The use of wood pellet boilers and stoves to replace heating oil, propane or older wood boilers supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s nation-leading energy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

The breakthrough discovery solves an important health and safety concern that will enable New Yorkers to use wood pellet stoves and boilers while safely storing the pellets. The research leading to the new process was funded through the State’s Renewable Heat NY initiative, which is administered by NYSERDA.

Alicia Barton, NYSERDA President and CEO said, “This is a tremendous step forward for clean heating with wood pellet stoves and boilers. I congratulate everyone involved with this project, which advances New York’s efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions under Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading clean energy agenda.”

Dr. Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council said, “Clarkson University’s commitment to advance research that drives healthy global solutions and the North Country REDC’s vision to create the greenest energy economy in New York State are in complete alignment. Partnerships like this that bring public agencies, private interests, and university expertise together are galvanizing our region’s energy sector and creating win-wins for our economy and the natural environment that we cherish in this region.”

Professor Philip Hopke led the team at Clarkson University which confirmed that carbon monoxide was being produced by both bagged pellets and pellets in bulk storage. The team discovered the chemical pathway by which the carbon monoxide was being produced. Once this was identified, the team found a way to prevent carbon monoxide production by exposing the wood fibers to ozone prior to pressing them into pellets. The university has a patent pending on the process.

After success in the laboratory, Clarkson University researchers worked with two New York-based companies, Curran Renewable Energy of Massena, which produces pellets, and Queenaire Technologies, Inc. of Ogdensburg, which provided the ozone generator to test the system. Both companies were able to successfully demonstrate the process at the industrial level. Curran Renewable Energy is still using the process, making it the first pellet mill in the world to produce safe wood pellets for consumers. Queenaire Technologies provided technical assistance and prototype equipment which is manufactured locally, to facilitate the field trials in cooperation with Clarkson University and Curran Renewable Energy.

“The safety of workers in our State can never be taken lightly,” said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “This breakthrough will ensure that no workers in the facilities where these pellets are stored are harmed. I applaud the NYSERDA and Clarkson University teams that developed this process and I’m gratified that they were able to leverage the Department of Labor’s expertise in workplace safety to achieve a safer work environment for New Yorkers in this industry.”

Professor Hopke said, “Dr. Rahman and myself are very pleased we were able to identify the chemical pathway that led to the formation of the carbon monoxide and the associated aldehydes. It is gratifying to find a simple and relatively inexpensive process that solves the problem and is easy to implement and hope that all pellet mills will rapidly adopt this technology so we never have to worry about the release of harmful gases from stored wood pellets.”

Patrick Curran, President of Curran Renewable Energy said, “We would like to thank the vision and prolonged effort of Clarkson University and their staff for taking some of the fear away from biomass heating. The process which Professor Phil Hopke and his team came up with successfully eliminates CO, which has had negative implications for the storage of wood pellets throughout the world. This discovery has proven that pellets can now be produced without the harmful off-gassing of CO. This should open up opportunities in the marketplace that have been on the sidelines. NYSERDA's Renewable Heat NY initiative alongside these new developments enables municipalities, commercial and residential heating consumers to use wood pellets safely and encourage growth in the renewable energy sector for New York.”

Richard Luscombe-Mills, Director of Research and Development at Queenaire Technologies said, “As a local manufacturer, which produces commercial ozone and hydroxyl technology for the hospitality, property management and a number of other commercial markets, the invitation to participate in developing a solution to this much needed problem was a welcome opportunity. We were excited and pleased to be invited to participate in this project using an innovative and unique application for ozone. Following the successful conclusion of the field trials and subsequent publication of the paper, we look forward to participating in the implementation of the technology in the industry.”

Renewable Heat NY was launched by Governor Cuomo in 2014 and supports the installation of high-efficiency, low emission wood heating technology for residential, municipal, and commercial buildings. These advanced technology heating systems enable consumers to use local wood pellets and cordwood as fuel in a more efficient and cleaner way. Technologies include pellet stoves and both pellet- and cordwood-fired boilers with thermal storage, some of which are made right here in New York State.

Pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves but burn wood pellets instead of cordwood and radiate heat off of the appliance. Once a room is warm, a thermostat can tell the system to stop feeding pellets into the stove. As a result, room temperature can be better regulated while less fuel is consumed.