Get Involved in Developing ISO's Wood Pellet Safety Standards

It is imperative the U.S. identify experts to participate in the development of ISO pellet safety standards. If not, they will be developed by the predominant interests of other countries.
By Chris Wiberg | December 18, 2013

Even as I write this article, today’s headlines for our industry yet again call out another production facility that has suffered a serious fire and subsequent explosion.  I could say I am surprised, but anyone who has been in this industry for even a short time would know that these events are far more common than they should be.

Fortunately, today’s incident only resulted in damage to the facility and not to the people working at the plant, but time and time again serious safety issues that plague the pellet fuels industry do result in serious injury and death.  Ultimately the question is, what do we do about it?

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada and the University of British Columbia have been calling for action for years and have done substantial work in this regard, but it takes the commitment of the entire industry to really reign in these issues. To this effect, we have made great progress in the past year. 

The U.S. Industrial Pellet Association has formed a safety committee to investigate these issues within the U.S.  On an international level, the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) and European Pellet Council coordinated the first international workshop on pellet safety this year.  Roughly 70 experts of various backgrounds and expertise represented 13 countries at the event held in Fügen, Austria, this past March. In addition, we now have the EU-funded SafePellets Project that seeks to develop guidelines for quality assurance measures along the pellets supply chain and solutions for safe handling and storage of pellets.

The common goal of these various initiatives is to develop work practices that will reduce and/or eliminate safety-related incidents and accidents throughout the pellet production and utilization supply chain, while protecting property and providing investment security. The International Standards Organization is taking this one step further and developing safety standards for pelletized biofuels. The ISO initiative started as a Swedish proposal defining the need, resulting in an initial meeting in October where it was decided that the safety related standards for pelletized biofuels would be developed under the direction of Working Group 4 of ISO TC 238. The specific standards to be developed include:

Safe handling and storage of pelletized biofuels in commercial and industrial  applications.   
Safe handling and storage of pelletized biofuels in domestic and other small scale applications.   
• Prevention, detection, suppression and  management of fires and explosions in commercial  and industrial handling and  storage of pelletized biofuels.   
• Analysis of spontaneous heat generation from pelletized biofuels   
• Analysis of off-gassing products from pelletized biofuels.

As a member of ISO through the American National Standards Institute, the U.S. pellet industry may participate in the development of these standards. The U.S. already has a strong Technical Advisory Group overseeing the work items being developed within ISO TC 238, however we need U.S. experts to step up as active participants in each of these work items. If you have expertise in any of these areas and wish to participate, all you need to do is contact Scott Cedarquist of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. ASABE is the standards development organization assigned by ANSI to oversee the activities of ISO TC 238 and is the administrator of the U.S. TAG.  Cedarquist can be reached via email at [email protected]

It is imperative the U.S. identify experts to participate in the development of these standards. If not, they will be developed by the predominant interests of other countries. We need to make sure that these standards protect our people, property and investments and are thoroughly reviewed and evaluated by U.S. interests prior to their adoption. Getting involved in the early stages of the development of any standard is the time in which we have the greatest influence. Now is the prime time, so I am calling for our industry experts to get involved.

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