North American wood pellet exports up 70 percent 3Q 2012

By Anna Simet | January 29, 2013

Wood pellet exports in North America were up 70 percent in the third quarter of 2012, compared to the third quarter of 2011, according to a new report by the North American Wood Fiber Review.

That’s largely in part because of increased pellet production in the southern U.S. and British Columbia. Production reached a new record of 860,000 tons during that time, according to the report.

The growth is expected to continue as a result of numerous plans for adding capacity, particularly in the U.S. South. This year, numerous plans for new pellet plants have been announced, including a $60 million, 440,000-ton plant by General Biofuels and a 330,000 metric ton-plant by Enova Energy Group. RWE already operates a 750,000 metric ton plant in Waycross, Ga., from which it exports pellets to its coal-fired power stations in Europe.

The report points out that while both Canadian and U.S. wood pellet exports increased, the U.S. south saw a quadruple increase from third quarter of 2011 to third quarter of 2012, while Canadian growth was much slower.  It attributes the greater growth in the U.S. to trade relations being established between European power utilities and U.S. pellet producers, as demonstrated by a mid-December announcement from U.K.-based Drax Group plc that revealed plans to build two 450,000-ton pellet plants in Louisiana and Mississippi.