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Forest Products Extension

Wood pellets – A clean and convenient form of firewood

With the growing interest in biomass, people are increasingly looking to wood products as alternative fuels. While the conversion of wood and other cellulosic materials to ethanol or bio-oil offers exciting possibilities for producing liquid fuels and other products, simply burning wood can be a cost effective, technologically-feasible and environmentally-friendly fuel option. Wood pellets offer an additional clean and convenient way to heat with wood.

Burning wood for heating and cooking is as old as human civilization and even today consumes over half the wood harvested worldwide. Burning wood for fuel to power lumber drying kilns and pulp and paper plants is also the biggest source of renewable energy in the United States . Wood is less costly as a fuel than most other sources of energy (with the exception of coal) and the technology to burn wood cleanly in factories and homes is well developed. Burning wood is also ‘green' because it is an abundant and renewable resource and it is ‘carbon neutral' in terms of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Burning wood to heat one's home has all of the potential benefits of burning wood at an industrial scale, with the added advantage of the pleasure associated with watching a cozy fire. However, burning firewood to heat your home is less convenient that simply flipping the switch on a gas- or electric-powered furnace. This is where wood pellets can fit in as a more convenient form of firewood.

Wood pellets are made from sawdust and ground wood that is compressed under heat and pressure. No glue is required – the lignin in the wood binds the particles together. Pellets are made from clean and dry wood processing residues – for example the off-cuts from wood flooring manufacture. Because they are small and dry they burn very well, with very little ash or smoke. Pellets are also are very easy and clean to handle. Pellets are usually packaged in 40-pound bags and pellet stoves are be equipped with hoppers and thermostatically-controlled feed-screws. Simply dump a bag or two into the hopper and the rest is taken care of!

Wood fuel pellets are common in the US northeast, where burning wood to heat homes is more well-established. However, there has been a big increase in fuel pellet production in the US and Europe recently, as countries in Europe search for ways to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. New pellet plants are also being installed here in the southeast, including in Tennessee where we have many hardwood flooring plants that produce an ideal raw material for pellet products.

Burning firewood has many advantages. Wood pellets made in Tennessee offer a more convenient form of excellent wood fuel.


For more information, contact:

Adam M. Taylor
Tennessee Forest Products Center
2506 Jacob Drive
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Phone: 865-946-1125
Fax: 865-946-1109

Adam Taylor's email