Turn Agricultural Waste into Biomass Energy with Air Burners PG FireBox

The air curtain burner machines that Air Burners designs and manufactures have one goal in mind: reduce vegetative waste in an environmentally friendly manner and make the disposal process more cost-effective as compared to the costly and highly polluting alternative method of chipping, grinding and trucking the waste to a disposal site.  

Air curtain burners are also called air curtain destructors, pit burners, trench burners, air curtain burn boxes, curtain burners, mechanized burners and also air curtain incinerators. The last term is really a misnomer, as the air curtain burner is not an incinerator. By definition, an incinerator combusts waste materials by heat from an external fuel source, like natural gas. There would normally be a flame that burns the combustible components of the waste to ash and a smoke stack with filters and scrubbers to allay the pollutants created. 

To the industry’s chagrin, the incinerator term crept into many governmental regulations, including at the EPA, because bureaucrats were misinformed about the machines’ principle of operation and design goals and then lumped the air curtain burners in with existing regulations for incinerators, such as large municipal solid waste incinerators with smoke stacks that get rid of garbage. That has led to many nightmares for users, and only little by little have the regulations for air curtain burners been streamlined, more recently mostly on state or regional levels. That speaks to the maturity of the technology and the desirability of their employment in biomass waste management by authorities in the US and abroad, especially in areas with a critical environmental infrastructure with dwindling waste disposal alternatives or districts severely impacted by massive forest destruction from pests, drought and wildfires.

Air Burners, Inc. - The industry’s leader

Air Burners, Inc. is a well-structured technology company with a solid twenty-year history. Its modern well-equipped spacious manufacturing plant in Palm City, Florida, includes engineering and computer aided design (CAD) sections that have propelled the company into a first-class twenty-first century high-tech facility. The company is dedicated to design and manufacture the best air curtain burner machines for general vegetative waste reduction, but also to adapt them to target industry wishes, such as to enhance their transportability or to adapt them to optimize biochar output. Most impressively, the company’s core technologies have recently been coupled with technologies that harness the heat from the wood combustion process and convert it into usable energy both electric and thermal. These schemes are called PGFirebox systems and place these advanced air curtain machines not only into a new niche market, the biomass-to-energy conversion market, but also into a whole new often more favorable regulatory compliance environment.

Air Burners approach to wood waste reduction is a true end solution that completely eliminates grinding and hauling to a disposal site. 100 tons of wood waste combusted in an air curtain Fire Box leaves but a couple tons of useful residual wood ash and biochar.

Biomass waste. What is it? Where does it come from? Where does it go?

Biomass is organic material primarily from plants. Wood or vegetative waste from forest fuels management and trees killed by pests and drought, land clearing, fruit tree trimmings or whole trees, spent pallets and shipping crates, green-waste from curbside collections are examples of biomass waste that can be combusted either for fast, clean and cost-effective disposal, but also to create renewable energy at the same time where appropriate. Biomass waste disposal includes leaving it in place to decompose naturally, trucking it to a landfill for dumping it either as mulch or unprocessed as collected, burning it in open piles, or processing it to make it suitable as a fuel supplement for cogeneration power plants.

What are the pros and cons of these disposal options from an environmental aspect.

Biomass waste, in particular wood and agricultural wastes, make up a major portion of the World’s wastes. In those countries where structured waste disposal is employed, the options for wood debris and green waste disposal are limited. They are either environmentally undesirable, because they pollute and adversely affect climate change and are a menace and health hazard to the population nearby or they are cost prohibitive and usually polluting as well. Open pile burning is an example of the former and grinding, trucking and landfill dumping of the latter.

What is the dilemma’s solution?

A reasonable solution would address both the financial cost and the environmental aspects. Of course, doing nothing and letting the wood waste rot away would be the cheapest and that occurs naturally in nature where there is no human intervention, say in the Brazilian rain forests. Equally without cost impact are naturally occurring wildfires (save for the so often endured loss of life and treasure and the tremendous cost of fighting them and the subsequent rebuilding and forest rehabilitation, but that’s another story for another day). Open pile burning or controlled burns including broadcast burns for forest fire mitigation would be the next less costly, but not entirely without cost and certainly not without consequences. Any other plausible disposable method employs some degree of technology and machinery, some more cost effective than others, some better or worse for the environment and the public’s health. We will learn that the frequently used methods are not necessary the best, and the reason may be that superior niche technologies may take longer times to break through the conventional approaches to be in the forefront. In the Unites States, as in Europe, Australia or Japan where rigorous environmental safeguards are enforced, the popular methods of collecting the vegetative waste, grinding it where possible to facilitate trucking and then landfill disposal have traditionally been the preferred way.

That has changed more recently for several reasons:

  1. Landfills are expensive to build and hard to get permitted and indiscriminate dumping of vegetative wastes into them is foolish; diverting that waste stream extends the life of landfills considerably. 
  2. As the concept of creating renewable energy gained popularity, biomass entered the arena to follow wind and solar power and, in many instances, morphed from a waste that had a cost attached to it to a fuel that fetched a price.
  3. Climate Change concerns and issues related to public health drove authorities in many jurisdictions to enact tough regulation to minimize pollution from manmade emission sources, such as hydrocarbon powered power plants and vehicles, and yes, landfills.
  4. Drought and beetle pests have killed millions of trees in the Western US and Canada and traditional disposal methods are overwhelmed.

What should be done?

There is certainly no panacea to the global problem, but there is one technology and one company that stands out as offering the closest to that wish: air curtain technology by Air Burners, Inc.  Here is why:

  1. The technology simulates the natural burning of wood waste, but without the high degree of pollution and at low cost by optimizing the combustion.
  2. The technology offers a finite result, that is nearly total elimination of the wood waste.
  3. The residual product, wood ash and biochar, is a useful marketable product
  4. The machines can reduce massive amounts of waste with usually available loading implements operated by a single person.
  5. The machines are simple to operate and have a long, useful life.
  6. The machines are portable with some Roll-off versions and trailer-mounted options.
  7. The machines are affordable, meet the latest Tier4 USEPA emissions regulations, can optionally be powered by electricity for stationary placement and have relatively short delivery times from the factory.
  8. Versions that convert heat from the combustion process to electricity and additionally, harness thermal power are readily available from 100kW to 1MW. They are called PGFireBoxes.

What is being done?

As the usefulness of air curtain burn boxes for vegetative waste disposal has passed the muster of even most of the very critical reviewers, say in the ever so environmentally conscious and progressive State of California, government officials are devising ways and justifications to re-interpret some of the regulations on the books to make the use of the burners possible. Quite often, they are the only reasonable alternative to open burning, trucking and grinding from the viewpoint of climate change contribution, but also from a disposal cost aspect. Competing technologies have been proposed that may appear brilliant, but may well be useless, because in a practical setting they could not sustain themselves, because of high attendant costs. Government subsidies are not a solution, as we have learned from the nationwide debacle with traditional biomass gasification and cogeneration plants that quickly rose to the forefront, but only with tax dollar support. Then all but a handful failed. Even those few remaining ones cannot survive on their own.

In contrast thereto, the waste-to-energy technological approach of Air Burners has overcome all these shortfalls, because it has eliminated the costly (and air-polluting) deficiencies of its competition. They lie in the expensive and polluting pre-processing of the wood waste, the grinding of the waste often multiple passes into acceptable chips and the trucking that is unavoidable. The PGFireBox by Air Burners, on the other hand, can accept the wood waste and forest slash in the shape and form it is collected, tree trunks, root balls and all without any processing. If it fits into the FireBox it can be reduced to ash.

The place of Air Burners

Air Burners is a major supporter to reverse the detrimental consequences of climate change form man-made activities, and it is proud that its contributions are received more and more eagerly by industry and governmental authorities as the underlying technologies become better understood and the positive contribution to the environment embraced.

In the next blog we will address the technical details to better understand how air curtain burners make the environment safer where employed as an alternative to other waste disposal and waste-to-energy conversion methods. After that a blog will examine suitable uses for various types of air curtain burners, laying out which are ideal and which not so, as well as those that seem attractive, but should be downplayed. It will also discuss implements and accessory option that may augment the machines’ uses in certain fringe applications.