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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.

First, let's talk about similarities. All provide a means by which pellet fuel producers can adhere to an established set of quality control and quality assurance measures to assure that the overall pellet production operation is committed to a quality process. In addition, each defines product grades and grade criteria to which the product is tested to verify compliance with the grade, and each provides a label that compliant producers can print on their bags or include with their bulk material shipping documents to signify quality. All of these quality schemes incorporate third-party auditing and testing and all of these schemes are overseen by an accreditation or certification body. At their cores, all of these quality schemes provide a sound basis for quality management.

Then, of course, there are numerous differences. This column is not long enough to go through all of the various nuances that make each of these quality schemes unique, so I will stick to the differences that provide key value towards selling wood pellets into various markets. 

Established in 2002, DINplus was the first wood pellet quality scheme to enter the market. It was established by DIN Certco in Germany and early on gained much popularity in German and other European heating markets. DINplus was originally based on the German DIN wood pellet standards, which gave it a very regional emphasis, but has since adopted the European Union standards for wood pellets (EN 14961-2) and is now also referencing the newly developed ISO wood pellet standards (ISO 17225-2). Still recognized today, DINplus seems to be losing popularity to the development of the ENplus quality scheme. 

The ENplus quality scheme was established in 2011 and has gained popularity rapidly in European heating markets. ENplus is very similar to DINplus in many ways, but has expanded the scope over the entire supply chain, including trader certification, and incorporates tracking for greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability. ENplus was a collaborative effort by several European countries under the Pellcert project and is overseen by the European Pellet Council, which is part of the AEBIOM European Biomass Association. ENplus is based on the EU standard for wood pellets (EN 14961-2) and is anticipated to reference the newly developed ISO wood pellet standards (ISO 17225-2) with the next draft. Due to a robust acceptance within European heating markets, wood pellet producers from North America that are reasonably accessible to export trade routes can find great value in certifying to the ENplus quality scheme. Within North American markets, however, ENplus has been slow to emerge.

In recent years, Canada has also developed a wood pellet quality scheme called CANplus, which is essentially the same as ENplus, in that wood pellet producers first certify to ENplus and then apply to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada for CANplus certification. The primary difference between the two is that the CANplus quality mark uses the red maple leaf, and is intended for Canadian residential heating markets.

While DINplus, ENplus and CANplus are all based on the European Union and ISO standards (references grades criteria for A1, A2, and B based on EN 14961-2 or ISO 17225-2), the PFI Standards Program is the one quality scheme that currently reflects historical North American grade criteria—premium, standard and utility grades. PFI released the first version of its quality scheme in 2008. In 2010, the U.S. EPA made it known that it intended to regulate residential wood combustion appliances and the next year, PFI made substantial modifications to assure that the PFI quality scheme would comply with the EPA's anticipated requirements. The new rule is not yet finalized, but it is expected the U.S. EPA will reference the PFI quality scheme as part of its regulation.