Pellet fuels are heating fuels made from compressed biomass. Wood pellets are the most common type. A form of wood fuel, wood pellets are generally made from compacted sawdust or other wastes from sawmilling and other wood products manufacture,. Other woody biomass sources include palm kernel shell, coconut shell, and whole-tree removal or tree tops and branches leftover after logging and which otherwise help replenish soil nutrients. As well grasses can also be pelletized, creating grass pellets. Pellets are manufactured in several types and grades as fuels for electric power plants, homes, and other applications in between. Pellets are extremely dense and can be produced with a low moisture content (below 10%) that allows them to be burned with a very high combustion efficiency.
Further, their regular geometry and small size allow automatic feeding with very fine calibration. They can be fed to a burner by auger feeding or by pneumatic conveying. Their high density also permits compact storage and rational transport over long distance. They can be conveniently blown from a tanker to a storage bunker or silo on a customer’s premises.
A broad range of pellet stoves, central heating furnaces, and other heating appliances have been developed and marketed since 1993. In 1997 fully automatic wood pellet boilers with similar comfort level as oil and gas boilers became available in Austria. With the surge in the price of fossil fuels since 2005, the demand for pellet heating has increased in Europe and North America, and a sizable industry is emerging. According to the International Energy Agency Task 40, wood pellet production has more than doubled between 2006 and 2010 to over 14 million tons. In a 2012 report, the Biomass Energy Resource Center says that it expects wood pellet production in North America to double again in the next five years.