The concept of wood pellets appeared many years ago. It was the best way to provide utilization for thousands of tons of sawdust waste, which was left from the industry of wood products. At the very beginning the wood pellets products were exclusively used as a source of fuels for huge pellet boilers which were to provide the heating and energy. Later the production of wood pellets was also used by the small-scale stove owners. The biggest area of wood pellet consumption remains the heat and energy production. Nevertheless, there are several branches where wood pellets are considered to be pioneering products. The two main non-energy markets of wood pellet consumption are considered to be the consumption of wood pellets for animal bedding and wood pellets for cooking and making barbecues in particular.
Non-energy market of Wood Pellet Bedding at Horse Facilities
One cannot but mention that wood pellet bedding for horses is the industry which experiences a significant evolve and increase in usage. More and more wood pellet bedding manufacturers are coming online every year to offer horse bedding pellet products for selling. It should be mentioned that the biggest part of wood pellets produced for bedding involves a wide variety of brands which are predominantly manufactured in British Columbia, Canada. The abovementioned brands are usually produced from sawdust of pine. This is caused by the fact that the huge amount of lodge pole pine is common in the wood products industry.
The increasing use of wood pellets in horse bedding made them more widespread than wood shaving for horse stalls at facilities which are to be used with more environmental responsibility. One of the main benefits of the usage of wood pellets for bedding is the 40-60 per cent reduction of the waste material (soiled bedding) that is produced. Wastes which are left from the horse bedding may be disposed at site by composting. The wastes may be also applied for farmland or, as a worst-case scenario, disposed in the landfills.
The horse bedding is mainly supposed to solve the following problems. The bedding should successfully serve as urine absorbent. Moreover, it is also supposed to absorb various gases and moistures, create the comfort, health and wellbeing of the animals. The wood pellet bedding of high quality creates the layer of insulation between the horse and cold floor. The bedding pellets create the softening of the surface and prevent the animal from hurts and injuries. Taking into account the properties of the product, the pellets made of straw are considered to be one of the most appropriate materials for bedding.
The Basic Characteristics of Wood Pellet Bedding
Wood pellets are the by-products of lumber industry. The manufacturing of wood pellets means wood fiber composition. The fibers are sorted by size properties. Then the materials are subjected to heat treatment and sterilization. The abovementioned processes result in the increase of the capability of pellets to absorb different liquids and gases. Pellet bedding is able to soak animal urine as fast as possible, thus, creating more confined wet place which can be easily removed afterwards.
It is rather understandable that the absorbing properties of wood pellets are able to create effective conditions not only for horses but for other animals as well. For example, the usage of wood pellets for bedding is also very widespread among those who hold pets at home. These days a lot of people use pellets as a rather cheap and affordable but at the same time environmentally friendly cat litter. For example, cat breeders give their opinion on using pellets for litter. If you have cats and want to have an easy way to clean up after your favourite pets, slide your litterbox into a big plastic trash bag and pour the pellets in the box. It is also necessary to keep in mind that wood pellets are going to expand after the process of feline urine absorption. That is why it is desirable not to overfill the box.
Benefits of Pellet Bedding
First of all, it should be taken into account that the pellets manufactured from softwood produce the minimal amount of airborne dust of various odors which may lead to respiratory illnesses in horses. Users of wood pellet bedding state that the amount of stall waste materials reduces drastically-by 40-60%. Thus, wood pellets are the key for the faster cleaning and lesser amount of material requires handling as well. This leads to the fact that the time spent on manure handling may be reduced by 30-50%.
That is why the reduction of the amount of the raw material which leads to the lesser amount of required work is more economically viable and beneficial.
Moreover, wood pellets are easier to use as a compost material. A laboratory which is engaged in soil testing has analyzed the compost made of wood pellets which were used for animal bedding. According to their analysis, this compost has the sufficient quality to be used on farmland or for planting. The process of composting reduces the quantity of material by approximately 40-50%. It takes nearly 2-4 months to make compost. It usually depends on the type of composting method used and environmental conditions. Wood pellet bedding material decays quite fast because of its absorptive qualities and fine texture, and also because of the higher amount of manure in the mixture.
Non-energy market of wood pellet smokers and grills
As far as wood pellets are concerned, at the moment they are used not only as an alternative source of energy, that is, for the purpose of heating. There are some other non-energy usages which are currently spreading and developing.
By way of example, it has become a tendency recently to use wood pellets as an alternative kind of burning material for barbecuing grills. However, it should be mentioned that only five years ago wood pellets were not considered to be the appropriate and sufficient equivalent to the common chopped wood, which is, as a rule, used in grills. The reason is that, according to public opinion, it would definitely simplify the whole durable process of barbecuing, which is rather a disadvantage.
Today, though, the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) reports that grills operating on wood pellets are at present one of the most fashionable new tendencies in the whole grill industry. The reason for this is that wood pellet grills have experienced certain development and modernization. Now the producers of wood pellet grills offer their customers natural wood smoke flavor together with the special turn-of-a-knob gas facilities. During the last year, approximately 300,000 wood pellet grill units were sold. Although this figure comprises less than 2 per cent of the total amount of grill sales, new wood pellet grills are gradually becoming more and more popular and applicable.
Wood pellet grills are regular steel barrel smokers with side-mounted hoppers instead of the usual firebox. It is fueled with cylindrical food-grade wood pellets—each of which is about an inch long and 1/4-inch wide. Each wood pellet is made of compressed hardwood sawdust. Thus, this sawdust is subjected to heat and high pressure. As a result, a particular substance called lignin, which is natural glue in wood, appears. It should be noted that wood pellets usually do not contain any additional components or substances, with the exception of certain vegetable oils or carry flavor. The advantage of wood pellets is that they normally burn very cleanly and leave a small amount of ashes.
Wood pellet grills usually operate on electricity, that is, on standard household electric current. When the grill is plugged in and the digital controller is switched on, pellets are delivered by a rotating auger from the side-mounted hopper to a cylindrical fire pot with an igniter rod inside, which ignites the pellets. A constantly working blower fan along with metal plates under the grate of the grill regulates the diffusion of smoke and heat from the pellets.
It should also be taken into account that only eight years ago, in 2008, there existed only two large companies which manufactured wood pellet grills (Traeger and MAK, both of which are based in the state of Oregon, US). But over the course of the last years the situation with the production of wood pellet grills has changed. By way of example, more than twenty different brands of wood pellet grills are now available for sale in North America. The most popular and recommended of them are Memphis Wood Fire Grills, Yoder Smokers, MAK Grills, Traeger Pellet Grills and others.
To sum up, at the moment the most popular sector of pellet usage is heating market. Nevertheless, the alternative wood pellet markets are developing rapidly as well and also have their share. These are wood pellets usage for animal bedding and for barbecuing. Due to the absorbing properties of pellets and their burning properties, they are becoming more and more popular in animal tending as well as in cooking. Unfortunately, for now the exact market share rates are still unknown.