Chip Energy breake grounds for a prototype pellet/briquette plant
Chip Energy breake grounds for a prototype pellet/briquette plant

Chip Energy breaks ground on new biomass recycling and pelletizing facility 

GOODFIELD — The 5 million tons of wood Illinois throws away each day could become a new source of energy for everything from stoves to airplanes, all with little impact on communities.

That’s the vision Paul Wever laid out at a groundbreaking ceremony for Chip Energy’s $1.5 million biomass conversion facility in Goodfield Thursday. Over 50 people attended the Chip Energy Groundbreaking Ceremony on June 27th, 2013. The event was covered by several major news outlets.

The unfinished facility at 395 W. Martin Drive will be made of used metal shipping containers welded together, said Wever, president of Chip Energy.

This was not a typical groundbreaking event; a large portion of the building was already in place to demonstrate the project’s unique construction method of using shipping containers for the primary structure.

Attendees gathered around to hear from Chip Energy president Paul Wever, IDCEO assistant director Dan Seals, and Woodford County Board chairman Stan Glazier. There were words of praise as this project will create jobs, produce renewable energy, and create infrastructure to give value to what is currently considered waste. Paul led tour groups through the facility, explaining how the building is arranged vertically to operate with a high degree of efficiency on a small plot of land.

With 26 forty foot tall silos, and another 2300 cubic yards of bulk storage all under one roof, the facility can hold enough material to buffer several weeks’ worth of operation. On display were samples of several biomass fuel sources which the facility can utilize, including wood chips, corn stover, miscanthus, switchgrass, cherry pits, and rice husks.

“It can’t be transported like this,” Wever said, drawing a handful of grass clippings out of a bucket with one hand. “You can’t justify a truck full of this.”

Wever then lifted up a finished briquette roughly the size of a small cinder block.

“But when we make it into a briquette … This I can transport 100 miles,” he said.

“It’s all about efficiency,” Wever said. The two-acre facility is laid out vertically to take up less space and is expected to bring in only about 10 heavy trucks per day. Plans call for a three-story building constructed out of about 60 used shipping containers. The facility will be capable of processing 100 tons of material a day, earn from $3 million to $7 million annually and employ six- to eight full-time employees once operational. Hopefully, hundreds of such facilities could be created throughout the state, Wever said.

The facility will begin processing about 20 tons of material a day starting in October, and could upgrade to as much as 100 tons a day by the end of 2014 based on local demand, Wever said.

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. /LLj