Click here to download a pdf of this article

Evergreen Gets Even Greener
Evergreen Fibre, a subsidiary of Hermann Brothers Logging Co., replaces diesel-powered chipper with an electric unit

Evergreen Fibre handles approximately 1.2 million pounds of chips a day.

Almost every facet of the logging and lumber mill business today is fiercely competitive. To maintain whatever edge they have, companies are forced to find ways to keep costs down — even if that means deviating from the “normal” way of doing things. For Evergreen Fibre, of Port Angeles, Wash., that meant replacing one of its diesel-powered chippers with a stationary electric unit. Today, the supplier of chips to area paper mills says that what started out as an experiment, of sorts, has resulted in improved performance, reduced emissions and energy costs, and a dramatically enhanced bottom line.

Turning Up the Volume
Located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Evergreen Fibre, Inc., is one of the north Olympic peninsula’s premier contract chipping companies. Founded in 1984, the firm, a subsidiary of Hermann Brothers Logging Co., has contracts to supply a variety of hardwood chips to several local and regional paper mills. According to Bill Hermann, Evergreen’s co-owner, along with his brother, Fred, chip volu
mes vary, but are generally in the 1.2 million lb. per day range.                                   

“Moisture content is the real determinant with regard to volumes, but we tend to ship between 35 and 40 trucks of chips and another half dozen trucks of hog fuel each day,” he says. “We have about eight employees for Evergreen alone and another 65 to handle driving, logging, and maintenance in support of the trucking business. Our trucks work throughout the western part of the state but Evergreen tends to stay within about a 100-mile radius of Port Angeles.” Until last year, Evergreen’s chipping operation consisted of a trio of diesel-powered Morbark Model 30 Total Chiparvestors: two used as portable machines working throughout the yard, a third as a stationary unit — the final step in a drum debarking line. It was this third chipper that became the subject of interest as Hermann and his son, Mike, the company’s Operations and Transportation Manager, looked for ways to trim operating costs.

The new electric-powered
chipper is saving
the company $9,000 to
$10,000 per month in
fuel says co-owner Bill

End to an Upward Spiral
With nearly a dozen different loaders, excavators, chippers, grinders, etc., operating throughout the yard on a daily basis, the rising cost of diesel fuel was a growing concern. Bill says they had been doing research on electric- powered chippers for a while, but the upward spiral of fuel costs pushed them to make the move.                                   

“We worked with Morbark and the folks at Papé Machinery, the area Morbark dealer, and replaced that stationary diesel unit with an identical, electric powered model. To ensure we could match the power we had with the diesel, we speced the new machine with a pair of 400 hp motors for the chipping function alone, then added another 200 hp motor to power the hydraulics. It’s been an excellent move on our part; there hasn’t been any loss of production whatsoever. And the fuel savings — the real source for the move — have surpassed even our expectations.”                                   

Hermann says that running nine to ten hours a day, the previous unit was burning about 35 gallons of diesel fuel an hour, resulting in a monthly fuel bill of about $14,000 for that unit alone. “And that was before the last round of fuel price increases. Even using those prices, however, we are still realizing a $9,000 to $10,000 a month savings in energy costs by going to an electric chipper. Mind you, there are limitations to doing so. It can’t be implemented on a portable unit, for example. But it’s definitely been a huge help to us.”

The company uses about a dozen different loaders, including this Cat 988F.

Additional Benefits
Fuel savings aren’t the only benefits Evergreen Fibre is experiencing. There are also maintenance-related issues that have either been alleviated or eliminated altogether, says Hermann.                                   

“In high-volume operations like ours, clutches on a chipper are prone to wear rather quickly; that’s just the nature of the beast. Depending on the severity of the wear, we can be faced with a $2,500 charge to simply replace the discs, or as much as $6,000 for a full clutch replacement. My guys are good enough now where they can change a clutch in about four hours, but that’s still four hours of lost production every three months or so. However, an electric chipper has no clutch, so that issue is done away with, and we are seeing a nice cost savings there as well.”                                   

And from an environmental standpoint, the electric units put forth no emissions, so Evergreen is able to process to its heart’s content with no less risk of exceeding emissions guidelines. “As a matter of policy, we work hard to make certain that people from the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency never have cause for concern with our operation,” says Hermann. “But they still pay us a visit every now and then to see how things are going in our yard. They can watch that electric unit all day, and they won’t see a hint of black smoke; that’s just one more advantage we’ve gained.”

All about Satisfaction
While equipment of every make and configuration populates the yards of most chipping operations, Bill Hermann stands by his decision to use only Morbark chippers, based on nothing less than an excellent track record.                                   

“We bought our first chipper, a Morbark Model 20 around 1981-1982 and have never looked elsewhere since. The performance has been everything we’ve needed and the service has been outstanding.”                                   

He says the same holds true for Papé Machinery, the company that sells and supports Morbark to the northwest. “Papé is a quality organization that treats us well and takes customer service to heart. We appreciate that.”

In making the move to an electric machine, Evergreen took the opportunity to modify its chip discharge process. Portable units generally use a set of fan blades and a chip spout to blow the chips away from the chipper into a pile. While an effective method when processing in an open area, it wasn’t ideal for Evergreen’s stationary setup.                                   

“We are partially under a roof here,” says Hermann. “Since we are not moving this chipper, we decided to do away with the fan blades and discharge spout, and go with a bottom discharge approach. Now chips are processed and fall down away from the chipper disk onto a box/chain conveyor and get taken away from the machine to a stacking conveyor. For us, it’s fewer moving parts which, again, translates to lower maintenance costs.”