Wellys and Wood in Wexford!

On Wednesday I attended the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross in Wexford. Wet gear, jeans, wellys, and a big smile on my face all I needed for the day.

What can I say about the ploughing that hasn’t already been said or written?, except that every man woman and child in this country should be given a pair of wellys, a rain poncho and a ticket for a day at the ploughing championships. We would have an energised, happy proud nation of people ready for whatever comes our way!

The official reason for my visit was in my capacity of Chair of the  WFQA Oversight Committee, a title I carry with pride.

The occasion?

The Minister of State for Forestry at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Shane McEntee, TD attended to present certificates to the latest wood fuel producers to secure membership of the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland.

WFQA Presentation 2012

See Press Release from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

So what is the WFQA?

Wood Fuel Quality Assurance scheme for Ireland

Wood Fuel Quality Assurance scheme for Ireland

The full title is the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme for Ireland.

Mainland Europe has never moved away from using wood fuel for heating, but here in Ireland we embraced the idea of automatic oil and gas central heating systems in the late 50’s /early 60’s. Wood was relegated to the open fire along with turf and coal.

However, early in the new millennium, with fears over the long term availability of oil and gas, using wood fuel for heating started to make a comeback, but in modernised, more automated systems, using wood chip and wood pellet.

And as is usual, when new technology hits the marketplace, it brings its fair share of “ne’er do wells!” The wood fuel sector was no exception to the rule!

Shoddy equipment appeared on the shelves, the cowboy army came marching through the land and some very dubious “Wood Fuels” made their way in to stoves and boilers.

During this time a great deal of damage was done to the reputation of wood fuel industry.

It is important moving forward that we base the growth of the wood fuel sector firmly on quality – this is what WFQA is all about. Our plan is to make our bright flame logo something that customers will increasingly look for when buying wood pellets, wood chip, wood briquettes or indeed firewood.

In 2011 the firewood market alone was worth over €30 million euro to our economy.

In January 2009, a voluntary working group was assembled to produce a quality assurance scheme for wood fuels. The group consisted of industry and consumer representatives and delegates from public bodies and associations such at WIT; SEAI; IrBEA; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and NSAI

WFQA Working Group

Over two years we met, we worked, considered, discarded, argued and agreed!  My role in the working group was to represent the consumer, the end-user of wood fuels. I got to know some great people, had the opportunity to work with some amazing minds, and the working group finally produced National Workshop Agreement (NWA4) Agreement, the fourth such agreement in place in this country.

The agreement forms the basis of a quality assurance scheme for wood fuels, using very strict criteria to ensure that wood fuel that carries the WFQA and NSAI labels are

  • Carbon Neutral
  • Sourced from Sustainably Managed  Forests
  • Compliant with relevant Irish and EU standards
  • Independently tested and certified in Ireland.

So what happens in this process?

There are various Irish and European standards in place for Wood Pellet, Wood Chip, Wood Briquettes, and indeed Firewood.

These standards mean little to the end user, who just wants to know that the wood fuel they are purchasing is suitable for the heating appliance.

The WFQA doesn’t set the standard that the fuels ascribe to, but rather test the fuel on a random basis to ensure that whatever standard the producer claims to have, is in fact correct. In other words: “That it does what it says on the tin!”

The fuel is collected from site, as per European Testing Standards, and tested in a state of the art test and research facility for wood fuels in Waterford Institute of Technology.

In the meantime the quality processes of the company are audited by NSAI inspectors. This includes tax,  insurance and safety compliance, felling licences, chain of custody documentation, delivery and storage procedures etc. to name but a few.

When all of this is in place the NSAI certifies the company to carry both the WFQA and the NSAI labels on their packaging and documentation.

It is quite a robust process, and reflects very positively on companies attaining certification under the scheme.

There are now 6 companies certified under the scheme, with several more in the pipeline, who will complete the certification process over the coming months.

Full details of the scheme are available at http://www.wfqa.org

So what’s next for the WFQA? The scheme is now known throughout the industry. It’s now the turn of you, the reader, the consumer, the end user to look for the label.

Ask your wood fuel retailer if they stock WFQA fuels. Ask your wood fuel supplier if they are certified by WFQA? Ask why not?

You deserve to have quality assured wood fuel to heat your home.

Look for the label….WFQA Label


About Pat Murphy

True to me; Mother, Wife, Friend, Environmentalist; Living comfortably; Being warm; Knowing what's enough; Chair of WFQA (Irish wood fuel quality assurance scheme)
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10 Responses to Wellys and Wood in Wexford!

  1. emeralds82 says:

    Reblogged this on Emeralds82 and commented:
    Great read about the Ploughing Champions from my friend Pat over at SmartHeat.

  2. emeralds82 says:

    Pat, I have only been to the Ploughing Championship once and I was working… 3 long days but even at that it was mighty craic. I chipped my front tooth on the first day and spent the next 2 days serving tea like some strange witch who was trying to make ends meet till Halloween… I am delighted to say there is no photographic evidence and that I met no one I knew until I could get home and get it fixed!! Great post!!

    • patmcmmc says:

      Thanks. Really glad you enjoyed post and thanks for the reblog!.
      The ploughing championship is mighty! Like you said in your post about the Cliffs of Moher, it reflects the greatness of the Irish people, their humour, guts and determination to enjoy life; a much better reflection than the doom and gloom portrayed every day in the media.
      Have a great weekend!

  3. Reblogged this on PR Social Media Services and commented:
    Such an enjoyable read from Pat @smartheat and after reading that I really really want to attend the National Ploughing Championships next year.

  4. Brilliant read Pat, you have left me with a yen to go to the National Ploughing Championships next year. Congratulations & well done on all the hard work that yourslef and your colleagues are doing in the WFQA.

    • patmcmmc says:

      Thanks Phyl. Yes make sure you get to the ploughing! It’s good for the soul!
      The WFQA is a labour of love. I believe there is a good future for wood fuel, and the WFQA will help grow a sustainable sector based on confidence and quality.

  5. Karen Brown says:

    Another great post Pat. You should do an ebook on using wood fuels Pat…

  6. DiamondsIRL says:

    Very informative post Pat. Appreciate that the WFQA doesn’t set a standard, instead keeping the producers in check. As consumers we sometimes forget the need to have assurances. Especially when it comes to our beloved environment.

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