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


4 Responses

  1. Doug Jones



    I thing that the standards will help customers buy the best quality pellets for there money. But what will it do to the price of a bag of pellets. Because here in the U.S. most pellets are purchased in bags not in bulk. I wonder if we will have Regular, Premium, and Super like our gasoline. I hope not. Thank you PFI for our hard work.

  2. Chek



    Great to hear that ! Asia Market need Standards as benchmark to produce their Biomass Pellets in order for them to be distributed around the world. CHEK , CHE Pte Ltd,Malaysia and SIngapore, Renewable Energy Solution Provider

  3. Gman



    Why doesn't the PFI have an energy component to their standards? To me, that is all that really matters when you are buying energy. Why would you leave that out and include a relatively useless piece of information like ash? Pretty much every single pellet manufacturer in N America meets the 1% ash regulation...that is hardly a tough standard! Why don't you tell me the BTU/Lb so we can compare quality of fuel between manufacturers?

  4. Chris Wiberg



    Hello, I am co-chair of the PFI Standards committee and did a large percentage of the writing of PFI's standards. Initial estimates is that the program will cost approximately $0.50 per ton or approximately a penny a bag. True costs have yet to be finilized. Energy content is covered by the QA/QC portion of the standard. We wanted to include it as a grade parameter, but did not have enough data on the variability of BTU to include grade requirement cut points at this time. BTU is included as an informative parameter and once there is enough data to select grade cut points, BTU will likely be listed as Normative. As an interim measure, manufacturer's are required to post a minimum guaranteed BTU value on their certification mark. Believe it or not, a fairly large percentage of pellets do not meet the 1% ash criteria. I am quite confident in saying this because I manage a fuels analysis laboratory that tests a lot of pellets. Plants that maintain good QA/QC usually can make the grade, however it is more challenging than you may think if you do not have high quality feedstock to work with. Also, don't forget that these standards are not limited to wood based pellets. Most agricultural based feedstocks cannot reliably hit 1%. These materials will likely be used for standard grade or utility grade product.


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