SAMSON - streamlining random woody biomass and wood pellet logistics (DCI March 2013)
By Andy Blythe and Hugo van Benthem SAMSON Materials Handling Ltd. within the AUMUND Group
New markets like the Biofuels industry transcend oceans and connect suppliers and partners across continents. Biofuels creates demand for sophisticated, yet flexible logistics chains that can piggy-back on existing infrastructure and seamlessly support the high volume transfer of wood based fuel products to support the EU’s carbon reduction ambitions.
Biomass power plants, although not without environmental issues, are relatively straightforward and represent a truly carbon neutral alternative to traditional fossil fuel generating stations. As CHP (Combined Heat and Power) linked to basic industries or local heating schemes really begin to look very attractive with extremely high operating efficiency, around 90% or more.
For smaller CHP plant, typically to 50 MW in generating capacity or a combination of steam and electricity to a similar value locally sourced random woody Biomass, may be an option allowing the fuel to be sourced close by to minimise the carbon miles associated with transportation.
A recent installation in Scotland at Markinch is typical of such a venture linked to the Tulliss Russell paper plant providing both process steam and electrical power, the excess of which is exported to the national grid. The new scheme entirely replaces the old coal boilers with a net reduction in CO2 of some 250,000 tons annually. In this application 4 SAMSONTM Surface Feeders from SAMSON Materials Handling Ltd (formally B&W Mechanical Handling Ltd) receive locally derived forest by-products and other woody combustibles. This is prepared off site at a new facility operated by “RWE npower renewables” including chipping and storage systems with short haul transportation to Tulliss Russell in enclosed bulk vehicles. The new SAMSONTM feeders are set up in parallel and are all mobile and as such are able to be easily repositioned to enable feeding at a controlled rate, in any combination, to the new conveyor transport and silo storage system providing for effectively 100% redundancy in operation ensuring continued availability 24/7.
Similar SAMSON™ units are operating at UK power plants handling a range of biomass fuels from chicken litter to sludge and other waste agricultural materials. The only viable option for larger plants in general is Wood Pellet. The establishment of proper quality standards based on EN 14961-2 make such certified pellets a fuel resource of predictable quality that may now be traded in a manner similar to other commodities.
The commoditisation of biomass fuels took an important step forward into a global market in November 2011. The preparation steps towards the launch of a biomass trading platform were started in 2008 when APX‐ENDEX, in partnership with the Port of Rotterdam, launched the Industrial Wood Pellets price index providing a reliable cost comparison. The new exchange allows market participants to trade standard contracts on a futures listing and provides for certification that the source material complies with the established sustainability guidelines and criteria.
All of these activities, driven government sustainability obligations, are forcing the market towards huge volume increases in the trade of Biomass fuels with the UK destined to require some 50 million tons annually by 2020 of which a substantial amount must be imported in the form of wood pellets.
SAMSON Materials Handling are in a unique position to cater for this market using fast track mobile solutions for the loading of large deep sea vessels in ports such as Panama (Florida) and more recently at Eastport in Maine. In both solutions a system of static conveyor equipment brings the pellet from covered storage to the berth and from the fixed conveyors a combination of mobile Link-Conveyors and a mobile Shiploader load vessels typically up to Handymax. These are typical applications for Shiploaders with mobile feeding conveyors allowing the complete equipment to be moved off the berth when not loading a bulk ship and thus freeing the area for handling other cargoes offering maximum berth utilisation with the minimum of fixed port infrastructure.
The most recent order for ship loading equipment is from a major German wood pellet trader and provides for a loading rate of 1,000 tons per hour receiving pellet from a fixed quayside conveyor. The SAMSON Shiploader includes powered multidirectional travel on rubber tyres allowing fast manoeuvring along the vessel for movements between hatches and hold trimming. A telescopic trimming chute allows accurate placement within the hold to maximise the material stowage, essential with these relatively light cargoes.
Covered storage is vital for the export of wood pellets with storage volume sufficient to load the size of vessels likely to be handled and the capacity to discharge the storage and convey the pellets at high speed to the vessel to minimise potential demurrage costs. Using SAMSON standard solutions through the ship loading rates to 1,000 tons per hour are entirely practical, sufficient for a Panamax size vessel. Significantly the intake of fuel is dependent on the availability of material from pelleting plants generally in the hinterland or port catchment area. For the most part inland logistics will depend upon existing rail connectivity both at the pellet plant and at the port plus the availability of railcar loading and discharge facilities.
SAMSON are also well placed to serve this burgeoning wood pellet import market with their range of Eco-Hopper systems for the dust controlled import of bulk cargoes from grab fitted mobile harbour crane.
In conclusion for both the export and import of wood pellet the mobile handling solutions offered by SAMSON Materials Handling for installation on the berth offer a unique package for the Biofuels market worldwide allowing users to capitalise on existing port infrastructure and facilities.