A Morris-based company will soon debut a biomass-fuelled heat source for grain drying.
“Drying grain has become one of the most energy-intensive operations on the farm. It’s a significant cost to farming operations and in many cases is subject to carbon tax,” said Cam Cornelsen, co-owner of Triple Green Products.
Cornelsen spoke during Manitoba Sustainable Energy Association’s (ManSEA) online conference on March 30.
Triple Green Products, based in Morris, produces biomass-fuelled heating, composting and dehydrating systems used in mining, agriculture, industrial and other applications.
Lower drying costs and sidestepping the carbon tax make this system interesting to growers.
Triple Green has built biomass-fuelled drying systems for the mining industry for many years but about a year and a half ago, factors like the carbon tax pushed it to build something for farmers, said Lyall Wiebe, the company’s CEO, in an interview with the Co-operator.
“We saw a need to bring the system that’s been tried and true into the ag sector,” he said.
Triple Green’s BioDryAir unit hooks up with an existing air dryer with an air duct that directs heat, its website says. It’s fed fuel via a hopper and auger system. The system can burn corn stover, canola straw, wood pellets, oat pellets and other renewable fuels.
Cornelsen said burnable municipal waste may also be shredded and used as an energy source.
Triple Green did a case study on a farm in mid-north Saskatchewan, said Cornelsen. The farm produces just under 600,000 bushels of grain per year. It used a grain dryer with 17.4 mBTU max output hooked up to a BioDryAir unit.
Triple Green estimated that using fossil fuels, the farm would spend about $194,000 in 2021 on propane with an additional $18,000 on carbon tax. This would rise incrementally to reach about $232,000 in propane in 2030 and $78,000 on carbon tax.
Natural gas is cheaper than propane in that area. It estimated the farm would spend about $72,500 on natural gas in 2021 and about $15,500 on carbon tax. This would rise to $87,000 in gas and $66,000 in carbon tax in 2030.
On the same farm, Triple Green estimated they’d spend just over $8,000 on corn stover in 2021, rising to about $9,750 in 2030. It found that canola straw is more efficient and cost effective than corn stover. The most expensive biomass fuel it charted was oat pellets, which would cost the farm just over $22,000 for the year of 2021, rising to about $26,500 by 2030.
Depending on the size, BioDryAir units can cost between $160,000 and $500,000 said Wiebe. The company estimates farmers can expect a return on their investment in two to five years.
Wiebe said Triple Green heating units have proved to be durable and long lasting. As an example, he said one heating unit in a municipal building has been used year round for 10 years and has been shut down once for maintenance. Wiebe said the unit would not need major repairs for another decade.
Corn stover, straw, wood pellets, oat pellets and other renewable fuels are exempt from carbon taxes.
In early March, the federal government announced farmers could expect rebates on carbon tax paid on fuels used to dry grain.
Farmers in Manitoba have said carbon taxes on fuel for grain drying take a significant chunk out of their wallets, particularly after 2019’s ‘harvest from hell’ which saw a spike in grain drying.