Vermeer HG4000 horizontal grinder helps make Catamount Forest Products make significant gains in biofuel.
On the surface, it might seem as though Catamount Forest Products and its owners, Rodney Rood and David Vise, are overnight successes. The company has experienced impressive growth and success since its formation in 2013. Catamount has established itself as the primary source of wood chips used for biofuel in state and school buildings in the Vermont area and continues to expand its services. With over 20 years of experience in the logging industry, however, Rood began laying the groundwork for his most recent accomplishments many years ago. Success, says Rood, begins with a commitment to producing a consistent product and a great deal of persistence.
“A lot of trial and error went into the end product we have today,” said Rood. “You have to have patience. If you don’t have patience, you’re going to fail immediately.”
Filling a Void
Rood and Vise’s patience has paid off. The company has nearly tripled in size in terms of equipment, delivery trucks, product volume and employees over the past three years. Catamount continues to serve the biomass needs of many of its original clients, and as it grows, the company is expanding its services to other areas of the wood recycling industry.
In addition to the biomass industry, the company and its 17 employees provide biofuel in the form of screened wood chips to a variety of state and local clients including 15 local schools and many state buildings across Vermont. The Capitol building in Montpelier is also heated using the Catamount chip product. As the demand for a quality, consistent biofuel product increases, Rood is open to exploring where that need takes him and his crew.
A few years ago, Catamount served clients within a 40 to 50 mile radius of it’s wood yard. Today, the company has expanded its reach to a 75-mile radius. Rood attributes the increase to a need in the industry he was determined to fill with Catamount’s screened chip product. Some experimentation was necessary before Rood settled on a chip development process. Now, he is confident that Catamount will deliver high-quality, clean chips for his customers every time.
“We do venture a little further out now,” said Rood. “Mostly because the market for the screen chip business has opened up recently.”
New Equipment Creates Opportunities for Growth
Catamount boasts a production volume of about 200,000 tons of biomass material annually. Rood’s crews use two Vermeer WC2300XL whole tree chippers for in-woods processing. The compact design and the machine’s ability to make consistent chips are two features in particular that Rood appreciates.
A Vermeer HG4000 horizontal grinder equipped with a chip drum, a relatively recent addition to Rood’s fleet, has helped his company to make significant gains in the biofuel market. The screened chips that Catamount’s customers use for biofuel now account for 25 percent of the 200,000 tons of the company’s annual production volume.
“We’ve had the HG4000 with the chip drum for about 10 months,” said Rood. “The machine has just done everything Vermeer said it would.”
The major feature the HG4000 delivers on, according to Rood, is the machine’s ability to process the raw material in one pass to produce the desired end product. For Catamount’s customers that desired end product is a 7/8-inch chip containing no fines or impurities.
“The HG4000 is making the product that we need in a single pass,”said Rood. “That’s pretty amazing. It’s durable, and it’s definitely giving us the productivity that we need to be successful in this industry.”
Catamount is using roundwood – essentially sticks of firewood upwards of 16 feet long and varying in diameter – as the raw material for its biofuel chip product. Seventy-five percent of the raw material is harvested in-house by Catamount, and the other 25% is bought from local logging companies. Rood says supplementing their own harvest with other local companies is a great way to support the industry.
“When the pulp market is in decline, our demand is high enough that we can continue to purchase pulpwood and keep the loggers going,” saids Rood. “It’s a nice way to add to the community and to the industry as a whole.”
A Quicker Route to a Quality End Product
Rood’s crews transport the raw material to the Catamount wood yard where the HG4000 is stationed. At any given time, 7 to 20,000 tons of roundwood might be piled up in the yard waiting to be processed.
“We run the wood through the HG4000 with the chip drum,” said Rood. “That single pass already ensures us a pretty high-quality, consistent product before we screen it.”
The biofuel chips run through a trommel screen to guarantee fines and debris do not make it into the final product.
“Biofuel systems are finicky at times, so getting the fines out is key,” he said. “When fines burn they just make ash, not fire, so they’re not creating energy.”
After the screening process is complete, the chips are loaded onto one of Catamount’s seven trucks, which make deliveries to customers on a daily basis.
Support is Key to Productivity, Success
While reliable equipment is an important element to Rood’s equation for success, he stresses good equipment is made better with the right support.
“There are a lot of good manufacturers out there and there’s a lot of good equipment in the world today” he said. “But support is what makes good equipment great.”
When maintenance issues inevitably arise, Rood appreciates the fact that he doesn’t have to go through multiple channels to speak to the right person. A streamlined service process, like the one he experiences at Vermeer Northeast, is important to Rood and to Catamount’s overall productivity.
“I think you get that from Vermeer,” he said. “If you pick up the phone, you can talk to the person you need to talk to. If there’s an issue, Vermeer is there.”
Rood knows there will be maintenance needs that he will need to address with any machine in his fleet. If the equipment has an attentive support team behind it, though, Rood knows the needs will be handled efficiently, so he can continue to deliver a quality product to the many customers that rely on Catamount for their energy needs day in and day out.