North American wood pellet exports to Europe double in 2 years

By Wood Resources International LLC | April 24, 2014

Wood pellet exports from North America to Europe have doubled in two years to reach 4.7 million tons in 2013 with the U.S. South accounting for 63 percent of the volume, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review

With no slowdown in sight, North American wood pellet exporting companies keep building new facilities to manufacture pellets for the European market. Export volumes hit a new record high in the 4Q/13 and the total shipments for 2013 were up almost 50 percent from the previous year and more than double that in 2011. The total value of wood pellet exports reached over $650 million last year.

A rapid expansion of pellet production capacity in the U.S. South during 2012 and 2013 has resulted in a tripling of pellet production in the region in just two years. The expansion, which is entirely driven by demand for biomass in Europe, has increased pellet exports from 800,000 tons in 2011 to 2.9 million tons in 2013 according to data compiled by WRI and reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review (Note. WRI data is partly based on an industry survey since customs data on both sides of the Atlantic are not always reliable).

Many of the recent investments in pellet capacity in the U.S. South have occurred along the Atlantic coast, with Enviva and Fram Renewables expanding production in the states of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The expansion in Canadian pellet export has been less dramatic than that of the U.S., but 2013 volumes were still over 50 percent higher than in 2011, with British Columbia shipping a majority of the volume. In Canada, there have been two recent developments of interest, 1) the first regular shipments of pellets to South Korea started in the second half of 2013 and, 2) exports from Eastern Canada from Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick increased during this same time period.

Eastern Canada will see additional pellet export volumes later in 2014 when Rentech begins operation at its two pellet facilities now underway in Ontario. As reported in the NAWFR (, a Quebec pellet export facility under construction at the Port of Quebec is the first dedicated infrastructure for pellet exports along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Its presence, when completed, reduces the heretofore, substantial entry barrier for a number of smaller pellet companies which are interested in the international market.

In the 4Q/13, export volumes from the Eastern provinces accounted for 25 percent of Canada’s total pellet exports, a share that is likely to increase in 2014 and 2015. 




2 Responses

  1. James Rust



    The article said 4.7 million tons of wood pellets were exported in 2013 with a value of $630 million. This give a cost of $130 per ton. I would estimate wood pellets have 2/3 the energy content of coal. So this gives a value of $200 per ton coal equivalent. In the U. S. coal sells for about $33 to $80 per ton. Thus European fuel charges are 2.5 to 6 times costs in U. S.

  2. Heath Van Eaton



    James Rust presents a basic comparison of wood to coal for energy and is correct. Additionally, one must take into account the adverse environmental affects from harvesting more trees for pellets as live trees consume CO2 (large healthy trees up to 10,000 lbs per year each) and produce more oxygen. Removal of more trees contributes to ozone depletion, global warming and biodiversity losses... Don't get me wrong as I'm a large proponent of the overall biomass industry, but only when it makes both environmental and economic sense.


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