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Delco installs first Muhlbock continuous kiln in North America

July 30, 2019  By  Maria Church

Delco is installing a Muhlbock continuous dry kiln, currently under construction. Photo courtesy Delco Forest Products.

With environmental impact, cost savings, and industry-leading innovation in mind, Delco Forest Products in New Brunswick has signed on to become the first sawmill in North America to install a Mühlböck continuous dry kiln.

The kiln is part of a multi-year $9-million modernization investment undertaken by the West Branch, N.B.-based sawmill. The investments are expected to boost the mill’s capacity to 100 mmbf from 80 mmbf by the end of the year.

The Austrian-built unidirectional progressive continuous kiln, which features a 1003 heat recovery system, was the natural choice for the mill, says Delco’s manager Renaud Durelle.

“In order to dry our increased sawing capacity, if we went with a conventional kiln we’d have to invest quite a bit in a new boiler. But we’re not buying this kiln for the next five years; we’re buying it for the next 20. When you look at all the long-term savings of the continuous kiln, and the quality of lumber that comes out, that’s what made our decision.”


Delco management opted for the continuous kiln following a trip to Austria and Latvia in August where they toured mills with the same kiln technology. The greatest advantage of the Mühlböck kiln was consistency of drying quality, Durelle said.

“We were looking for quality of lumber. Mühlböck is known for their lower standard deviation in moisture content. The quality of wood coming out of the kilns in Latvia, which is as close as we could compare to our conditions, was remarkable,” he said.

Quality drying will lead to better results at the planer. Better quality lumber also means more options for Delco to introduce new products to the market.

Durelle expects the kiln to quickly pay for itself, mainly due to the heat recovery system, which Mühlböck calls its type 1003. The system reduces energy consumption by 50 per cent by recuperating waste heat and re-introducing it via a pre-drying chamber.

“I think this is the future of lumber drying. Everyone is interested in the technology but nobody wanted to take that initial step. We decided to choose it because we wanted to secure the best for our future,” Durelle said.

Some of the finished product at Delco. Photo courtesy Delco Forest Products.

The kiln is being built next to the mill’s two current conventional kilns, which are already heated by a 400-hp Hurst boiler fuelled by residuals. The new 336-foot kiln will draw heat from the existing boiler with a few modifications.

Groundwork for the installation was completed in late fall. Construction began in early spring and the kiln should be operational by the end of August. Durelle expects downtime to be limited to when they tie in the steam system from the Hurst boiler.

Delco has been ramping up its production over the past few years, moving from one shift to two and launching into their modernization plan last year. The upgrades included an optimized edger with a canter on their twin line, which is now operational.

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