Since installing its biomass heating system and briquette maker, Rowlinson Garden Products has done away with wood skips on its site – and potentially hefty heating and woodwaste disposal bills.

“We wanted to reduce the cost of removing waste and use it to heat the factory. It seems crazy that we had the fuel, we just needed the heaters,” said commercial and operations director Charles Firth.

After considering various options, Rowlinson decided on a solution from Fercell, which designed, manufactured and installed ducting, a shredder,  briquette press, worm screw conveyor, automatic carousel bagging system and three warm air heaters. “Fercell were very competitive with a very good standard of machine,” said Mr Firth.

Fercell’s package included a Weima C-150 briquette press which produces briquettes of 50mm diameter and has an hourly throughput of 30-50kg; a Fercell Ultra 60-24SF/18kW single shaft wood shredder; a 10-bag carousel bagging unit; three Fercell 600 waste burner/heaters; and Fercell Kwik-Fix ducting. The waste burners – two supplying heat to the company’s 36,000sq/ft factory and one in the 48,000sq/ft warehouse – replaced oil-fired heating and have been particularly successful. “The factory’s warmer than it’s ever been,” said Mr Firth. Heating a draughty warehouse may seem like an extravagance but using biomass fuel makes it viable.

“It takes the chill off the area where people work but it’s a working warehouse with loading bays so you wouldn’t consider heating it if you had to pay for fuel,” said Mr Firth. The system has a summer burn duct which allows the heat from burning waste in the warmer months to be exhausted outside.

The old oil-fired heaters were fed from tanks that the fork lift trucks also draw from so while it is difficult to quantify the cost savings made, Mr Firth said the impact on oil consumption is significant.

“Rather than ordering oil every few weeks, it’s now every few months,” he said. “The nice thing is we’re using our waste to provide heat and we’re not paying someone else to take it away, as well as making a saving on more efficient heating.” The boilers burn ‘dirty’ waste and old packing while the clean, dry, offcut waste from the manufacturing plant goes to the briquette press. “We realised the clean timber was something we could recycle into a commodity that could be sold,” said Mr Firth. “The briquette press is located in the machine shop so we’re not having to take the waste very far. We fill it up and it more or less runs itself.”

The briquettes, which are bagged into 10kg units, are sold through Rowlinson’s factory shop, but the company is looking for a small chain distributor that will take them by the pallet load.

Briquette machines put biomass within reach for many smaller companies. Briquettes have the advantage of being able to be stored and they have a similar calorific value as brown coal. “A lot of small joinery companies are shovelling shavings on a fire, but that’s like putting flour with butter – it doesn’t mix forever. Shavings can almost put the fire out, you can’t store them, and as they take on moisture complete combustion can become impossible,” said Mr Le Gros. Fercell offer a range of high density briquette presses that can produce briquettes from MDF.