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Comprehensive Description Of Wood Pellets Particle Quality Certification
- Nov 10, 2018 -

Third-party quality certification has been established for the heating industry to assure consumers that the pellets they are purchasing will provide the best performance in stoves and boilers.

The global annual wood pellet trade is currently about 30 million tonnes and growing at about 15 per cent per year. About half of all wood pellets are sold in the industrial sector for power generation while the other half are sold in the heating sector for residential, commercial and institutional applications.

This is the first of two articles about wood pellet certification. In the industrial sector, pellet producers are concerned about sustainability certification. This is to demonstrate to our customers, and ultimately to governments, that pellets produced for power are produced sustainably. In the heating sector, quality certification is growing in importance as means of providing third party assurance to consumers that the pellets they are purchasing will provide optimal performance in stoves and boilers. This article is about wood pellet quality certification.

一;Basic introduction

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What is the quality certification of wood pellets? By an independent third party - the certification body - the wood chips of the certification mark are compliant with specific quality standards. The industrial pellet industry does not require quality certification because buyers and sellers often perform laboratory tests on samples taken from each pellet shipment. In the field of heating, it is obviously impractical for consumers to conduct their own laboratory tests. This is why third-party quality certification is developed for the heating industry.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) manages two pellet quality certification programs: ENplus and CANplus. ENplus certification began in 2010 and now accounts for about 80 per cent of pellets sold in the European heating sector. The European Pellet Council (EPC) governs the ENplus program and issues licenses to national pellet associations that manage the program in their own countries. WPAC is an EPC member and is the ENplus national licenser for Canada. CANplus certification is essentially identical to ENplus, with the only difference being that CANplus is governed in Canada by WPAC. Since CANplus is Canada’s national pellet quality certification program, it must be governed in Canada and not in Europe.

二;Advantage

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For wood chip producers, quality certification has two benefits:

  1. Certification protects producers from bad actors in the market. By advocating that consumers use only certified pellets, it ensures that the pellets will perform properly in stoves and boilers and thus protect the reputation of wood pellets as a good quality fuel.

  2. Certification provides market access. With ENplus certified pellets making up 80 per cent of the European heat sector, buyers are now insisting that imported pellets be ENplus certified. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that all new pellet stove warrantees must specify the use of certified pellets. Three certifications are accepted: PFI (managed by the U.S. Pellet Fuels Institute), ENplus, and CANplus. In Canada, some provincial governments – notably Ontario – have developed, or are developing new rules for wood heating requiring the use of CANplus certified wood pellets in pellet boilers.

三;Authentication procedure

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There are three kinds of service providers involved in the certification process: inspection bodies, testing bodies, and certification bodies. The role of an inspection body is to inspect the pellet plant, trader, or service provider, to take pellet samples, to inspect the production process and raw materials, to ensure that proper documentation is in place, and to prepare a report for submission to a certification body. The role of a testing body (a.k.a. laboratory) is to analyze pellet samples to ensure that they meet required standards. The role of a certification body is to review the evidence provided by inspection and testing bodies so as to make a determination regarding certification. To be listed, all three bodies must hold appropriate ISO certifications as set out in the ENplus/CANplus handbooks and must submit an application for joint approval by the European Pellet Council and WPAC.

Control Union Canada Inc. manages the ENplus and CANplus certification programs in Canada on behalf of WPAC. WPAC also appointed Control Union as the certification body for both programs. Program applicants are free to choose their own inspection and testing organization. Anyone who is eligible for ENplus will also be automatically eligible for CANplus and will be eligible for two quality certification marks.

The ENplus / CANplus rules and procedures are listed in the manual and can be downloaded free of charge by visiting the WPAC website at www.pellet.org and clicking the CANplus tab in the upper right corner. The manual lists the specifications for the A1, A2 and B quality levels. The ENplus / CANplus particle specification was originally based on the European particle standard, but since 2014, based on the standards established by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 17225 Part 2, graded wood pellets.

The procedure for a pellet producer to obtain ENplus/CANplus certification is straightforward. An applicant first visits the WPAC website to download an application form. The applicant must choose a listed inspection body for a site inspection, and may select a listed testing body for pellet analysis or may choose to include the laboratory services in the inspection contract. The pellet producer then sends the application to WPAC.

The next step is for the inspection agency to conduct an on-site inspection and then send a report to Control Union for certification assessment. Applicants must also submit their required bag design for approval by WPAC.

The certified pellet manufacturer must instruct the listed inspection agency to conduct an annual on-site inspection within three months of the end of the year following the certification date.The inspection must include:

The certified pellet manufacturer must instruct the listed inspection agency to conduct an annual on-site inspection within three months of the end of the year following the certification date.The inspection must include:

· Taking pellets samples for analysis by a listed testing body;

· Examining operating equipment;

· Checking the quality management system, including documentation of operating procedures, quality policy and personnel qualifications;

· Verifying the origin of raw materials;

· Checking the greenhouse gas calculation;

· Reviewing the complaint management system;

· Verifying the fulfillment of reporting obligations to WPAC;

· Validating the self-inspections;

· Verifying production and sales figures;

· Ensuring that only approved bag designs are being used.

In addition, if WPAC is concerned about consumer complaints against certified producers, it has the right to request special inspections.

There are also separate procedures for obtaining ENplus / CANplus certification for pellet traders and service providers.

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Each certified pellet producer is required to have a quality control manual documenting operating 

instructions, training records, and procedures for the handling of claims and complaints. There must be a designated quality manager who understands how operating processes affect pellet quality, and who has sufficient authority to implement measures to meet the requirements for quality control and internal quality management documentation. The quality manager must participate in an external training course on pellet quality at least once a year. The quality manager must also ensure orderly documentation and evaluation of operating processes that affect wood pellet quality, and carry out annual quality training with all employees.

Each certified producer is required to carry out regular self-monitoring of bulk density, moisture content, mechanical durability, pellet length, and fines content.

四;Prospect

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The ENplus quality certification program has achieved great success. Since its inception in 2010, its annual production in Europe has grown to more than 6 million tons, which has become crucial for North American companies wishing to export to the European sector of pellet heating. There are very few consumer complaints about particle quality. The downside to success is that many unscrupulous, uncertified producers attempt to use the ENplus quality mark. This led to the European Particles Committee having to invest a lot of resources in fraud management.

In Canada, particle producers have been accepting ENplus / CANplus quality certifications very slowly. This is mainly because most Canadian wood pellets are exported to the European industrial sector for power generation without quality certification. However, as we continue to develop the heating industry in Canada and the United States and strive to increase our share of the heating industry in Europe, especially in Italy, Canadian pellet producers must accept ENplus / CANplus quality certification.