Companies develop new biomass briquette presses

By Erin Voegele
Pennsylvania-based BHS Energy LLC and California-based Biomass Briquette Systems LLC each announced the availability of new biomass briquette presses in December.

BHS Energy has developed a small-scale briquette press designed to compress switchgrass and other biomass materials such as wood waste. The machine produces round briquettes approximately 1.5 inches in diameter and up to one inch in length. "They are roughly the size of a golf ball," said Bryan Reggie, an electrical engineer and managing member of BHS Energy.

The press can be powered by a tractor's power takeoff or by a three-phase motor. It's compact and can be loaded onto a trailer for mobility. When fed switchgrass, it produces approximately 600 pounds of briquettes per hour. When fed wood, it can produce up to 1,000 pounds of briquettes per hour.

According to Reggie, the press is designed to benefit individual farms and other small-scale entities interested in producing their own heating fuel without the expense of investing in an industrial-scale product. He estimates the product will retail for between $35,000 and $48,000. Commercial production of the press is expected to begin in the summer of 2009. The company is taking orders for discounted preproduction machines, which will be used to finalize the design.

Biomass Briquette Systems' new mechanical press, the BP-1500, can produce up to 1,500 pounds of briquettes per hour. It's an automated electrical press that produces briquettes approximately two inches in diameter. It was designed to process wood waste but can handle other kinds of biomass, as well, according to Biomass Briquette Systems President Dave Schmucker. "The size and consistency of the material is very important � in order to have the optimum performance and product output," he said. The press can handle biomass with a moisture content of up to 15 percent.