CHESTERFIELD — A local company will soon start manufacturing high-quality, premium-grade wood pellets for home and commercial heating systems.
Essex Pallet and Pellet is putting the finishing touches on the automated pellet-production line. Co-owner Mike Lemza said he will start taking pre-production orders Aug. 1 and hopes to start production as early as Aug. 12.
The pellets will be made from sawdust and wood waste created during the pallet-making operation. Lemza said it will create a closed-loop system that will virtually eliminate waste at the factory, located in Keeseville Industrial Park in the Town of Chesterfield.
"This process will really clean up our sawdust issue," he said.
The sawdust and ground-up wood scraps will be blown through tubes into the new addition that houses the drying equipment. It will land in two metering bins on the upper level, one for hardwood and one for softwood.
The pellets will be made from a mixture of 80 percent hardwood and 20 percent softwood sawdust. A programmable logic controller allows for one-button adjustments to the production rate.
The sawdust will then flow down to the drying machine on the lower level. The new industrial boiler used to power the dryers will be fueled by waste pallets that companies ship back to Essex Pallet and Pellet when they are ready for a new order.
"To make a good pellet, we have to get the moisture down to about 10 percent before you squeeze it into a pellet," Lemza said.
The dried sawdust will then enter another bin before it is blown into a retention bin in the main building, which will hold about an hour's supply.
A conditioner unit on top of the pellet-milling machine will allow steam and some vegetable oil to be added, the latter of which will help keep the system lubricated. That mixture then enters the milling machine, where a 150-horsepower motor spins a drum that squeezes it into the tiny holes to shape the pellets.