Discussions of sustainable energy don’t often include food flavorings. However, the same process that creates liquid smoke—the stuff you can buy at the grocery store to add a smoky flavor to just about anything—can produce liquid wood, a very environmentally friendly fuel.
You may not have heard of liquid wood because, until very recently, it was quite difficult to burn effectively. Preferred Utilities Manufacturing changed this.
Liquid smoke is part of a family of products whereby wood is converted from a solid into a liquid. Wood pulp is heated in the absence of oxygen during a process called pyrolysis. This produces bio-oil—or liquid wood.
Unlike petroleum or natural gas, liquid wood fuel is a 100% renewable resource: the wood used to create the fuel can be balanced by replanting new trees. Liquid wood is also carbon efficient because the replanted trees offset carbon emissions, which eliminates the need to purchase separate carbon offsets. As a result, liquid wood is 81 percent more carbon efficient than natural gas, and 88 percent more carbon efficient than petroleum.
Once it’s being properly fed to the burner, liquid wood behaves pretty much just like traditional fuel oils. This means that existing boiler equipment can be retrofitted for use with liquid wood, dramatically decreasing conversion costs compared to other biofuels.
So why haven’t we seen the widespread adoption of liquid wood as a fuel oil? After all, the basic chemistry isn’t new—liquid smoke has been around for more than 100 years. Ensyn, an Ontario biofuel firm, has become adept at producing competitively priced liquid wood fuels, but very few companies have been able to offer reliable systems to burn these fuels, and none have been successful in the marketplace—until now.
One of the keys to burning liquid wood is the pump system that delivers the fuel to the boiler. Liquid wood has to arrive in the boiler at much higher and more specific pressures than natural gas or petroleum, and because it is highly acidic, the pipes must be high-grade stainless steel. This all requires advanced pumping and monitoring equipment, combined with the engineering chops to put the whole system into place. That’s where Preferred Utilities shines.
As a hybrid engineering/manufacturing firm, Preferred is uniquely equipped to devise and implement customized solutions to help commercial and residential properties including universities, colleges, hospitals, and more convert their boilers to liquid wood. Compared to other biofuels that can’t be retrofitted to existing systems, such as wood chips or pellets, the logistics and upfront investment of converting to liquid wood for heating fuel is quite reasonable.
But handling the fuel is one thing. Burning it? Another thing entirely. We’re talking about a substance that is 25% water with the consistency of lemon juice. Burning it effectively presents a significant challenge. That’s why Preferred Utilities developed the Ranger Combustion System. As of May 2017, Preferred Utilities burners are the only known burners capable of effectively and reliably firing liquid wood. There are several installations in Ohio, Vermont, and Maine currently burning this fuel with Preferred Ranger Burners.
Liquid wood also presents an opportunity to go green quickly. It can take years to transition to carbon neutral, but a liquid wood conversion can be completed in a matter of months. We have found that in many cases this extraordinary fuel source can reduce carbon emissions by about 80 percent. For more information about the potential of using liquid wood at your establishment, contact Preferred Utilities at (203) 743-6741.