Versatility, build quality & local support are the key factors for McCauley Wood Fuels when choosing new equipment.
McCauley Wood Fuels is a wood fuel supply business based in County Leitrim in the North West of Ireland.
The company was certified by the national Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme in 2012 and supplies their certified wood fuels throughout the North West and Midlands region of Ireland. Their customers range from domestic users to large commercial and industrial users.
McCauley Wood Fuels started processing firewood in 2007 to complement the existing landscaping business. The company’s first move into the wood fuels industry was in 2009 when they bought a small wood chipper capable of producing a wood chip for biomass boilers.
2011 saw diversification of their farm with 30% of the land planted with birch and alder trees which will eventually feed into their wood supply business.
We visited their Leitrim base and met with company director, Kenny McCauley to talk about some of the investments that the business has made in equipment - and what they look for when choosing a supplier.
To understand the potential for the McCauley business it’s important to understand the fuel infrastructure in the region.
“There is no mains gas supply in the North West of Ireland” explains Kenny. “The lack of this infrastructure is an obstacle to investment by energy intensive businesses. By developing the supply of high quality wood fuels we can potentially help to fill that void and assist in the delivery of the economic development goals for the region.”
Typical users of the wood fuels produced by McCauley Wood Fuels are process heating, the agricultural industry, leisure centres, hospitals and care homes.
“Some of our customers are reporting savings of up to €10,000 per year on fuel costs and a reduction in Co2 emissions of between 120 and 150 tonnes per year” explains Kenny.
As the wood fuels business expanded, the company needed to upgrade their existing equipment to help cope with growing demand for their products and ensure they were able to supply a wood fuel of the quality required by their customers.
“Up to 2018 we had been using a drum type chipper and we liked the machine. We were looking for a similar machine that would allow us to process a higher capacity and produce a high quality finished product” says Kenny. “Support from a local agent was also a big factor for us when we were choosing a supplier.”
Having looked at the options available they went for a Kesla C645T wood chipper with an on-board 305T telescopic crane. The unit is mounted on a chassis which is then towed behind a tractor and powered by the tractor’s PTO.
Up to 2019, McCauley Wood Fuels processed 10,000 tonnes per year. Their investment in the Kesla equipment has helped the business increase their capacity to 40,000 tonnes per year.
“The wood chipper is in its fifth season with us now and we’re very happy with it” says Kenny as he shows us around the machine.
“We looked at a number of different manufacturers but the thing that stood out about Kesla was they were willing to listen to us and find out about our business and what we needed. We were familiar with Kesla having operated their cranes for a number of years before we bought the chipper so we knew about the quality of the machines.”
“The build quality of the Kesla machines is also a huge part of our decision to use their equipment. We knew from the cranes that we had worked with previously that the design is very robust and were sure that it would follow through to the chipper that we now use. That has proved to be the case and that build quality allows us to easily cope with peaking loads that are a regular feature of our business, and for anyone working in this industry.”
The customer base that McCauley Wood Fuels supply is diverse, so they needed a machine that could be quickly and easily changed and adapted based on the feed material and the desired final product specification.
“Kesla were genuinely interested in finding out not only what we wanted the machine to do today, but where the business was going in 5 years” says Kenny. “It seemed that they were as focused on future proofing our business as we were and that was a big plus for us.”
During the machine specification process Kesla worked with Kenny and the team at McCauley Wood Fuels to help them configure the machine to suit their needs. This involved integrating the Kesla chipper and crane onto a single chassis.
“We were able to specify the orientation that would suit us best and both the chipper and the crane work off a single control system called the KESLA proCHIPPER, which makes life much easier for the operator” explains Kenny.
Versatility is a word that keeps coming up in our conversations with Kenny about the Kesla machine. One element of this is the ease of changing screens to suit individual customer requirements. Another important element has been the ability to design custom screens to respond to very specific customer needs.
“That has definitely helped us win more business from existing customers as well as opening up new opportunities for us” says Kenny.
Cost is always a factor when looking at a new machine, but rather than just look at the initial purchase price, Kenny and the team took a broader view when deciding on their new equipment.
“Of course we looked at the purchase cost, but we took that in the round along with ongoing maintenance costs, speed and ease of maintenance and whether we could be sure of the final product quality for a prolonged period of time” he says. “Changing blades, adjusting settings on blades, changing screens - all of that can be done very quickly on the Kesla machine compared to some of the other options that we looked at.”
The support provided to McCauley Wood Fuels by the local Kesla distributor was another key consideration for Kenny. That distributor is Oakleaf Forestry who is based in County Tyrone and had worked with Kenny before they bought the Kesla chipper.
“Joe at Oakleaf Forestry has been a great support to us” says Kenny. “It's important to have someone in country, in the same time zone as you when you have a breakdown on a Saturday evening. You have someone you're able to text or WhatsApp or call at very short notice, and you can be assured that by Monday morning there's a part on order and it's likely to be with you for the following day - which in the nature of this business, particularly in the winter months when we would have significant customer demands - is very important.”
The McCauley Wood Fuels business has enjoyed some great success in recent years and a continuing focus on investing in new equipment and exploring new opportunities means the future looks bright.
As for the experience of working with the Kesla equipment there are a number of things that stand out for Kenny.
“We’re able to produce significantly higher quantities of a very high quality product in much less time than we were used to. And the support we get from Kesla and their local partner to make sure we get parts as and when we need them just means it’s a relationship that works very well.”
“I feel I’m getting value for money with the Kesla equipment.”