Standards Status

PFI is working diligently on its third-party fuel certification standards.
By Lisa Gibson | August 23, 2011

When Chris Wiberg was introduced at the Pellet Fuels Institute Annual Conference to update attendees on PFI’s standards and third-party certification system, it was said that he has spent thousands of hours on the project. Taking the stage, Wiberg, chief operations officer of Twin Ports Testing and co-chair of PFI’s Standards Committee, said he wished that were an exaggeration.
The process of forming the standards and three-level verification system is arduous, but the benefits to the market and customers of having the standards in place are hard to deny.

During his presentation at the conference, held in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., from July 24-26, Wiberg addressed changes to the standards that have come about since the draft release in October, which outlined three fuel grades: premium, standard and utility. It specifies parameters for a number of properties including ash content, diameter, durability, fines, moisture and chloride content, among others. In the ash content category, PFI’s premium fuels require 1 percent or less, standard requires 2 percent or less, and utility grade requires 6 percent or less. For moisture content, premium fuels require 8 percent or less, while both standard and utility must be equal to or less than 10 percent.

The most important aspect of the system is the third-party audit of those parameters and PFI proposes a three-level verification system, beginning with the pellet mill itself. The second verification comes from monthly on-site visits by inspectors who are well-versed in the timber industry, doing other forest product inspections such as lumber grading. Finally, the inspectors’ assessments will be audited by the accreditation body, which Wiberg announced at the event will be the American Lumber Standard Committee. “I’m feeling confident that they are the right body,” he said.

Wiberg also walked the audience through what he called “semantic-type changes” to the draft documents. For instance, in the program document, “certification body” was changed to “accreditation body,” “certified fuel” is now “graded fuel,” and “certified” is now “qualified.”

“Bottom line is, nothing changed in all of that, but we ended up with a lot of red ink,” Wiberg joked.
Also, internal laboratories at mills are no longer required, he announced, the standards specification document has been restructured, and the inspection and re-inspection criteria have been altered. Now, a product must be within 95 percent compliance for grade qualification.

And the cost of compliance will differ from mill to mill, Wiberg said. Factors to consider include the PFI enrollment and operations fee; internal lab quality assessment and quality control program development; third-party lab and testing services; auditing services; and ALSC’s administration costs. Wiberg estimated it will cost 50 to 70 cents per ton.

The annual conference also included a symposium detailing the standards for pellet manufacturers and compliance with the program. Program presentations are available at PFI hopes that the standards will be adopted by appliance manufacturers who will outline the use of certain grades and void warranties where the specifications aren’t followed.

Moving forward, the standards committee will finalize the language in the agreement with ALSC; and ALSC and PFI boards will need to review, approve and sign the agreement. A timeline for the release and implementation of the standards is hard to nail down, Wiberg said.

—Lisa Gibson