Over the last decade there have been two major factors that have been driving the growth of
the pellet fuel market. The first is the consistent rise in the cost of fossil fuels and price instability.
the second is the increased attention given to the effects of using fossil fuels such as oil and gas on
the environment. Other factors that support the case for pellets is that they are a fuel that can be
produced locally, from local wood and biomass materials. Local pellet production and distribution can
produce an affordable fuel, while creating local jobs and keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.
But Why Pellets Instead of Just Logs? But Why Pellets Instead of Just Logs?
One question that many people ask is why have
pellets instead of just burning logs? Well there are
many reasons, but firstly logs only come from
trees that in general grow very slowly. Pellets can
be made from practically any biomass material
including straws, grasses, energy crops etc. For
example hemp is set to be a biomass fuel leader.
From seed to harvest only takes 3 months, and hemp pellets have very similar combustion results to
most wood pellets. The other main reasons for pellets over logs are that pellets burn much more
efficiently. This means pellets produce less ash, less smoke and more heat. Also pellets have a
uniform size, shape, density and moisture content. These consistent qualities make it possible to
design highly automated combustion systems such as modern wood pellet stoves and boilers.
But Aren’t Pellets Much More Expensive Than Logs? But Aren’t Pellets Much More Expensive Than Logs?
It’s true on a per weight basis for example one ton of wood logs compared to one ton of wood pellets
logs are cheaper. However, you have to look at the details to do an accurate cost comparison. For
instance wood pellets always have moisture content below 10%, and in many cases it is lower than
this at around the 5-8% mark. You can be confident of this fact, as its impossible for a pellet to have a
high density and smooth surface with higher moisture content. However, wood logs are often sold
with practically no drying taking place. Please note a seasoned log takes about two years to dry and
even then you are still looking at moisture content of minimum 25%. Properly seasoned logs are also
more expensive. The logs that many consumers compare the price of to pellets have moisture content
of between 40-50%. So these cheap logs are almost half water, and as we all know water doesn’t burn
very well. Wet logs cause low combustion efficiency, low heat and increased smoke and ash.
Therefore with wood pellets, a ton of fuel pellets last much longer than a ton of wood. Therefore on a
cost comparison basis you should compare by heat generated, not by weight. On a heat-generated
basis the cost of wood pellets is very competitive to logs. This also does not factor into the advantages
of been able to use pellets in highly automated wood pellet stoves and boilers.
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