Cape Breton Post
Cape Breton company showcasing technology that turns hay into fuel for pellet stoves.
Barrie Fiolek, right, and Kenny MacLean, owners of local business Bioenergy Inc., talk about their new mobile pellet plant that was designed and manufactured by the company. – Steve Wadden, Cape Breton Post
[SYDNEY, NS] – A Cape Breton company is hoping to stoke interest in the technology it uses to produce biomass pellets as an alternative heating source.
BioEnergy Inc. will demonstrate how it converts hay to fuel used in pellet stoves by using its mobile biomass densification machines at three upcoming sessions in Bible Hill, Lawrencetown and Central West River.
The three-year-old company currently employs six people. Manufacturing takes place at Target Hydraulics and Machinery in Sydney, with assembly taking place at the former Phalen mine site.
“It used to be a mine site, now it’s a renewable energy site, so that’s another novel thing,” says President Barrie Fiolek. “This is game-changing technology.”
The company markets both the pellets and the technology used to produce them.
“You often see those large bales left over after a year or so, we can take that and make them into pellets and those pellets can be burned in regular pellet stoves,” Fiolek says. “It’s a growing market, it’s just starting out and it needs acceptance. As far as pellet stoves displacing oil, that’s been around the last 10 or 15 years.”
Fiolek says the company is able to produce a tonne of pellets at a cost of $200-250. It would take two tonnes of pellets to displace a tank of furnace oil.
“A full tank of oil, which is 1,000 litres, that’s $1,000 today, so we’re half the cost of oil. If a homeowner converts, they get to save $500 on every tank of oil, but more importantly that $1,000 that you put in your oil tank (goes out of) Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia,” he says, adding that the money spent on the biomass pellets stays in the local economy.
“That’s what our concept is all about – making ourselves more self-sufficient, renewable energy.”
The company currently has three prototypes. During the upcoming demonstrations, farmers will bring hay and BioEnergy will convert it to pellets.
“Just like the farmer buys a combine tractor or a collective of farmers buy a combine, we anticipate they’ll buy one of these machines and just take it from farm to farm,” Fiolek says.
Hay is not the only source of biomass they can use, he says, noting they can use waste wood and other unmarketable forest products, wooden pallets and even trees that have sustained severe insect damage.
“We love those trees,” Fiolek says. “If we don’t manage that, Mother Nature will take care of that with a lightning bolt and cause a nasty fire.”
In light of recent job losses and the pending indefinite shutdown of NewPage Port Hawkesbury, Fiolek says developments like BioEnergy are increasingly important to the region.
“We need to be looking at the alternatives to keep people working,” he says.
Fiolek says he is disappointed there hasn’t been as much interest in the technology to date in Cape Breton.
“Our project was all about enabling and capacity-building within our local community, but we’re getting more interest outside of our region, unfortunately,” he says.