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Massive Pellet Production

When I hear announcements of jumbo pellet plants in the works, I can’t help but wonder when the U.S. will jump on the industrial wood pellet bandwagon.
By Lisa Gibson | April 20, 2011

When I hear announcements of jumbo pellet plants in the works, I can’t help but wonder when the U.S. will jump on the industrial wood pellet bandwagon and not only begin producing large-scale power from biomass, but begin creating and refining a domestic market for those pellet companies.

Newly formed venture Franklin Pellets LLC is in the preliminary stages of developing a 500,000-ton-per-year pellet plant in Franklin, Va. I did ask George Lyons, vice president of business development for parent company MultiFuels L.P., if the plant will be exporting its products, but I knew the answer even before he said it. Of course.

It’s no secret that the domestic pellet market revolves around residential heating applications and massive plants like Franklin’s wouldn’t be satisfied with the pellet appetite the U.S. can offer. The plant will rank among the nation’s largest, tied with Green Circle Bio Energy Inc.’s Cottondale, Fla., plant and second to RWE Innogy’s 750,000 ton-per-year facility in Georgia. Both of those pellet plants are exporting their products to Europe and while Franklin Pellets declined to share with me its target market, it’s probably safe to assume most if not all of its pellets will be used there, too.

Export markets are indeed important and a number of programs and agencies are focused primarily on defining and enhancing them for U.S. manufacturers. I’ve heard the tired excuses that lean on policy shortcomings and now could even factor in widespread opposition to biomass, but it seems to me a complementary domestic market could boost production and create jobs, too. And in the midst of an economic recovery (or so we’re told), we can’t afford to let any opportunities slip through the cracks.

 

4 Responses

  1. Ron

    2011-04-20

    1

    It seems that the U.S. domestic market for pellets is largely residential whereas in Europe they're commercial and industrial. Why haven't commercial and industrial markets opened up domestically?

  2. Lisa

    2011-04-20

    2

    Hey Ron, thanks for the question. It's a common topic in the pellet industry and the answers are usually the same. U.S. policies and incentives for industrial pellet use are lacking to say the least. Europe already seems to be lightyears ahead of us in widespread and large-scale biomass use and most industry stakeholders attribute that to amibitious renewable goals that are backed by effective incentives. So until we can implement useful incentives, the U.S. pellet market will remain residential. And to make matters worse, the biomass industry is under the weight of ill-informed yet loud biomass opposition groups that will undoubtedly attempt to quash any attempts at biomass-friendly policies.

  3. Michael Canney

    2011-04-21

    3

    The author admits that "until we can implement useful incentives, the U.S. pellet market will remain residential." Truth is, if the government cuts off the subsidies and "incentives," and enforces clean air regulations, the artificial market for large scale biomass incinerators for power generation will cease to exist. It is true that biomass opposition groups "will undoubtedly attempt to quash any attempts at biomass-friendly policies." That is because concerned citizens are aware that large scale biomass burning, like the massively subsidized corn-to-ethanol "renewable energy" scam, is ecologically and economically unsustainable. This industry depends on government subsidies and "incentives," as well as a free pass on emissions, in order to generate profits. If the U.S. were to cut its per capita power consumption in half, we will still be using more electricity that many other advanced industrial countries. The solution is not to build more base load power plants and find more things to burn, but rather to radically restructure our national energy policy. Aggressive energy conservation and efficiency measures, combined with a shift to locally-produced clean energy sources, is the path to a sane and sustainable energy policy, not dirty biomass burners that will inevitably create a commercial market for more Genetically Engineered trees and crops (which is why the biotech industry supports biomass burners). Check out http://www.pfpi.net/toc for more information about the true costs and risks associated with biomass burning. Toward a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy future, Michael Canney

  4. kderby

    2011-04-22

    4

    We should all live in Teepees? Thanks for the doomsday perspective Michael. I feel so guilty for breathing, I could just walk off the pier. Kendall Derby

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