Fueling the Fire

Features - Feature

Briquetting can offer C&D recyclers and construction sites an outlet for clean wood scrap.

August 31, 2012

For the demolition and construction industry, there at times can remain an issue over what to do with wood scrap and wood waste as a result of construction and land clearing. For decades, the industry had regularly paid to inefficiently dispose of a potentially valuable commodity—wood.

Among the options that companies throughout Europe, and now in North America, have discovered is briquetting as an efficient and effective way to recycle wood. Briquetting is a cost-effective, efficient process that produces blocks of compressed wood scraps. Briquettes are consistent in shape, size and weight, so they’re easy to stack, transport and even resell as a carbon-neutral source of heating fuel. This means that when they’re burned, the briquettes release only as much carbon dioxide as was naturally absorbed by a growing tree during photosynthesis.

The Process

Briquetting is a process that compresses wood scrap and waste into compact, easy-to-manage square blocks (briquettes). Briquetting has been utilized by a myriad of industries for more than 50 years, but the technology and benefits of using it have evolved greatly during that time. Old-style briquetting machines were large, loud and required regular maintenance. Today, briquetting systems are engineered specifically to run reliably and efficiently, and to deliver the same or better production rates while using less horsepower and manpower.

Wood briquettes are formed under high pressure without any artificial binder, so it remains a natural product; a high-quality briquette with uniform size, shape, and hardness. Wood briquettes can be used as fuel for woodstoves, fireplaces, wood boilers and furnaces, so they can provide additional revenue opportunities for wood processing operations.

Briquetting can be an efficient and cost effective solution for the demolition industry. Briquetting boosts the bottom lines of recyclers by adding value to the waste stream. For a relatively small investment, briquetting enables recyclers to get more, higher quality product to recycling facilities or resale customers more efficiently—reducing energy, labor and transportation costs while increasing revenue.

The Benefits

Briquetting systems can have excellent return on investment and efficiency and can be used as an additional source of revenue via the production of carbon-neutral heating fuel. A well-designed system is easy to install and operate and requires less than half the energy of pelletizing machines. In some instances, briquetting machines have been installed and integrated into milling operations in as little as one day.

Not only can briquetting be a smart recycling decision for the bottom line, it also is environmentally friendly. This is especially true when contrasted with wood being burned or added to a landfill. In this case, briquetting creates an easy way to re-use or resell scraps.

Briquetting is a popular disposition method in Europe, and has been for many years, mainly because there’s a robust market on the continent for briquettes as a source of eco-friendly heating fuel. The method is now coming into its own in North America as more businesses become aware of it and the market for briquette-based fuel continues to grow. Briquettes can be used in any fire-burning device and typically sell to distributors for between $140 and $200 per ton. This is not a bad return for wood scrap that might otherwise be given away.

Additionally, from the construction site to the warehouse, briquetting improves operations by eliminating dirty and potentially dangerous wood dust from the air where it could damage machinery or threaten the health of employees and visitors. And because briquettes are typically square in shape as opposed to round or cylindrical like pellets, they can be easily placed on pallets and shrink-wrapped to simplify transportation and warehousing—saving time, money and valuable floor space.

As briquetting becomes more common throughout North America and beyond, its benefits to both businesses and the environment are likely to grow. C&DR

C&D Side Business

Ken Lango, who used to run a briquetting operation, says he would recommend briquetting to C&D recyclers as a side business. The former owner of Excelsior Alternative Fuels Inc, Schodack, N.Y., says securing supply is one of the most important components of operating a successful briquetting business. Companies like C&D recyclers who are already taking in scrap wood are ideal candidates, he says.

“I would recommend it if somebody was in a business where the raw materials were already in their possession,” he says. “It really works best if it is accompanied by a parent company. If you are a company that already deals with wood fiber to make mulch, it might make a good add-on to make briquettes.”

Lango utilized clean wood from C&D recyclers as well as sawdust from milling operations to make briquettes using a system from North Olmsted, Ohio-based RUF. “It was critical for us to make sure the materials that came in were not pressure-treated,” he says. Excelsior was able to accept nails in the wood because they can be extracted with a magnet during the grinding process.

Lango, who is no longer in business because of a fire that destroyed his operation, says he was happy with the RUF briquetting system. He advises that the process to produce briquettes entails budgeting in operating expenses, but that it is still a profitable venture.

-Kristin Smith


This story was submitted by RUF, the North American subsidiary of Germany-based RUF GmbH & Co. a global provider of briquetting systems for more than 40 years with more than 3,000 briquetting systems currently in operation worldwide. More information is available at www.RUF-Briquetter.com.