By Erin Voegele
A recent report filed with the USDA FAS’s GAIN predicts the EU market for wood pellets will likely grow this year but cautions future expansions could be limited by sustainability requirements introduced by individual member states.
According to the report, nearly half of the EU’s renewable energy is currently generated from the combustion of solid biomass, not including municipal solid waste. This includes wood chips and pellets. The EU consumes approximately 75 percent of the world’s wood pellets and accounts for about 50 percent of global production. In 2017, 40 percent of EU pellet consumption went to residential heating, with 33 percent to commercial power, 14 percent to commercial heating and 12 percent to combined-heat-and-power (CHP).
The EU consumed an estimated 27.35 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, up from 24.15 million tons in 2017. Wood pellet consumption is expected to increase to 30 million metric tons this year.
The EU is expected to produce 18.1 million metric tons of wood pellets this year, up from 18.85 million metric tons in 2018 and 15.3 million metric tons in 2017. Imports are expected to increase to 12.2 million metric tons in 2019, up from 10.355 million metric tons in 2018 and 8.692 million metric tons in 2017. EU exports of wood pellets are expected to remain at the 2018 level of 170,000 tons this year, down from 195,000 metric tons in 2017.
According to the report, the EU had 656 pellet plants in place in 2017 with a combined capacity of 22.75 million metric tons. Capacity increased to an estimated 24 million metric tons last year, and is expected to reach 25 million metric tons in 2019. Capacity use is expected to reach 72 percent this year, up from 70 percent in 2018 and 67 percent in 2017.
In 2018, the U.K. was the top EU consumer of wood pellets, with 8 million metric tons, followed by Italy with 3.75 million metric tons, Denmark with 3.5 million metric tons, Germany with 2.19 million metric tons and Sweden with 1.785 million metric tons. France, Belgium, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were also among the top 11 EU consumers of wood pellets last year.
The U.K. imported 7.829 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, with 4.88 million tons of that volume imported form the U.S. Denmark imported 3.813 million tons of pellets last year, including 623 tons from the U.S. Italy imported 2.242 tons of wood pellets in 2018, including 88,000 tons from the U.S, while Belgium imported 1.137 tons, including 538,000 tons from the U.S.
Germany was the top EU producer of wood pellets in 2018, with 2.415 million metric tons, followed by Sweden with 1.845 million metric tons and Latvia with 1.575 million metric tons. France, Austria, Estonia, Poland, Spain and Portugal were also among the top nine EU pellet producers last year.
The U.S. was the top supplier of wood pellets to the EU last year, with 6.139 million tons, followed by Canada with 1.762 million tons and Russia with 1.365 million tons.
According to the report, a key factor in being able to capture the demand in the EU market and benefit from its growth potential is the sustainability of supply. “European traders and end-users of industrial wood pellets are calling for clear, consistent, harmonized and long-term government regulations,” said the authors in the report. “In the absence of EU-wide binding criteria for solid biomass, several EU member states, including Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, developed their own rules in response to the growing use of wood pellets.”
A documentary about the burning of wood at an industrial scale for energy, “BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal?” tells the little-known story of the accelerating destruction of our forests for fuel, and probes the policy loopholes, huge subsidies, and blatant greenwashing of the burgeoning biomass power industry.
By independent filmmakers Marlboro Films, LLC: Alan Dater, Lisa Merton, and Chris Hardee.
BY MARY PEREZ
Largest wood pellet manufacturer in the U.S. is proposing to build the world’s largest wood pellet mill in Lucedale, Mississippi in George County. Some residents are for it, others question environmental impact.
Residents of Lucedale who showed up in force to a public hearing Tuesday already made up their minds about the largest wood pellet mill in the country locating in their town.
They wore stickers announcing their position. And they weren’t swayed by speakers who came mostly from outside the area, arguing that while Enviva might be good for the bottom line, it might not be good for the health of the community.
The company proposes building a $140 million pellet plant in the George County Industrial Park in Lucedale and a $60 million shipping terminal in Pascagoula. The state Legislature appropriated more than $2 million to fix the rail spur between the two.
The pellets will be made mostly from pine trees in and around George County and shipped overseas to supply fuel for power plants in the United Kingdom, Asia and other countries.
Tuesday’s meeting was the last step in the review process before the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality decides whether to approve the pollution control equipment so the plant can operate within the legal limits of Mississippi. The decision could come as early as the June 11 meeting of the MDEQ review board, which meets the second Tuesday of each month.
Is wood pellet-based electricity less carbon-intensive than coal-based electricity? It depends on perspectives, baselines, feedstocks, and forest management practices
P Dwivedi, M Khanna, and Madisen Fuller
Some studies suggest that the carbon intensity of electricity generated in the United Kingdom by using imported wood pellets from the southern United States is higher than that of coal-based electricity, whereas other studies suggest that the use of wood pellet-based electricity reduces carbon emissions significantly, relative to coal-based electricity. We developed the Forest Bioenergy Carbon Accounting Model (ForBioCAM 1.0) to analyze factors that influence the carbon intensity of wood pellet-based electricity, using a common set of assumptions and the same system boundary. We show that widely differing assessments of the carbon intensity of wood pellet-based electricity depend on the choice of forest management perspectives (landscape or stand), baselines (no harvest, or harvesting for the manufacture of traditional finished wood products), feedstocks (whole trees, pulpwood, or logging residues), forest management practices (change in rotation age), and the duration of the analysis itself. Unlike with a stand perspective, we demonstrate conditions under which a landscape perspective results in carbon savings net of avoided emissions from coal-based electricity. Our results also suggest that the two perspectives of forest management converge in their assessment of the positive carbon effects of various feedstock types used to manufacture wood pellets relative to a no-harvest baseline, and that the use of whole trees for wood pellets results in net carbon savings after a break-even period of about three years relative to a no-harvest scenario. The results of this study can guide future policy deliberations on the use of wood pellets as a renewable energy source worldwide.
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.