Wood Chips vs Wood Pellets – What’s the cost?

by Helen Taylor on 5 May 2011

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On the face of it, looking at price per tonne, wood chips appear to win hands down.

A tonne of wood chip at 30% moisture content will set you back £80-£90, while a tonne of wood pellets will be around £195 per tonne.

However, a tonne of wood pellets contains more energy than a tonne of chips.

The key figure to look at is the price per kWh of heat…

When you do that the differential is reduced – with 30%mc wood chips at £90 per tonne giving heat at 2.6p per kWh, while pellets at £195 per tonne provide heat at 4p per kWh.

But significant savings can be made regardless of which biomass fuel you choose and the basic fuel cost should not be the key deciding factor; for more guidance see the related posts section below or head over to this blog’s categories homepage.

To see how chips and pellets compare to oil, gas and electricity check out the Biomass Energy Centre.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

mark leicester July 22, 2013 at 18:25

hi, just came across this post. the price pkw is misleading as the available energy in the wood chip is much much lower than the pellet due to moisture content.
this is due to a process called latent heat of evaporation which will use the vast majority of the energy in the wood instead of producing heat.

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Helen Taylor July 26, 2013 at 09:54

Thanks Mark for that – you are of course right that some of the energy in the wood chip is used to drive off the moisture in the chip before the energy can be used to heat your property. Another reason not to be beguiled by the price per tonne for wood chip.

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Wood pellets plants October 14, 2013 at 20:52

I do not know whether it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing problems with your site.

It appears like some of the written text
within your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please
comment and let me know if this is happening to them too?

This may be a issue with my browser because I’ve had
this happen previously. Thanks

Reply

Helen Taylor October 15, 2013 at 14:18

Hi I think it may be your broswer. Have you tried a different one?

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Andrew October 15, 2013 at 08:50

Hello
I hear this argument all the time from people new to biomass heating in the UK, when I say new I mean in Europe they have been heating with chip and pellet for over 30 years.
The fuel suppliers need to get there game together providing good quality wood chip with a true 25% moisture content and seasoned properly and not just dried artificially, so the lignin in the wood adds to the calorific value of the fuel. To be green one must go with chip produced with the minimum of energy, and dried naturally from tree brash and not round wood, also hard wood will nearly double the calorific value of chip.
Also fuel suppliers should charge per KW not per tonne after all commercial RHI requires heat metres !
To produce pellets requires large amounts of energy and can be manufactured from unknown sources of wood including waste, also talk of pellets coming as far afield as Canada and Africa will not help the industry.
Don’t get me wrong we sell pellet systems but personally I prefer chip, if the customer needs/wants pellet, then we will install a pellet system.
It maddens me that under the domestic RHI someone that wants to be truly green and wants to produce there own fuel from there own trees would need to become an approved fuel supplier.

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Helen Taylor October 15, 2013 at 14:27

You are quite right Andrew about the need for good quality wood chip fuel – however the problem for the end consumer is that how do they know? I do know of some suppliers of chip who are now charging per kWh – and for certainty there need to be more. I think that as far as the domestic RHI is concerned – if they are only supplying their own fuel then that is OK – check out Cathy Debenham’s blog on Yougen – http://www.yougen.co.uk/blog-entry/2010/Domestic+renewable+heat+incentive%273A+your+questions+answered/ – as long as the wood is grown on the same ‘estate’ then it is automatically treated as sustainable.

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Andrew October 15, 2013 at 19:45

Thank you Helen
The only way is experience and a good eye to tell what’s dry and seasoned, All the systems going in at the moment force drying chip, do just that, but do they season the wood ? I burn chip produced from brash that is left to dry for around twelve months and the diferance is just the same as burning well seasoned logs on an open fire.
Those putting Woodchip boilers in need to ensure the highest quality chip and the benifits will follow.We service biomass boilers and most issues arise from peaple burning poor quality chip.
Again thanks

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