Why certify? The case for wood pellet certification

Don’t miss the boat to earn seals of approval
Maria Church
June 19, 2017
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June 19, 2017 - SBP, PEFC Chain of Custody, Green Gold Label, ENplus and CANplus – all of them wood pellet certification schemes, some for quality, some for sustainability. No doubt I’ve missed others.


The seemingly endless list of schemes available to Canadian wood pellet producers might be overwhelming to a newcomer in the pellet world. (Me not so long ago.) Some might be asking, are they worth it?

The short answer is yes.

As of print, two Canadian pellet producers have secured Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP), which in March changed its name from Sustainable Biomass Partnership. It’s the latest sustainability certification scheme that launched globally in March 2015 and now lists 81 certificate holders.

New Brunswick-based Shaw Resources’ Belledune pellet operation was the first to get the certification in Canada last fall (read about their Shubenacadie operation featured here), and B.C.’s Premium Pellet followed suit in March. Both companies stressed the importance of certifications to access the European industrial pellet market.

Robert Tarcon, general manager for Premium Pellet, told me certifications give Premium another link to its end users, which are the large multi-national European utilities such as Drax, RWE, Engie, Dong, Eon, Vatenfall and Horfor.

Rene Landry, director of pellet operations at Shaw Resources, said the same thing and added: “The key is credibility of the industry and ultimately proving that the raw material comes from a sustainable, renewable, legal source.”

So how do you get certified? What schemes are out there and what do they get you?

Gord Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, tackles those questions for us in Part 1 of a two-part series on certifications. In this article Murray covers quality certifications. Part 2 will run in the July/August issue of Canadian Biomass and will cover sustainability certifications.

Wood pellet quality certifications, Gord explains, are designed for pellet producers in the heating sector. These trademarks assure consumers that the pellets they are burning meet the highest standard of quality. While industrial consumers are able to conduct their own lab tests to determine if a shipment of pellets meets their demands, the average Jane and Joe buying a 20-pound bag from the local hardware store to feed their new pellet barbeque deserves to know their pellets meet the grade.

The global heating market represents about half of all traded wood pellets, Gord says. Much of that market is in Europe, where ENplus is predominant and in many cases demanded, and in the U.S., where the EPA requires all new pellet stove warrantees to specify the use of certified pellets.

Be it the industrial or the heating market, it seems clear that for Canadian pellet producers looking to ship overseas, don’t miss the boat when it comes to certification schemes.

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