Decorative board maker Laminex manufactures, cuts, sands and finishes particle board at its Taupo plant.
The process creates up to 1,400 tonnes of sander dust each year, about 80 per cent of which was previously sent to landfill.
The company, part of the Fletcher Building group, saw the potential of briquetting the pine dust into a fuel for wood burners and boilers.
It was a circular, economic solution with the potential to reduce large environmental and financial costs associated with its operations. Moreover, no other materials needed to be introduced in to the process, which could be installed and managed on-site.
Research by the company into other briquetting projects revealed that nothing similar had been embarked on with sander dust, and certainly not to the scale intended by Laminex.
The site’s reliability engineer investigated a number of internationally made machines ranging in price from $41,000 to $327,000. The company opted for a lower-price option; made in China, which it then brought up to New Zealand standard after arrival.
Laminex has an electrical and engineering team at Taupo, which will maintain and repair the machine. That will keep capex manageable and was a factor in the decision to invest.
The briquette machine creates pallets from the sander dust, suitable as biomass fuel for wood burners and boilers.
Without a benchmark to evaluate against, the company faced a steep learning curve once the machine arrived. All the manuals were in Chinese and needed to be translated. Extra infrastructure was also needed, including belt systems, conveyors and sheds.
Of central importance after installation was ensuring that the briquettes could be utilised as a viable fuel.
Laminex completed laboratory testing to ensure that their calorific value was viable, and that any emissions would meet required standards. Results came back within required ranges, and the resulting high-calorific briquettes have the potential to generate more than 6,000 MWh per 1,000 tonnes.
Laminex Taupo staff have free access to the briquettes for personal use. The company has received interest in the briquetting process from other companies and industries, curious about how the initiative could translate to their business practices.
Surplus briquettes are also supplied to other industry boilers. The company sees its pallets as equally suitable for coal burners, and hopes to supply briquettes as a renewable alternative to coal.
The Taupo project has performed as anticipated and offers annual direct savings of up to $220,000 for Laminex, based on its historical landfill charges.
The company has also reported increased awareness among staff and contractors about the wider impacts of its operations on the environment. This supports a wider company belief that Laminex must be responsible for its actions - socially, ethically and environmentally.
The Large Energy User Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by EECA Business