The City of Craig on Prince of Wales Island has teamed up with a sawmill in neighboring Klawock to produce useful products out of what was useless sawmill waste.
The City of Craig has a wood-fired boiler, which heats two schools and the community’s aquatic center. It’s been in operation for a while, but there was an ongoing problem. The green wood chips it was burning were too, well, green.
“We were having some operational difficulties, and one cure for those difficulties is to have the wood largely dried out by the time it reaches the wood boiler,” said Craig City Manager Jon Bolling.
He said city officials worked with Viking Lumber in Klawock, where they were getting the green wood chips, to find a solution.
That solution was a wood dryer to remove moisture from wood chips and sawdust. The City of Craig and Viking Lumber both put up matching funds and were awarded an Alaska Energy Authority grant to buy the dryer.
Over the past year or so, the equipment has been purchased and installed at the sawmill, although the dryer is officially owned by the City of Craig. It’s been operational since February, and the results so far have been positive.
“It’s good fuel. It’s been working well for us,” Bolling said. “We’ve been taking it for a couple months now. Actually, the dryer is very efficient. It dries out the chips into a state that’s sometimes a little bit drier than we need. Viking has responded by adding some green chips into their dried product.”
The City of Craig’s wood-fired boiler takes chips only, but Viking’s timber processing creates lots of sawdust, too. So, the sawmill bought a bricker that works with the dryer.
“The bricker makes burnable bricks out of the sawdust that comes through the dryer, so Viking is able to put to productive use what before was just waste product,” Bolling said.
So, the chips and sawdust are sent through the dryer, then are sifted to separate the larger
chips for the City of Craig’s boilers. The sawdust then goes into the bricker, and out comes a pressed chunk, ready for someone’s fireplace or residential wood stove.
Viking Lumber owner Bryce Dahlstrom didn’t return numerous messages from KRBD seeking information about the bricks. But he told Karen Petersen of Thorne Bay that the bricks burn like firewood, and that a ton of the pressed bricks creates about the same amount of heat as a cord of wood.
Petersen said the mill is producing about six tons of bricks per day, and so far they’re a popular item among Prince of Wales Island residents.