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Standardising quality will boost emerging woodfuel market

In the move to a low-carbon economy, we need to increase our resource efficiency, extract full value from thematerials at our disposal and move to low-carbon energy sources. As part of this drive, the production ofwoodfuel from forestry and waste wood presents a real opportunity for the Yorkshire & Humber region. But thedevelopment of a successful market depends on the ready availability of a consistent and high-quality product.

The Yorkshire & Humber region sends 200,000 tonnes of waste wood to landfill each year. A high proportion ofthis is clean, uncontaminated wood from business and construction projects, such as packaging andoffcuts, with great potential for reuse or in renewable energy production as woodfuel.

Wood pellets produced from clean wood waste are a stable, energy-dense and reliable fuel with high andconsistent quality, suitable for use in biomass boilers and CHP plants. CO2Sense has worked closely withenergy services company Dalkia to establish a wood pellet mill near Selby using wood otherwise destined for landfill, complementing a number of other pellet manufacturers.

The region also has an increasing number of woodchip suppliers producing fuel from forestry timber. With only50% of the region’s woods being actively managed, there is potential for significant growth. But achievingconsistently high quality takes effort.

Poor woodfuel quality can cause significant problems for customers. Several factors need to be taken intoaccount when considering the production of quality woodfuel. The control of moisture content is critical; damp woodchip can degrade during storage, reducing boiler efficiency and soincreasing fuel consumption and stackemissions. This highlights the importance of ensuring suitable drying stages and storage.

Pellet and chip both need to be produced from wood that is not contaminated. In the case of waste wood,contaminants can include paint or varnish that can pollute stack emissions and possibly contravene airemission permits and regulations. Fuel from contaminated wood should only be burnt in suitably rated boilers or Waste Incineration Directive-compliant plant.

The physical properties of the fuel itself are also important. Poorly sized chip can cause fuel feed problems for users. Similarly, poorly formed pellet can break up and form high fines levels during handling. Recognising this need, woodfuels are increasingly made to meet set specificationsthat guarantee their quality and performance.Customers can therefore depend on them as reliable solid fuels and a real alternative to oil, coal or gas.

The Heating Equipment Testing & Approval Scheme, recognised by the Government for the approval of solid fuels and services, introduced a trial Solid Biomass Assurance Scheme in 2009. The scheme aims to helpwoodfuel users identify quality suppliers and reassure customers thatthere is a reliable supply chain.

As the woodfuel supply chain continues to mature and the use of woodfuelled installations becomes mainstream, woodfuel will come to be regarded as a consistent and reliable energy source with the advantagesof low-carbon impact and the availability of local and secure supplies.

Gordon Watts is manager of the CO2Sense Woodfuel Programme

 

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