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New export pellet testing lab first of its kind in U.S. By Lisa Gibson | September 13, 2011

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."

During a break from unpacking equipment and setting up his lab, Wiberg explained that BEL is a joint venture between Control Union and Timber Products Inspection. The two seem to be perfectly matched for such an endeavor. Control Union currently services a huge portion of the biomass exporting industry, doing supply chain auditing, quality verification and sampling, while Timber Products Inspection currently tests pellet products sold on the domestic market. "Timber Products has a laboratory set up for domestic analysis, but now we're developing everything that's needed for the international," Wiberg said..

Wiberg has spent the past 12 years at Twin Ports Testing analysis lab in Duluth, Minn., and has been the point man in the ongoing development of the Pellet Fuels Institute's standards and third-party verification system. At BEL, he will not only be the manager, but will oversee Timber Products Inspection's domestic auditing for the PFI standards program.

"When I saw what Control Union and the Timber Products Inspection group were doing, they approached me about running their laboratory and I felt very comfortable about saying, 'Yes, I'd be very willing to do that,'" he said. The new lab will be able to assist pellet producers in their quality assurance and quality control measures, whether they're working to comply with PFI's standards, Europe's EN+ certification, or specifications of certain European power producers.

"The main thing that enticed me to switch over was that with this organization, we can put together a full model where we're going to be developing the quality control/quality assurance portion, as well as the auditing in conjunction with the laboratory," Wiberg said.