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PFI poised to release new pellet standards

By Lisa Gibson | December 16, 2010

The Pellet Fuels Institute is just months from implementation of its new pellet fuel standards, including for the first time third-party verification for compliance. Participation in the program comes complete with a new label for bags of pellet fuel, illustrating adherence.

John Crouch, director of public affairs for PFI, will give a presentation on PFI’s new fuel standards and how they’ll affect pellet manufacturers in the west at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show Jan. 10-12 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Wash.

PFI fuel standards have always been voluntary and nonmembers are also welcome to participate, but third-party verification will offer another aspect of quality control, according to John Crouch, director of public affairs for PFI. “If you use the new label on your bag, it says, ‘There is a quality control program in place at my mill and someone physically comes and audits me on this periodically,’” he said. “This is the first standard that people would think of as a standard. It’s more accurate to say that there hasn’t really been a standard.”

PFI has been working on its standards for the past three years, keeping consumer interests in the forefront of decision making. “The standard is based around the consumer who is going to use it,” Crouch said, speaking dominantly about smaller, residential-sized heating systems. PFI has kept its standards consistent with that of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is also working on pellet fuel criteria. 

PFI rolled out standards last year, but pellet manufacturers thought they were too lax, Crouch said. “If they were going to participate, they wanted to know that others who participated had third-party verification,” he said.

Besides the periodic verification, PFI’s new standards tighten up the length and diameter parameters and specify a 1 percent ash content limit in order to be classified as premium fuel. “What consumers with small appliances care about is ash content because that’s how often they have to empty their ashes,” Crouch said. “As long as ash removal is manual in the appliances, consumers notice differences that are modest from a producer’s point of view.”

PFI will begin implementing the standards in the spring, once the third-party inspectors are in place, Crouch said, adding that he intends to use the same kind of companies that inspect lumber mills. “We believe that by next summer, when a costumer searches out bags of fuel, they will see some bags with the new standards label on them and obviously we hope that they will respond favorably to that.”

Crouch will be joined by three other speakers discussing biomass fuels on the panel Fuel Characteristics: Improving Stability, Flowability and Uniformity.

 For more information or to register for the conference, visit http://pacificwest.biomassconference.com.