Herty Opens Nation’s First Pilot Pellet Mill in Savannah

Pilot Pellet Mill
Georgia Southern University’s Herty Advanced Materials Development Center has opened the first fully-integrated pilot pellet mill in the United States.

At a cost of nearly $2 million, the new Savannah-based facility will provide a much-needed platform for innovation in process technology and pellet design in the U.S. and will help meet rising global demand for biomass pellets in Europe and North America.

“We’re excited to have the first fully-integrated pilot pellet mill in the country operational to service the needs of the rapidly-growing pellet industry,” said Alexander A. Koukoulas, Ph.D., president and CEO of Herty. “Our pilot facility provides companies with extensive testing capabilities to evaluate feedstocks and mixtures of feedstocks on a pre-commercial basis, which can help producers lower costs, improve product quality, and develop co-products that can help enhance their financial performance. By offering this facility and testing operation, we hope to stimulate the development of energy pellets in the United States, which are increasingly being seen as a strong, renewable and clean energy source,” Koukoulas added.

With the introduction of the new mill, Herty will work with technology providers and developers to help validate a number of product development projects. The team will also support researchers working to enhance pellet design and will develop methods for lowering operating costs.

The pellets, formed from wood and bioenergy feedstocks such as miscanthus and switch grass, are highly regarded as an effective, alternative energy solution because of their relatively high energy density and ease of handling. Pellets can be easily integrated into existing electric power generating plants as a fuel. As a result, the pellet industry has witnessed tremendous growth as major European countries, which have adopted mandates for greenhouse gas emissions, are using biomass pellets at unprecedented rates.

Most of the growth in Europe has come from imports. According to a recent report from the U.S. International Trade Commission, annual global imports of wood pellets have grown from virtually zero to more than $1.5 billion during the last decade. However, research into improving the production of pellets, as well as optimizing pellet operation and composition has lagged behind industry growth. Developers, manufacturers and researchers will now benefit by having a flexible, integrated production facility that can produce pellets with properties that are consistent with those achieved in large-scale commercial facilities.

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