Wood pellets are a type of wood fuel, generally made from compacted sawdust. They are usually produced as a byproduct of sawmilling and other wood transformation activities. The pellets are extremely dense and can be produced with a low humidity content (below 10%) that allows them to be burned with a very high combustion efficiency. Further, their regular geometry and small size allow automatic feeding with very fine calibration. They can be fed to a burner by auger feeding or by pneumatic conveying.
Their high density also permits compact storage and rational transport over long distance. They can be conveniently blown from a tanker to a storage bunker or silo on a customer's premises. As the price of heating with fossil fuels increases, more capacity for pellet heating has been installed. A large number of models of pellet stoves, central heating furnaces and other heating appliances have been developed and marketed since about 1999. With the surge in the price of fossil fuels in 2005, the demand has increased all over Europe and a sizable industry is emerging.
Pellets conforming to the norms commonly used (DIN 51731 or Ö-Norm M-7135) have less than 10% water content, are uniform in density (density in excess of 1 ton / cubic meter, so they do not float if placed in water), have good structural strength, and low dust and ash content. Because the wood fibres are broken down by the hammer mill, there is virtually no difference in the finished pellets between different wood types. Pellets can be made from nearly any wood variety, provided the pellet press is equipped with good instrumentation, the differences in feed material can be compensated for in the press regulation.
Pellets conforming to the above norms cannot contain any recycled wood or outside contaminants. Recycled materials such particle board, treated or painted wood, melamine resin-coated panels and the like are particularly unsuitable for use in pellets, since they may produce noxious emissions and / or uncontrolled variations in the burning characteristics of the pellets.
Pellet heating systems provide a low-net-CO2 solution, because the quantity of CO2 emitted during combustion is equal to the CO2 absorbed by the tree during its growth. With the high efficiency burners developed in recent years, other emissions such as NOx and volatile organic compounds are very low, making this one of the most non-polluting heating options available. One remaining problem is emission of fine dust in urban areas due to a high concentration of pellet heating systems. Electrostatic particle filters for pellet heaters have however been developed and considerably reduce the problem when installed as standard.
|Pellet Use (ton)|
|Sweden||1 400 000|
|Denmark *||n. 400 000|
|Finland*||n. 50 000|