Wood Chips, GoodChips

Bioenergy Europe has brought forward the “GoodChips” program, which is being offered as the first international certification scheme for wood chips as it pertains to their use as a solid biofuel.
By Chris Wiberg | May 24, 2019

Most wood pellet producers work with additional wood-based products, so I thought it would be of interest to share a new development in the global wood chip market.  Bioenergy Europe has brought forward the “GoodChips” program, which is being offered as the first international certification scheme for wood chips as it pertains to their use as a solid biofuel. The certification scheme is intended to cover the whole supply chain from production to delivery. It is designed to facilitate trade to make it more transparent, and to harmonize the quality of various grades of wood chips and hog fuels. I will provide a summary in this column, but if this is of interest to you, then I recommend reviewing the overall program through the website, goodchips.eu.

Consistency in wood chip quality has historically been a big issue on a global scale. While wood chips have been produced and traded as solid biofuels for decades, the various heating and energy markets have developed without a proper quality framework, leading to inconsistency in what various producers and users—and even entire regions—define as a wood chip. With the publishing of ISO 17225-4 (fuel specifications for graded wood chips) in 2014, global commerce has a starting point for standardizing wood chip quality. Within ISO 17225-4, wood chips are defined based on the material types used, as well as quality criteria such as particle size, fines content, moisture, ash, etc. 

In 2016, the Biomass Energy Resources Center initiated a project for defining wood chip quality within the U.S., during which it was realized that the criteria within ISO 17225-4 was inadequate for U.S. commerce. This resulted in the development of a national adoption of ISO 17225-4 through the American National Standards Institute and through the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and is now published as ANSI/ASABE AD17225-4. The resulting National Adoption is being promoted in the U.S. as the basis for wood chip quality when being produced as solid biofuel. It is similar to the original ISO 17225-4 standard, but varies in quality criteria. The biggest differences are in the particle size and moisture requirements.

The GoodChips program is largely based on ISO 17225-4 (not the U.S. national adoption), providing a 12-class scheme (eight for wood chips and four for hog fuels) that is intended to cover every profile of producer and end user from industrial to domestic. Chip users are able to review the various quality classes and chose the chip type that will work best for their system, and then make chip purchases to the specified class. Quality criteria of each class is intended to provide assurance that the chip quality will be consistent, that appliances properly matched with chip type will operate efficiently and require less maintenance, that fouling will be minimized, and ultimately, that the life of the overall combustion system will be optimized. 

The GoodChips program draws parallels with ENplus in that it is being managed by the same team within Bioenergy Europe and makes use of ENplus principles and resources. A few parallels include the adoption of ENplus quality management principles, and both programs use a similar third-party certification process to include certification bodies, inspection bodies and testing bodies. Certification audits can be conducted in conjunction with ENplus audits. Additionally, it includes a system of national partners for administration of the program within each adopting country, and the national partners form the advisory committee.

The fact that the GoodChips program follows ISO 17225-4 and not the U.S. national adoption creates an issue for the U.S., in that the GoodChips program is intended to certify wood chips to the quality criteria defined internationally or through the GoodChips program. It is uncertain as to whether the GoodChips program would be willing to allow certification to a national adoption’s grade criteria, but this could possibly be a discussion brought forth if there is enough interest. If not, as has been the case with the ENplus wood pellet certification system, the GoodChips program may be more useful to producers of wood chips interested in overseas export opportunities, if and when they become available.

Without a doubt, wood chips being produced for intended use as solid biofuels for home, commercial and industrial heating is an emerging market within the U.S. and abroad. It seems logical that a wood chip quality certification scheme could bring consistency to these markets, which would most certainly facilitate the growth of the industry. It would be wise for the U.S. to consider implementing a wood chip quality certification scheme, for which GoodChips may be a vehicle that is already established and appears to be poised for global adoption. 

Author: Chris Wiberg
Manager, Biomass Energy Laboratory
[email protected]