Sizing Up Biofuel Markets

By Tim Portz
The combined export value of wood pellets, ethanol and biodiesel for U.S. producers has flirted with $3 billion since 2012, and depending upon how the final numbers shake out for last year, 2016 may very well be the year this milestone is surpassed. For both wood pellets and fuel ethanol, export numbers have never been higher than they are right now, and all three sectors are eyeing foreign markets as a means to significantly grow their businesses.

An analysis of the same data reveals key and informative differences. While foreign markets are an important part of the overall market picture for fuel ethanol and biodiesel producers, exports account for less than 10 percent of annual production while, from a volumetric perspective, wood pellet production in the U.S. is heavily reliant on foreign markets.

Now, the looming question is, what impact will a Trump administration, which campaigned on a promise to revisit the nation’s trade agreements, have on the export opportunities for each of these industries?

Global Market Leaders
In both the fuel ethanol and wood pellet categories, the U.S. can boast the largest production capacity and the largest share of the global export market. In both cases, U.S. exports outstrip the closest competitor by a wide margin. Wood pellet export volumes for U.S. producers were well over 4 million tons, while Canada has yet to surpass 2 million tons of exports. Brazil is the world’s second leading producer of fuel ethanol, and while production and export volumes there vary from year to year, in 2015, its export volumes were about half of what U.S. producers achieved. Additionally, Brazil is a prominent market for U.S. ethanol producers taking over 100 million gallons in 2015.

Source: Sizing Them Up | Biomassmagazine.com, 2017-03-27

Ecologist proposes a new model to help meet global forest restoration goals

By Jennifer Mcnulty
Tropical reforestation is an important part of the global effort to mitigate climate change, but ecologist Karen Holl says current international goals may be overly ambitious.

“The science and practice of restoration are often quite separate, says Holl, an expert in tropical forest restoration. “Scientific research takes place at a small scale, and we’ve rarely tried to integrate results on the broad scale people are talking about. There’s a mismatch between these really big goals and what’s being done on the ground.”

For decades, tropical forests around the world have been cleared to make way for agricultural and wood products, leaving a wake of environmental devastation behind. Tropical deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change, generating 12-15 percent of global carbon emissions.

To turn that around, the international environmental community has embraced ambitious forest restoration goals: Thirty countries have signed on to restore areas equivalent to the size of Venezuela by 2020; participants at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit set a global target of nearly four times that by 2030.

Given the current scale of scientific research, those goals may be unattainable, warns Holl, who advises nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and policy makers around the world and recently authored a “Perspectives” column in Science magazine on this topic.

Most scientific studies are done on relatively small plots—typically a few acres—and results are literally rooted in local conditions, making them difficult to scale up to anywhere near the scope of international agreements.

Restoring vast amounts of forest will require major shifts in planning and science, says Holl.

Source: Ecologist proposes a new model to help meet global forest restoration goals – Phys.org, 2017-03-17

US Forest Product Exports to Asia

From the April issue of Biomass Magazine, this data-packed report from Forest2Market suggests existing North American infrastructure can light the way for biomass exporters.
By Stan Parton, Forest2Market
The industrial wood pellet industry is catching its breath after an astounding surge since the turn of the millennium. Global production of pellets totaled roughly 2 million metric tons (MT) in 2001, and roughly 28 million MT in 2015. As this market continues to evolve globally, it’s a good time to step back and analyze other U.S. forest product exports by region and type. This data can tell us a lot about raw material utilization, and help uncover new opportunities for biomass and wood pellet growth in foreign markets. New demand for industrial wood pellets is on the horizon, as directives from the Paris climate agreement begin to take effect, and Asian markets—particularly the South Korean and Japanese markets—represent new opportunities for U.S. producers.

Source: US Forest Product Exports to Asia – Biomassmagazine.com. 2017-03-22

Global Trade of Softwood Lumber up 66 Percent in Seven Years while Lumber Prices Have Fallen

Global softwood lumber trade increased 12 percent year-over-year to reach a new record-high of 121 million m3 in 2016, per estimates by WRI. Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent.

Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent. While it is no surprise that China is a major driver for the dramatic rise in lumber shipments worldwide the past seven years, it is interesting to note that the US has actually increased softwood lumber imports more than China.

Source: Global Trade of Softwood Lumber has Gone up 66 Percent in Seven Years, While Lumber Prices Have Fallen Substantially Over the Same Time-period – MarketWatch, 2017-03-10

Ancient timber resource disappearing in New Zealand

Lawmakers have called for a ban on the “mining” of an ancient New Zealand timber resource after a government report Monday showed that half of it might have already disappeared.

The report showed that an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of swamp kauri logs – massive logs of New Zealand’s native kauri hardwood that have been preserved in peat land for thousands of years – have been removed from the ground.

It was one of three reports on swamp kauri, which is found in the far northern Northland region, published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on Monday.

The reports provided information on the scientific and cultural values of swamp kauri and its distribution and remaining volume.

“This is the first time an attempt has been made to assess the swamp kauri resource,” MPI director general of regulation and assurance Bryan Wilson said in a statement.

The reports also said that swamp kauri held significant value for New Zealanders, due to its age, appearance, and its cultural properties.

“They also highlight swamp kauri’s scientific value in helping to understand the natural history of New Zealand, and its contribution to understanding the effects of climate change,” said Wilson.

Source: Ancient timber resource disappearing in New Zealand – Xinhua, 2017-03-13

Forest Stewardship Council cuts ties with Austrian timber giant over illegal wood

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) today announced its decision to immediately disassociate from the Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), one of its largest members, due to the company’s persistent and indiscriminate sourcing of illegal timber in Romania. The decision follows a year-long investigation by an FSC Expert Panel, which concluded that Schweighofer had created a business “culture” favoring cheap wood over legal wood in its Romanian sourcing.

Source: Forest Stewardship Council cuts ties with Austrian timber giant over illegal wood, EIA comments – Business Wire, 2017-02-17

New study finds timber harvesting in Madagascar out of control

a combination of political instability, government mismanagement, a lack of forest operation controls and a failure to impose punitive penalties on well-known traffickers contributed to what was effectively zero control over the management of precious timber resources in Madagascar between March 2010 to March 2015, according to a new TRAFFIC study released today.

At least 350,000 trees were illegally felled inside protected areas and at least 150,000 tonnes of logs illegally exported to destinations including China, Malaysia and Mauritius over the five-year period, according to the study: Timber Island: The Rosewood and Ebony Trade of Madagascar.

The lack of regulation was compounded by additional factors including widespread poverty, corruption, poor species identification skills at point of harvest and deficient knowledge about timber resources and led to rampant, unregulated felling of precious timber species.

Source: New study finds timber harvesting in Madagascar out of control – TRAFFIC. 2017-02-14

European Wood Pellet Market Potential

By Hannes Lechner & John Dawson-Nowak
In 2016, the wood pellet market in Europe reached a size of 19 million tons per annum (Mtpa), while production capacity stood at 23.5 Mtpa, and consists of two largely independent sectors with only limited interaction. The industrial market is focused on large-scale bioenergy generation, while the premium market is focused on small-scale residential and commercial heat generation.

Besides more growth potential in the industrial market to 2025, the likely expansion of the premium sector post-2020 offers an opportunity for North American producers to soften the impact of predicted demand decline for industrial pellets post-2027.

Source: European Wood Pellet Market Potential – Biomass Magazine, 2017-01-08

World rubber crisis warning as forest devastation found by Scots conservation team

by Brian Donnelly, Senior News Reporter
A SCOTS research team has warned a worldwide rubber shortage is looming as demand grows, costs rise and an adequate man-made substitute is yet to be found.

The natural commodity used throughout modern life is dwindling to such an extent that Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh researchers said if farmers in Africa and Asia continue to fell trees at the current rate more than half of the world’s main source of the critical plant will be gone in 30 years.

It means an impending rubber shortage that would affect production of everything from wellington boots to aviation tyres and scientists are calling for better management methods and policies in major producing countries including China, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

Source: World rubber crisis warning as forest devastation found by Scots conservation team – HeraldScotland, 2017-01-06

Belize to introduce harsher penalties for Rosewood harvesting

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor
People who engage in harvesting Rosewood will face harsher penalties shortly, after the Ministry of Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development seeks to ask the House of Representatives to introduce amendments to the Forest Act.

The request for the change follows the latest incident where a stash of illegally cut Rosewood was discovered and seized. The offender was charged and taken to court, but the maximum penalty for the offense under existing laws, is only $1,000.

This is a far cry from what the fines should be, the Ministry feels, and in a press release on Wednesday, informed it would seek for more severe penalties for forest crimes. The Ministry has since begun to revise the penalties and fines for forest offenses.

Source: Forestry to introduce harsher penalties for Rosewood harvesting – The Reporter Newspaper