Heating with wood pellets: Turning biases into benefits
" Raiffeisen Bio-Brennstoffe GmbH and its distribution partners are optimally equipped to meet the continuously increasing demand for wood pellets thanks to effective logistics and high-quality products. Our clients can therefore rely on Raiffeisen Bio-Brennstoffe GmbH’s ability to supply the market," says Martin Kuhmann, the company’s Quality Manager. In an interview, he refutes biases against heating with pellets and emphasizes the benefits.
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- Martin Kuhmann
In a video series by the German Pellet Institute, Jean Pütz, pellet ambassador and customer of Raiffeisen Bio-Brennstoffe GmbH, speaks against biases against heating with wood pellets. What are these biases?
Martin Kuhmann: Deciding on heating technology means that you make a commitment for the next 20 to 25 years. That’s why I can easily understand when homeowners consider this in depth and have a hard time switching to pellet heating if they previously heated with oil or gas for decades. We realize that there are uncertainties, particularly when it comes to the safe supply of pellets and to dust development.
Can you dispel these concerns?
Kuhmann: Of course. Pellets are 100 percent sawdust and shavings – by-products of the wood-processing industry. The wood is sourced from sustainably managed forests in Germany. The incidental shavings are an excellent resource to be processed into pellets and there are enough to produce more than six million tonnes of these per year. About two million tonnes were actually produced in 2016, which roughly corresponded to the consumption. So no one has to worry that there won’t be enough pellets. And at Raiffeisen Bio-Brennstoffe GmbH, working with our cooperative partners, we have high-performance logistics so that we can flexibly and quickly supply our customers with this product at any time.
What about the dust emissions?
Kuhmann: Unfortunately this topic is seen in very general terms. Modern, low-emission and automatically loaded pellet boilers are put on the same level as outdated ovens and chimneys. A brief study by the German Biomass Research Centre (Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum) shows that pellets are by far the cleanest type of wood fuel and responsible for only 3 percent of the dust emissions. Pellet heating is therefore not part of the problem but a possible solution for air pollution control, which the study correctly states in conclusion. The message that burning wood is carbon-neutral continues to apply. Wood pellet and chip heaters installed since 2015 may only emit 20 mg/m³ dust (2nd level 1st BImSchV (Federal emissions protection act)). 30 mg/m³ applies to pellet chimney stoves without water chambers. These are extremely low limit values, for which there were not even any measuring devices before 2013.
What role does the quality of the pellets play in the low-emission operation of the heater?
Kuhmann: The high quality of wood fuels is one of the most important conditions for the comfortable and low-emission operation of the furnaces and thus also for the future viability of wood energy in Germany. The ENplus certification program for pellets has been firmly established on the market for six years. RBB, with its private brand RPellets, is ENplus certified. The entire supply chain from the production to the delivery to the end customer is controlled.
You have already named a few selling points in favour of wood pellets. Another one is the price, isn’t it?
Kuhmann: The price is indeed a good selling point. A kilowatt hour of heat from pellets is still much cheaper than that from natural gas and oil. Despite the high demand, the pellet prices have hardly changed in March 2017. This clearly underlines the good supply situation. The pellet price actually doesn’t depend on the price changes for oil but on the wood market. If there is a lot of construction, a lot of wood accumulates as a resource and the price drops.