• Biomass Micro-chipping a specialty at J&R Cahoon Logging, Inc.

    3541by Jon M. Casey

    J&R Cahoon Logging, Inc. of Bellhaven, NC is a family-owned logging and wood chipping business that has been operating for three generations. J&R Cahoon Logging began when current owner, Joedy Cahoon’s grandfather started cutting timber for lumber and for the local paper mills in the area. As Joedy’s father Carlton became old enough, he took over the business from his father and similarly, Joedy started working with his father after finishing high school. When Carlton passed away in 2004, Joedy began running the business for his mother. Today, not only does Cahoon oversee the logging business but he is also a co-owner of Tidewater Land & Timber Company in Bellhaven, a business that helps secure timber clearing contracts for J&R Cahoon’s logging company.

    We caught up with Joedy at the recent Mid-Atlantic Logging and Biomass Expo in Selma, NC where he took a few minutes to recall how he expanded his business into doing wood chipping for biofuel after having done timbering and wood chipping for the paper pulp industry. “We had heard about the opening of a new wood pellet plant in Ahoskie, NC owned by Enviva, but we didn’t think too much about it at the time,” he recalled. “They were looking for wood chip suppliers and they approached a number of loggers in the area. Most of them were skeptical and none of them seemed interested or willing to make the commitment or investment. We thought it over and decided to go ahead with supplying them with the wood chips we could provide, so we signed a contract to do that. That was in 2012.”

    “When we could see that there was a good future in supplying Enviva with micro chips, we looked at a Bandit model 3590 whole tree chipper and bought one,” he said. “We had been using other brands of chippers to make chips for the pulp industry, but they are a larger chip and we needed to have a machine that could fill a trailer with consistent sized micro chips and do it with reliability. When go in to cut the timber, we remove all the merchantable timber before grinding up the scraps and unwanted pulpwood into microchips. The better quality wood goes for lumber and other wood products and the branches and leaves make micro-chips. The Bandit 3590 really does a great job with that!”

    Cahoon said that they routinely clear about 10 acres of timber per day. In addition to the merchantable timber, the micro-chips equate to about 25 loads of material per day. More importantly, Cahoon said that the Bandit model 3590 uses less fuel to do the job than his other chippers.

    “It’s more economical, that’s for sure,” he said. “What is nice about the Bandit for making micro-chips is that it can take everything, whole trees, branches, limbs, leaves, vines: all of it. What we used to leave on the ground as waste when we were cutting timber for lumber or for the paper mills can now be ground into micro-chips for biofuel. All you can see when we leave a jobsite is stumps!”

    “The pelleting operation uses a blend of hardwood and softwood chips,” said Cahoon. “It takes a certain amount of the softwood to help hold the hardwood material together in the pellets. We harvest the trees together and we monitor the proportion of soft wood to hard so that the loads have what Enviva needs to make good pellets. Just about all of their pelletized material is exported to Europe as biofuel for power plants.”

    Jeff Bell, Cahoon’s foreman, agrees. “We’ve been using the Bandit for the past three years, since we started chipping for the pellet plant, and that machine does a great job,” he said. Bell said that it is important to have a reliable machine in the field and the Bandit has proven that it can do the job. “We have 10 employees, 16 if you include the truck drivers, and we need equipment that keeps running so that we can all stay busy producing material.”

    Cahoon noted that whenever possible, they include replanting the stands of trees in their contracts with their landowners. “The North Carolina Forest Service helps with the funding of reforestation, so we like to take advantage of that whenever we can. We want to be able to come back in several years for another harvest if we can.” Sometimes the land is used for different purposes other than reforesting, so Cahoon’s crew moves on leaving the jobsite clear and ready for other development.

    Joedy said that since his company has found success producing wood chips for the biomass fuel industry, his brother Ronnie’s company has also purchased a Bandit 3590 and begun producing wood chips for Enviva as well. “Our family has made a good life in the timber and wood chipping business,” he said. “It started with my grandfather and then my dad and now, my brother-in-law, my brother and I are all in the timber business. My wife, Barbara, is also involved. She oversees the office and bookkeeping. Our family has a bright future in this industry.” For more information on Bandit equipment, visit www.banditchippers.com.

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