The growth in RHI installations has prompted greater regulation around sustainability and product quality to be introduced. The aim of this is to protect the overarching objective of the renewable heat incentive – to encourage growth in renewable heat and energy production in a sustainable way.
Core to this is ensuring products are sourced, produced and distributed efficiently and sustainably. Today I am going to look at pellet standards – what they mean and why they are important.
From the 5th of October 2015 all domestic and non-domestic customers claiming RHI payments will need to ensure they meet the BSL sustainability requirements. The simplest way to do this is to buy from a BSL approved supplier and distributor and really is the only option for customers using pellets as fuel. An annual declaration must be submitted to Ofgem to show that fuel is being supplied by a BSL approved supplier and spot check audits will be made.
As a pellet trader this means we need to ensure the pellets Lakes Biomass buy come from a BSL registered manufacturer and distributor and that the product meets sustainability standards. This is where the ENplus standards come in. ENplus is the European quality standard for pellets. Not only does the quality scheme cover the pellets themselves, it also covers the production process, labelling, logistics, any intermediary storage and finally the distribution processes until the pellets reach the end consumer. In the UK, HETAS is the regulator accrediting suppliers and managing their licencing.
What this means for pellet production.ENplus manfacturers are subject to annual inspections, audits and independent testing. Their production and quality control processes are regulated and checked to ensure they are reaching the required standards. Every manufacturer must be able to track their pellets all the way through the supply chain right back to the raw material source – this is critical should a problem occur for a cusomter. Contamination checks must be carried out, to ensure foreign bodies such as stones, soil and grain do not enter the pellet store.
What this means for the product. There are three quality levels for pellets – ENPlus-A1, ENPlus-A2 and ENB. Each quality level has the same requirements in terms of pellet diameter and length, bulk density (kg/m3) and net calorific value (MJ/kg), they must all have less than 10% moisture content. However they differ in term of ash %, ash melting point and the materials used in their manufacture. ENPlus-A1 pellets must be made from stem wood and chemically untreated wood residues; ENPlus-A2 pellets can also include whole trees (no roots) and logging residues (the portions of trees left after felling); ENB pellets may also contain forest, plantation and other virgin wood.
What this means for distribution. ENPlus standards set quality levels for the delivery vehicles themselves as well as required driver training and documentation. Critical to ENPlus standards is the grading of pellets prior to loading into the delivery vehicle. They must be loaded with less than 1% fines
Why is it important? Of course, core to the decision to use pellets is a desire to use a sustainable fuel – so ENplus gives reassurance that the materials used to create the pellets are truly sustainable. Day to day however, poor quality pellets can prove inefficient and lead to breakdowns and outages. Poor quality pellets are prone to be dusty and crumbly – resulting in reduced calorific output. Overlong pellets can block feed mechanisms resulting in outages and system damage. When it comes to pellets, quality needs to cover handling and well as the physical chemical and mechanical properties of the pellets. Ultimately quality pellets burn better, reduce maintenance costs and minimise running issues.