Wood pellets: output and efficiency

To meet their energy demands, more and more companies, commercial groups and households are becoming wood pellet-oriented consumers. Pellet transition tendencies gain in their popularity as pellet fuel is a more sustainable source of energy than fossil ones. Ukrainian biofuel portal makes detailed analysis of wood pellet output rates to find out the cost and energy efficiencies of wood fuel in comparison with other types of fuel to prove their cost-effectiveness.

Heating values of wood pellets in comparison with other types of fuel

The energy rate of wood pellets is usually defined by their calorific value. As a rule, this indicator is understood as the amount of energy which is released as heat in the process of fuel combustion and its interaction with oxygen. The unit is expressed in Gj per tonnes and may be different when given by various pellet manufacturers. Moreover, the calorific value of wood pellets depends on the type of pellets you purchase, their moisture content, ash content etc. The calorific value is one of the vital properties of biomass and wood pellets in particular, helping estimate the efficiency of the fuel by numerical simulations of their combustion in different conversion systems operating on biofuel.

It is clear that the higher calorific rates are the more energy per unit will be received and the less pellet fuel needs combustion to get the necessary amount of heating energy. As a rule, there are typical calorific value rates for every type of fuel showing the fuel capability of producing energy. As far as wood pellets are concerned, the fuel consists of Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen. Their energy output proves to be not worse than that of the traditional sources of energy. By way of example, it was found that 1000 kilograms of wood pellets can give as much energy and heat as it can be received from 1600 kilograms of logwood, 475 cubic meters of gas, 500 liters of diesel fuel and 685 liters of fuel oil.

Wood pellets are good candidates to change coal combustion, which is considered to be of high environmental influence having great emissions of the greenhouse gas. In comparison, wood pellets are considered to be carbon neutral fuel with relatively high output rates as compared to its counterparts. According to the information provided by Ukrainian Biofuel Portal, the energy outputs of wood pellets and coal do not differ considerably. The energy content highly depends on the content of moisture in the fuel, thus, wood pellets of high quality with relatively small moisture content rates, approximately 8-10% per unit, will show the efficiency of 19 Gj per tonne. At the same time, coal with no moisture content can produce 24.8 Gj per tonne. Being relatively cheap, the sustainability properties of charcoal are much poorer than those of wood pellets. That is why a lot of big power stations, for example Drax, switch to wood pellets preferring them to the more environmentally unfriendly coal. Moreover, Drax will not only be ecologically cleaner, but the conversion will play a vital role in the future success of the power station. CPF or so called carbon price floor introduced by the government of the United Kingdom has significantly increased the prices for the fossil fuel for electrical power generation. Hence, at the beginning the price for coal had been £0.44 ($0.75) per gigajoule, but rapidly increased up to £1.63 ($1.77) in 2016. That makes the combustion of coal very challenging in terms of economical efficiency.

Wood pellets are a very efficient type of fuel in terms of pricing. As far as we can see, fuels produced of biomass are, as a rule, 25-30% cheaper than their fossil counterparts and more stable in terms of price fluctuations. In the future, it is more likely that the legislation aimed at the reduction of carbon emissions will sooner explode the reputation of fossil fuels than influence the cost of biomass fuel. This can be proved by comparing average oil prices with wood pellet prices. It has frequently been said that the prices of wood pellets are highly dependent on oil prices and tend to follow them. However, according to the recent statistics, pellet prices have faced significantly less fluctuations than oil prices staying on the approximate level of 5 cents per Kwh since 2000. At the same time, for the same period oil prices have fluctuated from 5 cents per kWh up to 11 cents per kWh in 2013. Despite the fact that the prices for both sources of energy have currently leveled, we can see that wood pellet prices are of much higher stability.

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