Wood chip heating fuel quality standard approved in the US

By Erin Voegele | March 06, 2018

A new quality standard for wood chip heating fuel is now available. The American National Standards Institute recently approved AD17225-4 Wood Chip Heating Fuel Quality Standard, which is a revised version of the international standard ISO 17225-4.

The standard development project was coordinated by the Biomass Energy Resource Center, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC.  Funding for the project was provided by the USDA Forest Service.

Charlie Niebling, principal and partner at INRS, explained that the AD17225-4 standard is the first quality standard for wood chip heating fuel in the U.S.

The purpose for undertaking development of the standard was out of recognition that no standard existed or was universally adopted in the U.S. for wood chips used as heating fuel, he said. “Basically every other fuel is subject to industry standards, and we want wood chips to be viewed as a mainstream heating option for homeowners, businesses, municipalities, institutions, etc.,” Niebling said. “The adoption of a standard around which the market can adopt the production, sale, transportation and purchase of the fuel is an important step toward that direction.”

Europe has had an ISO standard for wood chip heating fuel in place for several years, and Canada adopted that same ISO standard verbatim. The newly adopted U.S. standard is similar to the ISO standard, but does contain some differences. According to Niebling, the team developing the U.S. standard looked at a number of different options, ultimately deciding that the best option for the U.S. market was to adopt the ISO standard with some modifications that the team believes makes it more suitable to the U.S. market.

“We didn’t start from scratch,” he said. “We borrowed the best work from other people and just tweaked it about round the edges to make it more applicable to the U.S. market.”

Niebling stressed that the standard is voluntary in nature, not regulatory. “This is strictly a voluntary standard to be adopted by people voluntarily,” he said. “What it does is creates a common vocabulary for producers of the fuel and for consumers of the fuel.”

According to Niebling, there are currently about 20 popular terms used to describe wood chips, including those describing varying sources, quality, chip size, and cleanliness. “Those terms can be very confusing in the marketplace, so we think [the standard] will bring clarity and precision to the way people produce and use wood chips.”

Perhaps most importantly, Niebling said the standard will help boiler manufacturers better engineer their systems to the specific fuel that will be used, which should lead to better performance, better reliability, lower maintenance costs, improved heat output and heat efficiency, and lower emissions. “All the things we need to address as an industry for heating wood to become a more accepted and mainstream energy choice,” he continued.

While the availability of the new standard is expected to benefit the wood chip heating industry, it won’t happen overnight. “Old habits die hard,” Niebling said.

However, the team that developed the standard is planning an ambitious outreach and education effort that is getting underway now that the standard was officially adopted. The effort aims to reach stakeholders throughout the country.

As part of that effort, the team is working on a guidance document that will assist stakeholders in applying the standard. Niebling explained the document will include information on how to incorporate the use of the standard, including information on storage, transportation, and conveying. The document is expected to be available this spring. 

Information on how to order the  ANSI/ASABE AD17225-4:2014 FEB2018 Solid biofuels – Fuel specifications and classes – Part 4: Graded wood chips standard is available from ASABE