Playing A Global Game

Biomass Magazine Executive Editor Tim Portz discusses how the global nature of the biomass industry allows it to flourish despite policy fluctuation and uncertainty.
By Tim Portz | April 12, 2015

In this month’s issue of Biomass Magazine, our team brings to print a theme that we have explored online and at our conferences for years. For this companion issue of the International Biomass Conference & Expo, our team investigated the increasingly global nature of the bioenergy industry. The stories make it clear that while policies that establish and support biofuels, biogas or wood pellets may come and go, the ability of the global biomass community to discover and use them to grow their business is constant.

In his page-58 feature, “All Roads Lead to North America,” Keith Loria explores the migration of technology companies from Germany to North America as German policies became less lucrative. Loria talked to GICON’s Wayne Brown, who underscored this trend, saying, “The expanse of opportunities in the U.S. and Canada is definitely a factor in our decision to pursue work in North America, as is the relative weakness in the German biogas market at the moment.” For GICON, the best hedge against the fickleness of policy-established markets was to pursue opportunities in multiple markets.

While writing his page-74 story, “Feedstock Importer, Renewable Diesel Exporter,” about renewable diesel producer Neste Oil, Senior Editor Ron Kotrba was reminded that global strategies aren’t limited to markets for products, but can also be leveraged for feedstock acquisition. Neste Oil scours the world for both waste and virgin oil feedstocks and is currently procuring them from every continent except Africa and Antarctica. This strategy has been particularly important as Neste looks to grow the percentage of waste oils in its feedstock portfolio—waste and residue oils now represent over 60 percent of Neste Oil’s total feedstocks, up from 35 percent just three years ago.

Finally, while writing “An Industry Looks at 50” on page 35, the advantage that incumbent energy solutions have in a global market became clear to me. During my conversation with Seth Ginther, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, I was struck by how much time he  spends working to unify sustainability requirements of European Union member states so that his constituents don’t have to encounter a different compliance burden with each shipment. This is a burden that the coal industry simply does not face. Still, when a significant part of one’s value proposition is sustainability, he must embrace the call to substantiate that claim while figuring out a way to do it efficiently.

While opportunities may move around a bit, this industry’s ability to adapt and serve new and different markets remains strong.