Quality wood pellets - no compromise

It is pointless insisting on top-quality wood pellets if they get mangled by your supplier. The quality of the wood pellets in your store depends on the way that they are handled by your supplier, as well as their condition when they left the factory.

ENplus requirements for traders and producers

That is why ENplus, the European wood-pellet accreditation scheme, provides separate accreditation for producers and "traders" (as suppliers are called in the ENplus manuals). The ENplus requirements for traders are designed to ensure that the pellets are supplied to the customer in a way that minimises problems.

You can find the requirements for producers and traders in the ENplus manual, which can be downloaded from the website of the European Pellet Council. They are relatively short, simple and practical lists of requirements. So you don't have to work your way through the whole manual, we have listed the practical requirements for traders on our ENplus for traders page.

As you can see, these requirements are designed to stipulate the actions and technology necessary to ensure that the product is in as good a condition as practical when it arrives in your store. And yet, some British suppliers are taking advantage of the option to seek exemption from certain requirements to dodge some of those requirements.

Gauged weigh-loaders for blown deliveries of wood pellets

For instance, ENplus requires wood-pellet blower trucks to be fitted with "gauged weigh-loaders", but allows suppliers to seek exemption for upto 3 years. "Gauged weigh-loaders" is the ENplus term for weigh-loaders that are Legal for Trade and sufficiently accurate to meet the requirements of the Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments (NAWI) Directive and Regulations. Without them, you cannot know that the quantity that your supplier tells you they delivered according to their sub-standard weigh-loaders was the quantity that was actually delivered.

The ENplus option to seek exemption does not exempt traders from the requirements of consumer-protection regulations, so they are still liable to enforcement by Trading Standards if caught. And regardless of whether ENplus lets them off the hook and the local Trading Standards office fails to enforce, you may like to know that you are getting the quantity of wood pellets that you are being charged for.

If so, when a supplier says that they have ENplus accreditation, you should ask them whether that is including gauged weigh-loaders or whether they have sought exemption from that requirement. You should ask to see their ENplus certification as a trader (not a producer), which should refer to any exemptions/derogations that they have sought from the standard requirements.

All Forever Fuels' pressurised tankers are equipped with gauged weigh-loaders. To our knowledge, only one other wood-pellet tanker in the country has the necessary equipment, as of early 2012, and the operator of that truck was not ENplus-accredited at that time. That makes Forever Fuels the only wood-pellet supplier in Britain and Ireland that can meet the full requirements of ENplus accreditation at the time of writing.

Suction systems for dust extraction during blown deliveries

ENplus also requires that trucks for blown deliveries should have "a device to extract the supply air from the storage during delivery", although national associations may accept other solutions to control dust during delivery.

Sadly, most fabricated stores in the UK are not perfectly sealed. When they are pressurised (as they must be for pellets to be blown), the dust finds the gaps and gets out into the surrounding area. This isn't just messy. Dust in the atmosphere can be harmful to health, and if concentrations of dust settle and accumulate over time, they present an explosion risk.

Whether or not the store is perfectly sealed, there is another purpose for the suction system. The pressure in the store may feed through to the burner box via the pellet-feed mechanism (auger or suction system). Pressure in the burner box will have an adverse effect on the combustion characteristics. Noxious gases will be produced, which can be harmful to health and to the equipment.

Different systems are more or less vulnerable to this effect. You should check your boiler manual and speak to your equipment supplier, to see if the boiler has to be turned off one or two hours before delivery to avoid this risk. Purpose-built suction may make it unnecessary to turn the boiler off. Our suction systems produce a slight negative pressure in the fuel store under normal conditions.

Dealing with dust in the wood-pellet store

Incidentally, some types of wood-pellet store (such as fabric silos or some pre-fabricated external silos) may have less problem with dust escaping than others. However, installers do not always point out that good dust containment means that all the dust is kept inside the silo, and will accumulate in there. Regardless of whether suction is applied during delivery, all stores require cleaning to remove the dust occasionally.

Fabric silos will gradually get clogged with dust, so it is particularly important occasionally to empty them, give them a good beating, and remove the dust. Some manufacturers of fabric silos recommend not to use suction during delivery, as they rely on the pressure to inflate the bag to facilitate delivery. Always follow your equipment manufacturer's instructions, and always insist that your installer provides you with those instructions in English and runs through them with you.

Suction mitigates the consequences of imperfect construction (but far from eliminates it). In any case, the problem of pressure in the burner box may be exacerbated by a well-sealed store. It is not clear what alternative the European Pellet Council (EPC) have in mind that could achieve the same effect as suction to eliminate these risks.

Tankers are typically equipped with suction systems, whereas it is less common (but not impossible) for tippers to be equipped with suction systems (because they have less space for storage). It is possible that the EPC has left the door open to alternatives because some suppliers who use tippers without suction systems have complained that this requirement would make it difficult to achieve ENplus accreditation. However, the EPC have resisted a free-for-all by requiring evidence that the alternative achieves the same effect.

You may wish to follow the EPC's lead, particularly if your supplier uses tippers, and ask if the truck comes with a suction system, even if the supplier claims ENplus accreditation. If you would rather that the area around your fuel-store were not too dusty, you will also want to be careful to insist that your installer's design includes an accessible electric socket (for the suction system to plug into) and an outlet with a Storz 110A flange, so the suction system can be attached.

All Forever Fuels' tankers are equipped with suction systems.

Estimating the fuel-level in the store before delivery

ENplus stipulates that "the filling level of the store must be estimated before the filling process". In practice, delivery drivers often do not have access to the store. How to square this requirement with the reality of most deliveries?

One way would be to install a DELOX level sensor. This allows us to monitor the fuel-level in your store remotely, which means that we can provide the driver with a pretty good estimate of the fuel-level in the store without the driver needing access to the store.

This requirement highlights another feature of ENplus: it is a collaborative effort between producer, supplier, installer and customer. The producer and fuel-supplier could do everything as well as possible including having all the equipment, systems and trained personnel required by ENplus, and yet it could still be impossible to make an ENplus-compliant delivery, if the system is not designed and installed to meet the requirements of ENplus or if the customer does not help the supplier in the ways that are solely within the customer's control.

ENplus accurately reflects the reality in this regard, as in most others. With the best will in the world, it can be impossible to do a good delivery if the installation isn't well-designed or if the customer is unhelpful. A DELOX level-sensor can minimise the burden on the customer, but it cannot overcome bad design.

If you don't use something like a DELOX level-sensor and you want your deliveries to meet the ENplus standards, either the delivery drivers must have unattended access to your store, or every delivery will have to be attended by you or your representative.

Check the details of ENplus accreditation

A1 is the best grade under ENplus, and the standard preferred by most wood-pellet boilers. Some wood-pellet suppliers talk about offering ENplus-A1 pellets, when all that they mean is that the pellets were accredited ENplus-A1 at the factory. You should check whether your supplier is also accredited as an ENplus trader. If not, it's equivalent to sticking a Ming vase in the post. Why pay for quality and then handle it in a way that means it's likely to arrive in pieces?

You can find a list of ENplus-accredited traders on the European Pellet Council website. If a company is not on this list, they are not accredited to supply pellets (even if they are listed elsewhere as a pellet producer).

ENplus accredited producers who offer blown deliveries do not necessarily have accreditation as traders as well. They can gain accreditation for both, but one does not imply the other - they must prove their capability as a trader in order to be accredited as a trader. In fact, in the UK, none of the ENplus-accredited producers has ENplus accreditation as a trader, at the time of writing. If you want a quality delivery from a wood-pellet producer, you should ask them to prove that they are accredited as a trader as well as a producer. At the moment, you should ask them to recommend an accredited trader who can deliver their pellets properly for them.

ENplus accreditation can be achieved relatively easily by filling out a set of forms correctly and paying the necessary fees. Few checks are carried out at that time. At some time during the year after a supplier has been accredited to ENplus, they will be audited. At that time, their claims will be verified, and if no errors are found, you can have confidence that the supplier does indeed meet the ENplus requirements. Until then, it is perfectly possible for a supplier to claim to be ENplus accredited without any significant verification of their capabilities.

Bagged deliveries

Things are simpler for bagged wood pellets. If a producer has bagged ENplus-A1 quality pellets, there is much less risk of degradation during storage and handling than there is for blown deliveries of bulk wood pellets.

Consequently, suppliers of bagged wood pellets may legitimately claim to be providing an ENplus-A1 product, without having to obtain accreditation themselves, so long as they are supplying bagged pellets from an ENplus-A1 accredited producer.

ENplus accreditation is site- and vehicle-specific. It is perfectly possible for a supplier to meet the requirements of ENplus with one truck at one site and obtain accreditation for that site and truck, while failing to meet the requirements with the rest of its fleet and sites. If they claim to be generically ENplus-accredited, rather than being specific about what and where, you may suspect that they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

If a supplier claims to be ENplus-accredited, you should ask to see the certification and associated documents. You should check that:

  • The accreditation is as a trader, or as a trader and producer, not just as a producer.
  • The accreditation applies to the site that your delivery will be from.
  • The accreditation applies to the truck that will make your delivery.
  • The truck that will make your delivery is equipped with a gauged weigh-loader
  • The truck that will make your delivery is equipped with a suction system.
  • Whether the site and truck have been audited for ENplus.

Explanatory video

For a good introduction to ENplus, see this video, featuring two of the leading lights of the Austrian wood pellet industry - Christian Rakos and Martin Englisch.