A Mashup of Industry Elements

By Anna Simet | November 29, 2022

In early October, the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association’s annual Exporting Pellets Conference returned to Miami after a pandemic-induced, two-year hiatus. This year was different than years past, with topics of discussion broadening to much more than wood pellets for heat and power. In fact, I moderated a panel that focused on sustainably sourcing and transporting all kinds of biomass for the very fast-growing renewable transportation fuels market, and what was discussed during that hour was just the tip of the iceberg. The global wood pellet industry is evolving and is poised to play a critical role in global decarbonization efforts. Find a summary of the event’s opening session, as well as photos, on our page-12 event review, “Mission Biomass Mobilization.”

Appropriately, sustainability was an underlining theme at the conference, and on that note, be sure to check out “Affirming Sustainability,” on page 18. In the story, staff writer Katie Schroeder details the results of a British Columbia fiber-sourcing study commissioned by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. The province is home to roughly 65% of the country’s wood pellet production, with producers there manufacturing upward of 2 million metric tons annually.  One of the main findings of the study was that 85% of the biomass material used for wood pellet production is mill residue, with 15% being forest residue. Not only do these plants provide an outlet for this waste material, but the wood pellet industry has a huge impact on the provincial economy—check out the story to learn more.
Jumping to our contribution articles, both are focused on one of the subthemes of this issue, which is project management. There is some solid, real world experience-based advice in these stories, which emphasize just how crucial good planning and project oversight are. A good summarizing point for page-22 “Start Well, End Well,” by Joel Dulin, Biomass Engineering & Equipment: “Getting a project done right, on budget, and on time requires the project managers to develop it fully from the outset, a feat that requires good development even before the project starts.”  

On a different note, we have been closely following what’s happening in Europe (on top of the evolving renewable energy directive) in regard to an anticipated pellet shortage. Recently, the U.K. Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced it would temporarily suspend ENplus requirements for one year, as of now. The intentions behind this are to help ease challenges stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and this temporary rule change applies to both the domestic and nondomestic RHI schemes. While it won’t eliminate the shortfall and surging prices (Europe imported more than 2 million tons of Russian wood pellets in 2021), it will allow for some producers that do not traditionally serve these markets to get a foot in the door and contribute to Europe’s supply—at least for now. Adding insult to injury, there are widespread reports of wood pellet, firewood and other fuel scams occurring right now. Not only are consumers getting duped online, being enticed by much lower-than-average prices for product they never end up receiving, but scammers are impersonating wood pellet manufacturers and even copying websites. Buyers and sellers beware.

Finally, we just closed the abstract submission portal for the International Biomass Conference & Expo, which will be in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 28-March 2. The agenda is shaping up nicely, so be sure to be on the lookout. Pellet manufacturers get into the event for free—I hope to see you there.

Author: Anna Simet
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