Some practical problems are associated with the use of biomass material (sawdust, wood chips or agricultural residues) as fuel. Those problems are mainly related to the high bulk volume, which results in high transportation costs and requires large storage capacities, and to the high moisture content which can result in biological degradation as well as in freezing and blocking the in-plant transportation systems. In addition, variations in moisture content make difficult an optimal plant operation and process control. All those problems may be overcome by densification, which consists in compressing the material to give it more uniform properties.
The main advantages of densified fuels, compared to non-densified ones are the following:
The major disadvantage is the relatively high-energy cost for the pelleting process, increasing the price of the end product.
Densified products can be found as briquettes or as pellets. The heating value, moisture content and chemical characteristics are about the same for both but the density and strength are somewhat higher for pellets. The major difference is the size (generally Ø 6 to 12 mm, with a length 4 to 5 times the Ø for pellets), making them easy to use in fully automatic operation, from household appliances to large-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
Comparison between briquettes and pellets