In the News
Case Study: Matrix Gemini LIMS Helps Biomass Energy Lab Deliver Accurate Test Results In A Timely Manner
from Autoscribe Informatics
The introduction of a specifically configured Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) has transformed the efficiency of a busy biomass lab. Eliminating the use of spreadsheets for sample tracking has simplified data retrieval while other LIMS functionality has facilitated ISO17025 compliance.
Pellet Specification & Method Comparisons
By Chris Wiberg- March 15, 2017
While the PFI and ISO standards seem very similar in many ways, it is important to note the often subtle differences in the specifications and the referenced test methods, as PFI and ISO are not always comparable.
Private Labeling Provisions
By Chris Wiberg- September 12, 2016
PFI's Standards Program has recently made private labeling provisions for issuing additional registration numbers to qualified producers who are selling wood pellets to retailers or distributors who require anonymity on behalf of the producer.
Optimizing Efficiency Through Quality Management
By Chris Wiberg- July 13, 2016
If implemented correctly, a well-designed quality management plan should target increased production efficiency to optimize pellet tonnage produced with the least amount of customer complaints or other product performance related issues.
Making the Best of Hard Times
By Chris Wiberg- March 29, 2015
Wiberg says with added supply ready as a result of last year's heating season, the industry was met this heating season with unusually warm weather and the lowest gas prices we have seen in years. This combination has resulted in oversupply.
ENplus Update: Navigating New Changes
By Chris Wiberg- September 22, 2015
In August, the European Pellet Council released updates to the ENplus quality management scheme for wood pellets. Chris Wiberg outlines the substantive changes as they pertain to North American pellet producers.
Controlling Wood Pellet Quality For Residential Heating Markets
By Chris Wiberg- March 20, 2015
Over the past several decades, controlling wood pellet quality for foreign and domestic residential heating markets has been very challenging. For nearly as long as there have been residential wood pellet burning appliances, there has been the knowledge that not just any pellet will yield the best performance of the appliance. Wood pellet burning appliances require fuel that is very consistent in properties such as moisture content, density, and dimensions such as length and diameter to yield well-balanced combustion for a clean and consistent burn. In addition, the pellets must be low in fines and durable to prevent the creation of fines in handling. It is also critical that ash content be as low as possible to assure ease of maintenance and that the pellets are free of contaminants that can corrode the appliance.
Quality Considerations for European Markets
By Chris Wiberg - January 10, 2015
There are quality requirements wood pellet producers should consider when selling their production into European markets, or looking for opportunities with those buyers. Chris Wiberg says it all boils down to understanding your customer's needs.
I'd like to highlight some of the quality requirements for selling wood pellets into European markets but, more importantly, point out some specific differences between U.S. and European quality, logistical and consumer needs that producers should be aware of when selling into the European markets.
Wood Pellet Quality Schemes
By Chris Wiberg - September 16, 2014
Understanding the similarities and primary differences of various pellet quality schemes for certification: DINplus, ENplus, CANplus and the Pellet Fuel Institute Standards Program.
If you are in the wood pellet manufacturing business, you have likely heard about various pellet quality schemes to certify or qualify your product. While there are several, the four most commonly referenced in North America are the Pellet Fuels Institute Standards Program, CANplus, ENplus and DINplus. These schemes are similar in many ways, but provide different market opportunities, making it difficult for wood pellet producers to decide which quality scheme is best suited for their business models. Following is a high-level overview.
Preparing For New ISO Rules
By Chris Wiberg - June 27, 2014
Seven new ISO standards outlining specifications and classes for various forms of solid biofuels were officially published, updating and replacing seven EN standards.
Recently, seven new ISO standards outlining specifications and classes for various forms of solid biofuels were officially published. This may come as a surprise to many, as the development of these standards has not been highly publicized in the U.S. At first glance, these standards may even seem redundant, as they are very similar to the seven EN standards previously published covering the same materials. These seven new ISO standards will eventually replace the seven older EN standards. Moreover, there are approximately 40 additional ISO standards in various stages of development that will eventually replace all of the EN solid biofuel standards that we currently see referenced in numerous fuel supply contracts and quality management schemes.
Standardizing Pellet Safety
Anna Simet - June 04, 2014
Countries around the globe are combining efforts to develop robust safety standards for pelletized biofuels.
Fires and explosions are an undesirable reality of the pellet industry, and can result in employee injury or death, economic loss, and facility damage. As global pellet production and consumption have soared over the past several years, the buzz surrounding safety and health issues in the manufacturing, handling and storage of wood pellets has become much louder. So loud, that the International Standards Organization has launched an effort, under the direction of Working Group 4 of ISO/TC238, to develop global standards for numerous components of commercial, industrial and small-scale applications. Topics to be addressed include not only prevention, detection, suppression and management of fires and explosions, but also safe handling and storage, analysis of spontaneous heat generation and analysis of off-gassing products.
Get Involved in Developing ISO's Wood Pellet Safety Standards
By Chris Wiberg - December 18, 2013
It is imperative the U.S. identify experts to participate in the development of ISO pellet safety standards. If not, they will be developed by the predominant interests of other countries.
Even as I write this article, today's headlines for our industry yet again call out another production facility that has suffered a serious fire and subsequent explosion. I could say I am surprised, but anyone who has been in this industry for even a short time would know that these events are far more common than they should be.
Fortunately, today's incident only resulted in damage to the facility and not to the people working at the plant, but time and time again serious safety issues that plague the pellet fuels industry do result in serious injury and death. Ultimately the question is, what do we do about it?
Quality Management to Meet Expanding Standards Requirements
By Chris Wiberg - September 23, 2013
Quality management of the pellet production process is essential for assuring that the end product conforms to the intended product quality requirements. Going back 20, 10 or even five years, those for the pellet industry have been relatively loosely defined. As a result, quality management systems commonly in place at pellet production sites have historically not been as robust as the quality processes commonly used by industries with strict standards such as the automotive or pharmaceutical industries, where accreditation to quality management standards such as ISO 9001 are the industry norm.
The Pellet Fuels Institute Announces that New England Wood Pellet, LLC is the First Mill to Qualify in its Standards Program
March 19, 2013 (Arlington, VA) -The Pellet Fuels Institute announced last week that New England Wood Pellet, LLC (Jaffrey NH, Deposit NY, Schuyler NY) has officially qualified under the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) pellet fuel standards program. New England Wood Pellet, LLC (NEWP) is the first pellet manufacturer that can display the PFI Quality Mark on their bags, indicating that they are producing pellets that are compliant with the fuel grade listed on their bags.
The PFI Standards Program is a third party certification program providing standard specifications for residential and commercial grade fuel. The Pellet Fuels Institute, in its role as the leading authority on the North American pellet industry, established the standards program as a mechanism to ensure consumers and retailers that the fuel consistency and quality matches manufacturer claims found on bags of fuel and other informational materials.
Choosing Test Methods
By Chris Wiberg - October24, 2012
In recent months, I have been repeatedly asked to explain the difference between the various test methods available for testing solid biomass fuels. Fortunately, this isn't as difficult as it once was, as now most of the European national standards such as the German DIN, Austrian Önorm, and others have been replaced by the CEN/EN methods. It is still rather confusing, but I will try to make sense of it for you.
Within the U.S., ASTM International has historically been the primary provider of test methodology for solid fuels including coal, refuse-derived fuels (RDF) and wood. Unfortunately for the biomass industry, most of these methods focus on coal and RDF with only a small number pertaining to wood. The lack of standards dedicated to biomass has resulted in many labs selecting coal or RDF methods to analyze biomass samples, and they may or may not be adequate for the purpose, especially when it comes to sampling and sample preparation. For example, all coal methods cite coal preparation standards to generate the sample to be analyzed. Unlike coal, wood does not pulverize under pressure, meaning that the coal preparation standards are essentially useless for biomass samples.
Waiting for Standards
Pellet standards designed to certify quality are almost here in North America. Will the new system be worth the wait?
By Luke Geiver - October 24th, 2012
The production strategies and bottom lines of all pellet mills in the U.S. could someday hinge on eight numbers. The numbers represent fuel quality parameters ranging from durability to ash content and are the backbone of a standards program developed by the Pellet Fuels Institute unveiled one year ago to verify a pellet's overall content and performance to end-users. In response to the U.S. EPA's announcement that residential pellet stoves would be required to meet emissions requirements through the EPA's New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), PFI enlisted help from its own members to craft a standards program that could be used by the EPA for the NSPS, and pellet production facilities to verify pellet grades once and for all.
A lot has happened in the pellets industry since the standards first came out, but the issue of pellets standards requirements and the complications related to implementation of the intricate program may be the No. 1 talking point in the industry. Apart from those eight fuel property parameters, there are several other reasons why.
Three domestic pellet fuel manufacturers partner with Timber Products Inspection to begin implementation of the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program.
By Tammy Hippchen - October 22nd, 2012
October 22, 2012 (Conyers, GA) - Timber Products Inspection (TP) has entered into agreements with American Wood Fibers (Marion, VA & Circleville, OH), Curran Renewable Energy (Massena, NY) and Marth Wood Shavings & Supply (Marathon, WI & Peshtigo, WI) to provide third party testing and inspection services in accordance with the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI)/American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) Pellet Fuel Standards program. Each of these manufacturers is currently working on setting up their internal quality management programs with the intent of complying with the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program. Once each facility is ready, TP will conduct an initial inspection to verify compliance, followed by on-going auditing and testing to assure continued compliance.
TJ Morice, V. P. Marketing & Operations for Marth Wood Shavings & Supply and Marth Peshtigo Pellet Company, made the decision to be one of the first manufacturers to initiate implementation of the PFI/ALSC Pellet Fuel Standards Program because of his ongoing commitment to producing a quality pellet. "I know how important it is for consumers and our partners who sell to them to have confidence in what they are buying. If the bag says 'Premium' there should be a quality and control process like we and others are committing too in this process so the user is confident and every bag labeled with 'Premium' would be confirmed as such" Morice stated. He went on to say that consumer confidence in fuel grades could help increase the number of homes and/or businesses that currently heat with a renewable energy source such as wood pellets.
Proceed, But be Informed and Have a Solid Plan
By Chris Wiberg - April 05, 2012
In my last column, titled "The End of an Era," I described a fundamental shift that I observed over the past year pertaining to standardization of the pellet fuels industry. Essentially, the industry has generally accepted that standardization is upon us and it is now time to implement programs that have long been in the works.
Since the last issue of Pellet Mill Magazine was published, the Pellet Fuels Institute and the American Lumber Standard Committee have finalized an agreement, and ALSC has accredited several auditing agencies and testing labs for the purpose of implementing the domestic residential/commercial densified fuel standards program. The European Pellet Council continues to add to its list of countries that are implementing the EN plus pellet certification scheme on an international basis. In addition, the Industrial Wood Pellet Buyers initiative in Europe to develop standard specification for industrial wood pellets has progressed by opening the door to U.S. pellet producer feedback through the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association. This provides collaboration critical in the implementation of a mutually acceptable standard for international shipments to European utilities.
GIANT KING GRASS AND PELLETS TESTED BY BIOMASS ENERGY LAB,
A NEW JOINT VENTURE OF TIMBER PRODUCTS INSPECTION INC. AND PETERSEN CONTROL UNION
IRVINE, California and Conyers, Georgia– February 23, 2012–VIASPACE Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: VSPC - News), a clean energy company growing Giant KingTM Grass as a low-carbon, renewable biomass dedicated energy crop, and its subsidiary VIASPACE Green Energy Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: VGREF) and Timber Products Inspection Inc. announced that Giant King Grass and pellets made from Giant King Grass were among the first biomass samples tested by Biomass Energy Lab in Conyers, Georgia.
The tests included proximate and ultimate analyses, elemental analysis mineral ash analysis and ash fusion properties. Giant King Grass pellets have a gross calorific value (HHV) of 18.33 – 18.81 GJ per oven dry ton, and a net calorific value of 16.64 – 17.20 GJ per ton of as received pellets with approximately 8% moisture content.
The 'End of an Era'
By Chris Wiberg - October 31, 2011
As I write this column, the Pellet Fuels Institute and the American Lumber Standards Committee are nearing completion of an agreement that will dramatically improve the quality of pelletized fuels throughout the United States. This agreement is the direct result of nearly seven years of hard work carried on the backs of dozens of volunteers, thousands of man-hours, and ultimately the heavy hand of the U.S. EPA. During this period, the European Union developed numerous standards for solid biofuels that are now being converted to ISO standards for use around the world and the European Pellet Council has developed and implemented the EN plus certification scheme on an international basis. Finally, many of the largest European wood pellet buyers have come together to develop a standard specification for industrial wood pellets. This process is also nearing completion. We are nearing the end of an era where consumers have had to question "what is in the bag" and where producers take great risk selling into markets with requirements that may be poorly defined, but carry great penalties for noncompliance.
New export pellet testing lab first of its kind in U.S.
By Lisa Gibson - September 13, 2011
Biomass Energy Laboratory in Conyers, Ga., is expected to begin operation by Nov. 1, making it the first U.S.-based pellet testing facility that will be fully compliant and accredited under Europe's fuel quality specifications.
Up until now, pellet manufacturers exporting their products to Europe have sent their samples to a lab in Holland for analysis and verification of compliance with their end users' specifications under ISO 17025, the accreditation process for conducting European testing on biomass. "It's not that efficient to do that testing overseas and for the most part, all the U.S. producers want some kind of state-side laboratory that can run the analysis compared to having to ship the samples overseas," said Chris Wiberg, Biomass Energy Lab's new manager. "So that is why this lab is being set up."