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Improving Pellet Standards

Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S.-based Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI, www.pelletheat.org) developed an original set of pelletized fuel standards to help bring consistency to pelletized fuels.


April 22, 2010
By Deidra Darsa

Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S.-based Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI, www.pelletheat.org) developed an original set of pelletized fuel standards to help bring consistency to pelletized fuels.  Since then, the technology to manufacture pellets, as well as the technology of pellet-burning stoves, has advanced. The new burning technology in today’s stoves and inserts requires a very specific quality of pellet.  Because of the inconsistencies found in pellet production, the industry has been looking to develop an updated standard that will meet the needs of consumers heating with pellet stoves.

The original standards defined criteria for premium and standard grade pellets and were quickly adopted by industry, PFI members and non-members alike.  However, recent technology has made it apparent that the original standards lacked key components. The grades were too broad, test methods were not defined, and specified quality control or quality assurance practices and means of enforcement were lacking.

To address these issues, the PFI Standards Committee began a standards review process in 2005 and rewrote the standards over a period of four years. The new standards defined in PFI Standard Specifications for Residential/Commercial Densified Fuel (available at pelletheat.org/2/StandardSpecification WithCopyright%20.pdf ) were approved by membership vote in July 2008, and implementation began in February 2009.  Criteria for the four grades of pelletized product are defined in the document, and the standardized methodology for testing each parameter is identified.

The PFI Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Program for Residential and Commercial Densified Fuels (pelletheat.org/2/QA_QCprogramREVISED.pdf) document provides an industry-wide quality management system for demonstrating compliance with the standards.  The QA/QC Program includes product grading based on a year’s worth of testing data, quarterly data evaluation to verify continued compliance, a proficiency testing program for third-party testing laboratories, and a registration page on the PFI website to list compliant pellet producers and test laboratories.

Fuel standards awareness has been one of the most discussed, anticipated, and debated topics of the PFI membership for more than four years now. With the standards approved, and following input from its members, PFI has created a label to identify the pellet grade and its practical use. The label will designate a pellet fuel as Super Premium, Premium, Standard, or Utility grade and include maintenance expectations for each fuel.  So, for example, if a pellet stove is labelled to burn only Super Premium grade pellets, consumers will be able to find and read the PFI label on a bag of pellets and know that they are purchasing the pellet product that will burn best in their appliance.

The PFI Standards Program is in the early stages of implementation, but many pellet manufacturers are more aware of the quality and consistency of their fuel than ever before.  More testing is being done in-house, and changes are being made to improve the finished product.  More than 20 manufacturers have made investments in testing equipment, and many others are in the process.  For more information about the PFI Standards Program, please see www.pelletheat.org/2/quality.html .


Deidra Darsa is media relations manager for PFI.  PFI can be reached at pfimail@pelletheat.org or 703-522-6778.


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