Pellet Fuels Institute Updates Standards Program

The Pellet Fuels Institute makes several modifications to standards program. PFI Executive Director Jennifer Hedrick says a major modification to the program involves a reduction in sampling frequency for pellet manufacturers.
By Jennifer Hedrick | September 15, 2015

At the PFI Annual Conference this summer, PFI announced several modifications to its standards program. For those of you who produce pellet fuel, I encourage you to take note of these program enhancements.

The PFI Standards Program is a fuel-quality program requiring regular third-party audits of pellet manufacturing facilities. It is a voluntary program, though new EPA regulations are sure to impact the marketplace and the demand for fuel tested through a graded-fuel program. 

The PFI Standards Program is administered by the American Lumber Standards Committee, which oversees the program’s auditing bodies and testing labs, and does its own regular audits of production facilities.

The current program has been in effect for three years. The enhancements to the program are a result of a review of best practices by auditing agencies, ALSC and the PFI Standards Committee. We took into account analyses of testing results and practices of the participating fuel manufacturers alongside the established standard specification and PFI Standards Program documents.

Some of the more notable changes to the program include:
- Clarifying that the program is not a weights and measures based program.
- Increasing the range for acceptable bulk density to 40 to 48 pounds per cubic foot.
- Reducing the conformance criteria requirement from 95 percent to 90 percent.
- Adoption of the Rules of the Mark, which govern the program’s Quality Mark, found on product that meets the program’s specifications.

The major modification to the program involves a reduction in sampling frequency for manufacturers. Under the previous requirements, third-party audit samples were collected every 1,000 tons.  New requirements allow for a reduction in the sample collection frequency to one audit sample for every 5,000 tons of production, provided the producer demonstrates three consecutive months of audits with no deficiencies, and the producer incorporates certain in-house quality verification at the production site.

If successful audits are not continually demonstrated, manufacturers will resume the once-per-1,000-ton audits. Once conformance is maintained, facilities are again eligible to reduce their testing frequency to once every 5,000 tons.

The simple goal of these changes is to strengthen the program, which is achieved by ongoing review of the program’s structure and its documents.  You can review this information on the PFI website, www.pelletheat.org/pfi-standards.

The larger goal gets to the crux of the program, which is to provide consumers with fuel that is consistent and reliable, ensuring that their appliance is operating at its maximum capability.

Manufacturers I’ve spoken to who are participating in the PFI Standards Program each had different motivations for joining the program, but all have seen improvements in their operations, whether through higher-quality production, operations efficiencies, or cost savings due to incorporating recommendations following audits. Their initial investment in the program has delivered significant return.

If you aren’t participating in the PFI Standards Program, I encourage you to take a closer look at the program, especially in light of recent program modifications and the new EPA regulation of residential pellet appliances, which requires any new EPA-certified appliance to use pellets submitted to a third-party, fuel-grading program.  Consumers purchasing these new appliances will need access to graded fuel. How will you meet those requirements?

Author: Jennifer Hedrick
Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute
703-522-6778
@pelletfuel
Hedrick@pelletheat.org