Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Biomass burner is set to slash grain drying costs

Innovative: Ollie Whyte in a 2.5MW biomass burner that he hopes will reduce annual drying costs on his farm at the Naul in Dublin by 75pc. Also pictured are CPB’s Grant Rogerson and Conor Bruton.
Innovative: Ollie Whyte in a 2.5MW biomass burner that he hopes will reduce annual drying costs on his farm at the Naul in Dublin by 75pc. Also pictured are CPB’s Grant Rogerson and Conor Bruton.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

It looks set to revolutionise the cost of drying grain. A new 2.5MW biomass burner installed by the Whytes of the Naul, Dublin, is expected to reduce their annual drying costs by 75pc.

The €125,000 unit was commissioned at the weekend in advance of the start of the cereal harvest.

The Whytes, who farm close to 3,000ac in north Co Dublin, also have the unique claim to fame of being one of the only farms in possibly the whole of Europe with seven brothers and their sons working full-time in the business.

"Everything gets well debated around here," admitted Ollie Whyte. "And we've been looking at a system like this for nearly three years. We couldn't get any grant aid on it but I'd be surprised if it doesn't become eligible within the next few years given the benefits that it has for the environment."

Conor Bruton of CPB Biomass predicted that the technology would reduce carbon emissions from the grain drying operation by at least 95pc.

Mr Bruton said: "The carbon that the crop absorbs while it grows pretty much cancels out the carbon used to grow and harvest it. So that will save about 240t of carbon emissions for this operation alone.

"In addition, the emissions from the bales are also hugely reduced in this system because the bales are being burnt at such a high temperature."

Computer-controlled vents turbo-charge the oven so that it is able to raise the temperature to more than 750C.

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The brothers plan to burn straw from their oilseed rape crop that would otherwise have no outlet.

"Oilseed rape straw actually has a higher calorific value because it is more fibrous, so the lads are winning on the double by using this," said Mr Bruton.

Advantage

The farming family have also engineered and built their own bale lifter for the huge furnace.

"We needed something that handled the bale from the narrow end, didn't need extra room to drop the bale inside the oven, and held onto the straw even after all the twines melt as we're placing the bale into the flames," said Mr Whyte.

"The forced air combustion process means that you get a complete burn, which greatly reduces the amount of ash left from the process. We burned 14 bales weighing about 550kg each during the commissioning this weekend, and all that is left is a wheel-barrow full of ash," said Mr Bruton.

The system also has the advantage of generating completely clean air for circulating though the grain.

"Standard grain drying systems use the hot exhausts from a burner to dry the grain. But this is becoming a big no-no since dioxins were discovered in pig feed," said Mr Bruton.

"So this system works a bit like a plate cooler in reverse – the hot air from the fire heats a separate bank of air to 110C, which is then circulated through the grain."

The Whytes expect to dry approximately 9,000t a year with the system, although Mr Bruton says that smaller 0.5MW versions of the dryer would suit farmers drying closer to 2,000t annually. They expect to use one bale an hour to keep the 25t/hr dryer working at full capacity.

Indo Farming