Pellet News Roundup

By Pellet Mill Magazine | February 22, 2023

Two North American industrial wood pellet manufacturers have recently announced capacity expansions. J.D. Irving Ltd.’s Grand River Pellets, located in northern New Brunswick, reported it has undertaken a $30 million project to more than double its capacity, from 140,000 to 220,000 metric tons per year, once commissioned in May. The plant uses sawdust and bark from sawmills owned by J.D. Irving, as well as independent suppliers, to manufacture wood pellets for export markets.

Drax also announced plans to expand its Aliceville, Alabama, facility. The $50 million dollar investment will increase production capacity by nearly 50%, from 250,000 tons to 380,000 tons, according to Drax. The company said the expansion includes upgrades to existing systems, as well as new truck dumps and pelletizer units. The additional capacity is expected to begin commissioning in 2024.

In late January, Canadian forest products company Canfor Corp. announced it will permanently close its pellet plant in Chetwynd, British Columbia, as part of a restructuring of its operations within the province. Canfor celebrated the grand opening of the Chetwynd pellet plant in August 2016. The facility has the capacity to produce 100,000 metric tons of industrial-grade wood pellets annually. The company said its British Columbia restructuring plan aims to better align manufacturing capacity with the available long-term fiber supply. Canfor’s Chetwynd sawmill will also permanently close as part of the restructuring.

Canadian wood pellet production for 2022 remained consistent with the previous year, according to a report filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Information Network. Exports were up an estimated 5% due to increased demand from Europe and Asia.

Canada produced an estimated 3.5 million metric tons (MT) of wood pellets last year, flat with 2021, but up from 3.3 million MT in 2020. The country has 47 pellet production facilities, unchanged from 2021 but up from 46 in 2020. Total nameplate production capacity was at 4.79 million MT in 2022, down from 5.054 million MT in 2021. Approximately 45% of Canadian pellet mill production capacity is in British Columbia, with 21% in Quebec, 17% in Alberta, 8% in New Brunswick, 7% in Ontario, and 4% located in the rest of Canada.

Canada primarily produces wood pellets for export markets. Domestic consumption was at 530,000 MT last year, up from 500,000 MT in 2021 and 430,000 MT in 2020. Producers exported 3.3 million MT of wood pellets in 2022, up from 3.153 million MT in 2021.



The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released data showing U.S. manufacturers produced approximately 950,000 tons of densified biomass fuel in September, with sales reaching 1.11 million tons. The report was released as part of the December edition of EIA’s Monthly Densified Biomass Fuels Report, which contains data for September.  

The 80 manufacturers surveyed for September had a total combined production capacity of 13.28 million tons per year and collectively had the equivalent of 2,467 full-time employees. Respondents purchased 2.39 million tons of raw biomass feedstock in September, produced 950,000 tons of densified biomass fuel and sold 1.11 million tons of densified biomass fuel. Production included 157,917 tons of heating pellets and 729,921 tons of utility pellets.

Domestic sales of densified biomass fuel in September reached 212,710 tons at an average price of $208.31 per ton. Exports in September reached 904,9003 tons at an average price of $244.19 per ton. Inventories of premium/standard pellets fell to 185,500 tons in September, down from 256,337 tons in August. Inventories of utility pellets fell to 383,321 tons in September, down from 473,038 tons in August.

Data gathered by the EIA shows that total U.S. densified biomass fuel capacity reached 13.37 million tons in September, with all of that capacity listed as currently operating or temporarily not in operation.

NORDEN recently announced a successful customized solution to assist a customer in shipping wood pellets from the U.S. to a small port outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. The operation involved a transhipment of approximately 50,000 metric tons of wood pellets onboard a Supramax vessel to the port of Aarhus, Denmark. Port restrictions prevented Supramax vessels from entering the port, so following the transhipment to Aarhus, eight smaller vessels were used to perform a ship-to-ship operation, discharging the wood pellets directly from the large vessel onto the smaller vessels. These vessels  then transported the cargo to its final destination outside of Copenhagen. With this solution, according to NORDEN, the customer only needed to conduct one voyage from the U.S. to Denmark using one Supramax vessel, rather than having to conduct eight voyages with smaller vessels.

Enviva Inc. on Dec. 21 announced the signing of a 10-year take-or-pay off-take fuel supply contract with an existing European customer, extendable for up to five years. Enviva expects to supply 800,000 metric tons of industrial-grade wood pellets per year, with deliveries expected to commence during 2027, subject to certain conditions precedent. Enviva’s total weighted-average remaining term of take-or-pay off-take contracts is approximately 14 years, according to the company, with a total contracted revenue backlog of over $23 billion. This contracted revenue backlog is complemented by a customer sales pipeline exceeding $50 billion, which includes contracts in various stages of negotiation.

To recognize and show gratitude toward heroes in communities across the country, Harman and Lignetics Group teamed up for the ninth time to supply a Harman Hero recipient with a Harman Accentra52i-TC pellet insert, 1 ton of CleanFire Superior heating pellets and 1 ton of large animal bedding. This year’s Harman Hero recipient was social worker and therapist Rachel Novak of Hanson, Massachusetts. The pellet insert was by The Chimney Chaps, and the heating pellets were delivered by, a company under the Lignetics Group, which also donated the animal bedding. Venting was donated by Duravent.  

Graanul Invest Woodville Pellets LLC celebrated an important milestone in logistics efficiency, the company announced in mid-January. In December, Graanul began loading MS Nemea with 50,042 tons of wood pellets at its logistics hub in Port Arthur, Texas, for shipment across the Atlantic to the U.K. Jason Ansley, Graanul vice president of U.S. operations, thanked partner Drax for being flexible, “as the shift from handysize vessels to supra size required some preparations and was not without its challenges.”

Graanul operates 12 wood pellet plants in the Baltics and the U.S., and six renewable combined-heat-and-power plants in Estonia and Latvia.