly to grind them down.

Can I make my wood pellets? 

The answer is a definite “Yes.” You will have to purchase a good quality pellet-making machine that combines several processes such as hammering and die extruding. The best option is a flat die pellet mill. You will need access to raw materials from a local source to avoid the inconvenience and expense of transportation. 

If the wood quality requires adding binders, you may need to purchase extra lubricants or oils. This may be required if you’re using hardwoods as they don’t contain a higher amount of lignin, the natural binder in wood. 

Ensure that you have a large and sheltered space for drying and cooling. For drying, you may need a rotary dryer or flash dryer. If your machine doesn’t have a hammer mill attachment, you will have to buy this too. 

You will also need storage bags and a cool, dry place for storage once the pellets are ready. The bags must be sealed and airtight to avoid moisture. 

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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