Bio-Mizer – Wood-Mizer’s New Furnace Uses Biomass for Environmentally Friendly Heat
Using biomass to heat a dry kiln is not a revolutionary concept. But the way that the Bio-Mizer furnace does it is a true innovation in green energy. Wood-Mizer Products Inc. has announced the first industry installation of its Bio-Mizer biomass furnace. Fritch Mill in Snohomish, Wash. is the first mill in the United States to use a Bio-Mizer system.
A second-generation sawmill in the Seattle area, Fritch Mill (www.fritchmill.com) turned to Bio-Mizer when it decided to add a dry kiln to its operation. Bio-Mizer is an industrial grade biomass furnace (500,000 to 1 million BTU) that can produce heat for a shop, dry kiln, greenhouse, business complex or rural school.
Eric Fritch, president of Fritch Mill, said, “I made a personal commitment to myself that if I was going to put a kiln in I was going to heat it with wood. And there is no other biomass furnace on the market that can do what the Bio-Mizer does.”
Why the Bio-Mizer?
The Bio-Mizer stands out according to Eric because it burns at a fairly constant temperature creating an extremely efficient, clean combustion even while using a wide variety of biomass waste. It can burn sawdust, wood chips, agricultural waste, paper, and even chicken manure. The unit has advanced controls that can be operated remotely using a smart phone or laptop to change airflow settings.
Eric explained, “The Bio-Mizer is a relatively complicated system but with the PLC controls it is quite user friendly.”
The Bio-Mizer uses a cyclonic burn chamber where the fuel is burned in suspension. This allows the system to work efficiently even utilizing different material from one load to another if the fuel/air ratio and feed rates are properly adjusted.
Fritch explained, “The Bio-Mizer will burn a wide variety of fuel. But it doesn’t like it when you change fuels midstream. Due to the varying density of fuels, the air/fuel ratio mixture is something that must be adjusted manually to get optimal performance.”
Another advantage of the Bio-Mizer is that it will process materials that have fairly high moisture contents. Eric said his unit will handle material with up to a 55% bone dry moisture content. Fritch Sawmill has run the system for two months and has utilized mostly sawdust and some wood chips and savings.
Eric said, “Once we get the system up to temperature, we have discovered that we can throw just about anything at it. The critical part is during the startup and getting the system to a stable burn point.”
As a producer of Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) certified lumber, the sustainability aspect of Bio-Mizer was a big selling point of the system. The FSC program certifies wood products recognized as coming from well-managed forests adhering to strict environmental and socioeconomic standards. Eric compared FSC to organic certification for food products.
Eric said, “Carbon neutrality is a hot topic these days. And using a biomass-based fuel certainly helps. It is a readily available fuel. We don’t have to transport it. It is cost effective. It helps our public image in the community by showing that we are good stewards.”
The Bio-Mizer is a carbon neutral system. Jeff Laskowski, CEO of Wood-Mizer Products, explained, “If you burn biomass, you don’t produce any more greenhouses gases than if the plant or biomass would have decayed naturally. This makes the impact of burning the biomass a net gain of zero, or carbon neutral.”
The emissions of the system are quite low. The first step in combustion is gasifying your biomass source. Some biomass furnaces utilize a secondary burn chamber to burn the fuels gasified in the primary burn chamber, which adds complexity and cost.
The Bio-Mizer is unique in that it not only gasifies the biomass fuels, but the burn chamber is maintained at a high enough temperature to burn and consume elements of the fuel that other burners expel into the atmosphere in a single burn process. Other burners often emit large amounts of smoke and visible emission during low demand or start up conditions. The Bio-Mizer starts cleanly and shuts down between heat demands without the environmentally unfriendly, unsightly, and unwanted smoke and emissions produced by other systems.
Fritch Mill has been producing specialty cut lumber from Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Western Red Cedar and Cottonwood since 1950.
Eric said, “Our focus is to manufacture hard to find cuttings to meet exacting specifications including full or standard sawn rough lumber. Our specialty is anything that they don’t print in Random Lengths. We try to stay away from commodities. We would go broke if we tried to make studs and dimension lumber all day.”
The company was started by Roy Earling Fritch in 1950. He retired from the mill in 1976 and the business was continued by his second son Bruce until 1996 and is now owned by his fourth son Eric Fritch.
A devastating fire in 1996 forced the company to rebuild the sawmill although the planer facility was spared. Eric came in and led the effort to rebuild the mill. He already owned a group of five lumber yards that served the area under the name of Chinook Lumber.
Today, the mill’s primary breakdown is a 5’ Salem band mill, 48” Klamath carriage followed by a twin band line bar resaw.
Eric added, “We can handle some big wood. We can cut up to a 26 foot in length. Probably the biggest piece we have done on a regular basis is a 24×24, 24 feet long, over 1,000 bf per piece.”
About 30% of the mill’s production is exported to places like Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and Mexico. Fritch Mill uses a lumber agent to represent its product in Asia. It also supplies a lot of material to the U.S. Southwest and Gulf Coast. Eric said, “When you are a highly specialized player that is where business is – all over.”
Approximately 70% of the company’s lumber is shipped to customers out of state. Fritch does lots of rough sawn, appearance grade timbers and cuttings, heavy dunnage and industrial items.
The Missing Link
Fritch Mill decided to add a dry kiln for a number of reasons. Eric said, “Shipping material to be custom dried treated added unnecessary expense, increasingly customers are asking for a kiln dried product, and when you dry wood, you take out about a third of the weight, which lowers the freight cost.”
In the Seattle market almost all the framing lumber is required to be dried compared to Portland and most of Los Angeles that still uses mostly green Doug Fir. Although Fritch only puts 20-25% of its capacity through the kiln, the new drying system allows the company to efficiently serve local lumber yards.
Eric said, “The kiln is the missing link between our sawmill and our retail lumber yards.”
Fritch recently installed a 60,000 bf capacity side loading Brunner-Hildebrand kiln. Eric said, “I thought it was a great unit for the money. Very professional. All stainless aluminum construction – inside and out. It has four inches of insulation in all the walls, instead of the standard two inches that most West coast kilns use.”
Since Fritch Mill is planning on running some “softer kiln schedules,” the company wanted its kiln to be as energy efficient as possible.
Eric further explained that the Brunner-Hildebrand unit was about half the price of some comparable West Coast kilns. Maybe the most important feature is its compatibility with the Bio-Mizer. It has modern controls that can be accessed remotely using a laptop just like the Bio-Mizer. And the Brunner-Hildebrand kiln was one of the few systems that Fritch felt comfortable reconfiguring to use hot water instead of steam.
Currently, the kiln is running a 5-day cycle time and can process about 60,000 bf per week. Fritch Mill also has the capability of heat treating products, which helps the company service its pallet and dunnage customers.
Making Cents of Green Energy
While putting in a gas-fired unit might have been easier, Eric believes the long-term payback is well worth the effort. Eric said, “It is about a three year payback based on fuel savings alone.”
Fritch Mill produces about three times the amount of sawdust and shavings necessary to fuel the Bio-Mizer. Pulp chips will continue to go to a local mill because it is still more valuable in that capacity than boiler fuel. Bark is ground for landscaping. Prior to the installation of the new boiler, sawdust and shavings had been sold for topsoil blends and animal bedding. Now Fritch will divert some sawdust and shavings to fuel the Bio-Mizer.
Although wood waste is far from free given the fact that Fritch was able to get decent money for it, sawdust and shavings still cost about 75% less than natural gas.
Beyond the cost savings, the Bio-Mizer is a right fit for many reasons. Eric said the Bio-Mizer is ideal because Fritch has a large supply of wood fuel, is a production oriented facility with a good application of the technology for generating heat. Also, Eric’s background in mechanical engineering has allowed Fritch to cut setup costs and help provide strong direction to the Wood-Mizer team as the Bio-Mizer technology is perfected in the field.
Eric served as the general contractor for the installation. He did a lot of the design work in-house including the piping and equipment layout. He was in constant communication with the Wood-Mizer/Bio-Mizer team, especially during the commissioning phase of the project. Eric’s senior design project for his mechanical engineering degree was a biomass heat generation system. This experience made him an ideal candidate for the first Bio-Mizer installation.
Overcoming Startup Obstacles
As with any pioneering effort, the initial installation had a few issues. Eric said,
“The Wood-Mizer team has been extremely good to work with and to sort the bugs out of the system.”
Some of the initial concerns were the air fuel ratios, the fuel feeding mechanism and the noise of the machine. Wood-Mizer addressed all of these concerns.
Fritch Mill is located in a residential area where neighbors have become adjusted to the noise during the day. The mill only runs one shift, which means that there is little noise outside of the typical work day. But the new Bio-Mizer system has parts running around the clock, which initially caused noise concerns for some neighbors. Eric said, “Wood-Mizer helped us conduct noise studies and provided a muffler for the ID blower, which was the noisiest part of the unit. Their help made a significant difference.”
Wood-Mizer altered the original fuel delivery system to eliminate gaps thereby creating uniform fuel delivery.
The project certainly required some customization. For example, Eric didn’t buy a kiln with a boiler system since the Bio-Mizer was serving as the heat supply for the kiln. He had to develop the interconnect design. He used threaded 3-inch interconnects between the Bio-Mizer heat exchanger and the kiln. There were things like flow control valves and check valves and strainers that were outside of the realm of what Bio-Mizer provided. His team set up the installation on a six-inch concrete slab.
Eric said, “Overall, the assembly was fairly straightforward. There were no real issues there. The electrical side has been very dependable.”
Fritch has redundant backups to ensure the system works well even in the worst situations. Eric decided to add a hot water gas boiler in addition to the propane igniter that comes standard with the Bio-Mizer.
This provides all the muscle they need to keep the unit running efficiently. Eric said, “We are stretching the limits of what will work because the kiln has a 1.5 million BTU heat demand and the Bio-Mizer produces at maximum 1 million BTUs, but we do have a backup gas boiler, which we sometimes use during heat up when we need an extra boost of heat or if the BioMizer goes down for any reason.”
Fritch sometimes uses the backup boiler to provide a boost when really cold wood is put into the kiln and they want to shorten the cycle by 10-12 hours. The backup boiler gets the wood up to temperature faster.
Eric explained, “A wood fired furnace works best when it is under full load. You want it burning efficiently and under a full load. Wood fired units are generally not good to throttle down. The Bio-Mizer is by far the best unit available when it comes to its turn down ratio.”
Instead of putting in a new gas-fired boiler, Eric found a used one on Ebay for $2,000, which saved him lots of money.
Looking into the Future
Fritch Mill and its 25 plus employees believe the kiln will help position the company for the future. And they are excited about being involved in the first Bio-Mizer installation. The company designed the kiln to be able to expand although this would require additional boilers to accommodate.
Eric said, “Wood-Mizer has spent a ton of money and a lot of hours in the development of this product. It’s a really good fit for us, and I think that Wood-Mizer has a huge market ahead of them.”
There are a number of advantages and technological developments designed into the Bio-Mizer. You can read more by checking out the accompanying sidebar article.
Bio-Mizer Offers Innovative Features for Its Biomass Furnaces
• The Bio-Mizer Model 1000 is a biomass furnace that can efficiently utilize a wide range of biomass waste products, like sawdust, wood chips, and paper, as well as agricultural and animal waste to produce environmentally friendly, clean, and safe heat for a variety of industrial applications.
• Is designed to meet the heating needs of industrial applications with heating demands ranging from 500,000 to 1,000,000 BTUs. This stand-alone system can be used to replace an existing fossil fueled furnace or be engineered into new heating systems.
• State-of-the-art controls allows for remote operation. It continuously monitors over a dozen critical variables in the burning process hundreds of times per second to precisely adjust each component. You can monitor the performance of your furnace from virtually anywhere via smartphone or PC, or opt to receive a text message on your phone when your furnace needs fuel or attention.
• The Bio-Mizer has the ability to utilize fuels with relatively high levels of moisture content. The furnace is designed to burn off excess moisture before the fuel enters the heart of the burn chamber and releases the moisture in the form of steam.
• The Bio-Mizer has the ability to operate on fuels with up to 60% moisture content, which may not be a suitable fuel source for other furnaces.
• The cyclonic burn process is the result of ten years of research and testing.
• Safety features prevent run-away or overheating conditions.
• All steel structures in the burn chamber are protected from the heat by 4 ½” thick firebrick and custom ceramic insulators.
• Heat exchanger features a variable speed blower to control the process of accurately transferring heat from the burn chamber to 100 gallons of water flowing through transfer pipes in the exchanger. The Bio-Mizer’s heat exchanger utilizes a refined counter-flow process to transfer heat from combustion air to water for greater efficiency.
• Low emissions.
• Automated ash removal.
• Bulk storage and feeding system capable of dispensing various fuels.
Bio-Mizer’s fuel can be used in a large variety of applications:
• Wood Dry Kilns
• Grain Dryers
• Commercial Building Heating
• Pallet Treatment
• Heating Pools
• Paint Booth Heating
• Washing System Heating
• Industrial Process Heating
• Chicken Farms
• Agricultural Heating
• Industrial Space Heating
• Electricity Generation