First pellet producer qualifies for PFI standards program

By Anna Simet | March 19, 2013

New Hampshire-based New England Wood Pellet has qualified for the Pellet Fuels Institute’s pellet fuel standards program, making it the first manufacturer to do so.

NEWP, which operates three manufacturing plants in New Hampshire and New York with combined capacity of over 250,000 tons, can now begin displaying the PFI Quality Mark on their bags. This indicates that the company is producing pellets that are compliant with the fuel grade listed on their bags, and allows them to be properly matched with appliances permitted to burn them.

PFI has been working on the program—revising previous standards—since 2005, with the goal of creating industry-wide uniform certification to bolster product quality. The program has been proposed for incorporation into the U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for Residential Wood Heaters, through which it will mandate the regulation of pellet fuel.

The three-step fuel certification process will begin at the mills, followed by an on-site inspection once per month from an accredited auditor and verification of the product quality from the accreditation body, the American Lumber Standard Committee. PFI will require a documentation management program that includes raw materials receiving, production, quality verification of the finished product, periodic inspections and customer complaints, all of which must be documented and kept for five years.

NEPW’s qualification is the culmination of work that it has done in collaboration with PFI, the American Lumber Standard Committee and Timber Products Inspection Inc. over the last year.  In order to maintain compliancy within the program, NEWP has entered into an agreement with Timber Products Inspection for auditing and third-party laboratory testing.  TP is one of 12 auditing agencies accredited by ALSC for auditing services within the PFI Standards Program, and will play a key role in ensuring that the pellets produced by NEWP are a consistent quality.

"NEWP's qualification to the PFI Standards Program is a significant milestone for the industry and PFI," said PFI Executive Director Jennifer Hedrick. "Our members and collaborators have put thousands of hours into the development of this program and it's rewarding to enroll the first company.”

Hedrick said there are other companies working to qualify for the program, and that PFI expects similar announcements in coming months. In the last year, 29 companies representing 48 pellet mills have pledged their intent to enroll in the program, according to PFI.