Why biomass fuel quality is key…

Recent changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) mean that quality is just as important as sustainability when it comes to biomass fuel.

All wood chip and pellet which is accredited by the Biomass Suppliers List (BSL) must now meet new quality criteria to qualify for RHI payments. 

At AMP, we’ve always understood the importance of quality and the impact it can have on the performance of biomass boilers. We talk to Mark Close, our HSQ Manager, to understand why quality is key and how he strives to achieve an industry leading pellet and chip standard.

Can you explain the changes to the RHI in relation to biomass fuel quality and how this impacts RHI payments?

Up until recently the BSL was very much focussed on sustainability and the carbon footprint of wood fuel. However, since June 1st 2022, all BSL wood fuel must now meet specific quality criteria.

This means that BSL wood chip must be Woodsure certified and BSL pellet must be ENPlus® certified to qualify for use in RHI registered boilers. Whilst the responsibility of ensuring quality requirements are met lie with biomass fuel suppliers, using fuel which doesn’t have an up-to-date BSL number puts your RHI payments at risk.

AMP’s customers have no need to worry as all our chip and pellet has a BSL number that is supported by the appropriate quality management scheme. In fact, as the market leading biomass heat business, we go the extra mile with our people and processes to ensure that only the best possible quality wood fuel reaches our customers’ fuel stores.

Why is the quality of biomass fuel important?

The single biggest risk to a biomass boiler and its performance is the issue of fines and contamination. Poor quality fuel can also present air quality issues. The RHI has now underlined the critical importance of quality by including it in the BSL certification criteria.

Furthermore, poor quality fuel can lead to boiler problems and even breakdowns. In turn this can lead to a reduction in RHI payments.

How does AMP ensure its biomass wood pellet is market leading?

Our wood pellet meets the highest quality standard in Europe – ENplus® A1 certification.

We invest in external training for our people whose role has any association with wood pellet. This includes sales, administration and key account managers and goes beyond the requirements of ENplus®.

We have invested heavily into our biomass delivery fleet which now includes state-of-the-art trucks which are fitted with on-board screening facilities to filter out dust and other contaminants; this is in addition to the screening of the pellet during the vehicle loading process.

We also go the extra mile when it comes to auditing our pellet. We use independent surveyors to oversee the discharge of pellet being brought in from vessels overseas, inspect all pellet transfer vehicles prior to loading and take representative samples of the product. We send these to an independent laboratory to check compliance with ENplus® A1 specification and if there’s an issue with any of the samples, the entire shipment is rejected.

How does AMP ensure its wood chip is of the highest possible quality?

We have two dedicated wood chip production depots in the UK. As we produce the majority some of our own chip, we’ve invested in laboratory standard equipment that allows us to conduct in-house quality analysis of our products to ensure compliance with international standards.  We test the quality of our chip every month, as part of our Woodsure certified quality management system.

What plans does AMP have to further improve wood fuel quality?

Whilst we have an in-house HSEQ team, we have created a culture where HSEQ is everyone’s responsibility. Quality plays a key role in our long term aim to gain an industry leading HSEQ accreditation.

To date we have invested more than £1 million in fuel quality. We will continue to invest heavily in our supply chain and the delivery processes of both pellet and chip, as we strive for the best possible standards in the quality of our wood fuel.