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Improving Energy Efficiency

through Biomass Drying

Gilbert McCoy, Senior Energy Systems Engineer
Northwest CHP Technical Assistance
International District Energy Association
Woody Biomass CHP & District Energy
Seattle, Washington
June 11, 2014

Outline of Presentation
Why biomass drying is important
Drying technologies
Rotary Drum
Other Dryers

Selection & heat recovery

Air emissions

Biomass Fuels
Hog fuel
Biomass fuel that has been prepared by
processing through a "hog" - a mechanical
shredder or grinder

Sawdust (usually dry)
Clean urban wood waste

Why is Fuel Drying Important?

Not required for direct combustion, but:
Drying significantly improves the efficiency of the boiler
system when flue gas is used for drying energy
For boiler:
(+)5% to 15% improvement in efficiency
(+)50% to 60% more steam production
Improves combustion efficiency and control
Reduces air emissions
Reduces feedstock (fuel) costs
Reduces ancillary power requirements

Drying from 60% to 10% Moisture


Wet Wood Energy Balances

Moisture Content, % by Weight




Potential Recoverable
Energy, Btu/lb, HHV





Dry Gas Loss, Btu/lb





Hydrogen Loss, Btu/lb





Moisture Loss, Btu/lb





Available Heat, Btu/lb





% of Potential
Recoverable Energy





Tons per 100

MMBtu/hr Net Input





Basis: 8,800 Btu/lb (oven dry), 250FFlueGas CombAir,7%ExcessO2


Potentially Recoverable versus

Available Heat

Stack Losses and Combustion Efficiency

From: U.S. DOE Steam System Assessment Tool

Drawbacks of Drying Fuel

Flame temperature can approach the ash
fusion temperature
Must accommodate dryer downtime (provide
backup fossil fuel boiler or dried fuel storage)
High flame temperatures can increase NOx
Expensive dryer materials are required if flue
gases are cooled below the dew point

Most Common Types of

Hog Fuel Dryers
Conveyor/Belt dryer
Flue gas or air passed through material on a belt

Rotary Drum dryers traditional, most common

Flue gas or heated air passed directly through biomass

Steam, flue gas or heated air passed through heat exchanger
inside dryer

Others types: flash and cascade dryers,

superheated steam dryers, bed/grate dryers

Conveyor/Belt Dryers
Material is laid on
a moving
perforated belt or

Rotary Drum Dryers

Inlet Temperature Comparison

for Drying Hog Fuel
Rotary Drum dryers
Require at least 500oF for hog fuel
More optimally operate around 800oF

Conveyor dryers
Typically operate between 200oF and 400oF

Conveyor/Belt Dryers
Have long, proven history in many industries
Suitable for drying many types of materials
But fines tend to fall through belt perforations.
Can have tar/fines buildup issues

Advantages of Conveyor/Belt
Dryers over Rotary Drum Dryers
Operate at lower temperature
greater efficiency
reduced fire hazard
reduced emission VOCs
greater opportunity to recover waste heat

Do not agitate biomass undergoing drying

Reduced particulates in emissions
Doesnt ball up sticky or high clay biomass

Disadvantages of Conveyor Dryers

Fines that would filter through belt must be
separated out and added in later
Can take up more floor space if belts
arent stacked. Stacking adds complexity
O&M costs are higher than for direct or
indirect-fired rotary dryers

Footprint Comparison
If unstacked, conveyor dryer footprint is
larger than rotary dryer
Stacking reduces footprint
On stacked belts, biomass cascades from
one belt down to another

Stacking of Conveyor Belts

for Smaller Footprint

First Cost Comparison

Rotary drum and conveyor dryers have
similar first costs
In new installations, conveyor dryer
projects can have lower total installed
costs because there may be savings in air
pollution control equipment requirements

Rotary Drum Dryers

Most common dryer used in drying hog fuel

Have long, proven history in many industries
Suitable for drying hog fuel, sawdust, bark
Can produce 5 to 50 tons/hour of product dried to
10% moisture content
Will ball up high clay sludge.
Not as suited for heat recovery as they require a
higher operating temperature increased
operation costs

Rotary Drum Dryer Operation

Operate most efficiently at higher inlet
800oF inlet temperature and 150oF exhaust
temperature is typical for hog fuel (exhaust above
220oF prevents acid and resin condensation)

Temperature cannot be so high that material is

Moister biomass requires higher temperatures

Direct-Fired Rotary Dryers

Flue gas or hot air is passed directly
through the medium to be dried
Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) improves
heat transfer and reduces fire risk
Have lower electrical power and O&M
costs than indirect-fired rotary dryers
Good energy efficiency: 1,500 to 1,800
Btu/lb of water evaporated

Direct-Fired Rotary Dryers

Retention time of 10 to 30 minutes for
larger material
Disadvantage of greater VOC emissions
(may require a regenerative thermal
oxidizer (RTO) for VOC control)
Greatest fire hazard

Indirect-Fired Rotary Drum Dryers

Steam or flue gas is passed through tubes or
heat exchanger inside the dryer
instead of directly through the material to be
dried as in direct-fired dryers
Well suited for drying fine and dusty materials
Efficiency of an indirect-fired steam dryer itself is
less than for direct-fired dryers because of the
heat exchanger

Rotary Drum Dryer Example

100 tons per day of bark:
Dryer Size: 6 feet diameter and length of
24 to 30 feet required
Cost: $400,000 to $500,000 roughly
Because of small size, this dryer would
probably not be cost effective unless it
makes good use of waste heat recovery

Considerations in Selecting a
Biomass Dryer

Heat Recovery
Energy Efficiency
Air Emissions
Sizing Boiler and Dryer Together
Operations and Maintenance
Feed & Discharge
Electrical Energy Consumption

Sizing Considerations
Size the boiler and dryer together:
Dryer capacity should be well matched with the
boiler fuel requirements
Smaller boiler will be required for a rated
maximum steam production when a dryer is used

The Key is Heat Recovery

Heat recovery is key to a cost-effective
dryer project
Recover heat from flue gas of power boiler
Recover heat from other waste heat
Recover heat from dryer exhaust

Flue Gas Heat Recovery

With a rotary drum dryer, flue gas heat recovery is
less cost effective
A boiler feedwater economizer can recover boiler flue gas
heat more cost effectively than a dryer
Requires higher temperature so exhaust from economizer
is not adequate for drying purposes

With conveyor dryers, flue gas heat recovery is more

cost effective
Lower temperature, so we can recover heat with a
combustion air preheater and a feedwater economizer
Can cascade heat from the air preheater to economizer to
dryer to take full advantage of multiple flue gas heat
recovery methods

VOC Emissions
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as
terpenes and wood oils, are exhausted from hog
fuel dryers
VOC emissions depend on biomass type,
operating temperature, residence time, and final
moisture content
Southern Pine 8 to 9 lbs/dry ton
Hardwoods 1 to 2 lbs/dry ton

VOC destruction may require a regenerative

thermal oxidizer (RTO). Provides 98% destruction
BACT trigger is 40 tpy for VOCs

Air Permit Requirements

The local air quality management district has
Each project is addressed on its own merits
Potential Issues:
Need for an afterburner or RTO
Integrate new equipment with particulate controls
Plume rise and dispersion with reduced stack

Recommendation: Talk early and often

Operation and Maintenance

Conveyor dryers have highest O&M costs
and hence lowest availability
More parts to maintain. Chain, belt, drive, etc

Steam dryers have greater O&M costs

than flue gas dryers
Corrosion and erosion is a problem in all
hog fuel dryers


Biomass Drying and Dewatering for Combined Heat and Power,

Northwest CHP TAP, October 2013, Dr. Carolyn Roos,
Report on Biomass Drying Technology, National Renewable
Energy Laboratory, November 1998,
Recent advances in biofuel drying, Chemical Engineering and
Processing, Issue 38, pp. 441-447, 1999
Biomass Drying Technology Update, Tappi BioPro Expo, Atlanta,
GA, March 14-16, 2011, by Matt Worley of the Harris Group.
Drying wood waste with flue gas in a wood fuel dryer, Caddet
Energy Efficiency, 1997,
Biofuel Drying as a Concept to Improve the Energy Efficiency of an
Industrial CHP Plant, doctoral dissertation by Henrik Holberg,
Helsinki University of Technology. April 2007

Gilbert McCoy, Senior Energy Systems Engineer
Northwest CHP Technical Assistance Partnership
Washington State University Extension Energy Program