Transporting woodfuels

Biomass material may be transported in several different forms. The most appropriate freight transport option will depend on the biomass type and form, quantity, intended customer and distance to be travelled.

Considering transportation options

Biomass material, and in particular forestry products, may be transported in several different forms. It is important to choose suitable vehicle and trailer combinations for the material to be transported.

It must be possible to deliver the fuel into an appropriate receptacle for transport, and convey it from there to its next destination conveniently and efficiently and requiring the minimum of additional energy input.

Typical CO2 emissions per tonne kilometre for different freight transport options should also be considered.

Bags

Domestic sizes 15-25 kg or 1 m3 big bags. Suitable for wood pellets.  Small bags may be stacked on pallets and sold from commercial retail outlets such as petrol station forecourts.  These and big bags may be transported and delivered by flat bed trailer.

Tipper trailer or truck

Standard, widely available equipment used for a wide range of loads. Suitable for wood chips, pellets, some industrial, agricultural or forestry residues, etc.  With suitable design of biomass storage delivery can be as simple as tipping the load into the store, thus removing the requirement for any additional handling or equipment.

Flat bed trailer

Widely available and suitable for a wide range of applications.  Can be used for palleted bags of pellets, bales of straw, or with bolster pins can transport large logs.

Tanker, grain or animal feed vehicle

There are a range of tanker type, and other, specialised enclosed vehicles that are used for fluid loads such as liquids, slurries, grain and animal feeds.

Tankers equipped with a pneumatic delivery system, can be used very successfully to deliver wood pellets to domestic and small scale district heating installations. This can offer a very convenient, clean delivery system, allowing a domestic pellet store to be filled via a flexible pipe, over a distance of up to 30m. With regular, scheduled delivery this can make using wood pellets as clean and convenient as using oil.

One common mistake is for tanker drivers to deliver at too high pressure, and this can lead to damage to the pellets and potentially a high proportion of dust. This is exacerbated by poor store design, such as tight, right angle bends in delivery tubes, and the delivery tube opening directly opposite a wall or hard surface. It is recommended that there be a soft baffle opposite the delivery tube within the pellet store.

There has been some development work on pneumatic delivery of wood chips, however they do not flow as reliably as pellets so blown delivery is slower, noisy and generally more expensive than tipped delivery.

Timber haulage wagon

Specialist lorry for timber haulage.  Usually incorporating crane for loading and unloading.  Mainly for sawlogs for timber industry.

Container and container lorry

Suitably modified, containers can be used in a number of ways for biomass energy applications.  A container can be used as a portable fuel store or for a complete, self contained installation.

Without modification, and depending on the biomass to be enclosed, it may not meet all the criteria for an ideal fuel store, such as ease of filling and fuel extraction, good ventilation etc. However under some circumstances it can offer a convenient means to deliver and/or store biomass.

Walking floor trailer

Specialist equipment for delivery of wood chips in bulk.  As they are totally enclosed they can be filled directly from the output of high throughput wood chippers, such as whole tree chippers, in a matter of minutes, requiring the minimum of handling.

Rail

Overland bulk transport of large volumes.  Suitable for power stations with dedicated biomass combustion, or co-firing.  Specially developed trucks can be used for rapid, efficient delivery of large quantities of wood chips to carefully designed delivery points.

Inland waterway

Bulk transport within the UK.  Slow but potentially low carbon, suited to a non time sensitive cargo like biomass.  Loading can be achieved efficiently, however unloading a cargo of loose wood chips, for example, requires careful planning if it is to be efficient.

Ship

Suitable for long distance bulk transport of non time-sensitive material. Carbon dioxide emissions per tonne per km around one tenth that of road transport.  For very large users of biomass, such as for a power station or a large scale, (particularly second generation) transport biofuel production plant, annual demand could be in the region of several hundred thousand to million tonnes.