When it comes to producing wood pellets for biofuels applications, moisture content plays a significant role in product quality. With the help of on-line near-infrared (NIR) or radio frequency dielectric measurement (RF) technologies from KPM Analytics, manufacturers can be proactive and reduce the risk of packaging a wet or lower-quality product.

As a “green” alternative to fossil fuel heating, wood pellet stoves, furnaces, and heating appliances have become more popular in recent years. Each wood pellet is comprised of scrap sawdust and wood particles from industrial, paper making, and other processes, that would be otherwise discarded.

To create the pellets, incoming wood materials – which are typically stored outdoors and can be exposed to the elements – are brought into the processor by a front loader. From there, the wet and dry sawdust is selected by the tractor operator with the goal of keeping moisture balanced. Then the wood material is mixed into a dough-like mass and compressed into a die that shapes the mass into its pelleted form.

Integrating on-line NIR technology from KPM Analytics on the dryer out-feed helps remove the subjectivity of moisture analysis by continuously measuring moisture levels before proceeding into the pellet mill. For certain biofuels application, RF technology, which uses radio frequency dielectric measurements to penetrate and capture the full moisture composition of a product, can also provide important moisture insights in extreme environmental operating conditions. Not only does this application help reduce batch-to-batch variation of the pelleted product, but it also helps operators reduce energy costs required to operate their high-powered drying and pelleting machines.  

As the biofuels industry continues to grow, NIR technology offers several applications to help command processes, save energy costs, and produce consistent substrates.

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