Pellet producer offering heat for schools program

By Luke Geiver | May 09, 2012

A startup pellet producer has unveiled a plan to create a larger market for its hybrid wood, agricultural residue and plastic residual pellets.

Maine-based Pelletco LLC is now offering school districts in the Northeastern U.S. that consume an average of 15,000 gallons per year of fuel oil the opportunity to convert their thermal heating systems to pellets without any equipment, installation or maintenance costs. “Rather than the schools having to put up money, we’ll put the equipment in,” said Jim Knight, CEO of Pelletco. “We own it, we take care of it and we sell the heat on a metered basis.” Through the program, the schools are only charged for the heat consumed. “We measure how much heat they are taking and we send them a bill,” Knight said. The scenario is a cost saving measure for the schools, too.

For Pelletco, the program allows institutions and the commercial marketplace to see the value of the pellets the company provides. Knight said Pelletco’s pellets have a higher But value, because of the combination of feedstocks. Along with a 100 percent biomass pellet, the company has also created a pellet process that combines wood waste with plastic residues from industrial waste plastic streams, not from landfills.

The binder for the recycled plastic pellets is similar in composition to natural gas. “In essence, we are fusing the biomass with solid natural gas and that is why you get so much more energy out of it,” Knight said. The combustion property of the hybrid fuel allows for a more complete burn, he said. The company has yet to conduct formal emissions testing on it pellets. 

Pelletco is currently working with pellet mill operators to license the technology and additive, and offering a way to create a new product line. “Those that are very aggressive and looking to build their business are very open to it,” Knight said. He thinks combining feedstocks into pellet form will not only provide a premium pellet, but also a way to show the true science of binding biomass into pellets. “In my opinion, there has been a lot of focus on that activity as an art form, where you have to just know how to do it; you have to just listen to the machine. Well, we don’t buy that at all. We think the process of putting biomass together is a science and you have to reduce it to a formula and a recipe.”

Pelletco has produced a small inventory of its hybrid pellets and will provide the schools participating in the program with both wood pellet fuel as well as the hybrid fuel. The company will also use boilers and other equipment from providers in the U.S.