Author: Ekovita

Whether your wood pellets are made from hardwood sawdust or softwood sawdust will have absolutely no influence whatsoever regarding how those pellets will burn. Many people will argue that only hardwood pellets should be burned in their stove and conversely, some people will argue that softwood pellets are the only way to go. NEITHER OF THESE AGRUMENTS HOLDS WATER!

You do not want to burn softwood in a WOOD STOVE (as opposed to a pellet stove) if you can avoid it. This is because in a wood stove, hardwood will burn hotter and longer than softwood will and softwood will burn much dirtier.

Now, let me break this down in two parts. First, the only reason that hardwood burns hotter and longer in a wood stove is because hardwood, in its natural state, has a much higher density that softwood does.  For instance, when you have two equal sized pieces of wood, and one is oak (hardwood) and the other is pine (softwood) you will get much more heat out of the oak than you will the pine. However, if you took a ten pound piece of oak and compared it to a ten pound piece of pine, the piece of oak is going to be much smaller than the pine. But, in ten pounds of oak, there is just as much energy (or heat) as there is in ten pounds of pine. This all comes down to density, and all wood, on a dry basis, will have equal amounts of energy (heat/BTUs) per pound.

But, remember that with wood pellets, they all start out as sawdust. And regardless of whether the sawdust is hardwood, softwood or a mixture of the two, they will all get compressed to the same high density regardless of whether the sawdust is oak, pine, maple, fir, cherry or any other species of wood. This is an absolute fact and something that is often a source of confusion for many wood pellet burners. Therefore, there really is no such thing as a “hard” wood pellet or a “soft” wood pellet….there’s just wood pellets!

This takes us to a statement that I made earlier here, that softwood, IN A WOODSTOVE, (in its natural state) will burn much dirtier than hardwood. This is true… but here is why. If you have ever seen a pine tree, you will see the sap, or pitch, oozing in spots where either the bark has been scraped or a branch has broken off. This pitch, when burned, will create a lot of creosote and the burn will be very dirty. But understand that this pitch only exists in the outer living layer of bark on a tree.  Good, clean wood pellets, whether hardwood or softwood, will have no bark in them. A good clean softwood pellet will look nice and pure, almost blonde in color. There should be no bark in them and therefore, no pitch. Therefore, unlike firewood in a woodstove, softwood pellets will have the same high density as hardwood pellets and will burn just as clean as hardwood pellets if the bark is removed.

That’s not to say that all softwood pellets are great, nor are all hardwood pellets great. Truth is, there are some great hardwood pellets out there and there are some lousy hardwood pellets out there as well. And at the same time, there are some great softwood pellets out there and there are some lousy softwood pellets out there as well. What I am really trying to emphasize here is that whether a wood pellet is made of hardwood sawdust or softwood sawdust will have no bearing or influence over the quality of that specific wood pellet. What really matters is how clean the raw materials are that make up that pellet and how low the moisture content is- that’s this big difference!

Whether you just bought a stove and are brand new to wood pellets, or you have been burning wood pellets for the past fifteen years, there will always be some challenges to face when selecting your fuel.

I can’t tell you how many people have obsessed over finding the hottest pellet or lowest ash pellet available and went out on a” hunt” to find the pellet with the “Best Specs Ratings” that they could find. They will laboriously read and compare manufacturers’ labels and specifications including ash content and BTUs, only to find out that their “hunt” was nothing more than a wild goose chase.

Well, listen up… First of all, the BTU numbers and ash content numbers that you see printed on the bag, (as well as the rest of the information printed on the label and specs) are probably misrepresentative at best. You see… these pellet manufacturers are currently operating in the “wild west” when it comes to quality policing and “truth in labeling”. (There is however a governing body that is trying to enact and enforce a quality assurance testing process.) Currently, they can put whatever they want to put on their bag, and there is no governing body that can enforce any kind of standards. Therefore, TAKE EVERYTHING THAT IS PRINTED ON A LABEL WITH A GRAIN OF SALT, as there is no enforcement of truth in these labels. But a little bit of homework will pay off dividends if you know what to look for. Essentially, you want a pellet that is made of good, clean, bark-free sawdust that has a very low moisture content. Knowing where a manufacturer gets their sawdust from is the most conclusive way in determining a wood pellet’s quality.

Always consider the source of the raw materials that are used in the manufacturing process when trying to predict the quality of a specific brand of wood pellets. Basically, there are two types of wood pellet manufacturers out there; Primary manufacturers and Secondary Manufacturers. Primary manufacturers are those companies, (typically very large producers) and secondary manufacturers. (typically small manufacturers).

Primary pellet manufacturers are companies whose main business is the production and sale of wood pellets, and they do so in very large volume (Typically, over 100,000 tons per year) They will either buy their raw materials (sawdust and/or wood chips) from third party vendors, and in some cases these manufacturers may rely on the availability of raw materials from over one hundred of these third party vendors.  Therefore, consistency will very much be an issue, and the quality of your pellets will be very much dependent upon the source and quality of the raw materials that were used for your particular batch. Typically, primary manufacturer’s pellets will be less expensive than the secondary brands, and for the budget minded consumer, these may seem like an affordable alternative. But spending a season burning the lower priced brands may be a long and difficult one for many pellet stove owners.

Now, that brings us to the secondary pellet manufacturers. These are companies that will use their own source of raw materials to make their pellets. (Typically, these include furniture, cabinet, lumber and flooring manufacturers) For these companies, wood pellet production is a secondary business to their “parent company” and done as a resource to get rid of their internally-generated sawdust. This is where the big difference comes into play. Remember that the sawdust that is being generated here is coming off of hardwood lumber that has already been kiln dried. Therefore, these companies are typically using good, clean and dry sawdust to make their wood pellets. Although these brands will initially cost you a little bit more, you will later see that the difference in heat, cleanliness and overall quality will be well worth it and the trouble free burning will extend the overall life of your stove.

Ukraine has been a leading country among the world sunflower oil manufacturers for the last few years. Hence, in 2015-2016 MY its share accounted for 54% of the world total amount of the manufactured product. Asian countries, India and China in particular, purchase a significant part of crude sunflower oil. Ukrainian Biofuel Portal, prepared a database of Asian buyers which had been importing crude sunflower oil from Ukraine in the period of 2015 – second quarter of 2016. The database reflects a credible and relevant picture of the sunflower market.

2015 saw export of more than 3,87 Mt of crude sunflower oil

According to the database of Ukrainian crude sunflower oil importres (buyers), Ukraine exported 3,87 Million tons (Mt) of crude sunflower oil in the previous year. The buyers of sunflower oil were 265 companies from 47 countries of the world. The geography of purchasers is quite extensive; the countries from all continents are on the list of the importers. 10 of these countries are Asian ones and what is more important, it is them that basically define the structure of crude sunflower oil export from Ukraine. By way of example, it was only India and China that purchased 2,01 Mt, which accounted for 52% of the overall export volume. The biggest share was purchased by India – 1,39 Mt, while China bought 0,62 Mt. Malaysia became the third leading importer, with the imported volume of 0,25 Mt of Ukrainian crude sunflower oil.

1H 2016 saw export of 2,26 Mt of crude sunflower oil

In the corresponding period 205 companies from 46 countries of the world imported crude sunflower oil from Ukraine. Yet 14 countries from the list are related to Asia. The leading importing countries have still been India (0,71 Mt) and China (0,3 Mt). The third place goes to the Netherlands (0,26 Mt).

The importers showed the highest activity in June 2016, when the overall export value of crude sunflower oil was 0,42 Mt. In the first quarter of 2016 MY 1,09 Mt went for export, and in the second quarter – 1,17 Mt.

Up to 95-97% of sunflower oil in China manufactured in Ukraine

Ukraine supplies the huge Chinese market with the most of sunflower oil. This market has the same colossal prospective as the Indian one. The intergovernmental agreements which have been recently reached contribute to the development of the trade between the countries and the export of crude sunflower oil to these Asian countries in particular.

To meet their energy demands, more and more companies, commercial groups and households are becoming wood pellet-oriented consumers. Pellet transition tendencies gain in their popularity as pellet fuel is a more sustainable source of energy than fossil ones. Ukrainian biofuel portal makes detailed analysis of wood pellet output rates to find out the cost and energy efficiencies of wood fuel in comparison with other types of fuel to prove their cost-effectiveness.

Heating values of wood pellets in comparison with other types of fuel

The energy rate of wood pellets is usually defined by their calorific value. As a rule, this indicator is understood as the amount of energy which is released as heat in the process of fuel combustion and its interaction with oxygen. The unit is expressed in Gj per tonnes and may be different when given by various pellet manufacturers. Moreover, the calorific value of wood pellets depends on the type of pellets you purchase, their moisture content, ash content etc. The calorific value is one of the vital properties of biomass and wood pellets in particular, helping estimate the efficiency of the fuel by numerical simulations of their combustion in different conversion systems operating on biofuel.

It is clear that the higher calorific rates are the more energy per unit will be received and the less pellet fuel needs combustion to get the necessary amount of heating energy. As a rule, there are typical calorific value rates for every type of fuel showing the fuel capability of producing energy. As far as wood pellets are concerned, the fuel consists of Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen. Their energy output proves to be not worse than that of the traditional sources of energy. By way of example, it was found that 1000 kilograms of wood pellets can give as much energy and heat as it can be received from 1600 kilograms of logwood, 475 cubic meters of gas, 500 liters of diesel fuel and 685 liters of fuel oil.

Wood pellets are good candidates to change coal combustion, which is considered to be of high environmental influence having great emissions of the greenhouse gas. In comparison, wood pellets are considered to be carbon neutral fuel with relatively high output rates as compared to its counterparts. According to the information provided by Ukrainian Biofuel Portal, the energy outputs of wood pellets and coal do not differ considerably. The energy content highly depends on the content of moisture in the fuel, thus, wood pellets of high quality with relatively small moisture content rates, approximately 8-10% per unit, will show the efficiency of 19 Gj per tonne. At the same time, coal with no moisture content can produce 24.8 Gj per tonne. Being relatively cheap, the sustainability properties of charcoal are much poorer than those of wood pellets. That is why a lot of big power stations, for example Drax, switch to wood pellets preferring them to the more environmentally unfriendly coal. Moreover, Drax will not only be ecologically cleaner, but the conversion will play a vital role in the future success of the power station. CPF or so called carbon price floor introduced by the government of the United Kingdom has significantly increased the prices for the fossil fuel for electrical power generation. Hence, at the beginning the price for coal had been £0.44 ($0.75) per gigajoule, but rapidly increased up to £1.63 ($1.77) in 2016. That makes the combustion of coal very challenging in terms of economical efficiency.

Wood pellets are a very efficient type of fuel in terms of pricing. As far as we can see, fuels produced of biomass are, as a rule, 25-30% cheaper than their fossil counterparts and more stable in terms of price fluctuations. In the future, it is more likely that the legislation aimed at the reduction of carbon emissions will sooner explode the reputation of fossil fuels than influence the cost of biomass fuel. This can be proved by comparing average oil prices with wood pellet prices. It has frequently been said that the prices of wood pellets are highly dependent on oil prices and tend to follow them. However, according to the recent statistics, pellet prices have faced significantly less fluctuations than oil prices staying on the approximate level of 5 cents per Kwh since 2000. At the same time, for the same period oil prices have fluctuated from 5 cents per kWh up to 11 cents per kWh in 2013. Despite the fact that the prices for both sources of energy have currently leveled, we can see that wood pellet prices are of much higher stability.