There is no single energy source capable of solving our dependence on fossil fuels. Instead the world needs to continue adding new mixes of new fuels, including wood and energy pellets.
Unlike coal or natural gas, pellets produce far less SOx, NOx, C4H4, and mercury than coal during combustion.
In many markets today worldwide, electricity generated from pellets in converted coal power plants is almost the same cost as electricity generated from natural gas, making pellets one of the cheapest base load fuels for low-carbon power.
Ecotech Alliance and the pellet industry are playing a major role in developing renewable bioenergy sources locally and internationally where there is growing potential for production and export markets.
“Several studies have concluded that fully replacing coal with pellets can reduce GHG emissions by 91% for a coal plant and by 78% for a natural gas combined-cycle power plant.”
Characteristics of Wood Pellet Fuel
Wood pellet fuel belongs to the category of biomass fuels. It is produced automatically by compressing sawdust and wood chips and forming them into pellets of the same form and size of about 1-1Ѕ inches by 1/4-5/16 inches in diameter. As distinct from other biomass fuels, wood pellets are easier transport, and need less storage space than other forms of biomass.
They are advantageous because of the high energy content by weight of almost 7,750 Btu per pound. Their moisture content equals from four to six percent. These properties and plant lignin helps to retain their compact structure and makes wood pellets a first choice fuel for co-firing in coal power stations as well as commercial and residential heating markets.
Traditionally wood pellets are classified according to the amount of the ash produced.
There are three grades in this classification
- Premium (ash content of wood pellets less than one percent)
- Standard (ash content between one and two percent)
- Industrial (ash content three percent or more)
Two first grades may be sold for commercial, industrial or residential use. Pellets belonging to the third grade with ash content of three percent or greater should be bought for industrial application only.
“All pellets are manufactured from either sustainable forestry waste, sustainable plantation forestry or local wood waste products from sawmills, agricultural residues, bioenergy crops and industrial wood waste residues.”
Benefits of Pellets
There are numerous benefits achieved by utilising pellet fuel, including economic and environmental.
- Pellets are a biomass product made of wood waste or other forest-thinning by-products.
- Pellets are economically competitive with fossil fuel options and electric heat. Relative to other heating alternatives, pellet fuel prices are less volatile.
- Pellets are an efficient source of heat because they contain very low levels of moisture and ash, when compared to woodchips.
Environmental Benefits of Pellets
Wood pellets reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere compared to coal, gas or oil.
- Wood pellets are carbon neutral source of fuel.
- Switching from coal to natural gas reduces 50% of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions.
- Switching from coal to wood pellets reduces 100% of GHG emissions.
- Environmentally responsible, pellets are a sustainable fuel source.
- Can help reduce the damage caused to the environment by use of fossil fuels.
Wood Pellets vs. Wood Chips
- Wood pellets are more energy dense as dry sawdust (10% moisture) is compressed into a pellet meaning that fewer deliveries are needed (more efficient transport).
- Wood pellets have a higher bulk density meaning that less storage space is required (reduced construction costs)
- Wood pellet boilers are generally cheaper than wood chip systems.
- Wood pellets provide a consistent energy content as moisture is 10% whereas chip can vary between 30-60%. This means boilers are generally much more reliable.
- Pellets can be transported a far greater distance at economical prices giving security of supply.