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Cresswood Grinder Allows Rehrig Penn Logistics to Provide Green Energy for Laundry Facility
Cleaning Up in New York: Cresswood grinder enables Rehrig Penn Logistics to supply a major laundry facility with green, cost effective energy.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2009

             Doing the dirty laundry for hospitals and industrial customers may seem like the farthest thing in the world from recycling wood pallets. But Rehrig Penn Logistics is turning non-repairable pallets into green energy for Robison & Smith, Inc. of Gloversville, N.Y.

            Robison & Smith operates one of the largest and most up-to-date commercial laundry & dry cleaning operations in Upstate New York. Providing steam for facility operations requires a significant amount of fuel, and Rehrig Penn relies on its new Cresswood Destroyer HF-70 grinder to provide consistent wood chips.

            In early 2000, Robison & Smith began investigating a more energy-efficient way to create steam for its Gloversville facility. Using a wood-fired gasifier that would function as the burner for its boiler system showed promise. Rich Calderwood, operations manager for Robison & Smith, said “We’re in a ‘volume’ business, and reducing costs is number one – it drove this project.”

            Rich is responsible for plant systems engineering and preventative maintenance at Robison & Smith. He said, “The wood-fired gasifier and boiler system provide 100% of the steam required for our ironers and presses.”

            After “doing considerable homework” Robison & Smith opted for a gasifier by ChipTec, a systems provider located in South Burlington, Vt. Feedback from current owners, including schools and hospitals reported that the ChipTec was a very clean-burning system. A ChipTec Model C-12 Biomass Gasification System was installed in the winter of 2001.

Quality, Consistent Fuel

            The boiler was only one half of the equation. It needs a consistent supply of wood chips. All wood fuel utilized by Robison & Smith is derived from ground pallets, and about 98% of it is sourced from Rehrig Penn Logistics.

            Rich said, “Rehrig Penn’s plant is about 10 minutes away from our facility, which is HUGE. The only time we need to supplement their volume is during the winter, when they have their own boiler fuel requirements. We have a great relationship with Kevin Kelso and the Rehrig team.” 

            Robison & Smith sources about 50 tons of ground pallet material from Rehrig Penn per week. That’s 2 – 3 loads per week, with each trailer hauling 17 tons of wood.

            The ChipTec system is very clean burning, making wood an environmentally friendly fuel option for the laundry facility. Interestingly, the residual waste from burning that volume of ground pallets fills less than half of one 55 gallon drum per week.

            Todd Rodewald, director of operations for Rehrig Penn, said, “Providing wood waste to Robison is definitely more profitable than mulch or some other possibilities in the area.”

            He added, “One of the nice things about the Robison & Smith business is that it isn’t seasonal. It is fairly consistent in terms of wood chip demand.”

A Financial Win-Win Situation

            It’s a true win-win situation for both companies. Rehrig Penn has a consistent, core customer that consumes the bulk of its ground pallet material. Robison & Smith saves money compared to the cost of fossil fuels.

             Rich of Robison & Smith said, “Using wood fuel for our boiler has cut our energy costs in half compared to the cost of natural gas.”

            The Gloversville laundry facility burns 2,200 tons of pallet material per year. Rich estimated that 133 lbs. of wood produces one million BTUs. At $30 per ton for ground wood, one Million BTUs cost $ 2.00. This compares to natural gas which costs $6.50 per 1 million BTUs.

            The close proximity of the two facilities makes wood fuel a major cost saver. When looking for potential users of wood biomass, consider that your best customer may not be one of the usual suspects. Your best customer may not even be using wood energy yet. Look for facilities with consistent, large heat requirements. These provide the best situations for all parties involved.

Advantages of the Cresswood  Destroyer HF-70 Grinder

            Late last year, Rehrig Penn installed a Destroyer HF-70 Cresswood grinder with a 125 HP motor, and a custom enclosed hopper with dust collection.

            Todd of Rehrig Penn said, “The Cresswood grinder is very robust. You need a machine that can take some abuse. Grinding pallets is one of the toughest things we do on a regular basis.”

            Rehrig Penn prefers lower RPM-grinders because a slower moving machine causes fewer problems in terms of maintenance. Currently, Rehrig Penn uses a 1-inch screen to process material for Robison & Smith.

            The pallet material, once ground, is transferred by auger to a conveyor equipped with both cross-belt magnetic separation, and a magnetic head pulley to provide additional assurance that metal material will be removed. 

            The ground material then drops on to a second conveyor, after which the material can be directed either of two ways.  In one direction, the material is sent to a truck loading system.  In the other direction, the material is sent to a storage container for boiler fuel.  From that storage container, material can be fed directly to the RPL boiler. Rehrig Penn uses Walking-Floor trailers to provide wood chips to customers.

            Robison & Smith has seen an improvement in fuel quality since Rehrig Penn installed the Cresswood grinder. Rich said, “We have seen an improvement in the consistency of the ground wood with the Cresswood.  It’s been a positive for our quality assurance.”

            Using indoor grinding operations has helped deal with problems caused by moisture and cold temperatures.

            Rich said, “It’s also been a benefit that the Cresswood grinder is indoors at Rehrig Penn, and has a ‘top feed’ system for our trailers.  In the winter, compact ice chunks would form, and that created havoc for our feed system to the gasifier. All in all, this has been a vast improvement for us.”

            Cresswood is uniquely situated to provide grinders for boilers due to its previous expertise manufacturing stoker-fed hot air furnaces and combustion bases for boiler systems which burn ground wood product.

             Jack Cress, CEO of Cresswood, said, “In terms of wood grinding technology, this Rehrig Penn Logistics application brings Cresswood ‘full circle’- back to our foundation as a provider of feedstock solutions for combustion systems.  The Destroyer HF-70 at Rehrig Penn is grinding pallet material, and sizing it through our 180-degree wraparound screen to produce uniform boiler fuel.”

            Cresswood has literally spent years refining low-RPM grinding technology for biomass fuel applications.

            Jack explained, “To achieve good ‘burn characteristics’ and clean emissions, we learned first-hand what these systems require. The most desirable fuel has a consistent particle size, with less ‘fines’ or dust. Output with minimal ‘fines’ is difficult to achieve with high-speed processing equipment.”

            Cresswood customers generally conduct ‘sieve tests’ to validate the performance of the grinder and to support their quality assurance programs. Customer demands keep pushing Cresswood to improve the quality and consistency of the wood chips produced by its grinders.

            Jack said, “Rehrig Penn is a very progressive company with rigorous expectations of both the wood grinding systems, and factory-direct support services from Cresswood… I think that it’s fair to say that Rehrig Penn is helping to inspire Cresswood to the next level of excellence.”    

Wood Energy is Green Energy

            Turning to wood energy has improved the environmental footprint of Robison & Smith. Switching from burning a fossil fuel to wood has reduced its reliance on non-renewable natural resources that tend to take more energy to produce than wood.

            Biomass obtains energy through the photosynthetic process. This chemical energy is stored until the biomass is burned or decays naturally, both of which release the stored carbon into the atmosphere. Energy produced from biomass residues displaces the production of an equivalent amount of energy from fossil fuels, leaving the fossil carbon in storage.

            Todd of Rehrig Penn said, “Wood energy is pretty clean burning. It is carbon neutral, which means that it doesn’t put extra CO2 into the environment.”

            Burning wood emits particulates, but the amount is minimized by secondary burn systems on newer boiler units, whereas natural gas will produce carbon monoxide. Both wood and natural gas can be fairly clean burning depending on the heat system using the material.

            Rich reported that the ‘system used by the Gloversville facility is very clean-burning, we have a scrubber on the exhaust, but we had no problem with the permitting.”

Final Thoughts

            Robison & Smith is a third generation, family owned and operated company. Founded in 1915, the company has kept pace with technology. It has experienced the commercial laundry industry go from the days of horse drawn buggies, to tractor-trailers and continuous washers. Using wood energy is just another step in its pursuit of innovative ways to operate.

            Rehrig Penn runs seven reverse logistics/pallet recycling facilities in the Northeast. The collaboration between these two companies illustrates how wood waste can be more than just a byproduct. Increasingly, it may play a key role in meeting the energy needs of the future.

            North America has the potential to dramatically increase its use of biomass energy. It is home to 10% of the world’s forests and benefits from a large agricultural sector. Biomass currently supplies about 4% of the energy produced in North America and could potentially provide almost 20%. Maybe wood is truly green in more ways than one.



Cresswood Destroyer HF-70A

            The HF-70A “Mega Destroyer” is the largest one-pass, hopper-fed grinder/shredder in the Cresswood “Destroyer” product line.

            Machine features include: low speed operation for energy efficiency; maximized throughput with aggressive rotor design and oversized ram feed; and “heaviest-in-class” total weight of 23,000 lbs. 

            The HF-70 is ideal for pallet operations, logistics service providers, plastics producers, truss manufacturers, and furniture companies with large volumes, and/or large format material to grind.  The big hopper allows for ‘dump & go’ operation, a substantial savings in labor costs. Capable of processing up to 20,000 lbs per hour; check with Cresswood regarding specific applications.   www.cresswood.com 




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