Always on the job

Wilbert Smeets turns over a half million tonnes of biogenic waste into compost and biogas each year. As technical director of Italy's largest composting plants, he has long days - but the new Crambo direct works round the clock.

February 26, 2015

With 280,000 tonnes of green cuttings and organic waste each year, BIOMAN Spa. near Maniago in Italy's Pordenone region has been in a league of its own since starting operations in 2011. At this modern waste treatment plant, composting and anaerobic digestion complement each other perfectly. Wet organic waste supplies biogas for green power, while dry green waste supplies compost for consumers and farmers.

Born system engineerWilbert Smeets developed and set up the process. Building systems is something you might say he was born to. Growing up in Holland in a mushroom-growing family, Smeets saw how biology and technology interact early on. Smeets learned to think big, first in his parent's business, and then after getting his engineering degree and running Holland's largest mushroom grower. "In a modern mushroom farm the mushrooms grow on a compost substrate in tunnels under precisely controlled temperature, air and humidity conditions," he explains. "If you're familiar with this, you can also design a compost system, regardless of size." Mushroom beds were followed by compost system projects around the world that Smeets planned and commissioned for a Dutch company. Wilbert Smeets finally "got stuck" in Italy with S.E.S.A. Spa., which runs one of the country's largest and most innovative waste treatment facilities in Este near Padua. As technical director his responsibilities are clear: "All the machines need to work, and we need to make money." That goes for S.E.S.A. and naturally for its sister facility BIOMAN Spa., which Smeets planned from the first pipe to the last valve, so to speak.

Reliability a must
Smeets has depended on Komptech machines for years. Reliability is very important for him. The stationary shredders can cope with the demanding climate conditions in closed plants, and stand up to round-the-clock shifts. "The Terminator and Crambo are the best machines for these applications. We've tried a lot, and there's nothing better," says Smeets with conviction.
CGT, Komptech's Italian distributor, makes sure that maintenance and service go fast and planned downtime is kept minimal. As the general importer for Caterpillar CGT also keeps an eye on the many loaders used at the facilities.

An investment that paid off
Although electricity is generated at the plants, the operator still wants to keep its energy use to a minimum. Because of this, green waste for composting is shredded with a Crambo direct that uses mechanical gearing instead of hydraulic drum drive. "Although our hydraulic Crambos are still in great shape after thousands of hours, we still decided to replace them with much lower-consumption direct-drive machines. The shredders are in use day and night, so saving 30 percent of the energy pays off very quickly," says Smeets of the decision.
In addition to the big plants, he is also responsible for several agricultural biogas plants, so he has no shortage of things to fill his days. One of his three phones is always ringing. Smeets remembers one call right after the start of operations: "Boss, we have a problem. The machine's throughput is too high!" That's the risk when you run a green efficiency® machine whose motto is "Higher performance, lower consumption." But Wilbert Smeets and his team have learned to deal with this situation well.