FAO report highlights global growth in pellet production

By Erin Voegele | December 24, 2014

In late December, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations published forest products data for 2013, reporting wood pellet production soared to an all-time high last year. The growth was driven primarily by bioenergy policies and consumption targets in Europe.

According to the FAO, global wood pellet production grew by 12 percent in 2013, reaching 22 million metric tons. More than half that volume, 13 million metric tons, was traded internationally.

The FAO report indicates markets for wood pellets are dominated by Europe and North America. Europe accounted for 62 percent of wood pellet consumption and 81 percent of consumption in 2013. North America accounted for 34 percent of production and 15 percent of consumption. The amount of pellets exported from North America to Europe in 2013 doubled when compared to 2012. Most of those pellets were shipped to the U.K.

The U.S. was the top pellet producing nation in 2013, with 5.7 million metric tons. Germany produced 2.2 million metric tons, followed by Canada with 1.8 million metric tons. Sweden and Lativia produced 1.3 million metric tons and 1.1 million metric tons, respectively. The top five countries for pellet exports were the U.S., Canada, Latvia, Portugal, and Russian Federation. The top five pellet consuming countries were the U.K., U.S., Denmark, Italy and Germany, while the top five importers were the U.K., Denmark, Italy, Belgium and Sweden.

The FAO report also includes data on wood fuel, which is roundwood used for cooking, heating or power production. It includes wood that is used to make charcoal, and wood chips made directly from roundwood. The category of wood fuel, however, does not include all types of wood used for energy. For example, the data does not include wood residues from the forest processing industry or black liquor or recovered wood waste.

According to the FAO report, global wood fuel production amounted to more than 1.85 billion cubic meters in 2013. Although the volume of wood fuel production increased slightly from 2012, the increase was let than 1 percent. When compared to 2009 production, 2013 wood fuel production increased 2 percent. Wood fuel production decreased by 4 percent in North America and Asia-Pacific from 2009 through 2013. However, it increased by 20 percent in Europe, 7 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 4 percent in Africa over the same period.

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 41 percent of global wood fuel production in 2013, with production reaching 754 million cubic meters. Africa ranked second with a 35 percent share, with Latin American and the Caribbean accounting for 14 percent, Europe accounting for 8 percent, and North America accounting for 2 percent. If current growth rates continue, the FAO said Africa will produce about the same amount of wood fuel as the Asia-Pacific region by 2025.

At the global level, the FOA report shows wood fuel production accounted for 52 percent of all roundwood produced in 2013. This has declined from 54 percent in 2009. In Africa, wood fuel production accounted for 90 percent of roundwood production in 2013, and 65 percent in the Asia-Pacific region. Woodfuel use in Latin America and the Caribbean was 54 percent of roundwood, but only 20 percent and 9 percent respectively in Europe and North America.

A full copy of the report, titled “2013 Global Forest Products Facts and Figures,” can be downloaded from the FAO website.