From their processing facility near Mohill in Co. Leitrim, McCauley Wood Fuels produce dried WFQA (Wood Fuel Quality Assured) certified wood fuels for the North-West and Midlands of Ireland. Last year, the family-run business processed enough wood biomass to heat the equivalent of 1,285 homes for a whole year, which is more than 10% of all houses in Co. Leitrim.
McCauley Wood Fuels evolved from a landscaping business run by Brian McCauley, who had been farming full-time before then. Brian’s son Kenny, who runs McCauley Wood Fuels alongside him, explains: “We have a small 50-acre farm which my father would have struggled to make a living from so he needed an off-farm income, which he developed through a landscaping and garden maintenance business in the early 1990s. Within a few years, that became his full-time job and farming became part-time.
“Then in about 2008, while we were attending the FTMTA Farm Machinery Show in Punchestown, we saw a Palax firewood processor, which is PTO-driven and cross-cuts and slips in a single process, at PJ Callan’s stand. We decided to buy it as we thought it might fit in well with the existing landscaping. Instead of sending lads home on wet days, they could be using that time to cut firewood.
“We started selling firewood on a small scale and gradually built up a local and national customer-base. But then the recession came and impacted greatly on the landscaping business. We decided at that point to concentrate on firewood, but the problem was that we weren’t getting enough timber that was suitable for firewood.”
Kenny continues: “With the help of Leader funding, we then bought a new Heizohack 4-300 wood chipper through Nicholas Garvey in Kilkenny. For the first year or so, we mainly processed wood chip for animal bedding. We also carried out some on-site chipping jobs, such as at the out wintering pad at Ballyhaise Agricultural College. A local business, Arigna Fuels, became one of our first consistent customers for wood chips for biomass heating, as they run one of their boilers on woodchip.
“Other early customers included piggeries and mushroom farms. We quickly discovered that in order to develop a reliable biomass supply chain, the product had to be drying for 12-18 months prior to processing and delivery to the end user. In more recent years we began supplying woodchip to another local company, Masonite, as fuel for their large biomass boiler for the process of the making of their door skins. We also supply wood chips to Edenderry Power, where it is used as a replacement in their reduction in the use of peat.
“Thanks to further investment in equipment and their greater production capacity, we went from processing 2,500 tonnes of biomass and firewood three years ago to 6,500 tonnes last year, and are on course to process over 10,000 tonnes this year. We have a current capacity for 40,000 tonnes per year, so have plenty of scope to gradually build the supply chain up in the next couple of years”
Four years ago, McCauley Wood Fuels replaced their original Palax firewood processor with a state-of-the-art Palax KS40 from Oakleaf Forestry, while last year they upgraded their original Heizohack 4-300 wood chipper to a Kesla C645, which was also sourced from Oakleaf Forestry in Portadown, Co. Armagh. The Kesla, capable of processing an articulated load of logs in 30-40 minutes, is driven by a 350 horsepower Case IH Magnum tractor which was bought from Mid-Louth Garage in Ardee.
A large portion of the timber used by McCauley Wood Fuels comes from Western Forestry Co-Op. “The material is sourced from sustainable local forestry, harvested and transported by local contractors, and conforms to WFQA certification for quality and sustainability. We support local jobs, support the financial benefits to local forest owners, produce renewable wood fuel and reduce carbon emissions. Biomass processing is an important aspect of the forest cycle, it gives forest owners a market for pulpwood, traditionally a low-value product, so it improves the viability of forest management practices such as thinning by giving a stronger market for the material,” Kenny says.
For commercial and industrial heat users, the McCauleys can offer a variety of woodchip grades and moisture content to suit specific biomass systems. Several methods of delivery and load size options are available. For the firewood heating market, they produce and supply seasoned firewood logs in loose loads of different quantities or contained in large bulk bags or smaller retail net bags.
Their customer-base ranges from small-scale domestic users with small solid fuel stoves to larger commercial and industrial users such as hotels, leisure centres and district heating systems.
The family-run business has been a pioneer in the development of wood fuel processes since they were first certified to the WFQA Scheme in 2012. The WFQA Scheme is all-island scheme established to increase consumer confidence in wood fuel products sold in Ireland.
A working group comprising fuel producers committed to the production of high-quality wood fuel products and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Martin, WIT and IrBEA, which outlines the certification process that monitors their production processes and tests the quality of their finished product, ensuring that they meet pre-defined standards and that all wood fuel certified is sourced sustainably and in compliance with EUTR (EU Timber Regulation), ensuring full traceability back to source.
As WFQA grows, its members will provide consumers with a greater degree of confidence in the secure supply of quality wood fuel products around Ireland.
Kenny has welcomed the recent announcement by the Government of Phase 2 of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion heating systems. The scheme is designed to replace fossil fuel heating systems with heat pumps and with heat from biomass or anaerobic digestion. It includes protections to ensure that the heat supported is sustainable, used for useful purposes and represents value-for-money for the taxpayer. The Government is predicting that over the lifetime of the scheme, the successful delivery of this programme will reduce carbon emissions by 11Mt.
“Having been delayed for a number of years, it’s great that the Support Scheme is now finally here. I have no doubt that it will spark greater interest in biomass as an alternative to fossil fuels,” Kenny concludes.
McCauley Wood Fuels
Mohill, Co. Leitrim.
Telephone: 071 9631659 / 086 1631628
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 5, September/October 2019