Chip Energy breaks ground on prototype pellet plant

By Erin Voegele | July 19, 2013

Goodfield, Ill.-based Chip Energy recently broke ground on a biomass recycling and pelletizing plant. Once complete, the prototype plant will be capable of producing 100 tons per day of condensed biomass from a variety of feedstock sources, including wood waste, purpose-grown energy crops, and agricultural residues. According to Paul Wever, president of Chip Energy, the facility will be capable of making up to five kinds of condensed biomass products, including pellets, briquettes and logs.

The facility is scheduled to be complete during the third quarter of this year. The uniquely designed plant is made from used shipping containers, configured in a vertical fashion. Wever said the total footprint of the plant is 70 feet by 104 feet, however the plant also reaches 70 feet in height. He explained that the vertical configuration of the facility increases the efficiency of the facility while maintaining a small footprint.

Wever also operates a construction equipment company in Goodfield, named Paul Wever Construction Equipment Co. Inc. He explained that his niche within that industry is prototyping and building specialized tools for the off-highway equipment industry. He’s leveraged that experience to develop the pellet plant, with the aim to supply the equipment and technology to a wide range of customers, particularly those in the power and cellulosic fuels industries.

“I’m expecting my large clients to be utility companies that want a predictable emission briquette that they can combust with coal,” Wever said. “I’m looking at doing the same thing with cellulosic ethanol facilities around the nation, being able to provide them with a value-added predictable product at their door.”

The pellet plant is designed to source feedstock from within a 60 mile radius, and to serve a customer base within a 60 miles of the facility. According to Wever, locating several of these pellet plants strategically around a power plant or cellulosic biofuels facility would help the costs associated with transporting biomass long distances.

While the prototype plant will be capable of producing one-fourth inch pellets, that’s not the market Wever said he is targeting. Rather, he expects to serve the industrial market interested in using three-eight inch pellets and larger briquettes.

Although Wever owns the first prototype plant, the long-term goal is to build, design and supply the technology to customers that need access to condensed biomass. He said Chip Energy expects to begin taking equipment orders by the end of the year.